It’s time to state the obvious: Ron Roenicke was set up to fail as the manager of the Red Sox.
After a 8-7 loss to the Rays surely resulted in the most loyal members of the Sox’ audience scratching their heads over some managerial decisions, Roenicke sat down for his Zoom call with reporters and explained what happened.
Mitch Moreland, the team’s hottest hitter, was not used off the bench in the ninth inning with two outs and the tying run on first base because Moreland was hurt. Michael Chavis struck out to end the game while Moreland looked on from the dugout. Roenicke said he had to stay away from Moreland because of a knee injury, although he’s expected to play on Tuesday, which must be a tough pill for the manager to swallow.
And reliever Jeffrey Springs saw his 13.50 ERA jump to 15.43 after Roenicke left him out for 51 pitches in the heart of the game because the Sox didn’t have anybody else.
“It was just because we were trying to stay away from two guys in our bullpen that we’ve been using a lot,” Roenicke said. “We needed (Springs) to go. It was a good matchup for him with all the lefthanders in the lineup. But we just can’t keep pitching the same guys all the time, every time we have a close game.”
After the Sox “mutually” parted ways with former manager Alex Cora, who was subsequently banned from baseball for one year for his role in the Astros’ cheating scandal, the Sox made the easy choice to promote Roenicke from the bench.
The players already liked him. They already knew him. And they liked the hands-off approach to the clubhouse that Cora had been operating. They trusted that Roenicke would support the same environment, which by all accounts, he has.
He hadn’t managed in five years, since the Brewers fired him following a .508 winning percentage over parts of five seasons. His name wasn’t one of the few that kept coming up in baseball circles when interviews would start for the few openings each offseason.
The 2020 season was going to be a bridge year. The Sox knew from the beginning, when they said there’s only so many $30-million players you can have on one team. Mookie Betts was traded in February, Chris Sale re-injured his elbow shortly thereafter (though the Sox already knew of his elbow issues from last year), and the club spent little money replacing any of their lost stars.
The team’s three best left-handed pitchers after Sale, who underwent Tommy John surgery, all came down with the virus. Eduardo Rodriguez is now out for the year with heart complications (a scary and dangerous trend among athletes who contract the virus), while Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor have yet to pitch and remain at least a week or two away from doing so.
He’s got a rotation fronted by the injury-prone Nathan Eovaldi. It stops there. Martin Perez can eat innings and there’s nobody else. The Sox are going with bullpen games three or four times a week.
Take a look at Roenicke’s options in the middle of a tie game in the fifth inning against the division rival Rays on Monday night. The Rays are stacked with left-handed hitters, including their first two batters (and arguably their two best), Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe. There were seven left-handed hitters in the game. The only lefties the Sox in the ‘pen are Springs and Matt Hall, a pair of castoffs from other teams who Chaim Bloom acquired this offseason.
It’s no wonder Roenicke felt like he had to ride the underwhelming Springs for 51 pitches on Monday. It’s no wonder the Sox entered the day ranked 27th in MLB by allowing a ridiculous .452 slugging percentage against left-handed hitters.
Remarkably, the Rule 5 pick that Roenicke was stuck with, Jonathan Arauz, broke out of his 0-for-9 start to his career with a three-hit game that gave the Red Sox a chance. Roenicke wasn’t a fan of carrying Rule 5 picks in the past, but has grown to like Arauz, who could get more playing time after a strong showing.
But there aren’t many quality backups around the diamond for Roenicke to use, especially while the training staff recommends additional rest for some of the best players, like Moreland and Christian Vazquez.
Jose Peraza, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. are putting up too many non-competitive at-bats and Roenicke has little choice but to keep using them.
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