The Boston Red Sox have activated second baseman Dustin Pedroia from the disabled list. What does it mean for the rest of the lineup?
Dustin Pedroia makes his return to the Boston Red Sox lineup in time for the start of a quick two-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Right-handed reliever Blaine Boyer has been placed on the disabled list with a neck strain to clear a roster spot for Pedroia.
His latest stint on the disabled list lasted the minimum 10 days, which ended up costing Pedroia only eight games due to a scheduled off day and a rain out last week. Boston won seven of those eight games without Pedroia, while averaging 6.25 runs per game.
That’s not to suggest that the Red Sox don’t need Pedroia. He leads the team among qualified hitters with a .307 average and a .381 OBP. Pedroia ranks third on the team in hits and fifth in doubles. Inserting him back into the lineup makes a thriving offense even better.
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With Pedroia back in the lineup, there’s now the question of who he’ll replace. Eduardo Nunez has been filling in at second base during his absence, but the Red Sox clearly aren’t taking him out of the lineup. He’s hitting .400 with four home runs and 12 RBI in nine games with the team.
Nunez was acquired to solve the third base riddle that plagued the team all year, yet the emergence of top prospect Rafael Devers has negated the need for an upgrade at the hot corner. Those two have been the team’s hottest hitters of late, so it would be foolish not to keep riding them until their bats cool off.
Manager John Farrell said as much over the weekend, confirming his intention to keep both players in the lineup. He cited the versatility of Nunez as one way to allow flexibility in his lineups, while also suggesting we could see Pedroia in the designated hitter role.
Sure enough, Pedroia will be the DH in his first game back.
After sitting out for ten days to rest his bothersome knee, it’s understandable why Farrell wants to manage Pedroia’s workload. Severing as the DH is one way to ease him back in, yet it’s not a long-term solution. Much of Pedroia’s value stems from being among the best defensive second basemen in baseball, while neither Nunez or Devers are known for their glove.
Plus, we assume Hanley Ramirez will be back soon, considering the Red Sox don’t anticipate his sore oblique will require a trip to the DL. Once Hanley is healthy, he’ll be in the lineup more often than not. Boston can plug him in at first base, but that would mean sitting Mitch Moreland. Not only is that a significant downgrade defensively, Moreland is starting to heat up at the plate by hitting .333 with a pair of homers in August.
Moreland will likely continue to sit against left-handed pitching, which eases the burden of filling out the lineup card. Against right-handers, the Red Sox will have five players deserving of playing time to fill four positions.
It’s a good problem to have, yet a problem nonetheless. How Farrell manages his lineups to give each of them ample playing time without stalling their momentum will play a big role in whether or not the Red Sox can keep their winning streak going.