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(Sept. 8, 2015 - Source: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America)

Evan Marinofsky
Contributing Writer

First the team's number two starting pitcher goes down. Then the team's brand new eighth inning guy gets put on the Disabled List with an arm injury.

And oh by the way, it's only the middle of Spring Training.

In a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, Carson Smith felt serious tightness and cramping in his throwing arm on just his fourth pitch. After the next pitch, Smith was off the field and into the clubhouse to get checked out by team internist Peter Asnis.

After being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners, it was assumed that Smith would be the fireballer setup man for also newly acquired Craig Kimbrel. That would be a better 1-2 punch than anything we've seen at Fenway Park for the later innings in quite some time.

But with the injury to Smith that has no timetable for a return, I can't help but worry about his future.

Once a pitcher gets any sort of throwing arm-injury, they are deemed fragile immediately and are to be watched at all times. Don't believe me? Ask Stephen Strasburg or Matt Harvey or Jose Fernandez.

It can't be very fun.

Part of the reason Smith's expectations are so high is due to his tremendous numbers just last season. In 70 appearances, his ERA was a 2.31. It was only his first full year in the show.

His velocity on his fastball is incredibly impressive, but it's in part due to his unconventional throwing motion. It's a three-quarter arm angle and will likely be deemed part of the reason he sustained this sort of injury.

The Red Sox coaching staff will most likely work with Smith to tweak his windup so he won't have this type of injury again.

The question then becomes does his performance take the hit instead?

Part of his success is his fastball, which is a key to any setup man's job of setting up the closer (go figure). For Smith, if he were to have his motion tweaked, his velocity on his fastball would likely go down which would therefore result in a lower amount of success.

That is, unless he finds more success with his slider and changeup.

He started to utilize those pitches more and more as the season progressed last year. With a slightly different throwing motion, the velocity on those pitches could go down, but with sliders and changeups, velocity isn't necessarily essential.

If Smith isn't back pitching in the bullpen by Opening Day, the Red Sox must figure out a way to replace him in the eighth inning. Luckily, they have a few options.

At first thought, Koji Uehara would be the candidate with the most experience and success to put in the eighth. Junichi Tazawa and a healthy Brandon Workman would also be good substitutes. And I know this is out of left field, but don't forget Joe Kelly: he's a starter, I know. But he has a very high velocity and for one inning, he shouldn't have a problem with it. That is if Kelly does not make the starting rotation.

For the Red Sox to have consistent success, they are going to need Smith back fully healthy.

The question will be when.



Evan Marinofsky 3/23/2016 08:30:00 AM Edit
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