The Red Sox are essentially a lock to make the postseason, but their aspirations are higher than that. At the very least, they want to be playing in the Divisional Series, and obviously the easiest way to do that is by winning the division. There is still a bit of work to do on that front — largely because the Yankees just won’t lose these days — but the Red Sox still hold the inside track. So, despite things not being locked up yet, it’s not too early to at least start thinking about the playoff roster. For the most part, it’s essentially set. We know who will be starting for the most part, both in the lineup and on the mound, and we know most of the reserves. There are just a few spots that could go in a number of different directions. One of those can be found in the bullpen. There is a mess of pitchers that could feasibly be put in the final couple spots in the ‘pen. When trying to figure out who to put on that roster, the Red Sox need to decide if they really need another lefty beyond David Price.
Conventional thinking would suggest that either Robby Scott or Fernando Abad would need to accompany Price from the left side in the bullpen. The latter is, of course, a converted starter who certainly won’t be used as a strict LOOGY. That role is perfect for either Scott or Abad. That being said, neither presents much confidence against anyone besides lefties and John Farrell hasn’t really used them in that role all that much. Furthermore, them making the roster would likely push off someone like Brandon Workman, Carson Smith or Austin Maddox, all of whom have earned a spot on the roster and all of whom are better pitchers than the southpaws. If the Red Sox can find a way to go with six righties plus Price, they would be well-served to do so.
There are a couple reasons to believe they could survive with this strategy. For one thing, the playoff rotation is expected to be 75 percent left-handed with Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez possibly starting the first three games. This could be a big deal, as opposing lineups will then be loaded with right-handed pitching. Of course, lefties will still be available to pinch hit later in the game, but a LOOGY is best used when it predictably can be. We’ve seen Farrell out-managed a few times this year when it comes to handedness-based substitutions.
On top of all the lefties in the rotation, the matchups in this year’s American League don’t necessarily scream for a need for left-handed relievers. The Astros, the team Boston would presumably be playing in the ALDS if they do indeed make it that far, aren’t a team with a lot of left-handed hitters. Their lineup is instead built around strong righties like Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa. The only lefties in their starting lineup are Josh Reddick and Brian McCann, neither of whom really call for a pitcher to be carried specifically to stop them. The Indians have a couple more lefties, with Jay Bruce being the biggest one of them, but like Houston their biggest hitters are either switch hitters or righties. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are the switch hitters, and the former doesn’t show any platoon splits this year while the latter has been better against left-handed pitching.
At the end of the day, I’d expect either Abad or Scott (probably Scott) to make the roster. It’s just hard to expect the Red Sox to trust a converted starter just coming off a major injury as the only option from the left side out of the bullpen. That being said, I’m not sure it would be the best use of the roster. This wouldn’t be a catastrophic decision by any stretch of the imagination, but Boston’s best bullpen includes the likes of Workman, Smith and Maddox. The playoffs are such a crapshoot that they needed to maximize their roster by any means they possibly can.