This horrific road trip to start off the 2019 season has finally come to a close. Who knows how the Red Sox will play once they’re back in Boston and not forcing us to stay up way past our bedtimes but nonetheless, at least we won’t have this brutal road trip as an excuse to fall back on if they continue to struggle.
Truth be told, there aren’t too many things to hang your hat on at this point if you’re the Boston Red Sox. And that’s not a hot take, obviously. I can’t stress this enough, this team’s gotten their doors blown off to ring in the new season. But with the occasional struggling offense and the starting rotation that has yet to find its groove–or any groove for that matter–there is one shining bright spot that deserves some heavy praise through these first 11 games. That bright spot is the relief duo of Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier.
Throughout the offseason, there was plenty of speculation as to what Alex Cora was going to do for the closing role in 2019 with the vacant position left behind by future Hall of Famer, Craig Kimbrel, as he entered free agency. The idea was thrown around that it could be a shared job between Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes. The two of them proved themselves last season, especially in the postseason, and became Boston’s two most reliable weapons to come out of the bullpen.
While he did fall into his past, usual ways of showing streaky success, Barnes turned on the gas in the postseason surrendering just one earned run in 11 appearances. His regular season numbers were okay, sitting on a 3.65 ERA and a 1.265 WHIP, but there were many times where he would slide into those dominating stretches where he could be trusted in almost any situation.
And then there’s the surprise of 2018, Ryan Brasier, who, once he got the call to the major league level, there was no turning back. Getting called up in early July, Brasier gained the trust of Red Sox fans early allowing just a single run through his first month with the team.
While Cora refuses to name an official closer for the season, I think it’s quite clear what the game plan is here. Utilize who you have to mid-game, whether it’s Barnes or Brasier depending on the situation, and whichever one you have remaining in the ‘pen, you bring him in to throw the ninth inning.
Honestly, I don’t hate the approach as much as I thought I would. There was just this weird, self-imposed stigma that I had regarding the ninth inning. You need someone to call your “closer”, right? That is a job in and of itself and you should have someone on your roster who you know holds that position. But from what I’ve seen so far out of Barnes and Brasier, if Cora wants to continue with this two-man deal, I’m not going to stop him.
Brasier and Barnes have both been lights out to start the season. And one thing that’s noticeable is the command that each of them has already put on display. They’ve each looked dominant and confident, something that has been lacking in their starting counterparts.
Through his first five games, Brasier has given up just three hits in five innings worth of work, notching two saves. One against Oakland in Boston’s second win and one today in the Red Sox much needed third victory. He’s holding batters to a .176 batting average and has struck out four hitters in five appearances.
Barnes has only had the opportunity to prove himself so far three times but has had his talents stretched over more than just one inning. Today in a gritty performance, Barnes lasted two full innings not allowing a single man to reach base while striking out two. He’s yet to allow a run to score and has notched a save himself on the season. Over his 4.1 IP, he’s allowed only one hit.
Again, we can be honest for a minute. There hasn’t been too much positivity when it’s come to the Red Sox start to the season. They’ve stumbled hard out of the gate and now they’ve got some catching up to do. But Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier’s hot start to the season has given me some immense confidence that was lacking severely when discussing the closer position prior.
And look, how long is this going to last? We all know that Barnes is known to go on hot and cold streaks. But for the most part, he had a very solid 2018 coupled with an insanely great postseason run. There’s a part of me that still wants to be speculative with the fireballer of a right-hander. But maybe this is just what he needed. Maybe he needed a role with such stature and significance in order for him to put his best stuff out there every single night.
And Brasier has had his own struggles in his past major league life. We all know the story by now and if you don’t, look into it. Brasier spent the 2017 season in Japan honing his game. The MLB gave up on him but the Red Sox brought him into camp in 2018 and his major league career was re-born. And now look where we are. Brasier deserves all of the trust in the world because as it stands right now, his success in Boston isn’t a fluke. It’s been something that the team’s been riding since July of last year. His talent and grit is something that makes him your prototypical closer and I’m now comfortable with giving him that role, partially anyway.
Before it seemed like just some crazy theory that Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier could be simultaneously holding the closer role as a team. But as the 2019 season has begun and there have been three saves to be had, it appears as though that this is the gameplan going forward. And you know what, I’ve talked myself into loving it.