|Will teams in David Price sweepstakes instead turn to Jon Lester?||07.25.14 at 2:58 pm ET|
With three straight losses on their way out of Toronto, the Red Sox‘ last-place standing in the division is becoming more and more rigidly defined by the day. The flicker of optimism about potential contention inspired by the team’s eight wins in nine games has yielded to the reality that it’s so very difficult for a team that has shown only rare bursts of strong play to reassert itself in the playoff hunt. The Sox are 9 1/2 games back in the division, and it feels like they’re 95 games back, as ever winning two out of every three remaining games would net the team just 87 wins — a longshot for the second wild card, let alone the division.
The Rays, meanwhile, are surging. They are 25-11, and so even though they are just 2 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox, they are hitting their stride in a fashion that validates the widespread view of Tampa Bay as the class of the division. Their seven-game deficit in the division somehow seems like a small fraction of what the Red Sox face.
And so it is that the Friday night pitching matchup of ace left-handers David Price and Jon Lester may represent a pendulum swing with repercussions to be realized throughout baseball. As the Rays surge, they seem increasingly inclined to hold onto Price unless they can command a ransom for an elite pitcher who is under team control for the duration of this season and then all of 2015. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Time to find out Will Middlebrooks’ value; Next stop: Pawtucket for Henry Owens?; Travis Shaw unstoppable||07.25.14 at 2:28 pm ET|
“I’d love to get him,” the scout said flatly.
At a time when the scarcity of power in the game is a widely examined phenomenon, Middlebrooks continues to show tantalizing glimpses of that increasingly rare trait. The third baseman followed a home run for Pawtucket — where he remains amidst a Triple-A rehab assignment, more than two months after he suffered a fractured finger — on Wednesday (in a game suspended by rain) by going deep again on Thursday. In 15 games in July, he’s now gone deep four times for the PawSox, hitting .291 with a .333 OBP and .564 slugging mark.
The average and slugging mark suggest a player who can impact the ball with rare authority. The on-base percentage (a product of three walks and 15 strikeouts in 60 plate appearances this month) does little to dispel valid questions about how often his offensive approach will permit him to apply that skill.
But even with those questions, there is unquestionably talent — and value — with a fascinating question looming about whether a Red Sox organization that was burned this year by getting too young, too quickly can be the one to give Middlebrooks the opportunity to try to realize his talents at the big league level.
The 25-year-old likely needs to be in the big leagues soon, whether for the Red Sox to see if he can emerge as a more reliable power threat that they’ve been lacking or for another team that wants to afford the still young third baseman that opportunity, at a time when he still retains value and intrigue.
“He’s well aware of the need to get regular at-bats. We’ve got to do some things to maybe adjust the roster to accommodate that,” manager John Farrell told reporters in Toronto on Thursday. “Whether that happens naturally through this upcoming week, that remains to be seen, with the roster adjustments and any potential trades. Before even saying anything about that, I’d be gettingtoo far ahead of myself. Most important, Will is healthy, swinging the bat well and playing daily.”
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-2 WIN (COMPLETION OF SUSPENDED GAME), 5-1 WIN AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)
– Feats of Mookie: Renewing a familiar pattern. Mookie Betts collected hits in both contests, following a 1-for-5 contest with a 1-for-3 effort that also included a walk in the second game. That’s hits in four straight games, during which the 21-year-old is 6-for-18 with a triple and a walk. Interestingly, however, Betts is striking out more than usual, having fanned five times in those four contests — atypical for a player who has 52 walks and 39 strikeouts in 82 minor league games this year. (Betts walked once and struck out five times in his 10 big league contests.)
– Travis Shaw maintained his outrageous July run, going 5-for-7 with a double and a walk in the two contests. His 20-game July on-base streak now features a .342 average, .437 OBP and .562 slugging mark with more walks (13) than strikeouts (12). Overall, the 24-year-old is hitting .289/.347/.473 in Triple-A, including .322/.379/.545 against righties. At a time when some teams are examining Mike Carp as a potential complementary piece who might be able to round out a roster if acquired in a trade, Shaw now gives the Sox prospect depth — left-handed at that — to be able to contemplate such a possibility.
