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Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Yoan Moncada ‘starting to get comfortable’ in Greenville

06.18.15 at 12:38 pm ET
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Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada

No Red Sox Single-A player has ever received more hype than Greenville second baseman Yoan Moncada.

After the 19-year-old Cuban signed a minor league contract with a $31.5 million signing bonus in March and then spent over a month in extended spring training, Moncada made his professional debut May 18.

Through the first month of his professional career, the switch-hitting second baseman hasn’t blown anyone away with his numbers — posting a slash line of .220/.312/.317, while committing nine errors in 16 games in the field. It’s worth noting he hadn’t played organized baseball in over a year before coming to America and signing with the Red Sox, so he is still getting acclimated to the American game.

“I’ve seen a guy who is finally starting to get comfortable just in the daily routine of professional baseball,” Greenville manager Darren Fenster said via phone. “I think slowly, but surely the work that we put in before seven o’clock is paying dividends. He’s more understanding of the expectations that we and the staff are putting on him every day in terms of not sure how he’s playing the game, but more importantly how he’s working between 2:00-7:00.”

Moncada has spent much of his pregame work with hitting coach Nelson Paulino in the cage and also working on everything involved with playing a fundamentally-sound second base at the professional level.

“It’s everything from cage work with our hitting coach Nelson Paulino every single day where he’s hitting off the tee, he’s hitting soft toss, to really get a good understanding of his own swing so he understands what it feels like where he needs to be from both sides of the plate,” Fenster said. “It’s a mechanical thing, it’s an approach thing that we are hammering at him every day. Nelson Paulino, that’s his baby in terms of the work they do in the cage and during batting practice.

“From a defensive standpoint he’s on the field every day just getting consistent with fundamentals of fielding ground balls and turning double plays. More fundamentals we stress every day from relays, to communication, run downs, all the stuff that you see at seven o’clock we are working on that stuff far before the gates have even opened. He embraces the work and he’s a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

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Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen on D&C: ‘Nobody’s happy where we’re sitting here today’

06.18.15 at 10:13 am ET
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Mike Hazen

Mike Hazen

Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about the Sox, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr. and more. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Having lost eight of their last nine after dropping Wednesday’s game to the Braves 5-2, falling to last in the American League, Hazen said the mood around the baseball operations people is nothing short of disappointed.

“I think we’re remaining optimistic about the team,” he added. “I think nobody’s happy where we’re sitting here today. You know, it’s unfortunate, and we deserve to be where we are. We haven’t played very well on the course of the season. We need to work to at least see this through for the moves that we made that we believe in, that we think these guys are going to continue to perform and get better, and we need to continue to look at the roster and ways that we, at least as a baseball operations side of things, can impact this.

“What moves can we make to the roster, how can we make additions, are there things that we need to look at as we move into the trading deadline season, all those things. So that’s sort of the focus as we’re shifting forward, but the fact remains we need to play better, and we need to do a better job in the front office and we haven’t done that yet.”

During Wednesday night’s game, Pablo Sandoval’s Instagram account liked a picture, but Hazen said he had no knowledge of the situation. There is no confirmation that it was in fact Sandoval, as many times athletes have other people run their social media accounts.

“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but great things from Pablo, nothing that I’ve seen. He’s a great teammate, and he plays his butt off. I was in the clubhouse last night during the game, I didn’t see him so I’m not really sure, but I’m sure we’ll find out more about that today.”

A lot was said of outfielder Rusney Castillo when he signed a $72.5 million contract last summer, but he’s had some trouble producing consistently at the major league level. In his past 22 games, Castillo is 16-for-70 with a .229/.260/.286 slash line and just two extra-base hits.

“Obviously we love the speed, the defense, the ability to impact the ball from a raw strength standpoint, but this guy’s still trying to get his timing down,” Hazen said. “I realize the commitment that was made from a financial standpoint, so results are expected right away. It’s still a guy within the first 100 plate appearances of this season at the major league level. As we watch guys move into that phase at the major league level, as they’re getting attacked a lot differently than they do when they’re either in triple-A, or somewhere else or even September last year when you’re facing a lot of September call-ups in a lot of cases, this is a more challenging environment.

