Don't expect Sox lineup changes for World Series

Don't expect Sox lineup changes for World Series
October 21, 2013, 6:30 pm
Share This Post

The axiom is as true in baseball as it is in life: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
     
The Red Sox, coming off an American League Championship Series victory over the Detroit Tigers, have little reason to change much about their lineup and roster - and probably won't.
     
Throughout the ALCS, a daily guessing game evolved regarding whether Daniel Nava or Jonny Gomes would start in left, and, later in the series, whether Will Middlebrooks or Xander Bogaerts would get the nod at third base.
     
And while John Farrell wouldn't commit to a starting lineup for Game 1 of the World Series which gets underway Wednesday at Fenway Park, the manager hinted broadly that no changes would be forthcoming.
     
"We haven't made out Wednesday's lineup yet," said Farrell, "but can't go away from maybe a little bit of momentum that a certain lineup has provided for us. Daniel Nava is certainly not forgotten. Nor is any guy. We talked about with Xander (Bogaerts) taking over for Will [Middlebrooks], I'll let you know, very similar conversation with both guys, both with Daniel and Will, is that it will take contributions from every guy on this team to get where we want to go.
      
"That may be in a little different role than what you've been accustomed to in the regular season, but by no means does it reflect on how they're looked upon or their value to us on a bigger picture."
      
Gomes didn't have a great ALCS on the stat sheet. He had just three hits -- two of them singles -- in 16 at-bats for a .188 batting average and he didn't draw a single walk.
      
But it can't be overlooked that the Sox were 4-0 in games started by Gomes, while dropping the two that Nava started. And while Nava is the superior outfielder, Gomes is at least adequate in left field and doesn't represent a liability.      

On the bases, meanwhile, Gomes enjoys a big edge, widely recognized as the team's best baserunner.
      
"Whatever combination (Farrell) wants to put out there," said Nava, "that gets us four more wins, I don't think any of us will complain. You don't play 162 games to all of a sudden get selfish in the playoffs."
      
At third base, it would seem certain that Bogaerts had supplanted Middlebrooks as the team's starting third baseman.
      
The Sox went to Bogaerts for Game 5 in Detroit, then stayed with him again for Game 6. In that series-clinching win, Bogaerts worked two walks -- after falling behind in each plate appearance -- against Tigers starter Max Scherzer, and in between, laced a double off the wall.
      
Bogaerts, who weeks ago turned 21 and only made his major league debut in the final week of August, hardly seems overwhelmed by the stage, displaying poise throughout.
      
Bogaerts overtaking Middlebrooks at third is beginning to closely resemble the 2007 post-season, when Jacoby Ellsbury, a late-season call-up as Boagerts was, took over in center for the more established Coco Crisp, who was both banged up and ineffective.
      
A similar passing of the torch would seem to be happening at third for the Sox.
      
If there's any consolation for Nava and Middlebrooks, it would be that three of the potential seven games will take place in St. Louis, where National League rules (i.e. no DH) will be in effect. That means more pinch-hit situations when the pitcher is due, along with the potential for double-switches during pitching changes.
      
Farrell was similarly non-committal when it came to addressing possible roster adjustments for the World Series.
      
"We haven't gotten into that specifically," said Farrell. "We're still in the process of familiarizing ourselves with the Cardinals. If there's any need to make an adjustment, we'll took a look at that as we go forward."
      
The Red Sox went with 11 pitchers and 14 position players in each of the first two rounds and it's highly unlikely that they will deviate from that in the Series.
      
A case could be made that the Sox could use another position player for the games in the N.L., given the need to pinch-hit and make double switches. But because they will be without a DH in those games, they'll at least start the games with an extra position player on their bench -- likely first baseman Mike Napoli, who will sit to allow DH David Ortiz to play first.
      
From the pitching side, about the only change that could be contemplated would be removing Franklin Morales from the roster. Morales pitched poorly in relief in Game 6, issuing a walk to Prince Fielder and a two-run single to Victor Martinez before being lifted.
      
But Morales pitched a clean inning in relief in Game 4 in Detroit.
      
Further, the only realistic option to replace Morales would be lefty specialist Matt Thornton, who was bypassed for each of the first two series and who last pitched Sept. 29 in the final game of the season.
      
Even if the Sox are harboring doubts about Morales after Saturday night, it would seem they're not enough to have him leapfrogged for a pitcher who hasn't pitched in more than three weeks.