|Red Sox lineup at Blue Jays: Shane Victorino sits, Brock Holt in right, Xander Bogaerts returns||07.21.14 at 3:28 pm ET|
The Red Sox will open their three-game set against the Blue Jays with four rookies in the lineup. Shane Victorino, after playing back-to-back games over the weekend (and four straight overall with the conclusion of his rehab assignment), will sit out, with Brock Holt heading to right field. He’ll flank Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, while Xander Bogaerts (after sitting on Sunday) will return to the lineup at third base, and Christian Vazquez will catch John Lackey.
For a look at how Lackey has fared against the Blue Jays and how Toronto starter Drew Hutchison has done against members of the Red Sox, click here. For comprehensive Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.
RED SOX LINEUP
Brock Holt, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Stephen Drew, SS
Xander Bogaerts, 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Christian Vazquez, C
John Lackey, RHP
|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
|Xander Bogaerts shows signs of life at the plate with clutch performance against Kansas City||07.19.14 at 1:51 am ET|
There seemed to be only one emotion conveyed on Xander Bogaerts‘ face as he rounded the bases following his fourth-inning home run Friday night:
After trudging through a miserable 14-for-121 slump that sapped his average from .304 on June 3 down to .235 on July 13, Bogaerts finally broke through his six-week downturn in a major way, blasting a timely two-run home run and reaching base a total of three times en route to a 5-4 Red Sox victory over the Royals.
It seemed as if the Red Sox were on their way to another disappointing defeat Friday night, trailing Kansas City by a score of 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning before Bogaerts stepped to the plate.
With Daniel Nava leading off first base, Bogaerts turned on a 85 mph cutter from Royals starter James Shields, depositing the 1-1 offering into the center field bleachers for his seventh home run of the season, cutting the deficit to just one run.
It was Bogaerts’ first home run since June 13 against the Indians, snapping a career-high 89 at-bat homerless spell. That same home run against Cleveland also marked the last time that Bogaerts had gotten an extra-base hit before Friday’s contest.
“That was pretty good, the inside of the ball,” Bogaerts said after the game. “I was trying to hit something the opposite way, my bat just rolled over a lot of stuff and that’s a bad feeling. But I’ll take that every day.”
Bogaerts, whose round-tripper helped pull Boston right back into the game , was the first of two home runs in the inning, as Jonny Gomes lofted a sinker from Royals southpaw Scott Downs into the same area of the bleachers for a two-run, pinch-hit home run that would give the Red Sox a 5-4 lead that they would not relinquish.
|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.”
|Troy Tulowitzki: Shortstops view move to third ‘as a punch in the gut’||07.16.14 at 10:10 am ET|
MINNEAPOLIS — There was a time when some doubted whether Troy Tulowitzki could stay at shortstop. He is a 6-foot-3 giant for the position, and certainly has the size of a corner. It was a perception battle that he was intent on fighting when he entered pro ball as a 2005 first-rounder of the Rockies.
“Coming out of college, I was a bigger shortstop and they said, ‘We might have to move this guy to third,’ ” said Tulowitzki. “Hopefully I’ve proved the critics wrong who wanted to move me, but my plan is to always stay there and not move.”
The 29-year-old is now a two-time Gold Glover at short, and his production from the position has made him a perennial All-Star. He’s played every day of his big league career at short.
But in a year that has seen Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts move from short to third, Tulowitzki’s outlook on how he might view a position change were noteworthy.
“Moreso than any other position on the field, shortstops take [the identity created by their position] to heart. When guys get moved to third, they take it as a punch in the gut,” said Tulowitzki. “I would do the same thing. I want to stay at shortstop. I want to be there for a long time, hopefully my whole career. Read the rest of this entry »
|Scott Boras on Red Sox as sellers, Xander Bogaerts, Stephen Drew, more||07.14.14 at 6:38 pm ET|
MINNEAPOLIS — Agent Scott Boras doesn’t foresee a Red Sox sell-off as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. After all, despite the fact that the Sox enter the All-Star break tied for the AL East basement with a 43-52 record, 9 1/2 games behind the division-leading Orioles, they reside in a division that is highly flawed.
“I think the Red Sox don’t feel they’re out of anything, at least the Red Sox dialogue that I have,” said Boras. “I think they fully feel that the elasticity of the AL East is a rubber band that can take off or hit you in the face. I don’t think anybody in that division is taking where they’re at for granted, and they know it’s highly likely that this thing could well be decided for a number of teams in the next six to seven days. I think they’ve given themselves a core, a base to take that on. They’re getting some health out of their starting pitching. And I just don’t think that the club is concerned with retooling for next year when they’re in the hunt this year.”
Of course, the Sox’ outlook might be considerably different if a pair of Boras clients on the left side of the infield — Xander Bogaerts and Stephen Drew — were not ensnared in deep struggles. Drew is hitting .151 with a .218 OBP and .269 slugging mark in 28 games since joining the Sox in June (after sitting out the season’s first two-plus months while in free agent purgatory following his decision to reject the Sox’ one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer).
Boras said that while Drew is still working to regain his timing at the plate, he expects the 31-year-old to return to his career track record of a .261 average, .326 OBP and .430 slugging mark.
“The Drews take pitches. The Drews work the counts,” Boras noted, alluding to Stephen Drew and his brother, J.D. Drew. “I think to get that acumen of being comfortable in the batter’s box, that kind of started to unfold a little bit in Houston. He’s a lifetime .270 hitter. That’s not going to go away. And he’s in the prime of his career. So, I’m not concerned about that.”
As for Bogaerts, he closed the first half in a 29-game tailspin that saw him hitting .103 with a .140 OBP, .131 slugging mark and one extra-base hit (a homer) with 32 strikeouts in 114 plate appearances, dropping his season line to .235/.311/.348. That struggle commenced roughly a week after Bogaerts moved from shortstop to third base to accommodate the return of Drew. But Boras denied that there was a causal link between the position change and the offensive struggle.
“That would be statistically undocumented because his great performance last year was at third base,” Boras said, referencing Bogaerts’ performance during the postseason as the team’s third baseman. “The biggest thing is the transition to the big leagues where everybody tests to see if you can hit the fastball. Also, you’re coming into the league and have a broad base of expectancy that you’re going to be successful, but you’ve got to learn how to hit the breaking balls. You’ve got to see breaking balls. And you’ve got to really see the slider. You’ve got to learn how to hit the slider your way. That takes time. It takes practice. And it takes him going through, because you don’t see those types of sliders in the minor leagues. You don’t see the type of velocity irregularity between a changeup and a fastball in the minor leagues, because the few that can do that are up here. So this is really, he has so few at-bats, he’s making that adjustment.
“I said it last year when he was doing well and I’ll say it now, he’s a generational player. He’s in that category of the [Mike Trouts] and the [Bryce Harpers] and the [Manny Machados]. Xander Bogaerts fits right into that group. He’s a great, great young player who showed on the most pressurized stage, the World Series stage, that he’s a baseball player of extraordinary skills. You have kids who are in junior college that are his age [while Bogaerts is] playing in the World Series and doing big things. He’s just that kind of guy.”
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