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It’s been an excellent season so far for the Boston Red Sox, minus a few inconsistencies out of the bullpen and starting pitching. Their roster up and down is filled with a great caliber of players, but the Red Sox are going to have to make some decisions soon.
Dustin Pedroia just recently went on a rehab assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket, so his return is near. According to The Athletic, Pedroia is targeting a return of May 25th. We know that when he returns, Pedroia will move into his every day role of playing second base, and then this allows for the Red Sox to use Eduardo Nuñez out of the utility spot, which may be best suited for him. Not only will the Red Sox upgrade significantly at defense at this position when Pedroia returns, but this also allows for Alex Cora to use Eduardo Nuñez to give guys like Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and even Dustin Pedroia days off on some days. This sounds ideal and everything, but the issue is, you have Blake Swihart sitting on the bench with no minor league options attached to him. Somehow the Red Sox are going to have to get creative in making the situation work.
The former top catching prospect is being wasted on the roster. Yes, he can catch, yes he can play the outfield to an extent, but the Red Sox are happy with the players they have there. Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon may be horrific on offense, but both are pretty good defenders, and also the pitchers seem to really enjoy throwing to them. For the outfield, there just isn’t a spot anywhere. We know Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are going to be in there pretty much every day, and Alex Cora already has to find time for J.D. Martinez to get reps in the outfield, and perhaps that has come easier than expected because Jackie Bradley Jr. hasn’t been able to hit a baseball in awhile. No spot in the outfield, no where to catch on the Red Sox. The Red Sox need to do something with Blake Swihart. I mean, Swihart just doesn’t have any options, so he’s basically stuck on the major league roster. Not sure what the trade value of Blake Swihart is really, but he could possibly be on the move. Brock Holt is here to stay, and so is Eduardo Nuñez. Swihart has gotten just 28 plate appearances, he deserves more than that. If it’s in another organization, so be it.
The right-hander is soon returning from thoracic outlet syndrome where he will hope to get back to how he pitched in 2015, where he posted a 2.15 ERA in 67 games pitched. All year Boston has been struggling to find an answer in the eighth inning to get the ball to Craig Kimbrel. So far the options are Matt Barnes, who makes a living by walking two batters an inning, then getting out of it somehow, and Joe Kelly, who has actually pitched quite well this year. After struggling to start the year, Carson Smith has rebounded nicely so he’s another option, but that all went down the drain when he separated his shoulder by throwing his glove in the midst of a temper tantrum. Nonetheless, Tyler Thornburg will help this bullpen out a lot. He has a good fastball that ranges 94-97mph, and he also has elite breaking stuff. When he returns, someone is going to lose their job. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson are out of options, so unless one is designated for assignment, something is going to have to give. Hector Velasquez is the one pitcher that has options, but he has arguably been one of the most consistent pitchers in the bullpen this season. This may come down to him being optioned just because he can and no one else can. Harsh as it may seem, the Red Sox may prefer to go this route so they don’t lose any players, but by no means has Velasquez earned a demotion to the minors. With Thornburg on the way, these next couple of games are going to be pivotal for some of these bullpen guys to have good outings such as Heath Hembreee, etc.
Although some tough decisions are going to be made, the Red Sox are no doubt getting better with the caliber of players returning. To me, Dustin Pedroia will be more consistent with the bat than Eduardo Nuñez, and we know Pedroia is clearly better at defense. Swihart’s spot on the roster is literally being wasted, so having Eduardo Nuñez slot into his position will provide even more roster flexibility. For the pitching, I’ll take the combination of Steven Wright and Tyler Thornburg, instead of the inconsistencies that come with Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson, although neither have anywhere to go unless a trade were to happen. Over the next couple of weeks, it’ll be interesting to see how the Red Sox will make the roster work and see what decisions are made to ensure that the Red Sox put out the best roster as possible.