Seeing Albert Almora in right field with David Ross catching Jake Arrieta Sunday night in Houston got my mind working a little.
Those could have simply been moves of necessity, meant to provide days off to the regulars in right and behind the plate. That’s almost certainly the case with Almora, who won’t be supplanting anyone in the starting lineup come playoff time. The choice to pair Ross with Arrieta, however, tells me something about how Joe Maddon is leaning when it comes to his October roster.
Almora is an interesting case, as his presence on the playoff roster would likely be purely as a defensive replacement. Some might feel that such a specialized and perhaps limited role isn’t worthy of that coveted spot, but the playoffs are a different animal from the regular season. A manager must construct a team built to win a single series, not a division title.
As such, there’s a need to carry players simply to exploit their talent in a small sample. With Almora, that means his glove. Quite possibly the best outfielder on a team that already features the best right fielder in the game, Almora can steal outs from the opponent, shortening innings and games. We saw that in the 5th inning Sunday when he laid out to snag a Marwin Gonzalez pop and end the frame.
That diving stop was really a matter of the player himself making a case. I felt that Ross’s presence, on the other hand, was more about Maddon showing his cards. After working almost exclusively with Miguel Montero early in the season, Arrieta had recently been paired with Willson Contreras. That alone told me Montero’s spot might be in jeopardy, but it’s looking even more precarious after seeing Ross back there.
Maybe this is just a matter of my personal confirmation bias, though. After all, Grandpa Rossy caught Arrieta’s no-hitter in Cincy earlier this year, so it’s not as though the two had no history. And Maddon could just be giving Miggy that much more time to rest up. He has been swinging a nice bat lately.
There’s also the possibility that the truth is somewhere in the middle, that Montero will make the roster as just a bench bat and not a regular catcher. That’s certainly not out of the question, particularly when you consider that that role likely comes down to either him or Chris Coghlan.
So which is it: did Sunday foreshadow October or am I just chasing my tail? Or maybe it’s a little of both.