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Andrew Benintendi's platoon freedom will be short-lived

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With Bryce Brentz optioned, Andrew Benintendi has finally been given the freedom to hit against lefties. At least for, oh, about a week.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, the Red Sox sent Bryce Brentz back down to Triple-A Pawtucket, making it pretty clear that Andrew Benintendi was no longer viewed as a platoon player.

Benintendi earned that distinction not simply through five successful at-bats against lefties, mind. Any team which makes major decisions based on that sort of sample is more than once 'round the bend. Instead, it's the result of more than a full seasons's worth of success against lefites in the minor leagues, where Benintendi has often hit them better than their right-handed counterparts. That he was in a platoon in the first place was a bit odd, frankly, under the circumstances.

For all that, though, it should be understood that just because Benintendi doesn't need a platoon partner does not mean it is wrong to give him one. Case in point: Chris Young, who finally got back into a lineup on Thursday (albeit in Pawtucket) after missing a good deal of time to injury.

With Brentz, the purpose of the platoon was apparently to protect Benintendi, because Brentz hasn't really done enough at any level in recent years to suggest he can hit major league pitching at all, be it opposite-handed or otherwise. Brentz' purpose in the game was less about putting an actively positive bat in the game than it was about keeping Benintendi out, for good or for ill.

With Young, the story is clearly different. This is not a Quadruple-A player whose ended up in the majors due to the 25-man roster being hit hard by injuries. This is the guy the Red Sox brought in to hit lefties in the first place. Over the course of his career, Young holds a .844 OPS against southpaws. In 2016, that number is 1.042. Benintendi might well match the former (more significant) figure at some point in his career, but expecting him to do so right off the bat is quite the ask for a player fresh from the minors. When Young returns, he will get the lion's share of the at bats against lefties not because Benintendi needs him to, but because the Red Sox do.

Where things get more interesting is in 2017 and beyond. While Young made a lot of sense for the Red Sox who came into 2016 uncertain if Jackie Bradley Jr. could hit at all and were perhaps considering Brock Holt starting over Rusney Castillo even back in the winter, it's not obvious how to use him in a more filled-out outfield. The Red Sox should not leave Benintendi in a straight platoon for an entire year, simply because of the damage it could do to his development when he's still a rookie against southpaws come 2018.

That being said, while the Red Sox could probably find someone willing to trade something of middling value for Chris Young's services, there's still a pretty good role for him to play here as just a solid fourth outfielder to back up Bradley and Benintendi against lefties. For all that Bradley can hit, and doesn't have major platoon splits on his career, he hasn't shown himself to be a better hitter vs. lefties than Chris Young is for any extended period of time. If Young takes maybe a third of all starts against lefties for each player, gets some pinch-hitting opportunities, and probably fill in at some point when the injury bug inevitably bites, there's plenty of playing time to be found where he can be a legitimate contributor to the team worth more than he would bring in a trade.

For now, though, with the Red Sox desperately trying to right a ship that has spent the last three months sinking ever-so-slowly, it makes sense to put the best possible team on the field whenever they can. And that means Chris Young over Andrew Benintendi when there's a lefty on the mound.