Sunday, March 3, 2013

What if Big Papi Starts the Year on the DL?

It wouldn't be spring training if we couldn't blow things out of proportion and jump to conclusions, but by Big Papi's own admission he may not be ready for opening day.  According to John Farrell the next 3 days will be critical in determining Papi's timetable. It's a little early to start this debate (but that's what  we do here at RSM!) about who will DH the first two weeks of the season.  If Big Papi does start the year on the 15 day DL it will give the Red Sox a lot more roster flexibility than we anticipated coming into camp.  Let's take a look at a few options for opening day DH's if Big Papi is in fact not in the line up.
  • Option #1- is a straight up replacement.  There really is not back up DH in camp unless you want to count Mauro Gomez.  This is not the most likely option.  Other potential fill-ins are Mike Carp, Daniel Nava and Mark Hamilton.  
  • Option #2- Keep 3 catchers.  Ryan Lavarnway is a potential DH, but he is most likely to start the year catching everyday at AAA.  The Red Sox will not keep 3 catchers on the roster unless Big Papi is on the DL and they plan to use Lavarnway at DH.  In order for this to happen Lavarnway will need to start producing with the bat a little bit better in spring training or if Saltalammacchia's back keeps acting up.  If the Sox feel that Salty needs a little protection and Lavarnway can be a part of a DH rotation than they may keep 3 catchers.  
  • Option #3- Keep JBJr on the roster and use J. Gomes as a DH.  JBJr continues to impress in Spring Training (here's today's JBJr update) and while common sense continues to tell us that he has yet to master the AA and AAA levels, temptation will grow much stronger by the day to keep him on the team if Big Papi is a no go to start the season.  
  • Option #4- Keep an extra 1B/OF type and rest Mike Napoli's hips a little bit more early in the season by using him as a DH 80% of the time.  
This spring training situation also gives us a glimpse at the future of the Sox DH position in '15 or if Big Papi's achilles injury is much worse than we fear and is out for the season (or a big chunk of it).  I simply think that Papi is pulling a veteran move to get a little more rest during what is a longer than usual spring training.  We are probably about 7 to 10 days away from reading an article that talks about how Papi has made great strides and he's back to 100% and ready to start revving it up for the regular season. 

If Papi is in fact pulling rank it is probably a smart move.  He needs to save his legs for a long season and at age 37 he and the team should be thinking big picture and making sure that he is healthy in August and September rather than February and March.  The fact that this spring training is longer than usual because of the World Baseball Classic means that he can still get plenty of AB's to get ready for the regular season even if he misses another week.  He also may be using this injury as a way to get out of playing for the Dominican in the WBC (which is another good thing for the Red Sox in my opinion).   

As Deacon likes to remind us, what happens early in spring training doesn't mean much, and he's right. I believe that we are just a week or so away from Big Papi being declared healthy and ramping up his in game AB's to get ready for the season.  After all he's done for the Red Sox over the last ten plus seasons I wouldn't be surprised if he's just pulling veteran rank and getting a little extra heal time (he's earned his not sure that Clay Buchholz has and that pun was intended btw).  

Of course there's no way that he would just decide to stop playing because of a small trade...right Bobby V?  


  1. I think you have hit on the most likely outcome near the end of your post, which is in a non-WBC year, the ST games would be beginning about now., and Papi has plenty of time.

    But if he is on the DL to begin the year, I think they keep both Carp and Nava ( who I think may be competing for one job), and use one or both as DH.

    If heaven forbid, an Ortiz injury drags into May, then Bradley figures into the equation with Gomes as DH.

  2. I want to see more of this Mike Carp fellow. I believe he could be their everyday DH if Papi misses extended time, but we'll have to wait and see. Maybe a three way rotation of Carp, Nava, and Gomes in LF/DH?

  3. In case anybody needs a good laugh this afternoon: at the press conference introducing Bobby Valentine as the next AD at Sacred Heart University, Bobby V had this gem to share: "I thought I did a hell of a job in Boston. What had to be done there was done". That makes one of us.

  4. Barry, you were ahead of the game on two counts involving Ortiz. Your closing comment about "heal" time turned out to be Big Papi's current issue...inflammation in both heels rather than the achilles is the malady which will likely have Ortiz begin 2013 on the DL.

    And your question about the options if this DL stint comes to pass is now all over the Red Sox main stream media's columns and tweets. I still think to start the season Nava or Sweeney see a lot of time in LF while Gomes DH's or Nava plays some 1B while Napoli replaces Papi at DH. Although I think it would be important to get Napoli playing regularly at first as soon as possible.

    1. I'm starting to think that it is likely that they will keep an extra 1B/OF type player on the roster. So Mike Carp and Daniel Nava may make the team at the start of the season. If they keep these two guys they could also keep an extra pitcher or 3 catchers. I don't think Sweeney is going to make the team. He plays two positions that they need a back up for, but he's not on the 40 man roster and there's not a lot of room on there for more players. Which may make it tough for Sweeney or Overbay to make the team. Overbay has a March 26th opt out date so that may not matter anyway but that's still a couple weeks away. If the roster space is needed could Big Papi be placed on the 60 day DL retroactively if he still plays in a few spring training games?

      If the team decides that the need for a defensive replacement is greater than a need for an offensive back up at LF or 1B than I can see Overbay making the team over Sweeney. Overbay is the best defensive first basemen they have in camp.

      I see that Mauro Gomez is the starting DH today and he may be given a shot to make the team as well. He is on the 40 man roster also.

    2. If Sweeney is going to make the team he is going to have to beat out Nava or Carp enough to take their spot on the 40 man roster. Also the Sox could keep Overbay if they are willing to drop Gomez of the 40 man. For the first time in a few years there are going to be some interesting decisions to be made at the end of spring training and we haven't even mentioned JBJr yet!!

  5. This quote from John Farrell on does not bode well for Lyle Overbay making the team:

    "Haven't seen that it's necessary," Farrell said. "If there wasn't as much advancement on the defensive side, then you might say say there's a different combination of players that will fill out this roster. I'm not excluding anyone that's in camp here. But he's made such strides defensively." - See more at:

    This quote was Farrell's response to a question about whether or not Mike Napoli would DH more early in the year with Papi being out.