For the first time in more than two months, Christian Arroyo was back in the Red Sox’ starting lineup and playing second base for Sunday night’s series finale against the Yankees.
Arroyo has made just one start since July 17 as the 26-year-old missed the majority of the last two months with a hamstring strain as well as a difficult battle with COVID-19.
The most commonly used second baseman on the Red Sox’ roster this year, Arroyo projects as the starter if the Sox make the postseason. Jose Igelsias, who had started 10 straight games at second base before Sunday, is ineligible for the postseason roster and manager Alex Cora wants to get Arroyo some at-bats.
“I think it was more about who we’re facing,” Cora said of the Sox’ matchup vs. Yankees lefty Jordan Montgomery.
Iglesias is hitting .289 with a .777 OPS against lefties this year compared to Arroyo hitting .324 with an .882 OPS off them.
“He needs at-bats, right?” Cora said of Arroyo. “It’s not like we’re going from one to the other. It’s not like playing Dustin Pedroia and playing Cora in ’07 towards the end. If it was Cora/Pedroia early on, then I understand.
“We’ll be fine. He’s a good defender, he’s a good hitter. I think he has done an amazing job. We can use him in different ways too, later in the game. I felt today with the matchup we have, it’s a good one for him. We’ll see how it goes. I know in Baltimore, most likely, we’ll face a lot of lefties too. Let’s keep taking it day by day.”
Verdugo back in
Alex Verdugo seems to be slipping back into Cora’s good graces against lefties, too.
He’s been alternating with Kyle Schwarber in left field as Cora continues to mix and match depending on the lefty. It was Verdugo in there on Sunday.
Verdugo is hitting just .221 with a .546 OPS against lefties this year.
“He’s been solid,” Cora said of Verdugo. “Obviously we know he can hit lefties, we know that. Compared to last year it’s a lot different numbers wise but we still believe in this guy, he’s not a platoon guy, he’s an everyday player.”
The 25-year-old was the key player acquired for Mookie Betts from the Los Angeles Dodgers. In his first full season as a big leaguer, he’s trying to prove he’s capable of playing every day throughout the long season.
He entered Sunday ranked as the 11th-best everyday left fielder in MLB this season with 2.3 WAR, a .289 average, 13 homers and 59 RBIs.
“Obviously playing a full season is a lot different than playing parts of 162 or just getting called up for a little bit and he’s learning a lot,” Cora said. “One thing for sure, he understands his swing, he knows how to hit. He really does. I think when we made that change in Buffalo, hitting him lower in the lineup, trying to get somebody, it was about the top of the lineup but also keeping him right behind J.D. Martinez. He’s been dominating right-handed pitching. That’s what we envisioned. He’s a good player, a player we really like and there’s still stuff he’s going to get better at.”
Taylor still out
Josh Taylor received an MRI on his sore back on Sunday and was placed on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain. Taylor first hurt himself in the weight room and it’s been bothering him for a while, Cora said. He won’t be eligible to return until the final day of the season on Oct. 3.
He’s been the skipper’s preferred lefty out of the bullpen all year and his absence was felt on Saturday, when Darwinzon Hernandez was summoned in a key spot and gave up the game-losing grand slam to Giancarlo Stanton.
“It’s a tough one to lose him,” Cora said. “He’s been dominating against lefties throughout the season. Really, really good against them and he was throwing the ball well. It seems like velocity was up since he rejoined us after being on the COVID-IL. It’s tough.”
Cora will rely on left-handers Hernandez, Austin Davis and Martin Perez while Taylor is out.
Garrett Whitlock, on the 10-day injured list with a pectoral strain, is feeling better but hasn’t yet started throwing off a mound. The Sox were originally hopeful he’ll be able to return as soon as he’s eligible on Thursday, but Cora said he can’t speculate on a date yet.
Houck in the ‘pen
Tanner Houck is back in the bullpen and throwing some important innings for the Sox.
“It’s not like there’s a big moment for him,” Cora said. “The goal is for him to go multiple innings. You’ve seen it before. He’s dominant too…
“Trust the kid, trust him, trust his stuff, obviously in Baltimore, there are a lot of right-handed hitters in that lineup so he’s going to be very important for us.”
Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Pivetta are likely to be the three starters for the upcoming series with the Orioles starting on Tuesday.