TAMPA — What’s in a lineup?
When your top hitter (David Ortiz) is out for a while, then a lot goes into it.
How do you protect your better hitters, such as Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli? Who replaces Ortiz? Red Sox manager John Farrell is getting closer to an everyday lineup, though he’s still struggling with the second spot in the batting order against righthanders.
“Jonny [Gomes] had a lot of success in the 2-hole last year,” Farrell said. “Against a lefty, we have options. Righthanded, that’s where [switch hitter Daniel] Nava’s situation comes into focus. And yet we’re not set on which of those lefthanders will make the club.”
Gomes hit .330 with a 1.022 OPS in 116 plate appearances batting second for the Athletics last year, but most of those appearances came against lefthanded pitchers.
The trick is finding someone to bat second who can hit righthanded pitchers. Normally, it would be a no-brainer that Pedroia would hit second, but without Ortiz, he’ll be hitting third.
One player making a case is Nava, who went 1 for 3 batting second and playing first base Wednesday in a 4-0 loss to the Yankees.
“At some point, we can’t totally neglect spring training,” said Farrell. “We’re going to balance that with the long-term production they’ve had.”
Nava could have a leg up on Mike Carp, Lyle Overbay, and Ryan Sweeney for a job as an extra outfielder/first baseman. The fact that Nava handles the bat well and sees a lot of pitches improves his chances.
Farrell was asked whether he would be opposed to having two catchers in the lineup (one as the designated hitter), as he did Sunday, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the DH and David Ross the catcher in a 5-1 win over the Rays.
“I don’t object to that,” Farrell said. “I understand the risk you run. If we were in a situation where Salty had to go behind the plate, we’d go with pinch hitters rather than go with Mike [Napoli] behind the plate.”
That means there are no plans to have Napoli catch a game or two. The Red Sox know that Napoli could and would catch in an emergency, but they will not use him that way after Napoli was diagnosed with a hip condition.
Ross, meanwhile, has caught all the starters this spring except Clay Buchholz.
“I caught a bullpen about four years ago with him,” Ross said.
Ross, who has been extremely impressive handling the staff, had his hands full with an erratic Felix Doubront Wednesday. Doubront allowed five hits, four runs, a walk, and threw a wild pitch, all in the second inning.
Ross took part of the blame.
“I was just getting a feel for him,” he said. “That one inning I was out of synch with him, not knowing his pitching style and how he gets out of trouble.”
Ross classified Doubront’s stuff as exceptional.
“His posture, if he can stay tall, his ball was going where he wanted it to,” Ross explained. “Some things were cutting back over the middle, especially with two strikes in the bad inning. That’s what he was focusing on. When I was able to get on the same page and talk to him about his posture, he started to put the ball where he wanted to.
“Another thing I didn’t know is that he threw a back-door breaking ball. He struck out [Ben] Francisco on a front-door sinker and I didn’t know he liked to do that.
“Some of those runs are on me. I don’t think I called a great game. I thought I was a bit of a hindrance in that inning.”
Doubront, like other Sox starters, is starting to pick up the pace on the mound. But doing that messed him up at one point because his legs were way ahead of his arm.
“I felt happy about this outing because I learned a lot,” Doubront said. “I made an adjustment and I felt good I did that and it helped me. All the pitches came back again.”
Lefthander Franklin Morales has made it through back-to-back long-toss sessions. Now the Sox will put him on a throwing program . . . The Yankees tried out righthander Chien-Ming Wang Wednesday morning, and he is open to starting at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Wang won 19 games twice for the Yankees (2006, ’07) before being derailed by injuries. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Wang, who used to throw in the mid to high 90s with a hard sinker, is now at 92-93 . . . The Red Sox appear ready to make more cuts before Thursday night’s game against the Phillies. Farrell and the front office staff will meet Thursday morning . . . Farrell was asked again about Jackie Bradley Jr., who had two of Boston’s four hits against the Yankees. “He’s done everything we’ve asked of him,” said Farrell. “He’s had an excellent camp.” Bradley is hitting .444 . . . The trainers came out to check on Doubront early in the game. It was nothing major. “The tape was too tight around my foot,” he said. “It hurt.” . . . Scouts continue to take a long, hard look at Sox relievers. Representatives of the Brewers, Rangers, Angels, Dodgers, Tigers, Rangers, Phillies, and Pirates were on hand for the game. They were also focused on Yankees righthander Joba Chamberlain, who pitched a scoreless inning with one strikeout. He might be available.