First thing’s first… A win is a win. The Boston Red Sox will take them any way they can get them, and Monday’s season opener against the New York Yankees is no exception. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. And that goes for everyone—including the manager.
New Red Sox skipper John Farrell made two curious pitching changes in the Red Sox 8-2 opening day win, and I couldn’t help but scratch my head at each of them.
After removing starter Jon Lester from the game after he threw 96 pitches in just five innings of work, Farrell went with right-hander Koji Uehara in the sixth. It was a great move, as Uehara had no trouble setting the Yankees down in order. In fact, he needed just five pitches to retire the side. That’s why I was shocked to see Andrew Miller come in for the seventh.
I don’t understand the thinking here. Farrell burned his only bullpen lefty when the Yankees had two right-handers scheduled to bat in the inning, with light hitting Brett Gardner sandwiched between them. The correct move here was to continue using Uehara—who, by the way, held lefties to a .188 average last year—and save Miller for Robinson Cano’s next plate appearance. Remember, Uehara had thrown just five pitches at that point.
My other complaint with Farrell’s handling of the bullpen was when he insisted on using closer Joel Hanrahan in the ninth inning with the Red Sox ahead by six runs. In one sense, I get what Farrell was doing. Hanrahan had already begun throwing with the Sox ahead 5-2, so Farrell decided to just let him work the ninth even though the offense put three more runs on the board in the top of the inning. But why give the Yankees a free look at your closer? What if Hanrahan gave up a run? Why give the young Yankees lineup a chance to gain confidence against your closer?
Both of Farrell’s moves worked out here as the bullpen pitched four scoreless one-hit innings in route to the victory, but that doesn’t give him immunity from inquiry. It’s a long season, so far be it for me to judge Farrell on just one game, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on how the bullpen is used going forward.
The Red Sox have an off day on Tuesday.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)