Taking a look at Sox potential playoff roster

Taking a look at Sox potential playoff roster
September 13, 2013, 12:00 pm
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Even after a 4-3 loss Thursday day, the Red Sox' playoff path remains surefooted. With a magic number of eight and 14 games left to play, the Red Sox could play .500 the rest of the way and the Rays would need to win every one of their remaining games just to forge a tie for first.
     
Just over two weeks remain in the season, but it isn't too early to begin speculation about the team's 25-man playoff roster.
     
A look at where things stand, some three weeks before the Sox' projected first playoff game:
     
* First, the club must decide how many pitchers and how many position players it needs for the best-of-five Division Series.
     
The Sox - along with most other teams -- carried a dozen pitchers most of the season, but there's no need for that many in a five-game set that features two off-days.
     
The decision, in fact, will likely center on whether to take 11 or 10 pitchers.
     
Given that they've never used more than nine in a five-game series, let's assume that the Sox go with 10 pitchers, leaving them 15 spots for position players.
     
STARTERS (4): Jon Lester; Clay Buchholz; John Lackey; Jake Peavy.
     
The makeup of the rotation is the easiest choice of all. Felix Doubront has been inconsistent enough of late to be skipped for a start so he can re-tool his mechanics. Ryan Dempster hasn't been dominant enough to warrant a start.
     
The only question will be the order in which the pitchers go, a question that needn't be answered until next month.
     
RELIEVERS (6): Set: Koji Uehara; Junichi Tazawa; Craig Breslow; Brandon Workman.
    
Uehara will close, of course, and Tazawa and Breslow will work the eighth. All three are locks. Workman, though he has had some bumps of late, has John Farrell's confidence and the Sox like how his stuff plays up in relief outings. He's also a reliable strike thrower who won't put extra baserunners on with walks.
     
That leaves two spots, from among as many as a half-dozen candidates: Franklin Morales; Matt Thornton; Doubront; Drake Britton; Dempster; and Rubby de la Rosa.     

Figure that the Sox take one more lefty, with Thornton seen as the most likely lefty specialist and Doubront a candidate because he can provide length and plus stuff.
     
STARTING LINEUP: (9) Jacoby Ellsbury; Shane Victorino; Dustin Pedroia; David Ortiz; Mike Napoli; Daniel Nava; Jarrod Saltalamacchia; Stephen Drew; and Will Middlebrooks.
     
BENCH (6): Locks: Jonny Gomes; David Ross; Mike Carp.
      
Gomes is certain to be included as Nava's platoon partner and backup catcher Ross is another lock. So, too, is lefty bat extraordinaire Mike Carp, who can help out at first and the outfield.
     
That leaves three position players if the Sox limit themselves to 10 pitchers.
     
Xander Bogaerts is a real possibility, since he can play both positions on the left side of the infield and is a dangerous righthanded bat off the bench.
     
Jackie Bradley Jr. would seem a safe bet because he's a superb defender in the outfield, capable of taking over any of the three outfield spots. And with Ellsbury (foot) and Victorino (back, hamstring) both hobbled, outfield depth is key.
     
That leaves one more spot, one that could well go Quintin Berry. Like Bradley, Berry can help out in center, but his real appeal is his speed. The Sox traded for him for a reason and he's already helped them win a game they might otherwise have lost.
     
The team also has a track record of taking a designated pinch-runner on playoff rosters, from Dave Roberts in 2004 and Joey Gathright in 2009, the last time the team qualified for the playoffs.