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Winter ball a possibility for Will Middlebrooks: ‘He’s got to find himself as a major league hitter’

09.03.14 at 6:42 pm ET
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Will Middlebrooks

Will Middlebrooks

NEW YORK — The 2014 season for Will Middlebrooks has been one to forget. The 25-year-old had perhaps his worst game of the challenging season on Tuesday, when he went 0-for-5 while matching a career-high with four strikeouts, all looking at sliders, and he also committed an error. His average has plummeted to .183 with a .251 OBP and .268 slugging mark; he’s striking out 30 percent of the time.

“I think there’s been times when he’s trying to think along with a given pitcher and anticipating a certain kind of pitch and a certain location and it’s not quite there. At times, that might be the reason why he’s not pulled the trigger on some pitches,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “We came off a series in Tampa where I thought he swung the bat very well with some authority back through the middle of the field, certainly to right-center field as well. But the early work, the work routine, that all remains consistent. It’s a matter of doing it in-game.”

Time to do so during the regular season is running out quickly for Middlebrooks, who has been limited by two stints on the DL to just 47 big league games (and 29 more at the minor league level). As such, the Red Sox have started conversations with the third baseman about the possibility of playing winter ball somewhere.

“It would be beneficial, I think, to make up for some at-bats that might not have been there. He did get some regular at-bats while he was on a rehab assignment. But yeah, there have been a number of at-bats missed here this year,” said Farrell. “There’s been a conversation had, and yet, trying to work through that right now.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Ben Cherington: Concerns about Jackie Bradley Jr.’s coachability ‘absolutely not’ part of sending him down

09.03.14 at 6:20 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

NEW YORK — It has been a difficult time for Jackie Bradley Jr. The 24-year-old hit .212/.288/.290 in the big leagues, a performance that resulted in his being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket in mid-August. His results have been little better there, as he’s hit .212/.246/.273 in Triple-A.

As reported at the time of his assignment to Pawtucket, there have been questions inside the Red Sox organization about whether Bradley was receptive to some of the messages that he was receiving from team officials and coaches — a concern that is distinct from his willingness to work or his desire to improve. While those questions were real, however, GM Ben Cherington suggested that such concerns had nothing to do with the move to demote Bradley and call up Mookie Betts to be the everyday center fielder in mid-August.

“First of all, as far as the question about whether that was part of the decision to send him down, I can say absolutely not. The decision to send him down was based on our feeling at the time that the offensive part of the game — that he needed to develop a routine that worked for him and it was going to be easier for him to do that for some period of time in Pawtucket,” Cherington said in Yankee Stadium. I’€™m not a coach. I know that every player is different, is going to respond differently to guidance. We know that Jackie has had a ton of success in his life as a baseball player, at the major league level, at the minor league level. It hasn’€™t come as quickly for him, at least on the offensive side at the major league level, and that’€™s not easy for a guy to deal with. There’€™s never been an issue from the Red Sox’€™s perspective of whether he’€™s willing to work or whether he cares, anything like that. We’€™re trying to find the right way to reach every player, including Jackie, and then the player has to have a responsibility then too. That’€™s a relationship that we strive to reach. We want to build a good, functional relationship with any player. And if one is struggling it means we still have to work on that, but it had nothing to do with sending him down to Pawtucket.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Jackie Bradley Jr. defends his work ethic

09.03.14 at 3:13 pm ET
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Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. took to Twitter Wednesday to deny multiple reports that his attitude factored into last month’€™s demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Bradley, who was hitting .216/.288/.290 at the major league level in 112 games prior to his demotion, wrote that his character isn’€™t an issue.

In 14 games for Pawtucket, Bradley is hitting .212/.246/.273.

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Buster Olney on MFB: Red Sox expect renewed commitment from Jackie Bradley Jr., Will Middlebrooks

09.03.14 at 1:18 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN’s Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the future of the Red Sox as the team’s miserable season moves into its final month. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Red Sox and Yankees are in the midst of a series in Yankee Stadium, and Olney noted that you’d have to go back to the days of Babe Ruth (during one of his rare off seasons) to find a time when both teams were ranked so low in offense.

“We’re closing in on a century since we’ve seen these two teams struggle this much offensively,” Olney said. “As you guys know, the Red Sox are always typically a good offensive team, the Yankees usually have their share of left-handed hitters who thrive in their home park. It just hasn’t been the case this year. It’s been a completely aberrational year.

“And as they play tonight, I was talking to a person within the Yankees organization today, they feel like they’re at the tipping point. The question is whether or not the Red Sox are going to shove them over the edge.

Rusney Castillo started playing in the Red Sox minor league system last week, and he’s moving up to Double-A this week. Olney said he isn’t sure if the Cuban outfielder will make an appearance at Fenway before the season is over.

“I think they should, because they think he’s going to be part of the team next year, and why not?” Olney said. “I know, for example, a lot of teams are doing that these days. The Cubs are doing it with Javier Baez, they’re doing with with Jorge Soler. … If I were the Red Sox, sure. Because you’re not going to pay a guy $72 million unless you think he’s ready to translate right away. So, why not? It’s a signed, sealed deal, so the arbitration clause doesn’t come into it, you might as well throw him into the deep end of the pool.”

Jackie Bradley Jr., who was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Aug. 17, is expected to return to Boston for the last few weeks of the season, although his offensive struggles have continued with the PawSox.

“[A return] would make sense,” Olney said. “And if they don’t, then let’s face it, it would have to be taken as punitive. It would have to be taken as a sign from the Red Sox organization that they want Jackie to focus more on making adjustments. That’s the big question now about him within the Red Sox organization: Will he make adjustments? Because I know that during the course of the year when he was approached about that, his response was, ‘Look, I’m fine. I’ll work my way through it. I feel good.’

