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3 possible solutions for a Red Sox bullpen in shambles after another demoralizing loss 08.19.16 at 11:13 am ET
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Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon

The Red Sox had all the pieces in order for a rousing victory on Thursday afternoon in Detroit, but as has so often been the case over the last month, the bullpen wouldn’t let it happen.

Entrusted with a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning, right-hander Junichi Tazawa once again imploded, opening manager John Farrell to a massive second guess about why he didn’t go to Brad Ziegler instead. But the reality is Ziegler represented a sub-optimal option in that situation as well, leaving the Red Sox in a precarious position — who pitches the eighth inning?

With former closer Koji Uehara sidelined by a pectoral injury and Tazawa scuffling horribly, it’s unclear whom the Red Sox should pair with right-hander Matt Barnes. Here are three options, none of them necessarily great, but all worth considering in light of recent crushing losses to the Yankees (twice) and Tigers, all undone in the late innings.

1. Jonathan Papelbon

The longer Papelbon remains unsigned, the fairer it is to wonder if he’ll sign at all. Perhaps he sits out the rest of the season and tries to find a job over the winter. Or perhaps he’s just taking a couple of extra days to assess his options. In any event, Farrell is on record that he’d like to see Papelbon in Boston, and even if his fastball (91.7 mph) isn’t what it once was, he knows how to pitch in the late innings. He lost his job in Washington for a reason (4.37 ERA), so he’s no savior, but he’d give the Red Sox some experience and swagger.

2. Clay Buchholz

This is a tough one, because Buchholz just delivered his best start of the season (6 IP, 1 ER) with nothing to show for it, and uncertainty over both Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez means he’s probably needed in the rotation. But with Buchholz finding his groove pitching exclusively from the stretch, he’d clearly be an upgrade on Tazawa and probably even Ziegler, since he can face lefties and righties when he’s on his game. Jerking him back and forth between the bullpen and rotation isn’t a recipe for success, and he’s no longer a strikeout pitcher (5.5/9 IP), but with all due respect to Heath Hembree, Buchholz is the best option on the roster. “I’ll do whatever they want me to do,” Buchholz said. “That’s what I get paid to do.”

3. Joe Kelly

The Red Sox made the long overdue move of sending Kelly to the bullpen after he posted an 8.46 ERA in six starts. He has since compiled a 1.64 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 11 innings of relief at Triple-A Pawtucket. Kelly has the stuff for the late innings, with a fastball that has reached 100 mph. The Red Sox sent him to the minors to pitch exclusively from the stretch and eliminate some of the moving parts in his delivery. They also wanted him to build endurance, because he has already spent time on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. With Kelly pitching well in Pawtucket, however, his time may be coming sooner than later. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Thursday, striking out two.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, John Farrell, Jonathan Papelbon
Craig Kimbrel on knee after brutal outing: ‘It’s something I’m going to battle with until it’s all gone’ 08.10.16 at 12:30 am ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell (right) lifts closer Craig Kimbrel (46) in the ninth on Tuesday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox manager John Farrell (right) lifts closer Craig Kimbrel (46) in the ninth on Tuesday against the Yankees. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

After one of his worst outings of the season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel revealed that his surgically repaired left knee continues to give him trouble.

He certainly didn’t look right in Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Yankees, walking four to force in a run before being lifted in favor of right-hander Matt Barnes, who nailed down the victory with a strikeout of Mark Teixeira to earn the first save of his career.

“I walked four guys,” Kimbrel said. “I mean, I was out there watching the same game y’all were. I didn’t have my best stuff tonight. In that situation I tried to make pitches to get strikeouts, I didn’t really want them to put the ball in play. Bad day, bad night. But, on the positive side, we still won the game. We put this outing behind us and we go into tomorrow.”

The performance wasn’t as concerning, in some respects, as what Kimbrel said after. He acknowledged that his knee continues to give him trouble, a month after surgery, though he stopped short of blaming it for Tuesday’s woes. He had never walked four batters in less than an inning.

“When you’re sore, does it affect you?” he said. “I wouldn’t say it affected me in my performance, but I definitely, it’s something I’m going to battle with until it’s all gone. I’m still four weeks out of surgery. I’m good enough to pitch, I’m good enough to play, but it’s not going to affect me each and every night.”