– In what could be the prelude to a return to the big leagues (if the Red Sox find a buyer for Jake Peavy in the coming days), right-hander Brandon Workman tossed six innings and allowed one run on five hits while walking one and punching out six. In his last two starts, the 25-year-old has allowed one run in 11 innings while punching out 12 and walking three.
– Outfielder Alex Hassan walked in all four plate appearances in the first contest, with the four free passes representing a career high for a player whose plate discipline has long been a hallmark. Hassan is hitting .277/.375/.439.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 7-1 LOSS AT NEW BRITAIN (TWINS)
– It’s a matter of if, not when, Henry Owens is promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. At this point, it would be a surprise if the left-hander doesn’t move up by next week — almost exactly a year after he moved to Double-A Portland.
That being the case, there is a chance that Owens just experienced an anticlimactic end to what has been a spectacular run in Portland. In his first start since turning 22, Owens allowed five runs on five hits (including a homer and double, both by Kennys Vargas, whom Owens struck out in the All-Star Futures Game) and four walks while punching out six. The outing interrupted a string of nine straight starts in which Owens had logged at least 5 2/3 innings while permitting two or fewer walks. It was also just the second game in his last 14 starts in which the left-hander was taken deep.
Still, if that was Owens’ final start in Portland, his overall results attest to dominance over an extended stretch. In 25 combined starts in Double-A between 2013 and 2014, the 2011 supplemental first-rounder is 16-5 with a 2.40 ERA, 10.4 strikeouts per nine and 3.7 walks per nine with opponents hitting just .191 against him. That broader track record suggests that it’s a more than appropriate time for him to be challenged by a higher level of competition — assuming that he doesn’t end up being the centerpiece of a blockbuster.
– Catcher Blake Swihart continued his climb towards .300, going 2-for-4 with a double. A five-game hitting streak that has featured three multi-hit games and during which the 22-year-old is 8-for-21 with two walks, a homer and two doubles (.381/.435/.619) has elevated his season line to .298/.353/.489. Given the pairing of Swihart and Owens on Thursday, it’s not difficult to figure out why (according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark) the Phillies sent scouts swooping in to New Britain to watch the Sea Dogs play on Thursday.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-0 LOSS AT LYNCHBURG (BRAVES)
– Right-hander Simon Mercedes, in his second start back in Salem after spending time on the sidelines to work on strengthening and condition before a rehab assignment with Lowell, allowed five runs on seven hits (including a homer) while walking one and striking out six in five innings. Mercedes has now given up a homer in each of his last four starts in Salem (four in 19 2/3 innings) after permitting just two in his first 34 2/3 innings at the level. Still, he’s typically featured high groundball rates and swing-and-miss stuff (he’s punched out 55 in 54 1/3 innings in Salem this year), suggesting that he’s shown an arsenal that has been more impressive than his 2-7 record or 4.64 ERA in Salem might suggest.
– Right-hander William Cuevas had a dominant outing in a three-inning piggyback outing, giving up no hits, walking one and punching out seven. The 23-year-old is averaging 7.7 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine innings while forging a 4.68 ERA.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-3 LOSS AT LAKEWOOD (PHILLIES)
– Right-hander Myles Smith, a 2013 fourth-rounder, had one of his best outings of the year. Through five innings, he’d given up just two runs on four hits and a walk before he was touched for three singles and a walk while recording one out in the sixth. Given that it was just the second time this year that Smith had worked into a sixth inning, the more useful relative measure of his performance (in comparison to the rest of his challenging first pro season) was likely to be found in those first five frames. Still, with the three runs that ended up being charged to him for the sixth, Smith is now 3-7 with a 6.46 ERA and more walks (51) than strikeouts (47) in 76 2/3 innings.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 9-3 LOSS VS. HUDSON VALLEY (RAYS)
– First baseman Sam Travis went 3-for-4 with a double, extending his hitting streak to 10 games during which he has a .370/.370/.500 line. In his pro debut, the 20-year-old second-rounder is now hitting .299/.329/.394 in 33 games, and while his OBP is modest, he hasn’t been getting beaten by the pitching he’s facing, as evidenced by a relatively low strikeout rate of 10.5 percent.
– Right-hander Ty Buttrey allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in five innings of work, walking three and striking out five. In three rehab outings with Lowell, the 21-year-old now has a 3.09 ERA with 12 strikeouts and seven walks in 11 2/3 innings.
