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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington will give team chance to escape slump before exploring trades

05.12.15 at 12:51 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

With the Red Sox struggling as they open the West Coast portion of a 10-game road trip in their personal house of horrors — they’re just 2-11 in Oakland since 2012 — general manager Ben Cherington told reporters he believes the pieces are in place for the Red Sox to return to contention.

“We’€™re judged by the results,” Cherington said in O.Co Coliseum on Monday. “Thirty-one games in, our record isn’€™t what we want it to be, but it’€™s 31 games. We’€™ve got a lot of season to play good baseball and I’€™m confident we will.”

Cherington touched on a number of topics.

On the possibility of swinging a blockbuster trade:

“Not a lot of teams in that mode, but there wouldn’t normally be this time of year anyway. We’re not really there yet. There’s kind of a little bit of conversation, but not a lot yet. Probably more like the kind of trades that get made early in the season are ones where a team might be trying to find a spot for someone, moving some pieces around, but there’s not a lot of team-altering moves being discussed this early. Probably need a little bit of time on that.”

On the starting pitching staff:

“I believe we’€™ll pitch better and I believe we have a lot of the solutions here already. We’€™re trying to create some stability around that group. We lost two catchers in spring training and one earlier in the season, so that’€™s a change that affects pitching to some degree. We obviously changed the pitching coach and we want to see this group have a chance to perform with some stability around it. We believe they’€™ll perform well. Look, we’€™re always looking for ways to get better and will continue to do that as we get deeper into the season.”

On the struggling offense:

“We haven’€™t clicked offensively yet as a team. I still think we will. We have too many good players for the offense not to click as a group and so that will happen. . . . I think the offense is going to be fine. On an individual basis, have a run of at-bats and feel better about themselves. And as a group it’€™s just about doing what they can do and trusting the guy behind them. Letting that team’s offensive mindset take over.”

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Red Sox-Athletics series preview

05.11.15 at 10:46 am ET
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Stephen Vogt (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Stephen Vogt is hitting .321/.424/.786 with four home runs this month. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Sporting identical 3-7 records in their last 10 games, the Red Sox and Athletics are set to start a three-game series in Oakland to begin the week. The Sox picked up a win in Sunday’s Mother’s Day matinee against the Blue Jays, avoiding their second sweep in three series. Oakland is in a similar situation, winning just three games this month and riding a five-game losing streak and most recently, a sweep at the hands of the Mariners.

The A’s are a little worse off than Boston overall this season, as they own a 12-21 record and sit in last place of not only their division but the whole American League in winning percentage (.364).

Regardless, Oakland manager Bob Melvin said his team is better than its record and that the Athletics will start winning as they return home for the upcoming stint at O.co Coliseum.

“We’re in every game,” Melvin said after Sunday’s loss. “It’s small little things that are going to make the difference for us. And we’re going to start winning when we get home.

“It’s never about the effort,” Melvin added. “The effort’s always there. It’s about some of the other things that we need to tighten up. We walk too many people at times. Defensively, we’re Jekyll and Hyde.”

The A’s have the worst fielding percentage in the majors, ringing in at 97.3 percent, and have committed the most errors of any team at 33. In turn, the Sox are top 10 with a .986 percentage and 22nd for errors with 17. Because of that, Oakland has given up 20 unearned runs, second only to the Nationals (25).

Despite its poor defense and record, Oakland features a productive offense. The A’s are tied for fourth in the league in runs scored with 153 and are second among all 30 teams with 301 hits. As a team, they are hitting .258/.315/.397 with a fifth-best 146 RBIs and a top-10-worthy 93 extra-base hits.

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Read More: Marcus Semien, Oakland A's, Oakland Athletics, Sonny Gray

Monday’s Red Sox-Athletics matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Scott Kazmir

05.11.15 at 10:25 am ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello gets the start as the Red Sox continue their road trip with a visit to Oakland on Monday night. The A’s will send out a pitcher who has become familiar with the Sox over the years, Scott Kazmir.

After an inconsistent start to the season, Porcello has settled down over his last two outings. He has recorded two wins in a row with back-to-back seven-inning appearances against the Blue Jays and Rays. After struggling with home run balls in his first few starts, Porcello kept the ball in the park in each of those games. The 26-year-old also has been inducing more ground balls of late, as 50 percent of balls in play were on the ground in his last start, compared to times when he has struggled this year and that number dropped to 40  and 20 percent.

In his last start, a seven-inning shutout of the Rays, Porcello allowed eight hits, all of them singles, while walking none and striking out six.

“Seven strong innings. He scattered eight hits,” manager John Farrell said after the game. “We turned an uncommon double play to get out of a potential jam. The biggest thing was he didn’t walk anyone, and I thought after the fourth inning, those final three innings, he threw the ball down in the strike zone a little bit more consistently. But on a day where we needed a strong performance, he gave it to us.”

