Friday, October 2, 2009

Projecting the ALDS roster

Theo Epstein and Terry Francona this week both deflected opportunities to make any type of announcement about the 25-man roster the Red Sox will take with them into the postseason. Those decisions, both said, will be made Monday or Tuesday, after the season, at a meeting likely to take place after the Red Sox arrive in Los Angeles in advance of Game 1.

There's no reason, though, why we can't go ahead and speculate.

Here, then, is a preliminary look at how the roster might shape up -- and this is independent of which schedule the Yankees choose to play:

Pitchers (10): Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka; Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, Jonathan Papelbon, Ramon Ramirez, Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner.
The Red Sox, either way, are going to want four starting pitchers on their postseason roster. If they play the shorter of the two ALDS schedules, they'll need to start Matsuzaka. If they play the longer of the two ALDS schedules, they'll need a starting pitcher in reserve just in case: Imagine the nightmare scenario in which Jon Lester takes another line drive off the knee in Game 1, not only torching the bullpen but sidelining him for Game 4.

(The Red Sox could remove him from the roster and replace him, but he'd then be ineligible for the ALCS. If the injury was severe enough to cost him a start but not enough to cost him three starts, they wouldn't want to do that.)

The question, then, becomes how many relief pitchers the Red Sox will need. A year ago, they chose to go with 10 pitchers, total, with Paul Byrd as the long reliever and emergency starter. (He did not appear in a game.) There's no reason they'd change that number this year.

Both David Aardsma and Mike Timlin were left off the roster for the ALDS a year ago, but Timlin was added for the ALCS. It appears that the roller-coaster ride that is Manny Delcarmen will fill the same role: He'll keep throwing and be ready in case someone blows out an elbow during the ALDS, but he likely won't be on the roster until the ALCS.

Catchers (3): George Kottaras, Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek.
It might be tempting to go with just two catchers thanks to Martinez's flexibility, but it's far too risky: If Martinez were to sprain an ankle, the Red Sox would have just one true catcher on the roster. Kottaras might not play, but he's necessary insurance.

Infielders (6): Alex Gonzalez, Casey Kotchman, Mike Lowell, Jed Lowrie, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis.
Lowrie earns the nod over Nick Green as a backup middle infielder both because he's healthier and because he's the better player. Green deserves all the praise that has come his way this season for helping the Red Sox tread water at shortstop, but if Lowrie is healthy enough, he should be the guy.

(Note: Gonzalez was hit by a pitch on Saturday night and removed from the game. If it's anything serious and Green still can't go, you might see Chris Woodward fill that spot.)

Outfielders (5): Rocco Baldelli, Jason Bay, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and Joey Gathright.
Leaving an extra pitcher off the roster means the Red Sox have the luxury of adding Gathright for late-inning substitutions -- he can fill the Dave Roberts pinch-running role, but he also could replace Bay in the outfield late in a close game.

Designated hitter (1): David Ortiz.
The guy has something of a postseason history, it seems.

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