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Kevin Millar on MFB: ‘I don’t think you give up on a Will Middlebrooks’

09.05.14 at 12:29 pm ET
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Kevin Millar

Kevin Millar

MLB Network’s Kevin Millar made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Friday to discuss the Red Sox following Thursday’s disappointing loss to the Yankees. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

In Thursday’s game, Sox closer Koji Uehara continued to struggle, allowing a pair of solo home runs in the ninth inning as New York walked off with a 5-4 decision. There has been discussion that the team might shut down Uehara and let him rest up for next season.

“There’s nothing to lose now,” Millar said. “It’s kind of an odd season, guys, let’s get it straight. From last place, first place, last place. You’ve got things to address, go ahead and address them. He’s given up big-time home runs this year; last year he was invincible. It’s pretty funny how the years are different. Everything went right last year and now he’s in the scuffle mode. I’m a big fan of Koji, but he’s had a tough time getting some outs late in the game.”

The Red Sox have expressed an interested in having Will Middlebrooks play winter league in order to be better prepared for next season. It’s not clear that Middlebrooks is on board with that idea, but Millar supports it.

“He’s still got to look in the mirror and say, ‘Listen, I’ve got to get something done. I’ve got to get something right.’ Whether that’s your swing, whether that’s your defense, whatever you’ve got to work on,” Millar said. “I think winter ball’s great. I played it a lot. I played it everywhere but Venezuela. It gives you the chance to basically get that confidence back. Because you see the talent, you see the ceiling. This is a guy, if he hits 25-30 home runs at some point in his career it wouldn’t shock you. But he hasn’t produced. He produced his first three, four months up in the big leagues, and got everybody fired up. But it’s been a struggle-bunny since. So I think winter ball’s a great call.”

Added Millar: “I don’t think you give up on a Will Middlebrooks. I like the size, I like the talent I see. ‘€¦ I don’t think you give up on a kid, because corner guys, right-handed power right now, aren’t out there. Will hasn’t shown a whole lot of consistency at this level, but you also understand if something clicks he can become a guy that’s above average to a star. And it wouldn’t shock you, would it? We’ve seen a little bit of it.”

There has been some speculation that the Red Sox might considering trading Dustin Pedroia as part of their move to a younger lineup.

“No, you don’t trade Dustin Pedroia. You don’t even mention trading Dustin Pedroia,” Millar said, adding: “I’m not saying he’s untouchable, but he’s your makeup of the club. So if he has an off year this year, yeah, OK, now we’re going to trade Dustin Pedroia? He’s the only makeup and the grit and everything about the Red Sox.”

For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Millar, Koji Uehara, Will Middlebrooks

Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Allen Webster vs. Drew Hutchison

09.05.14 at 8:26 am ET
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Allen Webster

Allen Webster

The Red Sox begin a three-game weekend series Friday night against the Blue Jays, with Allen Webster pitching against Drew Hutchison.

Webster (3-3, 6.69) has spent much of the year shuffling between the Red Sox and Triple-A Pawtucket, as he has made just seven starts with Boston in 2014. His last two starts with the Red Sox have not exactly gone swimmingly. He was charged with six runs on eight hits on Aug. 24 against the Mariners, pitching just 4 1/3 innings that day. He did, however, record five strikeouts.

Last time out against the Rays did not prove to be much better for the 24-year-old. Tampa Bay batters tagged him for six runs in four innings of work before he exited for reliever Alex Wilson.

Webster said his command was an issue in that outing, which allowed the Rays to get into favorable hitters’€™ counts.

“I fell behind batters, didn’t get ahead, and when I had to make pitches I left them over the middle of the plate,” Webster said.

Unlike his major league numbers, Webster fared well with the PawSox this year. In 122 innings and 20 starts, his ERA sits at 3.10 and his WHIP at 1.24. Hitters have batted just .234 against him in the minor leagues. Hitters in the big leagues, though, have hit .266 against him, causing his WHIP to rise to 1.63 in the majors. He also has not thrown more than 6 2/3 innings or over 99 pitches in any start with the Red Sox this season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: allen webster, Drew Hutchison,

Will Middlebrooks on winter ball decision: ‘It’s not like I’m going against [the Red Sox]‘

09.05.14 at 8:15 am ET
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Will Middlebrooks is trying to decide whether to play winter ball this offseason. (Getty Images)

Will Middlebrooks is trying to decide whether to play winter ball this offseason. (Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Ultimately, Will Middlebrooks and the Red Sox want the same thing. Both the player and his team want to see the soon-to-be-26-year-old put in the best possible position to succeed on the field in 2015. Both parties want Middlebrooks to shed the desperate struggles that, after Thursday’s 0-for-3 performance that included a pair of strikeouts, see the third baseman hitting .180 with a .247 OBP and .263 slugging mark.

