BOSTON -- The one looming health question the Red Sox had entering the American League Championship Series was answered when the club submitted a 25-man roster in advance of tonight's Game 1 that included first baseman Mitch Moreland.The gritty veteran left-handed hitter last played in Game 2 of the AL
BOSTON -- The one looming health question the Red Sox had entering the American League Championship Series was answered when the club submitted a 25-man roster in advance of tonight's Game 1 that included first baseman Mitch Moreland.
The gritty veteran left-handed hitter last played in Game 2 of the AL Division Series one week ago when he tweaked his right hamstring scoring from first on a double by Ian Kinsler. Moreland showed the Red Sox enough in Friday's team workout to prove he is at least healthy enough to be on the roster. It is unclear what role Moreland will play in the ALCS.
"Obviously it's something I'm going to have to be aware of, be smart with," Moreland said Friday. "If I get the opportunity, I think I can be ready."
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During the season, he was Boston's primary first baseman against right-handed pitching. Righties Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are starting the first two ALCS games for Houston. Due to the fact Moreland is still getting back on his feet, manager Alex Cora could opt to go with the red-hot Brock Holt or solid veteran Steve Pearce at first base early in the series.
For the second round in a row, the Sox will go with 11 pitchers and 14 position players. The roster is the same as it's been since Game 2 of the ALDS, when righty reliever Richard Hembree replaced injured knuckleballer Steven Wright on the roster.
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Here is a look at Cora's 25-man unit for the ALCS.
The big question entering the series is Game 2 starter David Price and whether he can reverse his substantial history of misfortunes as a starter in October. One thing that could bode well for the Red Sox is that Price has performed well against the Astros throughout his career. Cora hasn't decided yet in which order he will use Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi in Games 3 and 4. Both were tremendous against the Yankees in the last round.
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This unit has been maligned all season from the outside, despite finishing fourth in the AL in ERA. Though there were certainly some anxious moments in the ALDS (the middle innings of Game 1, the ninth inning of Game 4), they got the job done for the most part. Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes are the two relievers Cora trusts most as the bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel. Look for Cora to sometimes slot starters into the bullpen as he did last round with Porcello and ace Chris Sale.
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As they've done for most of the season, the Red Sox will go with three catchers in the ALCS. Christian Vazquez could get most of the starts this series after his solid performance in the final two games of the ALDS. Sandy Leon is Boston's best defender behind the plate, but he is in an epic slump at the plate, with just two hits in his last 57 at-bats. Blake Swihart is more of a utility player than a catcher, also having the ability to play first base and the corner outfield spots if need be.
The only constant for Cora in the infield is shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who will likely play every inning of every game. The other spots will rotate. Pearce will play first in the games lefty Dallas Keuchel starts, and he might even draw some starts against righties depending on Moreland's health. Holt could start at first, second or third. Look for third baseman Rafael Devers to get some playing time against righties. Eduardo Nunez will also see action against lefties, and he is all but certain to get the nod in Game 3 against Keuchel.
Without question, this unit is the strength of the team. There were no roster dilemmas here. Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts should play just about every inning in the outfield. However, there could be times when Cora pinch-hits for Bradley against a tough lefty. Star slugger J.D. Martinez was used exclusively at DH last round, and that will likely be the case again in the ALCS.
Here is the complete roster:
Pitchers (11): Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Nathan Eovaldi, Richard Hembree, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Brandon Workman
Catchers (3): Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez
Infielders (7): Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Brock Holt, Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez, Steve Pearce
Outfielders (4): Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.