Red Sox Reliever Craig Breslow Brings Brains and Jewish Faith to Mound

Lefty Knows Biology, Tikkun Olam — and Mean Slider

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By Hillel Kutler

Published October 23, 2013.
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Like Youkilis and Kapler, Breslow took home a World Series ring when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2007. But he actually spent nearly the entire season in the minor leagues and never threw a pitch in the playoffs, though he was on the roster of available players.

From 2007 to 2012, Breslow pitched for several teams before being traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Red Sox in the middle of last season. Along the way he often drew more attention for his intellectual prowess than his mound exploits.

McCarver wasn’t joking: Breslow’s Wikipedia page boasts several citations hailing him as the smartest big leaguer.

The Sporting News went even further, declaring him the smartest athlete in all of sports.

Fueling such talk was the time during his first stint with the Red Sox that Breslow settled a bet over whether he could calculate how many times a baseball spins when it is thrown from the pitcher’s mound to home plate at 90 miles per hour.

“There’s a lot of variables,” he was quoted as saying, “but I put in some figures and came up with answers for a fastball, curve or slider. It’s rather simple once you do it.”

Breslow hasn’t lost the braniac reputation. Red Sox manager John Farrell recently quipped, “Breslow uses words in a normal conversation that I’m not used to.”

This time around with the Red Sox, however, the team is very much depending on Breslow to be a significant contributor to the playoff run. They acquired him for that most specialized of pitching assignments: a lefty retiring left-handed batters in crucial situations.

It’s an important role, enabling a team to stifle an opponent’s midgame rallies while saving its top reliever for the ninth inning to close out victories.

In the series-clinching win in Boston’s opening playoff series against the Tampa Bay Rays, Breslow came on in the sixth inning for starter Jake Peavy and proceeded to strike out four of the five batters he retired. Breslow was credited with the win when the Red Sox rallied for three runs.

In the American League Championship Series, Breslow again was a vital bullpen cog as Boston defeated Detroit in six games.

Breslow had a great vantage point for a key moment of that series. In Game 2, with the Tigers closing in on a commanding lead in the ALCS, David Ortiz blasted a grand slam into the Red Sox bullpen, just a few feet away from Breslow. The home run tied the score at 5, and the Red Sox went on to win in the ninth inning.

“It was pretty surreal and incredible,” Breslow told MLB-TV of the scene. “I couldn’t imagine a better guy to do it than David Ortiz.”

Breslow has been blogging about his playoff experiences for the website of the Boston-area sports radio station WEEI.

“It’s going to be a great series, I’m sure it’s going to be a dogfight, but we’re all looking forward to it,” he wrote Sunday about facing the Cardinals. “As much as we all got to enjoy what we accomplished on Saturday night, we know that there’s still a final goal to reach.

“We’ll do our homework, we’ll be prepared and be ready to get back at it on Wednesday.”

If there’s any homework to be done, Breslow would be the guy to do it.


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