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John Farrell identifies when he knew it might be different for Hanley Ramirez 09.17.16 at 12:16 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez. (Steve Mitchell/Getty Images Sports)

Hanley Ramirez. (Steve Mitchell/Getty Images Sports)

People have officially taken notice that Hanley Ramirez is having a really good year.

Not only has Ramirez proved himself as a viable first baseman, but the offensive production he had displayed while with the Marlins and Dodgers has once again been put on display.

Heading into Saturday, Ramirez was hitting .286 with an .858 OPS, 26 home runs and 102 RBI. Of American League first basemen, the Sox righty hitter has the third-best OPS, only trailing Miguel Cabrera (.946) and Mike Napoli (.858).

Asked prior to Saturday’s game when he first started seeing the evolution of Ramirez, who only played 105 games in 2015, Red Sox manager John Farrell pinpointed a moment in the offseason.

“I think there was a noticeable change in the couple days spent with (Ramirez) back in January down in south Florida,” Farrell said.

“Going through a 2-1/2 hour workout with him and watching all that was being done with him at that time from a physical standpoint, the commitment that was being made, the workout environment – there were probably 12 big-leaguers in there so that competitive element was there in that workout environment in January so the foundation he laid back then is to me one of the prime reasons he’s been able to be on the field as frequently as he’s been this year, he got himself in much better shape, the athleticism returned. He was big and bulky and it didn’t play well for him. On his part, the understanding and maybe the recognition that he needed to be more approachable, a little bit more engaging as a person. And you know what, to his credit, he’s doing all that.”

This month, Ramirez has seven home runs, while hitting .327 with a 1.121 OPS.

Welcome to Red Sox’ latest most important game of season 09.15.16 at 11:30 am ET
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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka represents a fairly daunting obstacle for the Red Sox Thursday night. (John Rieger/USA Today Sports)

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka represents a fairly daunting obstacle for the Red Sox Thursday night. (John Rieger/USA Today Sports)

Dig in.

After Monday night, the playoff plans were percolating all throughout New England. You persevered against the Blue Jays, and now you were beating up on the other team nipping at the New Balances, the Orioles.

Now? It’s more talk of why the Red Sox can’t win close games, and the uneasiness that is about to hit 4 Yawkey Way courtesy the “We don’t give a @#&$, but you should” Yankees.

Every single time this pennant races suggests some certainty, along comes a day to keep the scales balanced. One week ago, the Red Sox were a game up in the American League East, with the third-place team two games out. Wake up Thursday, and you found the exact same scenario.

It has been, and continues to be, a pennant race aberration.

But there’s a very distinguishable reason for the inability of the Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Tigers, Mariners or Yankees to fall too far forward, or too far back. They are all, in some way or form, flawed. And now it’s just a matter of which team can exploit those under-bellies.

Wednesday night, it was the Orioles turn to turn the Red Sox over on their shell and start wailing away.

Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox 2017 schedule is out and it involves the Cubs 09.14.16 at 1:06 pm ET
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Red Sox 2017 Schedule

Jon Lester

Jon Lester

As expected, the Red Sox will open the 2017 season at Fenway Park against the Pirates before heading to Detroit for a three-game set against the Tigers.

But undoubtedly the most anticipated early-season series comes against the Cubs, who will travel to Fenway Park for three-game set, April 28-30.

For inter-league play, the Red Sox will be taking on teams from the National League Central Division. Like this season, the Sox will find themselves playing without the designated hitter during the season’s final month, playing visitors to the Reds, Sept. 22-24, for their last regular season road trip.

The Red Sox finish off the schedule with two home series, against Toronto and Houston, respectively.

May is lining up to present a challenge for the Red Sox, who play 12 of their first 15 games that month on the road. The swing includes trips to Minnesota, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Oakland.

After the trip to take on the A’s, the next West Coast foray for the Sox comes June 23-25, when they follow up a three-game set in Kansas City with three more against the Angels.

Click here for the entire schedule.

It’s official: Andrew Benintendi has returned to Red Sox 09.13.16 at 5:55 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi meets with the media Tuesday afternoon. (WEEI.com)

Andrew Benintendi meets with the media Tuesday afternoon. (WEEI.com)

When Andrew Benintendi walked off the Tropicana Field Aug. 24, the idea that he would be returning to the Red Sox’ active roster with 19 games to play didn’t seem realistic.

