Boston Red Sox Opening Day Roster Starting to Take Shape: Two Bench Bats, One Reliever Spot Up For Grabs

Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox roster is starting to take shape as Alex Cora announced Kutter Crawford is making the Opening Day roster, which leaves one bullpen spot left. Four bats are in the running for the two bench bat spots — including Rob Refsnyder, Franchy Cordero, Travis Shaw, and Jonathan Arauz.

“We’ve been talking about (Crawford) the whole camp. Velocity-wise he’s up there,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “The action of his pitches, they’re really good. He worked hard. He earned it. Coming into this situation probably early in camp, he had no chance probably. I don’t want to say it that way but it was a guy, ‘Yeah. We’ll look at him but probably better off to go to Triple-A (Worcester) and all that.’ But he kept pushing and pushing.”

Crawford had a start in early September for the COVID-plagued Sox, though he allowed five hits on two walks and five runs for Boston and he lasted just two innings. His strong preseason earned him a spot though.

The 27-year-old in Cordero was designated for assignment during the postseason in 2021 after the Sox reinstated Phillips Valdez from the COVID-19 injured list, forcing Cordero off the 40-man roster. The power bat hit just .189 with one homer across 48 games with Boston and slated a wRC+ of 32.

“Of course, it was a big motivation for me to work in the offseason and of course just keep working hard so that (being DFA’d) doesn’t happen again because that’s something no one wants to go through,” Cordero said through his translator.

Arauz and Shaw will battle for the infielder bench spot. The 23-year-old in Arauz posted just a .185 batting average while clubbing three homers and posting a 72 wRC+ across 28 games in 2021 though, while Shaw notched an average of just .200 with the Brewers and Red Sox in 2021 while posting a wRC+ of 78 and socking nine homers. Shaw decided to not opt out of his deal, like Derek Holland, and he continues to fight for an Opening Day roster spot.

Really every one of the four bats vying for one of the two spots on the bench has a questionable bat though, as Refsnyder hit .245 with two homers and an 86 wRC+ in 2021 through 58 games with the Twins.

It likely comes down to Cordero vs. Refsnyder and Shaw vs. Arauz — it wouldn’t be practical for the Sox to not take an infielder or outfielder for a bench spot.

With 2021 stats compared, here’s how each one of the four has fared in spring:

Refsnyder: .185/.290/.370, 1 HR, 3 BB, 15 G, 30 PA

Cordero: .478/.500/.652, 0 HR, 1 BB, 13 G, 24 PA

Shaw:  .182/.308/.227, 0 HR, 3 BB, 12 G, 25 PA

Arauz: .188/.278/.281, 1 HR, 4 BB, 14 G, 36 PA

The outlier is clearly Cordero, though it’s not clear how much spring training stats will come into play in the decision-making.

As for the final reliever spot, nine spots are already secured basically. The other eight haven’t been formally confirmed unlike the 11 position player spots, but it’s a mutual understanding that the eight others are locks. The only reason Hansel Robles wouldn’t be on the team would be due to the short buildup after his visa issues. Whitlock will also stay in the bullpen as Rich Hill was named the No. 5 starter.

  • Matt Barnes, Garrett Whitlock, Ryan Brasier, Kutter Crawford, Hansel Robles, Hirokazu Sawamura, Jake Diekman, Austin Davis, Matt Strahm

Left-hander Holland is out of the question, as he will not make the roster. That means it will likely be handed to Phillips Valdez, though some options that aren’t entirely out of the question include Josh Winckowski, Connor Seabold, Michael Feliz, Durbin Feltman, and John Schreiber. A number of minor league signings could also sneak into the spot.

But, the most likely receiver of the 10th spot will be Valdez.

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