Bullpens have been hard to come by in the Theo Epstein Era.

Since the days of the dreaded “Bullpen By Committee,” the Red Sox front office has tried to patch together a relief corps capable of handling the pressure of a pennant chase in Boston.

Looks like the Sox might have found the right recipe for relief success in 2011.

And that’s why there were no changes to the bullpen before Sunday’s nonwaiver trade deadline.

That, in itself, is remarkable. The Sox have almost always tweaked the makeup of the bullpen in the final days of July.

Whether it’s a significant addition (Eric Gagne in 2007, Billy Wagner in 2009) or addition by subtraction (Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez last season) there has always been an attempt to fix late-inning pitching issues.

All of this has happened with Jonathan Papelbon, the greatest closer in Red Sox history, taking care of business in the ninth inning. The problems have been getting the ball into Papelbon’s hands in tight games.

It hasn’t been a problem this year.

Daniel Bard is the best eighth-inning man in the league, but had his scoreless streak of 25 appearances (26 1/3 innings) end in Monday night’s game.

Bard’s success is nothing new, he’s been the closer-in-waiting for two years.

The difference this season is that the Sox have a bullpen that can shorten the game on opponents, even when the starting pitcher is unable to go deep into the game.

A prime example was Sunday’s game in Chicago, when Andrew Miller could once again not complete six innings, yet the Sox were able to beat the White Sox 5-3. Alfredo Aceves, Bard, and Papelbon combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings, giving the Sox offense a chance to come back.

Aceves has been the biggest addition to the bullpen this season, and has won 16 straight decisions in relief. It’s the longest such streak in the majors in more than 40 years.

What makes his success sweeter is that he came from New York, after the Yankees decided to let him go this off-season.

“He obviously is directly responsible for a lot of wins where he comes in and shuts down rallies,” said Epstein Sunday night.

And, because of that, Epstein could focus on getting a starter at the trade deadline. Time will tell if Erik Bedard helps this team win a championship, but it was clear that the team needed starting help. What it didn’t need was relief help.

Bobby Jenks was supposed to be the big addition to the bullpen this season, and he has been an injury-riddled disappointment.

Yet that disappointment hasn’t effected the Sox playoff hopes. Aceves, Matt Albers and Dan Wheeler have been key additions to a bullpen that helped the Red Sox go 20-6 in July, Boston’s best month since May 2007.

That team went on to win the World Series. This team has a similar goal.

While fans have been focused on Boston’s league-leading offense, it’s the bullpen that has provided relief on the field… and in the front offices at 4 Yawkey Way.


Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.