Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox is less than two weeks away, but so far, only rumors and a few educated guesses have given clues about the final makeup of the team’s roster when the Red Sox take the field in Philadelphia on April 6. Manager John Farrell, however, has offered a few insights, and they’re not all what Boston fans may have been expecting when spring training began.
Let’s start with the outfield.
Throughout spring training, Farrell has maintained the Shane Victorino will be the Red Sox Opening Day right fielder. But on Tuesday, it was Rusney Castillo who occupied right field in Boston’s loss to the Miami Marlins — though Castillo has always been a natural center fielder.
Castillo had been widely believed to be headed for the minor leagues as one of the Red Sox final roster cuts in spring training, especially after an early injury to an oblique muscle sidelined the 27-year-old Cuban for much of the pre-season so far.
Meanwhile, the frequently injured Victorino has not yet played two consecutive games in the outfield during spring training, with only 10 games left on the Red Sox pre-season schedule.
“We need to get a better gauge on Vic’s durability over the coming days… He’s coming off a back surgery so he’s not 100 percent right now. The one thing we’re still trying to get our arms around is, what’s the overall durability inside of a given week? How many games played can we plan for?”
As of Wednesday, then, a best guess at the Boston outfield come April 6 would include Hanley Ramirez in left, Mookie Betts in center and Castillo in right. If Victorino starts the season on the disabled list, the Red Sox would likely carry Daniel Nava and Allen Craig as backup outfielders.
But if the Red Sox opt to head north with both Victorino and Castillo on board, Nava, who is out of minor league options in 2015, could end up designated for assignment. The Red Sox would be more inclined to hold on to Craig for his potential trade value — assuming the former Cardinal is not dealt before April 6.
The pitching staff also presents a new dilemma for Farrell, with the recent biceps injury to starter Joe Kelly. While by all accounts, Kelly’s problem was minor and he should be healthy enough to start the season on the Red Sox roster, Farrel may opt to place him on the disabled list anyway.
“The first time we would need a fifth starter would be on (April 12),” said Farrell earlier in the week. “There’s one scenario that could have us break with eight relievers.”
But one of those relievers now appears unlikely to be closer Koji Uehara, whose hamstring injury has placed him in doubt for Opening Day. That leaves Edward Mujica as the Opening Day closer. Junichi Tazawa and Alexi Ogando will split set-up duties while Craig Breslow, Anthony Varvaro, Tommy Layne, and Matt Barnes are likely to fill the remaining bullpen roles.
The final bullpen spot could go, at least for the season’s first week, to knuckleballer Steven Wright, who not only pitched impressively in spring training, but can fill any number of roles on the Red Sox pitching staff, giving Boston added roster flexibility heading into Opening Day.
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