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Red Sox lineup: Dustin Pedroia starts on bench, Xander Bogaerts leads off 04.18.17 at 3:38 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia

TORONTO — Dustin Pedroia might not play every game this season, after all.

The Red Sox second baseman starts the Red Sox’ series opener on the bench, with Marco Hernandez getting the nod at second base against Toronto starter Marcus Stroman. Xander Bogaerts takes Pedroia’s spot at the top of the lineup.

“We’re in a stretch of I think 30 of 31. His been in all 13 games,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell of Pedroia. “We come off a stretch where we’ve had so many different start times and just felt like today was a day to keep Marco rotating through the infield somewhat and give him a day down.”

Here is the entire Red Sox’ batting order, with Brian Johnson getting the nod for the visitors:

Xander Bogaerts SS
Andrew Benintendi CF
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Chris Young LF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Christian Vazquez C
Marco Hernandez 2B

For all the Red Sox news, go to the team page by clicking here.

Why Brian Johnson’s first-ever trip to Canada means so much 04.17.17 at 3:44 pm ET
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Brian Johnson (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Brian Johnson (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Bahamas. Japan. Taiwan.

Brian Johnson has been to all of those ports of call. But Canada? Never. Until Monday.

Instead of hopping the plane to Charlotte with the rest of the Pawtucket Red Sox, the 26 year old found himself driving up to Boston in time to catch the Red Sox’ plane to Toronto. Eduardo Rodriguez was on paternity leave, John Farrell needed a starter, and Johnson was the deemed the guy.

“You definitely appreciate the call up more when you don’t know what lies next,” said Johnson, who gets the start against the Blue Jays Tuesday at Rogers Centre. “It took two years but it was a long path in between that but I’m excited to be here.”

To be exact, it will be 637 days — or one year, eight months and 28 days — from the last time Johnson pitched in a major league game. And considering what happened that first time around, when he allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings in Houston before being shut down due to elbow issues, it’s understandable that the Florida native is anxious to put that debut in the rear-view mirror.

Then factor in what Johnson has gone through since that 2015 season. There was the offseason he was car-jacked, which led to a 2016 season that was derailed by anxiety issues. And even this season with the PawSox, he was struck in the head by a line-drive (the second time in his pro career), forcing him from his first start.

“Honestly, I think the only way I think you can shake it off is to take one in the face before that,” he said, referencing the liner he took off the face while pitching for Single-A Lowell. “You take one in the face, one in the head is not too bad. Honestly I’d take that one, any day of the week before I take that first one so it wasn’t bad.”

And now, he will be relied upon to keep the Red Sox’ winning ways going against a Blue Jays team that entered Monday with a major league-worst 2-10 mark. Not hurting matters is the momentum he’s riding via his last start, a 6 1/3-inning gem which resulted in just one run allowed.

And the fact that he gets to get another stamp on his passport is just an added bonus.

“I’ve been throwing more off my fastball,” Johnson said. “I think last year I got into the habit of more maybe trying to throw it for a strike and kind of babying. Now I’m really just throwing it as hard as I can like my fastball and it’s worked out well so far.”

Red Sox 4, Rays 3: This bullpen isn’t that bad, after all 04.17.17 at 2:13 pm ET
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Ben Taylor (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Ben Taylor (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The hold-your-breath feeling is still there. That’s what happens when you have all but one guy trying to do something on a regular basis that they’ve never consistently been asked to do.

But try as we might to ignore what this Red Sox bullpen is doing, it’s getting more and more apparent that there might be something here. All of a sudden, you have a bunch of relievers who carry the fourth-best ERA in the majors (1.84) and the third-best batting average against in the bigs. And they still have given up just one home run.

“Once they get a little success, their confidence is starting to grow,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “And I think they settle into that pecking order that has emerged. It still comes down to executing, which they’ve done a very good job at.”

The latest resume builder came Monday morning/afternoon in the Red Sox’ 4-3 win over the Rays at Fenway Park. (For a complete recap of the game, click here.)

With Steven Wright’s day finally coming to an end after leaving following a Tim Beckham leadoff single to kick off the seventh inning, Robbie Ross Jr. came on clinging to a two-run lead. He was greeted by a fluky ground-rule double from Corey Dickerson that shortstop Xander Bogaerts should have caught down the left field line.

But with runners on second and third and still nobody out, Ross Jr. came back to strike out Kevin Kiermaier, paving the way for an intentional walk to Evan Longoria.

With Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly presumably unavailable, Farrell turned to a guy who had just been summoned to join the Red Sox at about 9 a.m., Ben Taylor. Taylor did allow an RBI single to Steven Souza Jr., but came back to induce an inning-ending fly out to right field off the bat of lefty hitter Logan Morrison.

