|Jack of all trades: An in-depth look at Red Sox players’ versatility||05.27.15 at 12:16 pm ET|
Versatility is becoming more and more important to a team’s success.
Of the 13 position players on the Red Sox‘ 25-man roster, six have played multiple positions this year, and over the course of their careers 10 have played more than one position.
This movement goes down to the Triple-A level as well. Of the 12 position players on the active Pawtucket roster, nine have played multiple positions this year, many three positions.
“The benefit is the more options the manager has. At the major league level with good players, the better chance the manager has to fill out a deep lineup 162 times a year,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. “If you have a bunch of guys on your roster that are more bound to one position or two, it just gets harder to get through the season and create deep lineups, good matchups, and then it’s also a huge advantage in terms of managing players’ health throughout the season.
“Brock Holt could play seven, eight places on the field theoretically. If there is a time when a player is dragging for whatever reason you can play Holt one day and still give yourself a chance to get good production and not get a drop-off. It might help the team, but also helps the player who gets the day off. There are all sorts of things for a potential benefit.”
The most notable versatile player in the organization is Holt, who has played six positions this year and last year played every position in the field besides catcher and pitcher.
There are others like Mookie Betts who was an infielder until early in the season last year when he was switched to center field, Xander Bogaerts, who added third base to his repertoire in 2013 and played both positions last year, and Hanley Ramirez, who is playing left field after spending his whole career on the left side of the infield.
“It’s huge,” Betts said of being able to play multiple positions. “You get to get in the lineup every day and, like I said, you create value for yourself and the team as well. That’s huge.”
|Ben Cherington not looking at trades as of now, believes Red Sox can improve with current players||05.23.15 at 7:15 pm ET|
With the Red Sox looking to create a spark and rejuvenate the lineup and team, don’t expect a trade to be one of those ways — at least yet.
The Red Sox are 19-23 to open the year and have dropped four of their last five games. They are also 8-12 at home and averaging only 2.45 runs per game in May, with 13 of the 20 games scoring two runs or fewer.
Manager John Farrell shook up the lineup Saturday, moving Dustin Pedroia into the leadoff spot and flip-flopped David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez, but other than lineup changes, don’t expect anything bigger, at least for the time being.
“We’re looking for ways to get better, there’s no doubt about that,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “As I said earlier, bigger impactful trades they just don’t happen this early, so we’re still mostly focusing on finding ways to get better with guys that are here that we have. I think we can do that and improve just with the guys that we have here.
“Not to say that we wouldn’t look for ways to improve too, but it’s just not as common to see trades available this early that are going to be that impactful. We’ll keep working and looking at all those areas.”
The team has a number of players who have under-performed. David Ortiz is hitting .239, Mike Napoli is hitting .182, Mookie Betts is hitting .232 with an on-base percentage of .290 out of the leadoff spot — and the most disturbing stat of them all, as a team the Red Sox are hitting .203 with runners in scoring position — second to last in baseball, as only the Reds are worse at .188.
The Red Sox will face another left-handed pitcher Saturday in the Angels’ C.J. Wilson. For the season as a team, the Red Sox are batting .197 against lefties, with some individual players even worse as Pablo Sandoval is just 2-for-41 (.049).
Because of that, Sandoval is out of the lineup, as manager John Farrell said he is over the knee issue after missing the last three games following being hit by a pitch Tuesday night.
“He’s available inside of tonight,” Farrell said. “If there was a right-handed starter on the mound, he would be in the lineup, but with Wilson going it was a chance to get him another day down.”
There were more changes with Dustin Pedroia sliding into the leadoff spot, Shane Victorino hitting second, and Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz flip-flopping so Ramirez will hit third, and Ortiz fourth.
Farrell said this was based on their performances against lefties.
“That’s the reason you have Pedey (Pedroia) in the leadoff spot with Vic hitting second,” he said. “The two guys that have handled left-handed pitching the best on our club so far. Give Mookie [Betts] a down day as well.”
When asked if Pedroia might stay in the leadoff spot past tonight, the manager didn’t rule that out.
“We’ll see it how it unfolds,” Farrell said. “Hopefully today is a day we handle Wilson who is off to a decent start, we get another left-handed starter tomorrow. Depending on who is available tomorrow to be in the lineup, we’ll address that at that time.”
Entering the season, hitting left-handed pitching was likely on the bottom of the list of potential concerns with a lineup featuring Ramirez, Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino. But, after 42 games, it’s one of the biggest — although general manager Ben Cherington thinks it will naturally improve.
