Is Heath Hembree Getting the Chance to Close?
So far in 2019, the bullpen issues of the Boston Red Sox have been discussed over and over. The reigning World Series champions are tied for the second-most blown saves of any team in baseball at the all-star break with 18. Apparently Boston’s solution to the problem is sending starter Nathan Eovaldi to to the pen. Unfortunately Eovaldi’s still hurt, so what about the here and now? How about Heath Hembree?
Let me start off by saying I am not a Heath Hembree fan. The 30-year-old reliever has been inconsistent at points and takes what seems like forever to throw a pitch, but that does not matter right now. What matters is that the Red Sox want to make the postseason, and their bullpen is a pile of rubbish.
Manager Alex Cora has been trying to solve the problem all season to no avail, but Hembree may be of assistance. Before going on the injured list in June, Hembree posted a 2.51 ERA with an opponent batting average of 1.89. Hembree was essentially the Sox best reliever besides Brandon Workman. Now with the righty back, Cora has the ability to use his arm in high-leverage situations: that includes closing.
That may seem like a stretch but if you look at it with a clear view it is anything but that. Hembree has finished the ninth inning in his last two appearances. He has a TON of closing experience in the minor leagues (123 minor league saves). Hembree is not Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, or Marcus Walden, who have proven themselves to be inconsistent in finishing off games.
I know that Hembree closing games shouldn’t get you excited, but having an option other than the guys that have shown they can’t close should. If there is any chance the Sox get a consistent late-inning reliever, you should be excited. So even though you may think of him as the same old Heath Hembree, if he continues to pitch well Cora may end up using him to anchor the back end of the bullpen (at least until Eovaldi is healthy).
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)