Red Sox contemplating fill-in designated hitter

Red Sox contemplating fill-in designated hitter
March 12, 2013, 11:00 am
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Having acknowledged that they're are highly unlikely to have David Ortiz in their Opening Day lineup on April 1, the Red Sox have begun some preliminary discussions about who will handle DH duties in his absence.
      
Answers, however, are a little harder to come by.
      
"Those conversations are starting," said manager John Farrell. "It's just talking about the combination of guys that might be in a bench slot to a more regular (spot) DH-wise. We're by no means at a point of saying, 'This is who our DH is going to be' or 'This is who is going to be on the roster,' but those conversations are happening more in earnest."
      
But Farrell said the Sox are leaning toward having the DH role shared by several players, rather than assigned to one person full-time.
      
"We envision it as it being a little bit of a rotation," said Farrell. "Not to say that one person would strictly be our DH. That's our initial approach. So to say that it would be a drastic shift for a player's routine, or staying loose in between at-bats where they  might not otherwise be accustomed to that -- we haven't pinpointed one guy.
      
"We don't have another David Ortiz.''
      
Ortiz, who has hit more homers and knocked in more runs than any DH in history, is expected to miss the start of the season with inflammation in both heels. An MRI over the weekend revealed the issue and Ortiz has been shut down from all baseball activity for about a week in an effort to get him healthy.
      
"We'll probably look at some matchups," said Farrell, "as we plan against a given starter on that day. (That way), you can keep guys a little bit more fresh. If David is in the lineup, you've got a guy you're trying to find at-bats for and now he's getting three or four starts per week.
      
"Until we settle on what the final roster will look like and then who we're going to go up against on a given day, that's the approach we're taking. It's going to keep more guys in the mix on a little bit more regular basis."
      
Beyond Jonny Gomes, who could see some DH at-bats against lefties, the Sox lack an obvious power hitter for that spot and it's conceivable they could give some at-bats to a player who profiles more as a speed option (think: Pedro Ciriaco) rather than a run producer.
      
"We've got competition that's going on in camp," said Farrell. "Who our DH is is going to open up a position elsewhere possibly and we've got three or four different options that we could fill that out with. Until we know who that personnel is, we'll respond accordingly."

It's worth noting that Farrell has observed Ryan Lavarnway -- one of the presumed candidates for the role -- having "better at-bats when he's behind the plate, catching. And I know there's (only) 20-plus at-bats in spring training. But that's a shift for a young player to not be on both sides of the ball, in-game.
     
"That's just what's been seen in camp so far. I'm not saying that (Lavarnway) couldn't (DH)."
     
Farrell also noted, given how Mike Napoli has looked in adapting to full-time first base duty, it's unlikely the Sox would be looking to shift him to DH duty.
     
"I haven't seen that it's necessary," said Farrell. "If there wasn't as much advancement on the defensive side, then you might say that there's a different combination of players that would fill out this roster. But he's made such strides defensively, (we don't plan to replace him with a defensive upgrade late in games) with what he's shown on the field."