Thursday, March 14, 2013

Career DHs: A dying breed

With David Ortiz out for at least the first few weeks of the season, Manager John Farrell is in a bit of a pickle - and he knows it:
"We don’t have another David Ortiz," the manager said. "We’ll probably look at some matchups as we plan against a given starter on that day. ... You can keep guys a little more fresh." 
It actually makes a lot of sense in the absence of a franchise player like Ortiz to use the DH spot to rest and rotate others, rather than panicking and signing a high-priced, under-performing replacement. Of course, the beginning of the season is when players typically need the least rest - but it's also much less damaging to the team to lose a player like Ortiz right now than it would be in September.

The trend for teams in the American League has lately been using the designated hitter position as a place to send aging sluggers who have outlived their usefulness defensively, or a place to rotate several aging players in order to keep their bats in the lineup and their creaky knees protected.

In keeping Ortiz as their exclusive DH, the Red Sox are pretty unique, and so the situation as it is now is actually something much more typical among their AL counterparts. Come the end of Ortiz's career, it is unlikely that the Red Sox will sign another full time DH - versatility is much too important to them. In that vein, we can see the first part of the season as a dress rehearsal of sorts.

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