|Dave Magadan knows better than most how David Ortiz can start hitting lefties again||05.21.15 at 12:59 pm ET|
This might be the worst stretch against left-handers David Ortiz has ever endured.
The Red Sox designated hitter has just six hits in 44 at-bats against lefties (.136), with not a single walk.
Not even at was perceived to be his low point against southpaws, throughout the 2009 and ’10 seasons, was it this bad. In ’09, when he finished the year with a career-worst .212 clip against left-handers, Ortiz only dipped below .200 for two games the entire season. And a year later, when the troubles led left his average vs. lefties at .222, his low point was .175 in early June.
As former Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan remembered Wednesday, those were the days of panic for some predicting the downturn as the beginning of Ortiz’s end.
“If you remember, there was a clamoring of should we release him, is he done,” the current Rangers hitting coach said. “There was a lot of talk about that. They were talking about his bat speed and all that. But I remember distinctly telling him, ‘David, you take BP with guys throwing 50 mph. If you didn’t have bat speed you couldn’t hit balls where you do in BP and we’re going to look back at this moment and we’re going to laugh. We’re going to use it to make you better down the line because this is going to make you a better hitter, a better player. As tough as you are, it’s going to make you’re tougher.’ He ended up proving all the doubters wrong.”
Ortiz evidently took the pep talk to heart, going on to hit a combined .293 with a .889 OPS over the last four seasons.
But the first 40 games of this season has offered an uncomfortable reminder of what happens when the production against left-handers comes to a halt.
Now Ortiz finds himself searching for the same kind of solution Magadan helped the DH uncover five years ago.
“It was showing old video. Showing him what he did against left-handers, how he used the field,” Magadan said. “A lot of his troubles back then was that he was using half the field. And it was more trouble with the relievers than it was the starters. Lefty starters he was still getting his hits, but it was the guys coming out of the pen who are paid to get lefties out he had a little too much of a pull approach. Then it was when he started opening up the left side of the field is when he got going.
“You can say it about any lefty hitter, these guys coming out of the pen who are paid to get lefties out usually have really good breaking balls. And if you’re up there worried about getting the head out and pulling the ball ‘¦ Most of the time they’ll flash you inside to get you going away, so that flash got him leaning away and then they would come with the breaking ball.”
Ortiz has seemingly made a conscious effort of returning to an opposite field approach against left-handers, at least when elevating the ball.
But one noticeable trend this season has been an inability to hit the ball on the ground to the left side, as is evidenced by not a single ball hit on the ground to the left of second base against a lefty hurler.
There might be a reason: unlike five years ago, the balls he is putting in play are coming on pitches on the inside part of the plate.
Here are the 13 hits Ortiz had managed against lefties by the time May 20, 2011 rolled around …
“When he started hitting the ball the other way, taking his base hit over there, it changed the way they were pitching him,” Magadan remembered. “They started throwing more fastballs on the inner-half. But he needed the pay back of hitting balls over to the left side, keeping the defense and the pitchers honest for it to flow from there.”
Evidently, it’s time for another adjustment from Ortiz.
|Pablo Sandoval leaves game after being hit in knee with pitch||05.19.15 at 9:32 pm ET|
Hitting from the right side has been painful for Pablo Sandoval, but a Sam Freeman fastball took the agony to new heights.
With the count 0-1 and one out in the seventh inning, the Texas reliever uncorked a 94 mph fastball that hit Sandoval in the left knee. The Sox third baseman immediately crumpled to the ground, lying face down until manager John Farrell and the team’s medical staff could reach him.
Sandoval would be helped off the field with Brock Holt coming on to pinch-run.
After the Red Sox‘ 4-3 win over the Rangers, Sandoval said he believed the issue wouldn’t be serious.
“So far, so good,” he said. “It’s going to be sore for a couple of days.”
“He’s sore. You take mid-90s off the knee, it’s going to be a little sore,” Farrell said. “There’s no, structurally, he’s already had a scan. Everything is clean as far as that goes. Likely, he’s going to be sore. We’ll check him when he comes in.”
