FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Every manager has things to worry about, but the bullpen shouldn't be one of them for John Farrell this season.
With the return of Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow, the emergence of Andrew Miller last year before suffering torn ligaments in his foot, and the acquisition of former Cardinals closer Edward Mujica, the Red Sox are loaded with eighth-inning options. Farrell even said Tuesday that he wouldn’t rule out Miller as an option to finish a game if Koji Uehara isn’t available.
“They’ve got a long track record of (being) very good strike-throwers,” Farrell said. “They don’t create havoc on the basepaths by issuing base on balls. They’ve got an out pitch. They’ve been effective against opposite sides of the plate. They have characteristics that allow you to have trust in them. ... We are set up to have a deep and quality bullpen.”
Farrell said that Burke Badenhop, acquired in the offseason from the Brewers, could be a late-inning option based on the availability of the other pitchers, but he envisions him pitching in the sixth and seventh innings, potentially into the eighth.
“He gives us a contrast of style in the bullpen -- a right-handed sinkerballer that we really didn’t have that type of guy last year,” Farrell said. “You look at the last two years, and really over the course of his career, he’s been a dependable, very consistent strike-thrower, deep reliever. I think his last two years were almost identical from number of appearances to hits allowed, innings pitched, strikeouts-to-walks. So he’s a guy that you know what you’re going to get when he comes to the mound. There’s a lot of value in that -- to be able to match him up in certain situations, the ability to get ground balls and record two outs with one pitch if that situation arises.”
Farrell said he expects even better things from Tazawa, whose ERA soared to 3.16 last year from 1.43 in 2012.
“Last year, I think he went through a little peak and valley at times,” Farrell said. “Maybe because it was his second year back after Tommy John (surgery), where he was used a lot in the first year back, whether it was back-to-back outings, multiple situations. There was a variation to his overall role, and did the first year back off Tommy John have some carryover effect into last year? That’s possible. But the way he’s throwing the ball now, he’s going to pitch in some high-stress situations.”
He said Tazawa has the ability to be a closer, and he could ultimately grow into that role before he’s finished playing.
“There’s no limits on what his eventual role could be,” Farrell said.
Nava, whose neck discomfort prevented him from taking batting practice on Monday, was limited on Tuesday to throwing and will get back to full baseball activities Wednesday.
Farrell said Victorino has had two “really good days of work.”
“Coming out of swinging the bat off the tee, soft toss and some light BP, we felt there were some other things we needed to address just for core strengthening, and he’s going through that right now,” Farrell said. “We don’t have a date right now where he’d be in games. There’s some other work we’ve got to take care of first.
“This is not related to the hand. He feels good there. He came out and ran today for about 12 minutes, ran the bases, threw. We feel like there’s more to his base and foundation before ramping up the work.
"We just feel like there were more specific needs we wanted to address before they might flare up, as we experienced a year ago.”
* Grady Sizemore expressed some reservation Monday about playing in Thursday’s doubleheader, but Farrell said that based on everything he’s seen, Sizemore is ready.
“We came into camp knowing we were going to have to work on his readiness and comfort level,” he said. “He’s answered everything within the schedule so far. You can see the look on his face and the way he talks or answers questions about fundamentally the timing at the plate or physically how he’s responding. Thursday is not too soon, based on some of the answers he’s gotten through the workouts.”