June 21, 2024

Early on Sunday morning, several sources in the Boston sports media revealed that Red Sox manager Alex Cora has made a decision regarding right-handed pitcher Josh Winckowski’s role at the start of the 2024 season: he will be stationed in the bullpen.
Winckowski had been showing promise as a potential contender for the starting rotation at the beginning of the season, joining other reliever-starter hybrids like Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock, and Cooper Criswell. However, it appears he’s now set to resume his role as a multi-inning reliever out of the bullpen.
Indeed, it seems like a sensible decision given Winckowski’s strong performance in relief during the 2023 season. His contribution was notable, especially in a bullpen that stood out as one of the few positives in an otherwise challenging season. Kudos to Tyler Milliken from The Sports Hub for compiling Winckowski’s impressive relief statistics from last year.

Winckowski’s impressive performance last year translated into a remarkable 1.9 bWAR, second only to Chris Martin’s 3.2 among Boston pitchers who primarily served as relievers in 2023.
Winckowski showcased a knack for pitching on the fringes of the strike zone last season, coupled with an enhanced sinker that saw its average velocity rise from 94.1 MPH in 2022 to 96.3 MPH in 2023. His cutter, which emerged as a reliable put-away pitch last season, found success with precise placement on the edges. Additionally, he’s been diligently working to integrate his slider/sweeper into his repertoire more frequently in 2024, as reported by MLB.com’s Joe Trezza.

While starting in the rotation isn’t currently on the table, Winckowski’s enhancements in his secondary pitches will be crucial for him to capitalize on his strong 2023 performance. If he can maintain his precision, limit hard contact, and generate a good number of ground balls, especially with what seems to be an improved defense (albeit compared to last year’s standards), Winckowski has the potential to excel once again as a multi-inning reliever in 2024.

It’s certainly possible that Winckowski could earn another opportunity in the rotation down the line, especially if he can effectively apply his recent improvements to that role as well.

Regarding the remaining spots in the starting rotation before Opening Day, it’s likely that Houck and Whitlock will join Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta, and Kutter Crawford, with Criswell serving in relief alongside Winckowski.

Houck’s impressive performance this spring is noteworthy: he has only allowed two earned runs over 11.1 innings in the Grapefruit League, striking out 12 batters and maintaining a WHIP of 0.71. These numbers certainly make a compelling case for him to secure a spot in the rotation and have another opportunity to establish himself as a reliable starter, despite some past challenges in that role.
Whitlock has also been performing well this spring, boasting a 3.45 ERA and a WHIP of 0.96 across 15.2 innings. Despite facing injuries in the past two seasons after his impressive debut in 2021, Whitlock’s versatility has seen him used as a starter with varying outcomes. He holds a lifetime ERA of 4.76 in 19 starts, contrasting with a 2.65 ERA in 80 career relief appearances.

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