It is the first of September, so go pay your rent and then come back and read about the players joining the Red Sox roster as it expands out to 40 spots. You back? Okay, it’s a busy day for Boston -- and teams around the league — as the Red Sox get back two key members of their roster as well as four minor leaguers who can provide some key depth down the stretch. Coming off the disabled list are Dustin Pedroia and Matt Barnes, both of whom will play large roles in September. Joining them will be Blake Swihart, Sam Travis, Roenis Elias and Austin Maddox.
We’ll start with Pedroia, as he is likely the most important player added to the roster in this first wave of additions. The second baseman was one of the hottest hitters on the team when he went down with his knee injury, and his return will make this group a lot deeper. He will give the Red Sox the ability to stop playing Chris Young so much and giving Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts, among others, days off against right-handed pitching. Furthermore, it will give Boston their best defensive infield, as he is a clear upgrade with the glove over Eduardo Nuñez. The downside here is that he is going to be eased back into his full-time role, so expect to see plenty of days off and likely some DH days for Pedroia over the next week or two. The goal is to get him back to full strength for October, not September.
Meanwhile, Barnes rejoins the bullpen on the day he is first eligible to return. Many have speculated that the back injury that put him on the disabled list was just an excuse to get him a little bit of time off as the righty had been struggling, but that’s hard to speculate about. Either way, he returns with a bit of rest as he rejoins the competition to take over the setup role behind Addison Reed. He’s behind the eight ball in this battle, but he gets back to how he pitched earlier in the year he’ll be playing an important role in October.
Swihart leads the minor leaguers, and it’s the first time the former top prospect has been in the majors this year. The 2017 has been a tough one for the catcher, as injuries and poor performance have made this something close to a lost year. This spring, there was some thought that he would be able to push for a starting role by mid year, but that clearly hasn’t happened. Instead, he’ll serve as the team’s third catcher and, unless the Red Sox clinch fairly early in the month or suffer an injury behind the plate, likely won’t get a whole lot of playing time.
Meanwhile, Travis has been up in the majors this year and makes his expected return this month. Although the first baseman has been solid this year, he hasn’t quite taken the leap many had hoped for. Still, he can provide some right-handed depth off the bench. The Red Sox haven’t had a lot of that with Young struggling.
On the pitching side, the Red Sox are adding Elias and Maddox to the bullpen. Elias missed most of the season with injury, but he’s been back since the middle of July. Don’t expect the second piece in the Carson Smith trade to provide a lot of high-leverage innings, but he gives them a multi-inning arm from the left side. Maddox, meanwhile, gives them another low-leverage arm to join Heath Hembree and Blaine Boyer. He can also serve a multi-inning mop-up role until Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson get their call ups.