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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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.

Red Sox ‘don’t expect’ to consider Mookie Betts at third base

09.03.14 at 6:50 pm ET
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The Sox feel that Mookie Betts can stay in the outfield going forward. (Getty Images)

The Sox feel that Mookie Betts can stay in the outfield going forward. (Getty Images)

NEW YORK — The commitment to Rusney Castillo for 2015 comes with an interesting and, for the Red Sox, promising dilemma: What to do with Mookie Betts? Castillo is viewed as a likely center fielder for next year. Betts has performed this month like a player who is capable of making an impact in that same role.

That presents the Sox with options (given the presence of Castillo, Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and a center fielder-turned-right fielder in Shane Victorino) rather than problems, in the view of GM Ben Cherington.

“We believe we’€™re better off having more than one good major league center fielder and hopefully we have, in the long run, in terms of long term control, hopefully we have three at the upper levels now. We’€™ll figure out a way to incorporate all of them hopefully,” said Cheringotn. “We understand next April there’€™s nine spots in the lineup so nine people will be in the lineup and we’€™ll figure out who those nine guys are and how it all winds up. I think we want as many good players as we can and we’€™re happy that we think we have a number of guys that could play center field in the major leagues and in our particular ballpark, we like having more than one center fielder in the lineup at any time anyway because of the dimensions and hopefully this gives us a chance to do that.” Read the rest of this entry »

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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