Red Sox notebook: Newcomers Jose Peraza, Kevin Pillar could lead off against lefties

BOSTON MA. JULY 14: Red Sox Jose Peraza in the on deck circle during an intrasquad game at summer camp at Fenway Park on July 14, 2020 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
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Andrew Benintendi will likely be the Red Sox’ leadoff hitter on Opening Day this Friday, and he’ll probably keep that role for most of the 60-game season. And with Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez hitting behind him, it makes for an explosive top of the order.

But Ron Roenicke knows he has options beyond Benintendi, particularly if the Red Sox are facing a left-handed pitcher and the manager decides he wants to break up the left-handed bats of Benintendi and Devers with a righty. If he does, Roenicke likes some of his new options.

Roenicke mentioned outfielder Kevin Pillar and second baseman Jose Peraza, both acquired by the Red Sox in the offseason, as two names he could plug in at the top of the order if he decides to go a different way.

“I know Pillar can do it,” Roenicke said. “I feel good with him up there against the left-handers. And then we’ll just kind of see. We’ll see how Peraza hits, he’s a possibility. He’s a guy that I’m familiar with that used to be a good baserunner, good base-stealer. So if he gets it back, he can do it. So I think we have some options.”

Peraza is an intriguing option. The infielder has impressed offensively during summer camp at Fenway Park after making some small adjustments with his swing during the shutdown. Roenicke has noted Peraza’s swing looks “unbelievable” as the second baseman looks to return to his 2018 form in which he slashed .288/.326/.416 with 31 doubles, 14 homers and 23 stolen bases.

Peraza owns a .323 on-base percentage in 95 career games started at the leadoff spot, with a career .333 OBP against lefties, which isn’t far off from Benintendi’s .327 mark. But Benintendi has hit well during camp and Roenicke said he feels comfortable with him in the leadoff role.

Down the line, Roenicke said he also likes newcomer Alex Verdugo’s potential at the top of the order.

“I think he has everything you would need in a leadoff hitter,” Roenicke said. “When he starts finding his rhythm and his timing and he gets confident, I think we can put him anywhere whether it’s leadoff, second, fifth, sixth, seventh. Wherever that is, I think, offensively he could do a good job.”

Bogaerts doing OK

Roenicke said shortstop Xander Bogaerts is “fine” after tweaking his hamstring and leaving the Red Sox’ intrasquad game on Sunday. He came in to see the training staff on Monday and is expected to play in the Red Sox’ first of two exhibition games against the Blue Jays on Tuesday.

Most of the regulars had the night off on Monday for the Red Sox’ final intrasquad scrimmage. Top prospects like Jeter Downs and Jarren Duran were expected to play.

Roenicke said most of the regulars will play Tuesday and then go nine innings in Wednesday night’s exhibition game before a day off Thursday and Opening Day on Friday.

E-Rod return still uncertain

Eduardo Rodriguez and Josh Taylor, who are both on the injured list and recovering from COVID-19, were expected to throw catch at Fenway on Monday, and the Red Sox are still waiting on Darwinzon Hernandez, also recovering from the virus, to join them.

Roenicke said he plans to meet with head trainer Brad Pearson and pitching coach Dave Bush to come up with a plan for them.

“We need to sit down with Bushy, myself and Brad and really, probably map this thing out a little better,” Roenicke said. “I know sometimes you map it out, you go a little slower, a little quicker than what that is, but because of the layoff that they had, we need to make sure that we’re planning this thing out right, and then like I said, if they’re doing better, then we’ll re-adjust that and hopefully that’ll happen and we’ll get them out there a little sooner.”

Moving parts

The Red Sox’ 30-man roster for Opening Day has mostly been decided, Roenicke said, with just a few spots left to figure out. The manager and his staff are still discussing whether they will carry three catchers, and they’re still figuring out how the puzzle pieces will fit with their fourth and fifth spots in the pitching rotation, and who works better as a starter, opener or in a middle reliever role.

“We have a lot of guys we talk about that can do those three-, four-inning roles,” Roenicke said. “That’s what we’re looking at now in trying to decide, again, what fits better in the bullpen, whether it is a right-hander or a left-hander, whether it’s length, whether it’s a two-inning guy, but we’re looking at all that and looking at the guys and what we think they can do for us.”