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Alex Cora has a Sandy Leon conundrum

Rob Bradford
September 13, 2018 - 9:21 am

Sandy Leon has been a great story. He catches, the Red Sox usually win. All for a guy who never caught an inning until he became a professional.

All of that is well and good to pass the time in the regular season. The postseason? That's a different story.

In among the euphoria of the Red Sox winning their 100th game was a telling moment involving Leon. With the Red Sox and Blue Jays scoreless in the fifth inning Wednesday night, Alex Cora's club got runners to first and third with one out. Up came Leon.

Normally, the thought of pinch-hitting for someone in the fifth -- even with these 50,000 players on the September roster -- isn't really considered. But the way Leon has been going, it had to at least pass through Cora's thought process. This was a guy who, going back to Aug. 9, was 3-for-53. That's three hits in 53 at-bats, with just one RBI. But he stayed in, ultimately flying out to left field. (The run would ultimately score on an Aaron Sanchez wild-pitch.)

Cora kept Leon in the game, and has been keeping in the lineup, for one reason -- the pitchers really, really like throwing to him.

It's hard to begrudge Cora for giving Leon a whirl in that fifth-inning situation because the fact of the matter is that one way or another the Red Sox have to figure out a way to get the switch-hitter out of this slump. Even with two other capable catchers, it doesn't seem like they really have a choice. They thought they might, but they don't.

Why have they been put in this corner?

Well, last night was a perfect example regarding the dynamic the Red Sox are facing with this catching situation. It is no coincidence that David Price's resurgence has coincided with teaming up with Leon.  It is a partnership the coaching staff is well aware of. And it's no different than how they feel about the battery involving Chris Sale and Rick Porcello. Cora seemed to dip his toes in the waters of introducing Swihart into the equation with one of these guys pitching when proclaiming Porcello would be getting a catcher other than Leon for the first time this season in his last start. Then the lineup came out and there was Leon.

Cora had said the Red Sox needed to get the pitchers acclimated to other catchers, clearly referencing the desire to get some offense out of that position. But the guess here is that they are going to be left needing to prioritizing something different for the final few weeks leading up to the postseason: Leon re-acclimating himself to hitting the baseball.

Sale is going to want to throw to him. Price is going to want to throw to him. Porcello is going to want to throw to him. At this point in the season that isn't going to change. And when it comes to the postseason it would sure seem that getting the most out of those guys are is going to be the priority.

Perhaps this is David Ross (circa 2013) all over again, the backup catcher who hits .216 in the regular season only to find himself celebrating the season's final pitch after staking claim to a fair share of postseason heroics. There is a way to go to find out. If nothing else we know Leon is going to keep getting chances.

Wednesday night reinforced that.

 

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