by Bill Murphy
During my childhood, I was an optimist. IF they said wait until next year for the Red Sox, I drank the Kool Aid. The law of averages told me, it had to happen sooner OR later. I never imagined, later, would be something like fifty years.
I remember I caught on to what was happening, when I was a teenager and I would tell my parents that I needed to go to Sunday games in April and May, so I could see the Sox in the pennant race. Honestly, deep down inside, I believed they would end up contending every year. I used to try to catch every game, which now leads me to believe, I was a member of Red Sox Nation, before it was even officially created.
The sense of today’s column IS, except for 2004, 2007 and 2013, it has always been about wait until next year for the Boston nine. Certainly, no one, can count 1967 or 1975 against this Old Towne Team, BUT, other than that, it was always a very long winter. AND, you know where we live, long can really be long.
What do we expect from the Red Sox this fall? Obviously, you realize, they could go from being eliminated in three games, to sweeping the World Series, which they have been known to do this century. Our thoughts are both of those scenarios are out.
I have been telling you for months that it comes down to pitching and manager John Farrell told us yesterday that he expects he will probably carry eleven pitchers in the Division Series. They carried twelve or sometimes thirteen during the regular season. Why less this time around?
This would be due to the uncertainties of health, caused by the condition of a couple of position players. Although as we write this piece, we firmly believe you will see both Eduardo Nunez and Dustin Pedroia on the play-off roster for the Houston series, their fragility, makes it necessary to carry an extra infielder or two in case they break down. This will most likely cost Chris Young and Rajai Davis any chance of appearing on the Houston series roster and the probability IS, that both Brock Holt and Deven Marreo will both make their way on to that roster. Holt will have to be a swing man for outfield depth as well.
Farrell admitted to us when we asked him, that although he has been a part of play-off roster building several times, as both a manager, as well as a pitching coach, this is the toughest go around in that regard that he has been a part of.
He told us, “it is and it is because of the tentative health status of the two key guys. How do you protect yourself with some depth? Obviously, you would like to create some flexibility with defense late in the game.”
Besides the nine positions players the Sox trotted out for Saturday’s clincher, expect Sandy Leon, Nunez, Pedroia and the previously mentioned Holt and Marrero to be on the final list.
What about the eleven pitchers? Who will be left out there? Farrell did say that although Sunday’s game meant nothing on the surface, that “you are still looking to evaluate all the way through to the last out recorded.” He went on to say that “a number of different scenarios are still fresh in my mind, including what the rotation might look like, if there is a starter that can help us in the bullpen and how he meshes with the one inning relievers that are there. How the combination of guys works best and does it provide flexibility with a potential starter in game four.” That final statement alone, makes me think that both Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz, might be asked to pitch on three days’ rest, IF the Sox fall behind in the series.
I believe Craig Kimbrel, Addison Reed, David Price, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Sale and Pomeranz have solidified spots. That means there are likely four more spots to earn. The most likely candidates in my mind are Carson Smith, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes and Eduardo Rodriguez with either Porcello or Rodriguez in line for the third and possibly fourth rotation spot. Austin Maddox is a sleeper to be included, with Fernando Abad, Robbie Scott, Heath Hembree, Blaine Boyer and Doug Fister on the outside looking in.
The Sox have another forty-eight hours to deliberate the roster with health so important to their cause.
Get ready, get set, GO! Win or lose just wait until next year!