Middlebrooks does not shy from the fact that his year has been dreadful, that he has failed to live up to the standards that he expects from himself. The team wants him to be better. He wants to be better.

“I know I’m a good player. When I’m healthy — no excuses — but when I’m healthy, I know the type of player I am. I know the impact I can make in the game,” said Middlebrooks. “That’s not cockiness. I just know the player I am. I know the tools I have. I know what I can do. I’ve done it. That adds to the frustration when things aren’t going well, because I know the player I am. It’s hard not to be able to show it.”

Both Middlebrooks and the Sox believe that he’s capable of moving beyond his two seasons of offensive futility, and they’re motivated to make that happen. But despite that common goal, the two are working to achieve consensus on the best means of achieving it.

The Sox believe that, more than anything, after missing so much time over the last two years due to four stints on the disabled list (with just 48 games in the big leagues this year, and 29 more in the minors), Middlebrooks needs baseball repetitions, to experience consistent time on the field to improve his pitch recognition and return to being the confident hitter he was in his impressive 2012 rookie campaign. Moreover, the Sox need to see Middlebrooks produce at a high level on a sustained basis if they are to commit to giving him a meaningful role in the big leagues for next season.

Middlebrooks doesn’t disagree with the value of repetitions or with the idea that he needs to demonstrate production to earn a big league job for next year. But given the health woes he’s experienced, he feels that the most important thing he can do to ensure his productivity in future years is to use the offseason to get into tremendous shape to avoid the kinds of physical setbacks that have prevented him from gaining the consistent play that he and the Sox both want him to get.

And so, for now, Middlebrooks is somewhat hesitant about the team’s stated desire (articulated in recent days by manager John Farrell, GM Ben Cherington and assistant GM Mike Hazen) for him to play in winter ball. He hasn’t ruled out the possibility, but he’s hoping to get more information in order to make the decision about what form his preparations for 2015 should take.

“It’s not like I’m going against them. It’s not like a butting of heads. It’s not like that at all,” said Middlebrooks. “They understand where I’m coming from and I understand where they’re coming from. … There hasn’t been a whole lot of conversation about it yet, because we’re still playing ball. We’re still doing this daily. We haven’t really had a chance to sit down and talk about it. There will be more discussions about it. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Will Middlebrooks,

Red Sox to consider potential shut-down of Koji Uehara after latest struggle

09.05.14 at 1:59 am ET
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Red Sox right-hander Koji Uehara blew his third straight save opportunity on Thursday. (Getty Images)

Red Sox right-hander Koji Uehara blew his third straight save opportunity on Thursday. (Getty Images)

Over the past couple of weeks, as Koji Uehara’s poor outings mounted, the Red Sox had been consistent in their plans. The team would monitor the 39-year-old’s innings, use their All-Star closer judiciously over the duration of September, but the team did not have plans to shut down the man who had been so much a part of the team’s success since his arrival in 2013.

But after Uehara gave up two more homers on Thursday, leaving him with a yield of 10 runs in his last 4 2/3 innings, manager John Farrell told reporters after the Red Sox’ 5-4 walkoff loss to the Yankees that the team may have to reconsider that stance.

“Anytime you give up a lead in the fashion that we did, those are tough games to take.We’€™d given Koji eight days off, got him an inning of work the other night and still the lack of finish of his split is what allowed a couple pitches to the middle of the plate for a couple home runs,” Farrell told reporters. “From viewing it and even talking to Koji, it’€™s the finish, whether it’€™s the intensity behind the delivery of the pitch’€¦ on occasion he showed it, the first one had good depth to it on the swing and miss, but the consistency to it, which he’€™s been so good with, that’€™s lacking. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Koji Uehara,

Why You Should Have Cared About Thursday’s Red Sox Game: Koji Uehara and future ninth-inning uncertainty

09.04.14 at 10:38 pm ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, ‘€˜€˜Closing Time’€™€™ will now be called ‘€˜€˜Why 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.)

Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

On Wednesday, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington suggested that he saw little cause for alarm in the recent struggles of closer Koji Uehara.

