BOSTON — Xander Bogaerts has always been more candid and open than the standard ballplayer. He did not hide a sense of foreboding when asked about being hit on the right hand on Tuesday night, during a 3-1 Red Sox loss to the Phillies.
“I mean, it is what it is. I can't go back in time and un-hit myself,” Bogaerts said. “We lost the game. At least I got on base and we had a chance to try to do something there. It would have been good if we'd tied it or won the game.”
X-rays were negative. They were last year too, when Bogaerts was hit on that same hand by a pitch, a moment in 2017 that essentially ruined his second half. He tried to play through the pain, something he knows now was unwise.
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How long he’ll be out this go around, or how much he’ll be impacted, is to be seen.
The shortstop’s hand injury — or at least, hand scare — came on a day when a lot was going on for the Red Sox. Ian Kinsler made his Sox debut. Chris Sale went to the disabled list with mild left shoulder inflammation, and the trade deadline passed without any further Sox addition. Drew Pomeranz meanwhile looked salvageable, if not exactly good.
All of those things are tied together, in a way, and speak to the significance of adding Kinsler, and Nate Eovaldi before him — as well as the significance of not adding a reliever.
The greatest assumption at all times in baseball is health. There’s no foolproof method to ensure players remain on field. The greatest depth at any position could, on occasion, prove worn out if enough injuries happen to come down in succession.
But there is a reasonable level of depth to be built up. An injury to Bogaerts would be easier to stomach with Kinsler here. If both were hurt, it would be hard to say the Red Sox did not do what they could to give themselves insurance on the infield.
It's a matter of regret aversion. Of eliminating the potential to look back and say, "We could have done more."
When it comes to the pitching staff, the potential for such a question looms. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is already relying on a lot of if’s: if Joe Kelly can turn it around. If Ryan Brasier can prove to be a consistent late-inning reliever. If Eduardo Rodriguez can come back and supplement either the staff or the bullpen. If Tyler Thornburg can maintain velocity and health and pitch with a high frequency.
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When Dombrowski spoke to the media on Tuesday just after the 4 p.m. non-waiver deadline passed, Sale was still healthy.
Sale’s injury sounds minor. But when you consider how much an injury anywhere on the pitching staff can change the outlook, it exposes the weak logic behind standing pat. Again: all plans are inherently fragile. But a reasonable, obvious place to bring in a reinforcement was and is the bullpen. (Never mind the fact the Sox are already pouring about $240 million into this year's payroll.)
Dombrowski and the Sox have August’s waiver trade period to work with now. They wanted Kelvin Herrera from the Nationals and the Nats didn't want to move him in the end.
The Sox may be fine as is. But this is a sport and a business where the safest bet is usually to, well, cover all your bases. Look to the feeling of reassurance that Kinsler offers. That's nowhere to be found on the pitching staff.