BOSTON — In making their final preparations for the World Series, the Red Sox and Dodgers settled for similar minor roster changes Tuesday, each adding a lefthanded reliever.
Boston added Drew Pomeranz and subtracted righthander Brandon Workman, preferring the lefthander because the Dodgers have several significant lefty hitters. Los Angeles decided on Scott Alexander over Caleb Ferguson, a rookie southpaw, because Alexander could pitch on consecutive days and the Dodgers believe Ferguson could not.
At a time of year when the margin for error is even smaller than normal, both teams were looking for advantages in these tweaks.
“It has to do more about who we're playing,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “Got a bunch of lefties, they mix and match. I was joking earlier today, it was like playing hockey against them, you know, all the shifts. They change in the third inning and they change again in the sixth and you've just got to be prepared.”
Cora was exaggerating only slightly. The Dodgers, with a deep bench, effectively have different lineups against righthanded pitchers and lefthanded ones, and in the NLCS weren’t afraid to swap out several players — as early as the second and third innings — when the Brewers pulled their starting pitcher. Shortstop Manny Machado and third baseman Justin Turner are the only position players locked into the everyday lineup.
The Red Sox employ a more traditional pitching model than Milwaukee, relying heavily on their starters, but figured the extra lefty alongside Eduardo Rodriguez would be helpful. Cora cited his experience against the Dodgers in last year’s World Series, as the Astros’ bench coach, as a motivating factor. Houston used Francisco Liriano to get Cody Bellinger twice.
Max Muncy and Joc Pederson are the Dodgers’ other prominent lefties.
For Pomeranz, it’s one last shot at impressing — at salvaging a lost season — before becoming a free agent after the season. He had a 6.08 ERA in 26 games (11 starts) and hasn’t pitched since Sept. 30, left off the postseason roster for both of the first two rounds.
Cora said Pomeranz’s work this month was enough to encourage the Red Sox to activate him.
“He's been doing an outstanding job the last two weeks working on mechanics, actually his velocity,” Cora said. “I know he wasn't in the game, but velocity is up, 93 [mph on his fastball]. We've been looking for that the whole season. When that velocity is up, then the other pitches come into play. And we do feel that his mix is going to be a good one against (the Dodgers).”
One quirk of the Red Sox subbing out Workman: With second baseman Dustin Pedroia out hurt, shortstop Xander Bogaerts is the only active player from Boston’s World Series championship in 2013. Bogaerts was a 21-year-old rookie then, a shortstop playing third base. Now, he’s a 26-year-old cleanup hitter and part of a still-young homegrown core.
How has he changed?
“I have a beard now,” Bogaerts said with a laugh.