|Ben Cherington says Jon Lester contract talks ‘just didn’t happen enough’||07.31.14 at 8:13 pm ET|
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington admitted as much at his press conference after the trading deadline passed and Lester was on his way to Oakland. Cherington was asked if Thursday’s trade ruled out any chance the Red Sox might still go after him if he hits free agency this winter.
“He’s an Oakland A right now so I don’t think it’s right for me to talk about that ‘ other than to say looking back that we certainly had a desire to engage on a contract conversation with him,” Cherington said. “That conversation just didn’t happen enough for whatever reason. As we got deeper into the season he made it clear that that wasn’t something that he wanted to focus on right now and so we honored his desire. And we had conversation with Jon about that, that we respected that position but because of the performance of the team that meant that we both might have to deal with this possibility.”
“If the team’s performance didn’t really improve that meant teams were going to start calling on him and it was something we were going to have to deal with. We both knew about that possibility going into this week because we had talked about it. It combination of the team’s performance and his desire not to focus on the contract right now, which we respect his reasons for. So what happens ‘ that’s not for me to talk about now. He’s an Oakland A and he’s got a job to do for them. When we get to the offseason we get to the offseason.”
|Red Sox notes: Plan in place for Shane Victorino while Brock Holt continues to shine||07.20.14 at 1:30 pm ET|
Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt?
That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs.
The leadoff hitter has provided a vital anchor at the top of the batting order as the Red Sox searched desperately for a consistent leadoff hitter. He comes into Sunday hitting .325 with a .369 OBP and a .826 OPS. Holt has started all 63 games this season, batting leadoff in 52 of them. As the leadoff hitter, his number are nearly identical to his overall numbers, .326/.364/.825.
Of course, he’s been incredibly versatile in the field, playing seven of the nine positions while earning the name “Superman” from some Red Sox fans. The only two positions he hasn’t tried yet are pitcher and catcher. On Sunday, he’s starting at third as the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts the day off against hard-throwing righty Yordano Ventura.
“With Brock Holt moving around the field and going up against a right-hander in Ventura, we just wanted to get another left-handed bat in there,” skipper John Farrell said.
“We’re probably at the point in the year where it’s less of a concern than when he was playing right field for the first, or left field for the first time, or first base for the first time. There have been a lot of firsts this year. And the way he’s handled each position defensively, now we’re finding ways to keep his bat in the lineup and not reluctant to change the position by the day.”
What’s truly remarkable is that, as late as early April, Holt wasn’t even considered an option as a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury.
“He wasn’t in the conversation, either in the offseason or as we got through camp but to the level in which he’s hit at and performed at, and the consistency against left-handers and right-handers, it’s been invaluable, the continuity he’s created at the top of the lineup,” Farrell said.
The left-handed hitting Holt is actually hitting 20 points higher against lefties (.336) than righties (.316), a testament to his ability to hang in against southpaws.
“I think when you see a guy be able to use the whole the field as much as he does and how he you see him handle left-handers, he can track the ball so deep into the zone that he doesn’t overcommit early to breaking balls from left-handers that run away from him,” Farrell said. “And because it is a compact swing, his pitch recognition can be a little better than others because he doesn’t have to start the swing early in the flight of the pitch to home plate.
“I think it’s [just] a trait of really good hitters, regardless of the spot in the lineup. The more compact, the less you may get fooled on certain type of pitches. They’re more difficult to pitch against because he has the ability to take a really good pitcher’s pitch and fight it off and foul it off as he gets deeper into some counts and I think it’s a direct reflection of why you see him hit at the average he is at currently and what he’s done throughout his minor league career.”
Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli will get the day off from the starting lineup as the Red Sox look for the three-game sweep of the Royals against hard-throwing righthander Yordano Ventura. Shane VIctorino is playing in his second straight game with Boston, and fourth consecutive overall, dating back to the start of his brief rehab stint with Pawtucket on Thursday. He is scheduled to have the day off Monday when the Red Sox open a series in Toronto.
For a complete batter vs. pitcher breakdown, click here.