“I was actually putting gas in the car, ready to go to Pawtucket to get on the bus to get on a plane to go to Charlotte,” said Taylor of when he found out about the promotion. “I got a call from [Kevin Boles} Bolesy, our manager, and he told me I was coming up here for the day. I drove over here as quick as I could.”

Taylor paved the way for Farrell’s other late-inning right-hander, Heath Hembree, who hadn’t pitched since Thursday. Hembree cruised through the eighth against three straight right-handers, sandwiching strikeouts vs. Rickie Weeks Jr. and Beckham around a Derek Norris fly out.

“You want to pitch in those late innings, tight-ballgame roles,” Hembree said. “But anyone in the bullpen can do that. Everybody down there has quality stuff. We’re not surprised.”

Then came the one guy who was being counted on to offer a bit less uncertainty, Craig Kimbrel. And the closer once again managed to do exactly that.

Kimbrel converted his 25th straight save opportunity, which is the second-longest streak the majors, while making it 21 in a row at Fenway Park. This time the closer struck out the side to punctuate the win. He became the first Red Sox pitcher since Mike Timlin in 2006 to notch three saves in a single series.

So, is Farrell surprised that he has ended up with this bullpen?

“No, because it’s one that has good stuff,” the manager said. “When you anchor it with a guy who is an elite closer in Craig it allows those roles to emerge. As long as they execute there is a lot of big league stuff out there. There’s power. There’s the ability to match-up. Robby Scott has come in in some key moments and gotten some key outs. I’ll tell you, it’s a pretty strong vote of confidence to bring a kid like Ben Taylor into a spot like that knowing he’s going to throw strikes and quality strikes. They’re pitching well.”

Shattering Perceptions Game Note Image

Wright walked off the mound having surrendered two runs over six innings, with both of those scores coming in an uncomfortable 31-pitch first inning. He did leave with the lead, however, with the Red Sox scoring one in the first and three more in the second against Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell. Andrew Benintendi capped his successful homestand (12-for-28) with three more hits.

With Eduardo Rodriguez on paternity leave, Red Sox calling on Ben Taylor, Brian Johnson 04.17.17 at 10:02 am ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez

Eduardo Rodriguez

Red Sox will have a new starter in their rotation.

With the birth of his second child, Eduardo Rodriguez is headed to the paternity list, which means the pitcher must miss at least one game, but no more than three games.

So, with Rodriguez slated to start Tuesday in Toronto, the Red Sox had some moves to make. The first one came Monday morning when reliever Ben Taylor was recalled for one game. The plan is to then have Brian Johnson take Rodriguez’s start against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Johnson has allowed just two runs over 10 2/3 innings in his first two starts with Triple-A Pawtucket. His first outing was interrupted when he was struck with a line drive in the back of the head. But the lefty made his next start on schedule, giving up a run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings against Syracuse.

Taylor impressed in his first stint with the Red Sox this season, allowing one run on three hits over 5 1/3 innings over three games.

Rodriguez has a 5.23 ERA in his two starts, allowing three runs (2 earned) over 5 1/3 innings in his last outing.

Red Sox 2, Rays 1: Chris Sale was really good. The offense was just good enough. Welcome to the uncomfortable world of Red Sox baseball. 04.15.17 at 7:00 pm ET
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Chris Sale (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Chris Sale (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Like it or not, these are your Red Sox.

Chris Sale saves the day, while the lineup runs up a mountain with a backpack full of rocks just well enough to plant its triumphant flag. In other words, this team showed once again Saturday they really need their new ace to be really good, because an offensive identity still hasn’t been uncovered. Throw in some uncomfortable moments from the bullpen, and there you have it.

This time the formula resulted in a 2-1 Fenway Park win over the Rays. (For a complete recap, click here.)

The good news for the Red Sox, besides their sixth win of the season, was that their perceived luxury item, Sale, has become the be-all, end-all necessity. With most of the rest of the starting rotation wallowing in early-season uneasiness, the lefty has offered the kind of domination not consistently witnessed by Fenway fans in some time. Through three starts, dare we say, this has been Pedro-esque.

Sale struck out 12 Rays hitters over his seven innings, giving up just the one run on three hits and three walks. As for the punctuation to the performance, the starter retired the last 10 batters he faced. His ERA stands at 1.25 ERA with an opponent batting average of .149.

This just in: He’s really good.

“Chris Sale dominant, strong, any adjective you want to attach to it,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He’s got three power type pitches for a lot of swing-and-miss. And let’s face it, three starts he’s made for us, he’s not had any margin of error. We’re able to push across a run late, but he’s worth the price of admission just to see him. But just a strong, strong day from Chris.”

The Red Sox’ offense right now? That’s another matter.

