BOSTON — There was no white flag waving in the Red Sox’s clubhouse, manager John Farrell didn’t recite a eulogy while speaking with reporters and no one wore black to signify the death of Boston’s World Series defense.
But Wednesday marked the unofficial beginning of the Red Sox looking toward the future.
The Red Sox designated veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment and called up stud catching prospect Christian Vazquez. One could argue — quite reasonably, in fact — the move makes Boston better right now, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. There’s something deeper brewing in the corner offices.
“It’s an opportunity for us to invest in players that we feel are going to be here beyond 2014,” Farrell said before Wednesday’s game against the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park. “And while there may be other decisions that are forthcoming, we felt like the place we were going to start with was behind the plate.”
In other words, Pierzynski’s exit and Vazquez’s arrival was the first shoe to drop. While the Red Sox might not become full-blown sellers before the July 31 trade deadline — general manager Ben Cherington even said Boston never will be a “true seller” — it’s obvious they’re rerouting amid their tumultuous campaign.
Vazquez’s call-up and inclusion in Wednesday’s lineup meant the Red Sox were going with five rookies in their starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 16, 1987. That day, the Red Sox — sitting at 55-61 and 13 1/2 games back in the American League East following an AL pennant in 1986 — featured Ellis Burks, Mike Greenwell, Sam Horn, Todd Benzinger and John Marzano. Wednesday’s quintet included Vazquez, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt.
The goal clearly is shifting away from aggressively pursuing pieces that might help the Red Sox jump back into the playoff picture this season and more toward seeing what exactly they have as they attempt to retool for 2015 and beyond. It represents the most sensible path with the Red Sox entering Wednesday’s game 12 games below .500 (39-51) and 10 1/2 games back in the AL East. After all, questions still surround each of the five aforementioned players — as well as some others who might soon make their way up I-95 North — and the best way to gain a better understanding of whether they’ll be ready to contribute on a full-time basis from the onset next season is to get a firsthand look now.
“How they develop remains to be seen. They’re long on talent and short on major league games played,” Farrell said Wednesday of his young group of players. “Their abilities have driven the decision to bring guys at this stage, and we know that there’s going to be growing pains along the way, but this is where we are right now.”
The 1987 Red Sox finished with a 78-84 record, yet the 1988 squad — helped in large part by Burks, Greenwell and Benzinger — returned to the ALCS following an 89-73 regular season. The Red Sox might not enter 2015 immersed in such lofty expectations, but they’re trending toward a situation in which they’ll have a better sense of where they stand now that this season is looking more and more like a wash.
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