The Boston Red Sox know where they’re starting the playoffs and who they’re playing. But they still have some big decisions to make before beginning their postseason run.
The Red Sox will travel to Cleveland to take on the Indians in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday. But first, they’ll need to whittle their current 40-man roster down to just 25 players.
Manager John Farrell already got the ball rolling Sunday, announcing that pitchers Henry Owens and Noe Ramirez and infielder Deven Marrero won’t be on Boston’s playoff roster. Those omissions are no surprise, however.
So, how will the rest of the roster shake out? We should know shortly, but in the meantime, here’s our projection for what the playoff roster will look like.
Catchers (2): Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez
A few weeks ago, Vazquez would have been a long shot to be Leon’s backup catcher. But Ryan Hanigan has played just once since Sept. 13 and Bryan Holaday hasn’t started a game since Sept. 23, and both of the pitchers they usually catch — Steven Wright for Hanigan; Drew Pomeranz for Holaday — are out of the rotation.
Vazquez, meanwhile, started two games in the final week, and Farrell said Sunday the Red Sox will need strong defense behind the plate to counteract Cleveland’s active running game. Both of those signs point to the 26-year-old joining the club in October.
Infielders (6): Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Travis Shaw, Brock Holt, Aaron Hill
The infield roster is set in stone, but there’s still a big question mark at third base. Holt could be the Game 1 starter, having started four of Boston’s final six games at the hot corner. Travis Shaw played the most games there this season but finished the season on an 0-for-16 skid, while Aaron Hill figures to serve mostly as a pinch hitter.
Outfielders (4): Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Chris Young
No surprises here, either. Expect the left-handed Benintendi to get most of the playing time over Young in the ALDS, as the Indians are projected to start right-handed pitchers in all five games, if necessary. Young is a valuable bat off the bench, though.
Designated hitter (1): David Ortiz
Were you expecting someone else?
Starting Pitchers (4): Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Clay Buchholz
Porcello and Price are your starters for Games 1 and 2, respectively. Rodriguez is a slight favorite to start Game 3 — he hasn’t faced Cleveland yet this season, while Buchholz has a 7.20 ERA in two starts against the Tribe — but Buchholz has pitched well enough lately to convince Farrell otherwise. Farrell could turn to Porcello and Price on short rest in Games 4 and 5 of the ALDS, too.
Bullpen (8): Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler, Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr., Drew Pomeranz, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree
This one’s the hardest to predict. Kimbrel and Uehara are locks, while Ziegler, Barnes and Ross are right behind them. Pomeranz pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief Sunday, a good sign he’ll be used in the postseason. After that, it gets dicey, but Kelly’s versatility and strong finish to the season justify his spot in the bullpen, while Hembree has value as a situational right-hander (righty batters have a .201 average against him).
Omitting Robby Scott and Fernando Abad would leave the Red Sox a bit short on situational lefties, but Scott doesn’t have the experience, and Abad has been too inconsistent. Junichi Tazawa has pitched just once Sept. 18 and looks like the final odd man out.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images