|09.21.14 at 1:40 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — The open audition for spots in the 2015 Red Sox rotation are wrapping up, with two pitchers having concluded their late-2014 cases and one more being a chance to make his.
John Farrell outlined the rotation for the final week of the season, which will feature Anthony Ranaudo, Clay Buchholz and Allen Webster pitching against the Rays, followed by the possibility of knuckleballer Steven Wright on Friday against the Yankees, with Joe Kelly and Buchholz logging the final two games of the year. Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman will be available in the bullpen for the final week of the season, while Wright would be making his first start of 2014 and his second in the big leagues.
At one point, it appeared that De La Rosa had secured a spot in the Red Sox’ rotation for 2015, but his seven-start stumble to the finish line (7.16 ERA with an opponents’ line of .355/.405/.514) has raised some questions about whether his future is in the rotation or bullpen. When he pitches down in the strike zone, he shows the ability to compete as a starter, but the 25-year-old ended up having an increasingly difficult time doing that as the year progressed, with his nine-hit, six-run, four-inning effort against the Orioles having featured the right-hander pitching up in the strike zone, and getting hit hard, with his fastball. He still tops out in the mid- and high-90s, but the Sox have seen his average velocity tailing off at a time when he’s now up to a career-high 160 innings, up roughly 45 percent from his prior career peak. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.21.14 at 9:49 am ET|
Kelly (4-4, 2.28 ERA) was victorious in his outing against the Royals last Sunday Kauffman Stadium. He gave up four runs in the second inning, including a three-run home run by Eric Hosmer, but he recovered to pitch six innings and did not allow a hit after the one bad frame. A three-run home run from Xander Bogaerts and a grand slam from Daniel Nava paved the way for Kelly’s win.
Manager John Farrell liked the way Kelly came back to pitch effectively after a rough second inning.
“He had a five-hitter span where they did a pretty good job of getting into some fastball counts, and I think after the second inning he and David [Ross] clearly made an adjustment by using his curveball a little bit more,” Farrell said. “He’s got such electric stuff that he settled in and pitched a solid six innings for us.”
Over his past four outings, Kelly has pitched at least six innings and has not been charged with more than four runs in a single start. Though he did not record a win through his first two months with the Red Sox, the right-hander has posted a 2-1 record with a 4.74 ERA in three September starts.
His only loss in the month, however, came against the Orioles. Kelly gave up three runs over six innings on Sept. 8. He didn’t get any help from the Red Sox defense, which committed three errors. The Red Sox bats did him no favors either, as they were shut out by Gonzalez in that one.
|09.20.14 at 9:57 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — Rubby De La Rosa is sputtering toward the finish line.
Coming into the start against the O’s, De La Rosa had gone 0-3 with a 6.91 ERA and .352 batting average against in his previous six outings.
Before the game, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that De La Rosa would make one more start before the end of the regular season. The righty has, however, seemingly hit a wall already, having thrown a career-high 160 innings (between the minors and majors).
De La Rosa isn’t alone in having to fight through unchartered territory when it comes to workload, with Allen Webster (174 combined innings), Anthony Ranaudo (170) and Brandon Workman (148 1/3) all reaching career highs.
“I think what that group is learning along the way is that it’s a sizable jump from Triple A to here and the ability to go through a lineup three times is a challenge,” Farrell said. “That comes down to consistency from pitch to pitch. It’s not a matter of stuff. It’s a matter of learning challenges at the major league level.”
The manager added, “They’re all candidates. How strong they’re going to be is different from guy to guy and part of what we’re trying to get our arms around this September is some kind of pref order to that group.”
Here is a look at how De La Rosa’s stuff has slightly waned (courtesy BrooksBaseball.net):
This time De La Rosa ran into trouble the second time through the lineup, giving up two runs in the third and fourth innings. Coming into the game, the righty had allowed a .340 batting average after throwing his first 25 pitches.
