The return of Carson Smith is a great surprise for a team currently 14th overall in team xFIP by relievers. The starters are starting to look better in the front end, but the return of a strikeout reliever like Smith is really going to help the Red Sox pen improve. Where he finally sets in the pen is still up for some discussion.
More than likely Smith will be worked back in to the group at first, but could be a better eighth inning option than Koji Uehara. This is still just a reliever with 78 innings of major league experience so some amount of caution should be expected.
His stuff has been great though and not only does he strikeout 32 percent of batters, his career major league groundball rate is 66 percent. That is 7th place all time in MLB history among pitchers with 70+ innings pitched. That alone would make an average strikeout pitcher very good, but with his K/BB over 4 he moves into elite status reliever.
In my opinion Smith is a solid candidate to pitch the eighth inning and even push Craig Breslow for saves if he continues to struggle with control. It’s a great problem for the Red Sox to have and should also allow John Farrell the ability to rest his trusted relievers more often with a solid rotation.