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Closing Time: Downward spiral continues as Red Sox swept by Blue Jays

07.30.14 at 9:59 pm ET
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Brandon Workman suffered his fourth straight loss. (AP)

Brandon Workman suffered his fourth straight loss. (AP)

With the July 31 trade deadline less than 24 hours away, Red Sox manager John Farrell remarked prior to Wednesday night’€™s game against Blue Jays that he hoped the distractions revolving around multiple rumors would have a “minimal” impact on the performance of his club.

That didn’€™t appear to be the case once Wednesday’€™s game got underway, as a combination of free passes and sloppy errors by the Red Sox helped Toronto come away with a 6-1 victory, earning a three-game sweep at Fenway in the process.

This is the second time this season that the Blue Jays have earned a sweep at Fenway Park, as Toronto took three straight games from the Red Sox on May 20-22. Boston was outscored by a 22-4 margin during the just-completed series, which extended the team’s slide to eight losses in nine games.

Brandon Workman, starting in place of Jon Lester, labored through his outing, allowing four hits and five runs (two earned) over five innings of work, with a career-high four walks. Workman’€™s uncharacteristic command issues would prove to be costly — three of the four batters that reached base via a Workman walk ended up scoring.

The Red Sox defense also made things easy for the Blue Jays, as errors by both Workman and Xander Bogaerts in the fifth inning helped Toronto pile on three unearned runs en route to a commanding  5-0 lead.

While Workman was not able put the Red Sox in a position to come away with the win, Boston’€™s lineup didn’t fare much better, as Toronto starter Mark Buehrle held the Sox to just one run and six hits over 6 2/3 innings of work.

The lone Red Sox run came off the bat of catcher Christian Vazquez, who drove in Xander Bogaerts with a ground-rule double in the bottom of the fifth.

After scoring a season-high 14 runs July 21, the Red Sox have only managed to cross the plate 18 times over their last nine games.

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New Red Sox prospects Edwin Escobar, Heath Hembree excited for ‘new beginning’

07.30.14 at 8:33 pm ET
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Edwin Escobar

Edwin Escobar pitched for Team World at the 2014 Futures Game in Minneapolis. (AP)

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — It is immediately clear that Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree are the new kids on the block in the Pawtucket Red Sox clubhouse.

As other lockers are stuffed to the brim with gear, both Escobar and Hembree’s lockers are spare, barely beyond empty. A couple of uniforms hang in the lockers accompanied by the pitchers’ gloves.

That personal effects have yet to fill their lockers comes as little surprise. The duo, after all, did just move across the country from Fresno, Calif., home of the San Francisco Giants‘ Triple-A affiliate.

Both Escobar and Hembree were thrown slightly off guard when they learned that they were traded to the Red Sox. Both hurlers were awakened Saturday morning by the news from Giants general manager Brian Sabean that they had been traded in exchange for Jake Peavy.

Heath Hembree

Heath Hembree

“This time of year, everybody has to be on their toes, I guess,” Hembree said. “I was excited. It was a little bittersweet leaving some good friends, but definitely excited for the new opportunity.”

For Hembree, the Giants organization was the only one he’d ever known. The 25-year-old was selected by the Giants in the fifth round of the 2010 draft out of the University of South Carolina. Deemed a closer of the future by Baseball America, he has posted a 3.89 ERA and saved 18 games in 41 appearances in Triple-A this season. Hembree has struck out 46 hitters and walked 13 with opponents hitting .263 off of him.

Hembree, who made his major league debut in 2013, is excited for the chance to make a mark on a new organization.

It’s a little bit of a new beginning,” Hembree said. “[The Giants] are all I’ve known, but coming over here and being part of this team right now, it’s like a new beginning and I’m looking forward to it.”

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John Farrell: Felix Doubront’s struggles not as simple as need for change of scenery

07.30.14 at 7:02 pm ET
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Another domino has fallen in the Red Sox‘ potential trade deadline fire sale, as the team officially announced that pitcher Felix Doubront has been traded to the Cubs for a player to be named later.

While Doubront’s last outing with Boston on Monday against the Blue Jays (six hits, six earned runs in 2/3 of an inning) could have been seen as the last straw in terms of the Red Sox dealing with the unhappy hurler, Farrell noted that a deal involving Doubront was not a direct cause of his last appearance.

“I don’t know that two nights ago triggered a trade,” Farrell said. “I don’t think any trade happens overnight, so I wouldn’t say it’s a direct result of that.”