RED SOX LINEUP
Brock Holt 3B
Daniel Nava LF
David Ortiz DH
Mike Carp 1B
Stephen Drew SS
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Jon Lester SP
|Red Sox think Xander Bogaerts’ ‘natural ability’ will again show itself after tweak in his mechanics||07.18.14 at 12:00 pm ET|
But being one of the most astute pitching coaches has some fringe benefits. One of them is being able to break down a batter’s approach from a pitcher’s point of view. That’s exactly what he’s done in watching hours of video and observing Xander Bogaerts battle with his horrific slump in June and July.
Farrell gave a fascinating breakdown of what the Red Sox think might be an issue with Bogaerts’ approach at the plate, beginning with his pre-pitch address in the batter’s box.
“The one thing we’ve been focusing on is for him to get a little bit earlier and have a more gradual load [in his swing] or get to his loaded position,” Farrell said. “When he’s late, then it becomes rushed and hard to the front side and that’s where some spin on some pitches becomes hard to read. It’s a matter of slowing the game down and getting his load a little bit in the pitcher’s windup.
“That’s where his natural swing is built. And we feel like if we get him back to a timing within his swing, timing within getting ready, that natural ability to use the whole field will come back into play. That’s been elusive for him right now on a consistent basis.”
|John Farrell: ‘No one has given up anything’||07.17.14 at 10:54 pm ET|
Repeating the sentiment of his boss Ben Cherington during the GM’s Thursday morning interview on Dennis & Callahan, John Farrell said a 43-52 record won’t immediately send management into sell mode. All hope, Farrell said on the last day of the All-Star break, is not lost.
“No one has given up anything,” Farrell said. “No one has conceded anything, but we’ve also been in the game long enough to know that over the next two weeks, names are going to start to get bantered about.”
Among those names being bantered is Jake Peavy, who himself acknowledged before the break that Cherington had spoken to him about likely being traded any moment.
“Time will tell,” Farrell said. “I’m not privy to every conversation Ben has. This is a busy time of year for the entire industry. So, I’m sure there’ll be additional rumors continuing to grow. But until we know something concrete, our job is to maintain our focus on the field each and every day with the intent of winning [that] night.”
Whether or not the Red Sox can stay afloat in the next two weeks, one of Farrell’s primary objectives will be to keeping the team focused while rumors swirl.
“I think it’s very much part of it,” Farrell said. “There’s a number of people involved in the players [moving]. You typically have to pay attention to some of the websites that might carry some rumors. You try to put their concerns or wonderment at ease a little bit just so they can focus on what is at hand, and that’s the game [that] night. So, it’s human nature to be distracted at times because your name is potentially involved in something. We work and do what we can to be as candid and upfront with relevant information at the time.”
|John Farrell knows do-or-die time is upon his Red Sox: ‘Each [game] has increasing signficance’||at 9:32 pm ET|
John Farrell can read the standings just like everyone else. He knows his team stands 43-52 heading into the final 67 games, 9 1/2 games behind first-place Baltimore in the AL East. He can also read a schedule. He knows full well that after this three-game series this weekend with Kansas City, the Red Sox have 13 straight games against three of the four teams ahead of them in the division.
It’s do-or-die time.
“Given where we are right now, yes,” Farrell said, confirming the characterization of this as the make-or-break part of the season. “That’s not to add pressure. That’s to say there’s some additional significance when you play the teams ahead of you. After we get through Kansas City, we’ve got the next 13 [games] or four consecutive series of teams ahead of us. Sixty-seven games remaining, each one has increasing significance as we go.”
After three with the Royals, the Red Sox have four in Toronto, followed by three on the road against the Rays. They come home for three against the Jays and three against the Yankees, overlapping the July 31 trade deadline. Did Farrell feel like he got a break to mentally prepare for the upcoming grind?
“Yeah for about a day-and-a-half, and now I’m ready to get going for [Friday],” Farrell said of his shortened All-Star break due to managing the AL All-Stars to a 5-3 win in Minneapolis.
