Red Sox: Fernando Abad’s roster spot may be in jeopardy

Feb 24, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Fernando Abad (58) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the New York Mets at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Fernando Abad (58) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the New York Mets at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Fernando Abad is fighting for a spot in the Boston Red Sox bullpen this spring, which leads us to question his decision to pitch in the WBC.

Left-handed reliever Fernando Abad didn’t exactly endear himself with fans during his brief stint with the Boston Red Sox last season and it appears he’s not off to a great start impressing his manager this spring.

After posting an unsightly 6.39 ERA over 18 appearances in a Red Sox uniform and falling out of the bullpen mix completely by the time the postseason rolled around, Abad entered spring training knowing that his spot on the roster was hardly a lock. Which is why we have to question his decision to leave camp to participate in the World Baseball Classic.

Abad left the team Tuesday to join the Dominican Team and could be away for several weeks, depending on how far his team advances in the tournament. His absence deprives him of valuable opportunities to prove himself worthy of a spot in Boston’s bullpen.

Based on comments that manager John Farrell made to Masslive’s Jen McCaffrey, that decision may prove costly.

"“You love the fact that his country looks upon him as a guy to contribute for the WBC,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s pitched four times; there’s been early-camp mixed results, which are not uncommon. But in those positions of competing for a spot, you’d like to think that a guy’s going to be here to make that mark here. He’s aware of his status on the roster competing for a spot. When he returns, it’s constant evaluating that’s going on.”"

Abad has allowed four runs in four appearances so far this spring, displaying the same inconsistency that led to him falling out of favor last fall. When he returns from the WBC there won’t be much time left to convince the team that he can be a reliable option.

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Robbie Ross would seem to have a spot in the bullpen secured given that he was one of the team’s most reliable relievers last season. The Red Sox may not need to carry more than one additional lefty in the bullpen, which leaves Abad competing with Robby Scott for a roster spot.

Scott has looked great this spring, striking out three batters over three scoreless innings. Farrell praised the 27-year old lefty for his composure and ability to make pitches, both of which are traits he showed in his brief time in the big leagues last season when he tossed six scoreless innings down the stretch.

While his overall numbers in Boston were a disaster, Abad can still be a useful asset for his dominance against lefties. He held left-handed hitters to a .153 average and .459 OPS last season, but was shelled by right-handed hitters. Scott’s sample size in the majors is too small to get a fair comparison, but he didn’t show drastic platoon splits in the minors, holding right-handed hitters to a reasonable .234 average during his time in Triple-A Pawtucket last season.

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Perhaps Abad is slightly better in lefty-on-lefty matchups, but if he’s useless against right-handers then why would the Red Sox give him a spot in the bullpen over Scott, who is capable of getting hitters out from both sides of the plate? That’s a question that Abad needed to answer this spring, which will be difficult to do if he’s not with the team in Fort Myers.

The Red Sox went to salary arbitration with Abad, with the ruling going in the team’s favor. He’s set to earn $2 million this season, but that figure is only guaranteed if he makes the 25-man roster. If he’s designated for assignment before Opening Day then he’ll make only a prorated amount of that salary, dependent upon how many days he spent with the team in Spring Training.

Abad would need to drastically outperform Scott in camp in order to win a roster spot. If their production is fairly even then the Red Sox may opt to cut Abad in favor of the cheaper option, opening more space under the luxury tax that could be used for potential mid-season trades that add payroll.

Next: Kyle Kendrick could provide valuable depth

Pitching in the WBC is a great honor, so it’s hard to fault Abad for wanting to represent his country. However, the decision could cost him his job and a couple of million bucks.