Red Sox

McAdam: Three-man bench means some tough decisions for Red Sox

(Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

ITEM: Alex Cora, appearing on NESN Tuesday night, said there was a good chance the Red Sox will open the season with 14 pitchers and just 12 position players.

Now do you understand the value of Kiké Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez?

If the Red Sox do indeed open the season with a 14-man pitching staff, that limits Cora to just three spare position players on the bench.

It's perfectly understandable why Cora and the Red Sox would want to go with a 14-man staff, at least to begin the season. Teams are going to be extraordinarily careful when it comes to how hard they push their pitchers -- both veterans and younger pitchers.

Those pitchers will be attempting to make the leap from a 60-game schedule last season to what everyone hopes will be a 162-game schedule this time around. That's a significant leap forward, and especially so when you consider that even spring training is going to be different this year.

Teams will play a couple fewer games after MLB revised the Grapefruit (and Cactus) League schedules last week, limiting opponents to those in the same geographical region. Also, at least through the first two weeks of exhibition play, managers can mutually agree to limit games to five innings in length if they're convinced that's enough.

That translates to fewer chances for pitchers to face major league-caliber hitters. Sure, there will be intrasquad games and live BP and controlled scrimmages, but none of those have the same intensity as traditional exhibition games.

Expect that a number of teams -- perhaps including the Red Sox -- will try some variation on the six-man rotation in the first few weeks and months of the regular season. And bullpens, too, will be taxed as starters see their innings limited.

A 14-man pitching staff will, in turn, result in just three extra position players on a roster -- the smallest bench in recent memory.

One of those three, naturally, will have to be a catcher. So pencil in Kevin Plawecki for one of the three spots.

Another will be Marwin Gonzalez, whose signing last week hasn't been officially announced yet, but will be soon. Gonzalez, a switch-hitter, can play most of the infield spots and both corner outfield spots, so he'll be particularly useful in a three-man scenario.

The last spot is seemingly up for grabs between