In this 60-game season that promises to be as wild as ever, the Red Sox will take any help they can get, and they certainly got some on Thursday.
Just hours before first pitch between the Yankees and Nationals on Thursday, MLB approved a new, expanded playoff format that will certainly help any team with hopes of playing in October, but especially teams like the Red Sox that were predicted to finish as a middling team.
So you’re saying there’s a chance?
The new format will put 16 teams — more than half of MLB — into the postseason, with eight teams in each league. Each division’s top two teams will automatically qualify, and the two wild-card spots will be occupied by the two teams with the best records remaining. That’s huge news for the Red Sox, who aren’t likely to finish ahead of the Yankees or Rays in the AL East.
“If you’re in a position where you’re a good team and maybe you’re in a really good division which we feel like we are, we feel like we’re playing against the National League East, which is a really good division, so I think knowing that if we have that extra playoff spot or two, it helps us,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “I’m not planning to finish there, but if it does, and we get in, great. I like the format as far as the three games and then the five games, I think that will be an exciting thing to see, so hopefully we’ll be a part of it and I’ll let you know after that comes about.”
The Red Sox are coming off an abysmal 2019 season that fell way short of expectations, but even last year they would have made the playoffs under this format. At 84-78 and third in the AL East, the Red Sox would have held the first wild-card spot and come in as the No. 7 seed in the AL, playing the No. 2 Yankees.
Roenicke said he doesn’t think teams will be more aggressive knowing there are more playoff spots up for grabs, but did emphasize again how important it is to get off to a good start. After this weekend’s three-game set with the Orioles, the Red Sox have a tough stretch of seven in a row against the Mets and Yankees.
“I think divisions will still try to be won however you want to go about it because you do have the home-field advantage and I think that is still important even without fans there,” Roenicke said. “So, I think teams will still get after it, especially early. Everybody knows we have to get off to a good start. If you start slow, you’re going to be in trouble. We know that’s important and hopefully we’re one of those teams that starts off well.”
Bogaerts reacts to Betts’ deal
Xander Bogaerts was thrilled to see his former teammate and former Red Sox star Mookie Betts get a megadeal with the Dodgers — a 12-year, $365 million contract that will keep him in Los Angeles through 2032. The Red Sox shortstop had not reached out to Betts yet but plans to soon.
“I’m a lot happier for him,” Bogaerts said. “I’ve been with him since he made his debut. I haven’t hit him up yet. I know it’s really hectic over there with the contract and Opening Day. I’ll try to reach out in a couple days. I’ll let things settle down a little bit because I want that reply back on my texts. I don’t want him not replying to me because he’s so busy.
“It’s been nice to see him get all that, man. He deserved that and even more. Just a great player and a great person. We had so many amazing memories here. He was a special player here with us and I know the Dodgers are definitely getting one of the best players in the game.”
E-Rod details emerge
The Red Sox on Thursday shut down No. 1 starter Eduardo Rodriguez for at least a week due to “minor complications” stemming from COVID-19. According to WEEI.com, the lefty is dealing with a condition involving his heart that involves inflammation of a heart muscle. Treatment, according to the report, includes medication and rest.
Bradley among Red Sox to kneel
During the national anthem, several Red Sox chose to kneel, including Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo, third-base coach Carlos Febles, bullpen coach Mani Martinez and first-base coach Tom Goodwin were among those to take a knee. Michael Chavis joined the group during a moment of unity presentation before the anthem, then stood during the anthem.
There was also a tribute to members of the Red Sox family who have passed away since the team last took the field, including former manager Eddie Kasko, former BC baseball captain Pete Frates, former player Mike Ryan and John Altobelli, the father of Sox scout J.J. Altobelli.
Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and urban youth advocate Robert Lewis Jr. threw out the first pitch from their socially-distanced spots in the centerfield bleachers.