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Why You Should Have Cared About Tuesday’s Red Sox Game: A 2015 outfield conundrum

09.23.14 at 10:26 pm ET
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Yoenis Cespedes has not looked comfortable playing in front of the famed left field wall at Fenway Park. (Getty Images)

Yoenis Cespedes has not looked comfortable playing in front of the famed left field wall at Fenway Park. (Getty Images)

Thanks to their midseason remake, the Red Sox have a glut of outfielders. But how they align them in 2015 remains anyone’s guess.

Mookie Betts (currently playing second) has shown the most promise of the lot, yet the Sox just signed Rusney Castillo to a $72.5 million deal with the expectation that his best position is center field. Castillo could, of course, also play right field, though Shane Victorino remains on the roster. Corner outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig has rarely been seen in the lineup, and when he has, he’s struggled horribly. And while Yoenis Cespedes has shown some intriguing tools, he both expressed discomfort with the idea of shifting to right field for the Sox (at least this season) and he’s looked terribly uncomfortable playing left field in front of Fenway Park‘s Green Monster.

The latter trait sat in the spotlight in the Red Sox‘ 6-2 loss to the Rays. Cespedes — who earlier in the game had gunned down Yunel Escobar at the plate to keep the Rays off the scoreboard — went back on a liner to deep left with two on and two out in the top of the eighth, at a time when the Sox were leading, 1-0. He stopped short of the Wall and came up just short in his effort to corral the catchable liner off the bat of Ben Zobrist, permitting both runs to score en route to an eventual five-run inning.

Such plays have been commonplace for Cespedes at Fenway. He’s impressed at times in left field while on the road, thanks in part to his closing speed while able to roam wider stretches of the lawn, but it’s possible that, as with other players such as Cody Ross, he is simply unable to perform with the comfort necessary to permit his athleticism to play in front of a giant wall. And if that’s the case, then the Red Sox had better hope that he’s open to a move to right.

How it plays out remains to be seen, but for now, it remains the case that the Red Sox have a wealth of outfield options without any clear best alignment for next season.

OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT TUESDAY’S RED SOX GAME Read the rest of this entry »

Xander Bogaerts (neck), Will Middlebrooks (hand) scratched from Red Sox lineup

09.23.14 at 6:52 pm ET
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A pair of Red Sox were scratched from Tuesday’s game against the Rays due to ailments. Xander Bogaerts, who was removed from Sunday’s game due to a stiff neck (incurred on the ricochet of a batted ball inside of a batting cage), was in Tuesday’s original starting lineup but then was scratched after batting practice. Will Middlebrooks, meanwhile, was scratched due to a right hand sprain. In their places, the Sox inserted Jemile Weeks at short and Garin Cecchini at third.

RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts, 2B

Jemile Weeks, SS

David Ortiz, DH

Yoenis Cespedes, LF

Daniel Nava, 1B

Rusney Castillo, CF

Garin Cecchini, 3B

Christian Vazquez, C

Jackie Bradley Jr., RF

Clay Buchholz, SP

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Alex Cobb

09.23.14 at 10:24 am ET
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The Red Sox will begin their final homestand of the season against the Rays on Tuesday night. Clay Buchholz will pitch against Tampa Bay’€™s Alex Cobb.

Buchholz (8-9, 5.29 ERA) was roughed up in his last outing last Wednesday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. In four innings, the right-hander allowed six hits and four runs in the loss — his first defeat in six starts.

The Pirates got to Buchholz in the first inning with a Gregory Polanco home run. After a Mike Napoli error in the second, Pittsburgh used four consecutive hits to add three more runs. Neil Walker added the final run off Buchholz with a solo home run in the third.

“He made some mistakes against some good hitters. Ran into some hittable counts and they took advantage of him,” pitching coach Juan Nieves said of Buchholz after the loss.

Buchholz finished the first half of the year with an abysmal 5.42 ERA and a 4-5 record. But in four starts before the one against the Pirates, Buchholz had a 3-0 record and a 2.10 ERA. One of those appearances included a six-strikeout shutout against the same Rays team he’€™ll face Tuesday. Buchholz used pinpoint accuracy with his fastball to dominate the Rays at Tropicana Field on Aug. 31.