– Bryce Brentz, in his second GCL rehab game, went 0-for-2 and played left field for four innings. He’s 1-for-4 with a double in his two rehab games.
– Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, in his second game following a promotion from the DSL, went 3-for-4 with a double. The 17-year-old now has 19 extra-base hits in 42 combined games between the GCL and DSL this year — an uncommon number for a player that young. Indeed, teammate Rafael Devers has 19 extra-base hits in his 43 games between the two levels (though whereas Basabe has yet to go deep, Devers has cleared the fences five times).
– Right-hander Brayan Villarreal, on the shelf since mid-April for Pawtucket, made his first appearance since April 13, working around three hits allowed to toss a scoreless inning.
– Right-hander Gerson Bautista continued his impressive year, tossing six shutout innings in which he allowed four hits, punched out one and didn’t issue a walk. The 19-year-old has a microscopic 0.43 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 17 walks; opponents are hitting .133 against him. Somehow, despite the fact that he’s given up two earned runs in 42 innings, Thursday was his first win.
– Roldani Baldwin, an 18-year-old who plays third and catches, added to a scorching July that has demonstrated uncommon power for the DSL. He went 2-for-4 with a homer — his fourth of the year and third of the month — and is now hitting .325/.404/.519 in 20 games in July. Though a bit old for the level at 18, he’s impressed evaluators with his swing and strength.
– Another intriguing 18-year-old, Jesus Perez, a raw, athletic player who is making his pro debut this year, hit his first career homer, going 1-for-3 and getting hit by a pitch. Given his inexperience in game settings (most of Perez’s baseball experience was spent preparing for the showcase circuit), the 6-foot-3 outfielder has made some positive impressions in hitting .250/.360/.405 in 24 games.
|David Ortiz leaves game with back spasms||07.24.14 at 3:51 pm ET|
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz left Thursday’s 8-0 loss against the Blue Jays in the middle of his ninth-inning at-bat after experiencing what manager John Farrell described to reporters as spasms in his upper-middle back while checking his swing. Ortiz, who hit four homers in the first three games of the series, appeared to suffer the injury while trying to hold up on a pitch from reliever Rob Rasmussen. After a brief conversation with a Sox team trainer and manager John Farrell, he left the game, with Jonny Gomes flying out to left field to end the contest. Farrell characterized Ortiz as day-to-day.
|Closing Time: Red Sox see hopes flushed by Blue Jays in shutout loss||07.24.14 at 3:35 pm ET|
Hours before the Red Sox took on the Blue Jays in the finale of a four-game set, Red Sox manager John Farrell took stock of the potential impact that the team’s forthcoming weekend series in Tampa Bay could have on the team’s approach to the July 31 trade deadline.
“I’m sure it’s going to have an impact on the type of trades that we make,” Farrell told reporters. “I will say this: I think there will be moves that will go on regardless of our record over the next seven days. All that will play out in due time.”
The Red Sox may have taken any mystery out of their status at the trade deadline on Thursday afternoon, however. A listless Red Sox team was crushed by the Blue Jays, 8-0, on a day when rookie right-hander Marcus Stroman no-hit the team through six innings before Shane Victorino dumped a single to center to open the seventh. The Sox didn’t hit, they made miscues in the field and they received one of their worst lines of the season from a starting pitcher.
After a 14-1 victory in the first game of the series, the Red Sox went on to drop three straight contests, undoing a significant amount of the impact of their run of eight wins in nine games, dropping back to eight games under .500 and alone in last place in the division, nine games behind the Orioles.
Entering the week — the start of a stretch of 13 straight games against AL East opponents — some Sox officials felt that five or six wins over the week of games in Toronto and Tampa Bay could position the team to be buyers looking for reinforcements prior to the trade deadline. Now, that goal has been eliminated, making ever clearer the need for the team to focus on 2015 and beyond.