Barnes, meanwhile, got the job done, continuing a breakout season as one of manager John Farrell’s most reliable arms.

“With the two left-handers coming, just wanted the power, particularly against Teixeira where we’ve seen that power kind of works as a better matchup,” Farrell said. “And how he [Barnes] has been with men on base this year. He has been outstanding as far as stranding inherited runners. No more important time than tonight.”

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Read More: Craig Kimbrel, John Farrell, matt barnes, Red Sox
Red Sox pregame notes: Blake Swihart’s ankle ‘is starting to talk back to him’ 07.21.16 at 5:31 pm ET
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Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

Prior to Thursday’s Red Sox game against the Twins, manager John Farrell discussed the status of Blake Swihart’s ankle rehab and how pivotal Matt Barnes has been for the team.

After weeks of steady progress, Swihart reached a setback in his ability to make cuts while running and exploding when starting.

“As he’s ramped up the intensity and the different cuts, his ankle is starting to talk back to him a little bit here,” Farrell said. “Much like it was when he first started to initiate some movement, then got into a pretty good stretch where he was making some good gains on it. As that intensity’s picked up, he’s going through a phase now where he’s got to quiet some things down.”

Swihart has been on the 60-day disabled list after being transferred there July 9 following severely spraining his ankle on June 4.

After saving a potentially disastrous situation Wednesday night, getting Tommy Layne out of a bases loaded, no out jam, Farrell discussed Barnes’ effectiveness in critical situations.

“He’s pitched in some of the highest leverage, non-ninth inning situations that we’ve had, and we’ll continue to do so. Given the current makeup of our bullpen, he’s probably going to be a one-plus inning type of guy in those key moments,” Farrell said. “We don’t have the three guys in New York. We don’t  the three guys that are in Kansas City where regardless of the score, who’s coming up, here, run it out. So to have the flexibility to use a guy like Matt, whether it’s in the seventh because it’s you’re in the heat of their lineup, that flexibility is in the current makeup of this bullpen.”

Part of what has made Barnes successful has been his ability to distance himself from his previous habit of surrendering multiple walks. After giving up a combined 14 walks in April and May, he’s allowed five in June and July combined.

“That’s one of the key contributors,” Farrell said when asked if limiting his walks has made him successful as of late. “The other is his percentage of his curveball is being thrown for strikes. And when he’s missed he’s backed it up with a strike curveball to keep some hitters from rushing out to get his fastball. And since early May, the velocity has climbed to the upper-90’s and he’s one of the premier arms in any bullpen around the country.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

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Read More: blake swihart, John Farrell, Koji Uehara, matt barnes
Matt Barnes gives Red Sox best relief performance of year in win over Giants at 12:39 am ET
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Matt Barnes gave the Red Sox three scoreless innings Wednesday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Matt Barnes gave the Red Sox three scoreless innings Wednesday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

It wasn’t the easiest of situations to come into.

Tommy Layne allowed the bases to be loaded with no outs in the sixth inning with the Red Sox clinging to a 8-7 lead over the Giants and manager John Farrell called for Matt Barnes out of the bullpen.

The UConn product delivered as he was able to get out of the jam with no runs. Barnes got pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco to hit into a 3-2 double play as Hanley Ramirez stepped on first base and fired home to get the runner at home on a close play at the plate. Then, Barnes got another pinch-hitter Conor Gillaspie to fly out to first base and get out of the inning with no damage and keep the Red Sox on top.

The inning proved large as the Red Sox scored two runs in the bottom half of the frame on their way to a 11-7 win. Barnes earned the win, his third of the season, which tied a career-high.

“It’s not easy, but it’s kind of fun,” Barnes said. “It’s kind of the excitement of it and knowing that one, you’re coming through for your team and two, you get to pick up another guy in the bullpen.”

Added Barnes: “In a situation like that you have to take it one pitch at a time. You can’t try and do too much or make the second pitch without making the first one. You have to stay relaxed and execute pitch-by-pitch and hopefully the results are in your favor.”

Barnes wasn’t done there as he then pitched the seventh and eighth innings, allowing just two hits in the three total innings.

Manager John Farrell called it the best relief performance of the season.

