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Red Sox 6, Rays 3: Chris Sale does his Chris Sale thing, and offense picks him up behind Mookie Betts

05.13.17 at 4:33 pm ET
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Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale hurls against the Rays on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale hurls against the Rays on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox could get used to this.

Chris Sale wasn’t as dominant as he was in April, but the Red Sox weren’t winning many of those games, anyway. On Saturday, he limited the Rays to two hits — both homers — but the Red Sox offense more than bailed him out in a 6-3 victory.

Sale allowed homers to Logan Morrison and Kevin Kiermaier, but was otherwise his typical self, striking out 12 over seven innings.

He got virtually all the offense he’d need off the bat of outfielder Mookie Betts, who has certifiably caught fire. Betts went 2-for-4 with a homer, his sixth of the season and fourth in six games. He also drove in three runs.

The Red Sox took care of this one in the fifth, after Kiermaier’s two-run homer had given the Rays a 3-2 lead. The big hit came off the bat of reserve Deven Marrero, who doubled home two runs before scoring on Betts’ double.

That was all Sale needed. He improved to 4-2 and his ERA remains a healthy 2.15. Sale has now allowed no more than three runs in seven of his eight starts, and with the Red Sox searching for consistency throughout the rest of the rotation — not to mention on offense — having him as a safety blanket is a comforting feeling.

Sale has now struck out at least 10 in seven straight starts. He joins elite company, because the only other pitchers to accomplish that feat in the last 100 years are Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Nolan Ryan.

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Rays 5, Red Sox 4: Lack of a bench becoming a major issue, especially with third base a wasteland

05.12.17 at 11:34 pm ET
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Josh Rutledge

Josh Rutledge

Here’s what happens when you build a top-heavy roster — it makes it awfully easy for the bottom to fall out.

The Red Sox once again learned this lesson in a 5-4 loss to the Rays on Friday night. With Pablo Sandoval on the disabled list and Brock Holt still fighting vertigo, the Red Sox turned to Josh Rutledge at third base, and the Rule 5 pick was exposed.

He made a throwing error that led to two unearned runs in the fourth and was late on other throws as well. He then grounded out with the tying run on third to end the eighth.

“Tough position to play,” Rutledge said. “That’s it. I mean, it’s not like we’re not trying.”

It’s not Rutledge’s fault. The Red Sox unwisely chose to open camp without any serious competition for Sandoval at third base, and when he got off to a slow start, they had nowhere to turn. This isn’t solely about his injury. In a perfect world, Rutledge would be a reserve.

Their bench now barely qualifies as big-league caliber, with Rutledge pressed into starting duty at third, and reserve infielders Chase D’Arnaud and Deven Marrero offensive liabilities. Marrero, in fact, is coming off a season that saw him post a .487 OPS at Triple-A. This year he was even worse, putting up a .389 OPS  before getting promoted anyway because the Red Sox have nowhere else to turn.

They tried to rally on Friday after falling behind 5-0 with defending Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello (6 IP, 9 H, 3 ER) on the mound, but four runs largely gifted by shoddy Tampa defense weren’t enough.

With Hanley Ramirez sidelined by a trapezius strain and Marco Hernandez potentially headed for surgery, the Red Sox are extremely thin in the infield.

Would Travis Shaw still help? Absolutely. But the Red Sox traded him to Milwaukee for reliever Tyler Thornburg, who was just moved to the 60-day disabled list after only throwing a handful of pitches in spring training.

The Red Sox now sit at 18-17, perfectly mediocre in the American League East. While they’ve done some good things, particularly in the bullpen, where manager John Farrell has pieced it together without a true eighth-inning guy, their lack of depth is leaving a mark, especially at third base.

Rutledge’s error was their league-leading 13th at the position. They’re currently waiting for Sandoval (knee) to return, but he only started taking grounders on Friday and remains a ways away. Holt, meanwhile, will spend the weekend with Triple-A Pawtucket before a decision is made on his return.