“Certainly coming into the season we didn’t foresee that would be an issue and it has been to this point,” Cherington said. “Looking in hindsight at the first 42 games or wherever we are, you can see certain areas of performance and be like, ‘Oh, that’s why they are struggling against lefties.’ We didn’t expect that to be a challenge and I think that is something that can just improve naturally with the guys that are here and get guys into some established roles.”
OTHER RED SOX NOTES
|Ben Cherington on Rusney Castillo after promotion: ‘He brings a lot’||05.22.15 at 5:23 pm ET|
On Friday the Red Sox recalled outfielder Rusney Castillo from Triple-A Pawtucket, and optioned back Jackie Bradley.
Castillo started the season with Triple-A Pawtucket, and suffered a shoulder injury the first weekend of the season. He got back with Pawtucket April 29 and started 0-for-11, but over his last 10 games there he was hitting .302 with two homers and seven RBIs, with hits in his last four games, including two, three-hit games.
After a few days of paternity leave earlier in the week, the outfielder returned to play for Pawtucket Thursday night before being promoted Friday.
“I think when we came out of spring training, we really felt like everything that he had done to that point, including last year, but also, spring training, had just confirmed for us the reasons why we signed him in the first place and that was because we felt and still feel that he is going to be a very good major league player and help us,” general manager Ben Cherington said to WEEI.com prior to Friday’s game.
“At the end of spring training we made a decision to give some other guys some opportunity first and then there was sort of a side benefit that it was going to allow him to go and play every day professionally — it was the one thing he hadn’t done yet because of his circumstance last year. And then he got hurt and missed two weeks, whatever it was, so that was a little bit of a speed bump. We had to get him back and get him back playing. Then he had a baby, so he missed a couple of days this week.
“We’ve always felt he’s a major league player and capable of helping us. We wanted to get him on some kind of roll, comfortable, get his timing and all that stuff. Hopefully that has mostly happened in Pawtucket and no he’s here. We’re trying to create the deepest lineup we can with the guys we have on a given night and we felt like he could be part of that. Now it’s up to John [Farrell] and how he is going to write the lineups out with these guys. I am sure he will get a chance to play, as I am sure other guys will play. He brings a lot — he can play defense, he can run, he has power. Hopefully he’s another piece to hopefully extending our lineup a little bit and building a deep lineup and make things a little tougher on the pitcher.”
|Ben Cherington on D&C: Despite offensive struggles, ‘I’m still confident that the offense will start clicking’||05.21.15 at 8:36 am ET|
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan Thursday morning to discuss the state of the Red Sox through the first 40 games, focusing on the offense. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Through the first 18 games in May the Red Sox are averaging 2.39 runs per game, and are hitting just .146 as a team with runners in scoring position, including 1-for-8 in a 2-1 loss Wednesday night to the Rangers. Cherington feels things will change.
“Our offense hasn’t clicked yet,” Cherington said. “I don’t think it is necessarily predictive of what is going to happen. I think if we look at the reasons for it, there are just much different reasons than we saw last year. Our intent in building the team and one of the things we thought we’d be able to do this year is to put deep lineups out there night in, night out, give John [Farrell] as many options as possible. I still feel like we’re going to be able to do that. There have been times where we haven’t been able to do that because of injury or being short-handed or whatever. I think we’re going to get closer and closer able to do that.
“I think if you look at some of the underlying numbers — bottom line is we’re just hitting a lot of balls in play that have ended up in people’s gloves and some of that evens out over the course of the year. We’ll go through stretches where more balls will drop. Last night was a good example, we hit several balls really well that were either caught or tracked down. I’m still confident that the offense will start clicking. It hasn’t yet and hasn’t been what we expected, but we have a long way to go.”
Many have wondered about Pablo Sandoval, and maybe he might want to stop switch-hitting and just hit exclusively from the left side. So far this season, Sandoval is hitting .365 from the left side, but just .049 (2-for-41) from the right side. Last year he hit .199 from the right side, but for his career he’s a .260 hitter from the right side.
Cherington said it’s up to Sandoval to correct things, and the team just needs him to get back to his career norms against lefties.
“I’m not sure it is anybody’s job,” Cherington said. “I think Pablo knows what he needs to do to be successful. He’s obviously been one of the better left-handed hitters in the game this year. I think he’s had in his history, he’s always been a little better, he’s always been stronger from the left side. But, he’s got several years where he’s been at least fine or good from the right side and if he just gets back to his career norm from the right side to go along with what he is as a left-handed hitter because if you’re a switch-hitter, if you had to choose your strong side you’d choose the left side and that’s what he is. If he gets back to his career norm from the right side then he’s going to be fine.”