Porcello now leads Red Sox starters with a 4.38 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, and is second with a .250 batting average against.

In 11 career outings against the A’s, Porcello is 4-5 with a 3.73 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP, 26 strikeouts and 20 walks. He has made seven appearances at O.co Coliseum, going 1-for-4 with a 5.09 ERA, a 1.78 WHIP and five home runs allowed in 35 1/3 innings of work.

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Read More: Oakland Athletics, Red Sox, rick porcello, Scott Kazmir

Closing Time: Clay Buchholz, home runs help Red Sox bounce back

05.10.15 at 3:46 pm ET
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TORONTO — New pitching coach. New Clay Buchholz. And, perhaps most important, a new offense.

All of it added up to just the second win this month for the Red Sox, a 6-3 decision over the Blue Jays Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

With newly-hired Carl Willis looking on for the first time as the Sox’ pitchers’ mentor, Buchholz turned in one of his better outings of the season. The righty improved to 11-3 for his career at the home of the Jays, where he came into the series finale carrying 2.16 ERA.

This time around, Buchholz allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking three. It lowered his ERA to 5.73 for the season.

“It stinks to lose, regardless of the level you play at, it stinks to lose but I think everybody here takes it to heart,” Buchholz said. “We’re the Boston Red Sox and this team’s built around winning. When you’re not doing that or you’re not getting the breaks, it sort of wears on you. But from the first at-bat, [a triple from Mookie Betts], the ball could have been caught but it wasn’t so we took that as a break and started using that to our advantage and staying positive in there. Guys had really good at-bats.”

Helping the Red Sox starter was a Red Sox offense which jumped out to a rare first-inning lead. Thanks in large part to Mike Napoli‘s three-run blast, the Sox totaled a 4-0 advantage off of Toronto hurler R.A. Dickey before Buchholz even took the mound.

When it was all said and done, every Red Sox starter except Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley had reached base, with Dickey having allowed six runs in his six innings.

For an offense that had scored two or fewer runs in six of its eight games this month, it was a welcome change.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Buchholz. While he wasn’t spectacular, the righty allowed the Red Sox to hang on to their early lead without much worry. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Napoli‘s home run was a welcome sight for the Red Sox. Not only did it drive in both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, but it suggested the first baseman might be escaping his season-long slump. It was Napoli’s third homer of the season, pushing his RBI total to 10. He has now reached base in five straight games.

“The way we played today is the way we know we can play,” Napoli said. “Contributions from everybody ‘€” defense, offense, the pitching. That’€™s the way we should play the game. That’€™s the way we expect to play the game every day. Hopefully this means good things to come.”

– Sandoval’s two-run blast in the fifth inning gave the Red Sox and Buchholz some much-needed breathing room. The rocket over the right field fence was his third homer of the season, and continued his torrid pace against right-handers. The third baseman came into Sunday hitting .380 with a .968 OPS against right-handed pitchers.

– Junichi Tazawa managed to escape his 1 2/3-inning outing without much incident, which is saying something considering his struggles at Rogers Centre. Coming into Sunday, the righty reliever had totaled a 7.88 ERA at the home of the Jays, with opposing hitters claiming a 1.265 OPS against him. This time he gave up just one hit.

– Koji Uehara picked up his sixth save of the season, pitching a ninth inning in which he walked one.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– The Red Sox did manage to score two of their runners in scoring position — on Dustin Pedroia‘s RBI ground out, scoring Mookie Betts (who had led off the game with a triple), and Napoli’s homer — but stranded four others. For May, the Sox are now 7-for-65.

– Betts was picked off first base in the ninth inning by Toronto reliever Brett Cecil. It was the first time a Red Sox baserunner has been picked off this season.

– Buchholz rolled his ankle a bit in the fifth inning, but proclaimed himself OK after the game.

“Pretty sore, but all right,” he said. “Going toward first base to cover first, ball hit to Nap and my left foot landed in the hole I was landing in going to home plate. Had my ankles taped fortunately so I think that saved me from being too bad.”

Red Sox notes: No rotation shake-up yet; Jackie Bradley to enter right field mix

05.10.15 at 3:09 pm ET
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TORONTO — The arrival of a new pitching coach didn’t mean there was a new starting rotation … yet.

Prior to his team’s series finale against the Blue Jays Sunday, John Farrell said that the Red Sox didn’t have any immediate plans to shake-up the starting rotation, although he wouldn’t rule it out in the near future.

“Not at the present moment,” said Farrell regarding any changes to the starting rotation. “Now, that’€™s always up for review and we’€™ll see how we continue to progress through the rotation another turn or two.”