But here is.

After participating in a simulated game at Fenway Park Tuesday afternoon, Benintendi was activated by the Red Sox 20 days after spraining his knee.

“I think it just goes to show you how hard our training staff works,” Benintendi said prior to the Red Sox’ game against the Orioles. “We were working every day trying to get back as soon as possible. We dodged a bullet and now I’m glad to be back.

“It’s a really exciting time. It seems like everybody is right there and we’re playing really good baseball right now. Our pitching has been pitching really well. We’re coming up with timely hits and scoring a lot of runs. Hopefully we’ll continue to do that. When I get back in there I’m going to try and contribute any way I can and help the team win.”

While there hasn’t been a definitive plan put in place as to when Benintendi will play, Red Sox manager John Farrell did insinuate on the recent road trip that the outfielder would be the primary option against right-handed pitching, particularly with Brock Holt nursing a banged up right shoulder.

Prior to the injury, Benintendi was hitting .324 with an .850 OPS in 21 games and 74 plate appearances. The Red Sox were 12-9 in games he appeared.

“I think we all held our collective breath,” Farrell reflected. “Any time you see a non-contact play or a non-contact injury and someone goes down, you fear the worst. Sam Travis went through almost the same dynamic in a way, where it was a rundown and he ends up tearing his ACL. When you see someone go down in a heap like that, you fear the worst. Thankfully he’s got youth and maybe some quick healing on his side. He’s wearing a brace to protect himself. We all know, with all the work he’s put in and all the tests we’ve run him through, he’s been given clearance by our medical staff, and thankfully he’s back at this time. To say that, with two and a half weeks left in the regular season, this is much earlier than we initially anticipated.”

Andrew Bentintendi says he’s 100 percent healthy, explains why he won’t cut his hair 09.12.16 at 6:04 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Andrew Benintendi (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Andrew Benintendi is ready to pick up where he left off.

The injured outfielder (left knee) will execute his last task before most likely being activated for the upcoming Yankees series when he participates in a simulated game at Fenway Park Wednesday afternoon. Monday, he cleared another final hurdle, practicing sliding into second base using his new knee brace.

After going through the entire process, Benintendi sure sound confident that he can continue the run he was riding before spraining his knee at Tropicana Field Aug. 24.

“Health-wise, I feel 100 percent,” the outfielder told WEEI.com before Monday night’s game against the Orioles. “I honestly couldn’t tell you which leg it is if I didn’t know. I got pretty fortunate.”

As for the specially-designed brace Benintendi will continue to wear, the 22 year old insisted it’s something he doesn’t have to think about anymore.

“At first it was pretty uncomfortable because I had never worn one before, but I’ve been trying to wear it every day, even in the dugout and everything,” he said “So right now it feels pretty normal. At first I thought about it because it was pretty uncomfortable. Now I’m used to it. It’s a little different. I don’t think I get as full a range of motion running-wise, but it’s minimal and something I can deal with.

“I don’t feel it at all when I hit. I think if it was my front leg it might be different. But it’s my back leg, so it’s good. I’ll wear anything to start playing again. I’m going to have to deal with it the rest of the season.”

With Benintendi’s health seemingly back to where it needs to be, another part of the equation when it comes to offering the same image as in his first 21 major league games is maintaining his well-publicized hair.

Having not gotten a haircut since January, the somewhat superstitious left fielder said there is no turning back now when it comes to growing out his black locks.

“It’s start to get kind of annoying, but I’ve got to keep it going,” Benintendi said. “It’s the longest it’s ever been. I feel like if I cut it it might mess something up. I’m a pretty superstitious guy so I have to keep it going.

“I’ve had it long before. But at this point it doesn’t get longer, it just gets thicker. It goes into a fro if I don’t wear a hat.”

The only issue? He’s on the verge of having to change out his 7 1/4-sized hat for a bigger one.

“It’s getting tough because this my first and I want to keep it,” he said.