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Thursday Red Sox Farm Report: Allen Craig homers; Aaron Wilkerson impresses again; Sam Travis on fire

06.18.15 at 8:47 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:

Noe Ramirez

Noe Ramirez

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (32-34): L, 7-5, at Charlotte (White Sox)

— The PawSox had a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning, but could not hold it as right-hander Noe Ramirez surrendered a three-run home run on the second pitch he threw in relief of Zeke Spruill. The first two Charlotte batters had reached via a walk and a fielder’€™s choice, the latter a comebacker that Spruill threw into the back of the lead runner digging for second base. Spruill was not charged with an error as second baseman Mike Miller didn’€™t initially break to cover the bag, leading to hesitation on Spruill’€™s throw.

For Ramirez, a fourth-round draft choice of Boston in 2011, it was the first homer he had allowed since August 6, 2013, a span of 59 appearances and broke a string of four straight scoreless outings since he came off the DL on May 28 (right forearm strain). The updated numbers for Ramirez on the season are: 20 2/3 IP, 16 H, 6 ER, 9 BB, 19 SO. Opposing hitters are hitting at just a .219 clip against him.

The Charlotte long ball was the second of the game for Trayce Thompson, as he also had a two-run shot in the fourth off of Pawtucket starter Jess Todd (4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO). Thompson also had a two-homer game against the PawSox on June 8 in Pawtucket.

— Allen Craig had tied the game at four with a leadoff home run in the sixth inning, before Pawtucket then took the lead in the seventh on a Jackie Bradley Jr. double and a Bryce Brentz RBI single.

For Craig, it was his third home run as a member of the PawSox since his arrival on May 12, an opposite field line drive on an outside fastball on the first pitch of the sixth. Craig has hits in 20 of his 27 games with Pawtucket with a slash line of .296/.406/.426. Craig ended the game as he was called out on strikes with a runner aboard.

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Braves matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Shelby Miller

06.18.15 at 8:19 am ET
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In the final day of a four-game, two-city set with the Braves, the Red Sox will send Clay Buchholz to the hill opposite Shelby Miller.

In his first 13 starts on the year, Buchholz is 3-6 with a 4.22 ERA and 1.316 WHIP. The right-hander has not been the ace many hoped he would, but has not received much help from either the defense behind him or his team’s offense.

Buchholz has accrued a FIP of 2.79, pitching far better than just his ERA would suggest. At the plate, his teammates have managed to score only one run in a whopping seven of the Texan’s 13 outings.

The 30-year-old’s last appearance came on Saturday against the Blue Jays. Buchholz lasted six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out seven. Buchholz recorded a no-decision in the game, which the Red Sox eventually lost 5-4 in 11 innings.

“Everybody in here knows we’re not playing like we want to play,” Buchholz said in the clubhouse afterward. “We’ve got to find a way to win.”

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Ben Cherington takes blame for Red Sox troubles

06.18.15 at 12:12 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Speaking to the media prior to his team’s 5-2 loss to the Braves Wednesday, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington insisted blame for the last-place team’s woes should fall on his shoulders.

“From my perspective, looking at the bigger picture and why we are where we are, when you are where we are, there’s a lot of reasons for it,” Cherington told reporters. “There’s no single player that’s responsible for that. No single player can be responsible for a lot of reasons. The only person who perhaps is responsible, for a longer list of reasons, is me.”

With the team residing 11 games under .500 and nine games back in the American League East, Cherington said he understands there has been plenty of blame cast all across the organization.

“Well, the record is the record. The record is clearly not good enough for where we play and the amount that’€™s invested in the team,” he said. “We all know that. My job is to try to dig in to every reason for that, to look back at every decision we’ve made and try to learn something from that and then try to make it better, starting today and tomorrow and the next day. I think that whatever good things are going on in the organization, which I think there are a lot of good things going on in the organization, the record of the major-league team is the biggest thing. In Boston, that’€™s the biggest thing. When that’€™s not good enough, I’m more responsible than anyone else for that, so I have to find a way to make it better.”

