Red Sox notes: Matt Barnes ‘all in’ on being closer in 2021

Since the Aug. 21 trade that sent closer Brandon Workman to the Phillies, Matt Barnes has assumed the ninth-inning role and produced positive results.

And if he’s called upon to be the Red Sox’ closer in 2021, he’s ready to go.

“Absolutely,” Barnes said Wednesday. “Let’s do it. I’m all in.”

Barnes is 7-for-9 in save chances with a 3.60 ERA since the Workman trade. Mostly used as an eighth-inning setup man before Workman was dealt, Barnes loves the responsibility of being counted on to preserve a victory.

“I think one of the best things is when the game ends with you,” Barnes said. “It’s an awesome feeling when (Christian Vazquez) walks out or (Kevin) Plawecki walks out or whoever is catching… I think that’s a really cool interaction, a really cool feeling that you get, knowing that you’re the guy they want to lock down the last three outs of the game.”

The Red Sox don’t have many closer options outside of the 30-year-old Barnes, who isn’t a free agent until 2022. Darwinzon Hernandez’s stuff plays well in that role, but the Red Sox like to use him for multiple innings and aren’t ready to rule him out as a starter. Unless Chaim Bloom tries to find a closer this winter, it could very well be Barnes’ spot going into 2021.

“I have no doubt he can do it,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “He’s got great stuff. He’s got two plus pitches he can throw at any time and I think that right away we saw some games where he got in trouble with being a little wild. But when he’s throwing strikes and throwing the ball over the plate with those two pitches, he is really tough to hit and is as good as anybody, so no question he has the arsenal to do it. I think he’s got the makeup to do it. We’ll see how it all plays out.”

Houck to start Sunday vs. Yankees

After striking out seven over five shutout innings in his debut Tuesday against the Marlins, Tanner Houck will get a much bigger challenge in his next start. The rookie is slated to pitch Sunday against the rival Yankees at Fenway Park.

“Hopefully that works out well again,” Roenicke said.

Nathan Eovaldi will start Thursday’s finale in Miami before Martin Perez starts Friday’s opener against the Yankees. Saturday’s starter is to be determined, but it could be the newly acquired Nick Pivetta, who pitched six innings in Pawtucket on Wednesday. …

Alex Verdugo started at center field for the first time with the Red Sox on Wednesday, as Jackie Bradley Jr. received a routine day off.

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