ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Red Sox made one major decision public on Wednesday, Alex Cora saying during his paid radio appearance that Opening Day starter Corey Kluber was going to the bullpen and Tanner Houck would stay in the rotation.
More changes are coming. And they’re needed.
The Sox were beaten again, 7-3, by the Angels. That’s four losses in a row and 10 of the last 15. As they work to regain their lost momentum, the roster is going to take on a different look in the coming days and weeks.
The next decision will come in Phoenix on Saturday when Garrett Whitlock is activated off the injured list to start against the Diamondbacks.
Dropping one of the relievers off the roster seems like an easy choice.
But it’s going to get complicated after that.
Infielder Yu Chang, who is set to start a rehabilitation assignment with Double A Portland on Friday, will be back soon. Chang, who broke the hamate bone in his left wrist on April 24, may only need a few games before coming back.
That is not the case for Christian Arroyo, who also is ready to start his minor league assignment. The Sox prefer he spend more time in the minors, playing second base, third base, and shortstop before returning.
Arroyo had a .660 OPS in 27 games before straining his right hamstring. He needs to get in a better groove at the plate, too.
“He needs at-bats,” Cora said.
Fitting Arroyo and Chang onto the roster could require sending Enmanuel Valdez back to Triple A. The rookie second baseman has hit well but needs work defensively.
Chang’s above-average defense at shortstop and second base has been missed.
Adam Duvall is eligible to come off the injured list on June 10 and that’s his goal. Even if it’s not that day, he’s getting closer.
Duvall hit .455 with 10 extra-base hits in eight games before he broke his left wrist. He can’t be expected to replicate those numbers, but the Sox will be eager to have him back in the middle of the lineup.
Where will that leave Jarren Duran, who is 1 for 23 on the road trip? Duran gave the Sox a huge lift when he was called up in April. Even if it’s in a part-time role, he deserves playing time assuming he emerges from his current slump.
It’s also fair to wonder how much rope Triston Casas has at first base.
The rookie is hitting .181 with a .666 OPS. To date, his most consistent contribution has been drawing 25 walks in 154 plate appearances.
“His on-base percentage is still good,” Cora said. “He’s not taking advantage of certain counts when he’s ahead in the count. That’s something that obviously he needs to do.
“At one point he’s going to start hitting for average. He will do damage … He’s going to be here. This is a guy we trust.”
Casas is hitting .071 when he’s ahead in the count, well off the major league average of .286. And while Cora lauded his .312 OBP, that’s below the league average of .320.
The walks are great, but how does Casas have only four doubles? His bWAR of minus-0.7 is the lowest on the team among the position players.
“If he stays with his process and swings at the right pitches, he’s going to get hot,” Cora said.
Down the road, perhaps at the All-Star break, Trevor Story will become part of the mix. He’s in Fort Myers working out and that includes a throwing program as he recovers from elbow surgery.
At some point the best Sox lineup could have Story at shortstop, Kiké Hernández at second base, Duvall in center, and Justin Turner getting more time at first base.
“The future is not next year or two years from now,” Cora said. “It’s next week or two weeks from now.”
That Kluber was demoted was a sign of that. He’s a respected veteran, but the Sox can’t afford to give games away, not in the American League East.
There are no more free passes for the sake of development or justifying contracts.
“When you have good players, stuff like this is going to happen,” Cora said. “This is part of it. Some guys don’t like it, but at the end it’s what you can do for this group.”