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Looking at why Red Sox will be keeping an eye on James Shields

08.30.14 at 11:19 am ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jon Lester may be Plan A, but James Shields won’€™t be that far behind.

While most are rightfully focusing on the Red Sox‘€™ chances of bringing back Lester via free agency, according to sources, the team will be eyeing the current Kansas City ace, a familiar name in American League East circles, this offseason.

Shields won’€™t get the haul of a Lester or Max Scherzer, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that a four-year deal is in the offing for the 32-year-old righty. (He will be turning 33 in December.)

It should come as no surprise that any run at Shields won’€™t come cheap, but, according to those who know him best, he might be the best alternative if the Sox miss out of on Lester. And if the Red Sox want to go all ’10 offseason, the combination of the two would seemingly seal the Red Sox‘ resurgence.

Just ask Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who had to live through his team dealing the pitcher who had helped the Rays to the postseason in 2008, ‘€™10 and ‘€™11.

“You knew he would still be good for years to come,” said Maddon prior to his team’€™s game against the Red Sox Friday night. “There was going to be no drop-off. He’s still absolutely young enough. He’s kind of in the prime right now of what he’s doing. He takes such great care of himself. He’s so highly competitive. And the ancillary benefits to the rest of the staff are incredible because of the way he is.”

While the built-in caution for Shields remains pitching on a contract while in his mid-30’€™s, there is plenty to identify as reasons why he will be a worthy offseason target.

On the field, Shields has been remarkably consistent, currently trending toward pitching more than 200 innings for an eighth straight season. His ERA for ‘€™14 is 3.45, coming off a ‘€™13 campaign in which he totaled a 3.15 mark.

His secondary stuff is almost as important as the fastball, having thrown his changeup 20 percent of the time this season and curve 14 percent.

Shields hasn’€™t had near the success within the American League East Lester has ‘€“ totaling a 43-42 mark with a 3.83 ERA ‘€“ but the familiarity with pitching in such an environment doesn’€™t hurt his cause.

And then there is the make-up.

“He’s not afraid to say what he thinks and he’s not afraid to be confident,” Maddon said. “He’s not afraid to be outwardly confident. I’m not saying arrogant, but outwardly confident. You have to be good to back that stuff up. It’s not quite Joe Namath-esque, but it’s a level below that. He’s not guaranteeing anything, but he likes to say things in an attempt to force himself to do those things. It’s like he has a self-motivating method, which I’ve always loved about him. A lot of guys are afraid to do that.

“It’s not unlike Jonny Gomes. He’s not afraid of high expectations, whether you heap them on him, or he heaps them on himself. He’s doesn’t run away from expectations.”

Shields was credited for setting he tone and tenor for a Tampa Bay staff that evolved into one of the best in the AL. And, since being traded to Kansas City prior to the ‘€™13 season, he has implemented the same mentality for the young Royals starters.

“He’€™s got a ton of energy, he’€™s a tremendous competitor, and he’€™s a great communicator, and you couple all that together,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost recently told the Kansas City Star. “He’€™s always talking to guys, he’€™s always encouraging guys, he’€™s always upbeat with guys.

“And he’€™s in it for the team more than he’€™s in it for himself. Guys see it, they recognize it, they go with it.”

Should the Red Sox give four years to James Shields?

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Brandon Workman regains footing; Mauricio Dubon, hits machine; Javier Guerra, Rafael Devers mash

08.30.14 at 9:13 am ET
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Rafael Devers

Rafael Devers

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Friday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 WIN VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

— Right-hander Brandon Workman, making his first start since being sent back down to Triple-A on Sunday, had one of his best Triple-A outings of the year. He logged 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on just three hits (two singles and a solo homer) while walking two and punching out six. Though 1-8 in the big leagues this year, Workman is 7-1 in Triple-A. One caveat: He’s shown the same vulnerability to the longball in Triple-A that he has in the big leagues, having allowed 1.5 homers per nine in Pawtucket this year. With the start, Workman has pushed his innings total up to 134 1/3 for the year, the third straight year that he’s worked at least 130 innings.

