BOSTON -- Manager Ron Roenicke is the first to admit the urgency of each game during this unprecedented 60-game season, but he is not going to let that urgency allow him to push his players too hard in this opening stretch, in which Boston plays 10 straight days.
The other thing unprecedented about this season? The ramp-up. After an abbreviated Spring Training and a layoff of more than three months, the Summer Camp that preceded the regular season was three weeks.
With all that in mind, Roenicke had his best all-around player out of the lineup on Saturday in Xander Bogaerts, with Tzu-Wei Lin making the start at short. Catcher Christian Vázquez also got a rest, with Kevin Plawecki making his debut behind the plate for the Sox.
Bogaerts did end up seeing action in Boston's 7-2 loss, striking out as a pinch-hitter for Lin in the sixth inning and remaining in the game at short. He struck out again in the ninth.
“Yes, we have plans in place because of the day game after the night game, and even though we know how important it is to get off to a good start and put our guys out there, our starters, as much as we can, we realize that if we do this right away, we have a chance to get somebody fatigued and possibly an injury,” said Roenicke.
Roenicke made it clear that the quick rest for Bogaerts has nothing to do with a health issue, just maintenance.
“Yes, he’s fine,” he said. “I had talked to not just the trainers, but our conditioning people, and we have in place a plan that they send me. It’s about the workload that guys get, and when they think they need days off. And this is just coming from Bogey not playing deep in these exhibition games and not to the point where we think nine innings -- whether it’s five days in a row or how many in a row -- is fair to him.”
Look for all of the Red Sox regulars to get some time off over these first 10 games.
“Yeah, definitely, and this is why. So, normally, Spring Training is really six weeks, but for the position players, five weeks mostly,” Roenicke said. “And taking that five weeks and going down to three, it’s hard to get guys where you think they’re comfortable playing nine innings a lot of days in a row. Some guys physically we think can do it.
“I’m going to try to switch off if I can, especially this first week. We’ve got 10 in a row; I don’t want anyone playing 10 games in a row right now. It’s important, I know, to start, but it’s more important to make sure they stay healthy through these 60 games.”
Peraza’s sudden impact
Roenicke had sounded bullish on José Peraza when talking about him during Summer Camp, and the second baseman made his manager look smart with a 4-for-5 debut on Friday night.
J.D. Martinez and Roenicke have both mentioned that Peraza isn’t the most talkative person in the world, but it seems like he will be able to make some noise with his bat.
One encouraging development already is that Peraza seems to be absorbing hitting thoughts from Martinez, who studies the craft like few others in the sport.
“I’m still trying to get to know him more. He’s a really quiet guy,” said Roenicke. “Usually, when I go to talk to him, it’s a nod. He understands everything. He won’t brush by me and say something to me. He’ll always wait for me to say something.
“So I can’t tell exactly where he is on that, but if J.D. says that he’s willing to listen, [that’s good]. I’ve seen improvements, so he’s listening to somebody. Even though he’s played a few years, it sounds like he continues to want to improve.
“And if he’s got an open mind about things, he’s got a great guy in J.D. along with some other guys on the team that can help him and give him what he needs. And along with [hitting coaches] Pete [Fatse] and Tim [Hyers] on the hitting part, these guys are outstanding, and to be able to give him things that can help his career, it’s very smart on his part to be listening to them."
Weber improvised during the delay
After his red-hot start to Spring Training put him in position to land a spot in the rotation, Ryan Weber was determined not to let the coronavirus-imposed layoff stall his momentum. So what did he do?
“I went to my old high school in Clearwater, [Fla.], and I was able to throw to a college catcher who was back home, he goes to N.C. State. Just treat it as a normal five-day rotation deal, with a bullpen in between an outing,” said Weber.
During Summer Camp, Weber was just as effective as he was in Spring Training. And until tiring in the sixth inning, he was strong in his exhibition start against the Blue Jays earlier this week.
Now the 29-year-old Weber is not only on a Major League roster to start a season for the first time, he is starting the third game of the season, on Sunday against Baltimore.
“I’ve started games before, but never in the opening series of the season,” said Weber. “It means a lot to me that it can be done here at Fenway Park, too.”
“I hope we’re getting a good five from him. If he can give us six, fantastic, and he’s certainly capable of doing that,” said Roenicke. “Hopefully, that goes well.”
Beyond the third game?
Roenicke will use an opener on Monday night, when the Mets come to Fenway Park, but he isn’t sure who that will be.
He does have an idea who the fifth starter will be on Tuesday, but he isn’t divulging that info just yet.
“We know what we’re going to do game five, but game four is still being discussed,” Roenicke said. “As you know, we picked up a couple pieces in [Zack] Godley and [Dylan] Covey, so we’ll look at that and see if that fits into the picture on the fourth game. [Chief baseball officer] Chaim [Bloom] is coming down here in a little bit, and we’re going to talk some and try to figure that out.”