If you thought the health of the Boston Red Sox couldn’t get worse, well, it did.
After leaving Tuesday’s Grapefruit League game with a strained left hamstring, Red Sox manager has confirmed the expected with Josh Rutledge. The injury is expected to “require some time” to recover, meaning that he will likely start the regular season on the 10-day disabled list, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reported.
Rutledge had been penciled in as the Red Sox 25th man on the roster, expected to take on a utility infield role. Because the team selected him in the Rule 5 draft, they would have to return him to the Rockies if they were to remove him from the roster in favor of, say, Marco Hernandez. With the news that he’ll likely start the season on the DL that equation changes significantly. This isn’t as impactful as injuries to David Price and Tyler Thornburg, of course, but it adds another element of uncertainty to an already weakened Red Sox depth chart just days before the start of the regular season.
Hernandez, who is tearing the Grapefruit League apart, is probably the guy Farell goes to next. With a .379 average and 1.110 OPS, he’s been arguably the best hitter in the lineup for the club this spring. Just a week ago he was destined to start the season at AAA and even being dangled as potential trade bait. Now, he figures to have a solid crack at the Opening Day roster.
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The question concerning their decision with Hernandez is whether the Red Sox can stomach the absence of a right-handed bat to balance Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland on the corners. It’s no secret that the only true value Rutledge offered the team was his right-handedness, something Hernandez doesn’t bring to the table.
The thing is, he’s actually done pretty well against southpaws over his career. At the highest levels of the minor leagues, he went 22-for-67 (.328) in AAA last season and 28-for-88 (.315) against them in AA. He only received eight at-bats against lefties in the majors but collected four hits.
Another option to add some infield depth is first baseman Steve Selsky. Given the club’s plan to start Mitch Moreland at first against righties and Hanley Ramirez versus lefties, it would make sense to add Selsky’s right-handed bat while Hanley remains temporarily unable to play the field. Hernandez, by comparison, hasn’t played first at any level during his professional career. However, Selsky was optioned to AAA on Monday. He could be recalled in the case of an injury, but it seems likely that upper management sees him as a minor leaguer for the time being.
If that is the case, I expect to see Hernandez in Boston on April 3. The 24-year old has proven that he’s ready for the major league roster with his play this spring. More so, he isn’t a downgrade at all compared to Rutledge. Like I said earlier, the only real value in having him on the roster was to add a right-handed bat. With Hernandez, there’s much more upside.