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John Farrell on Dale and Holley: No fracture/ligament issues for Mike Napoli; Dustin Pedroia to lead off 04.16.14 at 2:44 pm ET
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Appearing on the Dale and Holley Show, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Mike Napoli, who injured his left ring finger while sliding head-first into second base Tuesday night, is still day-to-day. Farrell noted Napoli‘s finger has no fracture or ligament issues and will be day-to-day (sitting out Wednesday night’s game) while he waits for the swelling to go down.

Farrell also said Dustin Pedroia, who hadn’t started since Saturday due to a sore left wrist, will be in the leadoff spot Wednesday night. Pedroia underwent a cortisone shot Monday and re-appeared in the ninth inning Tuesday when pinch-running for Napoli.

Koji Uehara was scheduled to throw a bullpen Wednesday, with Farrell saying the closer continues to progress from a sore right shoulder.

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Buster Olney on M&M: Dustin Pedroia’s wrist injury ‘a concern’ 04.16.14 at 1:17 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN’s Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni to talk about the Red Sox‘ slow start and other MLB news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The Red Sox are 5-9 after dropping three straight games, including Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the White Sox in frigid Chicago. Coming off last year’s World Series title, the Red Sox have been hurt by injuries and their inability to make key plays.

“I think it’s a combination of both,” Olney said. “When you start with [Dustin] Pedroia‘s situation, you go from there. That’s obviously a concern. I talked to David Ortiz over the weekend and he talked about the effort to get his timing back. The offense, which was so dominant last year, just hasn’t gotten on a roll yet, obviously. One of the Red Sox players mentioned to me over the weekend, ‘We’re still trying to find our identity.’

“The good thing is that the rest of the division is pretty much in the exact same boat. So if you’re in the Red Sox clubhouse, you might not necessarily be feeling great about what’s happening now. But you look at the Yankees, their infield situation is a complete mess. Tampa Bay’s rotation is in tatters. The Orioles have rotation issues. Toronto, as you know, a lot of questions about their rotation. Given the range of problems you might have, at least if you’re the Red Sox, you’re probably feeling better overall about your situation than some of the other teams are.”

The Red Sox have lost their last two games by one run (3-2 to the Yankees and 2-1 to Chicago), putting a spotlight on their offensive woes.

“Going into their game on Sunday night, their offense, which outscored every other team in baseball last year by 57 runs, ranked 17th in runs scored,” Olney said. “That, day in and day out, gives them so much margin for error. It did last year. They have to get that going.”

Even if Pedroia does not miss any more time with his wrist injury, it could be a serious blow to the Red Sox’ hopes if he has to play through a problem.

“I’m going to be really curious to see how he does going forward. I’ve talked to so many players through the years — how troublesome wrist injuries can be for a hitter. And sometimes they just don’t go away during the year. Because what it really needs in a lot of cases is out-and-out, flat-out rest. And he’s not going to have an opportunity to do that.”

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Wendell Rijo, inchoate on-base machine? 04.16.14 at 12:00 pm ET
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Right-hander Brandon Workman will start for Pawtucket on Wednesday. (AP)

Right-hander Brandon Workman will start for Pawtucket on Wednesday. (AP)

A brief look at the limited activity in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: RAINED OUT AT ROCHESTER (TWINS)

Brandon Workman will make his first start for Pawtucket on Wednesday. The PawSox face some frigid early season conditions today in Rochester.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: RAINED OUT VS. BINGHAMTON (METS)

Glenn Jordan of the Portland Press-Herald wrote an excellent feature on Sea Dogs manager Billy McMillon, who is returning to Portland two decades after playing there while in the Marlins system.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: RAINED OUT AT CAROLINA (INDIANS)

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-2 LOSS VS. CHARLESTON (YANKEES)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Jamie Callahan, coming off a dominant start in which he struck out 11, could not back up that performance. The 19-year-old has allowed five runs on eight hits (three doubles, five singles) while striking out just one and walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He threw just 39 of 74 pitches (53 percent) for strikes. After he walked just 2.6 batters per nine innings last year, Callahan has issued 10 walks in 12 innings (7.5 walks per nine innings) so far in his first full season, and opponents are hitting .333 against him in the early going.

– Right-hander Sergio Gomez made a strong piggyback appearance in relief of Callahan, allowing one run on six hits (five singles and a double) and a walk in 4 2/3 innings while punching out six. The skinny 20-year-old, one of the top performers in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League in 2012 and the advanced short-season New York-Penn League for Lowell last summer, has 16 strikeouts and five walks in 12 innings as a piggyback starter so far this year.

Wendell Rijo went 0-for-3 but drew a walk. The 18-year-old has reached base in all 10 games he’s played this year, and ranks third in the South Atlantic League with a .452 OBP. Teammate Kevin Mager, a 24-year-old who went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks on Tuesday, leads the league with a .488 OBP.

Jantzen Witte, a corner infielder who played first on Wednesday, was the lone member of Greenville’s lineup with multiple hits, going 2-for-4. The 24-year-old is amidst a four-game hitting streak in which he’s 8-for-17 with four doubles and four walks, good for a .471/.571/.706 line.

