Red Sox

McAdam: Thoughts on the bullpen, offensive approach and developing pitching

(Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

If the first five games have taught us anything, it's that, well, they've taught us nothing.

How else to explain how alternately good and bad the Red Sox have been? Losers of three straight to Baltimore, and more recently, winners of two straight against the defending AL champs. Who can figure this out?

Still, here are three thoughts/trends that have struck me in the first week of the season:

1. The bullpen remains very much a work in progress.

Partly, this is because it's been difficult to gauge performance in the first five games. In the first three, the Red Sox never led. Then, when they finally registered a win on Monday, were up by such a large margin mid-game, they didn't have to worry about matching up or lining up their bullpen in a specific way.

Alex Cora has stubbornly evaded questions about the identity of his closer -- Matt Barnes or Adam Ottavino. Without a save situation through the first five games, he's been able to hold his cards close to the vest.

But the more interesting aspect will be how Cora constructs the roles around those two, with very little already defined.

Remember, Cora hasn't had the majority of these relievers before: Hirokazu Sawamura, Austin Brice, Phillips Valdez, Garrett Whitlock and Matt Andriese are all new to him, having either joined the organization last year, or this past winter. He has no preconceived notions about any of them.

It's obvious that Andriese is the long man, and should he be needed, a spot starter, too. With Ryan Brasier out for some time, Cora needs to identify someone who can be his other high-leverage option besides either Ottavino or Barnes -- whoever isn't anointed closer.

Sawamura has the experience, but it seems that the Sox want to ease him into this transition from Japan and don't want to ask too much of him, too soon. Whitlock, a Rule 5 pick lacks the experience to be trusted there for now, but could, in time, claim such a spot.

That leaves Valdez and the two lefties, both of whom are question marks -- Hernandez because of his errant control (he walked the first two batters he faced Monday, forcing in runs both times) and Taylor, who hasn't been able to replicate what he showed in his first season with the Sox in 2019.

Thanks to the nature of the games, some organization in the back end hasn't been necessary yet. But that won't last forever, so Cora has some decisions to make.

2. A contact-first, all-fields approach is working for the Red Sox.