One potential candidate for a move to the bullpen could be Joe Kelly, who carries a 6.35 ERA in six starts after allowing six runs on four hits and seven walks in his 5 2/3-inning stint Saturday.

“For the time being,” said Farrell when asked if Kelly would remain in the starting rotation. “Partly because of a chance for [new pitching coach] Carl [Willis] to get involved with him and yet we don’€™t deny the stuff that’€™s there. Despite the high number of walks, uncharacteristic number of walks yesterday, there’€™s no denying his stuff. It’€™s a matter of how we can make him most effective.”

Kelly does have history in the bullpen, spending 30 games as a reliever during his time with St. Louis. In that role he posted a 3.25 ERA, striking out 49 and walking 14.

“We’€™re well aware of his track record or experience with pitching in both roles, but we’€™re not making a change to the rotation as of today,” Farrell said.

– With the promotion of Jackie Bradley, talked turned to what role he might play.

Bradley, who was hitting .343 with an .857 OPS with Triple-A Pawtucket, started in right field Sunday. It’s a spot he might find himself in more times than not with the Red Sox easing Shane Victorino back into action.

“When Vic gets back to us Vic is going to get the left-handed starters if not more,” said Farrell of Victorino, who was scheduled to fly with the team to Oakland Sunday night. “But Jackie’€™s arrival here gives us a premium defender. Certainly like him against a lot of right-handed pitching so we’€™ll find the right matchups. I’€™m not going to say it’€™s a strict platoon situation by any means but I think it’€™s important for us to find when we’€™ve got a situation or matchup we’€™ve got to take advantage of.”

When asked before the game what he was succeeding at on a more regular basis than a year ago, Bradley said, “Making contact.” With the PawSox, he struck out just 15 times in 105 plate appearances. With the Red Sox last season, the outfielder fanned 121 times in 415 trips to the plate.

– A day after joining David Ortiz in leading a players-only, post-game meeting, Dustin Pedroia sent another message Sunday morning. The second baseman was in full uniform nearly three hours before first pitch.

“I you never know, they might start the game early,” he quipped.

Hanley Ramirez on shoulder injury: ‘It’s a work in progress’

05.10.15 at 2:25 pm ET
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TORONTO — Hanley Ramirez is back in action, but he admits that the left shoulder strain he suffered last Monday is still an issue.

“It’s a work in progress,” the Red Sox left fielder said prior to his team’s game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre Sunday afternoon. “They need me on the field, so I have to be on the field and try and help the team win games.”

Then, when asked what baseball activity was most hindered by the shoulder ailment, Ramirez responded, “Losing the game.”

Ramirez was making his second start since leaving the Sox’s May 4 against the Rays in the first inning, injuring his shoulder while colliding with the Fenway Park wall along the left field line.

In his first three at-bats Sunday, Ramirez grounded to shortstop twice and rifled a single to left field. It followed up his four at-bats Saturday, in which he went hitless while striking out once.

After his second at-bat in the series finale, Ramirez could be be seen wiggling his left shoulder after running down to first base. He remained in the game and hit the line-drive base-hit in his next time up.

The question now is this: will the ailment — which is on the same shoulder he has had a pair of surgeries — become a lingering issue?

“I hope not, but I don’t try and think about it,” said Ramirez, who said the injury isn’t the same as what he went through in 2007 and ’11. “I keep doing my exercises and getting treatment every day. We’re going to stay on top of it.”

It was very evident what kind of hole Ramirez leaves in the lineup when not playing, particularly with some key elements in the middle of the order (David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Pablo Sandoval) struggling against left-handers.

In the four games Ramirez did not not see an at-bat, the Red Sox hit .169 with a .575 OPS. Ramirez entered Sunday hitting .271 with a .910 OPS and 10 home runs.

“We’€™re here to win. It’€™s a long season and you’€™re going to have ups and downs,” he said. “When you get down you have to keep your head up, try and get out of hit and go from there. Things happen for a reason. I’€™m just trying to keep working and I’€™m happy to be on the field.”

Red Sox add Jackie Bradley, Steven Wright; option Allen Craig, Robbie Ross Jr.

05.10.15 at 10:08 am ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

TORONTO — In wake of the Red Sox‘ three-game losing streak, and seven of their last eight, they have attempted to shake things up.

Jackie Bradley has joined the team in Toronto for Sunday’s game, and Allen Craig has been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket (he did have options, which made the move possible).

Bradley was hitting .343 in 24 games with Pawtucket this season, while Craig was hitting just .135 in 52 at-bats. Craig will get everyday at-bats in Triple-A as the organization hopes to get him back to his days in St. Louis where he hit over .300 in three straight seasons.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright has also joined the team, with reliever Robbie Ross Jr. being optioned. Ross Jr. didn’t record an out Saturday, allowing three runs on four hits. Wright, who has a few years of major league experience, has an ERA of 3.66 in 11 games.