Yes, Farrell’s club did hit a home run. That came on Erasmus Ramirez’s first pitch after replacing an injured Jake Odorizzi (hamstring) to lead off the second base, with Mitch Moreland clearing the right field fence. That would give the Red Sox five on the season. That would be 16 fewer than the Mets coming into the day, and equal to four players’ output (Yoenis Cespedes, Khris Davis, Salvador Perez, George Springer).

And while the Sox are in the middle of the pack in the majors for total runs scored, it just seems like scoring is too much of a tractor pull too many times, particularly with Sale on the mound. The lefty has now gotten three total runs of support in his three starts, with nine of his last 11 appearances (dating back to his days with the White Sox) resulting in two or fewer runs from his own team.

“I also think across the field guys on the mound they know it’s going to be a tough game for them to score as well so whether that draws more out of them,” Farrell said. “I don’t think our guys are pressing to do more we just haven’t scored in the three starts thus far.”

The only reason Sale got the win this time around because of what has become a semi-trademark inning for the Red Sox, this time coming in the seventh.

Singles by Moreland and Xander Bogaerts were followed by a Pablo Sandoval fielder’s choice. After a walk to Chris Young, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash executed the questionable decision to bring in lefty Xavier Cedeno to turn switch-hitting Sandy Leon around to the right side. (Considering Leon entered the game 5-for-9 as a righty, and just 3-for-18 hitting left-handed, it was a head-scratcher.)

But, once again, it Leon to the rescue. This time in the form of … wait for it … a weak grounder to second base that allowed Moreland to run home with the game-winner. An intentional walk to Dustin Pedroia and ground out by Andrew Benintendi later, and the Red Sox were on their way.

The image wouldn’t be complete without some discomfort for the final two innings, with Matt Barnes supplying the awkwardness this time around. The righty came on to put runners on first and second with one out, before ultimately getting Evan Longoria to ground into a 5-4-3, inning-ending double play.

Welcome to Red Sox baseball.

This time it’s the Rays’ starting pitcher who leaves after getting just 3 outs 04.15.17 at 4:40 pm ET
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After a week which saw Steven Wright go just 1 1/3 innings, with Rick Porcello not making it through five frames Friday night, the Red Sox’ opposition finally suffered a similar fate.

After throwing his first pitch in the second inning, with Mitch Moreland at-bat, Tampa Bay starter Jake Odorizzi pulled up lame, pulling his left hamstring. After throwing a warm-up pitcher with Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash and the training staff looking on, the righty walked to the dugout.

Odorizzi gave up a leadoff single to Dustin Pedroia, but went on to retire Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez without giving up a run.

Moreland would jump on the first pitch from reliever Erasmo Ramirez for a solo home run, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.

The Rays starter was coming off a solid outing in his last start, giving up two runs over six innings against Toronto. Odorizzi had kicked off his season allowing four runs in six innings while taking the loss against the Yankees.

Red Sox lineup: Pablo Sandoval, Sandy Leon, Chris Young return in series opener against Rays 04.14.17 at 3:34 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Pablo Sandoval (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox are banking on a slightly different lineup as they rolled out Thursday, and a similar result as they’ve had against Chris Archer.

Coming off their come-from-behind victory over the Pirates, the Red Sox begin the first of a four-game series against the Rays, with Archer starting for the visitors. The Tampa Bay righty, who has allowed two runs while going at least seven innings in each of his first two outings, struggled at Fenway Park last year, totaling a 9.58 ERA in two starts.

The only changes in the Red Sox batting order from Thursday will be the addition of Pablo Sandoval at third base, Chris Young in left field and Sandy Leon getting the nod at catcher. Here is their lineup with Rick Porcello on the mound for the hosts:

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Andrew Benintendi CF
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Chris Young LF
Sandy Leon C

To follow all the goings on with the Red Sox, go to the team page by clicking here.

Adam Jones puts the unpopular baseball player problem in perfect perspective 04.14.17 at 9:21 am ET
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Adam Jones (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Adam Jones (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Much was made of the recent Luker by Trends poll (which was thankfully surfaced by ESPN’s Jayson Stark) identifying the 50 favorite pro athletes.

The big takeaway? Not a single active major league player cracked the list.

Derek Jeter finished at No. 13. No. 30 was Babe Ruth. And Pete Rose slid into the group at No. 50. But when it came to players still playing, MLB had to settle for Anthony Rizzo one spot behind Rose.

Of the Top 10, four were basketball players, while three played in the NFL.

It caused everyone to once again run to their opinion machine and surface all the things that are wrong with baseball. Time of games. Not enough flare from the stars. Too many regulations limiting individuality.

Well, Adam Jones, one of the more outspoken stars in today’s MLB, doesn’t seem concerned. And after listening to him, it’s hard to argue.

“No,” Jones told WEEI.com when asked if anything needs to be changed to bump some of the MLB stars up on the list. “I think having a nine to 10 billion business is pretty thriving. It’s doing fair.”

