Photo Credit: MassLive.com
A strong bench can be an asset or a liability depending on the manager and player personalities. Fortunately, that is no issue for your 2018 Boston Red Sox.
Someone is soon going to rot on the Red Sox bench or is that someones? Already Mitch Moreland has been consigned to second citizen status when it comes to playing time. Moreland has started the season with meager playing time waiting for injury-induced playing crumbs. Moreland is now a very expensive defensive replacement for Hanley Ramirez and MM will soon have company in Eduardo Nunez.
Nunez moved into the second base position vacated by Dustin Pedroia and his surgeon. The knee is gaining strength and the fireplug Pedroia is no doubt itching to return to the fray. When that happens, Nunez will be a player without a position unless Xander Bogaerts‘ injury is far more complicated than initially diagnosed.
Nunez, like Moreland, is a victim of circumstances. Ramirez is a noted slugger who has suddenly found the swing that was so important in 2016. Occasionally Moreland will get some playing time as manager Alex Cora does his mix and match, but the reality is Moreland is a part-time player and so will Nunez.
Both players represent expensive insurance policies with a combined salary of $10.5 MM for 2018. An investment that is well worth it with the question marks surrounding the health of Ramirez and Pedroia. Health can be fickle and just the ankle injury to Bogaerts can show a sudden change from sitting and staring at the lineup card to being hurled into the game.
Then there is the matter of Blake Swihart. Swihart will sit unless a tsunami of injuries happens. The kid simply has no place to play with any consistency and will gather more rust than a 1952 Ford sitting in an Iowa cornfield. Use him or lose him and lose you will without some reasonable playing time to refresh his skills.
Brock Holt is one who certainly understands his circumstances and with almost two seasons tossed to the injury winds is now back. But with Holt his value is limited defensively and offensively. Once and if Nunez returns to spot duty Holt may gather his own rust.
Cora has been receiving some criticism over-allotment of playing time and I suspect that is rooted in his own career. Cora knows what it is like to sit on a bench and wait. To grab a few innings in a game that is long gone either as a win or a loss. Often it is the difficulty of replacing a player that is to be totally honest better than you. That is why you are a bench player.
One area that can divide a team or cause a minor and major grumbling in the clubhouse is playing time often based on ego. Thankfully, Cora is no doubt finely tuned to this possibility. Even a more positive note is Moreland and Nunez are veteran professionals who clearly understand the pecking order. Cora will also, as he has attempted, to get as many innings as possible for those who sit. The less rust the better.
The Red Sox will have a steady lineup as May gets underway. The double play duo should be back and 100%. Cora will occasionally dabble in giving J.D. Martinez some outfield time to embarrass himself. Otherwise, the bench will certainly have depth and experience. A significant plus incase another injury happens.
Moreland and Nunez are seasoned veterans and know their ability and roles neither are adept enough to replace any regulars on this Red Sox team. If it was 1962 you couldn’t pry them out of the lineup.