But who can they call on? Let’s take a look.
Obviously, Holt’s already been contributing with the major league squad, playing third base in the absence of Will Middlebrooks. Holt was called up from Pawtucket after Middlebrooks landed on the disabled list, looking like a stopgap solution until Stephen Drew became ready to make his debut in the major league lineup.
With the success he’s had thus far, he’s earned a further look once Drew debuts and Xander Bogaerts transitions to third base. Holt hasn’t justified starting over either Bogaerts or Drew, but his versatility as a utility infielder should bring him plenty of chances to make an impact, and it seems fair to say that he brings more to this roster than Jonathan Herrera.
In particular, he’s hit a blistering .409 against left-handed pitching this season in a small sample size (.304 for his major league career), which could lead to a platoon situation with Drew, a career .235 hitter against lefties.
Holt’s future in Boston is probably little more than a utility infielder and contributor in a complicated series of platoon splits, but as it stands, the roster is better with him on it.
Like Holt, Workman has also seen major league action this season, including his first start of the season on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays. While he didn’t exactly light the world on fire, going five innings with three strikeouts and three runs allowed, Workman has an opportunity to bolster this roster in a similar fashion to his 2013 contributions.
Workman has spent most of his major league service time the past two seasons as a reliever, but it was a solid run in the starting rotation last season that earned him a roster spot to begin with. All small sample size disclaimers aside, Workman posted a 2.45 ERA in a starting role last season, across 18.1 innings. He threw three quality starts in four appearances, striking out 18. This came in stark contrast to a 6.94 ERA in 23.1 innings of relief.
Workman is obviously not going to be a 2.45 ERA starting pitcher. That’s Cy Young level performance, more often than not. What he can be, however, is a competent back-of-the-rotation starter that the Red Sox have sorely lacked. Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront have simply been getting destroyed in the four and five spots of the rotation, posting 7.02 and 5.12 ERAs respectively, as of Buchholz’s most recent disaster today. In the three spot, Jake Peavy is sitting on a 4.65 ERA and is walking over four batters per game.
Coming into the season, the Red Sox rotation looked to be an area of strength, but to date, it’s been anything but. Jon Lester has been one of the best starters in the majors, and John Lackey has been proving his 2013 season was no fluke, but apart from those two, it’s been a tire fire. Workman and the next player on our list might be unproven, but their upside could be a spark this roster needs.
You might remember Allen Webster from his disastrous 30.1 inning audition with the Red Sox last season, in which he gave up an 8.60 ERA over eight appearances (seven starts). This is hardly representative of what Webster might be able to accomplish with another shot at the majors this season; in 105 AAA innings last season, he was a 3.60 ERA pitcher with a K/9 approaching double digits (9.94).
I expected it would be some time before we saw Webster at the major league level again; after all, the depth of the Red Sox pitching rotation provided them the luxury of letting him work through his control issues in Pawtucket. It may be time to see how much he’s grown, however, as it seems possible Clay Buchholz could see some time on the disabled list.
Essentially, with how poor the pitching has been, even just one of Webster or Workman sticking could be a huge boost for the roster going forward.
This is more of a desperation move than a real upside pick, as Brentz has been essentially the same player since his call-up to Pawtucket: okay batting average, decent power upside, weak on-base percentage.
The issue is that, with Shane Victorino returning to the disabled list, the team is now dramatically short on outfielders. Grady Sizemore looks like a shell of his former self,
Jackie Bradley Jr. desperately needs some time in Pawtucket to work out of this offensive slide, and Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, and Jonny Gomes are an uninspiring trio on the corners. Additionally, the team needs Nava and Carp to spend some time at first with Mike Napoli now on the DL, as well.
If Brentz can come up (upon his return from the DL7), and hold down right field at even an average level for a few weeks, then the Red Sox only have to worry about two outfield spots, rather than three. And who knows, perhaps he finds an extra gear offensively and lives up to the potential we thought he had just a few years ago.
Garin Cecchini and Christian Vazquez
These are both more “in the event of injury” contingencies rather than actual suggestions, but I think both players are ready to make positive contributions to the major league lineup.
With any luck (so, yikes), Cecchini won’t be remotely necessary the rest of the way this season. Drew, Bogaerts, and Holt should be able to hold down the left side of the infield, with Middlebrooks a possible future contributor when he returns from injury.
Should more players go down, though, I think Cecchini is ready to hit at the major league level. The usual caveats with Cecchini apply: his power hasn’t followed him to Pawtucket yet, and the defense is not quite there, but he could come up and provide a decent batting average and an OBP boost (he has a .371 OBP in AAA right now) if the team needed him.
Vazquez, to the contrary, is not a great offensive player, although he does have some on-base potential. However, his defense behind the plate might already be major league ready. If A.J. Pierzynski or David Ross – neither of whom are exactly spring chickens – lands on the disabled list at some point this season, Vazquez might be able to maintain their defense at catcher while not completely subtracting from the team defensively.
The losing streak is over, and there’s a lot of baseball left to be played, so the Sox have plenty of opportunities to get things turned around. My plan, for starters, would be to place Clay Buchholz on the DL, try Felix Doubront in a bullpen role, and start Workman and Webster. Call up Bryce Brentz, and give him the right field job, and DFA Jonathan Herrera.
Some other guys on the fringes of major league contributions? Mookie Betts, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, and Daniel Butler.
The biggest boost the Sox can get at this point is a healthy lineup, and Napoli and Victorino are crucial pieces that will need to return to the mix. When Victorino returns, it may be time to consider sending Bradley back down and doing something (DFA?) with Grady Sizemore. Until these guys return, however, it’s time to get creative and find sources of production to get this team back on track.