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Ricciardi: Theo will try to ‘strengthen his bullpen’

07.02.10 at 6:00 pm ET
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ESPN baseball analyst J.P. Ricciardi joined The Big Show on Friday afternoon to talk about the Red Sox losing and getting players back off the DL, who Boston could acquire at the trade deadline, and filling the hole behind the plate.

“I would think that Theo is in the process of doing a lot of minor moves to continue to keep the baton passed,” Ricciardi said. “Every game is a battle for them now and every game that they win and keep putting W’s in the column they just keep waiting for these guys to come back. When the cavalry comes back, it’s a pretty good group coming back.”

Ricciardi also touched on the success the Padres have enjoyed this season and how they’ve been the most surprising team.

Below are the highlights of the conversation. Visit The Big Show audio on demand page to hear the interview.

What can the Theo Epstein do at the trade deadline with the Red Sox getting players back off the DL?

Yeah and I think that’s a good point. They are coming back which is a nice sign. You look at the Mets, without [Carlos] Beltran how long they’ve gone, I mean that’s a long time to go without a guy. If you’re looking at the guys, basically its four to six weeks and with [Dustin] Pedroia it might not even be that long. He’s really going to push himself and as long as he can put any kind of pressure on that foot and move around a little bit I bet he’s back quicker. Internally, they’ll try to patch it together. Six weeks of the major league season seems like a long time but obviously six months is a lot longer, so I think they’ve done an incredible job as far as keeping themselves in the race.

To see Adrian Beltre having the season he’s having, is it surprising at all?

Not really. If you look around the league there’s a lot of guys that are really having bounce-back type of years and I think it goes back to their history. If you look at certain players, Beltre is one of them, he’s had success in the past. You look at what Troy Glaus is doing down in Atlanta, you look at what Scott Rolen is doing over in Cinncinati. There are a lot of guys where their track record speaks for themselves. I think the thing with Beltre is that I don’t think people in Boston maybe knew how good of a player he really was. He’s just in a good environment and he’s probably real motivated to play and you know what, there is something to be said about being on a one-year deal.

What is Theo thinking or what are you thinking from afar for the Red Sox at the trade deadline?

If I’m thinking along the lines of the way Theo may go, I think he’s probably concerned about his bullpen. He’s probably trying to find any way, shape, or form that he can strengthen his bullpen up knowing that ultimately if you do become a playoff team, you’re going to need to get those seventh and eighth inning outs to get to your closer. So I would say he’s probably leaning along those lines with the understanding that [Victor] Martinez is coming back, Pedroia will be back.

So he really can’t go out there and make a major move in the sense of saying, “I’m going to have someone come back and take the place of these guys because they’re ultimately coming back.” I would think that Theo is in the process of doing a lot of minor moves to continue to keep the baton passed. Every game is a battle for them now and every game that they win and keep putting W’s in the column they just keep waiting for these guys to come back. When the cavalry comes back, it’s a pretty good group coming back.

How does Theo handle the Victor Martinez situation?

Yeah but I also think that Martinez from the standpoint of being on a good club, being in a situation where he can win, I think he’s got to look at it like, “Hey, this is a good place for me to play and this is place where I fit in really well.” If the Red Sox were to allow him to get to the free agency period, the Red Sox are still going to be high on his list. I don’t really see them being proactive in doing something right now, but I have to believe at some point they’ll reach out to the player and try to make it a legitimate shot to keep him in Boston.

Losing Jason Varitek could be the toughest blow to this team.

Yeah I would agree with you. When I heard Varitek went down that was the first thing I thought of. Now you have two basic frontline guys who handle the staff really well out and now you have to get guys who are foreign to the staff. In that case, you let the starter call the game and he basically walks the catcher through the game. The shake offs really aren’t going to be that much because the pitcher is pretty much going to call the game. The one nice thing is that they have a good staff and when [Josh] Beckett comes back that’s just another shot in the arm for them. I think the biggest hole they’ll have to fill is the guy behind the plate.

In the back of their mind, what is the organization thinking about J.D. Drew’s stiff neck?

I’ve learned this in many cases but you never know what the player’s going through until you’re actually around him and you see how he’s reacting to some things. There are cases where you wish a guy would jump in there a little bit more and play a little more and bite the bullet a little more. … All you can go off of is what the player is telling you and what the trainer is telling you. If the trainer is telling you he has a stiff neck and can’t move, then that’s what you have to base all your stuff on.

Obviously you would love to see everybody pull a John Wayne and get out there and play, but in each case it’s different. Some guys just have a different tolerance, some guys have to be perfect to play, some guys don’t. I don’t know Drew at all I just know him from watching him play since he was at Florida State but he’s a good player when he’s healthy, I know that.

Who else is out there that the Red Sox could add to the bullpen who we’re not thinking of?

I think Toronto would probably move Scott Downs, which would be a really good left-hander for the Red Sox. He would fit in nicely and complement [Hideki] Okajima in a lot of ways. You know what, in two weeks you’re going to have a better idea of who is really available because right now there’s a lot of tire kicking and guys that you wouldn’t think are available but all of a sudden teams say, “Hey you know what, we’re not going to be in this thing.”

Who has surprised you more, the Reds with their comeback wins, the Padres with their pitching, or the Rangers and what they’ve done?

I would have to say the Padres because when you look at the Rangers, everybody knew they had a pretty good offensive club and Vlad [Guerrero] was a good bat to add. They’ve got good pitching, not great pitching, but they’ve got enough pitching. I thought the Reds pitching was really good, I thought their depth was good, I thought with Rolen and [Orlando] Cabrera on the left side of the infield, that’s a solid defensive club with [Brandon] Phillips at second. They have enough offense in a division where you look at it and it’s not a very good offensive division.

I think San Diego is absolutely incredible and I wish Jed Hoyer all the success in the world, but it kind of makes you wonder why they got rid of Kevin Towers. I mean he put together a heck of a team. You look at that bullpen, it’s filthy, the starters are good, they’ve got a lot of good arms, and it’s a very winnable division. I don’t think anybody in baseball picked San Diego and they’ve surprised a lot of people.

What are the long term effects of the B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria situation?

Obviously I don’t know what will happen but my gut is that Upton gets moved. Upton’s kind of gone down the path of the young kid they moved to Minnesota. Very talented player, really should be a better player than he has been at the major league level. Someone will take a shot at him but I think at some point they’re going to have to get rid of the player and just move on.

When I watch Upton swing, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but he’s got a three-part swing. His foot goes out first, he gets on the ball with his foot on the turn and for a guy who has a really good swing he misses a lot of good fastballs and he shouldn’t because he’s a very talented kid. Guys who come up in one system and stay in one system sometimes get very comfortable and the only thing that wakes them up is to get moved.

Read More: J.D. Drew, J.P. Ricciardi, victor martinez,
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