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Boston Red Sox 2021 Projections - The Staff and Bullpen

Oh, boy. This was by far the worst group last season, as most of the rotation was openers and mediocre 4-inning spot starters. While the Red Sox will get back Eduardo Rodrigez and Chris Sale, at some point, who will fill out the rest of the spots? What will the bullpen look like, without a true top-notch closer? Here is what I think will happen with the staff and ‘pen in 2021.

Starting Rotation


1 - Eduardo Rodriguez

E-Rod lost his whole 2020 season, due to testing positive for COVID-19, and then developing a heart condition, Myocarditis, from COVID. In 2019, though, he was the ace of the injury-riddled staff, as he went 19-6, with a 3.81 ERA, and most importantly he started 34 games, and pitched 203.1 innings! If he can come back like that, and stay healthy, then Boston’s playoff hopes take a big boost up.

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

2 - Nathan Eovaldi

The “ace” of the 2020 season, is a hard-thrower, who has amazing potential, but he just gets hurt. Remember what he did in the 2018 playoffs? That is what everyone thought he could be, just a long time ago. He went 4-2, with a 3.72 ERA last season, before, getting hurt. If Eovaldi can just stay healthy, then the rotation could get a lot better than last year.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

3 - Garrett Richards

The story of Garrett Richards’ career has always been about his potential. If only he could stay healthy this season! This is the year he pieces it all together! He has always been hit with the injury bug, only pitching more than 200 innings once, in 2015. That year he went 15-12, and had a 3.65 ERA. Once again if he can stay healthy, then the Red Sox have a potentially dangerous group on their hands.

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

4 - Martin Perez

Chaim Bloom made heads turn, when he declined Perez’s option for this year. Then he went out and got him for $2 million cheaper. Classic Rays style management. Anyway, Perez isn’t flashy. But he gets the job done, by inducing weak contact. He pitched well in 2020, as he won 3 games, but lost 5. His ERA on the other hand was 4.50, (he got hit hard vs. the Nationals, in one game, so his ERA was a bit inflated.) All Perez needs to do is help stabilize the back end, and deliver some quality innings to help out Boston.

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

5 - Nick Pivetta

Though he has a career 5.40 ERA, he was brought over from the Phillies, along with prospect Connor Seabold. Pivetta went 2-0, with a 1.80 ERA in a Red Sox uniform, and pitched 10 innings. That is a pretty solid stat line for a guy who was getting shelled earlier in the season. Also, the Rays apparently wanted Pivetta really badly, and thought he could be a Tyler Galsnow! If that is true, then the Sox could have a great player at the back of the staff.

PHOTO CREDIT: Prime Time Sports Talk

Tanner Houck

Houck got his feet wet last year, going 3-0, to go with a 0.53 ERA. He is a Red Sox top prospect, and needs some more time in the minors. He could be in Boston permanently, soon, but in what role. He has a Chris Sale-like delivery, so maybe the bullpen for now, as the starting ranks are crowded right now.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Chris Sale

Sale has never won a Cy Young, but don’t let that fool you. He has been a force for years, but in 2019 he never got going, pitched terribly, and got hurt. He got Tommy-John surgery, and is now rehabbing. The Red Sox are being cautious with his recovery and aren’t rushing anything, which is a very good idea. Most likely he won’t be back until the All-Star Break, and will probably not pitch much this year. We may see him out of the bullpen, the way the Sox did with David Price in 2017. Look for him in 2022, to dominate once more.


Notable arms include:

PHOTO CREDIT: Gary A. Vasquez / USA TODAY Sports

Matt Barnes

The UCONN grad, and Connecticut native was primed for the closer’s role after Craig Kimbrel left town in 2019, but he lost that to Brandon Workman. He has another chance to regain it, but I think Barnsey does better in an 8th inning role, as the setup man. He did well after the Workman trade, notching 9 saves over the course of the season. The big question is, can he mesh with the next guy on this list?

PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Stier / Getty Images

Adam Ottavino

Ottavino was recently traded from the Yankees, in a rare Boston-New York trade. He got absolutely killed in 2020, going 2-3, with a 5.89 ERA, and throwing just 0.2 innings in the postseason. If the Red Sox can get the guy who 6-5 along with a 1.90 ERA in the 2019 season, then the Bronx Bombers may be regretting this trade. I can see him and Barnes alternating the closer’s role.


Ryan Brasier

Brasier improved in 2020, and became unhittable at the end of it. Can that transfer over to 2021? Brasier has talent, but he has the tendency to get shelled a lot. In 2018 he had a 1.60 ERA, and played a big part in the final push to the playoffs, and pitched well in the postseason, before the Dodgers hit him hard in the World Series. If he can avoid the 2019-type season (2-4, 4.85 ERA), then the Red Sox bullpen has the chance of being a nice quality unit that can get outs in tough situations.


Late Inning Arms:

Barnes, Ottavino, Brasier, Austin Brice

6th-7th Inning Arms:

Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, Colten Brewer

The Rest:

Matt Andriese, Phillps Valdez

Potential Call-Ups:

Garrett Whitlock, Bryan Mata

Final Thoughts

This group of pitchers the Red Sox have are high risk, high reward. This unit could help them reach the postseason for the first time since the 2018 season. Or they could blow it up. Either way, this is a very intriguing roster the Red Sox have, and the pitching will dictate how the season goes.


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