It marked the fourth time this season the switch-hitter has reached base against a lefty pitcher, coming into the game 2-for-41 with a walk (.041) vs. southpaws.
Prior to the at-bat, Sandoval had notched one hit in three at-bats, all coming against Rangers righty starter Yovani Gallardo.
The Red Sox were carrying a 4-2 lead at the time the Sandoval injury.
|Why Red Sox didn’t trade for Welington Castillo||05.19.15 at 9:53 am ET|
So, why weren’t the Red Sox interested in striking a similar deal?
According to a major league source, the Sox didn’t view Castillo — who was serving as Chicago’s third catcher after Miguel Montero and David Ross — as a fit. With 23-year-old Blake Swihart getting the majority of the playing time, the team didn’t view it necessary to bring in another 20-something backstop as a complement.
The right-handed-hitting Castillo, who recently turned 28 years old, played in 113 and 110 games, respectively, the last two seasons for the Cubs. This year he has managed just 24 appearances, batting .163.
The Red Sox currently seem content in letting Swihart develop with Sandy Leon as the backup. Part of the approach is due to the organization’s confidence that Ryan Hanigan (broken knuckle) will be back in July.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington noted during the team’s series in Oakland that the team has expressed to Swihart that his offensive production is viewed as secondary and most of the catcher’s attention should be on managing the pitching staff.
Swihart is hitting .179 with a .456 OPS, striking out 14 times and walking once. The switch-hitter has, however, seemingly made some strides recently, looking more comfortable at the plate while notching hits in his last two games.
|Yoan Moncada’s promotion offers a few reminders||05.19.15 at 9:19 am ET|
Why should you have taken note of Yoan Moncada playing for the Greenville Drive Monday night? There were a few reasons.
First, was the good fortune the Red Sox had to possess such potential. As one executive for another club passed along, “The Sox got a very good lottery ticket here, albeit an expensive one.”
In his first game wearing No. 24 for the Drive, Moncada went 0-for-3 with a walk and two runs, while making a few above-average plays in the field (along with an error).
“Compared to when he first came to Spring Training, he has made some significant strides defensively,” Greenville manager Darren Fenster told reporters regarding Moncada “With his swing, it’s more under control from both sides.
“We broke camp here the first couple days in April, so it’s been about a month and a half since we saw him. It just looks like everything is a little bit more under control than when he first signed, and that’s a huge step and a testament to the staff we had down in extended spring training that was with him every day and got him to the point where everybody felt like he was at the point where he’s ready to be here. I don’t see any reason why he can’t continue to progress on the same path.”
With the Major League Baseball amateur draft a few weeks away, it seemed appropriate to poll some big league executives regarding where Yoan Moncada might fit if lumped into the annual event.
It was principal owner John Henry, after all, who proclaimed that one of the reasons he had no problem allocating $63 million to signing the 19-year-old was because the club viewed Moncada as the equivalent of a No. 1 pick.
According to the consensus of those asked, Henry isn’t far off. Every one of the decision-makers asked said Moncada would have definitely been in the top five of this year’s draft, citing the switch-hitter’s possession of the rarest of skill-sets these days — the ability to impact a baseball. (One executive identified Bryce Harper as the last draftee to possess the kind of overall offensive punch Moncada carries, of course without the same opportunities to display his stuff to scouts leading up to his arrival.)
Watching Moncada man second base, it is easy to compare his presence and stature to Seattle’s Robinson Cano. He’s already that big. But whether or not he remains at the position, the payoff figures to be the aforementioned power potential.
The Red Sox have 19-year-old Rafael Devers as a third baseman who could provide future power. And many in the organization are high on first baseman Sam Travis, the second-round draft pick last year who looks to be the type of player who could supply pop.
But there’s a reason why the Red Sox were proactive when committing to Hanley Ramirez. Finding players who can routinely hit the ball with authority is simply the most difficult feat there is when building today’s baseball’s teams.Xander Bogaerts was supposed to be one of those players, yet he has yet to display the kind of 25-30 home run potential many predicted.
|Closing Time: Rick Porcello latest starter to carry Red Sox to win||05.16.15 at 11:59 pm ET|
If you’re going to try to make people notice a trend, beating the best isn’t a bad way to go.
