The Red Sox were able to sneak out of Fenway on Friday with a Game One victory over the Yankees, and at the end of the day that’s ultimately all that matters. As it stands, Boston only needs to win two of the next four while New York has to win three of four. That’s significant! Of course, everyone who sat through that game knows it wasn’t all good. Specifically, Boston’s bullpen was a disaster. That was a concern heading into the series, and it proved true in this game.
One curious part of the action while it was all going on was the absence of Steven Wright. Alex Cora made a point of mentioning him and how important he could be down the stretch of the regular season, so not seeing him with all hands on deck was strange. As it turns out, there was a good reason and he probably won’t be back. The knuckleballer was suffering from some knee pain prior to the game and underwent an MRI. Nothing is official yet, but Ian Browne of RedSox.com is reporting that Wright is likely going to be taken off the roster. Sean McAdam backed up the report with one of his own, saying Wright will be replaced on Saturday.
Obviously, this is a big blow. If Wright is taken off the roster, there are some longer-term implications. He can’t be added back onto the roster for this series to begin with, and then if the Red Sox are able to advance to the ALCS he wouldn’t be eligible for that round either. If they were fortunate enough to make it to the World Series, he would be eligible. Of course, they have to make it that far first.
The question now becomes how they decide to replace Wright. Really, it comes down to what kind of role they were in which planning to use the knuckleballer. That was never really clear to me, if we’re being honest. If they wanted him in shorter bursts in higher-leverage spots, then they’ll look at more traditional relievers like Heath Hembree or Bobby Poyner. Between the two I’d guess they’ll lean towards Hembree given all the right-handed prowess in New York’s lineup. That could change in the ALCS, but again that’s not a concern at the moment.
On the other hand, if they wanted Wright to serve as a mop-up guy to come in as a change of pace in a game where the starter leaves early, Cora would likely look to Brian Johnson or Hector Velazquez. Between the two of them, it seemed to me that Cora trusted Velazquez more down the stretch, but Johnson was the more effective and trustworthy arm overall. Those around the team seem to think Johnson is more likely to be added than Velazquez, so I’ll go with their expertise. That being said, with Eduardo Rodriguez still fresh I’m going to guess Hembree will get the call, but we’ll have to wait until later today for official word.