“I’m sure it’s getting to that point,” said Farrell regarding De La Rosa’s fatigue due to his innings total. “He’s at a point and time where he’s not pitched this many innings in his entire career so we have to take that into account. There’s been no decision on any changes to the rotation going forward but all these things will be brought into play.”
Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves also offered a possible explanation regarding De La Rosa’s recent struggles.
“Making adjustments through the game. I will pinpoint this: he never established anything,” Nieves noted. “He never established his fastball. He never established anything. He just threw stuff out there, hoped it would stick and swing and miss. That’s probably the biggest thing. It also comes from a young kid who has a great fastball and a plus changeup, working on spinnability and seeing what fits. His repertoire is something he can manipulate other than the two pitches he has. It’s not adding another pitch, it’s what else can we do.”
One of the lone bright spots for the Red Sox was David Ortiz‘ 35th home run, giving him his highest HR total since 2007.
Rusney Castillo also extended his career hitting streak to three games, claiming his first non-infield base-hit in the ninth on a line-drive to center field off of Tommy Hunter.
Christian Vazquez also threw out another baserunner trying to steal (Alejandro De Aza), giving him a 13-for-27 success rate. It allowed him to pass Yadier Molina for best caught stealing percentage for catchers playing 49 games or more.
“His transfer and his footwork and his accuracy and his arm strength, all that is above average,” Farrell said of his catcher. “When you consider the game awareness and his ability to make the throws that he does, it has been impressive. To me, he’s quickly gaining a reputation around the league that he’s a shutdown thrower type of catcher. Defensively, he continues to do a very good and consistent job.”
|09.20.14 at 5:58 pm ET|
De La Rosa’s last two starts have not gone exactly as planned. Against the Royals last Saturday, the right-hander (4-7, 4.31 ERA) was charged for two runs in the first inning and then allowed three more in the fifth. De La Rosa’s final four-inning line included six hits and two strikeouts.
Manager John Farrell said after De La Rosa’s last start that the team plans on restricting the pitcher’s innings because of the amount he’s pitched in both the major and minor leagues this season.
“We are limiting his innings pitched, but we don’t want to shut him down,” Farrell said. “There’s some benefit to be had by continuing through his work routine through the end of the season, and that’s a primary goal right now.”
His start vs. the Blue Jays on Sept. 7 was almost identical to his one against Kansas City. De La Rosa lasted four innings and gave up three runs on seven hits. The big blow in the game came when Jose Bautista hit a three-run home in the fifth inning, ending Dela Rosa’s afternoon.
Since the second half of the season began, De La Rosa has struggled to have any consistency. In 11 starts since the All-Star break, he has an ERA over five and a 2-5 record. Hitters have feasted on him with a .325 batting average. By the time De La Rosa reaches the 26-pitch mark in a game, players are hitting .340 with a .894 OPS against him.
De La Rosa made one start vs. the Orioles back on June 11. He was roughed up for three runs in the first inning, but recovered to pitch 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs.
“I thought tonight was an important learning experience for him, the way in which he needs to use his fastball,” Farrell said after the game. “Quickly the word spreads around this league on what an individual pitcher will go to. I thought once he started to use his fastball more from the third inning on, he forced some swings and made his changeup and his breaking pitches that much more effective.”
|09.19.14 at 11:54 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — Decades from now, assuming that baseball does not hurtle towards a clockless extinction, David Ortiz will remain a reference point in Red Sox history, a necessary landmark and point of comparison for any slugger in the team’s uniform.
Ortiz slammed a pair of homers — the 33rd and 34th of his season — while driving in three runs, not only propelling his team to a 5-3 victory over the Orioles in 10 innings but also eclipsing 100 RBIs, in the process, crossing the 30-100 threshold for the eighth time in his Red Sox career. He now stands alone in team history for the most such seasons in Sox history, leaving behind Ted Williams, who had seven in his illustrious career.
The volume of seasons Ortiz has produced while reaching recognizable slugging plateaus is impressive enough in its own right. The fact that he is still producing at this level as a 38-year-old qualifies as astonishing and historic. Ortiz became the sixth player in big league history at the age of 38 (or older) to reach 30 homers and 100 RBIs, joining Babe Ruth, Fred McGriff, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Frank Thomas.
