Red Sox

Red Sox

BALTIMORE -- With a little more than a week to go in the regular season, the Red Sox have the third-most wins of any team in either league. What they don't have is a regular third baseman.

That's somewhat strange for a team playing its best baseball of the year for the last few weeks.

This month, bullpen roles have been cemented and rest of the lineup more clearly defined.

But third remains a position of uncertainty, still up for grabs in late September.

In the first three games of their four-game series with the Orioles, the Red Sox started three different players -- Brock Holt Monday; Travis Shaw Tuesday and Aaron Hill Wednesday. With righthander Chris Tillman on the mound Thursday in the series finale, Shaw got another start.

Eight different players have started at third since the start of the season: the aforementioned three players, plus Marco Hernandez (six games); Deven Marrero (one); Yoan Moncada (four); Josh Rutledge (10) and Pablo Sandoval (one).

And yet, 152 games into the season, the position is unclaimed.

"As we get through the final 10 days, I think we've generated some momentum as a team,'' said John Farrell. "But there's also going to be opportunities for guys to generate momentum individually. Because of his flexibility on the defensive side, (Holt) could find himself there, if he's swinging the bat with some consistency. I don't want to rule out anything out at this point.''

A little over three weeks ago, the Red Sox seemed poised to hand the job to Yoan Moncada, who was promoted from Double A with the idea that he would get the majority of the playing time -- at least against righthanded pitching.

 

But after two multi-hit games in his first few starts, Moncada bottomed out offensively, striking out in nine straight at-bats.

Initially, Shaw responded to Moncada's arrival by enjoying a few big games on the road trip, but he has subsequently cooled and was just 1-for-8 in this series before Thursday and was hitting just .198 against lefties for the season.

Hill has generated almost no power since joining the Sox with just four extra base hits in 42 games.

"We were very candid,'' said Farrell. "That's why Moncada came here. We were looking for production at third base to continue to climb. Guys are here that have done it. It's a spot that can be grabbed. We don't ever want to hand anyone the spot just because you hit lefthanded or righthanded.''

It's hardly without precedent that a contending team lacks some clarity at a position late in a season.

"In '13,'' pointed out Farrell, "we had a left field platoon situation (between Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava). Those roles were probably a little more defined as we got later in the season, but we want away from that late. All of our guys are recognizing that how guys perform is not only important to us but for them. And because third base has been a little more unsettled because of (a lack) of production.''