Already facing the task of finding a temporary back of the rotation arm while left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez recovers from a dislocated knee, Red Sox manager John Farrell now must fill an unexpected void in the bullpen on Opening Day as right-hander Carson Smith will open the 2016 campaign on the disabled list, the team announced.
The 26-year-old Smith, who was diagnosed with a strained right forearm, is projected to fill a late-inning set-up role along with Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. He logged a 2.31 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 70 outings for the Seattle Mariners last season. Smith and left-hander Roenis Elias were traded over the offseason to Boston for left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley and minor league reliever Jonathan Aro.
“It is a little bit of a setback, given the time of camp we’re in, and that’s why it’s likely he begins the year on the DL,” Farrell said. “We want to make sure when we build him back up we’re taking it at an appropriate pace.”
Like the 22-year-old Rodriguez, Smith is expected to join the active roster at some point in April, but neither will be ready for Opening Day.
Closer Craig Kimbrel joins Uehara and Tazawa as certainties to anchor the Red Sox bullpen when the club heads north. Left-handers Elias, Robbie Ross and Tommy Layne are vying for spots along with right-handers Matt Barnes, Steven Wright and Heath Hembree.
If left-hander Henry Owens fills the temporary void in the rotation, likely Elias and Wright will be part of the Opening Day bullpen. Barnes appears to have won a spot with his impressive spring training performance.
The Red Sox are counting on Smith to help minimize the wear and tear on Uehara and Tazawa.