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Red Sox notes: Plan in place for Shane Victorino while Brock Holt continues to shine 07.20.14 at 1:30 pm ET
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Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt?

That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs.

The leadoff hitter has provided a vital anchor at the top of the batting order as the Red Sox searched desperately for a consistent leadoff hitter. He comes into Sunday hitting .325 with a .369 OBP and a .826 OPS. Holt has started all 63 games this season, batting leadoff in 52 of them. As the leadoff hitter, his number are nearly identical to his overall numbers, .326/.364/.825.

Of course, he’s been incredibly versatile in the field, playing seven of the nine positions while earning the name “Superman” from some Red Sox fans. The only two positions he hasn’t tried yet are pitcher and catcher. On Sunday, he’s starting at third as the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts the day off against hard-throwing righty Yordano Ventura.

“With Brock Holt moving around the field and going up against a right-hander in Ventura, we just wanted to get another left-handed bat in there,” skipper John Farrell said.

“We’re probably at the point in the year where it’s less of a concern than when he was playing right field for the first, or left field for the first time, or first base for the first time. There have been a lot of firsts this year. And the way he’s handled each position defensively, now we’re finding ways to keep his bat in the lineup and not reluctant to change the position by the day.”

What’s truly remarkable is that, as late as early April, Holt wasn’t even considered an option as a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury.

“He wasn’t in the conversation, either in the offseason or as we got through camp but to the level in which he’s hit at and performed at, and the consistency against left-handers and right-handers, it’s been invaluable, the continuity he’s created at the top of the lineup,” Farrell said.

The left-handed hitting Holt is actually hitting 20 points higher against lefties (.336) than righties (.316), a testament to his ability to hang in against southpaws.

“I think when you see a guy be able to use the whole the field as much as he does and how he you see him handle left-handers, he can track the ball so deep into the zone that he doesn’t overcommit early to breaking balls from left-handers that run away from him,” Farrell said. “And because it is a compact swing, his pitch recognition can be a little better than others because he doesn’t have to start the swing early in the flight of the pitch to home plate.

“I think it’s [just] a trait of really good hitters, regardless of the spot in the lineup. The more compact, the less you may get fooled on certain type of pitches. They’re more difficult to pitch against because he has the ability to take a really good pitcher’s pitch and fight it off and foul it off as he gets deeper into some counts and I think it’s a direct reflection of why you see him hit at the average he is at currently and what he’s done throughout his minor league career.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Brock Holt, Dustin Pedroia, kansas city royals
Red Sox lineup: Xander Bogaerts, Mike Napoli get day off in series finale 07.20.14 at 11:43 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli will get the day off from the starting lineup as the Red Sox look for the three-game sweep of the Royals against hard-throwing righthander Yordano Ventura. Shane VIctorino is playing in his second straight game with Boston, and fourth consecutive overall, dating back to the start of his brief rehab stint with Pawtucket on Thursday. He is scheduled to have the day off Monday when the Red Sox open a series in Toronto.

For a complete batter vs. pitcher breakdown, click here.

RED SOX LINEUP

Brock Holt 3B

Daniel Nava LF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Carp 1B

Shane Victorino RF

Stephen Drew SS

David Ross C

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Jon Lester SP

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester, mike napoli, MLB
Red Sox think Xander Bogaerts’ ‘natural ability’ will again show itself after tweak in his mechanics 07.18.14 at 12:00 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts is looking to find the picture-perfect form that made him Boston's top prospect. (AP)

Xander Bogaerts is looking to find the picture-perfect form that made him Boston’s top prospect. (AP)

John Farrell made a name for himself as one of the best pitching coaches in the game when when landed on Terry Francona‘s staff in 2007.

But being one of the most astute pitching coaches has some fringe benefits. One of them is being able to break down a batter’s approach from a pitcher’s point of view. That’s exactly what he’s done in watching hours of video and observing Xander Bogaerts battle with his horrific slump in June and July.

Farrell gave a fascinating breakdown of what the Red Sox think might be an issue with Bogaerts’ approach at the plate, beginning with his pre-pitch address in the batter’s box.