In the short-term, Cherington just wants his third baseman back on the field, as he is still banged up from being hit by a pitch on the knee Tuesday night.
“Our main concern is getting him back in the lineup,” he said. “He got hit pretty good and he’s sore. Probably won’t be in there tonight, but he should be in there soon.”
|Bobby Valentine on MFB: ‘I wasn’t able to establish the trust that was needed’ from Red Sox coaching staff in 2012||05.20.15 at 12:34 pm ET|
Former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who will return to Fenway Park on Wednesday night to make an appearance with ESPN’s broadcast team, checked in with Middays with MFB on Wednesday morning and discussed some of the controversies that ensued during his brief tenure in Boston. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Now the executive director of athletics at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, Valentine said he has no hesitation about returning to Fenway despite his inglorious exit after a 2012 season that included poor play on the field and numerous controversies off it.
“I could give a darn about anxiety,” he said. “I have a lot of friends that I left in Boston. I’ve been in Boston 15 times in the last couple of years. I’m excited about getting back there.”
Valentine was fired one day after a disastrous season in which the Sox finished last in the American League East at 69-92, but he insists he doesn’t worry about any regrets.
“I don’t really look back much at any of my life,” he said. “All I know is that it’s all about sevens — there was seven years in Texas and seven years in New York and seven years in Japan and seven months in Boston. It was all kind of fun looking back at all those things. But I don’t do the microscope. I try to look forward and enjoy what I’m doing today.”
Much was made of the issues Valentine had with his coaching staff that season.
“I think you hit on the key word there: trust,” Valentine said. “That was my mistake, that I wasn’t able to establish the trust that was needed throughout that entire group that were in uniform together. Whether it’s my fault or someone else’s fault, who knows. I’m not a blame-thrower. I can just tell you that when you bring me back to that year that probably the biggest problem was that I delegated the people who were going to speak my gospel, that they didn’t know the language that the gospel was written in.”
|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.”
ESPN’s Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday to talk Red Sox and other baseball news, as well as offer his thoughts on Deflategate. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Red Sox continue to plod along, a few percentage points away from last place in the American League East 1 1/2 months into the season. General manager Ben Cherington has come under fire, and it doesn’t help that the team has $17 million worth of outfielders in Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig playing in Pawtucket while the Sox offense struggles.
“I’m sure that based on what we know about how ownership has gotten involved in the conversion with Ben in the last week, I’m sure that that type of question has been asked,” Olney said. “I think probably what Ben has been doing is trying to maximize the value of all of his assets. In other words, he knew that in the winter if he traded Shane Victorino he was going to get pennies on the dollar. If you trade Allen Craig a week ago you’d get pennies on the dollar. So he kept everything in a holding pattern. And if the team was winning, then you could continue that. But I do think he is probably going to get smoked out a little bit in that strategy as long as the Red Sox continue to lag behind in the standings.
“At some point he’s going to have to make hard decisions about what to do with Victorino, about what to do with Allen Craig, about what to do with other parts of this team. The fact that there doesn’t appear to be a dominant team in the division does buy them perhaps a little bit more time.”
Justin Masterson, signed as a free agent in the offseason, had another rough outing Tuesday night, giving up six runs in just 2 1/3 innings in a 9-2 loss to the Athletics. Afterward, manager John Farrell suggested something is physically wrong with the right-hander.
“There’s no question that Masterson’s not right,” Olney said. “Whether it’s a physical issue or just an issue of performance, the Red Sox are going to have to answer that for themselves. But I can tell you — and I think I told you guys in spring training — when I talked with evaluators of other teams, they were a) surprised at the Red Sox’ commitment to Masterson, the signing, and b) they wondered if he can get the ball down. I was looking at it this morning, his ground ball ratio is at a career low right now. . . . When you throw from that angle, and your whole thing is being able to generate ground balls, if he’s not generating ground balls, he doesn’t have a lot of use to them — certainly not in a starting pitcher role.