“Not really a concern,” said Cherington. “He’s identified some things. [We] still see the finish on the fastball. It’s probably been a little less consistent than what we’re used to seeing, but he’s gone through this before where he’s corrected it. This couple of weeks or whatever, it’s not the level he’s used to, but I think it’s more the outlier. ‘€¦

“He’s obviously been a huge part of our success last year and our team this year,” Cherington added. “He’s certainly someone we’d like to have [beyond 2014].”

Yet Uehara, who enjoyed one of the greatest runs in history from 2013 through roughly mid-August, remains mired in a stretch that raises questions about whether he can be the sort of reliable end-of-game force that he’d been through most of his Red Sox career.

Uehara, entrusted with a 4-3 advantage in the ninth inning, gave up a pair of solo homers to the Yankees (one to Mark Teixeira, then a walkoff shot by Chase Headley). He’s now permitted 10 runs in his last six outings spanning 4 2/3 innings with four homers allowed in that time.

On the one hand, his struggles may well drive down his price as a free agent. On the other hand, assuming that Uehara is brought back to close again next year, the sense of certainty that surrounded his presence in the ninth inning will be somewhat eroded.


Red Sox minor league roundup: Brian Johnson’s innings landmark; Jake Dahlstrand putting himself on the map; PawSox walk off; DSL Sox eliminated

09.04.14 at 1:43 pm ET
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Left-hander Brian Johnson allowed two runs in seven innings while reaching the 150 innings threshold for 2014 on Wednesday. (365DigitalPhotography.com / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Brian Johnson allowed two runs in seven innings while reaching the 150 innings threshold for 2014 on Wednesday. (365DigitalPhotography.com / Portland Sea Dogs)

A brief look at the playoff action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:



— Left-hander Edwin Escobar, acquired from the Giants in July for Jake Peavy, turned in his best start with the PawSox. He was brilliant for 98 pitches, recording 26 outs and steering his team to the brink of a series victory. However, he was denied the win by a Brandon Laird homer with two outs in the ninth. Still, the 22-year-old recorded his most strikeouts with the PawSox (7) while scattering six hits and walking none. The 8 2/3 innings matched a career high, and marked the third time in his pro career that Escobar has come within an out of a complete game. The outing marked the fifth time in six starts with the PawSox that Escobar had given up two or fewer runs while logging at least six innings.

— Until the ninth-inning game-tying homer, first baseman Travis Shaw was poised for the role of offensive hero. He went 2-for-3 with a solo homer (his 22nd of the year, most in the system) and walked twice. The 24-year-old has a chance to position himself as an interesting complementary corner infield option for the Sox given that he’s a left-handed hitter who has shown the ability to make adjustments at a level. He posted solid if unspectacular numbers following his early-season promotion to Triple-A, hitting .262/.321/.431 with 10 homers in 81 games for the PawSox. However, whereas he dominated in Double-A this year — hitting .305/.406/.548 with 29 walks and 23 strikeouts in 47 games — he walked slightly fewer times (28) in roughly 70 percent more contests, while seeing his strikeouts more than triple (to 76). Yet on Wednesday, Shaw offered a glimpse of the type of impact he had made throughout his time in Portland this year.

— Left fielder Bryce Brentz went 3-for-5 with a double, giving him 12 extra-base hits in 25 games with the PawSox since his return from the DL. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: brian johnson, edwin escobar, jake dahlstrand, jake romanski

Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Brandon Workman vs. Chris Capuano

09.04.14 at 10:05 am ET
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Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman

The Red Sox will conclude their 10-game road trip with the final game of their three-game series against the Yankees on Thursday, as Brandon Workman will return from a brief stint in the minors to duel against left-hander Chris Capuano.

In his last outing, Aug. 23 at Fenway Park against the Mariners, Workman (1-8, 4.93 ERA) did not allow any runs through the first three innings. The fourth inning, however, was a complete disaster for the young right-hander. Seattle’€™s offense exploded for seven runs on seven hits, coming to a crescendo when outfielder Dustin Ackley ripped a decisive three-run homer into the right field bleachers. Just 3 1/3 innings into his outing, Workman was replaced by reliever Alex Wilson.

Workman admitted after the game that he tried to locate his fastball down in the strike zone and limit the amount of hittable pitches, but to no avail.

‘€œI was doing my best not to let that happen,’€ Workman said of his fastball. ‘€œObviously, I didn’t have much success.’€

Workman did have success in his previous start, though. Against the Angels on Aug. 18, Workman was charged with the loss but pitched seven innings of two-run ball, striking out five. He also struck out five during his Aug. 8 performance against the Cardinals.