“The one thing we’ve been focusing on is for him to get a little bit earlier and have a more gradual load [in his swing] or get to his loaded position,” Farrell said. “When he’s late, then it becomes rushed and hard to the front side and that’s where some spin on some pitches becomes hard to read. It’s a matter of slowing the game down and getting his load a little bit in the pitcher’s windup.

“That’s where his natural swing is built. And we feel like if we get him back to a timing within his swing, timing within getting ready, that natural ability to use the whole field will come back into play. That’s been elusive for him right now on a consistent basis.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, xander bogaerts,
John Farrell: ‘No one has given up anything’ 07.17.14 at 10:54 pm ET
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John Farrell will try to keep his emotions and those of his players in check over the next two weeks.. (AP)

John Farrell will try to keep his emotions and those of his players in check over the next two weeks. (AP)

Repeating the sentiment of his boss Ben Cherington during the GM’s Thursday morning interview on Dennis & Callahan, John Farrell said a 43-52 record won’t immediately send management into sell mode. All hope, Farrell said on the last day of the All-Star break, is not lost.

“No one has given up anything,” Farrell said. “No one has conceded anything, but we’ve also been in the game long enough to know that over the next two weeks, names are going to start to get bantered about.”

Among those names being bantered is Jake Peavy, who himself acknowledged before the break that Cherington had spoken to him about likely being traded any moment.

“Time will tell,” Farrell said. “I’m not privy to every conversation Ben has. This is a busy time of year for the entire industry. So, I’m sure there’ll be additional rumors continuing to grow. But until we know something concrete, our job is to maintain our focus on the field each and every day with the intent of winning [that] night.”

Whether or not the Red Sox can stay afloat in the next two weeks, one of Farrell’s primary objectives will be to keeping the team focused while rumors swirl.

“I think it’s very much part of it,” Farrell said. “There’s a number of people involved in the players [moving]. You typically have to pay attention to some of the websites that might carry some rumors. You try to put their concerns or wonderment at ease a little bit just so they can focus on what is at hand, and that’s the game [that] night. So, it’s human nature to be distracted at times because your name is potentially involved in something. We work and do what we can to be as candid and upfront with relevant information at the time.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, jake peavy, John Farrell, MLB
John Farrell knows do-or-die time is upon his Red Sox: ‘Each [game] has increasing signficance’ 07.17.14 at 9:32 pm ET
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John Farrell can read the standings just like everyone else. He knows his team stands 43-52 heading into the final 67 games, 9 1/2 games behind first-place Baltimore in the AL East. He can also read a schedule. He knows full well that after this three-game series this weekend with Kansas City, the Red Sox have 13 straight games against three of the four teams ahead of them in the division.

It’s do-or-die time.

“Given where we are right now, yes,” Farrell said, confirming the characterization of this as the make-or-break part of the season. “That’s not to add pressure. That’s to say there’s some additional significance when you play the teams ahead of you. After we get through Kansas City, we’ve got the next 13 [games] or four consecutive series of teams ahead of us. Sixty-seven games remaining, each one has increasing significance as we go.”

After three with the Royals, the Red Sox have four in Toronto, followed by three on the road against the Rays. They come home for three against the Jays and three against the Yankees, overlapping the July 31 trade deadline. Did Farrell feel like he got a break to mentally prepare for the upcoming grind?

“Yeah for about a day-and-a-half, and now I’m ready to get going for [Friday],” Farrell said of his shortened All-Star break due to managing the AL All-Stars to a 5-3 win in Minneapolis.

“I think the four days gives guys a chance to mentally and physically take a break and get away from the game a little bit. [Xander Bogaerts] has been going at it pretty hard, not only in terms of what he’s been working on pregame but with every focus to be brought into the game, and he’s played regularly as well. We’ve given him a couple of days here and there, but I think the break mentally and physically was needed for him, and quite frankly, for a number of guys.”

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Read More: anthony ranaudo, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, John Farrell
Xander Bogaerts gets more support, this time from a longtime friend, former teammate 07.07.14 at 10:22 pm ET
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The 2014 Topps "Heritage Rookie" Card of Xander Bogaerts and Jonathan Schoop.

The 2014 Topps “Heritage Rookie” Card of Xander Bogaerts and Jonathan Schoop.

John Farrell is not the only one showing a vote of confidence in struggling rookie Xander Bogaerts.

