BOSTON — With 19 games remaining in regular season, career track records start to mean less for Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Chris Young was in the Sox lineup batting second in left field on Tuesday. He came into the opener of a three-game set with the A’s with four hits in four plate appearances vs. A’s lefty Sean Manaea. But Young, who’s batting .187 vs. southpaws this season, may not be starting against lefties much longer — even though that’s been his forte in his career.
How does Farrell know when to weigh recency more than career past?
“I think we’re getting to that point,” Farrell said. “And you continue to provide opportunity, mentioned the other day when we start talking about the bullpen, you start talking about, you get into the latter part of this month, you begin to start paying closer attention to what is the hotter hand. And let’s face it, we know players go through some ebbs and flows along the way. Much as teams do, and as much as you want to acknowledge how those players have gotten you to that point in their tenure here, I think there comes a point here where it’s you know what, we got to pay closer attention to what is currently taking place for win today at basically all costs.”
This is something of an informed guessing game.
There’s a strong argument to make that basing lineup choices on the hot (or cold) hand is not always the direction to go. But if there is something the coaching staff, Farrell or even the player himself notices about particular performances — something that makes any of that group believe the player can’t live up to their career norms — such a move makes a lot more sense.
Then there’s this aspect: playing the hot hand, very simply, is harder for fans and media to second guess. If Farrell chose to play someone cold over someone with recent success in whatever the scenario may be, he’d get torn apart. But it was expected going into the final month he’d be facing these kinds of choices.
Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’s thought about playing Rajai Davis more frequently against lefties.
“In the short answer, yes,” Farrell said. “But in the obvious situation we’re in, this isn’t the time for us to experiment either. Again there’s the ability to use those who have performed. So in other words, if it’s Rajai Davis vs. Benny [Andrew Benintendi] in left field, or if it’s in another combination, there are guys that are ahead of him right now and that’s where we’re going about this.
“Now I will say this: the ability to get or pick a spot where Rajai can make sure he comes in off the bench and the ability to steal a base… we’ll continue to look to try to get those opportunities."