FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox pitching staff is still in flux one week before the season.
Koji Uehara won’t be ready for the season. Joe Kelly is still a big question mark. Edward Mujica is the closer for now but other options could be available.
The numerous decisions to be made is making John Farrell a busy man, as he acknowledged before Sunday’s game at JetBlue Park against the Rays.
First off, Farrell announced Uehara felt a twinge in his hamstring during a throwing session Saturday.
“We’re not scheduling a game yet,” Farrell said. “He’s going to need some additional increase in intensity and rehab to the hamstring. Whether or not that includes a bullpen after a couple of a days off, that’s probably our approach right now where he’ll take a couple of days down. He felt it a little bit [Saturday] in the bullpen. He’s still able to do throwing to the point of keeping his arm in shape to a certain extent. But we’re not game-ready yet.”
Who will be the closer? Edward Mujica, followed by a combination of possibilities, including Junichi Tazawa, Alexi Ogando and even lefty Tommy Layne.
“There’s been times where he’s thrown a ball down and away to right-handers with good stuff,” Farrell said of Mujica. “Right now, he would be the guy that we turn to in closing situations. I will also say that we would look to matchup in the ninth inning as well. We’ll look to exploit the best matchup, and that could be any one of three or four guys down there to finish a game.”
“Taz, if it’s Ogando. Against a tough lefty, it could be Tommy Layne. We’re not limiting any of our options.”
Farrell wouldn’t rule out a closer-by-committee but suggested it’s not the first option.
“There might be days where [Mujica] is not available,” Farrell said. “That would be no different than if Koji [weren’t] available. With Koji now not likely to start the season with us, if Koji were unavailable on a given day, it probably would’ve been Eddie. So there are other options. I’m not saying this is strictly a closer-by-committee. But we would look to close games out with Eddie but if there are certain situations that we feel like the better matchup is with a left-hander, I’m not opposed to doing that.”
Matt Barnes is an interesting possibility as well, somewhere in the bullpen. The right-hander who relieved Steven Wright Saturday, has been moved from starting to a relieving role.
“That’s an ongoing discussion,” Farrell said. “It’s a guy that’s been throwing three pitches for strikes so when you profile him out, he profiles as a starter. He’s also throwing the ball very well in shorter stints. He’s a good pitcher. We just want to be sure. There’s a number of moving parts in all of this, Joe Kelly’s situation to Koji’s situation. We’re taking every available opportunity to make decisons that are best for the invidual pitchers and where they plug in for us.”
As for the starting rotation, Joe Kelly (biceps) has been pitching in minor league games and the team wants to keep its disabled list options available if they decide to leave him behind when the team breaks camp. This is partially why Farrell did not announce a third pitcher for Philadelphia on Sunday, after confirming that Clay Buchholz would start the opener, followed by Rick Porcello on April 8.
With the possibility of both Uehara and Kelly starting the season on DL, the Red Sox could decide to take Steven Wright north and possibly Barnes.