Rick Porcello was the latest Red Sox starter to excel, allowing just two runs (a pair of solo home runs by Brad Miller) over 6 2/3 innings. The end result was win for the righty, besting Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in the Red Sox‘ 4-2 victory over Seattle on Saturday night at Safeco Park.
In the last four outings, Red Sox starters have totaled a 1.32 ERA, allowing just four runs over 27 2/3 innings.
For Hernandez, it was his first loss of the season in seven decisions. He came into the contest with a 1.84 ERA.
Doing the initial damage against the big righty were David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval, who each went deep.
But, thanks to Miller’s homers, the Red Sox couldn’t break things open for Porcello until the sixth inning. The two-run frame might have been aided by Hernandez seemingly tweaking his already injured ankle while going after a Sandoval foul ball.
After the Sandoval at-bat, Hernandez didn’t seem the same, walking both Xander Bogaerts and Daniel Nava. (The starter came into the game with just eight walks and 50 strikeouts.) Blake Swihart then supplied the eventual game-winner with his second hit of the night, a double into center field.
Brock Holt added an insurance run with a run-scoring ground out down the first base line.
SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Porcello. The starter lowered his ERA to 4.26, totaling a 2.88 ERA in his last five starts.
|Red Sox lineup: Mookie Betts, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino start on bench||05.16.15 at 5:35 pm ET|
Starting on the bench will be both Mookie Betts and Shane Victorino. Betts is just 1-for-16 in his last four games, dropping the outfielder’s on-base percentage to .294. Victorino has been perhaps the Red Sox hottest hitter since arriving at Safeco Field — going 4-for-7 with a walk — but will give way to Holt in right against the righty.
Daniel Nava also gets the start at first base over Mike Napoli, who is just 8-for-39 (.205) against Hernandez and his currently hitting .168.
Here is the Red Sox lineup with Rick Porcello starting for the visitors:
|John Farrell after loss: ‘That’s a terrible decision on my part’||05.16.15 at 2:14 am ET|
Farrell chose not to walk Nelson Cruz with a base open and the game-winning run at second in the form of Brad Miller. Instead Junichi Tazawa pitched to Cruz – he of the .361 batting average, 1.158 OPS and 15 home runs – with the result proving disastrous for the Sox.
Cruz rifled a split-fingered fastball from Tazawa into deep left field, allowing for the Mariners‘ walkoff win.
“Before you even ask a question, that’s a terrible decision on my part,” Farrell told reporters, opening his post-game media briefing. “I own that one. We had a base open. But the way, saw Cruz’s first three at-bats, he was chasing some offspeed below the zone. He was 1-for-8 against Taz previously. Didn’t work out. That’s a terrible decision on my part.”
Making the end result even more frustrating for Farrell and the Red Sox was the outstanding pitching performance of starter Clay Buchholz. The righty struck out 11 while not walking a batter, allowing just one run on three hits.
It set the stage for the ninth inning, where reliever Tommy Layne allowed an infield hit to Miller before Robinson Cano moved the runner to second. Then came the showdown with Cruz, who was hitless in his previous three at-bats, and would have been followed by Kyle Seager.
“We’ve got it set up, two outs, easily take the bat out of his hand, walk him, then you get a left on left with Layne and Seager,” Farrell told reporters. “As we sit here in this moment after the walkoff, that’s the move to make. Like I said, terrible decision on my part. Clay pitches an outstanding eight innings of baseball tonight. Four pitches for strikes. A dominating performance in his own right. We had a couple of opportunities offensively. But still, the decision in that ninth inning was the story in this one.”
After the game, the Red Sox players weren’t willing to place blame on their manager.
“I knew that I had to get into that at-bat with a lot of strong emotions,” Tazawa told reporters through a translator. “I was sort of caught in between walking him and trying to get him out. It’s all my responsibility.”