“I think the four days gives guys a chance to mentally and physically take a break and get away from the game a little bit. [Xander Bogaerts] has been going at it pretty hard, not only in terms of what he’s been working on pregame but with every focus to be brought into the game, and he’s played regularly as well. We’ve given him a couple of days here and there, but I think the break mentally and physically was needed for him, and quite frankly, for a number of guys.”
|Xander Bogaerts gets more support, this time from a longtime friend, former teammate||07.07.14 at 10:22 pm ET|
John Farrell is not the only one showing a vote of confidence in struggling rookie Xander Bogaerts.
Jonathan Schoop is someone who’s known Bogaerts even longer than the Red Sox manager.
Schoop played with Bogaerts on the Netherlands national team that competed in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and has played in many competitions with him.
When he went 0-for-27 recently and fell into a 2-for-49 slump, the Orioles second baseman sympathized for a player he came to know through international competition.
“He’s a good player, even if you go through tough times,” Schoop told WEEI.com after Sunday’s game, a 7-6 Baltimore win. “Every player goes through tough times but you have to find a way to make adjustments and come back. He’s a competitive guy, he wants to win, he wants to do good and he’s a good guy, a great guy.”
“His confidence. You cannot see in him that he’s 0-for-20, 0-for-25, 0-for-30. He stands in there like he’s 10-for-10, believing in himself.”
Ironic that Schoop made his comments on the very day that Bogaerts actually snapped his 0-for-27 slide, collecting multiple hits for the first time since June 7. That day Bogaerts was hitting .299 with a .387 OBP and an .839 OPS.
Between then and Sunday, his average plummeted 61 points and there was serious talk about whether he would be better off making adjustments at Triple-A Pawtucket. Farrell said before Monday’s game with the White Sox that there is no such plan in the works. Schoop is no general manager or field skipper but he does agree that leaving Bogaerts up in the majors to learn, even at the tender age of 21, is a good thing.
“I think so,” Schoop said. “You see how he learns from experience. The more experience, the better you get. You have to learn from experience. I think he’s doing a good job. Just keep grinding. Just keep fighting.”
|Nelson Cruz on John Lackey: ‘People can say whatever they want’||07.06.14 at 12:53 pm ET|
Lackey was in classic passive aggressive form after Saturday night’s 7-4 loss to Cruz and the Orioles. Cruz went 5-for-5, including a laser beam homer to left off Lackey.
“I’m not even going to comment on him,” Lackey said. “I’ve got nothing to say about him. There are things I’d like to say, but I’m not going to. You guys forget pretty conveniently about stuff.”
The “stuff” Lackey was accusing reporters of brushing under the carpet was the 50-game suspension for PED violations in connection with the MLB Biogenesis investigation. On Sunday morning, Cruz responded. At first Cruz said he was unaware but after being informed of Lackey’s tone, Cruz seemed unaffected.
“What comments? I don’t know,” Cruz said. “I don’t hear that, anything. I mean, people can say whatever they want. It’s part of being free. I don’t have any comment on that.”
Cruz was a triple shy of the cycle on Saturday night. He is certainly the leading candidate for comeback player of the year, leading the American League in homers (27) and RBIs (70). He’s batting .286 with an OPS of .934. No wonder that David Ortiz aggressively recruited Cruz in the offseason and asked GM Ben Cherington to take a serious look at him.
Speaking of Ortiz, it was the Red Sox slugger Orioles manager Buck Showalter was apparently referencing when he suggested Sunday morning that Lackey “looking in his backyard” before throwing stones. Ortiz was listed in a 2003 report of more than 100 MLB players who tested positive for a banned substance.
Cruz was asked if he has noticed a tone of forgiveness from players around baseball after he served his suspension in 2013.
“I mean for players it’s kind of hard to know because most of the time they don’t talk,” Cruz said. “What I care about is my teammates and what they think about me. I mean, when you go to ballparks and beat other teams they are not going to be happy regardless of what you do or anything. What I care about is what my teammates think about me and what my fans think about me. Like I said before, they aren’t going to be happy when I come in and do good. They want me to strikeout every time and when that doesn’t happen, they are pissed.