It seems an extreme reaction to three games, but the Red Sox had entered the All-Star break having permitted themselves no margin for error through their poor first-half play. As such, the team’s outlook is now clearer. Assets who are part of the team through 2014 but not beyond likely offer their greatest value via trade. An honest self-assessment for the team would suggest a fairly clear need to view the postseason this year as an unrealistic aspiration.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Rubby De La Rosa had perhaps the worst start of his career. He allowed a career-high seven runs (six earned), matched his career-worst yield for hits (nine, including two doubles, a triple and a homer) and matched the shortest outing of his career by lasting just four innings (all three batters who faced him in the fifth inning reached). He struck out just one batter — the fewest strikeouts he’s ever had in a start. De La Rosa worked almost exclusively with his fastball and changeup (he threw just a handful of sliders, with the Blue Jays content to lay off of all but one of them), and with De La Rosa’s changeup staying up and over the plate, he proved vulnerable to the sort of struggle that he hadn’t encountered this year. The 25-year-old’s ERA increased nearly a run, from 2.64 to 3.54.
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Will Middlebrooks, Travis Shaw mashing; Nick Longhi’s promising year comes to early end; Bryce Brentz starts back||07.24.14 at 1:03 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 LEAD (SUSPENDED IN FOURTH INNING) AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)
– Before the game’s suspension, Will Middlebrooks went 1-for-2, slamming his third homer in 14 rehab games this month with the PawSox. He’s hitting .313/.358/.563 in July.
– First baseman Travis Shaw went 2-for-2 before the game was suspended. The 24-year-old has now reached base in all 19 games in which he’s played in July, hitting .324/.430/.544 during the stretch.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-2 LOSS VS. BINGHAMTON (METS)
– Sean Coyle launched his 12th homer of the year, snapping a 12-game homerless drought, as part of a 1-for-3 game in which he also elicited a walk. July has represented the first month of struggle for Coyle this year, as the 22-year-old is hitting just .220/.279/.407 in 18 contests this month. But he’s shown recent signs of emerging from the funk, as he’s 6-for-15 with the homer and two walks in his last four games, bringing his line back up to .326/.401/.562. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox lineup: Dustin Pedroia sits in series finale against Blue Jays||07.24.14 at 9:18 am ET|
Dustin Pedroia will get a day off as the Red Sox look to earn a series split against the Blue Jays on Thursday. Brock Holt will get the start at second base, with the outfield featuring Daniel Nava in left, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Shane Victorino (batting second) playing right.
Pedroia went 1-for-4 on Wednesday; he’s now 2-for-24 (.083) in six games to open the second half. Meanwhile, the start represents a landmark of sorts for Holt, who has now started at all four infield positions and all three outfield positions this year, thus becoming the first Red Sox player ever to start at every infield and outfield position in the same season.
Christian Vazquez will be behind the plate to catch Rubby De La Rosa for the matinee game.
RED SOX LINEUP
Brock Holt, 2B
Shane Victorino, RF
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Stephen Drew, SS
Xander Bogaerts, 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Christian Vazquez, C
Rubby De La Rosa, SP
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes takes a first step forward; Luis Diaz striking out everyone; DSL diamonds in the rough||07.23.14 at 11:54 am ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-3 WIN AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)
– Matt Barnes didn’t shy from the fact that his first half had been disappointing. Prior to his start on Tuesday, the right-hander took to Twitter for a public declaration of intent: “1st start of the second half. Time to turn it around and finish strong”
Barnes was anything but dominant on Tuesday, but given that he entered the All-Star break with a 4-7 record and 5.06 ERA, the 24-year-old appeared to be in need of a toehold for the stretch as much as anything. That he got, as Barnes tossed 6 1/3 innings in which he was charged with two runs (one in the sixth, one in the seventh after he’d left the game, after he sailed through five shutout innings to start the contest) on three hits (two doubles and an infield single) while walking three and striking two. The outing marked the third in 15 starts in which Barnes pitched more than six innings. Though his strike percentage (61 percent of his 102 pitches) was unspectacular, he commanded a 93-95 mph fastball to both sides of the plate and employed an 85-87 mph changeup liberally to garner weak contact throughout the start.
The 2011 first-rounder elicited just four swings and misses in the outing, and he’s averaging just 5.0 strikeouts per nine innings in his last eight starts. One interesting facet of those strikeout numbers: He’s struck out 20.1 percent of the left-handers he’s faced, compared to just 12.8 percent of right-handers.
That speaks in part to the effectiveness of his changeup against lefties, while also highlighting the long-noted absence of a consistent breaking ball to handle same-handed hitters. But, given what Barnes has done against lefties (.238/.332/.338 line, as opposed to a .338/.384/.484 line by righties), the raw materials of success may not be as far away as his first-half struggles might suggest. Read the rest of this entry »
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