After the last two days, people have started to panic a little bit with respect to the Red Sox and their quest to win the division. On the one hand, it is certainly understandable. The top two pitchers on the roster have struggled and the offense has been struggling against pitchers that are not all that impressive (though I think J.A. Happ is consistently underrated). Despite that, Boston is still in a great position to win the American League East. With five games left in the season, they just need some combination of three Red Sox wins and Yankees losses. The chances of them getting that aren’t 100 percent solid, but it’s pretty close. Although John Farrell and the Red Sox can’t take it for granted that they will get there, they do need to have one eye on the postseason. That is, they need to make sure players are healthy heading into October.
Right now, the Red Sox are missing some very important players, and we’ve seen what happens when players are brought back from their injuries too early. Eduardo Nuñez, for instance, has been such a key for the Red Sox taking control of this division in the first place. If the Red Sox are going to challenge either Houston or Cleveland — it’s not as much of a slam dunk that Cleveland will be the top seed as people are making it seem — they need Nuñez near the top of their lineup. For one thing, his presence gives them a chance to keep Hanley Ramirez’ struggling bat on the bench against righties. That’s not to mention that his aggressive style, consistently loud contact and speed on the bases gives the Red Sox one of their best chances to win. His knee is an issue right now, and we saw the other day that he was not ready to come back. Boston can’t let that happen again, and need to make sure he is 100 percent ready to return before he appears in another regular season game.
The same can be said for Mookie Betts, who has only missed one game to this point. On the one hand, his wrist injury seems to be less concerning than Nuñez’ knee. On the other hand, bad wrists can be detrimental to a hitter and according to Farrell and the rest of the coaching staff this appears to be a wear-and-tear injury. The hope is some extra rest can get that wrist feeling better. The key is simply getting him that rest, despite him being easily the most important position player on the roster.
Then, there’s Dustin Pedroia and David Price. Now, both of these players are back playing again, and the Red Sox have done a good job of prioritizing their health over all else. Pedroia has been getting plenty of rest, and many of the days on which he has played has been out of the DH spot. Price, meanwhile, hasn’t been pushed and the Red Sox are making sure his arm is feeling fine before giving him another day out of the bullpen. All of this is very good, and needs to continue.
The Red Sox are in a big push for the playoffs and with how well the Yankees are playing they may be tempted to go all-in for that division title. They can’t give in to that temptation, particularly at this point in the race. All odds still point to the Red Sox winning the division, and it’s clear that it’s going to be a tough battle in the ALDS regardless of who they play. In order to have the best chance at that point, they need these important players at their healthiest. It’s simply up to John Farrell and the training staff to not overextend them.