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Why You Should Have Cared About Friday’s Red Sox Game: David Ortiz keeps making history; Feats of Mookie’s Feets

09.19.14 at 10:49 pm ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, ‘€œClosing Time’€ will be called ‘€œWhy 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.)

David Ortiz keeps adding to his resume as one of the greatest Red Sox hitters ever. (Getty Images)

David Ortiz keeps adding to his resume as one of the greatest Red Sox hitters ever. (Getty Images)

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 »

John Farrell: Christian Vazquez ‘ready and capable’ of being an Opening Day catcher

09.19.14 at 6:57 pm ET
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Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

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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Rusney Castillo to play in Arizona Fall League and Puerto Rico Winter League

09.19.14 at 5:58 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — While some members of the Red Sox are contemplating the end of their season, Rusney Castillo’s baseball season remains in its early stages, a notion made official by Sox manager John Farrell on Friday.

Farrell said that Castillo, who made his major league debut on Wednesday in Pittsburgh and is back in the Red Sox lineup on Friday against the Orioles, will continue his season by heading to the Arizona Fall League and the Puerto Rico Winter League. The goal, Farrell said, is to get Castillo (who has a total of 50 plate appearances thus far between the minors and the big leagues) up to roughly 200 plate appearances for the year. He will do so by playing with the Surprise Saguaros in the AFL and then the Caguas Criollos (run by former Red Sox Alex Cora) in Puerto Rico.

The Sox expect that Castillo’s baseball season will conclude by roughly mid-November, at which point he’ll be in position to spend several months building up to his first big league spring training in 2015.

Red Sox lineup: Rusney Castillo in center, Garin Cecchini gets first big league start

09.19.14 at 3:31 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — The list of Red Sox firsts continues to expand, as new outfielder Rusney Castillo will get his first start against an American League East opponent while third baseman Garin Cecchini will get his first big league start. Castillo went 1-for-4 in his Wednesday debut, while Cecchini is 2-for-3 and has been hit by a pitch in four games this year.

RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts, 2B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

David Ortiz, DH

Yoenis Cespedes, LF

Daniel Nava, RF

Allen Craig, 1B

Rusney Castillo, CF

Garin Cecchini, 3B

Christian Vazquez, C

Allen Webster, RHP

Friday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Allen Webster vs. Kevin Gausman

09.19.14 at 8:40 am ET
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The Red Sox open up a weekend series Friday night against the Orioles at Camden Yards. Allen Webster will pitch against Kevin Gausman.

Allen Webster

Allen Webster

In his previous outing last Friday, Webster (4-3, 6.02 ERA) had one of his finer outings of the season. He threw six innings, allowing just two runs in a winning effort against the Royals. Part of the reason for his success against Kansas City was improved control. After walking at least two batters in each of his previous eight starts, Webster walked just one Royals hitter. Manager John Farrell said he liked what he saw from Webster last time out.

“We know this is an aggressive swinging team, and if you pitch to quality locations early in the count, chances are it can work in your favor,” Farrell said after the game.

Webster has pitched into the sixth inning in his last two starts after not making it out of the fifth frame in two prior appearances. Webster has faced the American League East four times this season, but not the Orioles so far in 2014. Against division foes, he’€™s allowed 15 runs in 17 1/3 innings, leading to a 1-2 record.

The right-hander previously faced the Orioles during the last game of the season in 2013, also at Camden Yards. Over three innings in a shortened start, Webster did not allow a run, struck out two and walked three. Farrell was happy with how Webster responded after a tough beginning of the game.

“It was good to see Webby come out and settle down after a rocky beginning of the first inning. He threw the ball very well,” Farrell said.

No current Orioles player has a hit against Webster.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Why you should have cared about Thursday’s Red Sox game: Better draft pick, season’s most bizarre play

09.18.14 at 10:01 pm ET
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Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole

PITTSBURGH — Want to look at the Red Sox‘ three-game sweep at PNC Park with a glass-half-full mentality? Here you go: The Red Sox might be moving down in the standings, but up in the draft order.

With their 3-2 loss to the Pirates Thursday night, the Sox are now the fifth-worst team in baseball. That would mean — because of the Astros’ compensatory pick due to not signing Brady Aiken — John Farrell‘s club would be drafting No. 6 overall.

That, in case you forgot, is one spot higher than the disastrous 2012 season yielded. (The Red Sox tabbed high school left-hander Trey Ball with that selection. Ball went 5-10 with a 4.68 ERA in 22 starts in Single-A Greenville this season.)

The Red Sox (66-89) will still have a chance to move up in the order with nine games to play, sitting one-half game in front of Minnesota. There is also the scenario where teams could leapfrog them with supbar final weeks, with the Astros (67-85), Cubs (68-94) and White Sox (69-83) all within striking distance.

