The job of being a major league coach is plenty challenging even under normal circumstances. But for Dave Bush, enter his second year in that role for the Red Sox, that's never been more true.
First, Bush is dealing with pandemic-related protocols, making evaluation tougher than usual. Moreover, plenty of Grapefruit League games over the first two weeks of play will be shortened to five- or seven-innings, costing him additional opportunities to watch members of the pitching staff. Now, instead of seeing them compete against opposing major league lineups, he'll be watching them on back fields or in intrasquad or simulated games.
Then, there's the matter of monitoring workloads. With a 60-game season in 2020, most major league starters went 50-60 innings instead of the 150-190 innings or so they might throw in a "normal season.''
How do you best determine how big a jump in innings those pitchers can take? Is it worthwhile going with a six-man rotation to provide additional rest and recovery time? And how to best handle someone like Eduardo Rodriguez, who, thanks to COVID-19 and resulting myocarditis, didn't pitch a single inning last year?
Those and other issues are currently being worked through as the Sox approach the start of the exhibition schedule. But trying to sort through the myriad factors and potential complications isn't anything new.
"It's been a big conversation, even starting last summer,'' said Bush, "knowing that the 2020 season was going to be shorter for innings for everybody. We were planning ahead, thinking about what it would look like this year. There's not a simple answer for that -- it's not like we're going to stop guys at 75 percent of what they did two years ago or (have) an arbitrary 20 percent increase over last year.
"We have of different ways we can measure it this year -- with fatigue, number of pitches, number of innings. We've talked about giving guys more rest. There's a lot of ways that we've talked about what to do, but there's not a clean, simple way that we're going to limit them. It's going to be a case-by-case basis, based on a number of different measurements that we're making or taking.
"As always, it's going to be somewhat determined by performance and health. If we're able to build in extra-rest from time to time, we'll probably do it. If we're able to shorten guys up or lengthen them out, we'll do it. I just don't have a clear answer right now because there's a lot of variables we're considering.
Among the issues: