A vital part to a deep play off run in Major League Baseball is having solid reserves off the bench, who can steal bases, hit a home run in one swing, or catch the ball well. The Red Sox have a very deep bench this year heading into the 2008 MLB playoffs.
The three categories of bench players are speesters, hitters, and fielders. A speedster is someone who can come into the game and go from a man on first with one out to a man on second with one out. He can steal a base 8 out of 10 times. A hitter is someone, who can with one swing bat for the nine batter and tie the game up with one swing of the bat. A a fielder is a defensive specialist who will enter the game in the ninth inning when the team is leading. Usually a fielder isn't skilled with the bat.
Boston Red Sox 2008 Projected Play off Reserves
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Speedster/ Fielder
Kevin Cash, C, Fielder
Sean Casey, 1B, Hitter
Alex Cora, IF, Fielder
Mark Kotsay, OF/ 1B, Speedster/ Fielder
Ellsbury and Coco Crisp battled all year for the final spot in the starting nine. It looks as if Coco Crisp will get most of the starts in the postseason because the success he has had late in the season. Ellsbury and Crisp are very similar players. They both are very fast and both are good fielders. Ellsbury will most likely come of the bench to steal a base late in the game or he may even replace Drew in right. His speed is his number one asset and the Red Sox will use it to their advantage. Ellsbury could end up beating out Crisp for the final job, but they are both going to play similar roles.
Cash is a defensive minded catcher, who may not see much time, especially if Tim Wakefield. Cash isn't very skilled with the bat, but does make good contact when he connects. The Red Sox lack serious offense at the catcher position, but it is made for with leadership. Cash could play a very small role in the play offs. His job souly depends on whether or not Wakefield makes the rotation.
Casey is a veteran ball player with a lot of experience. He has a below average glove at first base, but probably won't see much of the field. Casey relies on his offense. He is the one guy of the bench that has the capability of hitting a home run in a big spot. Casey will have a lot of pinch hit a bats late in the game. Hitting for either the nine batter or the pitcher if the BoSox make it that far. Casey keeps the team happy. He is liked by everyone and will keep the spirits up. Casey may not do much on the field, but he is an important leader on the team.
Alex Cora is the smartest of the reserves for the Red Sox. He is also the best fielder. Cora can play any infield position very well. Cora will most likely come into the games when the Sox are holding a slim lead in the late goings. He may see some time if Lowrie's struggles continue, but for now he will be a defensive specialist for this team in the post season.
Kotsay is a guy that gives the Red Sox a bit more speed in the outfield. His speed is underestimated, but he a great base runner. Kotsay, Ellsbury, and Crisp in the outfield is a very quick outfield and they could take away alot of outs late in the game. Kotsay handles the bat well, but is a contact hitter. He may get some pinch hits, but most of his time will be spent running the bases and tracking fly balls. If Francona does choose to move Kotsay to the outfield, then Francona will have to remove either Drew or Bay out of the game. We could see both Drew and Bay come out for Kotsay and Ellsbury, but it would be highly unlikely in a close game where the Sox would need the bats in the lineup. Kotsay, Ellsbury, and Crisp in the outfield could be used with a 3 run lead in the ninth with Papelbon toeing the rubber.
The Boston Red Sox will rely on these key reserves to step up and play big roles off the bench. Some will pinch hit and others will steal bases. Regardless of what they do, they will all play somewhat an important role in getting an extra run across the plate or stopping a run from scoring.