How important is getting a pick a few spots closer to the top of the heap? The Pirates’ starter Thursday night should have offered that reminder.

Gerrit Cole — who finished his seven-inning stint allowing two runs while striking out seven and not walking a batter — was the first overall pick taken in the 2011 draft. The No. 6 pick that year? That would be Anthony Rendon, who went to the Nationals. Rendon has been arguably the Nats’ best position player en route to their NL East crown this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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Brock Holt gets positive news, but still not ready for action

09.18.14 at 5:46 pm ET
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Brock Holt

Brock Holt

PITTSBURGH —  Brock Holt is better, but not quite good enough to see game action.

The utilityman, who has been out since Sept. 5 with a concussion, came back from his appointment with concussion specialist Micky Collins, PhD with good results.

“He’€™s improved today,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. ‘€œHe got some encouraging news from Dr. Collins and his staff with the battery of tests that he went through. We’€™ll begin to incorporate baseball activities, likely when we get to Baltimore. It’€™s still undetermined but not out of the question that he would return before this season is out. But we still have to see how he responds to baseball activity that he takes in.”

Farrell didn’€™t rule out a return before the Red Sox end their season a week from Sunday.

“I think we have to stay open minded,” he said. “We’€™ll still, we have to sit down with Brock and discuss this. Even if it weren’€™t prior to the end of our regular season, Is there a possibility of getting him in some games in Instructional League just to answer the physical questions that we’€™re all trying to get answers to right now.”

(For the Red Sox Instructional League roster, click here.)

Holt has played in 106 games this season, hitting .281 with a .711 OPS.

Red Sox lineup: Rusney Castillo sits, David Ortiz starts in Pirates finale

09.18.14 at 3:22 pm ET
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David Ortiz will be in the lineup at first base in the Red Sox‘ final interleague contest of the season. Mike Napoli will sit in deference to Ortiz, while Rusney Castillo — one day after his major league debut — will also get the night off, as Jackie Bradley Jr. will start in center field. Here is the Red Sox lineup for Thursday night:

RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts, 2B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

David Ortiz, 1B

Allen Craig, RF

Daniel Nava, LF

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Christian Vazquez, C

Brandon Workman, SP

Manuel Margot, Rafael Devers headline Red Sox Fall Instructional League roster

09.18.14 at 1:37 pm ET
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Outfielder Manuel Margot is among the Red Sox prospects taking part in Fall Instructional League. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)

Outfielder Manuel Margot is among the Red Sox prospects taking part in Fall Instructional League. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)

While the minor league season is officially done, the work of player development continues. Most immediately, the Fall Instructional League — which includes a number of lower-levels prospects who would be characterized as high-upside players but whose probability is harder to project given their distance from the leagues — is currently underway.

The players in Instructional League mostly played with short-season affiliates this year, though there are some players who spent the season in full-season A-ball. One notable omission: First baseman/outfielder Nick Longhi, who was enjoying an excellent season as an 18-year-old in the New York-Penn League with the Lowell Spinners, continues to recover from surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb.

The group includes several top Red Sox prospects, including outfielder Manuel Margot, 17-year-old slugging third baseman Rafael Devers, 2014 first-rounders Michael Chavis and Michael Kopech and shortstop Javier Guerra (among others).

The list: Read the rest of this entry »

Ben Cherington on D&C: Rusney Castillo not elite, ‘but just good in a lot of categories’

09.18.14 at 9:47 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to talk about Rusney Castillo and how the team plans to rebuild for 2015. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Castillo made his major league debut in Wednesday night’s 9-1 loss to the Pirates, going 1-for-4. Cherington said the outfielder isn’t the kind of player who will shine in any one area, but the overall package is one that can be of value to the team.

“Just a good major league outfielder,” Cherington said. “I think what attracted us to him through the scouting process was just that he has kind of a broad base of skills. We think he can hit, he’s got some power, he can run, he can play defense. So this is not a player that you can say is elite in any one category, but just good in a lot of categories, and the sum of that adds up to what we hope is a good player.

“I don’t know if there’s a particular player comparable, but we certainly believe he can be a very good major league outfielder and part of a good team.”

Cherington would not commit to saying Castillo is pegged to be the team’s starting center fielder for 2015.

“We just haven’t gotten that far,” Cherington said. “As you guys know, we like to have two center field-caliber outfielders on the team at any time. I think our best teams have had that. Sometimes one of those guys plays right field, and sometimes one of those guys plays center. We just don’t know what the alignment’s going to be.

“I think we feel like having Rusney along with Jackie [Bradley] and Mookie Betts and the rest of the group — but those three in particular just because of the long-term control we have on those guys — gives us a better chance to have the outfield alignment we’re looking for over the long haul.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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