CLEVELAND — One of the goals for Red Sox manager Alex Cora this coming week will be to bring Steven Wright out of the bullpen with runners on base to see how he responds.
“I want to do that one before October,” Cora said on Saturday before the Sox played the Cleveland Indians.
The knuckleballer has thrown 10 scoreless innings in seven relief appearances this month and for the season has a 1.38 earned run average in 13 games as a reliever. He has come in to start the inning every time.
There were two reasons for that. One was to give Wright ample time to warm up given the varying condition of his surgically repaired left knee.
Cora also was adhering to the idea that it’s not wise to bring a knuckleballer in with runners on base because of the increased likelihood of a wild pitch or passed ball.
But Cora may not have the ability to dictate how Wright is used in the postseason. Waiting a batter too long to bring in a reliever could be the difference in a game, if not the season.
“It’s always good to put them in different spots during the week before the playoffs,” Cora said. “It’s not that we’re trying stuff out of the blue.”
Wright has made 28 career relief appearances but come in with runners on base only five times times. The righthander inherited seven runners in those games and three scored.
The last time Wright entered a game with men on base was June 14, 2015, against Toronto.
Wright replaced Eduardo Rodriguez in the fifth inning with a runner on and allowed a home run by Danny Valencia on his first pitch.
“I’ll pitch in whatever situation they want,” Wright said. “It’s the same thing no matter what, I have to pound the strike zone. It’s the same job.”
It has become evident the Sox view Wright as being a valuable reliever in the postseason and intend to use him in high-leverage situations.
Cora said he trusts all three of his catchers with the knuckleball.
Christian Vazquez has the most experience catching Wright (95 innings over 23 games), but Sandy Leon was somehow able to frame some knuckleballs when Wright faced the Yankees on Thursday and pitched three scoreless innings.
Breather for Betts
Mookie Betts was out of the lineup for the second straight day. It’s a product of the Sox having clinched and Cora wanting to make sure the slight muscle pull on his left side had cleared up.
Betts has not played the outfield since last Sunday, the day he left the game in the sixth inning after feeling some discomfort following two throws to the plate.
“I was the one who decided not to play him,” Cora said. “He’ll play catch and we’ll see if he plays the outfield [Sunday]. He’ll play three in a row and we’ll decide what we do the rest of the week.”
Eduardo Nunez’s sore right knee is feeling better but he remained out. The third baseman is not expected to play until Tuesday at the earliest.
Stange dead at 81
Lee Stange, a member of the 1967 Red Sox and a longtime coach in the organization, died on Friday. He was 81.
“Stinger” played parts of 10 seasons in the majors and was with the Sox from 1966-70. He appeared in 35 games in 1967, going 8-10 with a team best 2.77 earned run average over 181⅔ innings.
Stange threw two innings of relief in Game 3 of the World Series in 1967, allowing one unearned run.
Stange was twice the pitching coach of the Sox, from 1972-74 and again from 1981-84. He then became a minor league pitching instructor for the Sox from 1985-94.
Stange also had coaching stints with the Twins (1975) and Athletics (1977-79). In his final years he worked as a coach for Division 2 Florida Tech.
Carlos Delgado, a two-time All-Star who hit 473 home runs, is visiting with the Red Sox and working with some of the players. He and Cora are close friends and played together with the 2009 Mets . . . The Red Sox, who have 19 pitchers on the roster, were waiting until after the game on Saturday to name a starter for Sunday night’s game . . . Leon is 2 for 48 in his last 20 games with 16 strikeouts and one walk. That has dropped his batting average from .212 to .180 . . . Jackie Bradley Sr. attended the game and wore a No. 19 jersey that had “Bradley Sr.” on the back.