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Mike Carp, Felix Doubront and the challenges of player discontent on a struggling team 07.27.14 at 1:02 pm ET
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The Red Sox have no plans to shift Felix Doubront back to the rotation. (AP)

The Red Sox have no plans to shift Felix Doubront back to the rotation. (AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — At a time when the Red Sox are sinking in the standings, with contention ever more difficult, some player concerns have shifted from the state of the team to their own place on the roster. It’s not an uncommon occurrence when an environment shifts from one in which winning was routine to one in which struggle becomes the norm. Nonetheless, that doesn’t diminish the challenge of navigating through player discontent.

On Saturday, Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp made known his desire for a trade, saying that he’d asked the Red Sox to trade him to another team that might be able to give him a greater playing opportunity.

Through 104 teams games this year, Carp — hitting .215/.337/.304 entering his start against the Rays on Sunday — has played in 39 games, making 19 starts, with 95 total plate appearances. Through the first 104 games of 2013, Carp played in 54 games, making 36 starts, with 156 total plate appearances.

That said, Carp missed 33 team games while on the DL with a broken foot, explaining some of the disparity. Had he remained healthy, his playing time for the year would project to 57 games, 28 starts and 139 plate appearances through 104 games.

So, the Red Sox don’t believe that Carp’s playing opportunity has changed significantly. Yet they are aware of his displeasure in his current role.

“We’ve had a chance to sit down and talk. I respect his desire to play more,” said manager John Farrell. “And yet, when you’ve been very consistent with what his role was a year ago, that was to be the same role this year. And I understand where players want to get on the field more consistently. So I respect what he had to say.”

Felix Doubront likewise has said on multiple occasions that he does not see himself as a reliever. Yet the Sox believe that the 26-year-old has an opportunity to become a meaningful contributor in precisely that capacity, even as they acknowledge that based on stuff, ability and physicality, in another circumstance, he could be a starter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox notes: Plan in place for Shane Victorino while Brock Holt continues to shine 07.20.14 at 1:30 pm ET
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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.”

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Finally: Mike Carp takes advantage of long-awaited opportunity with walkoff 07.10.14 at 11:44 pm ET
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Mike Carp delivered the first walkoff hit of his career on Thursday. (AP)

Mike Carp delivered the first walkoff hit of his career on Thursday. (AP)

For nearly a month, first baseman Mike Carp sat on the couch of the Red Sox clubhouse in pain. The pain was not so much the result of the broken bone in his right foot that left him in a walking boot, but instead from his inability to help the team in situations that normally called for his skill set. There was nothing Carp could do except sit and cheer on his teammates, despite his desire to help the team through its struggles. As the team struggled through the month of June, winning 12 and dropping 16 games, all Carp could do was wait until his foot healed.

“Some of the nights, you almost have to turn the TV off when those situations come because you can’t be there to help,” Carp said. “It hurts so bad to see your brothers struggling and want to be able to contribute and fill your role.”

On Thursday, Carp finally got that opportunity and made the most of it, delivering a walkoff single in the bottom of the 10th that sent the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory.

After Daniel Nava reached on a pinch-hit walk to lead off the 10th, Mookie Betts advanced Nava to second base with a sacrifice bunt. White Sox manager Robin Ventura decided to intentionally walk Stephen Drew, owner of a .128 batting average, with David Ross due to hit next. Instead of Ross, Red Sox manager John Farrell decided to pinch-hit Carp. With the winning run at second base in the form of Nava and the score tied in the 10th inning, Carp felt that he had a feel for how White Sox reliever Ronald Belisario would attack him.

“€œI figured that [Belisario] was going to come in,” Carp said. “€œHe attacked me heavily the whole series. I only got three at-bats, but after he went away on the 1-2 pitch, I assumed something would be out over the plate.”€

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Closing Time: Red Sox claim second straight walkoff win thanks to Mike Carp at 7:33 pm ET
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Second straight walkoff. Second straight win. With one out in the 10th inning, Mike Carp singled in Daniel Nava from second base, handing the Red Sox a 4-3 win over the White Sox. The heroics helped make up for an uneasy ninth inning from Koji Uehara.

Conor Gillaspie, who came into the four-game series with one home run, hit his third long ball since arriving at Fenway Park this week. This time the two-run, ninth-inning blast off Uehara took a win away from Sox starter Jon Lester, tying the game at 3-3.