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Where has it gone wrong for Red Sox? 04.16.14 at 11:37 am ET
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It has been a frustrating season for Red Sox manager John Farrell thus far. (AP)

It has been a frustrating season for Red Sox manager John Farrell thus far. (AP)

The popular line coming out of spring training was that the only really hiccup throughout the 1 1/2 months of getting ready for the regular season could be traced to a fishing knife.

Ironically, the owners of the little bit of drama in Fort Myers — Jake Peavy and his cut finger — have been the least of the Red Sox‘ worries during their 5-9 start. Peavy has been the team’s best pitcher to date, compiling a 1.93 ERA over his first three starts.

But almost immediately this year, concerns started cropping up. While injuries — starting with Shane Victorino‘s hamstring pull the last day of spring training — will be the main focus when trying to identify the issues, there have been plenty of images through the first two weeks of games this year that were never seen during the march to a title in 2013.

So, besides injuries, what else exactly is wrong with the world champs?

LEADOFF SPOT

Problem: It is true that a leadoff hitter will only be guaranteed one occasion per game in which he kicks off an inning. But there is something to be said for setting the tone. No tone has been set for these Red Sox. Without Jacoby Ellsbury, they wanted to prioritize their leadoff hitter getting on base. That hasn’t happened. The hitters atop the Sox’ lineup have a combined .292 on-base percentage, fourth-worst in the majors. They have also scored just five runs, the majors’ second-fewest. And get this: The Red Sox are the only team in baseball that hasn’t scored a run in the first inning this season.

Also of note: Not only does the Red Sox’ leadoff spot have the second-worst OPS in baseball, but it’s also where their No. 2 hitters rank (.496).

Solution: Stick Dustin Pedroia in the top spot and see what happens. He’s not averse to the dynamic, especially when Victorino returns. It might also pave the way for a slightly different approach by pitchers, which could give jumpstart the second baseman’s walk total. (He doesn’t have a free pass this season.) It should also be noted that Pedroia has swung at the first pitch just five percent of the time this season, fourth lowest in the bigs. There would also be the increased opportunity for Pedroia to run, which he has always been hesitant to do with Ortiz hitting behind him. If/when the entire lineup is healthy, the Sox would feature a batting order of Pedroia, Victorino, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Grady Sizemore, Xander Bogaerts.

FINDING SOME WALKS

Problem: Remember when the Red Sox found themselves not taking the proper patient approach last season? Usually there would be a quick correction. That alteration hasn’t happened yet. The Red Sox currently find themselves in the lower half of American League with 41 free passes. Strangely, the Sox are still taking a fair amount of pitches (4.01 per plate appearance, fourth-most in the AL). They also swing at the first pitch only 22 percent of the time (fourth-fewest), despite A.J. Pierzynski’s rate of swinging at the initial offering 45 percent of the time (his highest rate since ’02).

Solution: The players seeing regular playing time who could most likely up their walk total are Pedroia (0 walks), Grady Sizemore (3), Daniel Nava (3) and David Ortiz, who has four. The increased patience might also cut into a double play total that is currently the most prolific in the major leagues (17).

EFFECTIVE BASERUNNING

Problem: Much was made of how efficient the Red Sox’ basestealers were a year ago, clocking in at 86 percent. This year they have the second-worst stolen base percentage in the majors, going 4-for-8. After 14 games last season, the Sox success rate stood at 70 percent (12-for-17). The good news is that Red Sox baserunners have only been gunned down twice trying to take an extra base

Solution: Other than re-acquiring Jacoby Ellsbury, this is one that is just going to have to run its course. While the Sox still have good baserunners, replacing Ellsbury with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Sizemore really is a downgrade in the speed department. Perhaps the biggest step forward they can make in this department is just getting Bradley and Sizemore more confident about trying to take the extra base (they are currently a combined 3-for-3).

SOME PRODUCTION AT THIRD BASE

Problem: While many will correctly identify the absence of Victorino as a huge hole for the Red Sox, not having a productive Will Middlebrooks has also been a challenge. Middlebrooks appeared to be evolving into a run producer early in the season before tearing his calf muscle four games into the season. The combination of Jonathan Herrera and Ryan Roberts has resulted in a subpar .605 OPS at the position. (Then again, five of the Red Sox’ nine positions have combined for OPSes of under .700.)

Solution: This one is going to require patience. Middlebrooks is still a ways off, having not even run yet. While they will call this a Grade 1 strain, it is basically a tear. And the third baseman learned his lesson from last season when he tried to return from back problems too early. If his injury does linger, however — or if such a problem surfaces later in the season — the Garin Cecchini (hitting .310 with a .727 OPS with PawSox) conversation should gain steam.

SITUATIONAL HITTING

Problem: The Red Sox’ inability to get runners in is no secret. They are hitting just .194 with runners in scoring position, and .188 in such situations with two outs. But one under-the-radar issue that has popped up has been a lack of production from the Sox’ pinch-hitters. They are currently 1-for-10 with no walks and five strikeouts. Last season, this was team that saw their pinch-hitters total a major league-best .359 on-base percentage, along with seven homers.

