Brentz to see time in Red Sox outfield in 2018

Boston considering a lighter workload for ace Sale

Brentz to see time in Red Sox outfield in 2018

One thing the Red Sox likely won't be in the market for this winter is a replacement for fourth outfielder Chris Young, who is a free agent.

Instead, late-blooming prospect Bryce Brentz, who was recently added to the 40-man roster, will get the chance to prove that he can be the right-handed hitter that will start in the outfield against lefties.

The Red Sox have two left-handed hitters in their outfield in Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr., which increases the importance of having a reliable right-handed hitter in reserve.

Brentz didn't have options last spring, and the Red Sox designated him for assignment and stashed him away in the Minor Leagues when nobody claimed him. That could prove to be fortuitous, as he blossomed for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2017, belting 31 homers in 120 games.

"Right now, we'll have Bryce Brentz do that job for us," Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday from the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla. "We always, in our own mind, felt that [he would get a chance] if he could get to that time at the end of the year where we could protect him. We're looking at him. He has a leg up. We're not really looking to go sign somebody at this time."

Due to roster flexibility issues, the 28-year-old Brentz didn't spend any time in the Major Leagues last season. He played for the Red Sox in 2014 and '16, batting .287 with a homer in 87 at-bats.

"He's having a real good winter ball season in Mexico," said Dombrowski. "He shows you the determination to play there, which is really a credit to him. We felt he made some strides last year, particularly when it comes to left-handed pitching."

Sale's 13 K's in 13 seconds

Sale's workload a topic

Ace Chris Sale's dominant first season with the Red Sox also included a late-season slump, the kind the lefty sometimes had when he was with the White Sox, too. Sale led the Major Leagues with 214 1/3 innings in 2017. Would the Red Sox think about lessening his workload next season to make sure he is at his best down the stretch?

"We've talked about it," said Dombrowski. "We haven't sat down and talked to Chris about it as of yet, and I think it's something we're looking at from an internal perspective. But realistically, it's a challenge. It's something we need to do, but it wasn't something we weren't cognizant of last year. We never brought him back on short rest.

"Anytime we have him a sixth day, we gave him a sixth day. He threw 215 innings, it's not like he threw 250 innings. I mean, 215 innings is a lot, but it's the fewest ever that's led Major League Baseball in a particular year, the number of innings pitched. But I think we still need to explore all those things.

"This year, it's a little different right off the bat. There's more off-days in our schedule. This year, the basic agreement days kick in so there's five extra days off during the regular season, so that can create some extra time off, right off the beginning of the season. We play six straight days on the road, then we have an off-day, play a game, off-day, play a weekend, off-day. So you can see the difference right off the bat. I think we at least have to be aware that those off-days early can pay off for us later on. So we talked about that, but we really haven't gotten more specific."

Betts' solo homer

Eye on the future

Dombrowski was asked if he takes into consideration next year's enticing free-agent class (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, among others) when it comes to plotting his plans for this winter. Interestingly, it could come down to how successful the Red Sox are in trying to extend some of their cornerstone young players like Mookie Betts and Benintendi.

"You always look to the future, so you're never just looking at this year. You always do that. But I think what gets lost, too, is that we have some young players that we want to retain in our own organization," Dombrowski said. "So how many big, big dollar guys can one club have? So I think that there are still limitations on every organization in baseball in that regard. So you look at all those things together.

"In some ways, you prioritize your own players, too, and keeping them for the long term. If you do that, does that restrict you from doing something else? But yet, if you don't keep them or they don't want to be with you, then you have other availabilities that are out there, potentially. So, there's a lot that goes into those decisions."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.