Former Red Sox Rich Hill throws 7 perfect innings before being taken out 09.10.16 at 11:10 pm ET
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Rich Hill

Rich Hill

Executing the biggest stolen base in Red Sox history was easy for Dave Roberts compared to what he faced Saturday night.

With former Red Sox Rich Hill pitching a perfect game through seven innings, the Dodgers manager chose to err on the side of caution with his starter, taking the lefty out after throwing 89 pitches.

Roberts’ reasoning behind the move was based in his concerns for a recurrence of the blister issue that kept Hill out from July 17 until Aug. 24. Since joining the Dodgers, the 35 year old lefty starter hasn’t allowed a run over three starts (19 innings).

It was the second time this season Roberts removed a pitcher who hadn’t given up a hit, having taken Ross Stripling out of his April 8 start despite having not allowed a hit through 7 2/3 innings and 100 pitches.

The Dodgers ultimately beat the Marlins Saturday night, 5-0, with relievers Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Kenley Jansen coming in to close things out. Blanton and Dayton each allowed a hit.

Through 17 starts this season, Hill has gone 12-3 with a 1.80 ERA, allowing a 1.81 batting average against.

Red Sox notes: Andrew Benintendi’s final test; Yoan Moncada project put on hold; Ryan Hanigan reappears 09.10.16 at 12:11 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi

Andrew Benintendi

TORONTO — The last step for Andrew Benintendi? A simulated game.

Benintendi, who could be seen chasing fungoes from outfield instructor Ruben Amaro in Rogers Centre’s left field an hour before Saturday’s game, execute one more test before rejoining the Red Sox’ lineup. That will come Tuesday when the outfielder participates in a simulated game at Fenway Park started by Henry Owens.

“He’ll continue to go through baseball activity here,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “When we get home is when we’ll run him through some sliding. We’ll, Tuesday, likely put together a sim game that has Henry on the mound, probably some other pitchers that haven’t been in games will be able to get some at-bats for Andrew and other guys. We’ve got a taxi squad here. We can build that out. Once we get through and get him through half a dozen at-bats at least on Tuesday, we might be in a position where we could see him on the field shortly after that.”

Farrell did start to define how he envisioned Benintendi’s playing time upon the 22 year old’s return.

“If we’re going to have a left-handed hitter in left field and Andrew is healthy [he will start],” the manager stated.

– Heading into Saturday, Yoan Moncada had struck out in eight straight plate appearance, cementing a shift in the Red Sox’ approach toward third base. It appears going forward that they will be going back to their previous rotation of Travis Shaw starting against right-handed pitching and Aaron Hill getting the nod vs. lefties.

“He’s swung the bat well. Much like he did the first month or six weeks of the season,” Farrell said of Shaw. “When he’s in this type of run offensively, he’s got a bat that can almost carry the team when he gets hot. We’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs with Travis throughout the course of this year. And if competition has found that edge for him, somehow or someway, even better for us.”

As for Moncada, the rookie remains a work in progress.

“This is a great learning experience for Yoan,” Farrell noted. “But like I said I think while he got a boost of confidence by coming to the big leagues, you get challenged a little bit and you have to take a step back to rebuild that. Still, our primary goal is to win. Development in this situation does not take a front seat.”

– Farrell explained the decisions that went into starting Ryan Hanigan behind the plate with Eduardo Rodriguez on the mound Saturday afternoon.

“Well, one, day after night, schedule had a lot to do with this,” the manager said. “And when Ryan’s been back behind the plate, there’s no denying his ability to run the game. That’s been proven over time. Left-hander on the mound. Obviously he’s got a working relationship with Eddie [Saturday]. Still, Hanny’s done an excellent job in terms of running the game. You look at our win-loss record, it’s pretty obvious that he’s added a lot to the lineup on the day he’s in there.”

It’s the first start for Hanigan since he came off the 15-day disabled list, having totaled three at-bats heading into Saturday. The Red Sox are, however, 25-7 in games the catcher has appeared this season.

“Setting aside the record, the number that’s probably more indicative is the overall pitchers ERA (3.42) when he’s behind the plate,” Farrell said. “That’s a clear indication of his game-calling. The ability to navigate the dirty innings. That’s probably the biggest thing. That’s where his experience comes into play and there’s been many games where he’s put up quality at-bats and contributed in some form or fashion.”

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