The question of which players will make up the Red Sox 25-man roster for the first round of the playoffs has been an ongoing discussion on various Red Sox message boards. However, many of the rosters discussed have one major flaw – an assumption of health. Unfortunately, Monday was a bad night for the Red Sox. So, how do the ongoing injury struggles of Eduardo Nunez and Dustin Pedroia and the problematic wrist issue of Mookie Betts change the roster equation?
Assuming a fully healthy roster, the Red Sox would likely trot out the following starting lineup for the upcoming playoff series:
DH: Hanley Ramirez
As far as starting lineups go, the only potential real change based on a fully healthy roster would be the addition of Eduardo Nunez – likely taking the lineup spot of Hanley Ramirez but potentially playing at 3rd base with Devers switching to the designated hitter position.
On the bench, the Red Sox would likely carry catcher Sandy Leon (who will be behind the plate for Chris Sale), OF Chris Young, and utility man Brock Holt along with Eduardo Nunez. Rajai Davis could also be added to the roster as a pinch runner in place of either Young, Holt, or the eighth bullpen pitcher.
However, health is an issue. Does this make the composition easier or harder?
Eduardo Nunez has been an invaluable contributor to the Red Sox since joining the Sox from San Francisco in late July. Over his first 37 games with the Sox, Nunez batted .319/.351/.534 with 19 extra-base hits and 22 runs scored. But, in the first inning of an eventual 9-0 win against Tampa Bay on September 9, Nunez hurt his right knee stealing second base. Nunez was able to stay in the game, scoring ahead of Dustin Pedroia as Dustin drove a Matt Andriese pitch out of the yard. However, Nunez would come back up in the second inning, and aggravate the injury as he ran out an infield single. Xander Bogaerts would replace Nunez, who remained unavailable for the following two weeks. Monday night, Nunez returned to the lineup against the Toronto Blue Jays as the Designated Hitter. Nunez would get two at-bats, ripping a double (and scoring a run) in the first before lining out to third base in the third. It would be his last appearance in the game as he would be replaced by Sam Travis in the sixth with his knee problems being cited, and no timetable for recovery being advanced.
Complicating the issue in the infield is the health of Dustin Pedroia. After missing nearly the entire month of August with his own leg issues, Pedroia has participated in 16 games in September. However, the Red Sox have been extremely mindful of Pedroia’s health, starting as the designated hitter in four of the sixteen contests and participating in a fifth game as a pinch hitter. Of his twelve starts at second, he has been replaced in the field nine times – although, one must note that two of the three times he completed a full contest were in Cincinnati last weekend. Dustin has also not started two consecutive games since September 17-18 in Baltimore and has not started consecutive games at second base since September 12-13 against Oakland at Fenway. While Red Sox fans know what a gamer Pedroia is, would it be prudent for him to even attempt to start every game in a playoff series?
While fans were hoping that Nunez could come back from injury or that Pedroia would eventually be his old self, both of their injuries have to be considered while attempting to make up a playoff roster. Not so Mookie Betts. While Betts has been dinged up a bit in September, including a bone bruise to his thumb that took him out of a game on September 17, he had only been on the bench for one game during September – the middle game of the Reds series last weekend – prior to sitting out on Tuesday and Wednesday with a wrist injury that took him out of the game on Monday. While the Sox have been optimistic about the injury, they also have not put a timetable on his return.
Given the pain etched on Nunez’s face on Monday during his second at-bat, I can see no viable way for him to be placed on the playoff roster for the first round. Given the fact that Pedroia cannot be guaranteed to start back-to-back games, Nunez’s bench spot will have to be replaced by another infielder: Deven Marrero. Of course, this assumes that Pedroia will also make the roster, which can not be considered a guarantee. If Betts is deemed unable to go – and Red Sox fans certainly hope that is NOT the case – Rajai Davis will be the obvious replacement.
So, given our current knowledge, this is how the Red Sox position players will line up for the playoffs:
OF: Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts
IF: Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, Mitch Moreland
DH: Hanley Ramirez
C: Christian Vazquez
Bench: Sandy Leon (C ), Brock Holt (Util), Deven Marrero (Inf), Chris Young (OF)
With Rajai Davis (OF), Sam Travis (1B), Tzu-Wei Lin (Util), and even Blake Swihart (C ) having non-trivial chances to join the roster if more injuries strike. Let’s hope, for the sake of Red Sox fan sanity, that no more injuries befall the team.
Featured image courtesy of cleveland.com