Twenty-three Red Sox players were sent to the disabled list last year for a total of over 1,000 days lost.
These crippling numbers perhaps prevented the squad from reaching the postseason, but this season, the Red Sox bench is so loaded with talent that even if history repeats itself, the team won’t suffer for productivity in the absence of its stars.
That may be exactly what occurs, as Adrian Gonzalez underwent shoulder surgery this offseason, Dustin Pedroia played in only 75 games last season due to a season-ending foot injury, and Kevin Youkilis played in only 102 games due to a thumb injury. However, there is more than suitable cover.
Key infielders to serve as backups and role players include Jed Lowrie and Lars Anderson. Lowrie, who recently reported that he’s happy to be healthy depsite his desire to start at shortstop, can play all four infield positions. In 55 games last season, the 26-year-old had a solid .287 batting average as well as 23 extra base hits and a .381 on base percentage.
In addition, Lowrie had a .338 batting average and .606 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers last season, on top of closing out the final series against New York with a .500 batting average and two home runs.
On the other hand, the developing Anderson can serve as a backup role at first base. Although the 23-year-old only had a .200 batting average last season, he showed flashes on promise in both Double-A and Triple-A.
In the outfield, Jacoby Ellsbury played in only 18 games last year because of a rib injury, while J.D. Drew currently is suffering a hamstring injury.
Although Mike Cameron missed most of last season with a groin and abdomen injury, he is ready for a full season in a fourth-outfielder role and to contribute to the Sox revamped outfield.
“I don’t have to run around 150 games no more,” said the 38-year-old, according to redsox.com. “I played 14 years, 145 or 150 games in center field. So, I mean, as long as any model car runs so long, there’s always a welcome stop in for a tuneup. I’m excited about what is in store for me, the challenge of the different role I have to take on.”
The Sox outfield consists of three left-handed batters, an opposing left-handed pitcher’s dream. However, Cameron and Darnell McDonald, both right-handed bats, could prove lethal against the southpaws.
Last season, Cameron had a .357 batting average and a .690 slugging percentage against left-handed pitching in 42 at bats, while McDonald, who filled in for Drew often, had a .294 batting average against lefties.
Along with those two righties, the team will have the luxury of young Ryan Kalish on the bench. He may still be developing at the plate, but he showed flashes of greatness in the field, making numerous acrobatic catches last season including this one against the Rays. He also contributed 10 stolen bases on 11 attempts in 2010, including two against Mariano Rivera, allowing him to score the tying run in the top of the ninth in New York on Sept. 26.
Of course, the starting pitching wasn’t immune from the injury bug, either. Josh Beckett pitched in just 21 games last season due to a back injury. Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched in 25 and missed time due to a forearm and neck injury. Even Clay Buchholz had to miss starts due to a hamstring injury.
Felix Doubront, though, can serve as a spot starter in the case of injuries to any of the three ailing pitchers. Last season, the 23-year-old lefty had a 2-2 record with a 4.32 ERA in the majors, along with a 3.16 and 2.51 ERA in AAA and AA, respectively.
Although the Red Sox starting lineup and pitching staff enter the season loaded in depth, the team’s role players will make a major difference and contribute on the field, which should allow for more rest for the team’s high-profile players, and hopefully avoiding another crippling season.