Boston bullpen logging heavy early workload

Boston bullpen logging heavy early workload

BOSTON -- For the fifth time in the past seven games, the Red Sox pulled their starter before the end of the sixth inning on Sunday. Righty Rick Porcello, who allowed all eight runs in his five-plus innings, came out of the game at 102 pitches after throwing only 58 of them for strikes in an 8-3 loss to the Orioles.

This combination of short starts and extended appearances from the bullpen has developed into an early trend for the Red Sox. Entering Monday, the club's relievers had combined to pitch 49 2/3 innings -- 13 2/3 of which came during a 19-inning marathon at Yankee Stadium -- which was tied with the Yankees for second most in the Majors.

"That's going to skew the numbers a little bit," said Boston manager John Farrell, whose rotation had produced a Majors-worst 6.24 ERA through 12 games. "You monitor the workload of every individual guy. Our goal is to continue to try to stretch our starters out as best as possible. To keep a bullpen that's successful, healthy and strong requires an equally strong rotation."

"Wow," lefty Robbie Ross Jr. said upon hearing how much relievers had pitched. "We've been battling. We've got a good staff. Our starters are going to lock in and do their best for us, just like us for them."

Southpaw Craig Breslow entered Monday leading the bullpen with 9 2/3 innings pitched, all of them scoreless, and he worked three shutout frames during Sunday's game. Collectively, Red Sox relievers own a 2.72 ERA, which ranks fourth in the American League.

With the initial absence of closer Koji Uehara, who started the season on the disabled list, and such a heavy workload this early in the season, the roles have yet to totally crystalize for the relievers.

"[The] bullpen has been used a little unconventionally with the extra-inning game," reliever Anthony Varvaro said. "It happens. It's part of the game. I don't know when we're going to be able to get on a roll and establish roles, but for the time being, we're just going to get the call and pitch."

Farrell didn't rule out bolstering the group with a fresh Minor League arm. Triple-A Pawtucket relievers on the team's 40-man roster include Tommy Layne, Steven Wright and Heath Hembree.

"We're trying to find that balance, if need be," Farrell said. "If we have to make changes because of overusage at the bullpen, we'll do that. That's part of getting things settled in from a pitching standpoint."

Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.