Red Sox OF Franchy Cordero might not be ready for Opening Day
The Red Sox acquired Cordero from the Kansas City Royals in the Andrew Benintendi deal but his arrival in camp was delayed by a COVID-19 issue. He finally made an appearance in Fort Myers this weekend but still hasn’t been cleared to play.
Addressing the media Sunday morning, manager Alex Cora explained why Cordero isn’t quite ready for action yet.
"“There’s still one more step,” said Cora. “As far as letting him work out, I thought he was supposed to be there yesterday, but no. And this is more about the whole protocols and all that. The guidelines. You saw him walking around yesterday, so as soon as they give us the green light, he’ll be ready to go. We’ll see on that one because it seems like it’s taking longer than expected.”"
Per MLB’s health and safety protocols, individuals who test positive will be required to isolate for a minimum of 10 days and must be cleared by a Joint Committee and the individual’s team physician before they can return. Players who have had close contact with a confirmed COVID case must quarantine for seven days and must test negative on day five or later before they can return.
The Red Sox didn’t reveal if Cordero tested positive when they placed him on the COVID-19 Related Injured List on Feb. 22 but it was well over 10 days later before he arrived in camp. The delay suggests that this was more than simply contact tracing.
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His absence in the early stages of spring training puts Cordero behind schedule. His athleticism should allow him to ramp up quickly from a physical standpoint but he’s still lagging behind his teammates in terms of preparing at the plate and fielding his position.
Boston is counting on Cordero to replace Benintendi as the primary left fielder this season. This setback is unlikely to cost him that role but it could mean he isn’t ready for Opening Day.
If Cordero needs to stay behind in Fort Myers for extended spring training, it opens the door for another player to step in. The Red Sox intend to carry only three bench players in order to stack their pitching staff with 14 arms. One of those bench spots goes to backup catcher Kevin Plawecki while Marwin Gonzalez essentially has another locked down. That leaves Michael Chavis, Christian Arroyo, Jonathan Arauz, and Yairo Munoz battling for the final spot.
The potential absence of Cordero early in the season means Gonzalez or Kike Hernandez might be utilized in the outfield more often, creating a need for another one of these infielders to serve in a backup utility role.
Munoz, who has been scorching the ball this spring to the tune of a .455 average, might have an advantage since he has the most outfield experience in this competition. He’s also capable at multiple infield positions but his inclusion on the roster provides the flexibility of keeping their top utility players in the infield.
Chavis has also proven he can handle left field in a pinch. He emerged as a fan-favorite as a rookie in 2019 before slumping badly last season. Chavis is having a strong spring, batting .375 with a pair of home runs – including a dramatic walk-off to beat the Rays.
Arauz has certainly done nothing to cost himself a shot in this race, batting .333 with a pair of doubles.
Arroyo is lagging behind with a 2-for-9 start at the plate but there’s plenty of time for him to recover. Even if he falls out of this race, Boston has several appealing alternatives.
This could all be a moot point if Cordero is activated soon and is able to ramp up quickly. It’s far too soon to rule him out for Opening Day. His delayed start is a concern in terms of his status but it’s not something the Red Sox are overly worried about. If Cordero isn’t ready, this roster has the depth and versatility to get by until he is able to return.