In the final series of the regular season, the Red Sox will host the Yankees with plenty of individual battles on the line.
At this point, the Boston Red Sox final series represents more individual battles than a true battle with the rival Yankees. The Sox put a bow on a near-perfect regular season while breaking the all time record for single season wins, capturing the best record in the American League, and winning the American League East for the third consecutive season – another franchise record.
As good as the club has been, there are a few remaining positions to be filled within the bullpen. The rotation is likely in place and Alex Cora has mentioned the desire to carry 14 position players on the roster, leaving a few pitchers to battle it out for the final spot.
The Bubble: Heath Hembree / Joe Kelly / Bobby Poyner
If it weren’t for Rodriguez sliding to the bullpen, it’s likely that Poyner would be a lock for the Red Sox bullpen. He’s posted a 2.33 ERA in Boston this season while lefties are hitting a mere .150 against him. The introduction of ERod leaves Cora with more flexibility, which may ultimately leave the young lefty off the postseason roster.
Had this question been asked months ago, it would certainly have looked like Hembree would be on the postseason roster. At one point, he was in the top five in the American League in inherited runners stranded, but has fallen drastically due to a poor second half. Since the All Star break, Hembree has posted a 5.50 ERA. Meanwhile, Kelly has been just as bad in the second half (4.81 ERA).
At times, Kelly has been electric out of the bullpen, including a dominant month of May in which he posted a 0.63 ERA and a 10.7 K/9. However, the inconsistencies have relegated the hard throwing reliever to mop up duty on multiple occasions. The erratic nature of Kelly may leave him watching October from the bench.
If I personally had to make the decision, Bobby Poyner would make the roster; however that’s likely not the play. Cora has trusted Hembree in big spots throughout the entire season, and despite recent struggles, I would expect him to make the roster in pursuit of another Red Sox World Series title.
While the series outcome may not matter, the Red Sox have plenty of internal battles to sort out this weekend.