“They call me Super Papi,” Ortiz grinned. “That’s right. Put it down like that.”
|09.19.14 at 10:49 pm ET|
(For the final month of the regular season, ‘Closing Time’ will be called ‘Why you should have cared,’ looking beyond the final score ‘ at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) ‘ for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)
BALTIMORE — Reality check: The Red Sox offense has been little better than atrocious this year. The team entered Friday with the fewest runs (583) and runs per game (3.81) of any club in the American League. And so, when a player proves capable of delivering run production within that group, it commands notice.
In an otherwise forgettable year, David Ortiz has commanded plenty of notice. The slugger continued to do just that in the Sox’ 5-3, 10-inning victory over the Orioles on Friday night, slamming a pair of homers — his 34th and 35th of the year — and driving in three runs — his 100th, 101st and 102nd of 2014 — to further distinguish his place in Red Sox history.
He now has eight 30/100 seasons with the Red Sox, breaking a tie with Ted Williams for the most such years in franchise history. He is the sixth player ever to produce a 30/100 season at the age of 38 or later (joining Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff and Babe Ruth) His 34 homers are his most since hitting 35 in 2007. He is in the top five in the American League in both homers and RBIs.
On a team that has had a shortage of even average performances to buttress him, Ortiz has remained elite.
OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT FRIDAY’S GAME
Mookie Betts, in his first exposure to the big leagues, has proven capable of delivering excitement. Friday night at Camden Yards offered a glimpse of what increasingly looks like a player with game-changing offensive abilities.
Against a pitcher considered one of the top young talents in the game in Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, Betts had three tremendous at-bats in an eventual 2-for-5 game. He drilled a 2-1 fastball for a long flyout to the warning track, about 400 feet from home plate, to open the game, spit on a pair of sliders before smoking a 95 mph 2-0 fastball up the middle for a single in the third and then navigated an 11-pitch at-bat that included six two-strike foul balls (three on splitters, three on fastballs) before ripping a liner up the middle for a single. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.19.14 at 6:57 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting .203 with a .271 OBP and .272 slugging mark this year. Christian Vazquez is hitting .217/.278/.268.
Yet whereas Bradley’s offensive performance in 414 plate appearances has raised questions about his future big league role, the Sox have a more optimistic view of Vazquez’s offensive performance.
“He’s handled different types of pitching well. The batting average, I recognize what it is. He’s squared up a number of balls. Sometimes they haven’t fallen. I think he’s doing a very good job for us in all phases and I wouldn’t be, I guess the best way to say it … his batting average, that doesn’t concern me right now.”
Asked if he viewed Vazquez as a big league-caliber hitter right now, Farrell didn’t hesitate to answer in the affirmative. He cited Vazquez’s ability to execute in the details of the game, primarily by getting the bat on the ball (whether for sacrifice bunts or situational hitting), in explaining his view. (Worth noting: Bradley has struck out in 28.3 percent of plate appearances this year; Vazquez has struck out in just 16.2 percent of plate appearances.)
“Setting aside the batting average, there’s the ability to handle a bat. He can execute the small game. He can hit to the situation. He’s a very good situational hitter, including being able to sacrifice with great consistency,” said Farrell. “He’s probably one of the more, I would say he’s one of the more complete hitters that has come to us, setting aside the batting average.”
Farrell said that he could envision Vazquez as his Opening Day catcher — though he noted that having him in such a role in 2015 might depend on the shape of the rest of the roster.
“I think he’s ready and capable of handling that [Opening Day starting] role. I think what will be as important is who is paired up with him,” said Farrell. “That’s not to eliminate anyone that’s here. That’s not to suggest who that might be. Christian is, I think, in short order, has gained a reputation around the league to be somewhat of a shutdown thrower with the aggressiveness of his picks, of his throws to bags. Like we said, he’s a focal point for a team when they’re on offense, to have to contend with behind the plate.” Read the rest of this entry »
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