USA Today Sports

How Brandon Phillips can make postseason roster

Rob Bradford
September 06, 2018 - 7:37 pm

This is still a longshot.

Still, the image of Brandon Phillips running around the bases, hitting a home run and making the game's best defensive play Wednesday opened a door we didn't know was unlocked. The 37-year-old has entered into the conversation for a spot on the Red Sox' postseason roster.

First thing is first. Yes, Phillips is eligible for postseason play. While a player needs to be on the team's 40-man roster or reside on the 60-day disabled list by Aug. 31 (which Phillips wasn't). In this case, there were 39 players on the 40-man and four more -- Austin Maddox, Marco Hernandez, Dustin Pedroia and Carson Smith -- on the 60-day DL.

But if any of the aforementioned eligible players were deemed injured and not available for action then they could be replaced by a player who was in the organization by Aug. 31. That's where Phillips would come in. It's the same scenario that allowed Gil Velazquez on the 2008 postseason roster despite not joining the team until Sept. 25 due to Mike Lowell's hip injury.

But being eligible is one thing, actually being valued enough to make the 25-man postseason roster is another.

What Phillips has shown both during his stint with Triple-A Pawtucket and in the one game with the Red Sox is that he still has skills. While he wouldn't be considered as fast as Tzu-Wei Lin or even Blake Swihart, he clearly has some wheels and above average instincts to go with them. Over his career, the righty hitter has shown an ability to pinch-hit, a skill-set that clearly not everyone possesses. In 33 pinch-hitting plate appearances, he has 10 hits and four walks (.357).

But for all his potential strengths there really isn't a glaring hole that Phillips would logically fill.

With Sandy Leon most likely slated to catch the majority of postseason starts, there is very likely going to be opportunities where he will need to be pinch-hit for. Not only has Swihart become the Red Sox' most reliable pinch-hitter, but he also offers some cover instead of getting in a spot where there is no catcher behind Christian Vazquez. And, as mentioned, he is still considered more of a base-stealing threat than Phillips would be. (Phillips was 1-for-1 on stolen base attempts in the minors this season, while Swihart is 4-for-5.)

The Red Sox would seem to be set at second base with Ian Kinsler. Brock Holt represents not only the backup at that position but the only player who can fill in at shortstop after Xander Bogaerts, so he's lock.

Perhaps the only path Phillips might have is if something happens to the current dynamic with the Red Sox' third base situation. Eduardo Nunez has found improved health and production, trending toward getting the majority of playing time at the position. But Rafael Devers' upside, power potential and ability to hit from the left side is still worth more than the complete package presented by Phillips right now.

Perhaps the Red Sox want to prioritize matchups. Phillips is 5-for-8 against Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, 11-for-25 going up against Houston's Gerrit Cole, and 8-for-20 with three homers vs. J.A. Happ of the Yankees. There's also no batter the Astros' Charlie Morton has seen more than Phillips, who owns a .302 batting average in his 45 plate appearances against the righty. (Kluber is the only pitcher of this group Nunez has had trouble with, going 1-for-10.)

Something will undoubtedly have to change over the final few weeks for Phillips to truly be considered. But, for now, it's at least worth an off-day discussion.