Boston Red Sox will mix up their outfield alignment


Red Sox Nation can rejoice, as interim manager Torey Lovullo announced prior to Tuesday’s game that Hanley Ramirez would not play in the outfield again this season.

Ramirez remains unavailable with a shoulder injury that has bothered him for weeks and diminished his effectiveness at the plate. It’s unclear when he will be ready to return to the lineup, but when he does, we’ve been assured that he won’t be patrolling left field. Given that Ramirez has already cost the Red Sox a league-leading 19 runs with his horrific defensive play, that can only be considered good news for the team moving forward.

Lovullo indicated that the team is hopeful that Ramirez will be able to play some first base before the season ends, as he prepares to transition to that spot full-time next season.

With Ramirez out of the outfield picture, that leaves Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo to cover the three outfield spots. That trio has been primarily used from left to right respectively over the past few games, but the Red Sox plan to mix up their alignment over the next few weeks to get a look at each of them in different positions.

"“We haven’t yet clearly defined who’s playing where,” revealed Lovullo."

The most eyebrow raising part of that statement is that it’s no longer a sure thing that Betts will remain in center. The 22-year old has been one of the league’s best outfielders this season, saving the Red Sox 10 runs with his stellar defense. Despite limited experience from the converted infielder, Betts had done nothing to convince this coaching staff that he can’t handle the position.

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Exploring their options regarding who plays where in the outfield isn’t about how Betts has performed. As good as he has been, the team believes that Bradley could be something special defensively. If the idea is to have your strongest defenders playing up the middle then it makes sense to give Bradley a shot there. That’s no knock against Betts, just a commentary on how gifted Bradley is.

The Red Sox intend to get a look at Betts in both corner outfield spots. This won’t necessarily be a permanent change, as they haven’t yet determined if Betts can play the corners as well as he has handled center field.

Jerry Remy has discussed during NESN’s recent TV broadcasts that center field may be easier for some players because the straight on look from that vantage point makes it easier to get a read on fly balls. That could be the case for a player like Betts, a former second baseman who is used to seeing the ball come off the bat from a position up the middle.

With a lost season winding down, now is the time to find out how Betts looks in one of those corner spots. If he proves he can play it as well as he has handled the transition to center field, Boston’s outfield defense will become even stronger. It’s also possible they could learn that the team is better off leaving Betts in center, but it’s worth finding out now while they have the chance.

Castillo has been used primarily in right field this season, but he’ll soon get his first taste of playing in front of the Green Monster in Fenway Park’s left field. Where he ultimately ends up may depend on where Betts settles in.

The Red Sox are essentially playing with three center fielders, which has the potential makeup of an excellent defensive outfield. Now they just need to figure out their best alignment so they can deploy their strongest outfield possible heading into next season.

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