“I just play game-by-game. For me the most important thing is winning. I think we accomplished what we could [Saturday night] and that was get a ‘W.’ Also, it feels good go perfect in one game, don’t get any outs so it was one of the best games I’ve ever had in my life.”
|Red Sox pregame notes: Tommy Layne added for Game 2; Shane Victorino, Will Middlebrooks and Mike Carp see progress in rehab||07.05.14 at 12:13 pm ET|
With the Red Sox set to take part in their second doubleheader of the season, the team added reinforcements before their day-long tilt against the Orioles.
Red Sox manager John Farrell announced that PawSox reliever Tommy Layne will be added to the roster as the team’s 26th player for Game 2 of the doubleheader (per MLB rules on day-night doubleheaders), giving Boston some needed depth in the bullpen.
Layne will be available to pitch in the second game of Saturday’s set at Fenway Park.
Layne, who signed a minor-league deal with Boston on November 15, 2013, has been one of the most reliable arms out of the bullpen for Pawtucket this season, posting a 5-1 record with a 1.51 ERA in 30 appearances.
The 29-year-old southpaw has been dominant this season against left-handed hitters, holding them to a minuscule .138 average, with 23 strikeouts in 17 innings.
Despite his stellar numbers against lefty batters, Farrell said that Layne has been more than just a left-handed specialist this season.
“He’s continued what he did in spring training, and that has been [being] very successful against left handers, he’s had decent ability to get good right-handed hitters out, so he’s not solely a situational type of lefty reliever,” Farrell said. “But the performance has been very consistent.”
|Red Sox notes Friday: Shane Victorino starts to ‘ramp up’ while John Farrell considers Brock Holt for All-Star Game||07.04.14 at 12:41 pm ET|
“Everyone was here and there was certainly enough talk, even throughout the day [Thursday] as I reached out to a few guys that this was a possibility today,” Farrell said. “But everyone was here. Guys got their throwing in that needed to. It was a quick turnaround [home].”
Most immediate is what to do with the pitching staff. Farrell said Jon Lester will start Saturday, likely Game 1 of the day-night doubleheader in the afternoon, while John Lackey will get the nod in the night cap.
“We’re caught up,” Farrell said of his entire pitching staff. “We’ll stay on [schedule] for right now.”
With Lester starting on Saturday, he won’t be able to make the start on Wednesday against the White Sox at Fenway, meaning the Red Sox will have to find a spot starter, possibly Felix Doubront, but Farrell wasn’t ready to commit Friday morning.
“I haven’t even looked at who the candidates would be,” Farrell said. “We haven’t taken a look at everything. We’ll need an additional pitcher even if we choose to spot start someone. We’ll figure that out as we get through the weekend.”
The Red Sox and Orioles will each get an additional player for Game 2 Saturday night. Farrell said he hasn’t decided who that would be or at what position the club would choose to fill. The Orioles will actually go from 24 eligible players to 26 because they will get infielder Manny Machado back from his five-game suspension following Game 1.
Farrell also provided updates on several rehabbing players, including Will Middlebrooks (finger), Shane Victorino (hamstring, back) and Mike Carp (right foot).
“Will is with Pawtucket right now,” Farrell said. “With the weather [Thursday], there’s been some change. Mike Carp will join Portland today. He wasn’t able to get out on a flight [Thursday] night. Will is with Pawtucket in Syracuse.
Farrell said Middlebrooks is being held out of playing in the field as he and the organization continue to monitor his finger. The team would like to see Middlebrooks get some reps in the outfield as well as third base but that has been put on hold.
“Still DHing,” Farrell said. “While the throwing is improving, as are the reps at third base pre-game, we’re not at that point yet.”
Victorino took advantage of a wide open Fenway Park Friday morning during light rain to get in some intense rehab training, with trainer Rick Jameyson and physical therapist Dan Dyrek looking on. Victorino spent nearly 30 minutes backpedaling around the outfield warning track, jogging and then sprinting in right field.
“Shane’s baseball activities continue to ramp up, particularly with the running and agility work,” Farrell said.
Victorino has been out since May 24 and has played in just 21 games, batting .242 with one homer and 10 RBIs. He went on the DL with a hamstring injury before tweaking his back during rehab, causing a further setback.
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