BOSTON -- The Red Sox bullpen has thrown 113 1/3 innings this season, the second most in the Major Leagues, behind the Royals. The club also has several relievers in the Minors ready to answer the call if needed.
Right-handers Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen and Mark Melancon are with Triple-A Pawtucket after brief stints in the Majors this year, but they could be back in Boston soon if the bullpen becomes overtaxed.
"I think Tazawa, [Mortensen] and Melancon obviously could pitch in winning games at the end also," manager Bobby Valentine said.
Since April 23, Red Sox relievers lead the Majors in ERA (1.53) and innings (70.2). With so much work thrown the relief corps' way, Valentine believes he has a good feel for what he has.
"I think our depth in that middle is very good," he said. "Middle and towards the end."
But he also believes that Tazawa and Mortensen could start if needed.
"I think so," he said. "Matter of fact, Mortensen was ready to start [in Pawtucket] the day that we called him up [on May 2]. And he pitched plenty up here to not derail those ideas."
Melancon could be the first option should Boston need another reliever. Melancon was optioned to the Minors on April 18 after allowing 11 earned runs in two innings over four appearances.
"[I'm] getting great reports, and I think it's just figuring out the mix and how it is to get him back here," Valentine said. "It's not like we don't want him here, and it's not like he hasn't done what he was supposed to do to go down there. It's a roster situation, it's not a talent situation."