Solution: Continuity. With the injuries, finding the right guy at the right time has been challenging. The Red Sox rotated a lot of guys in and out last season, but usually those guys had an idea of when and where they were going to be needed. Due to ailments, the lineup structure has been somewhat unpredictable, putting a dent in some players’ comfort zones.

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Wednesday’s Red Sox-White Sox matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. John Danks 04.16.14 at 8:16 am ET
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The Red Sox continue their series in Chicago on Wednesday when they send Clay Buchholz to the mound against the White Sox and left-hander John Danks.

After struggling in his first appearance of the season, Buchholz inched closer to form in his most recent outing despite picking up the loss. Buchholz gave up four runs, two of which were earned, on seven hits and six strikeouts during six innings against the Yankees last Thursday. New York went on to win that game 4-1.

“I felt a lot better,” Buchholz said after the game, (via MLB.com). “Just in the last five days, with my arm strength and everything, it got a lot better within a five-day span. Usually it doesn’t happen that quick. I felt a lot more comfortable with each pitch out there tonight. I’ve got to minimize the damage a little bit more in a couple of spots. Other than that I felt like I threw the ball pretty well.”

Buchholz last took on the White Sox on May 22, 2013, when he scattered five hits and just one run over seven innings on the mound. The game, which Boston eventually won 6-2, was Buchholz’€™s seventh victory of the season. Overall, Buchholz holds a 2-2 record in six starts against the White Sox with a 4.29 ERA and a WHIP of 1.29.

Danks comes into the start after earning his first win of the season last Thursday when he faced off against the Indians. After giving up two runs in the first, the 29-year-old lefty limited Cleveland to three overall runs on six hits and four strikeouts over six innings.

In his last appearance against the Red Sox — a game on Aug. 31, 2013 — Danks gave up six runs, five earned, on 11 hits over five innings. The loss was his 11th of the season and went along with a trend of Danks struggling against Boston. In nine starts, Danks has gone 3-6 with a 5.37 ERA and a WHIP of 1.44.

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Mike Napoli’s bent finger turns out to be just dislocated, not broken 04.16.14 at 12:44 am ET
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The Red Sox seemingly escaped another potential huge setback when it was determined Mike Napoli‘€™s left ring finger was dislocated and not broken.

Napoli hurt the finger sliding head first into second base while advancing on a wild pitch in the ninth inning of what would be a 2-1 Red Sox loss to the White Sox in Chicago.

“It’€™s not broke,” he told reporters. “I can play with some soreness. We’€™ll see how it feels tomorrow.

He added, “I saw my finger sideways. The first thing I thought was, I don’€™t really know what to think. But I’ve seen people with dislocated fingers before. They pop it back in, be sore.”

At the time, it appeared as though Napoli had made an important baserunning decision, getting into scoring position with the game tied at 1-1. He would immediately be pinch run for by Dustin Pedroia, who was stranded after a Mike Carp ground out.

“Good dirt ball read like that, I mean, God dang,” Napoli said. “I was digging myself. I look at my finger, frigging sideways. But it’€™s good news it’€™s not broken.”

Napoli also told reporters, “I know I hit the bag pretty hard and I looked down and it was right there in front of my face. [Umpire] Jim Joyce was going, ‘€˜Oh my God!’€™ and calling for the trainer. It’€™ll be all right.”

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Closing Time: Xander Bogaerts’ throwing error hands White Sox win over Red Sox 04.15.14 at 11:54 pm ET
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A cold night got much colder by the end of the evening for the Red Sox.

With two outs in the ninth inning, Xander Bogaerts one-hopped what appeared to be a routine throw to first on a Marcus Semien grounder. First baseman Mike Carp failed to dig the ball out, allowing Alexei Ramirez to score the winning run all the way from second, handing the White Sox a 2-1 win over the Red Sox on a frigid Tuesday night in Chicago.

“Yeah, I mean, cold weather, but that’€™s no excuse for that play,” Bogaerts told reporters. “That’€™s  a ball I should’ve thrown right in the chest to him, or more in the zone.”

The final pitch was thrown by reliever Chris Capuano, who appeared to have struck out Semien the pitch before on a checked swing on a 2-2 fastball. The Red Sox lefty had come on with one out and Ramirez on first, with Burke Badenhop having allowed a single to the White Sox shortstop.

Making matters worst for the Red Sox was that Mike Napoli dislocated his left ring finger sliding head first into second base in the ninth inning. The first baseman was advancing to second on a wild pitch. He was immediately replaced by Dustin Pedroia, walking off the field with Red Sox trainer Rick Jameyson.

“It’€™s not broke,” Napoli told reporters. “I can play with some soreness. We’€™ll see how it feels tomorrow.

He added, “I saw my finger sideways. The first thing I thought was, I don’€™t really know what to think. But I’ve seen people with dislocated fingers before. They pop it back in, be sore.”

Here is what went wrong (and right) for the Red Sox.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Red Sox starter Jake Peavy‘s only miscue came to former teammate Adam Dunn, who pulled a 92 mph fastball from the pitcher over the right-field fence to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

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