Jonathan Schoop is someone who’s known Bogaerts even longer than the Red Sox manager.

Schoop played with Bogaerts on the Netherlands national team that competed in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and has played in many competitions with him.

When he went 0-for-27 recently and fell into a 2-for-49 slump, the Orioles second baseman sympathized for a player he came to know through international competition.

“He’s a good player, even if you go through tough times,” Schoop told WEEI.com after Sunday’s game, a 7-6 Baltimore win. “Every player goes through tough times but you have to find a way to make adjustments and come back. He’s a competitive guy, he wants to win, he wants to do good and he’s a good guy, a great guy.”

“His confidence. You cannot see in him that he’s 0-for-20, 0-for-25, 0-for-30. He stands in there like he’s 10-for-10, believing in himself.”

Ironic that Schoop made his comments on the very day that Bogaerts actually snapped his 0-for-27 slide, collecting multiple hits for the first time since June 7. That day Bogaerts was hitting .299 with a .387 OBP and an .839 OPS.

Between then and Sunday, his average plummeted 61 points and there was serious talk about whether he would be better off making adjustments at Triple-A Pawtucket. Farrell said before Monday’s game with the White Sox that there is no such plan in the works. Schoop is no general manager or field skipper but he does agree that leaving Bogaerts up in the majors to learn, even at the tender age of 21, is a good thing.

“I think so,” Schoop said. “You see how he learns from experience. The more experience, the better you get. You have to learn from experience. I think he’s doing a good job. Just keep grinding. Just keep fighting.”

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, Jonathan Schoop
Nelson Cruz on John Lackey: ‘People can say whatever they want’ 07.06.14 at 12:53 pm ET
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Nelson Cruz has been swinging a torrid and powerful bat for the Orioles this year. (AP)

Nelson Cruz has been swinging a torrid and powerful bat for the Orioles this year. (AP)

Sticks and stones may break his bones but John Lackey‘s words won’t incite Nelson Cruz.

Lackey was in classic passive aggressive form after Saturday night’s 7-4 loss to Cruz and the Orioles. Cruz went 5-for-5, including a laser beam homer to left off Lackey.

“I’€™m not even going to comment on him,” Lackey said. “€œI’€™ve got nothing to say about him. There are things I’€™d like to say, but I’€™m not going to. You guys forget pretty conveniently about stuff.”

The “stuff” Lackey was accusing reporters of brushing under the carpet was the 50-game suspension for PED violations in connection with the MLB Biogenesis investigation. On Sunday morning, Cruz responded. At first Cruz said he was unaware but after being informed of Lackey’s tone, Cruz seemed unaffected.

“What comments? I don’€™t know,” Cruz said. “I don’€™t hear that, anything. I mean, people can say whatever they want. It’€™s part of being free. I don’t have any comment on that.”

Cruz was a triple shy of the cycle on Saturday night. He is certainly the leading candidate for comeback player of the year, leading the American League in homers (27) and RBIs (70). He’s batting .286 with an OPS of .934. No wonder that David Ortiz aggressively recruited Cruz in the offseason and asked GM Ben Cherington to take a serious look at him.

Speaking of Ortiz, it was the Red Sox slugger Orioles manager Buck Showalter was apparently referencing when he suggested Sunday morning that Lackey “looking in his backyard” before throwing stones. Ortiz was listed in a 2003 report of more than 100 MLB players who tested positive for a banned substance.

Cruz was asked if he has noticed a tone of forgiveness from players around baseball after he served his suspension in 2013.

“I mean for players it’€™s kind of hard to know because most of the time they don’€™t talk,” Cruz said. “What I care about is my teammates and what they think about me. I mean, when you go to ballparks and beat other teams they are not going to be happy regardless of what you do or anything. What I care about is what my teammates think about me and what my fans think about me. Like I said before, they aren’€™t going to be happy when I come in and do good. They want me to strikeout every time and when that doesn’€™t happen, they are pissed.

“€œI just play game-by-game. For me the most important thing is winning. I think we accomplished what we could [Saturday night] and that was get a ‘W.’ Also, it feels good go perfect in one game, don’€™t get any outs so it was one of the best games I’€™ve ever had in my life.”

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Biogenesis, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz
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