Red Sox Report: Farrell Showing Trust In Bench
In spring training the battles for the bench roles on the Red Sox went down to the final week of March. Mike Carp who was acquired from the Mariners in mid March for seemingly nothing had just a short period of time to showcase why he belonged on this team. For starters he plays first base as well as outfield, always a plus. Daniel Nava was also trying out first base to make sure he was not taken off the roster like he was in spring training last year. Pedro Ciriaco was basically given the job already as the utility infielder as his speed mixed with a quick bat would provide a needed boost off the bench. David Ross, who was signed to a two year deal, had the backup catcher spot sealed up leaving Ryan Lavarnway to go back down to Pawtucket to start another year. If Carp and Nava could beat out Lyle Overbay for the bench spot their spot was sealed as Overbay did not have a spot on the 40 man, so one of them could have been on another team in an instant.
Fast forward to now, three months later and Overbay is playing first base for the Yankees almost everyday with injuries to Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis. Nava, who was thought to be in a platoon with Jonny Gomes at the start of the season has taken upon left fielder role more often and even took over in right field when Shane Victorino was on the disabled list. Carp, has been on a tear after a rough start to the season but has taken a few days off nursing a sore hamstring after sliding into second on another extra base hit. Nava and Carp are also on pace to have career highs in every statisical category, including games played, home runs, and runs batted in. Huge lift for players who were used to be delegated to end of the bench roles. Ross, who is now on the 7 day concussion disabled list for the second time this season, has been helpful to the pitching staff and provided some pop when called upon. I also feel like the veteran backup behind Saltalamacchia has payed dividends as now Salty has improved in throwing out base runners, which is one of Ross’ greatest strengths.
Last week when Will Middlebrooks was activated from the disabled list the Red Sox decided to keep Jose Iglesias on the roster and designated Pedro Ciriaco for assignment. Iglesias, who was playing third base for the first time just a few weeks earlier at Pawtucket now was going to expected to back up three infield positions. Ciriaco was traded to the Padres for a player to be named later a few days later, ending his tenure with the Red Sox which will mostly be remembered for mashing Yankees pitching in an unexciting 2012 season.
Iglesias many feel should be the starting shortstop until he hits a bump in the road. All he has done since getting a call up is have a 17 game hit steak, the longest in the majors and provide plus defense at three infield positions. Yes, even Dustin Pedroia took a day off this past week after playing in 70 straight games to start the season. Iglesias BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is something that has been talked about a lot recently as it it close to .500. He has been getting infield hit after infield hit. These new sabermetrics and stats that I feel are downright strange, can sometimes be funny when you read up on them.
With Will Middlebrooks struggling in his sophomore season Iglesias will get more playing time than the average bench player as he will spell Stephen Drew and Middlebrooks twice to three times a week each. I feel like this could be beneficial to the team as he is finally getting his shot that he deserves and keeping the other players fresh. Egos in sports are sometimes just as important as talent. Keeping everyone happy is almost impossible but keeping everyone playing is possible.
The confidence manager John Farrell has showed in his bench is something Bobby Valentine never showed last year. We Sox fans remember the Francona days of Gabe Kapler and Alex Cora providing big roles off the bench and now the Red Sox bench has become a strength again.