“He was hitting all the spots, every pitch,” catcher Christian Vazquez said. “He was painting every pitch. He was pitching to his best, and it was easy for me.”

The start in Florida was Buchholz’€™s only start against the Rays this season. Over his career, Buchholz has handled Tampa Bay’€™s top hitters, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, well. In 36 at-bats, Zobrist is hitting just .111 against Buchholz, while Longoria has seven hits in 41 career plate appearances.

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Read More: Alex Cobb, Clay Buchholz,

Why You Should Have Cared About Sunday’s Red Sox Game: Joe Kelly, Mookie Betts helping to give Sox some 2015 answers

09.21.14 at 4:44 pm ET
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Right-hander Joe Kelly has been the Red Sox' most consistent starter in his two months since joining the Sox. (Getty Images)

Right-hander Joe Kelly has been the Red Sox‘ most consistent starter in his two months since joining the Sox. (Getty Images)

BALTIMORE — When the dust settled following the Red Sox‘ drastic July 31 reconfiguration, the team committed itself to using the final two months to evaluating a number of newcomers and unproven big leagues for their potential to contribute in 2015. By and large, the results have been uninspiring, with two notable exceptions who led the Sox to a 3-2 victory in Baltimore on Sunday.

On Saturday, Mookie Betts went 0-for-3 with a walk. As manager John Farrell observed on Sunday morning, “Last night might be the first game in a while he hasn’t been on base twice in a game. Getting back to the on-base, that is still a major factor and he’s doing that.”

He resumed doing so on Sunday in noteworthy fashion. Betts led off the game by jumping on a 90 mph fastball from Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez in a 1-2 count, launching it well over the fence in left-center for a solo homer to give the Sox a lead they would never relinquish. He later added a single, with his 2-for-5 game improving his line for the season to .285 with a .362 OBP and .389 slugging mark, including a line of .293/.379/.431 in 15 games since taking over as the leadoff hitter, a role to which he may be laying fairly secure claim for 2015.

The reason why that early offense held up was because of another strong outing from right-hander Joe Kelly. Kelly allowed just two runs on three hits while walking three and punching out five. The outing was Kelly’s fifth straight of six or more innings, and continued to underscore why the Sox view him as a source of reassurance for the rotation next year. He showed mid-90s velocity that elicited both swings and misses and some timely groundballs, while getting swings and misses on his changeup and showing a useful curve. In his last five outings, Kelly has a 3.94 ERA. Between his stuff and his apparent competitiveness on the mound, along with the suggestions of a somewhat reliable ability to delivery six to seven innings, Kelly gives the Sox a second defined rotation piece — along with Clay Buchholz — for next year.

OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT SUNDAY’S RED SOX GAME

— The Sox won, while the Twins and Cubs both appear headed towards losses. Assuming those results hold, the Twins will remain in position for the No. 5 pick in next year’s draft (with a record 1 1/2 games worse than the Sox), while the Sox’ “advantage” over the Cubs for the No. 6 pick would stand at one game. Read the rest of this entry »

Xander Bogaerts exits in second inning due to stiff neck

09.21.14 at 2:23 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was removed from Sunday’s game prior to the bottom of the second inning due to neck stiffness. Bogaerts grounded out in his lone plate appearance and played one inning in the field (catching an inning-ending liner in the bottom of the first) before he made his departure.

“His neck started to stiffen. He was hit with a ball on a ricochet in [batting practice] in the cage. After his first at-bat, his neck started to stiffen further, and we got him out of there,” Sox manager John Farrell explained after the game. However, the manager added that the injury is minor and for right now it does not appear that Bogaerts will miss time during the season-ending home stretch.

Bogaerts is hitting .237 with a .659 OPS in 140 games. He is the eighth player in Red Sox history, and the first since Tony Conigliaro in 1966, to play 140 or more games in a season before turning 22.

Steven Wright likely to make a start; no more starts for Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman

09.21.14 at 1:40 pm ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

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 »

Read More: Brandon Workman, rubby de la rosa, steven wright,

Sunday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Joe Kelly vs. Miguel Gonzalez

09.21.14 at 9:49 am ET
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The Red Sox will finish their series with the Orioles on Sunday afternoon, as Joe Kelly will pitch against Miguel Gonzalez for the second time this month.

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

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.

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Read More: Joe Kelly, Miguel Gonzal,
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