The transaction puts a close to what has been a miserable season for Doubront. The 26-year-old lefty was never able to establish himself on the mound this season, posting a 5.19 ERA over his 10 starts, prompting the team to demote him to the bullpen.

Doubront, frustrated by his removal from the starting rotation, appeared disinterested in subsequent games, allowing 11 earned runs over his last nine innings of work (11.00 ERA).

A move to the Windy City could help give Doubront a new sense of motivation and energy, but Farrell said that the left-hander’s effort to improve himself will stand as the key factor in whether he will be able to turn around his career.

“I don’t necessarily buy into the change of scenery,” Farrell said. “Can it invigorate someone in a new surrounding? Possibly. But as I talked with him a while ago, if this does come to fruition, the work is always going to be needed, regardless of where you pitch or the role in which you’re pitching in. He has performed well for us over a period of time and it can’t be understated, the importance of his relief appearances last year in the World Series, those were two pivotal outings by him and he did a great job.”

While Farrell acknowledged that Doubront arrived at spring training in much better shape than the year before, he said that Doubront was never able to find the consistency that aided the lefty at points last season. While he finished 2013 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP, Doubront also compiled a stretch last season from May 16 to Aug. 10 that saw him post a 2.73 ERA.

“When you talk about any pitcher, not just in this situation, but consistency is driven from a number of ways,” Farrell said. “Every player has maintenance in their work routine, and in a pitcher’s case, in his delivery, consistently throw strikes, to remain aware of game situations. I can’t say that there was one thing. … He did suffer from the one fatigue outing where you spend some time on the DL after that, but he seemed to never get on the role like he did last year, which was 15-16 straight starts of three runs or less and that was missing this year.”

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Anthony Ranaudo scheduled to start Friday for PawSox

07.30.14 at 6:49 pm ET
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Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Anthony Ranaudo, previously scheduled to start on Thursday for the Pawtucket Red Sox, was pushed back to start on Friday for the team. To take his place on Thursday, recent acquisition Edwin Escobar will make his first start since being acquired by the Sox from the Giants for Jake Peavy.

John Lackey currently is scheduled to start for the Red Sox on Friday. That, however, might not happen given the reports that the righty has attracted interest on the trade market due to his strong performance in 2014 and his 2015 vesting option that will pay the 35-year-old the major league minimum after he missed the 2012 season following Tommy John surgery.

Ranaudo has been one of the best pitchers in the Pawucket rotation in 2014. In 21 starts, Ranaudo owns a 2.41 ERA with a 1.148 WHIP, 99 strikeouts, 49 walks and six home runs allowed in 119 1/3 innings pitched. Since making a mechanical adjustment that reduced movement in his windup, Ranaudo has displayed increased control over his arsenal. Since June, Ranaudo has a 1.94 ERA, striking out 46 and walking 17 batters. Oopponents are hitting .185 against Ranaudo, getting on base at a .252 clip and slugging .308.

PawSox manager Kevin Boles declined comment on whether or not Ranaudo represented a contingency plan for the major league squad should Lackey get dealt.

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Dan Duquette: Notion of Jon Lester to Orioles ‘news to me’

07.30.14 at 6:33 pm ET
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While a flurry of rumors suggested this afternoon that the Orioles might be nearing a deal with the Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, the man who would have to pull the trigger for Baltimore downplayed the idea that there might be an imminent deal.

‘€œI don’€™t know really what the rumors are,’€ Duquette told CSNBaltimore.com. ‘€œThat would be news to me.’€

Duquette did allow that the O’s would have interests in the services of an established ace such as Lester.

‘€œWe’€™d be interested in adding pitchers that could help us at the top of our rotation. Who wouldn’€™t be?’€ Duquette told the website.

But he also noted that the team would be loathe to give up its top young pitching prospects, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman or Hunter Harvey, considered the three candidates to front a deal for the Orioles for Lester.

“Some of the long-term prospects for our pitching we think are very valuable for the long-term sustainability of the organization and I think that’€™s a real important component to have a good team year-in and year-out,” said Duquette. “I think with our young pitchers we would be conservative and we would try and give them a prolonged trial in the big leagues before we would trade them.’€

John Farrell: Everything ‘status quo’ in terms of Jon Lester’s status, slated to start Sunday

07.30.14 at 5:54 pm ET
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Jon Lester said he doesn't want to discuss a contract extension with the Sox until after the season. (AP)

John Farrell told reporters Wednesday that there is nothing new to report on Lester’s status with the Red Sox. (AP)

The trade winds might be swirling around Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, but the constant rumors seem to have little effect on manager John Farrell.

