Red Sox face another roster conundrum as next Toronto trip looms

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 20: Tanner Houck #89 of the Boston Red Sox delivers a pitch during the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on June 20, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Rutherford/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 20: Tanner Houck #89 of the Boston Red Sox delivers a pitch during the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on June 20, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Rutherford/Getty Images) /

Red Sox facing a roster conundrum in Canada

Our beloved Red Sox are buzzin’ right now and the vibes around Fenway Park are electric. After a nightmare start to the season, it feels like the fellas may be figuring things out and are putting the puzzle pieces into place.

They’re going to have a good chance at making up some more ground soon as they’ll be facing both the Cleveland Guardians and Toronto Blue Jays to finish out June. Both those series will be played on the road and one will create far more headaches than the other.

As we all know by now, there is a regulation for anyone entering Canada that they have to be vaccinated against COVID. For players, if they’re not vaccinated, they can’t enter the country with the team and they also won’t be paid for games missed.

The big names on the Red Sox roster have all gotten that taken care of and we already know of one that won’t be joining the team, but this afternoon another name was added to that list.

The first player we already know is Tanner Houck. He missed the first trip to Toronto which also cost him his spot in the starting rotation. Of course, knowing Boston’s luck, just as he’s emerging as a serious candidate for the vacant closing job, we’re heading back to the Great White North. So not only did we lose him as a starter the first time around but now we’re going to lose him while he’s one of our best relievers.

A small plus for the Red Sox is they’re currently seeing a handful of relievers step up in a massive way and as long as the starters keep doing what they’re doing, we may be able to escape Canada unscathed.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done as this Blue Jays squad is slugging at a ridiculous clip right now and they’re going to be clinging to their Wild Card spot with all of their might.

I’m not surprised that Tanner still hasn’t gotten vaccinated and I don’t expect him to change his mind anytime soon. Possibly if the Postseason somehow shakes out in a way that the Sox have to go to Toronto but outside of that I don’t see anything swaying his decision.

Houck currently sits on a 3.45 ERA through 44 1/3 innings. He’s averaging 2.75 K/BB with a 1.218 WHIP and since joining the bullpen, and becoming the unofficial closer, he’s earned five saves.

Now it’s time for the other player that Boston will be without up north. Today while speaking with MassLive, Jarren Duran made it known that he isn’t vaccinated and thus won’t be an option next week, per Chris Cotillo. While missing Houck, especially against Toronto’s offense will hurt, not having Duran may cause Alex Cora to have some more grey hairs in his beard.

Duran is currently filling in for the injured Kiké Hernández with the former Dodger unlikely to return in time for the series. While this hurts the team as a whole, this can also hurt Duran’s standing within the team. He was a massive flop during his run in the big leagues last season and it took a lot of the shine off of his name. This time around he’s been playing at a far better rate and has been contributing on a nightly basis.

Missing anyone from the lineup is bad enough but missing a guy who’s finally finding his stride and is putting in the work to help the squad is even worse. Ahead of tonight’s series finale, Duran has a .303/.378/.485 line with 10 hits and a pair of stolen bases.

He’s been flashing not just his speed on the basepaths but his leather in the outfield since his recent promotion. Now he’s going to miss three very important games that can set the tone for the second half as we flirt with the All-Star break. Houck is more than safe in his spot with the team, Duran isn’t.

Boston has plenty of young, talented, and hungry players that would be available in this situation. One name that I’ve seen floated around today has been Jaylin Davis and I can’t say that I disagree. He’s only played in two games in the Majors this season but has a .500 average with a 1.000 OPS, and that’s just the start. Between Worcester and Sacramento in Triple-A, he’s slashing .299 with an .874 OPS and has seven homers with 22 RBI.

The Red Sox could bring up Davis to fill the void during that road trip and then swap them back once Duran is eligible again. It would be similar to what they had to do for Houck and Kutter Crawford last time they went to Toronto. At this point, Cora has to do what’s best for his team and if that means riding with some players over others then so be it, he has to win games.

Luckily, the Red Sox don’t make another trip to Canada until the very last week of the season. Three of their final six games of the campaign come against the Blue Jays in Toronto. This may be one of those situations I spoke about earlier that could make either player want to get vaccinated so they can be there for the team when the season is on the line, but then again, they may feel strongly enough in their beliefs that they’ll stick to their guns.

I don’t know what Alex Cora is going to do with his lineup next week, fortunately, he only has to replace two players. Unfortunately, they happen to be two of his hottest players going right now. When all is said and done, the decision to get vaccinated is up to the individual.

At this point, nobody on either side is going to change someone’s mind from the opposite. Could it just affect one series, maybe, or could the decision have larger ramifications, nobody knows. All I know is, the Red Sox are hummin’ right now and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

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