“Yeah, I would say it is,” he said. “Given that he comes in in a bases loaded situation and going into tonight’s game, the plan was for him to pitch the eighth. I didn’t think he would pitch the sixth, seventh and eighth. He held his stuff throughout. He’s done a great job with inherited runners and shutting down threats. That three innings or work, given the high stress of the first inning that he pitched, an outstanding effort on his part.”

If not for Hanley Ramirez and his three home runs, the MVP of Wednesday night would been Barnes, but certainly he and the Red Sox will take the win.

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Closing Time: Hanley Ramirez (3 home runs) tees off, Drew Pomeranz implodes, and Red Sox beat Giants in wildest game of year 07.20.16 at 10:57 pm ET
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Fenway Park explodes after Hanley Ramirez blasts his third homer of the night Wednesday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Fenway Park explodes after Hanley Ramirez blasts his third homer of the night Wednesday against the Giants. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez gave the Red Sox a night to remember on an evening Drew Pomeranz hopes to forget.

Ramirez delivered the first three-homer game of his career and made a trio of outstanding defensive plays to overcome an absolute implosion by Pomeranz in his debut as the Red Sox claimed a wild 11-7 victory over the Giants in a possible World Series preview.

With the victory, the Red Sox also moved into sole possession of first place in the American League East for the first time since June 4.

“The crowd, that was probably the most electric atmosphere we’ve had this year, and since I got called up,” said third baseman Travis Shaw. “The crowd was into it, they were loud, you could feel the energy tonight. It was different than any other game we’ve played.”

Ramirez put a charge in the place by hitting homers to right, center, and left while driving in six runs. His final homer came two innings after he appeared to vow, “I’ll get you back,” to Giants reliever Albert Suarez, who had drilled him in the fourth. He also made the defensive play of the game, starting a 3-2 double play with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth inning of an 8-7 game.

“I never expected this, but it’s a great feeling, it’s a great feeling, especially to end up with a W,” Ramirez said. “This team doesn’t give up. They keep adding runs and runs. We’ve got to continue to score more runs than them.”

This one had a little bit of everything. The Red Sox raced to an 8-0 lead on Ramirez’s first two homers and a monstrous two-run blast by Shaw.

Pomeranz, who was clean through the first three innings, fell apart in the fourth. He failed to retire any of the seven batters he faced and was lifted after allowing a three-run homer to Mac Williamson and a two-run shot to Trevor Brown. His final line read three innings, 8 eight hits, five runs and four strikeouts.

“By tonight, I’ll flush everything,” Pomeranz said. “That’s not me out there.”

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Read More: Drew Pomeranz, Giants, hanley ramirez, jackie bradley jr.
Closing Time: Reliever Matt Barnes takes loss as Red Sox’ win streak ends at 5 games 05.13.16 at 10:59 pm ET
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George Springer's two-run home run off Matt Barnes proved to be the game-winner. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

George Springer’s two-run home run off Matt Barnes proved to be the game-winner. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Well, it was going to end sometime.

Coming into the game winners of five straight and scoring double-digit runs in four straight, the Red Sox came back to Earth in a 7-6 defeat to the Astros Friday night.

With the game knotted at five in the sixth, George Springer took his UConn teammate Matt Barnes into the Monster seats for a two-run home run, which proved to be the game-winner.

Barnes allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings of work to take the loss.

“As strong as he’s been, he’s going through that inning, even with a  man on, in pretty good shape,” manager John Farrell said. “He retires [Jose] Altuve and then Springer. The top of their order did a lot of damage tonight.  He works the count full and a breaking ball doesn’t get to the spot he’s looking to get to, stays up in the middle of the plate, and he covers it pretty good. Matt has been so good for us in those tight spots in the middle innings. He’s been strong. We’ve been in a in a stretch where we haven’t really taxed bullpen. Thought he was fresh. On the 3-2 pitch, it didn’t really work out.”

Travis Shaw hit his fifth home run of the season in the bottom half of the inning, but the Red Sox couldn’t score again.  The Red Sox actually led 5-1 in the game, but the Astros scored six straight runs to take the lead for good.

