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Red Sox discussing best way to use Garrett Whitlock when he returns from IL

BOSTON -- The Red Sox need help in the bullpen. That was apparent Tuesday night when Boston couldn't hold on to a 5-4 lead in Toronto and lost on a Blue Jays walk-off.

It was the team's 15th blown save of the season, which is tied for the third-most in baseball this season. It didn't help that the Red Sox were without their closer, with Tanner Houck remaining stateside because he isn't vaccinated and couldn't travel to Canada. But the Sox could use some a few more arms in the bullpen even when Houck is available. (Not to mention, they could have some pretty important games north of the border late in the season.)

One of those arms could already be on the roster, albeit on the injured list: Garrett Whitlock.

Whitlock was a dominant and versatile reliever last season and started strong out of the bullpen in 2022 -- until he was moved to the starting rotation. He was still pretty good as a starter, going 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in his nine starts, but that is nothing compared to his 0.93 ERA and 0.621 WHIP as a reliever.

He's been on the IL since June 10 with right hip inflammation, but threw a bullpen on Wednesday and is nearing a return. Will he return as a starter or a reliever? That is the big question, and one the Red Sox are discussing.

"We're talking about it. Obviously health has to do with it," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said during his Wednesday afternoon interview on WEEI. "There's different thoughts, of course. Going back to the bullpen is one of them."

Ultimately, the Red Sox probably want Whitlock to be part of the team's rotation in the future. But they are about to get a surplus of starters, with Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, and James Paxton all set to return within the next month. 

Whitlock has also already tossed 48.1 innings this year (he threw 73.1 innings last year as a rookie), and moving him back to the bullpen will help protect him this season while also addressing one of the team's biggest needs. We'll see if the Red Sox feel that way too in the near future.

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