Boston Red Sox closer? Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino seem like finalists with Hirokazu Sawamura out of consideration for ninth inning role

Alex Cora won’t name his closer just yet, but Saturday at least brought a little more clarity on who will pitch the ninth inning for the Red Sox in 2021.

Answering a question about whether experience was important to the Red Sox as they looked to choose their closer, Cora said, in passing, that right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura — who has 75 career saves at Japan’s highest level — is not a candidate for the role. That would seem to indicate either Matt Barnes or Adam Ottavino will be the club’s closer, though Ryan Brasier and Darwinzon Hernandez could theoretically wage dark horse candidacies with strong camps.

“If we’re realistic, the guy with more experience is Sawamura, but we’re not going to do that,” Cora said. “You’ve got to do it for the first time once. It’s all about stuff, it’s about structure and it’s about how we feel it fits for our team. When we make that decision, we’re going to feel very comfortable, not only in the ninth, but in the seventh and the eighth, and that’s important to me.”

Naming a closer is one of the most important decisions Cora will need to make in camp, and it’s clear he’s going to take his time in doing so. Two years after the club’s bullpen-by-committee approach failed because top relievers like Barnes and Brasier were overworked early in the season, it’s clear the Red Sox want a traditional bullpen…

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