Red Sox carry 12 pitchers -- no Sale, J.D.
BOSTON -- The Red Sox submitted a 26-man roster for Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game that does not include J.D. Martinez. The star slugger is down with a sprained left ankle sustained when he tripped over second base while running out to play defense in Sunday’s regular-season finale. Chris Sale, who pitched in Sunday's regular-season finale, was also not included for the win-or-go-home game.
However, Boston does have key lefty reliever Josh Taylor -- who was out with a low back injury -- on the roster. The Red Sox have already faced the Yankees 19 times this season, winning 10 of the matchups, so there are few secrets between the rivals heading into the winner-take-all game.
Here is the roster that Boston thinks will have the best chance at upending New York and earning a trip to the Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.
Kevin Plawecki, C: Though Plawecki is technically the backup catcher, he will start the AL Wild Card Game due to how well he’s paired with starter Nathan Eovaldi this season. Plawecki is a strong game-caller, but he has a below-average arm.
Christian Vázquez, C: Don’t be surprised to see Vázquez come off the bench in this game, especially after Eovaldi comes out. Vázquez tends to rise to the occasion in big spots at the plate, and he is a better pure defender and thrower than Plawecki.
Connor Wong, C: Why not carry a third catcher to give manager Alex Cora as much flexibility as possible when it comes to late-game mixing and matching? Wong, one of the players acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade, played in six games for the Red Sox this season, going 6-for-13.
Kyle Schwarber, DH: There’s no overstating how Schwarber’s relentless and disciplined approach at the plate has impacted the Red Sox since he was acquired at the Trade Deadline. He is a winner, and he's got an impressive postseason resume, to boot (.288 average, .981 OPS in 24 games).
Bobby Dalbec, 1B: With J.D. Martinez unavailable, Dalbec is likely to get the start against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. The rookie turned into a solid player for the Red Sox from August on, and he has as much raw power as anyone on the team.
Christian Arroyo, 2B: Due to the time he missed with COVID-19, a nagging left hamstring and the strong play by José Iglesias, Arroyo was used sparingly down the stretch. However, Iglesias isn’t eligible for the postseason because he joined the organization after the Sept. 1 deadline. This puts Arroyo back into the limelight. He is a strong defender and a decent hitter.
Xander Bogaerts, SS: Boston’s team leader, Bogaerts was a far better player before the All-Star break than he was after it. But who’s to say Bogaerts can’t get on a roll in October? Bogaerts looked out of sorts the final nine games of the season, when he went 5-for-32 without an extra-base hit.
Rafael Devers, 3B: It’s hard to believe the left-handed-hitting slugger is only 24. He is already battle-tested in the postseason, coming up with big hits for the Sox in 2017 and ’18. Devers is the most dangerous hitter on the team. He carried the Sox to their spot in the postseason with a monster final game of the season.
Alex Verdugo, OF: The fiery Verdugo can play all over the outfield but left is easily his best position. Verdugo is a pesky hitter who has had his share of important knocks this season. Given the passion Verdugo plays with, he could well rise to the moment in his first experience with big games in October. Sometimes, Verdugo has mental lapses on the bases.
Kiké Hernández, CF/2B: The Red Sox are at their best offensively when Hernández, who belted 20 homers this season, is setting the table from the leadoff spot. Hernández was red-hot from late June to late August, but he had a hard time getting his groove back after returning from the COVID-19 injured list.
Hunter Renfroe, RF/CF: After being non-tendered by the Rays, Renfroe was quickly scooped up by the Red Sox. At the modest price of $3 million, he wound up being one of the best pickups of the season. Renfroe mashed 31 homers and used his cannon of an arm to make many baserunners sorry for running on him. If there is a knock on Renfroe, it’s that he is too aggressive on defense sometimes, which leads to missing the cutoff man or throwing to the wrong base.
Jarren Duran, OF/PR: Duran is the fastest player in the organization, which is why the Red Sox want him on the roster in this game. Duran didn’t adjust to Major League pitching as quickly as he had hoped this season.
Travis Shaw, Pinch-hitter: Shaw validated Boston’s decision to re-acquire him with some big hits late in games, particularly the walk-off grand slam against the Rangers on Aug. 23. Look for him to pinch-hit at some point in the AL Wild Card Game.
Jonathan Araúz, Utility: Araúz can play second, short and third, so he is on the roster for insurance purposes. Though he didn’t have much of a year offensively, the switch-hitting Araúz came up with a couple of big homers late in games down the stretch.
Nathan Eovaldi, SP: The flame-throwing righty proved his playoff mettle in 2018 when he had a 1.61 ERA in six games. He has been the best starting pitcher on the Red Sox this season and has a diverse pitch mix.
Nick Pivetta, RHP: Given that Cora used Pivetta, a starting pitcher, as his closer in the critical Game No. 162, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the talented righty get some high-leverage action in the AL Wild Card Game.
Garrett Whitlock, RHP: The rookie Rule 5 pick has been Boston’s best reliever all season, and he will be used to get critical outs anywhere from the middle to late portion of the game. Whitlock was sidelined late in the season with a right pectoral strain, but he looked strong in pitching a scoreless inning in the final game of the season.
Tanner Houck, RHP: The talented and powerful righty was last seen firing five perfect innings on Saturday against the Nationals. He needed just 53 pitches to do so, making him an option on two days of rest.
Hansel Robles, RHP: Robles was an afterthought when he was acquired at the Trade Deadline. However, he turned into a crucial pitcher for Cora down the stretch and was unscored on in his final 15 appearances of the season.
Ryan Brasier, RHP: A key factor in Boston’s brilliant October run of ’18, Brasier had become a forgotten man until recently, when he turned in eight consecutive scoreless innings to close out the season.
Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP: The veteran lefty starter got three huge outs in relief on one day of rest in the final game of the season. Cora will have no hesitation bringing him into a big spot.
Garrett Richards, RHP: The lanky righty was demoted from the starting rotation in August and was dominant for an extended stretch once he was converted to the bullpen. However, Richards did not finish strong, getting scored on in four of his last five outings. **
Adam Ottavino, RHP: The former Yankee was a strong performer for the Red Sox from Opening Day through Sept. 3, when he had a 3.35 ERA, a .222 opponents’ average and hadn’t given up a homer in 58 appearances. After that? Not so good. Ottavino gave up five homers in his final 11 outings, notching a 9.72 ERA over that span.
Matt Barnes, RHP: What an enigma. Barnes was the best reliever on the Red Sox in the first half of the season, making the All-Star team. He wasn’t the same guy after that, particularly in August, when he had a 3.50 ERA and lost the closer’s job. He does have big-game experience.
Austin Davis, LHP: The July trade acquisition is more of a classic left-on-left guy, which isn’t as valuable in this age of the three-batter-minimum rule. However, Davis could come in handy against Anthony Rizzo.
Josh Taylor, LHP: It was welcome news for the Red Sox to get Taylor back. Their key lefty reliever hadn’t pitched since Sept. 22 due to a low back strain. Taylor held lefties to a .146 average and .381 OPS this season.