BOSTON — At a quick glance, the Red Sox do not seem the healthiest club.
Dustin Pedroia’s knee rehab has left his 2018 season in doubt. Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright are both on the disabled list, and so too now is Christian Vazquez, who is to miss six to eight weeks because of a fractured finger. Tyler Thornburg’s return from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery took two minor league rehab stints: his clock had to be reset. Rafael Devers just landed on the DL, and Carson Smith slammed his glove down and may never pitch for the Sox again.
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Nonetheless, as the Sox have compiled baseball’s best record overall — as well as a .704 win percentage in their past 54 games (38-16) entering Saturday — their core players and star performers have been able to avoid any serious injuries or long trips to the disabled list.
Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Rick Porcello, and David Price have two trips to the DL among them. Betts and Bogaerts both missed a little more than two weeks with injuries (including some time Betts missed before technically landing on the DL).
Bogaerts had a left ankle injury in early April, and the Sox rolled on without him, going 11-4. After a 2017 in which he should not have played through injury, Bogaerts has rebounded well. His .872 OPS is right in line with the .863 mark he posted in 2016 when he was an All-Star.
“We know that Xander can hit .300,” manager Alex Cora said Friday. “He can go the other way whenever he feels like it, but now he's trying to do damage. That's the most important thing.”
Well, maybe the second most important, when we remember how Bogaerts played hurt in 2017.
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Feels like forever ago there was worry about Betts’ health, doesn’t it? As the calendar flipped to June, he went to the disabled list with an abdominal strain, and it was unclear just how long he would need to be out. He came back June 11 and has continued to rake.
Until suffering a right ankle sprain Saturday in a first-base collision with the Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel, Eduardo Rodriguez probably deserved to be on that list of “core” players as well. E-Rod, in particular, is a success story, given where he was this time a year ago: coming back from his most recent knee subluxation. Technically, he began the year on the DL and had been great since. We'll have to see how he progresses from this latest injury after the All-Star break.
There’s been a lot of recent talk about the success of Chris Sale’s build-up program, one that applied to other starting pitchers as well. The proof might not really come until September or August, but Sale is dominating while also pitching 12 1/3 fewer innings through 20 starts than he had a year ago: 129 compared to 141 1/3. He’s an All-Star both times.
There was talk in spring training and early in the regular season about how much Cora wanted to rest guys. What, exactly, allows someone to stay healthy can be hard to pinpoint. Everyone’s body is different, and injuries can just be a matter of luck.
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Pedroia, Wright and Thornburg were all dealing with pre-existing medical situations. Infielder Marco Hernandez, out of sight for a long time, went for his third shoulder surgery in roughly 14 months. Pedroia may wind up with three games played in 2018.
“I’m learning throughout the process, obviously,” Cora said when asked if the Sox review situations like Hernandez’s and Pedroia’s after the dust settles. “This is my first time as you guys know, doing this. So you know with Marco, it was one of those that we thought the whole time that he was going to be fine. And then it just didn’t work and didn’t work, didn’t work. He had to do it. But for me, I listen a lot throughout the process and obviously, they’ve been around this process and stuff like that for a longer period of time.”
Overall, the Sox have kept their most important players on the field, and whether that’s a product of randomness or something larger at play, it’s been essential.