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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.”

Robbie Ross Jr. is back with the Red Sox

05.11.17 at 11:30 am ET
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RobbieRossThe Red Sox needed a reliever, so they are turning to a familiar face.

The team announced prior to its game against the Brewers Thursday that it was demoting starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick and promoting lefty relief pitcher Robbie Ross Jr.

Ross Jr. had been sent to Triple-A Pawtucket April 28, allowing just one run in his five appearances with the PawSox, striking out seven and walking three. The lefty last pitched Wednesday, notching three strikeouts in an inning against Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Ross Jr. had only appeared in four games with the Red Sox after missing the first eight games of the season due to a bout with the flu.

The move didn’t come as a surprise, with the Red Sox potentially not needing a fifth starter until their series in Oakland in more than a week. And even if there wasn’t an off day Monday, and a start was needed, Kendrick most likely wouldn’t be considered after allowing 18 hits and 12 runs over 8 1/3 innings during his two-start stint with the Red Sox.

As MLB.com’s Ian Browne was first to point out, the Red Sox were allowed to send Kendrick to the minors without putting him through waivers thanks to an agreement made between the pitcher and the club that stated he could be optioned down to the minors within 45 days of his selection to the roster.

The Red Sox’ bullpen is now back to boasting three lefties, with Ross Jr. joining Robby Scott and Fernando Abad. The rest of the relievers include Craig Kimbrel, Matt Barnes, Ben Taylor, Joe Kelly and Heath Hembree.

Red Sox lineup: Hanley Ramirez out in series finale vs. Brewers

05.11.17 at 10:04 am ET
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Hanley Ramirez is out in the series finale vs. the Brewers. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez is out in the series finale vs. the Brewers. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

After leaving Wednesday’s game with a shoulder injury, Hanley Ramirez is out of the lineup Thursday in the series finale against the Brewers.

Ramirez played first base for the first time this season and couldn’t make it through the entire game. Mitch Moreland gets the start at first base, as the Red Sox go up against Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson.

Josh Rutledge will be at third base and Christian Vazquez will catch Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez.

Here is the complete Red Sox lineup.

Mookie Betts, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Andrew Benintendi, LF
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Josh Rutledge, 3B
Christian Vazquez, C
Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

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Thursday Red Sox Farm Report: Sam Travis goes 2-for-4 in PawSox loss; Sea Dogs lose despite 4-run first inning

05.11.17 at 9:53 am ET
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Sam Travis continues to swing the bat well. (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Sam Travis continues to swing the bat well. (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Here is what happened in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (15-14): L, 5-2 vs. Scranton W/B

— Sam Travis went 2-for-4 with a single, double, walk and RBI. The double was his seventh of the season and he now has at least one hit in 11 of his last 14 games.

— Henry Owens got the start for the PawSox and allowed three walks, six hits and four runs in five innings.

— Robbie Ross Jr. pitched a solid ninth inning, recording three strikeouts.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS (16-12): L, 6-5 vs. Binghamton

— Portland got off to an early lead with four runs in the first inning, but ultimately fell after Binghamton responded with four of their own in the second and one each in the fourth and eighth.

— During the first inning rally, Rafael Devers scored on a wild pitch, Nick Longhi hit an RBI single, while Joseph Monge and Jordan Procyshen each hit a single.

— Sea Dogs starter Jacob Dahlstrand got a no-decision after giving up five runs in 3 1/3 innings. Jake Cosart gave up a run and three walks in one inning to take the loss.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX (21-11): W, 7-2 at Buies Creek 

— After falling behind by a run in the first, Salem answered with five runs in the second to take the big lead and a blowout win. It was Salem’s sixth win in their last seven games.

— In the five-run rally, Trenton Kemp walked and then scored on a dropped toss to the shortstop after Nick Lovullo hit a bouncer to the second baseman. Michael Chavis also walked with the bases loaded to score Bryan Hudson, and Josh Ockimey hit a single to score Lovullo and Chad De La Guerra.