“It’s been a tough position for us, make no mistake about it,” manager John Farrell said of third. “I think we’ve had five different players there. We’ve made far too many errors there as a group. Tonight I thought there were some long transfers on Rut’s part that led to some tardy throws, a throw that falls short to Mitch [Moreland] at first base, so we’ve tried a number of people. Opportunity is there, opportunity is there for someone to step up and grab the job. So while we’re in position where we come into the season thinking we might be in a platoon situation, we haven’t had the combination there all year to try to take advantage of the splits offensively, but defensively, that’s got to improve.”

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It appears as though Marco Hernandez may be headed to surgery

05.12.17 at 5:48 pm ET
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Marco Hernandez

Marco Hernandez

The Red Sox’ already thin third base depth may have taken another hit.

Marco Hernandez, who left the May 3 game with a left shoulder subluxation, appears to be dealing with an injury more serious than most originally thought. And, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell, that may lead to the infielder to surgery.

With Hernandez out, it has left Josh Rutledge as the primary third baseman. Rutledge entered Friday night’s game against the Rays hitting .286 with a .661 OPS.

The Red Sox head into the three-game series with the worst OPS of any team at the third base position (.587).

“He’s still feeling some symptoms here. It’s likely this may have to require some additional work to rectify and that would mean some procedure,” Farrell said of Hernandez, whose injury doesn’t involve the rotator cuff. “He’s going to get re-examined. There’s likely another MRI scheduled here in the coming days to comparer against the one done previous, but he has a history of this. Nothing to the extent it was the other day against Baltimore. Things are moving in that direction. Without anything scheduled or defined, that’s kind of the way things are looking right now.”

Another third base option, Brock Holt (vertigo), manned third base for the PawSox Friday and figures to be with the Triple-A team at least through the weekend. Pablo Sandoval (knee) also took grounders at Fenway Park Friday, but is is still a ways away.

Red Sox lineup: Hanley Ramirez starts on bench, replaced by Chris Young

05.12.17 at 3:39 pm ET
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Chris Young

Chris Young

The Red Sox will head into a second straight game without Hanley Ramirez in the starting lineup.

The designated hitter, who injured his right trapezius muscle Saturday, starts Friday night’s game on the bench, with Chris Young getting the nod at DH.

With Young batting fifth, Jackie Bradley Jr. remains in center field, sliding down to the No. 9 spot against Tampa Bay righty Alex Cobb.

Here is the Red Sox lineup with Rick Porcello on the mound for the hosts:

Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Andrew Benintendi LF
Chris Young DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 3B
Sandy Leon C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

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David Ortiz takes jab at Theo Epstein in new memoir

05.12.17 at 10:10 am ET
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David Ortiz still seems perturbed about the Red Sox not giving him multiple long-term contracts.   (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

David Ortiz still seems perturbed about the Red Sox not giving him multiple long-term contracts. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

In his soon-to-be released memoir with WEEI’s Michael Holley, David Ortiz saves his sharpest criticism for former manager Bobby Valentine. But he also takes a jab at ex-Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, the person who brought him to Boston.

Though the Boston Globe doesn’t run full excerpts in its review of “Papi,” the newspaper picks out several key quotes. In one of them, Ortiz refers to Epstein as that “numbers-crunching Red Sox executive” who stuck him with “some of the worst long-term contracts in baseball.”

The anecdote about Ortiz feeling underpaid is nothing new. He often complained about his contract during his 14 seasons in Boston, with tension hitting a fever pitch in 2010 when he publicly campaigned for a long-term deal. The Red Sox inked Ortiz to a four-year, $52 million contract with a club option for a fifth year in 2006, when he set the franchise’s single-season home run record. Epstein never signed Ortiz to a new deal before he left town at the conclusion of the 2011 campaign.

Though Ortiz was underpaid in comparison to star position players, he was consistently the highest-paid DH in the game. He signed three contracts with the Red Sox after Epstein had left town, including a one-year deal with two club options prior to the 2015 season. Ortiz retired with one year remaining on the deal.


