Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Sept. 28, 2018 – Source: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images North America)
Many Red Sox fans spent Friday’s Game One victory wondering why knuckleballer Steven Wright wasn’t coming out of the bullpen. Come Saturday morning, we now know the answer. The oft-injured knuckleballer reportedly underwent an MRI during Friday’s game after complaining of knee pain.
While the results of the MRI are still unknown, the team is not optimistic. Per Ian Browne of RedSox.com, the team is expected to take Wright off the ALDS roster entirely. This is obviously terrible news for the Red Sox and drastically hurts their bullpen depth.
Steven Wright Likely to Miss ALDS With Knee Injury
This isn’t the first time injuries have forced Wright from the lineup. Wright’s injuries first date back in 2016 when then-manager John Farrell used Wright as a pinch-runner in a National League game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wright injured his shoulder sliding into second, forcing him to miss the majority of 2016.
Wright returned for 2017, but never looked completely healthy. He pitched just 24 innings, allowing an 8.25 ERA before hitting the 60-day disabled list with a knee injury. Wright made just five appearances in 2017 before his season ended.
This season, it’s been more of the same for Wright. Serving as a reliever and a starter, Wright showed flashes of brilliance. However, injuries forced him off the opening day roster and he was on the DL by July. Wright returned in September and was one of the lone bright spots for the bullpen. Wright was expected to serve as one of the top setup men for closer Craig Kimbrel, but the Red Sox will likely have to do without him.
The two most likely candidates to replace Wright in the postseason are Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson. Hembree was reportedly the last player left off the playoff roster and has had a fairly decent 2018. On the year, Hembree has a 4.20 ERA and has been manager Alex Cora’s top option when dealing with inherited runners. After Ryan Brasier’s sixth-inning implosion yesterday, the Red Sox could use Hembree’s skills with eliminating inherited runners.
That said, the team could also look to add Brian Johnson to the roster. Wright served more as a long arm in the bullpen, while Heath Hembree can only go an inning at a time. Johnson, primarily a starter, has the ability to eat multiple innings and is more natural fit for Wright’s role. As a reliever in the second half, Johnson owns an impressive 1.04 ERA with a less impressive 5.70 FIP.
Whichever route the Red Sox take, there’s no denying Boston’s bullpen is considerably weaker. Wright was arguably the second-best arm in the Red Sox bullpen, and they’re replacing him with two underwhelming options.