The Red Sox bullpen – ranked 12th in the Majors with a collective 3.97 ERA – will have to make room for a couple of extra bodies today. With the season coming down to two final games against the Nationals, manager Alex Cora is all-hands-on-deck, telling starters Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Pivetta to be ready out the bullpen, if necessary, per Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com (via Twitter). Both Pivetta and Eovaldi have spent the entire season pitching out of Boston’s rotation.
Eovaldi and Pivetta are a necessary safeguard in part because Garrett Whitlock still isn’t ready to return. Whitlock has a chance to return for Sunday’s game, which is more than can get said for Josh Taylor. The 28-year-old southpaw is out for the foreseeable future, per The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey (via Twitter). Taylor has been a major contributor, pitching in 61 games and serving as the primary southpaw among Boston’s relief corps. A back injury has ended his season. He has a 3.40 ERA/2.83 FIP, holding same-handed hitters to a measly .146/.222/.159 line in 90 plate appearances.
Without Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, Austin Davis, and deposed starter Martin Perez are the other lefties available to Cora against the Nats, who boast a lineup heavy on lefties or switch-hitters, most notably Juan Soto, but also Josh Bell, Yadiel Hernandez, and Keibert Ruiz, whom the Nats often feature near the middle of the order.
As for Whitlock, he’s been one of Boston’s most valuable players, which is certainly a surprising development for the Rule 5 pick. Regardless, the 25-year-old stabilized the Red Sox bullpen with 72 1/3 innings spread across 45 appearances, good for a 1.99 ERA/2.89 FIP. Whitlock has picked up eight wins, two saves, and 14 holds en route to a 1.5 fWAR season.
Without Whitlock, Cora will leave open the possibility of using Eovaldi or Pivetta out of the pen. Tanner Houck and Chris Sale are set to start the final two ballgames, making everyone else on the roster on call as they try to hold off the Mariners and Blue Jays for the final playoff spot in the American League. Presumably, Eduardo Rodriguez would be available to start a potential one-game playoff.