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The Red Sox signed Mujica to a two-year, $9.5 million deal last winter to bolster their bullpen and serve as insurance for Koji Uehara in the 9th inning. He saved 37 games the previous year for the St. Louis Cardinals and was named to the NL All-Star team, indicating he had the necessary experience to take over that role if anything were to happen to their 39-year old closer.
His Red Sox career got off to a rocky start when he took the loss in only his second appearance of the season, getting shelled for four runs by the Milwaukee Brewers. He ended up surrendering at least one run in 6 of his 10 April appearances, finishing the month with a brutal 10.00 ERA. Needless to say, the Red Sox could not have been thrilled with their investment early on and it would take some time before Mujica could be trusted again in a tight spot.
October 17, 2004. The Boston Red Sox trailed the New York Yankees three games to none in the American League Championship Series with legendary closer Mariano Rivera on the mound, ready to slam the door shut on the Red Sox season. That's the moment when franchise history was forever changed.
It's known as "The Steal." Kevin Millar led off the 9th inning with a walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Dave Roberts. Boston had acquired Roberts at the trade deadline that season for precisely this moment, with the fate of their season hanging in the balance. Roberts didn't let them down. He took off on the first pitch, sliding in safely to second base a split second ahead of the tag.
Two pitches later, Bill Mueller drove the ball up the middle for a base hit, allowing Roberts to race home to tie the game. The invincible Rivera had entered the game a perfect 6-for-6 in postseason save opportunities against Boston, but he wasn't able to close them out that night.
We have a small sample size to grade Betts on, given that he appeared in only 52 games this season, but his arrival in the big leagues provided an infusion of energy that the Red Sox lacked early in the season. The 21-year old became a spark plug for a struggling team down the stretch, showing a glimpse of his massive potential as a five-tool player. His production alone may not be worthy of this grade, but the excitement his arrival provided and the hope he brings for the future boosts him to this level.
Betts tore through the minor leagues this season, becoming the franchise's most pleasant surprise from their farm system. After clobbering Double-A pitching to the tune of a .355/.443/.551 line in 54 games in Portland, Betts was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. His bat never cooled off against the stronger competition, as he hit .335/.417/.503 following his promotion. His success at the minor league levels caused his stock to soar, as he rose toward the top of the Red Sox top prospects list and eventually forced his way into a promotion to the majors.
A glance at this year's ALCS between the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals reveals one factor that has been a key to their success – dominant bullpens. The Royals bullpen has been the best in the AL this postseason, limiting opponents to only 7 runs in 31.1 innings (2.01 ERA), while the Orioles aren't far behind, allowing 8 runs in 25.0 innings (2.88 ERA). Meanwhile, the teams they've eliminated this postseason have bloated bullpen ERAs. For all the hype of their vaunted starting rotations, it was faulty relief pitching that doomed the Detroit Tigers (19.29 ERA) and Oakland A's (6.23 ERA).
Building a strong bullpen isn't easy, as the volatility of relief pitching makes splurging on proven relievers a risky proposition. Teams like the Royals and Orioles have found success in converting failed starting pitching prospects into dominant relievers, providing them with cheap, controllable talent to fill the late innings.
The Boston Red Sox have a surplus of young pitching to fill a limited number of rotation spots, which means some of those pitchers will either be relegated to the bullpen or shipped back to Pawtucket. If the Red Sox want to emulate what the Royals and Orioles are doing by converting the odd men out into bullpen options, which of their young starters is best suited to become a dominant reliever?
"I've been dealing with sleep apnea for a long time, my whole career. I've tried numerous things and none of them worked. Dental mouth piece, CPAP machine, medicines… It's just gotten to the point where I have to get this done."
Sleep apnea is a condition where the airway becomes obstructed, making it difficult to breath while the person sleeps. The procedure that Napoli is scheduled to have done helps reduce the obstruction by separating the front portions of the upper and lower jaw and moving them forward. As unpleasant as that sounds, it will be well worth it if it means getting through the night without worrying about if he'll stop breathing while he's asleep.