Why James Paxton Should Begin The Year In The Bullpen

James Paxton

James Paxton Returns For 2023

After a year of rehabbing Tommy John surgery, left-handed pitcher James Paxton is back and ready to help the Red Sox in 2023. This off-season, Paxton exercised his 1-year, 4 million dollar option with the team, but the question remains—where should the Red Sox utilize Paxton?

Chaim Bloom Comments

Chaim Bloom commented on the issue during an appearance on MassLive’s Fenway Rundown podcast. Per Masslive.com:

“Until we get a little closer and we know exactly where he’s at, I don’t want to say anything definitively,” Bloom said. “I will say with somebody at the stage of his career that he’s at and having been through as much medically as he’s been through, adding the variable of asking to do something he hasn’t done is something that we would have to think long and hard before doing. That doesn’t rule it out.”

Here are a few reasons why I believe it makes sense for James Paxton to begin the year in the bullpen.

Allows Boston To Manage Workloads

The most obvious benefit here is getting production out of Paxton while not rushing him back into action. This would maximize their pitching staff to begin the season without overexerting any one arm. Allowing them to manage the workloads of pitchers such as Chris Sale and Corey Kluber, something they will need to keep on top of because of the pair’s injuries and age concerns.

Starting Pitching Surplus To Begin The Year

Believe it or not, The Red Sox will have a pitching surplus going into the start of Spring Training. While they do lack a true ace to anchor the front of their rotation, they have 6-7 guys who can be quality starters, such as Sale, Kluber, Whitlock, Bello, Pivetta, and even Tanner Houck.

The thing to keep in mind is that both young starters Brayan Bello and Garrett Whitlock will be on innings limits, while Sale and Kluber have extensive injury histories. So it makes sense to leave Nick Pivetta in the rotation to begin the year as the 5th starter, given he’s the one guy you can rely on for innings. Thus, pushing Paxton to the bullpen.

It Will Ultimately Benefit Paxton 

This arrangement could end up being beneficial for Paxton as it gives him time to adjust back into playing shape without having to go through the rigors of being a starter right away. He could work on perfecting his mechanics and gaining strength at his own pace. To start the season, I’d have him piggyback another pitcher (such as Sale) as they both work their way back from injury.

What’s Paxton’s Long-Term Role?

Paxton’s role does not need to be permanent; he can always return to the starting rotation due to an injury or to give another pitcher a breather. As such, it would not hurt the team’s long-term plans if they were to add him as a reliever now and then convert him back into a starter later on down the line. This makes it easier for them to consider as they would know flexibility is available should things change. 


Ultimately, the decision as to where James Paxton fits into the 2023 Boston Red Sox roster rests with manager Alex Cora and team president Chaim Bloom. While there is a surplus of starting pitchers on the team, utilizing Paxton out of the bullpen could benefit both the team and the player in the long run.

Not only does it allow him to get back into game shape without overworking himself too quickly, but it allows Cora to get creative with how he deploys his pitchers and helps keep them fresh. Ultimately this is something to watch during Spring Training and how they plan to manage their starters to begin the season.