One of the new rules that was supposed to finally be implemented this season — it had been agreed to a couple of years ago, but for various COVID-adjacent reasons had not been put into practice — was the limit on the number of pitchers on a roster to 13. That, combined with teams limited to optioning an individual player no more than five times in a season, was expected to cut down on pitching changes and encourage teams to leave their starters longer. The rule was pushed back to start the season coming off the short spring training, and now it’s being pushed back even further.
The league announced on Tuesday that MLB and the Players Association had agreed to push back the deadline to get pitching staffs down to 13 players to May 30. While rosters will still be trimmed from 28 players to 26 starting on May 2, teams will now be allowed to carry 14 pitchers rather than 13 from May 2 through May 29. They cite player health as the reasoning behind the delay.
As a fan I’m not crazy about this, though I have a hard time really arguing against it for the health reasons. Pitchers are coming off that short spring training, and I’m fine being overly cautious to protect their health. That said, it’s a more exciting game when there are fewer pitching options from which to choose.
In terms of how this affects the Red Sox, I would certainly expect them to carry 14 pitchers with a three-man bench for most, if not all, of this stretch. They haven’t been quite as extreme as other teams to start the season with the expanded rosters — the Yankees have carried a three-man bench at times this year with a 16-man pitching staff, which is just absurd — but it makes sense for them to go with this. For one, they need all the help they can get on the pitching staff. Even with the bullpen performing relatively well (Tuesday notwithstanding), they are still largely in the throwing stuff at the wall phase of figuring out the hierarchy.
On top of that, it’s not as though the bench is covering itself in glory and they have four guys who are clearly showing they need to stay on the roster. Their bench has been largely non-existent, and it won’t be hard to clear out one of those spots. Jonathan Araúz, who is still on the COVID list but is nominally a part of this bench, could be optioned. They could also designate Travis Shaw for assignment, which makes more sense to me as he has not provided anything to this team so far this season. Losing a left-handed complement to Bobby Dalbec isn’t ideal, but it’s not as though Shaw was filling that role anyway.
In fact, I think there’s a scenario in which both of those moves happen, with Araúz going down to Worcester and Shaw being designated. It’s wouldn’t be to bring up Triston Casas, though, which I think is what many people (understandably) want. Instead, they’ be able to use that 40-man spot to keep Rob Refsnyder on the roster, as he is currently filling the spot left by Araúz.
And then over on the pitching side, this would mean only one player needs to be optioned. Right now, they have two “extra” pitchers in Tyler Danish and John Schreiber, who are in Toronto in place of the unvaccinated Tanner Houck and Kutter Crawford. I would not be surprised at all if Crawford ends up being optioned once again, and he along with Danish and Schreiber are off the roster come next Monday. That said, no decisions have to be made today, though they’ll certainly be thinking about this over the next few days leading up to the cut day.