The general manager was also asked about the expectations of specific players:

Rusney Castillo: “Well we think he’€™s a good player. The performance at the big league level so far this year obviously doesn’€™t reflect what we think he is. If you look at all of the attributes, he’€™s got athleticism, he’€™s got the tools, he’€™s strong, he cares, he’€™s accountable, he works hard. I think he’€™s smart. That all adds up to being a good player. It hasn’€™t shown up yet on the field in 2015 on the big league level so he’€™s got to keep working through it. There’€™s plenty of time for him to do that. On the other hand John has got to put the guys in the lineup who are swinging the bat the best.”

Jackie Bradley Jr.: “We talked about this a couple weeks ago. Very encouraged. He’s made an adjustment offensively and been one of the better hitters in the International League all year. Obviously the defense has always been there. He’s played hard at the top of that lineup every day. He looks like a good major-league player, the way we always thought that he could be. That’€™s where he is right now.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox return to losing ways, drop another to Braves

06.17.15 at 10:20 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

So much for a winning streak.

The Red Sox fell back to 11 games under .500 once again with a 5-2 loss to the Braves, Wednesday night. The Sox have now lost eight of their last nine games, and two of three against Atlanta in its home and home set. They also find themselves nine back in the American League East.

This time the Red Sox fell victim to a methodical Braves attack on the scorching hot night, with Atlanta ultimately pulling away thanks to a two-run seventh inning.

In the seventh, Junichi Tazawa fell victim to a one-out, infield hit by Cameron Maybin, who would move to third on rookie Daniel Castro’s hit-and-run grounder into right field. Nick Markakis managed the eventual game-winner, placing a single into left.

Making the inning more frustrating for the Red Sox was that Maybin’s hit should have probably been an out, with Mike Napoli unable to catch a toss from Xander Bogaerts, who raced in and fielded the ball bare-handed. The throw appeared to hit off of the first baseman’s wrist on the fly and symbolized the inability by the Red Sox to make key plays when it counted the most.

“I was just trying to stretch as far as I could,” Napoli told reporters. “He’s a quick runner.”

More unforgivable for the Red Sox was how the Braves scored their second run in the seventh, with Tommy Layne coming on and walking the seemingly unwalkable A.J. Pierzynski. It was the first time the catcher has walked twice in a game since 2012, and just the second occasion in the past five seasons. It also marked the third time Pierzynski has walked with the bases loaded for his career.

The Braves added one more in the eighth, with Maybin singling in Jonny Gomes. That run came against reliever Craig Breslow.

Red Sox manager John Farrell wasn’t able to stick around for the entirety of the game, getting tossed by umpire Larry Vanover after arguing a Pedro Ciriaco checked swing with two outs in the seventh inning. Earlier in the game Farrell had come out on the field to argue with Vanover on a play at first base involving Mookie Betts, with the manager having already used his challenge.

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John Farrell on D&H: Work ethic, energy, effort not ‘primary culprit’ of Sox’ struggles

06.17.15 at 4:04 pm ET
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Embattled manager John Farrell made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show on Wednesday before the third game of the Red Sox‘ home-and-home series with the Braves to talk about the team’s rough season. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Now that the Red Sox are shifting over to National League play with their trip down to Atlanta, the DH position will not be an option . For Wednesday’s game, Mike Napoli will get the start at first since Atlanta is trotting out a left-handed pitcher in Alex Wood, while David Ortiz will man first Thursday against righty Shelby Miller.

Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez make their returns to the lineup Wednesday as well after sitting on Tuesday, batting leadoff and fourth, respectively.

Farrell reflected on utility man Brock Holt’s feat of hitting for the cycle in Tuesday’s win, saying that the unlikelihood of doing so not only highlights the accomplishment itself but also Holt’s play.

“I think it’s got to be right there, from an offensive side, with a guy that hits three home runs in a game,” he said. “How it might compare to maybe a one-hit shutout, you just look at the uniqueness and how rarely it happens. I think that speaks for itself, but as it relates to Brock and what we’ve seen, how he’s improved as a player both the versatility — which, again, he’s played seven positions this year for us — and how he’s driving the ball more consistently, it’s been really fun to see his progress on an individual level come to the forefront.”

