|09.11.14 at 11:38 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.)
Stephen Drew wasn’t simply sent to the Yankees as some kind of Trojan Horse. The Red Sox recognized, even hoped, that he might help New York. But the team’s desire to see Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third down the stretch was so compelling that they were willing to aid an enemy with whom they had not dealt since 1997.
Bogaerts has rewarded that strategy. He has shown growing comfort both at shortstop and back in the batter’s box down the stretch, laying what both the player and the team hope will prove to be a springboard for greater success in 2015.
Middlebrooks has been another story. The third baseman entered Thursday hitting .173 with a .209 OBP and .218 slugging mark in 32 games since the trade of Drew, and marks of .182/.249/.260 on the year. He had gone 10 straight games without a multi-hit performance; he collected two hits (and no more than two hits) in five of his first 53 games.
Team officials still believe that the same player who made a splash in the big leagues in 2012 — delivering arguably the best rookie performance of any Red Sox position player since Dustin Pedroia — still is present, but is dormant inside the struggling third baseman. While belief in his potential remains present in the organization, however, the validation of that faith has been rare.
And so, nights like Thursday matter to those who seek evidence of Middlebrooks the producer. The 26-year-old went 2-for-4 with a double , a walk and an RBI. He managed to lay off breaking stuff off the plate away, manage his at-bats and hit the ball hard. The game marked his second of the year (first since May 1, when he had two hits and got hit by a pitch) in which he reached base three times.
It was the sort of contest that served as something of a reminder — in the same venue where Middlebrooks had one of his most dominant early-career performances, slamming homers down both lines and nearly driving a ball out to center near the start of his big league career in 2012 — from a player who has plenty to prove down the stretch in order to win a roster spot in 2015.
Middlebrooks and the Sox did some spoiling, beating the AL Central-leading Royals, 6-3.
OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT THURSDAY’S GAME Read the rest of this entry »
|09.11.14 at 10:33 pm ET|
Dustin Pedroia is out for the rest of the year. Brock Holt, after the persistence of symptoms (nausea and light-headedness) that were initially viewed as the flue, is now on his way to see a concussion specialist. And so, with second base in flux, Mookie Betts will move back to second base, the position where he’d spent nearly all of his professional career until this May when the Sox had him transition to the outfield.
The Sox had initially resisted the idea of moving Betts back to second based on their desire to give him consistent exposure to his new position. But that commitment was based on the expectation that Holt would be the everyday second baseman. With Holt sidelined, the team viewed moving Betts to second as a chance to get regular playing time in center for Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo. Manager John Farrell said that Betts, who took grounders with infield coach Brian Butterfield prior to Thursday’s game, could get a start at second as soon as Friday.
“With Pedey being done for the remainder of the year, we’ll look to get Mookie at second base going forward,” Farrell told reporters. “With Castillo coming, center field would be shared by Jackie and Rusney. … It’s based on the changes that have taken place to the roster. It was unforeseen. At the time, when Pedey went down, Brock was going to get the remainder of the reps at second, but with that being in question, this is a chance to keep Mookie on the field every day and get Jackie and Rusney on the field as well.”
Despite the fact that Betts will play second base to give the team an opportunity to offer playing time to Bradley and Castillo, Farrell said the Sox have not altered their outlook of the 21-year-old as someone who can patrol the outfield. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.11.14 at 4:43 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced that second baseman Dustin Pedroia underwent “successful” surgery on his left wrist from which he is expected to make a full receovery. Pedroia informed WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that while he wasn’t certain of the timetable for a return to workouts, the surgery went “great” and he will be “back to normal soon finally.”
Here is the team’s announcement:
The procedure was performed by Dr. Matt Leibman at Newton-Wellesley Surgery Center in Wellesley, MA.
Pedroia is expected to make a full recovery.
|09.11.14 at 11:55 am ET|
Koji Uehara has been through this before, that doesn’t make it any easier.
Talking prior to the Red Sox‘ series finale against the Orioles Wednesday, Uehara admitted that while he is familiar with the realities that come with the kind of stretch he finds himself on — having experienced such a downturn in 2011. But he also noted that doesn’t guarantee any quick fixes.
“It’s still not there,” he said through a translator regarding the life on his split-finger fastball.
Uehara threw an extended bullpen session Tuesday, having still not pitched in a game since Sept. 4. In his last six outings — starting Aug. 16 — he has totaled a 19.29 ERA (10 runs, 4.2 innings), with opponents hitting an even .500.
“It’s more mental,” Uehara explained. “Once I go up against the hitter I might be able to get it back, but that’s something I’ll have to do in a game.”
The timing of Uehara’s issues with the Rangers were eerily similar, although not as striking as his current plight. In ’11, his first hiccup came on Aug. 17 and extended to Sept. 11, encompassing a 7.71 ERA in nine appearances (6 runs, 7 innings).
The good news for Uehara is that the results were altered dramatically over his final seven outings in ’11, not allowing a run and just one hit. Still, even with the improvement, the righty didn’t feel his problems had been totally resolved by the time the regular season came to an end.