— Salem starter Matt Kent pitched six innings, gave up seven hits, two runs, one walk and struck out three for the win.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE (20-13): L, 3-0 at Lakewood

— Greenville was shut out after failing to answer the three runs Lakewood scored in the third inning. Starter Robby Sexton earned the loss after giving up five hits, three runs one walk and striking out five in five innings.

— Lakewood held Greenville to just two hits, both by Lorenzo Cedrola, one of which was a lead-off single in the ninth.

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Brewers 7, Red Sox 4: Why this loss should be of some concern

05.11.17 at 12:40 am ET
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Kyle Kendrick (Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

Kyle Kendrick (Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

The first two games in Milwaukee didn’t have that make-or-break feel to them for the Red Sox.

Two losses. Two bad starting pitching performances. Not enough timely hits. There you go.

But the 7-4 loss to the Brewers Wednesday night should have made the Red Sox shiver just a bit. It might be just an innocuous loss to a National League club, or it might be the beginning of some uncomfortable times sneaking up on John Farrell’s club. (For a complete recap, click here.)

What happened to Kyle Kendrick and Hanley Ramirez, along with now residing just one game over .500, should have raised some eyebrows.

The first issue that was brought to light was the Red Sox’ lack of starting pitching depth. The organization’s first choice to fill into Steven Wright’s vacated spot, Kendrick, simply isn’t working out. After an outing in which he allowed six runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings, the righty numbers after two major league starts are: 8 1/3 innings, 18 hits, 12 runs.

In the games pitched by the Red Sox’ fifth spot in their rotation — which has been manned by Wright, Brian Johnson and Kendrick — the starters have a combined ERA of 9.33 (38 earned runs, 36 2/3 innings), with the team going 2-6 in those contests.

With the Red Sox needing another reliever, it would seem the Kyle Kendrick Era with the Red Sox might be coming to an end. So, with the off day Monday, the team would probably skip that spot, potentially leaving it with just one or two more fill-in starts before David Price’s return.

Brian Johnson could be pushed back one day to get him on turn for the next opportunity, which, considering his effectiveness with Triple-A Pawtucket (2.64 ERA in five starts) would seem logical. Another option would be Hector Velazquez, who has been really good, not allowing a run in any of his last three starts. The 28 year old would, however, have to be put on the 40-man roster in order to make just one or two starts.

The lesson learned is that if the Red Sox do have any more hiccups in their core members of the starting rotation, Kendrick’s struggles showed it might get a bit more uneasy than the Red Sox previously believed.

Then there was Ramirez.

Finally, he started at first base. But he wouldn’t finish there.

Ramirez left the game with a right trap spasm, which seems a bit too close to his frail right shoulder to be a coincidence. It could have happened when he fell back on it stopping a short-hop throw from Josh Rutledge, or possibly on a swing in his next at-bat. Either way, it’s not good.

What this should do is end any notion that Ramirez can be an option at first base, no matter what league’s rules the Red Sox are playing under. He has two bad shoulders, with the right one damaged enough to keep him off the field for every game leading up to this one.

The Red Sox simply can’t take the chance of losing Ramirez. It’s not worth trying to force Chris Young’s bat in the batting order, or protecting Mitch Moreland. The health of the righty hitter’s shoulders are of the utmost importance, which the team got big old reminder about in what should be his first and last foray into the field of the season.

Shattering Perceptions Game Note Image

Jackie Bradley Jr. highlighted the night for the Red Sox, hitting his second home run of the season while going 2-for-4 after not playing for the past three games. Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts also had a pair of hits, apiece.

David Price slated to start minor-league rehab assignment Sunday

05.10.17 at 7:16 pm ET
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David Price

David Price

David Price is getting closer.

The Red Sox starter, who hasn’t pitched at all this season due to an injured left elbow, is finally going to face hitters from another organization. Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Milwaukee Wednesday that Price is scheduled to start for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox Sunday, taking on Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings, at McCoy Stadium.

Price has thrown a pair of simulated games, with the most recent one coming Tuesday when he threw four innings. Farrell told the Dale, Holley and Keefe Show Wednesday afternoon that the team was waiting to see how the pitcher came out of that exercise before making a plan going forward.

Evidently, the reports back from Price were positive, leading to what figures to be an outing that will either be five innings or 70 pitches.

