The Red Sox bat off the bench option may exist on the mound
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox need a quality bat off the bench and may already have one. Is there a pitcher who can fulfill that role? Anyone in the farm system?
The designated hitter rule had consequences in relationship to pitchers who actually knew what to do with a bat. Recently Rick Porcello managed a three-run double that immediately sent me on a mission to buy a lottery ticket and to watch a squadron of pigs fly. A rare sign of hitting ability or mysteriously having the bat locate the ball while eyes are closed.
Baseball pitchers have lost the art of hitting, but in reality, only a few had a talent with the club that would get them above the Mendoza Line. A few have surfaced this year, especially Shohei Ohtani. We see this in the National League when suddenly a pitcher actually becomes an object of offensive concern such as Michael Lorenzen. And let us not forget that bunting in the American League is fast disappearing – pitchers look rather feeble in interleague games attempting to lay one down.
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I will put forth a value judgment in that pitchers in their youthful days were the best players on their team from youth leagues through high school and even to college. They could hit. But a dramatic change transpires when the concentration is devoted to the mound and not the bat. But why? Seems that an investment is needed to check just who in your minor league system has potential.
Several years ago I wrote an article on pitchers who in Red Sox history could hit. Also, there is a rather short list of pitchers who were used extensively for pinch-hitting duties. With expanded bullpens, the positional rosters have seen a dramatic shift. Even in the NL you can become restricted in late game situations by being trapped with a 12 or 13 man bullpen.
With the Red Sox, there must be a more viable option than having Blake Swihart swing away. Even Porcello’s .171 career average is more attractive. The Red Sox have Brian Johnson who I have taken a series of cheap shots at over these many months. But Johnson once hit .404 in college. Johnson even won the John Olerud Award as the best two-way player in the collegiate ranks.
Johnson has not been utilized at the MLB level as a pinch hitter. He has gone hitless in four career at-bats as a pitcher. Does anyone else on the Red Sox roster or attempting to make an impact in the minors have a promising hitting resume? Scanning the Red Sox 25-man roster one name does stand out.
Drew Pomeranz has a .171 career average and has hit two home runs. Pomeranz has a national league background so he had some chances to do damage and managed to do so. Fellow lefty Davis Price has a .063 career average. Maybe that would improve if Price could hit against himself?
Teams like the Red Sox are always searching for an advantage. Extensive use of metrics, exotic defensive shifts, agility evaluation testing, psychological testing, on and on, but sitting out there is that one little nugget – hitting. An extra-inning game with runners on first and third and your depleted bench has no one. You are stuck with three swings and done hurler. Imagine having someone off the bench who had the potential to drive the ball in that situation and possibly garner you a win?