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What Aroldis Chapman trade to Cubs would mean for Red Sox 07.25.16 at 11:20 am ET
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A trade of Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs would shift a few dynamics in the playoff races. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Images)

A trade of Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs would shift a few dynamics in the playoff races. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Images)

Aroldis Chapman is good. Very good.

For a reminder of how valuable the closer is all you have to do is understand what the Cubs are reportedly willing to give up to get a relief pitcher whose contract is up at the end of this year. (For all the updates on the rumored deal, click here.)

According to multiple reports, the Yanks would be getting back a player in Adam Warren who was a centerpiece in securing their starting second baseman, Gleyber Torres, a 19-year-old who the Cubs paid $1.7 million in 2013, Double-A outfielder Billy McKinney and another player.

It also is being reported the Cubs would like to sign Chapman to an extension as he will be a free agent after this year.

Chapman, however, is the perceived final piece for Theo Epstein’s Cubs. So why not?

The closer’s numbers with the Yankees aren’t a surprise. He is 20 for 21 in save chances, while totaling .179 batting average against in 31 1/3 innings. He has struck out 44 and walked just eight.

Sure he missed a month due to his MLB suspension for domestic violence, with the Yankees already starting to establish themselves as a pretender by the time he showed up. But Chapman was a great acquisition for the Yankees. They would be getting a significant haul. Much better than what they gave up to get the 28-year-old.

And with Torres in the deal, any sting New York might feel in regards to not getting a draft pick if Chapman signed with another team in the offseason is negated.

As for the Cubs? Closer Hector Rondon has been good. Really good. But what this does is lock down the eighth inning for Chicago, who has been relying on Pedro Strop, Travis Wood and Mike Montgomery in as the bridge to the ninth.

For July, the previously be-all, end-all starting rotation of the Cubs has shown it’s mortality, totaling the 10th-most innings in the National League, while totaling a 5.42 ERA. This would protect that dynamic a bit.

So what does it all mean for the Red Sox (besides a potentially more difficult path to the World Series if the dream matchup with the Cubs does come to fruition)?

For one, it would weaken one of the opponents the Red Sox will be facing six more times, including the second-to-last series of the regular season. Conversely, the Orioles and Blue Jays still are slated to go up against New York nine times, each. Although, obviously, facing Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances will continue to be no bargain.

There is also the benefit that Chapman wouldn’t be heading to one of the American League playoff contenders, such as Cleveland. Cody Allen has been superb as the Indians’ closer, but the one piece of Terry Francona’s puzzle that might be lacking is consistently getting to the ninth.

A Chapman move also thins out what is still thought to be a healthy relieving market heading into the non-waiver trade deadline. It makes the Red Sox’ preemptive strike on Brad Ziegler that much more important, particularly considering the side-winder’s success to start his Sox career (retiring 19 of his first 20 batters).

All in all, such a trade is probably a good thing for these Red Sox.

Meet Brad Ziegler, this season’s best non-waiver trade deadline pickup (so far) 07.24.16 at 6:25 pm ET
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Brad Ziegler has been a popular addition to the Red Sox. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Images)

Brad Ziegler has been a popular addition to the Red Sox. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Brad Ziegler has faced 20 batters since joining the Red Sox. He has retired 19 of them.

For the Red Sox, who have seen their closer, Craig Kimbrel, sidelined for the past few weeks with a knee injury, and then his replacement, Koji Uehara, also hitting the shelf due to a torn pectoral muscle, Ziegler has been exactly as John Farrell described after his team’s 8-7 win over the Twins Sunday.

“He’s been a godsend, to be honest,” the Red Sox manager said after another 1-2-3 ninth inning from Ziegler. “It’s a comfortable inning. It’s balls on the ground. I think he’s given up one hit in the 20-plus hitters he’s faced. He’s very calm. He’s experienced back there. His addition back there has given us a huge boost in light of the injuries to Koji and Craig.”

