Red Sox notebook: John Schreiber emerging as an intriguing option for bullpen

Alex Cora has yet to truly find someone in the Red Sox bullpen he trusts to close games this season, amplified by a league-leading nine blown saves and six saves recorded by six different pitchers.

That makes the sudden emergence of John Schreiber all the more enticing.

Schreiber became the latest Red Sox pitcher to save a game in Tuesday night’s 9-4 victory over the Braves as he threw two shutout innings — which included back-to-back strikeouts of Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. and Matt Olson to clinch his first career save. It was the latest example of Cora’s growing confidence in the right-hander who still has relative inexperience pitching in the majors.

The 28-year-old Schreiber — an under-the-radar waiver pickup by Chaim Bloom in 2021 — had a solid year with Worcester last season and has gotten some opportunity with the Red Sox early this season. He was called up when Tanner Houck and Kutter Crawford were ineligible for last month’s series in Toronto, and again brought up last week as a fill-in when Rich Hill tested positive for COVID-19.

Schreiber has made the most of his chances, entering Wednesday without giving up a run in 6 1/3 innings while striking out six and walking none. His fastball — which topped out at 94 mph on Tuesday and was up significantly more than his season average — is playing with his go-to slider for an effective combination.

“Obviously he’s up because of the situation with Rich and we’ll see what we do in the future, but as of now, the sinker at 92, the four-seamer at 94, the slider, the arm angle and the chance to go multiple innings, is something that’s going to help us,” Cora said Wednesday on WEEI’s “Merloni, Fauria & Mego.” “We’ll mix and match with him and try to get some pockets that we can maximize his talent and so far, he’s been really good.”

As Cora noted, it’s unclear what Schreiber’s future holds. Because he’s a COVID substitute, the Red Sox can promote him to the active roster and take him off the 40-man if and when they return him to Worcester without him having to clear waivers. Theoretically, that could happen this weekend if Hill is cleared and returns to the Red Sox. But Schreiber’s production out of the bullpen may force them to find a way for him to stick around.

Whitlock staying in rotation

The Red Sox still see Garrett Whitlock’s value being better as a starter rather than the ace reliever he started the season as. Whitlock will continue in the rotation and make a start next week.

It doesn’t seem like that will change anytime soon even though Whitlock was dominant to start the season in the bullpen, where the Red Sox have had trouble locking down wins in recent weeks.

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Garrett Whitlock throws the ball during first inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto, Thursday April 28, 2022. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP)

“You saw what happened (Tuesday), there are some intriguing arms here (in the bullpen),” Cora said on WEEI. “I think structure-wise, we’re getting to where we want to go. … Obviously you still have to get 27 (outs) and I understand the point as far as the last three outs, the last six outs. You have the lead and want to maintain the lead, right? And you want to celebrate a W. …

“But at the end of the day, you have to get 27. He’s done a good job so far. (Tuesday) was a struggle, but Schreiber, he’s intriguing. (Matt Strahm), he’s intriguing. And there are some guys who are throwing the ball well. I do believe we’re getting close to the structure I’m looking for and hopefully that’s where we take off.”

Sale days away

Chris Sale has not yet resumed throwing after having a personal medical issue that paused his rehab, but he should be throwing again within days, according to a source. Sale is rehabbing from a stress fracture in his right rib cage that he suffered in the spring. He was originally slated for an early June return, but Bloom said last weekend that his return has been pushed back at least a few weeks because of this setback. …

Cora told reporters in Atlanta that a bullpen game is a possibility for one of the games this weekend in Texas. It’s unclear who will start that game, but Josh Winckowski — who threw just two innings and 32 pitches for Worcester on Tuesday — could be an option.