ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox are raring to go for this American League Division Series against the Rays, and they’ve submitted a 26-man roster that does include star slugger J.D. Martinez, who was inactive for the AL Wild Card Game due to a left ankle sprain he suffered the final game of the regular season.
It is unclear if Martinez is healthy enough to be in the lineup for Game 1 tonight.
Christian Vázquez, C: After not starting in the Wild Card Game, Vázquez is all but certain to get the nod in Game 1 with his longtime batterymate Eduardo Rodriguez pitching. Vázquez caught all 32 of Rodriguez’s starts this season. Though Vázquez didn’t have the type of year offensively he wanted to, he came through with his share of important hits.
Kevin Plawecki, C: Plawecki most often started against lefties for the Sox down the stretch, but manager Alex Cora will likely go against that trend to keep the Rodriguez-Vázquez combo together. Look for Plawecki to start Game 3, when Nathan Eovaldi is on the mound.
Kyle Schwarber, DH/1B/LF: There is 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 again made an impact in the Wild Card Game, mashing a homer against Gerrit Cole. Schwarber loves the bright lights, as evidenced by his .290/.410/.609 slash line in postseason play.
Bobby Dalbec, 1B: The right-handed-hitting slugger will start Game 1 at first base against Rays lefty Shane McClanahan. Dalbec had an .877 OPS with 11 homers in 190 plate appearances against lefties this year. He improved against righties in the final two months of the season.
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. With Iglesias not eligible for the postseason because he wasn’t on the roster as of Sept. 1, Arroyo got the start in the Wild Card Game and went 0-for-3. He is solid against lefties and an above-average defender.
Xander Bogaerts, SS: Boston’s team leader was able to breathe a sigh of relief when he broke out of a late-season slump by smashing a two-run homer against Gerrit Cole in his first at-bat of the Wild Card Game. Bogaerts is the only player on the Red Sox with two World Series rings.
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, in which he clobbered the game-winning home run in the ninth.
Alex Verdugo, OF: The unsung hero of the Wild Card Game, Verdugo had an RBI double and a two-run single to give the Red Sox some key insurance runs. There’s at least a chance he will be on the bench for Game 1, given his shaky performance against lefty pitchers (.554 OPS) this season.
Kiké Hernández, CF/2B: Cora moved Hernández to the two-hole for the Wild Card Game, but he might go back to leadoff against the lefty in Game 1. Hernández was red-hot from late June to late August, but had a hard time getting his groove back after returning from the COVID-19 injured list.
Hunter Renfroe, RF/CF: Part of a Rays squad that went to the World Series last year, Renfroe was non-tendered by Tampa Bay in December and quickly scooped up by the Red Sox. That turned out to be one of the best moves of the season for Boston, as Renfroe smashed 31 homers and had 16 assists in the outfield.
J.D. Martinez, DH: The star slugger sprained his left ankle in a freak accident tripping over the second-base bag in Game No. 162. Though Martinez’s availability for Game 1 is still up in the air, the Red Sox think he will be a factor at some point in the series. He was not active for the Wild Card Game.
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 against righties on a somewhat regular basis in this series.
Danny Santana, Utility: The switch-hitting Santana has been reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list and added to the roster for this series. Santana offers speed and the ability to play all over the infield and outfield. He also has some pop in his bat.
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP: The veteran lefty is first up for the Sox in this series, and he will try to duplicate his start at Tropicana Field on Sept. 2, when he fired six shutout innings. After getting shelled in his first career start at The Trop in 2016, Rodriguez has given up three earned runs or fewer in his last six starts there.
Chris Sale, SP: Look for Sale to get the nod in Game 2, in what will be his first start since he lasted just seven outs and 62 pitches in a shaky performance in the regular-season finale. Sale is trying to regain the feel for his changeup. Tropicana Field might be just the place, as Sale has a 2.09 ERA in 12 career appearances on the road against the Rays.
Nathan Eovaldi, SP: The flame-throwing righty was magnificent in his Wild Card Game start against the Yankees, and was somewhat surprisingly removed after just 71 pitches. That means Eovaldi should have plenty in the tank when he takes the ball in Game 3 in Boston on Sunday. Eovaldi has a 1.63 ERA in seven career postseason appearances.
Nick Pivetta, RHP: A starting pitcher, Pivetta was used as the closer in the final game of the regular season. Cora indicated he will be available in the bullpen early in this series. There’s a chance the Sox will need Pivetta to start Game 4 (if necessary).
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 pitched an inning in the regular-season finale and in the Wild Card Game.
Tanner Houck, RHP: The talented and powerful righty has been dominant of late. He struck out two of the three batters he faced in the Wild Card Game. Before that, he fired five perfect innings against the Nats in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
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 hasn’t been scored upon in his last 16 outings, including the Wild Card Game.
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 outings to close out the season. He got two outs in the Wild Card Game and will pitch in high-leverage situations in this series.
Garrett Richards, RHP: The lanky right-hander was demoted from the starting rotation in August and was dominant for an extended stretch once he converted to the bullpen. However, Richards did not finish strong, getting scored upon in four of his last five outings.
Martín Pérez, LHP: Pérez started the season as a starter but spent the final couple of months in the bullpen, where he will remain for the postseason. The Red Sox think that Pérez’s mid-90s fastball will translate into some outs when needed in this series. He also offers some length if a starter gets in trouble.
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’ batting 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.
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 Brandon Lowe, who always seems to get big hits against the Red Sox.
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 a .381 OPS this season.