Ryan Lavarnway, back from the DL after missing eight days while recovering from a concussion incurred when taking a foul ball off the mask, slammed a two-run homer and double in his 2-for-3 return to the lineup. Though Lavarnway’s playing time has been fitful due to a host of injuries (setbacks in his recovery from a broken hamate, the concussion), he’s posted big numbers when in the lineup over the last five weeks, hitting .378/.525/.511 in 15 games since rejoining the PawSox following his hamate injury.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-2 WIN VS. HARRISBURG (NATIONALS) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: javier guerra, mauricio dubon, rafael devers, ryan lavarnway

John Henry: Missing on Jose Abreu pushed Rusney Castillo offer

08.29.14 at 11:57 pm ET
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John Henry

John Henry

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In an email exchange, Red Sox principal owner John Henry shed some light on the Red Sox’ aggressive bidding for Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.

When asked if the Red Sox missing out on White Sox slugger Jose Abreu by a mere $5 million when bidding for the first baseman last year led to surprisingly high offer of seven years, $72.5 million for Castillo, Henry wrote: “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework.”

Abreu, who went on to sign a six-year, $68 million deal with Chicago, has 33 home runs with a major league-best .969 OPS.

In response to the question how much Henry familiarized himself with Castillo’s game, the owner wrote, “All evaluation was done by Ben and baseball ops,” (referencing Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.)

Castillo is slated to play his first professional game for the Red Sox Gulf Coast League team Sunday in Fort Myers.

“He’€™s going to get his first game action on Sunday in Fort Myers and likely to be three innings,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell following his team’s 8-4 win over the Rays, Friday night. “We want him to go through another day of work tomorrow and that will set him up for his first activity on Sunday.”

Closing Time: Mookie Betts continues to separate himself from pack, leads Red Sox to rout of Rays

08.29.14 at 10:45 pm ET
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Mookie Betts celebrates his second-inning grand slam, Friday night. (Getty Images)

Mookie Betts celebrates his second-inning grand slam in Friday night’s win over the Rays. (Getty Images)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Mookie Betts is the one guy who is remaining true to the script.

With the player many perceive as the starting center fielder for the 2015 Red Sox — Rusney Castillo — ready to make his professional debut a couple of hours away in Fort Myers, Sunday, the guy who is making a pretty powerful impression at the position continued pushing his stock upward Friday night.

Betts is one of the few highly touted Sox youngsters to actually offer the kind of standout performances once expected of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Will Middlebrooks and a cavalcade of young pitchers. The 21-year-old’s latest separator? A second-inning grand slam, making the outfielder the youngest Red Sox player to go deep with the bases loaded since a 20-year-old Tony Congliaro on Aug. 24, 1965.

(It was Betts’ first grand slam as a professional. “I can’t tell you the last time I hit a grand slam, going back to high school,” he said. “I honestly don’t remember hitting one in high school, either. Just to hit one is pretty enjoyable.”)

Just for good measure, Betts continued his ascension as a legitimate big league outfield by robbing Kevin Kiermaier of extra bases in the fifth inning with a leaping catch just before the center field wall.

The grand slam was the signature blow for the Red Sox in their 8-4 win over the Rays. It also played a key role in a pair of innings in which the visitors batted around  the order in the first two frames of a game for the first time since Aug. 14, 1962.

Coming into the series opener, Betts’ numbers since his most recent call-up weren’t electric, totaling a .242 batting average, .390 on-base percentage and .784 OPS. But what offered encouragement even before the grand slam was how his approach had remained consistent from when he tore through the minors.

Read the rest of this entry »

Xander Bogarts ready to return to Red Sox starting lineup

08.29.14 at 8:25 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Xander Bogaerts is ready to return.

The Red Sox shortstop  — who had been placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list after being hit in the head with a Felix Hernandez change-up Aug. 22 —  is scheduled to return to the team’€™s starting lineup, Saturday.

“I really didn’€™t have too many symptoms,” Bogaerts said prior to Friday night’€™s game at Tropicana Field. “The only symptom I pretty much had was tiredness ‘€” like sleepy. Everything I did, I would just get sleepy. Maybe that’€™s because I wasn’€™t doing any baseball activities. Maybe it could have been the symptoms, too. The sleepiness is all I kind of got. No headaches, no anything like that.

“I took all my tests, I did pretty good. I didn’€™t have any problems with memory or focus, just a little bit of tiredness.”

Bogaerts said he adhered to doctor’€™s orders and refrained from much activity, letting the symptoms subside.

“Yeah, I just stayed at home and rested like the doctors said,” said Bogaerts, who wasn’€™t with the team during its series in Toronto. “I watched the games. That’€™s all I did. Obviously I couldn’€™t play or do any baseball activities, so I just tried to relax.”