“Even as a pitcher, you get paid to pitch,” Buchholz told reporters. “Just sometimes it happens. Can’t be too hard on yourself about it. It’s a game. That’s why we’re going to play tomorrow. Got these guys in 2-1 games, it’s a part of it that’s hard to take sometimes whenever you know you don’t want to do something and it just happens.”
|Red Sox lineup: Pablo Sandoval dropped to seventh||05.15.15 at 6:30 pm ET|
Sandoval, who didn’t start in the series’ first game, is hitting 2-for-34 from the right side.
Here is the Red Sox lineup:
|Closing Time: Joe Kelly, Mookie Betts hand Red Sox win over Mariners||05.15.15 at 1:02 am ET|
The Red Sox are over .500 on their current 10-game road trip, improving to 4-3 with their second straight win. They now reside 3 1/2 games in back of first-place New York.
The Red Sox were able to seal the victory in the ninth inning when Mookie Betts’ fly ball to deep left field was dropped by Rickie Weeks, allowing Brock Holt to score the game-winner from third. Holt, who led off the frame with a double to left-center and was sacrificed to third, would have scored easily even without the drop.
The decisive run came against Seattle closer Fernando Rodney, who entered the game with a 6.47 ERA against the Sox.
Before the game-winner, Kelly served as the highlight for the Red Sox, turning in one of his best outings of the season.
The starter prioritized pitching to contact, needing 91 pitches to get through 6 1/3 innings, while managing all but one of his outs via the ground ball. When it was all said and done Kelly had lowered his ERA to 5.58, allowing one run on five hits, striking out two and walking three.
SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Joe Kelly. The Red Sox desperately needed the kind of outing the righty gave them considering their offensive struggles. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
— Shane Victorino showed some signs of life, giving the Red Sox an early lead with his first homer of the season. The righty hitter, who came into the game hitting .459 with a 1.419 OPS against the Mariners, reached safely in his first three plate appearances (single, HR, walk).
— Hanley Ramirez finished with four hits. It was the 20th time in Ramirez’s career he has notched that many hits, with his teams now going 19-1 in such games.
|Deciphering why Ben Cherington is with team on road trip||05.13.15 at 5:19 pm ET|
OAKLAND — When Ben Cherington showed up at O.co Coliseum Monday, all kind of theories regarding his presence started swirling, including that the Red Sox general manager was scouting A’s starter Scott Kazmir for a potential trade.
It is a rite of passage, after all, to raise some eyebrows when any decision-maker shows up somewhere other than his home park. (A notion solidified in the movie “Slap Shot” when Charlestown Chiefs GM Joe McGrath jumps aboard the team bus.)
But, as Cherington points out, the real reason for his presence isn’t nearly as intriguing as some would hope.
“You try to do it about once a month and I tend to take all the New York ones, because it feels like it’s the right thing to do,” he explained. “Personally I think it’s probably best the GM isn’t there all the time.”
As for the notion that trips like this one have a specific purpose, Cherington said, “I know a couple of people do [think that], but I never know why. It’s just part of the schedule.
“If something is going I need to be there for I’ll go, but 99 percent of the time it’s just what is scheduled. As GM, I don’t remember ever being with the team on the road where it just hasn’t been part of the schedule.”
So, why go at all?
The team almost always has a representative from the front office at each road series, with assistant GM Mike Hazen having joined the team in Toronto and scheduled to link up with them again in Seattle.
“It’s a little easier on the road to have conversations with staff and players because at home there’s just more going on,” Cherington said. “Everybody is in the same place on the road. It just depends on what’s going on. I’m trying to support the staff, talk through things and touch base with players.
“You can pretty much do this job from anywhere. You just need a laptop and a phone no matter where you are.”
Besides making the current trip to the West Coast, this time of year Cherington and other general managers) will have to hit the road a bit more than usual due to the June amateur draft.
But, as he explained, even the GM’s presence when watching potential draftees can be overstated.
“Somebody will make a deal of me being somewhere to see an amateur player. It’s almost never about seeing that player, but rather that’s the opportunity to go spend some time with your scouts and connect with them,” said Cherington, who will go out about 10 times a season to watch amateurs. “I’m not sitting in the draft room and saying, ‘I saw this guy on May 13 and this is what he did.’ I’m just not doing that.”
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