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Friday Red Sox Farm Report: Brock Holt 1-for-4, Brandon Workman gives up 2 runs in PawSox loss

05.12.17 at 10:03 am ET
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Here is what happened in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (15-15): L, 3-2 vs. Rochester

— After retaking the lead in the seventh, the PawSox ultimately fell after Rochester scored two runs in the ninth. Matt Dominguez went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI and has now hit safely in five of his last six games. Sam Travis went 2-for-4 with two singles. This was his ninth two-hit game of the season. Brock Holt went 1-for-4 with a double in his rehab stint for vertigo.

— PawSox starter Marcus Walden threw five innings and gave up a walk, three hits and one run. Brandon Workman entered the game in the eighth and got the final two outs of the inning. He then surrendered the lead in the ninth after giving up a walk and three singles.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS (17-12): W, 5-0 vs. Reading

— Nick Longhi went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI in the Sea Dogs’ win over Reading, their fifth straight road victory. Mike Olt put Portland on the board with a solo homer in the fourth. The team scored two more runs in the fifth and another two in the seventh.

— Jalen Beeks got the win, his fourth straight, striking out seven and giving up two hits and four walks.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX (22-11): W, 10-8 at Buies Creek 

— Salem scored three runs in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings for the win, but almost gave it up to Buies Creek, who scored five runs in the final four innings and got the tying run on base in the ninth.

–Offensive highlights for Salem included a third-inning double from Tate Matheny, who then scored on a Michael Chavis double and a solo homer from Jhon Nunez in the fourth.

— Reliever Jordan Weems got the win. He pitched 2.1 innings, struck out two and gave up only one hit and two unearned runs.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE (21-11): W, 6-5 at Lakewood

— Greenville fell behind early but managed to pull off a close win over Lakewood. Down 5-3 in the sixth, Roldani Baldwin hit a two-run homer to tie the game and Jagger Rusconi hit an eighth-inning solo home run for the win.

— Kyle Hart got the win in his Greenville debut. He pitched two shutout innings during which he gave up two hits, a walk and struck out three. Starter Shaun Anderson didn’t do as well, as he surrendered five runs, three walks and six hits in his five innings.

Bobby Valentine responds to some of criticisms levied by David Ortiz in new book ‘Papi: My Story’

05.11.17 at 5:53 pm ET
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Bobby Valentine

Bobby Valentine

It seems like 2012 all over again.

In the soon-to-be released book, “Papi: My Story”, written by David Ortiz and WEEI’s Michael Holley, the former Red Sox designated hitter opens up about some of the problems he had with former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.

One incident Ortiz talks about in the book involving Valentine involved a pop-up drill in which the team took issue how the then-manager criticized infielder Mike Aviles. It was a passage highlighted in an excerpt released in Sports Illustrated:

One day we were doing his drills and the s— hit the fan. We were hitting pop-ups, and Bobby had said that he didn’t want infielders to say, “I’ve got it, I’ve got it. . . .” He thought that was an unreliable way of calling off a teammate because, in a noisy stadium, the player who’s being called off might not hear his teammate taking control. Well, all players have habits. And in American baseball, most infielders taking the play say, “I got it.”

So when our shortstop, Mike Aviles, got under a ball, he instinctively said, “I got it.” Bobby snapped. It was unlike anything I had ever seen in the majors. He went off on Aviles, cussing and verbally tearing him down in front of everyone. If it had been me, I would have gone up to him, right in front of the fans and dropped a punch.

After that workout, I talked with Dustin Pedroia and Adrián González. We decided to meet with Bobby in his office and attempt to tell him how he was being perceived. It was a waste of time. We tried reasoning with him, and it was like communicating with a wall. All he did was roll his eyes and look everywhere but at us. It could not have been more obvious that he didn’t care what we had to say. We left his office shaking our heads.