Since the Red Sox sent minor leaguers Jose Almonte and Luis Alejandro Basabe to Arizona for Ziegler, things could have not gone better for the 36-year-old or his new team. (And, for what it’s worth, neither prospect has distinguished themselves as of yet for their new team, Single-A Kane County.)

While Sunday marked his first save with the Red Sox (and 82nd for his career), seemingly everyone of Ziegler’s 68 pitches in his new uniform has been spot-on. He has been the kind of anchor that the Sox had to make a priority with August bearing down.

“It’s definitely a different atmosphere,” he said. “It’s fun to be on a team when you show up to the park, you expect to win. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing or what stadium we’re in. My second game here, we’re going into Yankee Stadium right after the All-Star break and I know the rivalry and had never been part of that and we went out and beat them the first two games there. It’s a lot of fun. This is kind of, when you dream about playing as a kid, you dream about being in a pennant race and getting big if you’re a pitcher. Getting big outs in games that matter. I think everybody is just kind of feeding off each other right now. Like I said, we’re playing really good ball.”

And, for now, the guy who idolized Dan Quisenberry and John Smoltz growing up has become the star of the Red Sox bullpen.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s fun when the third out happens and we feel the crowd explode a little bit. At the same time, I’m not looking to supplant anyone’s job or anything like that. I hope both those guys are back here in about a week or two and I’ll slot in wherever they need me to and I just want to win games. It’s so much fun to win and to get to go experience the rest of the day and just sit and relax and enjoy what happened here and come back tomorrow ready to go again.”

Read More: Brad Ziegler,
Closing Time: Rick Porcello comes away with another Fenway Park win 07.24.16 at 4:50 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez celebrates his third-inning home run Sunday. (Winslow Townsend/USA Today Images)

Hanley Ramirez celebrates his third-inning home run Sunday. (Winslow Townsend/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello pitches, the Red Sox win. The pattern held up Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park.

This time the Sox starter’s didn’t offer mind-blowing statistics, finishing his 6 2/3-inning stint having surrendered four runs. But it was once again plenty good enough, paving the way to the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Twins.

The Sox improve to 15-5 in Porcello’s starts this season, with the righty winning his 13th game. At Fenway, he remains unbeaten, having gone 10-0, with the club winning all 11 of his home starts. He becomes the first Red Sox pitcher to win his first 10 home starts in a season since Curt Schilling managed the feat in 2004.

“I’ve just been in a good groove, and I’ve had really good run support, guys have been swinging the bats really well and played great defense behind me,” Porcello said. “So it’s combination of everything. We’re in a good spot right now.”

It was an afternoon where it did seem Porcello pitched better than his line indicated, having struck out seven and walked one during his 99-pitch performance. After the outing, the righty’s ERA stands at 3.44.

“Much better,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell when asked if Porcello’s final line was deceiving. “They found some holes early on and we probably didn’t execute as we’ve been defensively to give them an extra out early on. Then he gets a fly ball to right field that at that time of day is a tough sun field that unfortunately bounces off of Brock [Holt’s] glove. But once again, he’s keeping the game under control. He had a number of runs to work with here today. We did a great job offensively. But, yeah, Rick is in a very good place here in Fenway.”

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Joe Kelly to get shot at relieving for Red Sox, taking place of Heath Hembree 07.24.16 at 1:04 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

After the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins Saturday night, Red Sox manager John Farrell reported Heath Hembree would be sent to Triple-A Pawtucket after allowing a run on three hits in just 1/3 innings.

“He’s not a confident pitcher right now, and we just did option him to Pawtucket,” said Farrell of Hembree following the loss. “The corresponding move will be announced [Sunday]. As good as Heath has been for the vast majority of this year, really the whole first half, the four times out since the break has been the other side of that. We need to add another reliever, there’s no doubt, and a guy that’s able to go multiple innings. That’ll be the move for [Sunday].”

According to a source, that move will be promoting Joe Kelly.

Kelly will be joining the Red Sox bullpen after making the transition to reliever while with Single-A Lowell and Triple-A Pawtucket. In the minors, the righty made seven outings, only allowing two runs, while striking out 14 and walking two.