Holt has been heating up recently, excelling in the two-spot behind Pedroia with a .357/.438/.607 slash line in his past seven games and hits in 11 of his last 13 contests.

“Brock’s going to get regular at-bats, if not everyday at-bats,” Farrell said. “And particularly in the American League with our DH slot, he gives us such flexibility to rest guys, and under the current alignment with David being our everyday DH, it really allows us to spell other guys more frequently.”

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Xander Bogaerts batting third, Hanley Ramirez back, David Ortiz sits vs. Braves

06.17.15 at 3:51 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts moves back up to third in the batting order and David Ortiz gets the day off as the Red Sox try to extend their modest winning streak to two games as they begin a two-game set in Atlanta on Wednesday night.

Brock Holt, fresh off hitting for the cycle on Tuesday, gets the start in right field and is expected to be in the lineup virtually every day, though his versatility will allow him to play all over the field.

With Atlanta starting left-hander Alex Wood, Ortiz sits. Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez returns to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game and will play left field.

For matchup information, click here.

Here’s the batting order, with no DH because the game is being played in a National League park.

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Brock Holt RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez LF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Mike Napoli 1B
Mookie Betts CF
Blake Swihart C
Joe Kelly RHP

Buster Olney on MFB: ‘There’s just not that many sellers’ in baseball right now

06.17.15 at 2:12 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday afternoon to talk about the Red Sox, the AL East and other news around baseball. To hear the interview, go to the Middays with MFB audio on demand page.

While every other team in the AL East has seemed to have some sort of upswing during the past month, the Red Sox continue to slide. Olney said that the nature of the division this year makes certain runs by teams look more meaningful than they are because every team is so close.

“I think that Joe Girardi actually had a good line about it after the Yankees lost last night, and he was expressing frustration because they got blown out by the Marlins,” he noted. “He said, ‘You know what, that just might be the American League East this year,’ that you have everyone so closely bunched together that if you go on a five- or six-game run you look like you’re a World Series team, and then because the teams aren’t really that good, you’re capable of going on an extended losing streak … But in general, let’s face it, it’s a mediocre division. They’re all packed together.”

John Henry gave his backing of manager John Farrell a couple weeks ago, but after his team’s seven-game skid, there might be some shakiness there. Olney said that that’s not necessarily the case because there is likely another level between Farrell and Henry, and because Farrell’s experience with the team is so lengthy.

“The baseball operations department has essentially made the case on behalf of the people who were in the dugout saying ‘Look, it’s on us, what happens this year is on us and where they are right now, it’s on us,’ ” he said. “And so I do think there probably is a buffer between John Henry and John Farrell, and let’s face it, at some point they may just decided they’re going to ride it out in part because of the history that John has with the team. If he didn’t have the extensive history with the Red Sox, I think they probably would have already done something, but the fact that they won the World Series with him and he had the success under Tito [Terry Francona], I think that helps him get through a situation like this.”

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Brock Holt on MFB: ‘Everyone in our clubhouse feels like we’ve still got a shot’

06.17.15 at 12:52 pm ET
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Brock Holt

Brock Holt

Utility man Brock Holt joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox and the experience of hitting for the cycle Tuesday. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

With regard to the season as a whole, Holt expressed some disappointment and frustration with the way the team has played. However, he said Tuesday’s victory over the Braves provided a step in the right direction.

“It’s one of those things, whenever things are going wrong, it feels like everything goes wrong. When it rains, it pours. It’s our job to not think about that and try to stay as positive as we can. If something bad happens, put it past us and keep playing the game,” Holt said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.

“I think yesterday was a good step for us, especially offensively, putting together some good at-bats from pitch one to the last inning. And then obviously Wade [Miley] went out and did what he was supposed to do. I think yesterday was a good day for us overall.”

Holt was definitive in his proclamation that the team is still capable of making a run and qualifying for the playoffs.

“Absolutely. I feel like everyone in our clubhouse feels like we’ve still got a shot. The season’s not over for us. We’re going to continue to play. Like I said, hopefully at the end of the day, we do our job and all those things will kind of take care of themselves.”

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