|09.24.14 at 6:59 pm ET|
Will Middlebrooks, who was scratched just prior to the start of Tuesday’s game against the Rays, is once again out of the lineup on Wednesday due to soreness in his left wrist. Manager John Farrell suggested that the third baseman is “day to day at this point,” but suggested that the team is hopeful that his season is not over.
“We’re going to continue to press and push to get him on the field as much as possible in these final five days even though one of them is today and won’t be on the field,” said Farrell. Tomorrow, through the weekend, we need to get him on the field as much as possible.”
At a time when there will be just four games beyond Wednesday’s contest, and with Middlebrooks having little remaining opportunity to improve his dreadful season stat line of a .191 average, .256 OBP and .265 slugging mark, Farrell was asked to explain the urgency he expressed for an opportunity to evaluate the 26-year-old further this year.
“More than anything, if a player is capable, we’re not just wanting to shut someone down,” Farrell said. “That’s not a precedent that we want to set or enable, to be honest with you.”
It has been a year in which Middlebrooks rarely has played at full health. He spent time on the DL with a calf injury. His current wrist sprain is believed to be related to when he got hit by a pitch in May. He lost months to a finger that was fractured by the line drive. The result has been fitful playing time at the big league level, which in turn has contributed to some of Middlebrooks’ struggles to remain in a sustained offensive groove.
That said, Farrell said that it would be a mistake to view Middlebrooks’ struggles as simply the product of injuries. He’s been healthy enough to play. His limited production — particularly the absence of his characteristic home run power (he has hit just two homers in 63 games this year) — is not entirely a function of health, in Farrell’s view.
“I don’t think he’s been limited any different than other players who deal with nagging ailments over the course of a full season. There’s been times when he’s been unavailable. To say it’s to the extent that he can’t go or can’t play, we’re not at that point,” said Farrell. “He’s missed time over the past couple of years as we know. The inconsistent playing time has had some effect. To say that there’s something existing here, sure, he’s banged up a little bit. Is that the sole reason why the power numbers have dropped? I can’t say that it is.”
|09.24.14 at 5:53 pm ET|
The logic is obvious, almost compelling. At a time when Will Middlebrooks has struggled at third base and the Red Sox don’t appear to have an internal answer at that position to open 2015, why not see if Mookie Betts can play there? It’s a matter that the Red Sox seemingly have no intention of exploring.
Betts is playing second right now because Dustin Pedroia is out for the rest of the season and Brock Holt has been sidelined by a concussion. But when Pedroia is healthy, the Sox envision Betts patrolling the outfield.
“We moved Mookie to second base when Dustin went down for the year. We moved Mookie to center field initially because of Dustin’s presence. With Dustin coming back, we see Mookie as an outfielder — not on the left side of the infield,” said Farrell.
Betts actually began his pro career as a shortstop in Lowell, but after a dozen games, he was moved to second (partly because of throwing struggles that yielded six errors in that time, partly because the team drafted Deven Marrero). At this point, the team wants to build on the areas where Betts has focused his professional development rather than introducing a new element to his career that might slow his career progression.
“He was moved off the left side of the infield early in his minor league career because of some changes with accuracy to throws and that type of thing,” said Farrell. “To go back to an area that has already been played, we’re trying maximize the current ability and plug him in to a team that can contend and compete as soon as possible.”
Read the rest of this entry »
|09.24.14 at 2:37 pm ET|
ESPN’s Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss Derek Jeter‘s farewell tour and possible Red Sox offseason targets. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Asked about the future of promising rookie Mookie Betts, who has played center field and second base in the majors this season, Olney suggested that Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval might be a good fit for the Red Sox, and the acquisition of a player like him would affect where Betts would end up.
“I saw the Giants the last couple of nights, and there’s a lot of anticipation within that organization that someone’s going to make a run at Pablo Sandoval. That team could turn out to be the Red Sox,” Olney said. “He would fit them in a lot of regards. When I talked to some people with the Giants about that, they were nodding their heads and said, ‘You know what? He’d be a really good fit.’ Because he could play third base, and he had a good year defensively. He’s regressed toward the end of the year. You guys now, he’s had conditioning issues, he’s put on some weight during the year. But he squares up a baseball. And if you sign him to a four- or five-year deal and the first couple of years he’s playing third base, and when David Ortiz moves on he could slide into DH. He’d be a nice fit.
“And if you had Sandoval then that obviously changes the equation with Betts. So we’ll just have to wait and see what other moves they make. I think the bottom line is wherever you put Mookie Betts, he’s going to be a good player. The number that really jumps out at me is pitches per plate appearance. It’s almost 4.5. Which means even as a guy in his first days in the big leagues, he’s demonstrating that ability to work the count, to get on base, to be an on-base percentage guy. And I do think we have to remember that after the postseason last year we all thought Xander Bogaerts would come in this year and be a major star, and he’s had some growing pains. And that may be what happens with Betts. But when you talk with people on other teams, they think he’s a legitimate, high-end player who is going to be with them for a long time.”
Another option at third base could be Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez, who might be available via a trade after having some defensive issues this season before being diagnosed with a season-ending stress reaction in his left foot.
“He is a guy who this year really struggled with his confidence at third,” Olney said. “It seems like he’s got what’s referred to as ‘the thing’ in terms of throwing. And I don’t think if you were the Red Sox you would acquire him with confidence that he could play third base. Now, he is a big-time power hitter. … But I do wonder, when you’re talking about someone who is dealing with a confidence issue in terms of throwing, is Boston the best place for him? That would be one of the questions that I would ask.”
|09.24.14 at 8:12 am ET|
The Red Sox will play the middle game of their series with the Rays on Wednesday night when Anthony Ranaudo pitches against Jake Odorizzi.
Despite a quality start against the Pirates last Tuesday, Ranaudo (3-3, 5.29 ERA) was charged with the loss after allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings at PNC Park. The home run ball did Ranaudo in, as he allowed a two-run homer to Russell Martin in the second inning and then a solo blast to outfielder Starling Marte in the sixth. The latter home run ended Ranaudo’s night.
Ranaudo has served up 10 homers this year, accounting for 14 of the 19 runs he’s allowed through his first six major league starts. The right-hander said after his latest outing that he needs to change is his pitch selection more.
“I think it’s continuously mixing my pitches better and understanding the strike zone and just being more consistent with my pitches and understanding what some of these hitters’ approaches are and things like that,” Ranaudo said. “I think that’s all going to come with experience, and obviously I’d like to be making the adjustments a little quicker, but it’s something that’s part of the learning process that I just have to do a better job of.”
Of his first six appearances with Boston, one of the best came on Aug. 29 against the Rays at Tropicana Field. In six innings of work, Ranaudo struck out four and allowed three runs in the win. Brandon Guyer did the most significant damage with a two-run home run in the fifth inning. Other than that, Ranaudo pitched well, which earned him praise from manager John Farrell.
“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 of Ranaudo. “A solid night all the way around.”
|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 »
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