Well, Valentine has evidently seen the passage in the book, and took to CBS Sports Network to respond …

Red Sox 4, Brewers 1: Give John Farrell some credit for using Craig Kimbrel in a weird way

05.11.17 at 4:55 pm ET
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Craig Kimbrel. (Neville E. Guard/USA Today Sports)

Craig Kimbrel. (Neville E. Guard/USA Today Sports)

When Milwaukee slugger Eric Thames came up to bat in the eighth inning Thursday afternoon with a runner on first base and the score tied at 1-1, there was a few ways John Farrell could go. (For a complete recap of what would be a 4-1 Red Sox win, click here.)

The Red Sox manager might have stuck with the team’s proclaimed eighth-inning guy, Matt Barnes, who had kicked off his outing by walking Orlando Arcia with one out in the frame.

Or perhaps Farrell might have gone to one of the three lefties sitting out in the Red Sox’ bullpen. One of the problems with that, however, was that Thames came into the at-bat hitting .400 (12-for-30, 5 homers) against left-handers.

So, Farrell did something off the beaten track. He brought in Craig Kimbrel.

“Knowing that they’re going to have [Ryan] Braun or Thames ready to go in the pitcher’s slot, felt like whether we’re in a two-out, nobody on situation or the situation that unfolded, we’d go to Kimbrel there,” Farrell told reporters. “Whether it was going to be four or five outs, that was to be determined, but he’s been so efficient and had only thrown I think 11 pitches over an eight-day period. Well-rested, knew that today was a possibility to get him into the eighth inning.”

It was the second time on the six-game road trip the manager brought in Kimbrel to get the last five outs of a game, having done so Sunday in Minnesota. But in that game the Red Sox actually had the lead, and ultimately they wouldn’t need the closer’s services in the ninth thanks to a 10-run inning.

But, with it becoming very clear Kimbrel has become the kind of weapon a team can’t just use in a conventional manner, the move could be justified.

Not only was Farrell using his best pitcher to not allow the runner on first to score, with one of this season’s best hitters in Thames coming to the plate, but there was some confidence that the Red Sox could push across a go-ahead run before Kimbrel exited. Even with the bottom of the batting order coming up, the visitors were going to go up against a bad Milwaukee bullpen, which in this case was represented by a struggling Neftali Feliz.

The whole thing worked out for the Red Sox.

Kimbrel struck out Thames, and, after an infield hit by Jonathan Villar, ended the eighth with another punch-out, this one against Keon Broxton.

Then, sure enough, Feliz imploded. First came a walk to Christian Vazquez, which was followed by a subpar bunt from Deven Marrero (who had come in when Kimbrel arrived as part of a double-switch). Fortunately for the Red Sox Arcia dropped the throw from Felix on the sacrifice, putting runners on first and second and paving the way for Mookie Betts’ game-winning three-run homer.

From there, Kimbrel closed things out by striking out the side. When it was all said and done, not only did the reliever pick up his second win of the season, but has now retired 37 of his last 39 batters, 26 by strikeout.

Shattering Perceptions Game Note Image

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched very well once again, allowing one run on three hits over six innings, lowering his ERA to 2.80. The only reason he came out after 87 pitches was because Farrell chose to pinch-hit for him in the seventh inning with the potential go-ahead run on base.

Red Sox minor league notebook: Jason Groome (back) hasn’t pitched since April 10, but organization staying patient

05.11.17 at 1:30 pm ET
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Jason Groome is back in Fort Myers rehabbing. (WEEI.com)

Jason Groome is back in Fort Myers rehabbing. (WEEI.com)

1. Jason Groome is the most talented pitcher in the Red Sox’ farm system, so it’s no surprise the organization is staying patient with the 18-year-old left-hander, who it drafted No. 12 overall in last year’s draft.

Groome exited his first start of the year on April 10 with Single-A Greenville in the second inning after allowing nine runs in 1 1/3 innings. He was placed on the disabled list with a back injury and hasn’t appeared in a game since.

The left-hander is back in Fort Myers working on a throwing progression with no exact timetable for his return as of now.

“I think he’s doing fine. It’s just that he’s an 18-year-old kid. We don’t rush those guys,” Red Sox minor league pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel said. “We want to make sure he’s right before we put him on the mound again. We’re going to be patient with him. He’ll let us know.”