Speaking to the media during his pregame press conference prior to Boston’€™s game against Blue Jays Wednesday night, Farrell said that Lester’€™s status with the club has not changed since Tuesday night, adding that Lester’€™s next start is slated to be Sunday night against the Yankees.

“Not that I’€™m aware of. Status quo,”€ Farrell said of whether anything had changed regarding his ace moving in a potential deal. “€œAs a result, we have him slated on Sunday to pitch here.”

Lester was originally scheduled to pitch Wednesday, but had his start pushed back, fueling speculation that the veteran southpaw would soon be dealt. Farrell said the decision was made in order to allow Lester to relax during this stressful stretch of days, but also acknowledged that seeing a player on a team past the trade deadline after being scratched from a game is a rare precedent.

“€œI think that’€™s why yesterday, when it came to a head, that we felt like it was best for all to just back out of this for a couple of days with the start, just so he wasn’€™t carrying around all the uncertainty,”€ Farrell said. “I’€™m sure it’€™s been very difficult for him. That’€™s why the change was made.”

Farrell continued: “It’€™s a unique set of circumstances, it’€™s an extremely talented pitcher and as I mentioned yesterday, with all the uncertainty, I think it’€™s in the best interest of everyone involved that we push him back.”

Whether it has been dealing with trade whispers or contract negotiations, Lester has had to focus on more than just his performance on the mound in 2014, but has been able to shake off any possible disturbances and has turned in his best campaign as a major leaguer in 2014 (10-7, 2.52 ERA, 1.12 WHIP). Farrell said that he’€™s been impressed with how Lester has handled himself under the added pressure.

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Jon Lester expected to be in uniform Wednesday

07.30.14 at 3:52 pm ET
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With the trade deadline almost 24 hours away, all eyes in Boston have turned to Red Sox southpaw Jon Lester.

There’s a growing consensus that Lester’s time as a member of the Red Sox is coming to an end, as the lefty was scratched from his start Wednesday against Toronto.

Speaking to WEEI’s Dale & Holley, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that removing Lester from his outing was made in in order to help Lester cope with what has been a roller-coaster week for the left-hander. Pawtucket pitcher Brandon Workman, who’s compiled a 1-3 record with a 4.13 ERA in 11 games (eight starts) with Boston this season, will start in place of Lester on Wednesday against the Blue Jays.

“I think any player that has had their name attached to any kind of trade rumors, we’ve tried to be open and candid with them, and at the same time as the day wore on, we felt it was probably, as I mentioned last night, in the best interest of Jon and everyone involved that, let’s take the uncertainty out of this as much as possible. We’ll push his start back, we’ll insert Brandon Workman, and that’s where we are tonight,” Farrell said.

Farrell said the team has yet to make a roster move to make room for Brandon Workman, but he will presumably take the spot freed up by the trade of Felix Doubront to the Cubs.

Farrell also added that Lester is expected to be in the Red Sox clubhouse and will be in uniform.

While Farrell’s decision to remove Lester from his start was seen as a surprising move, the Red Sox skipper added that he doesn’t regret making the call a day in advance.

“I don’t know if it’s been unprecedented or not, but I think we all felt internally, that it was important to be forthright,” Farrell said. “We know there are a lot of talks surrounding Jon, and I know that Ben [Cherington] has received a number of calls on him and others, so he’s weighing through that and Jon has been kept in the loop throughout all this. It’s tough enough to go out there and pitch with a clear mind rather than wondering if you’re going to be in uniform or not. So we made that decision ahead of time.”

While Farrell would not comment on whether or not Lester’€™s days in Boston are indeed numbered, he did acknowledge that losing a player like Lester would be a big blow to the Red Sox clubhouse.

“I think with all due respect, hypotheticals are just that,” Farrell said. “But I will say this: Anytime we spend so much time together as a team, as a group, it does take on some of the feeling of a family, and if a member of your family is removed, sure, that has an unsettling feel to it.

“We also know that there’s a business side to this and clearly it is Ben’s and our intent to put together and build a team that can win as quickly as possible, and that may require some steps along the way. What we have to is take a step back from that and recognize that these are decisions that are going to have to be made. Some might not be the most popular on the surface, but what steps are taken are with direct intent, and that is to put together a team that is built to contend as quickly as possible.”

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