Major League Baseball teams use many methods of filling out their rosters, from the amateur draft to international free agency, but one often overlooked method is the non-roster invitee. Lisa Carney checks up on the 2016 Boston Red Sox non-roster invitees to see how many are still with the club.
In March 2016, 17 players were invited to Red Sox spring training as non-roster invitees (NRIs) and we identified them in “Who Are Those Guys?” Each one of them faced an uphill battle to make the parent club, but time has passed and as the second half of the 2016 season gets rolling, let’s check in and see, “where’s that guy?”
On The Farm (as expected)
For seven of the NRIs, the answer is easy. They’re somewhere in the Red Sox minor league system, right where they belong. Allen Craig, Brennan Boesch, and Dan Butler are three names Sox fans may have recognized. Boesch was having a decent spring and looked to be in position to join the carousel that has been the 2016 Red Sox left field. Unfortunately, on March 18 he broke his wrist, setting his chances back. Currently he’s hanging out in Triple-A Pawtucket.
When Christian Vazquez is manning the dish at Triple-A, you know the big league team is flush with quality catchers. Unfortunately for Butler, that puts him way down the depth chart and summarily he bides his time for the Pawsox. Craig remains lost on his quest to regain his hitting prowess so, he too, is stashed away in the minors.
Holdin’ On To Hope
Carlos Marmol and Daniel Rosenbaum were both released by the Red Sox before the regular season began. Neither has officially retired and still appear to be shopping their services. Between the two, Marmol has the more respected MLB resume and it’s possible he may latch on somewhere. However, it just doesn’t seem likely at this point.
The Red Sox Run On Dunkin’
William Cuevas and Ryan LaMarre have both had some joe to-go. Neither cup of coffee was particularly memorable, but neither embarrassed himself so they will likely continue to spend the season on the Boston-Pawtucket express. (Cuevas was recently brought up to replace Junichi Tazawa, who was placed on the 15 day DL.)
Sadly – On The DL
When third basemen Pablo Sandoval’s 2016 season abruptly ended with injury, a spot opened on the Boston bench for Josh Rutledge. Rutledge provided steady defense along with a respectable bat and was poised to spend the 2016 season as an important role player for the Red Sox. Unfortunately, on June 17, he too was placed on the disabled list with patellar tendinitis and when the Red Sox traded for starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz, a spot on the 40-man roster was created by moving Rutledge to the 60-day DL. It’s not clear now when Rutledge will be back.
Sam Travis hit a ton in spring training and it was thought he might make his major league debut sometime in 2016. Then in May he wrecked his left knee and his season was lost to ACL surgery. Travis will be back next year and hopefully the interruption in his playing time isn’t too costly for his development.
On every team’s spring list of NRIs there are always a couple of players who are weeks away from realizing that the end of their MLB careers has arrived. Many times the decision is bittersweet, but the hope is that the player will move forward and soon be at peace with the transition. David Murphy returned to the Red Sox as a 2016 NRI but following a meh spring performance was released on March 28. After a brief stint with the Minnesota Twins, Murphy made the choice to leave baseball and begin spending more time with his family. It’s a relief to learn Murphy seems content with his decision. In his words, “Basically it got to the point where playing this game and living this lifestyle wasn’t worth it any more to be away from my family. I’m always going to miss the game and I’ll always love it, but it doesn’t compare to my family.”
When Anthony Varvaro was added to the Red Sox 2015 bullpen, the potential was there for him to become a valuable, long-term contributor. However, after pitching a meager 11 innings for the Sox, his season ended with Tommy John surgery. Fast forward to spring training 2016 and Varvaro was one name that seemed destined to exceed the ordinary expectations of a NRI. In 28.2 innings Varvaro put up solid numbers in Triple-A. (1.18 WHIP/ 9.7 K/9/ 3.24 FIP). With all the first-half instability in the pitching staff, he would have seemed a likely call-up. However, on June 19 he voluntarily retired from baseball to pursue his other dream of being a New York City police officer. Varvaro is currently in the Port Authority Police Department Academy and with the effort it took to get himself there, we have to believe he is also at peace with his decision.
More Than We Expected
During spring training, when everyone was gushing over the Red Sox abundance of catching talent, Sandy Leon wasn’t even in the conversation. Instead he was relegated to be the forgotten man in Pawtucket. Then the Red Sox catchers started dropping like January temperatures and Leon found himself back behind the plate at Fenway. He has always provided solid defense, but this year, Leon has been hitting like Ty Cobb. In 70 ABs he has 28 hits, including nine doubles and two home runs for a 1.133 OPS. Leon was even able to force the unthinkable and after Ryan Hanigan returned from the disabled list the Red Sox opted to send wunderkind catcher Vazquez back to Triple-A. Granted, the decision was mostly based on who had an option (Vazquez) and who would be lost on waivers (Leon), but Leon still deserves major credit for making the move look smart on multiple counts.
In the first half of the season, ineffective pitching from the Red Sox fourth and fifth starters drove fans mad, but it also presented an opportunity for NRI Sean O’Sullivan. Coming out of spring training, with names like Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens in front of his, it didn’t seem likely O’Sullivan would pitch more than a few random bullpen innings. But on May 10, three days after a bullpen appearance, O’Sullivan started against the Oakland A’s. He pitched well enough for another go around in the rotation and overall, in four starts his results have been just good enough to be better than the other available options. With the acquisition of Pomeranz and the hope that Rodriguez is back on track to hold down the fifth spot in the rotation, it’s possible O’Sullivan has made his last start for 2016. Still, even if he doesn’t pitch another inning this year, he’s already done pretty well for a guy who started the season with a really large number on his jersey and the crowd wondering, “who’s that guy?”
Lisa Carney has written about the international player acquisition, Pedro Martinez, and a Yankee legend who can’t keep his trap shut.
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