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Red Sox pregame notes: John Farrell trying to avoid creating ‘uncertainty’ with lineup shuffles

05.15.13 at 7:10 pm ET
By

Jacoby Ellsbury

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It’s been a period in which productivity has been glaringly absent. The Sox have now scored three or fewer runs in eight of their last 12 games, with their average of 3.3 runs per game in that span ranking 13th of the 15th teams in the American League.

So how to fix it? Manager John Farrell was asked whether he’d contemplated tinkering with the lineup. While he acknowledged considering the possibility of such a measure, he decided that he’d rather show more faith in a group that roared to one of the best starts in franchise history.

“I have given it some thought. And yet the one thing that I don’t want to create in there is more uncertainty,” said Farrell. “And I think at a time when you could understand if some frustration starts to filter in, I want there to be some stability and some continuity to the work that we’re doing. That includes they understanding that there’s a lot of belief and trust in them as players and we didn’t go to 20-8 at one point with a completely different set of players.

“We’re not going to run from them. I really like our team,” he added. “This is a group that’s talented and going to be very successful.”

Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury has been a considerable part of the team’s early struggles. He’s hitting just .256 with a .321 OBP and .363 slugging mark. In May, those numbers dip to .200/.290/.255.

The Sox recognize that Ellsbury is a singularly impactful member of their roster when he reaches base. But he’s been doing that so rarely that it seemed reasonable to ask Farrell if he might consider moving from his familiar spot as a leadoff hitter.

“Certainly there’s a track record in which to refer to. I know he’s working diligently to get back on track, particularly his timing at the plate,” said Farrell. “I do know this — when he does get on base, it changes our entire [complexion] — not only to start or lead off a game, but throughout the course of a given game, when he’s on base. Whether or not he’s in the leadoff spot, that’s one time. That’s the first at-bat. After that, I don’t want to say that we’re not creating opportunities for ourselves, but, to me, the more glaring thing is how we’ve created those opportunities and yet the ball hasn’t fallen our way.”

Another example of the manager’s commitment to lineup stability: Farrell said he wasn’t contemplating an alteration that would feature more of Daniel Nava against lefties at the expense of playing time for Jonny Gomes. Gomes unquestionably has struggled to date this year, hitting .182 with a .329 OBP and .318 slugging mark; Nava, meanwhile, has been one of the Sox’ top hitters overall, and he has a line of .238/.333/.524 with two homers against southpaws.

Despite the fact that Nava is outperforming Gomes in that specific role this year, however, Farrell did not hesitate to insert him into the lineup for a second straight game against a Rays lefty with dominant stuff. Gomes started against Matt Moore on Tuesday, and he’s in the lineup on Wednesday against David Price, with Nava sitting in both contests.

“I’m sure there’s been stretches in Jonny’s career where he might have gone through something similar,” said Farrell. “You can’t completely turn away from the bulk performance where he’s been very good against lefties. He’s had some success this year as well. I don’t think at this point we’re looking to abandon him or run away from him being in the lineup against lefties, and we’ve got a stretch tonight, two more in Minnesota and we’re likely to get another one in Chicago, so he’ll get more regular at-bats, if anything, to get going.”

So, the Sox will stay the course, mindful that they have a lineup that still leads the majors in extra-base hits, is second in OBP (.340) and ranks third in the AL in both average (.265) and slugging (.441). The team’s struggles with runners in scoring position (an AL-low .189 since the start of May after ranking third best in the big leagues in April with a .310 mark) have been costly during the team’s current struggles, but Farrell remains committed to the shape of his offense despite a difficult stretch.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

Andrew Bailey will throw a 12- to 15-pitch simulated game on Thursday after warming up for 15 pitches. The Red Sox will assess the next course of action for him on Friday — chiefly, whether he will appear in a rehab game or be activated during the weekend in Minnesota.

Franklin Morales is slated to start on Saturday and throw four innings for Triple-A Pawtucket. Barring a short-term bullpen need, the Red Sox would like to get him one more start after that to get stretched out to as many as five innings.

Read More: Andrew Bailey, franklin morales, Jacoby Ellsbury, John Farrell
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