The Red Sox traded for Craig Kimbrel, so games in Boston might as well be only 7 innings now
Over the past three seasons, relief pitcher Koji Uehara has appeared in 180 games, struck out 228 batters and maintained a 1.86 ERA, so acquiring a top-tier closer was clearly a top priority for new Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
On Friday, Dombrowski and the Sox traded four prospects to the Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel, who brings his 225 career saves and 1.63 ERA with him to Boston, where he'll pair with Uehara to form a one-two punch to finish games for the Sox.
Much like that of the World Series champion Royals, the bolstered Sox bullpen will force opposing hitters to get their licks in before the eighth frame. In all probability, Red Sox games will be only seven innings long for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, we cooked up a list of adjustments the team (and its fans) should make to account for the fact that the games will truncated in the upcoming season:
Play "Sweet Caroline" in the middle of the sixth inning
The Sox usually play Neil Diamond's soft rock classic in the middle of the eighth. If games end after seven innings, you're going to want to move that time-honored good-luck charm up a few frames in an effort to maintain the relevance of its positivity.
Bat David Ortiz leadoff
Big Papi's late-inning homers are the stuff of legend. But if his eighth- and ninth-inning at-bats are completely out of the picture, it would mean that it's his chances in the sixth and seventh innings that would really count. Moving him up a few spots in the order would improve the likelihood that he'll be in clutch mode when he steps to the plate in those high-leverage innings.
Throw the ceremonial first pitch during batting practice
A Red Sox game isn't just a nine-inning event comprised of balls, strikes, hits and outs. It's a social event: an escape from the daily routine ... an evening of splendor. To keep the elapsed time of such a social gathering consistent, the team might want to look into having celebrities and alumni throw out their ceremonial first pitches before batting practice, just bump everything up an hour or so to account for the latter portion of the evening hitting the chopping block.
Reschedule the seventh-inning strech
The fifth-inning stretch is now officially a thing and you have Kimbrel (and Uehara) to thank.