Andrew Bailey, left, served as the pitching coach with the San Francisco Giants for the past four years before agreeing to take on the same role with the Boston Red Sox this winter. Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

One of the biggest frustrations for Red Sox fans this winter has been the lack of improvement in the team’s pitching staff. Boston entered the winter needing more starters. That hasn’t changed.

Over the past two weeks the Red Sox have begun to talk about the need for internal candidates to step up in the coming season.

“At the end of the day, the Whitlocks, the Crawfords, the Houcks, the Bellos … they have to take a step forward,” Manager Alex Cora said at Winter Weekend in Springfield. “Regardless if you sign the best pitcher in the world, they need to take a step forward.”

The Red Sox didn’t sign the best pitcher in the world. They signed Lucas Giolito, and then traded Chris Sale. As it stands right now three spots in the rotation would have to be filled from the group of four (Garrett Whitlock, Kutter Crawford, Tanner Houck, Brayan Bello) that Cora mentioned. Giolito and Nick Pivetta are penciled in as the other two.

To help get the most of their young pitchers, the Red Sox have added more pitching support than the big-league team has had in years. Chief Baseball Officer Craig Breslow had a 12-year major league career as a reliever and was an early adopter of much of the technology that is taken for granted by pitchers today. He was heralded for his work in improving the staff in Chicago when he worked in the Cubs front office.

Looking to replicate that success, Breslow overhauled Boston’s pitching department over the past month. He added his friend and former teammate, Andrew Bailey, to become the new big-league pitching coach. Bailey was lauded for his work in the same role with the San Francisco Giants over the last four years.


Breslow also added director of pitching Justin Willard to the mix. Willard was the minor-league pitching coordinator with the Minnesota Twins and they, like the Giants, posted some of the lowest ERAs in baseball over the past few years.

Finally, Kyle Boddy joined the group in an advisory role. Boddy, who created the data-driven Driveline Baseball technology, is considered an analytics guru in the pitching world.

Both Bailey and Willard told me their goal is to get the Boston staff to increase its velocity in the coming season. They feel they have already found some things they can work on with Giolito as he tries to rediscover the form that saw him finish 11th or higher in the AL Cy Young Award voting from 2019-21.

They also feel they can help Whitlock, Crawford and Houck take the final step to becoming effective major league pitchers. They’ll need to if the Sox have any chance of overcoming the odds and surprising people in 2024.

“On the pitching side, I think we’re going to be a lot better,” said Cora. “It’s a different philosophy. One that’s a lot different than the last two or three years. And I think we’re going to take a step forward.”

They could also take a step forward by signing one of the big free agents remaining on the market. Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Florida, in just over two weeks. Incredibly, Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell remain available. You’ve read it over and over in this space: either of them would immediately improve Boston’s win probability for the coming year.

Yet the Red Sox seem content with the pitchers they have in the fold. At least for now. If it stays that way, they’re banking that the additions of Breslow, Bailey, Willard and Boddy will make up for all the additions they didn’t make this winter.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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