Everyone anxious to see who would emerge as the closer from the mass of mediocrity that is the Red Sox bullpen, your wait is over.
“I’m not going to name a closer,” Cora told reporters in Seattle on Wednesday.
“I’ve been saying all along, tomorrow we’ll see what we’re going to do and I feel fine. I’m OK with it.” Cora continued.
Cora may be afraid to utter the words but let’s call this what it is.
Closer by committee.
Pretty much a four letter word in Boston after the Red Sox tried, and spectacularly failed to employ a committee approach to closing games in 2003.
Cora’s decision was made easier now that the team is without All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, who, for as dominant as he has been most of his career really only felt comfortable pitching in the ninth inning.
“I didn’t feel that way last year,” Cora said. “It’s just where we’re at and who we have and how we’re going to do it. It’s obviously different than last year, as far as the personnel. I really do pay attention to other teams and all that, you guys know that, but as far as usage, the only thing I know is how Seattle uses their bullpen. I’m not in-tuned with what other teams are doing in that regard. We’ll do it the way we feel we’re going to be successful doing it and we’ll stick to the plan.”
The approach on paper makes sense. Play matchups and use your best pitchers in the highest leverage situations instead of just slotting guys in by inning. But baseball players tend to be slaves to routine so executing this approach is easier said than done.
“We tried, but it was different, man,” Cora said. “(Kimbrel) only pitched one game in spring training and we did it in New York in May, I think it was, and then we did it a few times in the regular season. When it really mattered, when I needed him to pitch the eighth, we used him, it was against Houston, he pitched two innings. I do feel that people get caught up in the whole usage and high leverage and not getting locked in with a closer. Every game is different and every out is different. A high leverage situation for me might be different for you. That’s the beauty of the game. There’s no black or white.”
Leading candidates to pitch in those high leverage situations would seem to be Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes. But no one knows for sure what will happen when the season kicks off on Thursday.
“The bullpen – as last year – and going into the playoffs, and going into tomorrow, it’s always been a question mark,” Cora said. “You saw what we did last year. I think stuff-wise, I’ve been saying all along in spring training and obviously I think I’m going to be saying it throughout the season. We’ve got stuff, so it’s up to us to find matchups we can exploit and they can maximize their talents. That’s how we’re going to do it.”
By committee. And that’s ok. Until of course it isn’t.