It’s why he remains somewhat skeptical regarding the current timetable.
“I think there are some similarities,” he said, citing that the stretch in Texas was also not related to any physical issues. “I feel like it might be a little bit difficult to be completely there by the end of the season because in Texas I finished off in kind of a bad way. So we’ll see.”
As for reclaiming his role as a closer by season’s end, or worrying about what the results might mean to his impending free agency, Uehara said he isn’t getting sidetracked for such issues.
“To me it’s not too big a deal to become a closer. I just want to be healthy and finish out the season,” said Uehara, who then added, “Right now I don’t think about who I’m going to be playing for. I’m just going to do my best and see what happens in free agency.”
|09.11.14 at 10:01 am ET|
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning and promised that ownership has “a lot of money to spend” and is “determined” to restore the team to competitiveness after the disastrous 2014 season is over. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“Last year, as we all know, was just a dream. This year is a nightmare,” Werner said. “It’s been painful. I was at the game yesterday and it was just not a good experience for the fans, it wasn’t a good experience for the players, it wasn’t a good experience for me. The only thing I can take from it is we are determined to get back to being in first next year. But this has really been a nightmare this year.”
Werner assured that ownership will spend the money needed to help return to the team to the top.
“This is the first year that we have not been competitive around Labor Day,” he said. “The one thing that I think that trade that we made with the Dodgers [in 2013] gave us was extreme flexibility. We know we have to add some front-line talent. We spent some time over the last few weeks talking about exactly what we can do to improve. I think that our trades at the end of July attacked the fact that we had a lack of offense. I think [Yoenis] Cespedes is a key player for us going forward. I think our signing of [Rusney] Castillo is good. But we know we need some front-line pitching talent.
“I wouldn’t say that we have limitless money, but we’ve got a lot of money to spend and we’re determined to go into the free agent market and improve the team.”
Asked what can be learned from this season, Werner pointed to the failures of the rookies.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s very difficult to repeat, but I think that we probably put a bit more stock in our younger players performing at the level we expected them to,” he said. “I know it’s always difficult to break a few rookies into your lineup. And we certainly didn’t get the offense all through the lineup that we expected this year, except for a couple of key players like David Ortiz. The players underperformed.
“That doesn’t mean that I don’t see encouraging signs. I see that [Xander] Bogaerts, the last couple of weeks I was just reading he’s batting about .360, Mookie Betts has certainly shown signs of being a terrific major league player, and Brock Holt. But I think we probably put too much stock in the replacements that we expected to come out and perform.”
|09.11.14 at 9:12 am ET|
Over his last six starts Buchholz (7-8, 5.29 ERA) has pitched like he did during the first half of 2013. In those outings, he’s pitched at least six innings every time, having only one start where he gave up more than three runs. During August, the pitcher’s batting average against (.220) was the lowest it was all season.
The right-hander won his previous matchup on Saturday against the division-rival Blue Jays. After 6 1/3 innings of four-hit, two-run ball, Buchholz finished another quality start and recorded his seventh win of the season. This followed a three-hit shutout on Aug. 31 against the Rays.
“At some point in the game, I’m using each and every one of my pitches in an effective way,” Buchholz said after his start against Toronto. “Regardless of it being two pitches in one inning to get outs, I’m using them and I have confidence in them.”
“When he came back off the DL there was improved stuff overall, so his velocity picked up some as did his action to his two-seamer,” Farrell said of Buchholz’s improvements. “And I think because of that, it’s given him some confidence to attack the strike zone early, work ahead in the counts. And he’s been on a run that, to me, is very reminiscent of what he did first half of last year. And he’s pitched with a lot of confidence.”
Buchholz previously faced the Royals on July 10 and did not have one of his better outings. He did get the win, but he gave up four runs on 10 hits in six innings of work. Eric Hosmer did the most significant damage with three hits and two RBIs.
|09.11.14 at 9:07 am ET|
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, during his Thursday morning appearance on Dennis & Callahan, recounted his brush with death on the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“Today is sort of a painful day for me,” Werner said. “I was on Flight 11 [the Los Angeles-bound plane that was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center] for almost until the last minute — I changed my flight plan the night before. And I knew people who passed away in the World Trade Center. Every September 11th I kind of wake up in the morning and just think about that horrible, horrible day.”
Werner explained that his then-girlfriend, popular television morning-show host Katie Couric, played a key role in his decision to alter his travel plans.
“She asked me to come down to New York the night before,” Werner recalled. “I actually was up here [in Boston] negotiating to acquire the Red Sox with a group of other people, and our negotiating session ended on September 10th early. So I asked her to meet me in New York, and I flew out on the first flight on September 11th [from New York].
“I was just talking to my daughter this morning — they didn’t know I was in New York that night, so they thought I was on that first flight out of Boston on the 11th. It was just a horrible, horrible day. I think they thought I passed away on that terrible tragedy, the first few hours.”
Check the Full Count blog later for more from the Werner interview.
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