BOSTON -- In a somewhat surprising move, the Red Sox chose not to put knuckleballer Steven Wright on their World Series roster but instead added lefty Thomas Pomeranz, who was inactive for the American League Division Series and the AL Championsip Series.Wright became a weapon out of the bullpen for
BOSTON -- In a somewhat surprising move, the Red Sox chose not to put knuckleballer Steven Wright on their World Series roster but instead added lefty Thomas Pomeranz, who was inactive for the American League Division Series and the AL Championsip Series.
Wright became a weapon out of the bullpen for Boston in September, posting a 0.66 ERA in 10 outings. Heading into the playoffs, manager Alex Cora said multiple times that Wright could play a pivotal role.
The righty was on the ALDS roster for one day, but he had to be taken off when he experienced discomfort in his surgically repaired right knee in the hours leading up to Game 1 against the Yankees.
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Cora said Wright was healthy enough to be on the roster.
"He was available," Cora said. "He put himself in the conversation. But he only actually threw one live BP and it was one of those that, for the uniqueness of the pitch, I think the matchup had to do a lot with the decision."
By rule, that made Wright ineligible for the ALCS, but he remained in play for the Fall Classic. Wright tried to prove his health by throwing to hitters and participating in fielding drills on Sunday, but it proved not to be enough for the Red Sox to trust he could stay healthy for the World Series. Wright is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee in the near future.
For the third straight round, the Sox are going with 11 pitchers and 14 position players. Pomeranz replaces Brandon Workman, who got belted around in Game 1 of the ALCS and didn't pitch again in the series.
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Pomeranz gives Boston an extra left-hander in the bullpen in addition to Eduardo Rodriguez. Pomeranz could match up against Los Angeles' lefty bats or provide some length out of the bullpen.
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"Who we're playing," Cora said when asked why he chose Pomeranz over Wright. "A bunch of lefties. A bunch of righties with reverse splits. I don't get caught up in the whole lefty whatever, but we're going to play in the National League, and I lived it last year [with the Astros]. Last year, we carried one lefty. I know we've got Eddie [Rodriguez], but they manage the game, especially in a National League ballpark, it's like, in and out. Like hockey. Like, they have different shifts, you know?
"I do feel that last year, [Francisco] Liriano gave us two big outs. In Game 6 and 7, he got [Cody] Bellinger out, and I do feel if it's the series that everybody expects, he's going to give us a big out. He's throwing the ball well, actually. Worked very hard the last two weeks, three weeks. He threw that live BP. Velocity was up. Finally. We've been looking for that the whole season. He's hitting 93, 94 [mph]. As you guys know, although we didn't say it during the season, that's a big difference with him, when he's throwing that hard. It took us awhile. We talked about it two nights ago. We talked about it last night, and then late last night, we made the decision."
Here is a look at Cora's 25-man unit for the World Series.
Chris Sale's stomach no longer hurts. David Price is no longer winless as a postseason starter. Nathan Eovaldi has been dominant in these playoffs. Rick Porcello has been steady and versatile. The Red Sox are feeling confident about their rotation entering the World Series. The only question is the order Cora deploys Eovaldi and Porcello for Games 3 and 4 in L.A. It will depend on if Cora utilizes them out of the bullpen in the first two games.
Looked at as the team's glaring weakness entering the postseason, Boston's bullpen has held up rather well in the first two rounds. The pitcher who has struggled the most is closer Craig Kimbrel. But in a funny twist, it was a former Dodgers great (Eric Gagne) who diagnosed a pitch-tipping problem and texted Kimbrel about it. After making the fix, Kimbrel looked dominant while closing out the Astros in Game 5 of the ALCS. In high-leverage setup situations, Cora will most often turn to Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier. If those two are running on fumes, Cora might tap into the rotation and ask Porcello or Eovaldi for some outs.
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As for Pomeranz, the left-hander could give the Red Sox something of a platoon advantage against the Dodgers, who hit righties much better than lefties this year (as did the Red Sox, notably). Los Angeles had a .796 OPS against right-handed pitching this season -- second best in MLB behind only Boston (.817) -- compared to a .733 OPS against left-handed pitching, which ranked 13th.
As they've done for most of the season, the Red Sox will go with three catchers in the World Series. Sandy Leon will again be paired with Sale despite generating just two hits in his past 52 at-bats. Christian Vazquez is likely to catch the other starters. Blake Swihart is more of a utility player than a catcher, as he can also play first base and the corner outfield spots if need be. The presence of three catchers allows Cora to be aggressive with his pinch-hitters.
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. Steve Pearce will likely play first against lefties Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill. Mitch Moreland will get the nod against righty Walker Buehler. Moreland has been an effective pinch-hitter in this postseason and over the past couple of seasons. Third baseman Rafael Devers has re-emerged as a weapon in the playoffs, but his left-handed bat could leave him in more of a reserve role in this World Series. That would leave significant playing time at third base for Eduardo Nunez, who has been spotty on both sides of the ball.
In the ultimate subplot, there's a chance Mookie Betts will join the infield when the festivities shift to Los Angeles for Game 3. He played second base in the Minors, and a move back to that position would allow the Red Sox to keep Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi in the outfield along with J.D. Martinez. Ian Kinsler has been the club's primary second baseman in the playoffs, and Brock Holt has also seen time there.
Without question, this unit is the strength of the team. There were no roster dilemmas here. Betts was arguably the best all-around player in the game this year. Benintendi is in a power drought (his last homer was Aug. 31), but he remains a force in just about every other way. Bradley only had three hits in the ALCS, but they accounted for nine RBIs and he was MVP of that round.
Here is the complete roster:
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.