Boston Red Sox lineup notes for Opening Day vs Baltimore Orioles
Thoughts on the Boston Red Sox Opening Day lineup.
The 2020 season is officially underway as the Boston Red Sox host the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park for Opening Day on Friday.
Here’s the lineup that the Red Sox will roll out for their first game of the season.
J.D. Martinez is featured in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, continuing a trend we saw in the exhibition games against the Toronto Blue Jays. Martinez has rarely occupied that spot in the lineup during his career and he been used almost exclusively in either the third or fourth spots since he arrived in Boston.
The decision to bump Martinez up in the lineup stems from a desire to separate the left-handed bats of Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers. Manager Ron Roenicke may have been trying to avoid stacking two lefties at the top of the order with the Orioles sending southpaw Tommy Milone to the mound.
MLB has implemented a new rule this year that requires relievers to face at least three batters before they can be replaced (barring injury). Alternating lefties with right-handed batters makes bullpen management more complicated for the opposing manager.
We saw the Los Angeles Dodgers deploy a similar strategy in their opener Thursday night, dropping Mookie Betts out of the leadoff spot to sandwich him between lefties Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger.
I would have preferred to see Xander Bogaerts bat second if Boston was insisting on putting a right-handed bat in that spot, saving the powerful bat of Martinez for the cleanup spot. Bogaerts is a capable run producer in his own right though and he can do plenty of damage hitting fourth.
Starting Kevin Pillar in the outfield should be a common occurrence whenever a lefty is on the mound for the opposing team. Pillar has performed significantly better against lefties, owning a .280/.312/.464 line against them for his career.
The surprising move is that Pillar replaces the one player among Boston’s trio of left-handed outfielders who can actually hit lefties. Alex Verdugo has reverse splits, hitting .316/.344/.467 against them in his career.
Verdugo didn’t see game action prior to when spring training was shut down in March since he was still recovering from a stress fracture in his back. He was back on the field by summer camp but his timing was off and he had some frustrating trips to the plate. He might need more time to find his swing and the Red Sox can’t afford to wait on a slow start in this shortened season.
Michael Chavis gets the start tonight as the right-handed half of a first base platoon. We’ll see plenty of Mitch Moreland this year but not against lefties.
Nathan Eovaldi gets the nod to start Opening Day. There really wasn’t any other viable options with Chris Sale sidelined for the season and Eduardo Rodriguez still recovering from complications brought on by his bout with COVID-19. Nasty Nate enters this year healthy and he looked sharp in camp, perhaps foreshadowing a bounce-back season.
The Red Sox will aim to get their season off to a hot start against a rebuilding Baltimore club. The margin for error is slimmer in a 60-game season and building early momentum will be vital to the team’s success. We’ll see if this is the lineup that gets it done for Boston tonight.