ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Matt Barnes agreed to a two-year, $18.75 million contract extension with the Red Sox on July 11 then appeared in his first All-Star Game two days later.
On Thursday, he was a healthy scratch for the Division Series roster against Tampa Bay.
“Extremely difficult,” manager Alex Cora said before a 5-0 loss in Game 1. “This guy has been here for a while. He’s been here, done that. But [with] the uniqueness of their roster, we have to make some adjustments.”
Barnes was on the roster for Tuesday’s 6-1 victory against the Yankees in the Wild Card Game but didn’t pitch.
Against the Rays, who have several productive lefthanded hitters, the Sox wanted to get an extra lefty in the bullpen to join Austin Davis and Josh Taylor. They added Martín Pérez, who also could go multiple innings if needed.
J.D. Martinez and Chris Sale returned to the roster after being left off for the Wild Card Game. The Sox also added utility player Danny Santana.
Martinez, who missed the Wild Card Game because of a sprained left ankle, took batting practice on the field before Thursday’s game but did not play. He is likely to be in the lineup on Friday.
Along with Barnes, infielder Jonathan Araúz, outfielder Jarren Duran, and catcher Connor Wong were dropped from the roster for the Division Series.
Barnes was 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA and an 0.80 WHIP over 44 games through Aug. 4. He had 24 saves in 27 chances and opponents had a miniscule .447 OPS.
He is 1-3 with a 10.13 ERA, a 2.44 WHIP, and no saves over 16 games since as opponents posted a 1.110 OPS.
Barnes’s fastball velocity dropped and he struggled with the release point on his pitches. His curveball, usually one of the best in the game, has been inconsistent.
“Obviously, it’s a hard conversation with the player,” Cora said. “But at the end we’re trying to have the roster that we do believe is going to help us to advance.
“Obviously, he is disappointed. He wanted to be part of this. But at the same time, he’ll be a good teammate and he’ll be there for us. You never know what can happen today, tomorrow, or the next day as far as our roster with everything that can happen. He’ll be ready. But it wasn’t an easy decision.”
Barnes was not available for comment.
Santana hit .181 with a .597 OPS in only 38 games during the regular season. He had three stints on the injured list, missing 64 games because a left quadriceps strain, a left groin strain, and a positive test for COVID-19.
But the Sox see the 30-year-old being better positioned to impact the game than Duran, who was not particularly impressive in his 33 games.
Santana also has defensive versatility, having played every position but right field, pitcher, and catcher in his career.
“He’s fast, too,” Cora said. “He’s been in situations like this and throughout the season. He stole a few bases in there.
“I believe that experience is going to help him to make decisions in certain circumstances, certain situations, and that’s why we went with him instead of Jarren.”
Rafael Devers was 1 for 4 with two strikeouts and appeared uncomfortable at the plate. Cora evaded the question when asked if Devers was injured.
“Today because he didn’t get a hit, he is hurt?” the manager said. “After 162 [games], things happen and you get treatment and you grind.
“Not everybody is 100 percent right now, and he is posting.”
Hunter Renfroe hit only .156 in 42 regular-season games for Tampa Bay last season but was on the playoff roster and appeared in 13 games, going 5 for 26 with two homers and seven RBIs.
The Rays then non-tendered him rather than agreeing to arbitration. Renfroe signed with the Red Sox and had an .816 OPS with 31 homers and 96 RBIs over 144 games for only $3.1 million.
“You move on,” Renfroe said. “Those guys over there, they’re incredible. Their front office staff has been nothing but great for me. We knew going forward what they had planned for me and letting me go. So there’s no hard feelings.”
Renfroe learned plenty about how the Rays put together successful teams.
“They’re built around pitching, first and foremost. Their bullpen is their bread and butter,” he said.
“You look around the defensive side and around their offense, it’s a lot of very, very good athletes. You’ve got Randy [Arozarena], you’ve got Brandon [Lowe], and guys like that that run really fast [and] hit the ball all over the ballpark.”
Renfroe remains eligible for arbitration and hopes to stay with the Sox.
“It’s been great here, obviously,” he said. “The players, staff, front office guys — they’ve all been great supporting me and putting me on the field every day going out there.
“It’s been fantastic. I think that’s kind of the biggest thing, keeping me on the field and injury-free and ready to go.”
Major League Baseball announced that Game 3 at Fenway Park would start at 4:07 p.m. on Sunday. That game will be televised on MLB Network.
Game 4, if necessary, would be at 7:07 p.m. on Monday, also at Fenway. That game would be on FS1.
Monday is also the day of the rescheduled Boston Marathon, which starts at 8:37 a.m.
Game 5, if necessary, would be at 5:07 p.m. on Wednesday back at Tropicana Field or at 8:07 p.m. if there is only one game throughout baseball. That game would be on FS1.
On the road again
For the first time since 2019, radio broadcasters Joe Castiglione and Will Flemming were on hand for a road game. Their hope is to be with the team for every game through the end of the season. They traveled on their own … Under MLB rules, teams can keep up to nine extra players on the bench. The Sox have Araúz, Barnes, Duran, Wong, righthander Eduard Bazardo, lefthander Darwinzon Hernandez, infielder José Iglesias, righthander Hirokazu Sawamura, and Charlie Madden. Iglesias is not eligible for the postseason roster as he was not in the organization by Sept. 1. But the Sox wanted him to stay with the team given how well he played in 23 games after being signed. Madden is a 26-year-old minor league catcher who has been with the major league team all season as a bullpen catcher … ESPN’s Dick Vitale threw out the first pitch. He’s pretty much the only notable Rays fan and attends many home games.