While Kelly hasn’t pitched in the majors out of the bullpen since Sept. 29, 2013, he does have extensive experience as a reliever.

After not pitching much at all in high school, he served as Cal-Riverside’s closer for three years before being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. It was in the St. Louis minor league system Kelly made the transformation into a starter.

Sources: White Sox still showing no inclination to deal key players 07.23.16 at 9:53 pm ET
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Chris Sale

Chris Sale

Even after cutting up his team’s uniforms, don’t count on Chris Sale coming to the Red Sox.

According to multiple major league sources, the White Sox still have shown no inclination to deal some of their key players, such as pitchers Sale or Jose Quintana.

It is a posture the Red Sox have taken into account when planning a strategy heading into the non-waiver trade deadline, and in making the decision to act early with the acquisition of starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz.

The White Sox came into Saturday’s game against Detroit at 46-50, seven games out of the final American League Wild Card spot and 10 1/2 games in back of Cleveland in the A.L Central.

Sale’s availability has been the topic of conversation throughout baseball in recent weeks, and only gained steam after the lefty was scratched from his Saturday start due to a dispute about wearing the White Sox’ throwback uniforms.

But with Sale still under team control through the 2019 season, making no more than $13.5 million per season, there isn’t a strong motivation for the White Sox to deal the 27-year-old old.

Quintana (also 27 years old) is in a similar situation, with the White Sox controlling his contract through the 2020 season. Under the current deal, the most he will be making is $10.5 million for a single season.

Chris Sale scratched from start after not wanting to wear throwback uniforms 07.23.16 at 8:24 pm ET
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White Sox ace Chris Sale was scratched from his start Saturday after what the club defined as a “clubhouse incident.” The issue, according to multiple reports, involved Sale’s refusal to the 1976 throwback uniforms scheduled to be donned by Chicago in it’s game against Detroit.

Matt Albers started in the place of Sale, who came into the day with a 14-3 record and 3.18 ERA. He was coming off an eight-inning gem against Seattle in which the lefty allowed just one hit.

Jerry Remy hit in head with monitor during broadcast 07.23.16 at 8:09 pm ET
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The strong winds at Fenway Park Saturday were reeking havoc with more than just the play on the field.

Jerry Remy was forced to leave the NESN broadcast in the second inning after a gust of wind blew a television monitor into his head. The longtime Red Sox color analyst exited the broadcast booth to be evaluated by medical personnel, with Steve Lyons taking over for the remainder of the game between the Red Sox and Twins.

NESN personnel reported Remy checked out OK and is expected to return to the booth for Sunday’s series finale.

Red Sox notes: Craig Kimbrel progressing rapidly; John Farrell ‘hopeful’ Koji Uehara will return this season 07.23.16 at 5:17 pm ET
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Craig Kimbrel experienced his first trade exactly one year ago. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Craig Kimbrel is making signficant progress in returning from his right knee injury. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

The prognosis was that Craig Kimbrel’s return would be 3-6 weeks. Judging by how the reliever has progressed since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, it sure seems like he might be coming back sooner rather than later.

Red Sox manager John Farrell reported that the plan is to have Kimbrel throw a 20-pitch bullpen session either Sunday or Monday, with another planned before the team heads to the West Coast after Wednesday’s afternoon game.

“I think we’ll have a better idea when he gets through the two bullpens,” Farrell said. “We need to get some PFP [pitchers fielding practice] involved here, some change of direction to field the position and those types of things. Cut in terms of amount of time missed and the fact he’s able to get as aggressive right now in long toss, I would think it’d be on the shorter end of number of appearances even if it’s more than one.”

The manager added, “He feels very good. If he wasn’t making the ultimately decision medically he’d probably say give me the ball tonight. That’s how good he feels. That’s encouraging but still we have to get him through proper steps to get him there.”

After the bullpens, the Red Sox may conduct a simulated game for Kimbrel, although a rehab appearance isn’t out of the question. “We’re not scripting it out past Wednesday because we could go one of two ways here.”

