Yoenis Cespedes has not looked comfortable playing in front of the famed left field wall at Fenway Park. (Getty Images)

Why You Should Have Cared About Tuesday's Red Sox Game: A 2015 outfield conundrum

September 23, 2014 - 6:26 pm
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Thanks to their midseason remake, the Red Sox have a glut of outfielders. But how they align them in 2015 remains anyone's guess. Mookie Betts (currently playing second) has shown the most promise of the lot, yet the Sox just signed Rusney Castillo to a $72.5 million deal with the expectation that his best position is center field. Castillo could, of course, also play right field, though Shane Victorino remains on the roster. Corner outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig has rarely been seen in the lineup, and when he has, he's struggled horribly. And while Yoenis Cespedes has shown some intriguing tools, he both expressed discomfort with the idea of shifting to right field for the Sox (at least this season) and he's looked terribly uncomfortable playing left field in front of Fenway Park's Green Monster. The latter trait sat in the spotlight in the Red Sox' 6-2 loss to the Rays. Cespedes -- who earlier in the game had gunned down Yunel Escobar at the plate to keep the Rays off the scoreboard -- went back on a liner to deep left with two on and two out in the top of the eighth, at a time when the Sox were leading, 1-0. He stopped short of the Wall and came up just short in his effort to corral the catchable liner off the bat of Ben Zobrist, permitting both runs to score en route to an eventual five-run inning. Such plays have been commonplace for Cespedes at Fenway. He's impressed at times in left field while on the road, thanks in part to his closing speed while able to roam wider stretches of the lawn, but it's possible that, as with other players such as Cody Ross, he is simply unable to perform with the comfort necessary to permit his athleticism to play in front of a giant wall. And if that's the case, then the Red Sox had better hope that he's open to a move to right. How it plays out remains to be seen, but for now, it remains the case that the Red Sox have a wealth of outfield options without any clear best alignment for next season. OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT TUESDAY'S RED SOX GAME -- The loss preserved the Red Sox' lead in the race for the No. 6 draft pick, and has a chance to edge them close to the No. 5 pick in 2015. While the Astros (who opened the day a half-game "behind" the Sox in the race for No. 6) were keeping pace with the Sox by losing 2-0 to the Rangers, the Twins were leading the Diamondbacks, 5-1. If the Twins win, the Sox will be within one game of Minnesota for the No. 5 pick. -- Clay Buchholz's night unraveled quickly following the Cespedes misplay, as he ended up going from what seemed like it might be his third complete-game shutout of the year to a five-run yield. Still, what he'd shown prior to that -- tremendous efficiency in carving up the Rays with a low-90s fastball, curve, change and cutter -- continued a recent run of solid appearances to end the year. He's pitched into at least the seventh inning in seven of his last nine starts, and into at least the eighth in four of his last nine. That strong stretch -- in combination with the fact that Buchholz has stayed healthy this year, his lone DL stint for a "hyperextended knee" as much for a mental break as a physical one -- has offered the Red Sox some hope of what Buchholz might be, again, next year. "You look at the starts he's made in the second half, there's been more consistency that we've known Clay to be able to perform to," manager John Farrell said prior to Tuesday's game. -- Mookie Betts offered a reminder that he remains an unfinished product. He committed a throwing error while getting wiped out on a double play pivot, throwing the ball into his dugout, and later ran into an out by turning towards second after beating out a fielder's choice (something that signifies an effort to advance), then walking slowly back to the bag. The Rays observed his misdeed and tagged him out.

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