Boston Red Sox missing big names from AL Wild Card roster

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 26: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox watches a hit against the New York Yankees during the eighth inning at Fenway Park on June 26, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 26: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox watches a hit against the New York Yankees during the eighth inning at Fenway Park on June 26, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox will be without some key players for the Wild Card game

The Boston Red Sox have revealed their 26-man roster for the Wild Card game against the New York Yankees. With everything on the line in this one-game playoff against their greatest rival, Boston will go to battle without two of their best players.

The most notable absence is J.D. Martinez. He was removed early from Sunday’s regular season finale after he sprained an ankle tripping over the second base bag on his way to right field between innings. Seriously, you can’t make this up. This is one of many reasons Martinez should stick with being a designated hitter.

Taking his bat out of the lineup is a significant loss for the Red Sox but leaving Martinez off the roster improves the defense. Plugging him in the same lineup as Kyle Schwarber has been a struggle down the stretch. Now Schwarber can slide seamlessly into the DH role, avoiding any adventures in the outfield that can result from using either of these defensively-challenged players at a corner spot.

This also means Schwarber won’t be counted on to cover first base, a position he struggled to adjust to while learning on the fly. Expect Bobby Dalbec to get the start at first base.

Christian Arroyo made the roster despite appearing in only four games since the start of September. He could fill in at second base for Jose Iglesias, who isn’t eligible for the postseason since the Red Sox signed him in September. This would allow Kike Hernandez to patrol center field with Hunter Renfroe and Alex Verdugo on the corners, giving Boston their best defensive outfield alignment.

Jarren Duran is listed as the fourth outfielder on the roster but he’s likely to be saved for pinch-running opportunities.

Connor Wong also made the team as an emergency catcher. Kevin Plawecki is expected to start since he has a strong rapport with starter Nathan Eovaldi. When Plawecki is behind the plate, Eovaldi owns a 3.28 ERA this season compared to a 4.77 ERA when Christian Vazquez is his battery mate. Boston might want to use Vazquez to pinch-hit for Plawecki later in the game, depending on matchups, which means carrying a third catcher has value.

Jonathan Arauz and Travis Shaw round out the bench. Arauz provides some infield depth that could prove valuable considering Arroyo’s limited playing time late in the season. Shaw has shown he can come through in clutch situations so his bat provides a dangerous threat off the bench.

That gives the Red Sox 14 position players with only 12 pitchers. Since this roster is only relevant for one game, Boston doesn’t need as many arms in their bullpen. That brings us to the other significant name missing from the roster – Chris Sale.

The best pitcher on the staff isn’t even on the roster for the biggest game of the year. Sale started Sunday’s game against the Washington Nationals and wasn’t available to pitch today, which means there was no sense in having him take up a roster spot.

There was some speculation that Sale would be available since he was pulled in the third inning of hist last start but he still threw 62 pitches in that abbreviated outing. The Red Sox are wisely playing it safe with his surgically repaired elbow.

If the Red Sox advance to the ALDS, Sale should be available for Game 1 or 2 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Pitching him for even one inning in the Wild Card game risks not having him available until later in that series, in which case he probably only makes one start.

Eduardo Rodriguez and Nick Pivetta will both be available in the bullpen for the Wild Card game. The pair of starting pitchers closed out the final two innings of Sunday’s game and we could see manager Alex Cora lean on them in a similar situation during the Wild Card game.

E-Rod, Pivetta, Garret Whitlock and Tanner Houck provide the Red Sox with a formidable group behind Eovaldi. If Nasty Nate can give them at least five innings, those four pitchers should be able to lock down the remainder of the game.

The Red Sox are certainly a much better team with Martinez and Sale both available but the defensive upgrade from being without the former partially offsets the loss of his bat while the pitching depth remains solid without the latter.

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