After losing an All-Star center fielder to free agency and a starting right fielder to the disabled list the day of the start of the regular season, most teams would be in a whole lot of trouble.
Not the case for the Red Sox, as much like last season, their roster depth and position flexibility is becoming apparent even in the first week of the season.
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Jacoby Ellsbury left Boston for New York at the start of free agency and Shane Victorino was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with a right hamstring injury. Many teams might be forced to call up a player who is not major league ready, or even look for replacements outside the organization.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, they signed veteran outfielder Grady Sizemore during the off-season, whose terrific and rather surprising spring gave him the starting center fielder's job, so 23-year-old Jackie Bradley Jr., who didn’t make the original Opening Day roster could be called up from Pawtucket to take Victorino’s place.
“We have some versatility with the roster,” manager John Farrell said on WEEI’s Dale and Holley. “Our versatility with our roster really helps us out in this way.”
The Red Sox currently have five outfielders on their roster in Sizemore, Bradley Jr. Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp. Their ability to play multiple outfield positions gives Farrell flexibility with who to start on certain days.
Nava, a switch-hitter who can play left and right as well as center in an emergency, will get the majority of the starts against opposing right-hander's as he hit .322 with an on-base percentage of .411 last year, to just .252 and .311 against lefties.
Sizemore, who is still coming back from missing two full seasons, will not play anymore than three straight games to start the year. On the days he needs to sit, it’s likely Bradley will step in and play center.
With Gomes (right-handed hitter) and Carp (left-handed hitter) in left, Farrell will look for matchups against opposing starters, working left-right combinations.
“You talk with whoever the player is and how they might feel against a given guy. You look at what the performance is, and it leads me to ask questions,” Farrell told reporters in Baltimore. “What is it about this certain pitcher? Do you see the ball well on him? Do you have a better understanding of how he’s going to attack you?”
Another thing to consider is the importance of defense in center and right field at Fenway Park. With a lot of ground to cover it’s likely Sizemore and Bradley will see the most time in center and right. Then when Bradley shifts to center Nava would be the first alternative in right over Carp.
Regardless of facing a right-hander, left-hander or the type of field the team is playing on, the Red Sox have all areas covered.
Follow Metro Boston Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84.