Prior to his hiatus, Bogaerts was in the midst of a significant slump, having one hit in his last 23 at-bats. In 118 games this season, the shortstop is hitting .227 with a .627 OPS.

“Hopefully it benefits me,” he said of the time off. “I got some rest — rest that I needed. Ill try to finish the season strong.”

Friday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Anthony Ranaudo vs. Chris Archer

08.29.14 at 10:42 am ET
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Chris Archer

Chris Archer

With the Red Sox and Rays holding firm in the bottom two spots in the American League East, Friday’s game in St. Petersburg, Florida, holds little importance in terms of postseason implications. However, with Chris Archer on the mound for Tampa — opposite young Sox hurler Anthony Ranaudo — there could be some intensity to the series opener.

When Archer (8-6, 3.09 ERA) last faced the Sox on July 27, he surrendered a three-run home run to David Ortiz and lost the game 3-2. Afterward, Archer echoed then-teammate David Price‘s assertion that Ortiz “feels like he’s bigger than the game” because the slugger “pimped a home run off me.”

Ortiz, who is 5-for-12 against Archer, said the 25-year-old is “not the right guy to be saying that. I don’t think, you know, you’ve got two days in the league, you can’t be just [whining] and complaining about [expletive] like that.”

Archer has struggled again the Sox, going 1-3 with a 4.75 ERA in six career starts, but he’s pitched well of late. When he held the Blue Jays to one run over seven innings in his last outing Sunday, it was his eighth quality start in 10 appearances. He has a 1.40 ERA and 30 strikeouts over his last four appearances, encompassing 25 2/3 innings.

Ranaudo (2-0, 4.50) will be called up from Triple-A to pitch in Friday’s game. The 24-year-old last pitched in the majors Aug. 13, allowing four runs in six innings to the Reds.

On Tuesday Ranaudo was named the International League‘s Most Valuable Player. He is 14-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 24 starts for Pawtucket.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, Chris Archer,

Red Sox minor league roundup: Brian Johnson, Pitcher of the Year; Michael Chavis making his mark in GCL

08.29.14 at 9:46 am ET
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Left-hander Brian Johnson wrapped up his regular season with a 1.75 ERA in Double-A Portland. (365DigitalPhotography.com / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Brian Johnson wrapped up his regular season with a 1.75 ERA in Double-A Portland. (365DigitalPhotography.com / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Brian Johnson, in a five-inning tuneup outing for Double-A Portland before the start of the playoffs, was once again dominant, tossing five shutout innings in which he allowed two hits (both singles), didn’t walk anyone, struck out a batter and elicited 10 groundball outs. He retired 13 straight at one point.

The outing represented a continuation of a completely dominant five weeks. In his last six starts, Johnson has four outings of two or fewer hits allowed (three in which he’s given up just one hit) with a 0.67 ERA, 37 strikeouts, 10 walks and a staggering .093 batting average against.

Of course, those totals didn’t even represent that drastic a departure from the season for a pitcher whose 1.75 ERA is far and away the best in the Eastern League (the second-best mark is 2.55, with Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Henry Owens ranking third with a 2.60 mark).

Between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, Johnson went 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA, 8.3 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings. Perhaps more significantly, he’s logged 143 2/3 innings, up 69 percent from the 85 frames he was able to pitch in 2013 when he missed roughly two months with shoulder tendinitis, following an offseason where he couldn’t have a normal offseason conditioning program while rehabbing from a line drive off the face that prevented him from eating solids for months and from being able to work out for much of the winter.

But with a healthy winter this past offseason, the 23-year-old looked like the pitcher whom the Red Sox hoped to see when they drafted him in the first round in 2012. With health, he showed a consistent delivery that permitted him to thrive based on his feel for pitching and precise execution that was second to none in the organization. His changeup made considerable strides, to the point where he had a fairly complete mix (fastball, curve, change, sometimes a cutter/slider) that permitted him to attack every part of the strike zone, with dazzling results.

In his last 22 starts of the year between Salem and Portland, he permitted more than two earned runs just once. While Owens was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year and Anthony Ranaudo was named the International League Pitcher of the Year, Johnson had the best season of any pitcher in the Red Sox organization. He is WEEI.com’s 2014 Red Sox Pitching Prospect of the Year.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Johnson will join Down on the Farm on Sunday morning from 8:30-9 a.m. to take stock of his 2014 season. The program will also feature an interview with the Red Sox Prospect Player of the Year.

A brief look at rest of the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: brian johnson, luis alexander basabe, michael chavis,
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