The Boston Red Sox already have two players — Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava — who abandoned switch-hitting. Should Pablo Sandoval join the group?
Sandoval told NESN.com last month he has no plans to give up switch-hitting despite his growing track record as a far better hitter from the left side of the plate versus right-handed pitchers. It seems unlikely Sandoval will change course given how adamant he was in his stance, but Red Sox manager John Farrell is reaching an interesting point as far as filling out his lineup card versus lefties.
The Red Sox enter Thursday’s game against the Seattle Mariners scheduled to face three left-handed starters over their next four games, after which Boston will have faced five lefty starters in a one-week stretch. The Sox faced just six lefty starters through their first 31 games of the season.
This isn’t a huge development, but it’s notable because the Red Sox, who have struggled offensively for much of 2015, have posted better numbers against right-handed pitchers than left-handed pitchers.
Perhaps it’ll all even out in the end — a justifiable expectation based on the to-date sample sizes alone — and perhaps it’ll all do so without any drastic lineup changes. But Sandoval has been poor as a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers dating back to last season, so keeping him in the lineup against southpaws presents an inherent risk.
It’d be unreasonable to call this a “make-or-break stretch” as far as Sandoval’s switch-hitting days are concerned. He’s an eight-year veteran, a three-time World Series champion and a two-time All-Star — all while switch-hitting — so there’s certainly plenty of wiggle room involved in the discussion.
It’d also be unreasonable to suggest the Red Sox immediately should play Sandoval, who signed a five-year, $95 million contract over the offseason, only against right-handed starters or should force the 28-year-old to make a major career change against his will.
But Sandoval’s splits are cause for concern if things don’t turn around sooner rather than later, as it’s an issue that potentially has long-term implications for Boston.
“I don’t think we’re at that point where we’re going to ask him, or he would come forward and say, ‘Hey, listen, I’m just going to go strictly from the left side.’ With a guy of his stature, and you look back two years ago, he was nearly a .300 hitter from the right side of the plate,” Farrell said Thursday on WEEI’s “Dale and Holley” of Sandoval potentially batting lefty full-time. “We’ve got to iron some things out, no question. But that would be a situation that we would clearly involve Pablo along the way and make sure that he was in agreement rather than just mandating that he go to one side of the plate.”
Sandoval, who is out of the Red Sox’s starting lineup Thursday against left-hander Roenis Elias, enters Boston’s four-game series against Seattle hitting .371 (33-for-89) with a 1.007 OPS as a left-handed hitter against right-handed pitchers and .059 (2-for-34) with a .145 OPS as a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers. He has looked as bad from the right side as the numbers indicate.
It might not be time just yet for Sandoval or the Red Sox to make any career-altering decisions, but this is a development that’s been taking shape for a while. Without forward progress — or even worse, with continued regression — the Red Sox essentially are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
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