Lester continues to build up more reasons why someone, whether it is the Red Sox or not, will give him a massive contract. The lefty turned in one of his strongest starts of the season, going seven innings and allowing seven hits, no walks and one run and striking out 12 while throwing 76 of his 105 pitches for strikes (72.3 percent).

Throughout the outing, Lester displayed strong command of his entire arsenal, mixing in a terrific cutter, changeup and curveball to keep White Sox hitters off balance. The only blemish on Lester’s day came in the first inning when Jose Abreu knocked in Adam Eaton from first base after left fielder Jonny Gomes slightly misplayed a low fly ball while slamming into the Green Monster.

Lester’s stellar performance on Thursday left him with a 2.65 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, a .243 opponent batting average, 134 strikeouts and 29 walks in 129 innings pitched over 19 starts. The performance marked the 20th double-digit strikeout game of Lester’s career and the third of the 2014 season. After Thursday’s performance, Lester has the third most games of 10 or more strikeouts, trailing Pedro Martinez (72 games) and Roger Clemens (68 games).

The Red Sox are riding a two-game winning streak heading into their last series before the All-Star break against the Astros.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Having not collected a hit through five-plus innings, the Red Sox put two runners on base through walks from White Sox starter Jose Quintana. With the Red Sox‘ first opportunity to score their first run of the game, Jackie Bradley Jr. stepped up to the plate and delivered, breaking up the Quintana’s no-hitter and shutout. Bradley has hit well in July thus far, hitting .353/.421/.471 with two doubles and three runs in five games coming into Thursday.

David Ortiz knocked in two runs in the sixth inning to push the Red Sox ahead 3-1. Ortiz has started off the month of July hot, hitting .360/.469/.560 with five doubles, four RBIs, six walks, one strikeout and two runs.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Mike Napoli extended his recent struggles with an 0-for-4 performance. In the month of July, Napoli is hitting .188/.350/.250 with 12 strikeouts, eight walks and two doubles.

Mookie Betts turned in an 0-for-3 performance. While Betts has provided a spark for the Red Sox, he has hit .217/.258/.379 in eight games in the majors.

Read More: Jon Lester, mike carp,
Why John Farrell replaced Xander Bogaerts with a pinch-hitter at 1:53 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

It’s no secret that Xander Bogaerts is slumping. A decision to pinch-hit for him in a pivotal spot in Wednesday night’s 5-4 walkoff win over the White Sox gave some insight into the depth of his struggles.

The Red Sox rallied in the eighth inning to score three runs after starter Chris Sale was taken out of the game. With his team having pulled within a run of the White Sox with two on and two out in the eighth, manager John Farrell opted to pinch-hit Mike Carp for Bogaerts in the big spot.

The matchup made more sense for a bat off the bench, with the right-hander Javy Guerra on the mound. Bogaerts is hitting just .232 with a .332 slugging percentage against same-handed pitchers this season. The move didn’t pay off, with Carp grounding out to end the Red Sox threat.

While seemingly trivial when looking at the bigger picture of the game, the decision to pinch-hit for Bogaerts signals a couple of things. It alludes to the degree that the infielder is struggling, but also makes it clear that the Red Sox are not in full-on development mode and are still competing to win games.

“I think our intent every night is to play the game to win it, and that may cause situations as you saw tonight,” Farrell said. “Fortunately we had guys step in and put up quality at-bats. But guys are understanding where we are and we haven’t conceded anything, and the bottom line is to go out and win. If that means a matchup is better suited for a guy coming off the bench, we’ll look to do that.”

This was not the first time Bogaerts had been pinch-hit for in his brief major league career. But the only other time came in his sixth major league game and third start. The situation was notably similar to Wednesday night’s: two runners on in the eighth inning with two outs. In that game, the Red Sox had knotted the score at 3. Carp was also the pinch-hitter, but rather than grounding out softly to end the inning, he singled in the go-ahead run.

Obviously the context was much different back in August of 2013. At that point, Bogaerts had just a couple of games worth of experience under his belt. The Red Sox were 2 1/2 games in first place. Bogaerts was 3-for-9 in his very limited at-bats.