“Now that we’re near the end of the season, they feel like that just wasn’t done in the way that it should have been done. And they’re going to want him to do that going into next year, and they’re going to want to have him respond. And given the fact that they have this volume of outfielders, I really think next spring is going to be absolutely huge for him.

“And this winter’s going to be huge — I was going to bring this up, too — for Will Middlebrooks. I know that there is desire within the Red Sox organization that Middlebrooks go and play winter ball to get more at-bats, to get more experience and to turn the corner. And if he doesn’t, then I think there’s a good chance he’s going to spend next year in the minor leagues. They don’t want to give him away. And I heard this from a couple of different teams, that when they approach the Red Sox, the Red Sox know that they have a really talented guy in Middlebrooks who hits for power, but they want to give it every opportunity for that to happen with them, because they know if they trade him now it’s essentially going to be at a cut rate, and it’s not going to be at what they believe his value to be. So if he’s going to be in the big leagues next year I think winter ball is going to be a big part of it, and a good spring training would have to be a big part of it.”

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Red Sox recall Brandon Workman

09.03.14 at 12:40 pm ET
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NEW YORK — The Red Sox have recalled right-hander Brandon Workman from Triple-A Pawtucket. He is slated to start the series finale against the Yankees in New York on Thursday.

This is Workman’s fourth stretch in the big leagues this year. He is 1-8 with a 4.93 ERA, 6.9 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine in 73 big league innings covering 16 games (12 starts). He has suffered the loss in each of his last eight appearances, the longest such streak by a Red Sox pitcher since Hall of Famer Red Ruffing suffered losses in 11 straight appearances in 1929.

Workman made one start with the PawSox after being optioned on August 24, tossing 6 2/3 innings while allowing one run and punching out six. Though he’s mired in a lengthy losing streak in the big leagues, Workman has won six straight decisions in Triple-A.


Red Sox minor league roundup: Yoan Aybar, exercise in projection

09.03.14 at 12:25 pm ET
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Just one Red Sox minor league affiliate played on Tuesday, with three levels set to open their postseason series on Wednesday:



– Outfielder Yoan Aybar followed a 1-for-3 performance in the first contest with a 2-for-4 performance in the second game. In six postseason games, the 17-year-old is hitting .348/.375/.522 with two doubles and a triple, and he carries a five-game hitting streak into Wednesday’s elimination game. Rafael Devers was rightly viewed as the standout prospect at the Sox’ DSL affiliate this year, based on the present tools that separated him dramatically from his peers and permitted him to dominate both in the Dominican and then the Gulf Coast League. But Aybar, who like Devers signed with the Sox in the summer of 2013, showed the sort of tools that permit visions of considerable upside, with the athleticism and enough tools to suggest five-tool potential years down the line. It will probably be another three or four years or so before it becomes clear whether those tools will translate into performance in the upper minors, but the 6-foot-2, 165-pound left-handed-hitting outfielder has a chance to turn heads as he develops.

– Right-hander Daniel Gonzalez allowed one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings, with the 6-foot-5 18-year-old working around six hits and three walks while striking out two. He now has a streak of six straight starts without permitting an earned run, an expanse of 31 1/3 innings. Between the regular season and postseason, Gonzalez is 10-0 with a 1.94 ERA.

– Second baseman Luis Alejandro Basabe (who is not to be confused with twin brother Luis Alexander Basabe, who was an outfielder in the DSL and GCL this year) went 3-for-8 with a double, triple and walk in the two contests. Basabe has an uncharacteristic streak of three straight games in which he’s produced extra-base hits, having collected two doubles and a triple in his most recent three contests — in the process nearly matching the four extra-base hits he had in 30 games in the regular season, when he hit .222/.403/.273. A startling 40 percent of his plate appearances ended without contact (either in a walk or strikeout), underscoring that there’s some work to be done with the approach of Basabe, who just turned 18 last week.

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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Anthony Ranaudo vs. Hiroki Kuroda

09.03.14 at 8:50 am ET
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Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo

After a 9-4 win in the series opener, the Red Sox will face the Yankees on Wednesday night in the middle game of their three-game set at Yankee Stadium, with rookie Anthony Ranaudo taking the mound opposite Hiroki Kuroda.

Ranaudo (3-0, 4.50 ERA) came through with a quality start his last time out, Friday against the Rays at Tropicana Field. He struck out four and scattered five hits over six innings in the winning effort.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said after that game that he was impressed with Ranuado, who was making just his third-ever big league start.

“I thought tonight, of the three starts he’s made for us, this was probably the best overall mix of three pitches that he had — particularly a little bit more use of his changeup tonight,” Farrell said after the game. “A solid night all the way around.”

The rookie right-hander’€™s first start this season just happened to come against the Yankees. The outing got off to an inauspicious start when he walked leadoff natter Brett Gardner to begin the first inning, but Ranaudo worked out of the jam and finished the game going six strong innings, allowing just two runs. He recorded just two strikeouts, but Ranaudo effectively pitched to contact and worked out of major jams.

Outfielder Carlos Beltran seemed to be the only real thorn during Ranaudo’€™s side that evening, as the veteran outfielder clubbed both a solo home run and an RBI single during the Red Sox’€™s 4-3 victory. Other than that, Farrell said the rookie did well in his major league debut.

“I thought he did a good job keeping the game under control,” Farrell said after that game. “There were a number of innings where the leadoff hitter would get on base and [he] found a way to navigate through three walks to lead some innings off. I thought he threw the ball downhill well and kept the ball out of the middle of the plate for the most part.”

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