Astros starter Lance McCullers, who was making his season-debut, walked two straight batters to load the bases with no outs in the second. Ryan Hanigan ripped a two-RBI double to the right-center field gap. Then, Jackie Bradley Jr. had an RBI double of his own to extend his hit streak to 19 games. A wild pitch and a Mookie Betts single played the fourth and fifth runs of the inning.

It was Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright’s worst start of the season as he went a season-low 4 1/3 innings and allowed five runs nine hits, while walking two and striking out three. Four of the five runs came in his last inning — the fifth. He departed with the game tied at five.

The outing snapped Wright’s streak of going at least five innings and allowing two runs or fewer in nine straight starts. The rainy conditions likely didn’t do him any favors.

“Huge factor. Got to a point where I couldn’t keep anything dry and when you’re trying to throw a pitch with your finger tips, it makes it a little slippery, hard to get finger pressure,” he said. “They swung at some good pitches to hit. The ball wasn’t moving much because of the finger pressure issue. We have a five-run lead, I felt like have to be able to hold that and try and get a little deeper into the game and turn it over to the bullpen.”

Added Wright: “It kind of stayed the same. It got to the point I couldn’t keep dry. My pants were wet, my jersey was wet. It was tough to keep anything dry out there. It just makes it a little bit harder to keep feel for the knuckleball.”

Closing Time note

The Red Sox have now homered in 14 straight games, which is their longest streak since August of 1996.

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox’ loss:

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Read More: jackie bradley jr., matt barnes, Ryan Hanigan, steven wright
Red Sox notebook: John Farrell comments on Travis Shaw’s late-spring slump 04.02.16 at 12:15 pm ET
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Travis Shaw

Travis Shaw

MONTREAL — Travis Shaw’s 2016 spring training numbers are excellent: 20-for-63 (.317) with two home runs, four doubles, 10 RBIs, 10 runs and a .368 OBP over 22 games of action.

However, Shaw has hit a slump at the back end of the exhibition season, with just two hits in his last 25 at-bats. On Friday in Montreal against Toronto, Shaw started and went 0-for-4 with a walk, grounding out twice into the Blue Jays’ defensive shift with three infielders placed between first and second base.

So how should Shaw avoid the shift?

“Don’t hit into it,” manager John Farrell said with a chuckle Saturday. “When Travis is swinging the bat well he’s using the whole field. I would like to think at some point he would get some of those lanes back. Now, opposing pitchers are going to pitch accordingly, so how he looks to combat that, he’s bunted a couple of times which I would anticipate he would continue to do. The shifts are part of everyday baseball now, he’s not the only one.”

As for Shaw’s recent skid, Farrell said he has seen a few trends.

“Travis is very much a rhythm hitter,” explained Farrell. “When he’s in that good spot he’s hitting all pitches in all areas of the strike zone. At times he may get a little bit pull oriented and that might make him a little bit more susceptible to some offspeed. That ebbs and flows a little bit.”

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Read More: Jason Varitek, John Farrell, matt barnes, travis shaw
Takeaways from Red Sox Grapefruit League game No. 27: Some uneasiness surrounding Rick Porcello 03.28.16 at 5:28 pm ET
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Rick Porcello allowed three homers in his outing Monday at JetBlue Park. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello allowed three homers in his outing Monday at JetBlue Park. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rick Porcello was optimistic following his start Monday at JetBlue Park. His manager was a bit more cautious.

After Porcello’s second-to-last exhibition outing, in which he allowed five runs on 10 hits (including 3 home runs) over 6 2/3 innings, Red Sox manager John Farrell admitted that the team is looking for better from the righty when the regular season rolls around.

“He’s capable of better,” said Farrell after his team’s 6-3 loss to the Orioles. “He has shown that. We need Rick to pitch to his strengths, which are continually worked on. He’s working at it to continue to refine it and gain that consistency. We need him to be a little bit more consistent.”

Porcello, whose Grapefruit League ERA now stands at 9.77, will next pitch in Fort Myers Saturday while the rest of the team is participating in exhibition games against the Blue Jays in Montreal.

Joe Kelly will also participate in the Saturday workout at Fenway South, with Farrell still not tipping hand as to how the pitchers will line up in the third and fourth games of the season, against Cleveland and Toronto, respectively.