Kimbrel hasn’t pitched since July 6, having injured his right knee while going over to field a ball in batting practice July 9.

– The news doesn’t sound quite as optimistic for Koji Uehara, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained pectoral muscle on his right side. The reliever is currently recovering from a PRP [Platelet Rich Plasma] injection, administered Friday.

“It’s more to tolerance, and it might depend on the area in which it’s administered. This is mostly muscle,” Farrell said. “There’s not a ligament involved here where, if it was an elbow, you’d be looking at a little bit of a longer period, but, still, there’s no number of days that says Koji is going to put a ball back in his hand. It’s going to come through strength. It’s going to come through range of motion and the rehab. Right now he’s just getting back from the soreness of the injection itself.”

Asked if the organization is counting on Uehara returning this year, Farrell said, “We’re hopeful of that. To give you a time frame, it’s too early to tell on that.”

– Besides the time off given to Mookie Betts (for more on the outfielder’s injury click here), Farrell also presented the Sox’ plans when it comes to playing time for the rest of the homestand.

“We’re trying to rotate guys all the way through,” he said. “We’ve got a little bit of a different look here today. (For a complete lineup, click here.) I’d anticipate Hanley [Ramirez] DHing tomorrow and David [Ortiz] being down one of two for David this coming week. A day off his feet to manage all the situations so with Mookie being down want to be careful we’re not void of three of our top four guys in the lineup in a give night.”

Red Sox lineup: Brock Holt leads off with Mookie Betts out 07.23.16 at 3:26 pm ET
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For the second time this season, the Red Sox will have a different leadoff hitter.

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

With Mookie Betts sidelined with a knee injury, Brock Holt slides up to take the top spot in the batting order. Filling in for Betts in right field will be Michael Martinez, who replaced the outfielder after his exit Friday night. Jackie Bradley Jr. has previously been the only other member of the Sox to leadoff this year.

Here is the Red Sox’ lineup against Twins righty Ricky Nolasco on the mound for the visitors, and David Price going for the Sox:

Brock Holt LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Aaron Hill 3B
Sandy Leon C
Michael Martinez RF

For all the matchups, click here.

In case you missed it, Jackie Bradley Jr. has some pop 07.22.16 at 11:11 am ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

It’s easy to sleep on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s power.

This is a guy whose reputation was built on defense, with his emerging overall offense offering an added bonus. Oh, and in 21 stolen base attempts he has only been thrown out once.

But what we should be taking notice of is that when Bradley hits the ball, he is usually hitting with some authority. Proof? Only one American League outfielder (Mike Trout) has a higher slugging percentage than the Sox’ center fielder, who is clocking in at .548 after notching 24th double and 15th homer of the season Thursday night.

“No doubt,” said Bradley Jr. after the Red Sox’ 13-2 win over the Twins when asked if this is the most powerful he’s ever felt at the plate. (To watch his latest homer, click here.)

With his rocket into the center field bleachers Thursday, Bradley now has more homers this season than his previous three years combined.

He is just slightly under the slugging percentage Jacoby Ellsbury finished with during the center fielder’s 32-home run season in 2011, with only Ellsbury, Fred Lynn, Carl Everett and Tony Armas ending their respective seasons with higher slugging percentages while playing center field for the Red Sox.

“I could feel it late last year and I just felt very comfortable,” Bradley said. “I felt I was getting stronger as the year went on, where in previous years I felt tired. But I conditioned and worked really hard in the offseason to be able to last through the whole thing.”

The outfielder credits a newfound commitment to weight training, particularly involving his lower half, to the maintained power. Bradley entered the season weighing more than he had at any point in his life (205 pounds), and has managed to keep the muscle despite currently dropping to 195.

And then there is the alteration in his swing, which has the lefty hitter executing a much more pronounced weight shift just before addressing the ball.

“I feel like I’m quicker and stronger,” he said. “I feel like my weight transfer isn’t as sedentary. I’m getting momentum.”

It sure seems that way.

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