|09.23.14 at 10:26 pm ET|
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 »
|09.23.14 at 6:52 pm ET|
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
|09.23.14 at 10:24 am ET|
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.
|09.21.14 at 4:44 pm ET|
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 »
|09.21.14 at 2:23 pm ET|
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.
|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.”
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