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Inbox: How can Red Sox make a '20 playoff run?

Beat reporter Ian Browne fields fans' questions
@IanMBrowne
July 1, 2020

What would have to happen for this team to possibly make the playoffs despite the lack of starting pitching depth? -- @GaryStud94 The Red Sox can make the playoffs if the following three things happen: 1. They get consistently strong starts from Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi and decent enough

What would have to happen for this team to possibly make the playoffs despite the lack of starting pitching depth?
-- @GaryStud94

The Red Sox can make the playoffs if the following three things happen: 1. They get consistently strong starts from Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi and decent enough starts from Martín Pérez; 2. The big hitters (Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts) are hot for considerable portions of the short season; 3. The bullpen and the opener arrangement work out well.

What do you think the Red Sox’s biggest asset will be this year?
-- @lawrencecarr33

The offense, even without Mookie Betts, should be pretty dangerous. Devers, Bogaerts and Martinez were three of the best offensive players in the American League last season. If Andrew Benintendi can get back to the player he was two years ago and Christian Vázquez comes close to what he did last year, that is a very strong offense. Add in a healthy Alex Verdugo and they can really be a productive unit.

Who do you see as the starting five?
-- @andymalkasian

Rodriguez, Eovaldi and Pérez will hold down the first three spots. Ryan Weber seemed to have the inside track for the fourth spot, so we’ll see if that is still the case by the end of Summer Camp. The fifth spot will most likely be an opener. I think Collin McHugh and Darwinzon Hernandez will play key roles on that fifth day.

I might be overly optimistic, but don’t you think the Sox's 'pen makes a big jump?
-- @TimSox30

I learned a long time ago that the hardest thing to predict each year with a team is the bullpen. However, the Red Sox do have the chance to have a good one. Brandon Workman was the most underrated closer in MLB in the second half of last season. Look at his numbers if you don’t believe me. Matt Barnes struggled in the first half, but he got back to being himself after the club stopped relying on him too heavily. He is a solid setup man.

The overall strength of the bullpen will depend on Hernandez and Josh Taylor taking additional steps forward after last year, and Heath Hembree being healthy and effective. Not many people know this, but Boston’s bullpen was really good after the All-Star break last season.

How is McHugh progressing? Dustin Pedroia?
-- @ConlyJeff

By all accounts, McHugh used the time off to his benefit and the team believes he is healthy. He will be an important swingman for manager Ron Roenicke. I don’t see Pedroia playing this season, especially under these unique circumstances. The best hope is that Pedroia can at least get in some games next season before his contract runs out and he retires.

What will Chaim Bloom’s approach be this year when it comes to the Trade Deadline at the end of August?
-- @benfaddenmlb

We need to see the season play out over the first month and change to know that. If the Red Sox stay in it, I’m sure Bloom will try to add a piece or two to supplement the team. If they fall out of it, look for him to dangle veterans for prospects.

Is Darwinzon Hernandez to the starting rotation still a possibility for this season?
-- @seannybboi

Only in terms of opener scenarios. At times, you could see Hernandez get the first three to four innings in the fifth slot in the rotation. At other times, he could be the “bulk innings” guy that comes in behind the opener.

Who would you guess is the most likely rookie to make the team? Bobby Dalbec? Any chance for Jeter Downs or Triston Casas? Isn’t this an excellent opportunity to get guys some exposure and see what you've got? Service time aside of course.
-- @tomnevin

Judging by the initial 47-player pool the Red Sox released, Dalbec has the best chance because he is part of the group. Downs and Casas could be added at any time, but I don’t think the club wants to rush them to the Majors this season. I think Dalbec would get called up only in the event that one of the other corner infielders suffers an injury. I don’t think it serves much of a purpose to have him taking up a roster spot if he is just going to be sitting on the bench.

Will Verdugo be in the No. 2 spot of the order?
-- @CuetaraAlex

The only reason I hesitate to say yes is because Benintendi is likely to lead off. Do you want lefties in the first two spots in the order? Verdugo seems like the type of hitter who is versatile enough to hit anywhere from first through about seventh.

Does the luxury tax reset if only regular-season games are played and the playoffs are not completed?
-- @fenway617

Great question. All I know for sure is this: If no season is played due to the pandemic, the Red Sox would not be able to reset their tax rate for 2021. In speaking to a Red Sox official earlier this week, that person still hadn’t received 100 percent clarity on what would happen if the season starts but is not played to completion. Stay tuned. They will be able to reset for sure if both the 60-game regular season and postseason are played to completion.

Are the Sox going to travel by plane, train or bus?
-- @keithbarber48

Due to the tightness of the schedule and very limited days off, the majority of Boston’s travel this season will be done by plane. There are other teams who are closer in proximity to the teams they will be playing, so they will likely use other means of transportation more. But with the Red Sox, the closest opponent would be the Yankees and Mets, and that’s a near four-hour trip by train or bus.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.