Before Sunday’s series finale, Red Sox manager John Farrell explained the moves.

“With Robbie we felt the need existed a couple times for some added length and that’€™s why Steven Wright is here to provide that,” Farrell said. “With three lefthanders in the bullpen we felt we like we could go back to a guy with a little bit more length in steven so the move was made there.

“With Allen, not an easy decision. I think more importantly when we sat and met at the outset of spring training we talked about focusing on spring training and getting him back to the best hitter he can be and reestablish his strengths and felt like we were able to get some momentum going. When spring training was coming to an end we knew the role was going to be different. We knew it was going to be more of a reserve role and how he best fit into getting his at-bats and try to maintain the momentum created in spring training that’€™s been a difficult thing for Allen. We set him out to try to get back on track and get more regular and consistent at-bats, not only for his own production but maybe get him into a situation where he can come back in here and help us. This is as much about Allen as it is about us and the current stretch we’€™re going through and felt like the best and and most clear path to get us back on track was to have every player hopefully preforming to the best of their abilities and for allen that means more regular at-bats at triple-a for the time being.”

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Read More: Allen Craig, jackie bradley, Robbie Ross Jr., steven wright

Sunday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. R.A. Dickey

05.10.15 at 9:24 am ET
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The Red Sox will wrap up a three-game series in Toronto with Clay Buchholz on the mound against R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays.

Buchholz has had trouble maintaining consistency after his great start on Opening Day. In his last start, the 30-year-old went 6 1/3 innings against the Rays, allowing five runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out seven. He gave up two runs in each of the first two innings before settling in and not allowing Tampa Bay to score again until the seventh. In the second inning, Buchholz gave up a two-run home run to designated hitter Joey Butler. It was the first home run of Butler’s career. The loss dropped Buchholz’ record to 1-4.

“I felt like I settled in fairly decent,” Buchholz said after the game. “There were a lot of pitches I didn’t feel like I got the benefit of the doubt on on the strike zone, but you can’t let that affect you. There’s going to be a lot of times that’s the way you feel about it. For the most part I felt like I threw the ball well, the line doesn’t show for it and the loss is not good either.”

Buchholz takes his 6.03 ERA and 1.60 WHIP to face a Blue Jays lineup that has been one of the most productive in baseball to this point. In his last outing against Toronto, which came at Fenway Park in late April, he made it through just 2 2/3 innings and gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out four.

Through six outings, Buchholz has not been very fortunate in the run support department, as the Red Sox have been held to just one run in three of his starts.

In 13 career starts at the Rogers Centre, Buchholz is 8-3 with a 2.16 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, 61 strikeouts and 33 walks.

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, R.A. Dickey, Red Sox,

Red Sox trade right-handed reliever Edward Mujica to Oakland A’s

05.09.15 at 11:31 pm ET
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Edward Mujica

Edward Mujica

The Red Sox on Saturday night announced that they’ve traded right-handed reliever Edward Mujica and cash to the A’s for a player to be named later, or cash.

Mujica was designated for assignment on Friday after a rough start to the season. In 11 appearances, Mujica went 1-1 with a 4.61 ERA. He allowed 15 hits and walked three while striking out eight in 13.2 innings.

Mujica never found his stride with the Red Sox after signing a two-year deal in December of 2013. In 75 games with the Red Sox, the former Cardinals All-Star went 3-5 with eight saves and a 4.03 ERA.

He also proved unreliable in late innings over each of the last two seasons, particularly at the start of each campaign. He opened this year as the interim closer with Koji Uehara on the disabled list, but the lasting memory of Mujica in a Red Sox uniform will likely be the game-tying solo homer he allowed against the Yankees with two outs in the ninth on April 10, opening the door for what became a 19-inning Red Sox victory.

That the A’s would acquire Mujica should come as no surprise. Oakland relievers have already lost nine games, dropping the A’s to last place in the AL West.

Red Sox officially hire Carl Willis as pitching coach

05.09.15 at 6:05 pm ET
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After about 24 hours of speculation, the Red Sox have officially hired Carl Willis as their new pitching coach after Juan Nieves was fired on Thursday.

Willis comes from the Columbus Clippers, the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate, although he does have plenty of major league experience. He was the Indians’ pitching coach from 2003-09 and the Mariners‘ pitching coach from 2010-12.

He was with Cleveland for the entirety of manager John Farrell‘€™s stint as the organization’€™s Director of Player Development from November 2001-2006 and rejoined the Indians as a special assistant to baseball operations in 2014.

Willis’ first day will be Sunday in Toronto.

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