Treuel noted how much work Groome put into his body this offseason, which made the injury even more frustrating.

“The biggest thing was he got used to the starter’s routine as a professional pitcher,” he said. “Plus, he got his body in really good shape. He really worked at it and he made that commitment to moving to Fort Myers. He worked out there and it’s a shame he’s had a little bit of a setback here. It’s not because he wasn’t in shape. He really worked at that.”

2. Double-A Portland starter Kevin McAvoy is 1-2 this season with a 4.01 ERA, but he’s trending in the right direction thanks to a tweak in his delivery.

“He tweaked his delivery a bit and he did this on his own,” Treuel said. “He basically has a little David Price half windup and it really works for him well. Like I told him, ‘If it works for you, it works for me.’”

Since McAvoy made the tweak, in two starts he’s allowed just one run over 13 innings, while walking two and striking out 12.

A 2014 fourth-round pick out of Bryant, he has progressed nicely through the organization and if all goes well he could potentially make it to Pawtucket this season.

3. With all the struggles the Red Sox have had at third base and Rafael Devers’ hot start in Portland, some have suggested the Red Sox take a look at him, but it’s just way too soon. These same people point to Andrew Benintendi skipping Triple-A last year, but that was an anomaly. This doesn’t happen all the time, and keep in mind Benintendi made the jump in the second half of the season, not the middle of May.

Devers is also just 20 years old and still has some developing left to do. The left-handed hitter is batting .305 on the year with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 26 games. He’s swinging a hot bat of late, batting .364 with four homers in his last 10 games. The third baseman could see a promotion to Pawtucket at some point this year, but from this viewpoint he won’t be ready for the big leagues until 2018.

4. Shaun Anderson is on a roll with Single-A Greenville to open the year. In six starts, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.87 ERA and has totaled 32 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. According to Treuel, he could be even better once he starts using his changeup.

“He has a nice routine going,” he said. “Fastball, he’s using a four-seam fastball and is cutting the pitch a little bit. He has a real good slider. The thing we’re trying to emphasize with him in use the changeup a little bit more. He has a really good one, but we just have to convince him to use it in a game if he wants to be a starter.”

Anderson was a reliever at Florida and came into spring training with a starter’s mindset and it is paying off after struggling last year with Lowell.

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Read More: Jason Groome, rafael devers, Red Sox Minor League Notebook, Trey Ball

Carson Smith is getting closer for Red Sox. Tyler Thornburg? That’s another story

05.11.17 at 1:16 pm ET
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Tyler Thornburg (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Tyler Thornburg (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

For two straight offseasons the Red Sox have attempted to solve their eighth inning situation with trades. It hasn’t quite worked out as planned, to say the least.

First it was Carson Smith, and that hasn’t panned out, with the righty undergoing Tommy John surgery a month into his first season with his new team.

Then it was Tyler Thornburg last December, with that also not panning out of yet thanks to a right shoulder impingement.

Well, one of the two might be getting close to helping out.

“Carson, his bullpens are Tuesday and Friday. He’s going to throw another bullpen tomorrow when we return to Boston,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Sunday morning in Milwaukee. “And we’ll continue on probably through next week with that same schedule. I would think after that he’s close to facing some hitters.”

But it’s Thornburg’s situation that has the Red Sox scratching their heads.

“With Tyler, we’ll still trying to get him through some more aggressive flatground work. That’s the most recent update on Tyler I can give you,” Farrell told reporters.

Considering no surgery was deemed necessary upon the diagnosis of Thornburg’s ailing right shoulder, the timetable for a return has been remarkably slower than almost everybody anticipated. It’s a frustration that Farrell shared during his morning media session Thursday.

“It’s been a little bit of a puzzle for all involved here including Tyler, because the MRI’s that he’s gone through, while showing a little bit of an impingement, hasn’t revealed anything more structural than that,” the manager noted. “so while the inflammation has been kicked out of there and been subsided, he’s still not over the hump so to speak to the extent we would have anticipated. I can’t tell you there’s additional testing scheduled but we’re still working through to get the arm strength built up.”

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