By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It may be getting a little toasty in the manager’s office at 4 Yawkey Way.
Manager John Farrell, whose job security has been a much-discussed topic of conversation to varying degrees of intensity throughout the season, made the curious decision to use All-Star starting pitcher Steven Wright as a pinch runner on Sunday night in Los Angeles. It was curious for a number of reasons.
For one, he didn’t insert a pinch runner when David Ortiz reached first base, but instead waited until Ortiz reached second. Secondly, he used Wright, who to put it politely, doesn’t look like a track star. He could have used Drew Pomeranz, who at least had experience on the basepaths having played multiple seasons in the NL for Colorado and San Diego. Pomeranz also looks physically more up to the task, and is likely a better runner than Wright.
Alas, Farrell chose Wright, and it ended up burning him and the team, as Wright jammed his shoulder while diving back to the second base bag when Joe Blanton stepped off the rubber.
On Thursday, prior to the series finale against the Yankees, Farrell was asked if the decision to use a pitcher to run was a “standard move.”
“Given where our bench was, yeah, I would have run a pitcher. If that situation arises again, I would run a pitcher. I’m not going to use four guys in one slot,” Farrell said.
The follow-up question asked specifically if Farrell considered using Pomeranz instead of Wright.
The manager got a little bit defensive.
“Are you asking this because Steven Wright dove back into the bag right now?” Farrell replied.
“[Wright] was the one that was most available, that was not going to have — both guys were not going to go into that game, and Steven Wright was the one. He was the one that was chosen,” Farrell said. “Unfortunately, he dove back into a bag. It was a baseball play. I would love to be able to predict injuries; unfortunately I can’t.”
I would love to be able to predict injuries. Farrell has gone full sassy dad on the Red Sox media corps, treating them like the teenage child that’s asking too many many questions. Farrell might as well have said, “Wright went in because I said so.”
In fairness, Farrell is partially correct. Nobody can predict injures. But … a manager in tune with his players typically knows that some of his players might be more susceptible to getting hurt while performing a function outside of their normal job responsibilities than others would be.
Plus, his explanation on taking Ortiz out only at second base doesn’t really jibe with what he later said about Ortiz.
“What was different in Sunday’s situation is that David played first base the day before and came out sore, so we’re also dealing with his condition as well,” Farrell said. “So I’d love to say that these decisions are made inside a vacuum. They’re not.”
So, Ortiz was too sore to be on the base paths, but only once he reached second base. Because … standing on first base … he wouldn’t have had to run two bases on a ball hit to the gap?
Ortiz initially reached base via walk, and he remained in the game when Mookie Betts followed up that walk with a single, which moved Ortiz to second base. That’s when Farrell substituted Wright for Ortiz, later explaining, “trying to get David off his feet for precaution of injury there.”
Considering Farrell was seemingly less worried about Ortiz’s health when the DH was on first base, there’s a logic gap in that explanation.
And, lastly, going back to Farrell’s explanation from Wednesday on why he used Wright, the manager left something to be desired.
“Honestly, the way he swung the bat [in Friday’s game] was more of an indication to me of, here’s a guy that’s just a baseball player,” Farrell explained.
So, the manager used his pitcher to run because he looked good hitting. And, lo and behold, the guy who never runs the bases ended up getting injured while showing his inexperience.
Oh, and also, when Wright looked good swinging the bat on Friday, he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. On 12 pitches.
It was a highly questionable decision, and that’s not only said with the benefit of hindsight.
Just maybe don’t ask Farrell about it. He doesn’t seem to like it.