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Red Sox pregame notes: Mike Carp returns; Shane Victorino to start rehab assignment; Sox ‘remain committed’ to Xander Bogaerts 07.07.14 at 7:57 pm ET
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Mike Carp returns to Red Sox after recovering from a broken foot. (AP)

Mike Carp returns to Red Sox after recovering from a broken foot. (AP)

Just two days after hitting a game-winning bloop single, Jonathan Herrera was optioned to Pawtucket to make room for Mike Carp, who comes off the disabled list after a broken foot sidelined him for a month.

Carp has been on a rehab assignment with the PawSox. During his time in Triple-A, Carp went 5-for-21 with a double and a home run, with four of the hits (and both extra-base hits) coming in his last two games. Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Carp will resume his role as a left-handed bat off the bench in pinch-hit situations while also giving the Sox options at first base and left field.

Farrell had nothing but praise for Herrera, who was acquired in the off-season from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for lefty Franklin Morales.

“He fits the role to a tee, the utility role,” Farrell said. “It was a difficult conversation. He’s a quality person, quality player, stayed prepared and contributed when asked in the role that he was in. He occupied a role that was difficult. He sat for seven or eight days and then to play to the efficiency that he did, we clearly viewed him as a major league player and I would suspect that he would be back with us at some point this season.”

With Herrera no longer on the 25-man roster, Farrell said Brock Holt represents the utility jack-of-all-trades option. The manager added that Mookie Betts is working out solely in the outfield in pregame work, and would not be a consideration for shortstop (a position that Betts last played in Lowell in 2012).

OTHER RED SOX NOTES Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Three years later, Henry Owens keeps checking all the boxes; Pawtucket trade candidates; Trey Ball showing signs at 1:56 pm ET
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Henry Owens was a lanky left-hander who nonetheless convinced the Sox to use a first-round pick on him in 2011. (Gregg Forwerck / Courtesy Team USA Baseball)

Henry Owens was a lanky left-hander who nonetheless convinced the Sox to use a first-round pick on him in 2011. (Gregg Forwerck / Courtesy Team USA Baseball)

Over the last dozen years, the Red Sox have rarely dedicated their earliest picks to high school pitchers. The team did it with its top selection in 2002, drafting Jon Lester with its first overall pick (a second-round selection), but after that, the instances of taking a pitcher with a first- or sandwich-round pick were few.

Entering 2011, the Sox had used a first- or supplemental first-round selection on a high school pitcher just three times. There was Michael Bowden in the supplemental first round in 2005, Caleb Clay in the supplemental first round in 2006 and Casey Kelly in the first round of the 2008 draft. That was it for the first eight Red Sox drafts under GM Theo Epstein, during which the Sox had 19 picks in that top round of the draft, and there was a reason.

“High school pitching, our approach was we wanted to have really high standards in some areas that were important to us because the bust rate is so high with high school pitching,” Epstein explained this weekend on the Minor Details podcast. “We felt like if we were going to miss on high school pitching, let’s at least miss on somebody who checks all of our boxes, who does the things that we think, through a lot of trial and error and a lot of collective wisdom, does the things that we feel are really important.

“With high school pitching, it wasn’t enough to just have a good arm or to have a swing-and-miss pitch. We really wanted size, projectability, athleticism, makeup, command of the fastball, some movement or other swing-and-miss quality to the fastball, we wanted to see the present ability to spin the baseball and not just projection, we wanted to see feel for a changeup, we wanted to see intelligence and acumen, we wanted to see work ethic, we wanted the arm to work well, we wanted to have a certain kind of arm action, we needed to see ease in the delivery and a repeatable delivery, a delivery that worked. We had a long checklist that we looked for in high school pitching. That’s why we didn’t take much pitching at the top of the draft, and you’ll notice that the Cubs don’t either. It’s a rare pitcher that can check a lot of those boxes.”

But Owens checked enough of them to convince the Sox: This was the high school arm worth a pick, at a time when a lot of high-ceiling talent remained on the board.

“Owens was not one to immediately wow you with his stuff, but the closer you looked at him, you realized he did check a lot of the boxes. He was a really gangly kid, huge kid but very skinny who had massive feet and massive hands, and really showed command beyond his years. He showed the ability to spin the ball, even though it was a really soft curveball at the time, the ball spun well, had the changeup, was able to locate his fastball. He threw better, probably, on the showcase circuit the summer before than he did his senior year in high school.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: henry owens, mike carp, Ryan Roberts, Trey Ball
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