If Price made two minor-league rehab assignments before rejoining the major league team, that would put his season debut with the Red Sox at Fenway Park against the Rangers on May 24. If he makes three, he would kick things off in Chicago against the White Sox on May 29.

Red Sox president Sam Kennedy on ‘Two Outs:’ Fenway’s zero tolerance policy isn’t a slippery slope

05.10.17 at 2:52 pm ET
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The Red Sox banned a fan for life last week for the first time under John Henry's ownership. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

The Red Sox banned a fan for life last week for the first time under John Henry’s ownership. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

When the Red Sox levied a lifetime ban on a fan last week for using a racial slur, team president Sam Kennedy touted the club’s zero tolerance policy. He said it covers all intolerant behavior, including the use of sexist and homophobic epithets.

Given the wide spectrum of language that falls under those umbrellas, some wonder whether the Red Sox are traveling down a slippery slope. While it’s important to discourage bigotry, stringent zero tolerance policies can also sometimes lead to overreaction.

In an interview on “Two Outs” with Steve Buckley and Alex Reimer, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said he doesn’t share those concerns.

“I don’t worry about it being a slippery slope. It’s the club’s right. We plan on doing it,” he said. “We have an obligation and a responsibility to make sure people who come to Fenway Park, regardless of your religion, your race, your sexual orientation, you feel comfortable at Fenway. That is our job. We need to be held accountable for that. That’s something that’s really important to John Henry, Tom Werner and to me and to the members of our front office. We want our fans to let us know if they feel uncomfortable. Nobody should feel intimidated by coming to a baseball game at Fenway Park. This is a place to come and relax and enjoy and feel comfortable. That’s what I worry about.”

Red Sox spokeswoman Zineb Curran echoed Kennedy’s sentiments to WEEI.com Monday, saying the team intends to enforce the hardline rule. But she also added the organization will use discretion when appropriate.

Fan conduct at Fenway Park has been under scrutiny over the last week, as a result of the Adam Jones incident and lifetime ban. While those two events have brought the team’s zero tolerance policy to the forefront, Kennedy says it’s been in existence since John Henry purchased the franchise in late 2001. Over the last 15 years, the Red Sox have hired fan service ambassadors and representatives, who try to ensure everybody at Fenway Park is comfortable. The ownership group also banned crude anti-Yankees apparel, including shirts with homophobic innuendo.

“I think we all know why intolerance is out there and why it happens –– it’s unfortunate,” Kennedy said. “We recognize that it does happen, and we have a responsibility to address it and make sure that we do our part. And again, this is not about Fenway Park and Boston and New England. This is about society. This is everywhere in our culture. And we have to be honest with ourselves: this is a reflection of intolerance and ignorance that exists in 2017. We have to be honest with ourselves that it does happen in Boston and it does happen at Fenway Park and it happens at other sports venues. Those in leadership have to be accountable and have to address it head on.”

One of the steps the Red Sox have taken towards LGBT inclusion is Pride Night, which is scheduled for June 9 –– one day before the Pride Parade. A portion of the ticket proceeds go back towards Boston Pride, which advocates on behalf of the city’s LGBT community.

“It’s about raising awareness that the LGBT community is part of the Red Sox community,” Kennedy said. “We want to be welcoming. We want to make sure everyone knows that Fenway and the Red Sox are open to everyone coming here to enjoy.”

Read More: Alex Reimer, Fenway Park, Sam Kennedy, Steve Buckley

Coolest Play of the Week: Dustin Pedroia’s bases-clearing double in Minnesota

05.10.17 at 12:43 pm ET
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Each week, we will be picking the F.W. Webb “Coolest Play of the Week.” This week’s play comes from the Red Sox’ 11-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday. Looking to get out of an offensive funk, the Sox scored eight two-out runs in the second inning. Dustin Pedroia cleared the bases with a double to make the lead 4-0 and jumpstart the offense. Catch the play below.

F.W._Webb_Company_logo200Enter to win the Coolest VIP Baseball Experience including the chance to watch batting practice and visit the WEEI Broadcast Booth at Fenway! Click here to enter to win.

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