Boston Red Sox 2014 Preview: Bullpen

The Boston Red Sox bullpen situation was nothing short of crazy last season, but it worked out for the best. With some new faces added to the mix, spring training will surely be a battle ground for the final bullpen spots.

Longshots

Drake Britton, Francisco Cordero, Rich Hill

All three players could see time at the big league level later in the season, but it’s unlikely they’ll make the roster out of the gate. Britton had a lengthy call-up last season and showed promise in 18 appearances, while Rich Hill is back with the organization after a poor season with Cleveland in 2013.

Cordero could end up fizzling out and the Sox may never see him, but similar to Grady Sizemore’s deal, this is a low-risk, high-reward type of signing. The 38-year-old didn’t pitch last season, but lost 30 pounds and could be a valuable option down the road if he puts some work in at Pawtucket.

Bubble

Brayan Villarreal, Brandon Workman, Jose Mijares

Villarreal was acquired last season in the Jake Peavy trade and pitched one game for the Red Sox. He faced one batter with the bases loaded, walking him on four pitches resulting in a walk-off win for the Giants.

Workman’s situation with the team is an interesting one. Clearly possessing MLB-ready talent, the addition of Chris Capuano might keep him off the opening day roster. Workman worked as a starter this offseason in winter ball and Farrell says he plans on working him as a starter in spring training. He may have to settle for the Pawtucket rotation until a chance arises, as Boston may not have room for two extra starters/long relievers.

Mijares pitched for San Francisco last year, appearing in 60 games and posting a poor WHIP of 1.78. However, in 2012, the hefty 265 pound lefty posted an ERA of 2.56 and a WHIP of 1.26 in 78 appearances.

Locks

Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Craig Breslow, Koji Uehara

Miller is set to return coming off foot surgery which ended his season early last July. Miller had posted career bests in ERA, K/9 innings, and K/BB ratio. The 6-foot-7 lefty should be fully recovered by the beginning of the season.

Badenhop was signed early this offseason after pitching for Milwaukee last year. Sox fans may be familiar with the 6-foot-5 righty from his season with Tampa Bay in 2012, in which he posted a career best 3.01 ERA.

Tazawa and Breslow are both back after posting solid regular and postseason numbers. Breslow posted a career best 1.81 ERA along with a 1.12 WHIP and had several key performances against the Tigers in the ALCS. Tazawa was second on the team with 71 appearances last season, but might have a slightly different role this season with Mujica on the squad.

Mujica, who was a National League all-star last season for the Cardinals, was signed to a two-year deal this offseason. The 29-year-old Venezuelan ended up losing the closer’s job at the end of the season, as his ERA rose from 1.73 at the end of August to 2.78 by season’s end. Mujica could potentially be the setup man for Boston this year with Koji closing things out.

With the likes of Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan gone for good, Koji Uehara plans to return to his dominating form in the closer’s role. Uehara allowed only one run and one walk after the all-star break in 32 innings, while striking out 42. This included a stretch of 37 straight batters retired, which was only four short of the record. He did however set a record of his own by posting a WHIP of .57, which was the lowest ever of pitchers with more than 50 innings pitched in a season. While we can’t expect him to repeat such a spectacular season, expect Uehara to continue his greatness in 2014.

With plenty of arms to choose from, spring training will be a chance for the young guns to prove themselves, while the veterans will have to prove that they still have a place in the big leagues.