Marco Hernandez may very well be the Red Sox’ pinch-running option in the postseason. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)
It had been a staple for Red Sox postseason teams.
The guy who not only could come on to pinch-run, but do so in a fashion where you had a pretty good idea a base was going to be stolen in the process. Dave Roberts obviously set the bar in 2004 after being picked up at the non-waiver trade deadline for Henri Stanley, going on to execute the most important steal in Red Sox history.
Then there was Joey Gathright, who the Red Sox signed for the season’s final month both in 2009 and 2011. He would pinch-run for David Ortiz in Game 3 of the ’09 American League Division Series, stealing a base and then coming on to score via Mike Lowell’s RBI single to put the Sox up by two runs.
And, most recently, it was Quintin Berry who got the opportunity, finding his way on to the Red Sox’ postseason roster in all three rounds of the 2013 world championship run following an Aug. 27 trade that pried him away from the Royals in exchange for Clayton Mortensen. Berry went 3-for-3 in steal attempts during the 2013 playoffs, one in each round.
This time around, however, there won’t be that guy.
“We have no other choice,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We looked at trying to acquire that type of player, and we thought might have been some internal candidates that could serve it as well. But we end up probably not being as proficient in that single kind of player.”
As Farrell noted, the Red Sox tried to find that guy. And one of the players they at least contacted was Berry, who had been released by the Angels. But the 31-year-old outfielder chose to sign with the Blue Jays, who ended up releasing him less than two weeks later.
There was some thought in the organization that Yoan Moncada, he of 94 minor-league stolen bases in 109 attempts, might be the solution. Then came the pickoff in Oakland, and forgetting how many outs there were in Toronto, and it was clear he was not ready to put on such a stage.
So, where does it leave the Red Sox? Marco Hernandez, that’s where.
With the Red Sox typically keeping 11 pitchers on the playoff roster, there will be a spot for that extra position player. And while Hernandez has only stolen one big league bag, while going just 4-for-6 with Triple-A Pawtucket this season, he, along with maybe Brock Holt, will likely be the players Farrell turns to when needing more speed on the basepaths.
It as Hernandez who got the call to pinch-run for Ortiz Sunday in the 10th inning after the designated hitter’s double.
“Here’s the thing, there will be certain game situations where we will have an upgrade in speed as needed. It might not be the pro typical base-stealer to get you 90 feet. But the ability to get from first to third, two bases, that is still present,” Farrell said.
The good news is that because of the athletic lineup the Red Sox possess, there might not be a dramatic need for extra speed. Other than Ortiz and the catcher, virtually every starting player has the ability to swipe a bag. And even Travis Shaw has stolen five bases in six attempts this season.
“We have more team speed, but I can’t say that those single opportunities that arise … We don’t have that one particular guy,” Farrell said.