On Red Sox, eighth-inning reliever isn't limited to eighth inning

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BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell has an eighth-inning guy, Matt Barnes, who’s not really an eighth-inning guy. 

That’s how it should be.

We’ll explain.

Barnes today is Farrell’s most trusted reliever not named Craig Kimbrel -- who isn’t exactly a strike-throwing machine himself.

So Barnes, for now, takes over the eighth inning. But, in Farrell’s mind, the role isn't limited to that inning.

Just as it should be.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily locked into the eighth inning,” Farrell said. “But your set-up guy that is probably separated himself out from the group in addition to your closer [is Barnes right now]. Then you’ve got the flexibility, probably in your highest leverage spot, probably in the seventh inning depending where you are in the lineup. Could also be in the eighth inning.”

Lo, a smart outlook on a bullpen that doesn’t have too rigid a shape, and would actually be best served to remain flexible. 

Whether Barnes deserves the highest leverage job in the long run is to be seen, but it's the approach that deserves praise.

There’s no need to save your second-best reliever for the eighth inning when the game’s biggest moment might well come in the seventh. Farrell appears to realize this.
 

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