BOSTON -- The Red Sox are finally ready to start their 2020 season, and they will do so with a 30-man roster that they set on Thursday.
The roster will dip to 28 two weeks into the season, then to 26 two weeks after that.
“So I talked about the last two days, and how it’s a difficult time for players and staff to try to come up with the pieces that we feel make the most sense for our club and will help us to win the most ballgames,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. “The pitching staff was probably the toughest.”
This MLB season will be unlike any other in that it will be just 60 games.
For the Red Sox, it all starts up on Friday night at Fenway Park against the Orioles. Here is a look at the 30 players who make up the roster for Opening Day.
The expanded roster gives Roenicke and his coaching staff more time to evaluate the competition between non-roster invite Lucroy and Plawecki for the backup spot.
Lucroy made the team after being a non-roster invitee once the original Spring Training was already underway. He played for Roenicke for five seasons in Milwaukee.
“And it was nice to start with him on the roster, and then we’re going to have some tough decisions, not just with him, but with everybody when we have to shrink those rosters after the two-week period and then the month period,” Roenicke said.
Lucroy was once a top offensive catcher, before dipping dramatically in recent years. However, the veteran had surgery to repair a herniated disk and says that he is playing without major discomfort for the first time in years. Plawecki is well respected as a defender.
First base (2): Mitch Moreland, Michael Chavis
This could more or less become a left-right platoon, and that will hopefully keep Moreland fresh and spare him from some of the leg injuries that have hampered him the last couple of years. Moreland is a respected leader and a solid run producer when healthy. Chavis, a right-handed hitter with power, needs to be more consistent than he was in his rookie year, especially when it comes to knowing how to handle the high heater. Look for Chavis to also see some time at second base and even make a spot start at third on those rare occasions when Rafael Devers might get a day off.
Second base (1): José Peraza
Roenicke seems bullish on Peraza, who has made significant adjustments to his stance and hitting mechanics and could bounce back from the down year he had last year with the Reds. Peraza is also a plus defender with the versatility to also play short, third and the outfield. How much will Peraza start at second base? That question will be answered by how much he produces at the plate.
Shortstop (1): Xander Bogaerts
Not much to say here, other than that Bogaerts is a rock on both sides of the ball, a standout baserunner and a team leader. He will play nearly all the time, especially in a 60-game season.
Third base (1): Rafael Devers
The left-handed-hitting masher had a breakout season in 2019. Can he be that type of force again or will pitchers make some adjustments? The guess here is that Devers will once again be a stud. To take his game to the next level would require a little more selectivity at the plate. At least in Summer Camp, Devers hasn’t looked as sharp on defense as he did a year ago.
Utility (2): Tzu-Wei Lin, Jonathan Arauz
This was Brock Holt’s spot for the last six years, but the popular left-handed hitter signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers. That leaves an opening for Lin, who has been knocking on the door for the last couple of years. Lin excels at all the fundamentals and is solid in the infield and outfield. He even tried first base in Summer Camp, and he seemed to be comfortable there despite no prior experience.
Outfield (4): Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo, Kevin Pillar
If the season had started when it was supposed to, Verdugo would have opened on the injured list. But the lengthy delay gave him plenty of time to get over the stress fracture in his back that he suffered last year while with the Dodgers. The main acquisition piece for Mookie Betts, all eyes will be on the talented Verdugo, who has the ability to hit the ball from gap to gap and has a cannon for an arm in right.
Benintendi underachieved last season and plans on making up for that this year. He will be the leadoff hitter. Bradley is in his final season before free agency, giving the defensive stalwart plenty of motivation to be more consistent at the plate.
Pillar is a gritty veteran with the type of fierce attitude that should make him a great fit in Boston. The right-handed hitter should start against all lefties, taking turns backing up Benintendi, Bradley and Verdugo. Defensively, the Red Sox have arguably the best outfield in baseball.
Designated hitter (1): J.D. Martinez
The right-handed hitter is a flat-out force at the plate who has given the Red Sox everything they hoped for when they signed him to a five-year contract in February 2018. Martinez’s 124 homers are the most in MLB over the last three seasons. Martinez will play the outfield at times, but not nearly as much as before with Pillar now in the fold.
Starting rotation (3): Nathan Eovaldi, Martín Pérez, Ryan Weber
Yes, you are reading that right. The Red Sox will open the season with just three set starters in the rotation. An opener will be used for the fourth slot. Boston will look to use a more traditional starter in the fifth spot, but who that pitcher is will depend on how the bullpen is used in the days leading up to that game. Dylan Covey, Matt Hall and Jeffrey Springs are among the pitchers in the running to get starts. Brian Johnson and Zack Godley could be eventually, but they’ll start the season at the alternate training site in Pawtucket, R.I.
This area of the team has taken a major hit in recent weeks and months. David Price was dealt to the Dodgers along with Betts in February. Chris Sale underwent Tommy John surgery in March. And now, Eduardo Rodriguez is recovering from COVID-19.
Eovaldi will have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders early on, and he seems poised to handle it. The rest of the rotation is the big unknown. Will Pérez pitch like he did in the first half of last year or the second half? If the answer is the latter, the Red Sox could be in trouble.
The 29-year-old Weber has been a Minor League journeyman, but the Red Sox think he’s ready to blossom. He is a finesse pitcher who relies on changing speeds and having good command.
Bullpen (12): Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Colten Brewer, Josh Osich, Jeffrey Springs, Marcus Walden, Austin Brice, Matt Hall, Dylan Covey, Phillips Valdez
After having so much uncertainty in the closer’s role to start last season, the Red Sox now know that Workman is their man in the ninth inning. His 2019 season was dominant yet underappreciated. Barnes is nasty when he’s right, and the hope is he’ll be more consistent now that his role is defined again as the lead setup man. Brasier lost the mojo he had in ’18 as a breakout setup reliever, but Boston thinks he can get it back. Hembree has gotten his share of important outs in recent years, and the Sox hope he is over the elbow woes that plagued him last year.
Look for Brewer, a righty, to be a big part of the opener scenario. The only question is whether he will start or be the second guy in to work bulk innings.
Alternate training site players
Pitchers (13): R.J. Alvarez, Zack Godley, Jay Groome, Kyle Hart, Tanner Houck, Brian Johnson, Mike Kickham, Robinson Leyer, Bryan Mata, Chris Mazza, Mike Shawaryn, Caleb Simpson, Domingo Tapia
Catchers (4): Jett Bandy, Juan Centeno, Jhonny Pereda, Connor Wong
Infielders (6): C.J. Chatham, Bobby Dalbec, Jeter Downs, Marco Hernández, Yairo Muñoz, Josh Ockimey
Outfielders (3): John Andreoli, Jarren Duran, César Puello