BOSTON — The final three-plus weeks of the regular season will be a juggling act for Red Sox manager John Farrell.
While the Red Sox won’t be booking any playoff reservations this year, their final 22 games still are meaningful in the sense that Boston can use the time to make final assessments on players who could be part of the organization’s 2015 plans. The most fluid situation down the stretch involves the outfield, which added a new member, Jackie Bradley Jr., on Friday and likely will add another once Rusney Castillo is ready to make his jump to the majors.
“It’ll be a balance to get everybody some equal playing time, and I can’t even guarantee that it’ll be equal because we’re trying to get a read on multiple guys,” Farrell said before Friday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. “Allen Craig is one of them. Obviously Mookie (Betts), the way he’s progressed this year. Daniel Nava continues to earn at-bats against right-handed pitching. We’ll balance it as best we can.”
The Red Sox essentially will have six players — Betts, Bradley, Castillo, Craig, Nava and Yoenis Cespedes — vying for three outfield spots in the coming weeks. The number jumps to seven if you include Brock Holt, who likely will continue to bounce all over the diamond.
The pressure is alleviated somewhat in that the Red Sox, who are firmly entrenched in last place in the American League East, aren’t too concerned about making hay in the standings. But for a club with questions to answer this offseason, particularly in the outfield, each opportunity to appraise players holds some meaning, even if the exact importance of the September evaluations is debatable.
“Somewhat. I can’t say it’s complete,” Farrell said in response to a question regarding Bradley’s progress at Triple-A Pawtucket before being recalled Friday. “I don’t think a player is ever complete in his work and his adjustments. So that’s ongoing.”
Cespedes figures to garner everyday at-bats, essentially reducing the number of fluctuating outfield spots to two. And while Betts isn’t quite in that everyday category yet, Farrell acknowledged the 21-year-old’s continued production and development adds to the difficulty of finding playing time for everyone.
“There might be days where certain right-handers (need a day off). If (Cespedes) gets a day down in this stretch of 18 straight, that’s one possibility,” Farrell said when asked if Betts’ recent success makes it difficult to remove him from the lineup. “ … Mookie has done a very good job and has moved ahead of others on the depth chart.”
The Red Sox no longer have World Series aspirations for 2014. They absolutely have such aspirations for 2015, though, and the process of reaching their stated goal already is in full swing.