How Alex Cora, Red Sox plan to adjust as rosters change to 13-pitcher limit

One of Alex Cora’s favorite luxuries is going away.

Sunday was the last day the Red Sox – and every team in Major League Baseball – were allowed to carry 14 pitchers on their 26-man active roster, as the league allowed teams some recovery time after a shortened spring training. But starting Monday, it’s back to a maximum of 13 pitchers, which means the Sox will need to add a position player to make it 13 and 13.

“It is what it is,” Cora said. “Teams have to make adjustments.”

The Red Sox hadn’t yet made any decisions on who will be added and subtracted from the roster, but one thing Cora knows: With fewer pitchers available for him, he’ll need to get a little more out of his entire staff – both starters and relievers.

“That’s where multi-inning guys come into play and we feel we’ve got a few guys who can help us in that end,” Cora said. “We’ve got guys who can step up too because the starters have done a good job these last few weeks or months going deep into the games and we need that. The early hook now, I think we’re going to have to wait. So Captain Hook needs to relax a little bit and let him be.”

Cora feels like he has reliable multi-inning options available, including Austin Davis, Matt Strahm, Jake Diekman and Tanner Houck and Ryan Brasier.

“I do believe they’re capable of doing it but we have to be careful too,” Cora said. “Because we start playing after Thursday a lot of games in a row. I think that’s the nature of the tournament. Now everybody is going to lose a pitcher and guys have to start throwing more than three outs. We’ll be ready for that.”

The decision regarding adding a new position player is tricky right now. Christian Arroyo, who’s still on the COVID-19 list, and Kiké Hernandez, still on the injured list, aren’t ready yet to return. But Cora likes the versatility of the rest of his roster until they’re back – including Bobby Dalbec and Christian Vazquez, who can both play multiple positions.

“We’ll keep talking but it’s interesting,” Cora said. “You play X amount of games one way, now all of the sudden you’ve got to do this. We’ve been preparing for it but all of a sudden Kiké gets hurt, Christian gets sick and you lose a pitcher. So whatever. Not making excuses but it kind of changes our plans. We’ve been talking about this for a while but now we just have to make sure we’re healthy and go from there.”

No timetable on Casas

This was supposed to be a big development year for Triston Casas, the Red Sox’ second-ranked prospect who had expectations that he would make his major league debut this season. But those hopes are on hold right now. Casas hasn’t played for Triple-A Worcester in more than a month now with an ankle injury.

“In the beginning, we thought it was something minor and just around the bag, he twisted his ankle,” Cora said. “We thought it was going to be day to day. But he wasn’t moving well and as you know, he’s a big dude. He’s a big guy. He hasn’t been able to actually push off of it and it’s not something that we’re worried about.”

Casas’ development hasn’t been linear over the last few years. The 2020 minor league season was canceled due to COVID-19, and last season, he bounced around between the minor leagues and a stint with the Olympics. Now, he’s dealing with this ankle injury. Cora recognized it hasn’t been ideal.

“That part, he’s mixing at-bats,” Cora said. “That part is actually disappointing in a sense. But we expect him to keep moving forward, keep getting better. There’s no timetable yet. It’s just a matter of him being able to push off and move around. When that happens, we’ll decide what we do. Right now, he’s just down there doing his rehab, moving around but nothing yet as far as when he starts playing.”

odds & ends

After making another spot start Saturday, Kutter Crawford was optioned to Triple-A as the Red Sox welcomed new pitcher James Norwood, who they acquired from the Phillies. With an off day coming Thursday, Cora can keep his rotation on regular rest and he’s confident that one of Garrett Whitlock or Nathan Eovaldi will return in time when they’re needed again. Whitlock, who will pitch another bullpen on Tuesday, is progressing faster than Eovaldi.

Cora said Hernandez (hip) is feeling better and was going to take some more batting practice on Sunday before they decide his next step, which could be a rehab assignment on Tuesday. …

James Paxton is scheduled to throw two or three bullpens this week in his continued rehab from Tommy John surgery. “He’s excited and jealous from seeing (Josh Taylor) throwing yesterday so he’s getting the itch, which is great,” Cora said.


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