Boston Red Sox’s Depth, Roster Versatility Tested Early In 2015 Season

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BOSTON — The Red Sox are well-equipped to handle the rigors of a 162-game grind. They just didn?t know they?d be thrown into an uncomfortable situation eight days into the regular season.

The Red Sox?s depth and roster versatility were tested Tuesday as Boston rallied to defeat the Washington Nationals 8-7 at Fenway Park. The Sox passed the test with flying colors, suggesting the team?s strength in those areas could become a key ingredient in whatever success Boston has in 2015.

The first blow dealt to Boston on Tuesday involved shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who was sent to undergo an MRI after arriving at the ballpark with right knee soreness. Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game that Bogaerts? MRI was clean, so Boston dodged a bullet in that respect, but it wasn’t before Brock Holt was thrust into action, as he?s been so frequently over the last two seasons.

“Every one of our players is valuable to us,” Farrell said before the game. “And having Brock at our disposal to be able to step in is certainly helpful. But that?s the luxury of having a deep roster. We?re going to need every player on this roster, and then some.”

Holt answered the call with a strong defensive effort at short and a 2-for-4 performance at the plate. He scored a run on Mookie Betts? two-run double in the second inning after singling with two outs, and he knocked in the eventual game-winning run in the seventh inning on a groundout to short with Allen Craig on third base.

?He?s been called on twice in the last five days or so, and he?s responded offensively, defensively as well,? Farrell said of Holt, who is 7-for-11 with four RBIs to open the season. ?He?s such an important guy, particularly as we?ve said with David (Ortiz) in that DH spot, to provide the versatility and really good performance.?

Tuesday?s start was Holt?s second of the season, as he also drew a start Saturday in the Bronx after the Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees in 19 innings the game prior. Holt started in center field that game, which speaks to his ability to play all over the diamond — and perform well — based on whatever needs arise.

That type of versatility is invaluable. And while Holt certainly represents an extreme case across Major League Baseball, the Red Sox?s roster isn?t without additional flexibility. For proof, look no further than Hanley Ramirez, who shifted from left field to third base Tuesday after Pablo Sandoval exited the game with a left foot contusion.

“It’s huge, especially a guy with his tenure and his stature,” Holt said of Ramirez. ?He could have easily said, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ But he did because we needed it. And I think that speaks volumes to the guys we have in this clubhouse and I think everyone’s rooting for each other and everyone is pulling for each other and everyone wants to win.?

Boston’s roster definitely is talented. After all, the Red Sox optioned a dynamic outfielder with a $72.5 million contract to Triple-A Pawtucket at the end of spring training because they had other options available. But it?s the volume of good players and their ability to move around the diamond that could be an X factor in Boston?s quest to capture an American League East crown.

Holt can play wherever. Ramirez can return to the infield when necessary. Betts played second base last season despite being groomed as an outfielder. Bogaerts has experience at third base, in addition to short. Daniel Nava and Allen Craig both are capable of playing the corner outfield spots and first base.

Tuesday?s game was just a small taste of the Red Sox?s depth and versatility, and Bogaerts and Sandoval checked out OK, so the lineup could return to a more normal state in the coming days.

But the Red Sox aren?t simply sitting on fastballs, figuratively speaking. They?re ready for whatever offspeed stuff this offseason throws at them in the hopes of knocking it out of the park.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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