<
>

John Farrell explains not using Pablo Sandoval in Fenway-opening loss

Pablo Sandoval did play in Monday's home opener for the Red Sox. Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

BOSTON -- Pablo Sandoval was met by a smattering of boos as the Boston Red Sox were introduced Monday at the opener at Fenway Park.

The bigger affront may have come later, though.

With hard-throwing right-hander Mychal Givens on the mound for the Baltimore Orioles in the seventh inning and the go-ahead run in scoring position, Red Sox manager John Farrell elected to stick with righty-hitting Chris Young, who entered as a pinch hitter for lefty-swinging Travis Shaw one inning earlier, rather than turn to Sandoval, a switch-hitter who typically hits well from the left side of the plate.

Young was little match for Givens, striking out on five pitches to keep the score tied in a game the Orioles' would eventually win 9-7 thanks to Chris Davis' ninth-inning three-run homer against Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel.

Farrell explained later that he was thinking a few innings ahead, anticipating that Young could come to bat again in the ninth inning against Orioles closer Zach Britton, a lefty. But based on their track records, Sandoval stood a better chance of being successful against Givens considering Young is a .224 career hitter against righties (compared to .264 against lefties).

"With the left-handed closer in Britton, that was the swing decision," Farrell said. "It's an aggressive move in the sixth inning [to hit for Shaw], but the way the wind is blowing, the way the ball is carrying, looking for spots for Chris Young against the left-hander, that was it, knowing that Britton is going to close that game out, if they were to take the lead."

(Young, it should be noted, never batted in the ninth inning. He was on deck when Britton struck out Hanley Ramirez to end the game.)

Regardless of the reasoning, it underscores Sandoval's imperfect fit on the roster.

An everyday player throughout his eight-year career, Sandoval lost the third-base job to Shaw during spring training and now must find a role on the bench despite being owed more than $70 million over the next four seasons. The portly third baseman doesn't run well and plays only one position, where he has struggled defensively over the past two years.

If the Red Sox aren't going to use Sandoval to pinch hit against tough right-handers such as Givens, it's hard to imagine when they would use him.

Sandoval has started only one of the first five games. He's 0-for-6 in his limited role.

It seems, then, that the Red Sox would be better served allocating Sandoval's roster spot in other ways, perhaps even adding a third catcher when defensively gifted Christian Vazquez proves his surgically repaired right elbow is healthy enough to resume a normal workload behind the plate. But given his contract, there isn't much they could do to move him off the roster.

"We need every one of our 25 guys to contribute, and for Pablo in particular this is going to be a different beginning to a season," Farrell said last week. "The role has certainly changed. How he and I and the rest of our staff communicates with him, puts together a work plan to keep him prepared and keep him moving forward, that's probably the biggest change for all of us."

Clearly, it's something the Red Sox are still figuring out.