“Let’s face it, with his ERA over six, with the team having the worst rotation ERA in baseball, with the ownership now involved and asking questions about what’s going on, you’ve got to believe they’re going to talk about either minor league options or maybe they’ll be one of the teams that’s aggressive in calling up Oakland and saying, ‘Hey, you know what, what’s it going to take to get Scott Kazmir?’ Because he presumably is going to be one of the first guys on the move in the trade market this summer.”
|Ben Cherington on D&C: Red Sox starting rotation has to ‘execute a little better’||04.16.15 at 9:38 am ET|
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan Thursday morning to discuss the first nine games of the season, particularly the starting rotation, which has struggled the second time through. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The first time through the rotation went very well, but it’s been almost the opposite the second time around. In four games through the second turn through, Red Sox starters have allowed 28 runs in 18 1/3 innings. Cherington isn’t concerned, but acknowledges the starters need to go deeper into games.
“The first time through the rotation went well. Everyone threw well,” Cherington said. “The second time through the rotation has not gone as well, aside from [Rick] Porcello’s outing on Monday. Watching the games, I don’t see anything in the stuff — the raw stuff — that is any different than the first time through the order. It’s really just been a matter of execution, command, that hasn’t been as good the second time through. That has to be better. The key for our group is to get deeper in the season. I know as a group the guys feel good physically, confident and just have to execute a little better.
“I think with our team one of the things that helps us win is we’re not going to have perfect outings, perfect innings all the time, but minimizing damage and being able to get through those dirty innings get deeper into games — that is something Porcello did well on Monday and we did very well the first time through the order. That lines up our bullpen, gives our bullpen a chance to line up, gives our offense a chance to click and leads to wins.”
Outfielder Rusney Castillo opened the year in Pawtucket and injured his shoulder making a diving catch in the third game of the year. He’s expected to be sidelined for a bit, but the prognosis is “really good.” Cherington expects him to have an impact with the big league club at some point this season.
“Once [he gets healthy] I think clearly given the investment, and more importantly given what we’ve seen from him since we’ve signed him, over the summer, last winter and into spring training we feel like this guy is going to be a very good major league player,” said Cherington. “So it is just a matter of opportunity and we don’t know exactly when that opportunity is going to open up, but inevitably it will. It is the way it works in the game. Good players get an opportunity sooner or later and inevitably that will happen. Assuming he’s healthy and on the field he’s going to make a contribution this year, but I don’t know when.”
|Ben Cherington on D&C: MLB pace of play changes will be ‘a process’||02.26.15 at 11:04 am ET|
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan live from Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday morning to talk all things Red Sox and also to discuss the recent MLB pace of play changes. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
A major topic of discussion in the early days of spring training has been the recent pace of play changes in an effort to speed up the game. Cherington feels it is going to be a process, as is almost anything when it comes to implementing changes.
“I think as with anything when there is change it’s a process — and we have spring training to work through that,” said Cherington. “There’s a lot of smart people who have looked at this issue and feel strongly that pace of play is a critical issue for the game, for the greater good of the game. We all have a stake in that. Now it’s a question of how to improve that, how to execute it on the new policy so that it actually works and everyone gets comfortable. That’s a process. We have to use spring training to communicate, to educate, to allow players to feel what it feels like and frankly, our staff has that built into spring training. Since we’re very early in spring training, some of that communication hasn’t happened yet.”
Part of the process is a pitch clock in minor league games. The general manager feels pitchers will end up liking it after adjusting to it, as it will help them establish a good pace.
“It’s a matter of practicing it — this is something we will do at minor league camp — you start throwing your bullpens with a clock so you can get used to it,” Cherington said. “Once you get used to doing that, they’ve left enough time to get the ball and deliver a pitch. It’s a matter of getting in the habit of doing it. I think a lot of pitchers will find that once they get into that habit they will actually like it because it keeps them on a good pace.”
Cherington made an interesting comparison when it comes to Cuban athletes (like Yoan Moncada, who he couldn’t comment directly on as the signing isn’t official) compared to American athletes — the best Cuban athletes are playing baseball, as where in America the best American athletes are playing football.
“I think the thing about the Cuban player market, which is different than just about any that we look at, is baseball in Cuba seems to be capturing a type of athlete that baseball is not capturing in any other place,” said Cherington. “You can say [Yasiel] Puig just looks different, that’s because he is different. If he was growing up in Louisiana he would probably be playing in the SEC. If you’re growing up in Cuba you’re playing baseball, you’re not getting funneled into football programs.
“Some of the players that are coming out, they look different because they are different and if they have been training that long and training their skills, it’s pretty exciting what they can do on the field. We think there are guys, Moncada included, not to speak officially on him, that are capable of doing a lot of different stuff on the field just because they are are different type of athlete.”
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