While Jones clearly isn’t losing sleep over the dynamic, he did offer a little surprise when learning his sport had been completely shut out.

“With Jeter, obviously winning and the market that they’re in is so bigs. I’m amazed guys like like [Buster] Posey, [Mike] Trout, [Bryce] Harper, [Manny] Machado, some of them aren’t on that list. Even just the New York guys because they get a lot of attention,” Jones explained. “It’s somewhat surprising just because of the big market.

“Baseball isn’t as recognizable in that fashion. For attention, they look more to the NBA and the NFL.”

And that’s hard to argue.

Mookie Betts proclaims that Andrew Benintendi is faster than he is 04.14.17 at 9:16 am ET
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The play was a bizarre one.

Andrew Benintendi sprinting home from second base with Mookie Betts just a few feet behind him on what would be a Hanley Ramirez triple during the eighth inning of the Red Sox’ 4-3 win over the Pirates Thursday afternoon.

It was enough of an aberration that third base coach Brian Butterfield immediately compared it to a play that happened almost 32 years before.

“I did think about it after. I thought about that [Carlton] Fisk play,” Butterfield said. “I felt real good about the lead guy. Didn’t feel quite as good about the second guy and Pittsburgh executed and that’s the way it turned out. Again, honestly they were getting so close and Mookie was coming so fast, I was really concerned about trying to stop the second guy as the lead guy was passing me and have that lead guy get spooked and stop. I just rolled the dice there for the second guy.”

But another conversation should have been surfaced after watching the two sprint around the bases: Who is the fastest Red Sox?

Certainly, both Betts and Benintendi would be considered at the top of the list when trying to identify who was the fastest. Also in the mix would probably be Marco Hernandez and perhaps relief pitcher Joe Kelly. But the two outfielders have to be first and second. It’s just a matter of designated which one is which.

Betts has officially deferred.

“Benny is faster than I am,” he said when asked his opinion on the matter. And when offered the opportunity to temper his declaration, Betts wouldn’t. “Heck, yeah. He is way faster than I am. I was a couple of steps behind him, so once he got going I’m not catching up to him.”

Betts said he ran a 6.4 second 60-yard dash in high school, but is probably between 6.8 and 7.0 now. Benintendi was timed with 6.5 in college, which was just two years ago.

It’s obviously on the radar.

“We joke about who’s fastest all the time,” Benintendi said. “I guess that kind of proves it.”

Betts isn’t going to disagree.

“I just know. Little things. Benny is fast. Really fast,” the right fielder said. “I’ve lost a bunch of steps. I guess I’m getting old.”

Who is the fastest Red Sox?

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Wednesday Farm Report: Sam Travis OK after collision with Blake Swihart 04.12.17 at 10:26 am ET
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Sam Travis (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Sam Travis (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Sam Travis could do without the drama.

After seeing his promising 2016 season end with a torn ACL, the first baseman flirted with disaster once again Tuesday night. In the ninth inning of the Pawtucket Red Sox’ game with Syracuse at McCoy Stadium, Travis collided with catcher Blake Swihart while both were chasing a foul ball.

The pair stayed on the ground for a while, with Travis seemingly taking the worse of the collision, ultimately having to leave the game.

Travis had a cut above his chin, Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles told reporters after the game, while Swihart suffered lacerations in his mouth.

The moment put somewhat of a damper on an otherwise encouraging night for Swihart, who went 2-for-3 with a home run.

Travis finished his night going 0-for-3, with his early-season struggles currently resulting in a 3-for-18 stretch (.167).

Another standout in PawSox’s 5-4 win was Rusney Castillo, who came away with two of the host’s five hits out of the leadoff spot. Also of note were the two walks by Allen Craig, who has now been on base in 12 of his 20 plate appearances.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS (5-0): W, 3-2, vs. Binghamton

– Aneury Tavarez, who was returned from the Baltimore Orioles at the end of spring training after being selected in the Rule 5 draft in the offseason, claimed a walk-off single in the 10th inning to keep Portland unbeaten. The speedy Tavarez finished with two hits, with his average now sitting at .429.

– Portland got a standout start from former fourth-round pick Kevin McAvoy, who allowed one run on two hits over six innings. McAvoy struggled in his 22 starts with the Sea Dogs last season, totaling a 5.80 ERA.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX (3-3): W, 11-5, at Lynchburg

– Along with Josh Tobias’ well-timed three-run homer, the highlight for Salem was Josh Ockimey’s continued hot start. The 21-year-old first baseman claimed four more hits, boosting his batting average to .522 (12-for-23).

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE (4-2): W, 4-3, vs. Lexington

– Shaun Anderson, a third-round pick from last year’s draft, turned in a stellar outing, not giving up a run over six innings while striking out six and not walking a batter. The 22-year-old has now pitched 10 2/3 innings, having surrendered just one earned run. Anderson played his college ball at the University of Florida.

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