It’s time to face the facts, the Boston Red Sox relief corps hasn’t performed up to the standards of a championship caliber bullpen. In the previous 4 games, they’ve allowed 12 hits (2 HR), 11 walks and 11 runs in 10.2 IP. Matt Barnes hasn’t been able to throw a strike, Brian Johnson has given up multiple big-time hits, Heath Hembree has been awful, and even Craig Kimbrel has shown signs of normalcy. Carson Smith, though, has been exactly the opposite.
Smith came into 2018 with high expectations. He was acquired by the Red Sox in 2016 via a trade with Seattle after posting a 2.07 ERA with the Mariners in 79 games across 2014-2015. He pitched just 3 games for Boston in 2016 before being sidelined with an elbow injury that eventually require Tommy John surgery. He returned in September of 2017 to throw 6.2 innings over 8 appearances, allowing just 1 run from 7 hits and 2 walks in that span.
Smith began this year disappointingly, though, accumulating a 5.87 ERA in his first 10 appearances. He was down with his velocity and inconsistent with his command, and he seemed to buckle under the pressure of late inning appearances in close games. Since then, however, he’s logged 5 IP, 6 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs and 9 K’s in his last 6 outings, all of which in high leverage situations, bringing his season ERA way down to 3.55.
Boston NEEDS someone to step up and be the 8th inning guy. Right now they’re relying on Joe Kelly, who, to be fair, has had a very good season for the most part, and Matt Barnes, who, as mentioned above, hasn’t been able to find the strike zone with anything resembling consistency.
Could Smith be that guy? If his recent track record is any indication, then the answer is yes. Don’t forget, either, that Tyler Thornburg is working his way back to health and should rejoin the Sox within the next couple weeks. If that 1-2 combination pitches up to their perceived ability, then Boston instantly becomes one of the best bullpens in the entire MLB.