The 26-year-old starter has made one start this season against the Yankees, at the end of June. Aside from back-to-back home runs courtesy of Kelly Johnson and Brett Gardner, Workman was solid in his seven innings that afternoon, but the Red Sox bats could not muster a single run. Workman said he wasn’€™t exactly pleased with his effort in that game, however.

“Little bit of a grind the whole time,” Workman said. “I was constantly pitching with guys on, stuff like that, but I was able to pitch out of some situations. But they tagged me for a couple homers. That hurt.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brandon Workman, chris capuano,

Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen on D&C: ‘We know we have some redundancies in some areas,’ including crowded outfield

09.04.14 at 9:47 am ET
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Mike Hazen

Mike Hazen

Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to discuss the future of the team and other news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Red Sox recently signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, but Mookie Betts has shown promise with his play in center field of late. That’s led to questions about what the outfield will look like next season.

“We have a long offseason to go. ‘€¦ I think both Castillo and Betts, I see them on the team. What position they’re playing, who’s in the lineup, how it all shakes out, we have a long way to go in this offseason,” Hazen said.

“I think what we’ve tried to do as we’ve moved through the trading deadline and into the rest of the regular season was to acquire or amass as many really good major league players as we could. We know we have some redundancies in some areas, we have some holes in other areas that need to be plugged. And there’s two ways we’re going to plug those holes. We’re going to do it with money in the free agent market, and we’re going to be able to do it via trade, having good major league players, not just minor league players to trade. We may trade some minor league guys as well, but having those good, established major league hitters — a lot of these guys that have power, which is a commodity in the game, set us up fairly well in a strong position at least.

“I know trades are tough to pull off no matter what you’re dealing with because you need two to tango on this. But we’re going to be in a pretty good position we think going into the offseason given the assets and the players that we have both on the roster and in the minor leagues, and the financial resources that we have coming off the books currently to be able to fill the holes that we need to fill.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, mike hazen, mookie betts, Rusney Castillo

Why You Should Have Cared About The Red Sox Game: Allen Craig’s alarming performance

09.04.14 at 12:32 am ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, ‘€˜Closing Time’€™ will now be called ‘€˜Why 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.)

Allen Craig matched a career-high with four strikeouts on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

Allen Craig matched a career-high with four strikeouts on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

NEW YORK — When the Red Sox made the decision on July 31 to take a wrecking ball to their rotation, their decision was motivated chiefly by a desire to reload a league-worst offense and turn it into a deeper, more formidable group for 2015. The trade of Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes represented part of that strategy, but only a first part. The team also made the decision to trade John Lackey, who remained under team control for 2015 at the major league minimum, to the Cardinals in exchange for right-hander Joe Kelly and corner bat Allen Craig.

Kelly — a young, controllable pitcher with a solid starter’s mix — was an important component. But Craig represented a key piece, someone with the potential to offer the Sox a middle-of-the-order right-handed bat if he could show that his poor performance with the Cardinals this year prior to the trade deadline (a .237 average, .291 OBP and .346 slugging mark) represented an aberration, and that he could return to the standout level of play he’d established from 2011-13 (.312/.364/.500) as a lineup anchor.

Yet this year increasingly looks like a lost one for Craig, and so rather than having any measure of defined expectations for Craig going forward, the Sox will have to rely heavily on hope. And in his very limited time in a Red Sox uniform, the 30-year-old has given few glimpses to suggest cause for optimism.

Wednesday represented a low-point. In the Red Sox’ 5-1 loss to the Yankees, Craig went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, just the second time (and first since April 8, 2011) that he’s punched out four times, and the first that he’d done so in the same number of plate appearances. In 10 games with the Sox, he’s 4-for-36 with four walks and 15 strikeouts in 41 plate appearances, resulting in a line of .111/.220/.250 in a very brief sample. Overall this year, he’s now hitting .226/.285/.337 while striking out in 22.8 percent of plate appearances, a career-worst. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Allen Craig, anthony ranaudo,

Dustin Pedroia expected back this weekend at Fenway

09.03.14 at 8:15 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who took an elbow to the head in a series last weekend against the Rays that has left him sidelined due to concussion-like symptoms, is now progressing from the injury in a fashion that suggests he will be ready to return by the weekend series at Fenway against the Blue Jays.

“He’s improved today. He went through an early [batting practice session] this afternoon. He went through the impact testing on line. That came back as he’s passed it,” said manager John Farrell. “So, we’ll see how he responds tomorrow with some further exertion testing and it’s anticipated and optimistic that he would be back on the field probably when we get back home.”

Pedroia has played 131 games this year, hitting .280 with a .340 OBP and .379 slugging mark.

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