Despite the results, Porcello came away content in the way he felt and threw the ball. The righty pointed to 2014, when he finished that spring training with a 7.85 ERA before turning his best year in the majors.

“The numbers are what they are but at this point in my career it’s about getting prepared and doing what I have to do to set myself up to have a quality season for us,” said the righty.

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Read More: matt barnes, noe ramirez, rick porcello,
Closing Time: Craig Breslow, Red Sox bullpen lead way in win over Orioles 09.26.15 at 7:03 pm ET
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Brock Holt just beat the throw from left field to score the Red Sox' first run in their win over the Orioles. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Brock Holt just beat the throw from left field to score the Red Sox‘ first run in their win over the Orioles. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Red Sox didn’t know what to expect Saturday when they didn’t have a starting pitcher available and needed to use their bullpen for the entire game, but what they got exceed any expectations.

Seven pitchers combined to allow five hits and no runs in a 8-0 win over the Orioles at Fenway Park. Six of the eight Red Sox runs were unearned. It was their second straight win, as they won Friday’s game in dramatic fashion.

The Red Sox earned shutout wins on back-to-back days for the first time since April 23-24, 2011.

Craig Breslow got the start and went four innings, allowing just one hit, while walking two and striking out two. He threw 55 pitches and went beyond the one time through the order interim manager Torey Lovullo wanted prior to the game.

“He stepped up at a moment’s notice, gave us four quality innings, scored a run, we started to play a little bit of downhill baseball. Just a great team effort, highlighted by [Breslow],” he said. “Timely hitting, solid defense. Not one thing stand out offensively. Just a solid team effort. One of those special moments for Bres. First career start, he gives us four scoreless.”

In starting the game, Breslow made his first start in 523 major league games, becoming the first pitcher to make his first start that late in a career in games played since Troy Percival in his 639th game in 2007. He also passed Scott Atchison as the oldest ever Red Sox pitcher at the time of his first major league start.

“It was (fun) — now that it’s done and went pretty well. It was a lot of fun,” Breslow said. “At the time, I was consumed by some other thoughts. It was a lot of fun. I don’t know how many guys make 500 some-odd career relief appearances and then get a chance to start their first big league game.”

“I was pretty nervous,” he added. “I had no idea — kind of stupid things you don’t think about like where am I supposed to play catch before I go into the bullpen, what do I do during the national anthem? Those kinds of things that I’ve never faced before. Like I said, I drew on some of the other starters and followed the crowd. Like I said, it worked out.”

Health Hembree (win, one inning), Matt Barnes (two innings), Alexi Ogando (1/3 inning), Tommy Layne (1/3 inning), Noe Ramirez (1/3 inning) and Jonathan Aro (one inning) all followed Breslow to combine for the shutout win.

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Read More: Brock Holt, Craig Breslow, heath hembree, matt barnes
Red Sox injury updates: Dustin Pedroia (hamstring) getting closer to return 09.04.15 at 5:26 pm ET
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The Red Sox are dealing with a number of injuries as the final month of the season gets underway. The closest player to returning is likely Dustin Pedroia.

The second baseman has been dealing with a hamstring injury since late June. He returned right after the All-Star break, which may have been too soon as he aggravated the injury and hasn’t played in a game since July 22.

Pedroia has been running and working his way back to full baseball activity.

“Dustin is hitting all his checkpoints, aggressively,” interim manager Torey Lovullo said. “It’s getting close. We’re all in it with him. We’re all excited by what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing.”

“When he walks in after his work day he’s really, really excited and that’s nice to see,” he added.

Pedroia won’t go out for a minor league rehab assignment, as the minor leagues wrap up this weekend and he isn’t quite ready for that. The team has set a Sept. 10 target date for a return and Lovullo said it could be a few days before, or a few days after.

“We aren’t quite sure where exactly that return date will fall because he still has some more baseball activity to do and then he has to ramp it up, to and move as close as he possibly can to game situations,” Lovullo said. “We’ll get that feedback after that last day or two and see where he’s at.”

Lovullo acknowledged Pedroia is chomping at the bit to get back on the field, as he’s one of the most competitive players in baseball.

“In his real special way, Dustin is around and we know it,” Lovullo said.

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Read More: brian johnson, Dustin Pedroia, hanley ramirez, matt barnes
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