The Boston Red Sox have announced the 25-man roster they will carry for the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros.
The Boston Red Sox are sticking with the same players who brought them to this stage. The team announced their ALCS roster prior to Game 1 against the Houston Astros, revealing that they haven’t made any changes from the one they used to defeat the New York Yankees in the ALDS.
This means that the Red Sox will carry only 11 pitchers, making them the only team among the final four postseason participants to not have 12 pitchers available.
The extra bench player is necessitated by their insistence on keeping three catchers. An insurance policy behind the plate affords manager Alex Cora the luxury of pinch-hitting for Sandy Leon if a prime scoring opportunity presents itself in his spot, even if it’s relatively early in the game. The light-hitting catcher batted a meager .177 this season and was 0-for-5 in the ALDS.
What makes the decision to carry three catchers again a bit questionable is that Cora wasn’t aggressive with pinch-hitting for Leon in the ALDS. He stuck with Leon for the entirety of Game 1, allowing him to make the final out of the eighth inning despite that the Yankees had been chipping away at their lead against Boston’s bullpen. Rafael Devers was used to pinch-hit for Leon in the Game 2 loss but Cora waited until the 7th inning to make that move. Wasn’t the point of having three catchers so that you could pinch-hit in that spot twice? In that case, Leon shouldn’t have led off the fifth inning with the Red Sox trailing.
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Christian Vazquez started the final two games of the series, going 3-for-9 with a home run against New York. He’ll warrant more playing time if he’s going to hit like that. Boston may not even need to pinch-hit for Vazquez, negating the need for a third catcher.
Blake Swihart struck out in his only plate appearance of the ALDS, which came late in the 16-1 route in Game 3. The 25th man on the roster has been treated as a break glass in case of emergency option or relegated to mop up duty.
Boston’s bullpen has struggled with inconsistency all season, standing out as one of the few weaknesses on a 108-win juggernaut. We have to wonder if a bullpen filled with relievers who force us to change our view of them on a game-to-game basis couldn’t use all the help they can get.
There was some speculation that the Red Sox would add another pitcher if first baseman Mitch Moreland wasn’t deemed ready to go for this series. It seems the team is confident that the hamstring injury that forced him out of Game 2 is behind him. The Red Sox could certainly use Moreland against the right-handed heavy Astros rotation and he provides a defensive upgrade at first base.
Will the Red Sox regret being a pitcher short in this series or will Swihart and Moreland come through with performances that prove their inclusion was worthwhile? Cora’s decisions have gotten the Red Sox this far. Now isn’t the time to start doubting him.