Red Sox

Drellich: Big questions loom for Farrell's September lineup construction


Drellich: Big questions loom for Farrell's September lineup construction

NEW YORK —  John Farrell's lineup construction in September might be a tougher task than usual.

A log jam appears to be coming. The simple, intuitive answer: play the hot hand. 

Is that always the right answer?

For this team in particular, everything will center on a basic question: who is Hanley Ramirez right now? What are the reasonable expectations for him in the present when compared to his past? Just because a player hasn’t hit lately doesn’t mean he won’t start to hit.

Let’s take it from the top.

September means the cavalry is rolling in for the Red Sox, assuming some key names have healed. Dustin Pedroia could be activated from the disabled list Friday— the day rosters expand — along with righty Matt Barnes. Jackie Bradley Jr. is to return the next day, with other call-ups coming as well.

For Pedroia in particular, there’s a layered question of playing time. How much can he handle, and at what positions?

“He hasn't been in games for weeks,” manager John Farrell said. “So whether it's his knee, low back, hamstrings, just getting back active there's going to be some things we'll have to monitor. Pedey's wanting to be on the field as he has for the last month, but I think we also have to be realistic too in that there's going to be some progression here to the point where hopefully it's unrestricted, nine innings for consecutive days over a long run. But that'll be something that we'll continue to work through in the early days of his return.”

No matter what, Pedroia seems destined to see some amount of time as the designated hitter.

What becomes of Ramirez those days, if it’s a choice between Mitch Moreland and Ramirez at first base? What becomes of Eduardo Nunez on the days Pedroia is at second base and the rest of the regular infield plays?

Left field is not in the cards for Nunez at this point, per Farrell.

“The versatility that Eduardo brings us and that was one of the bigger drawing points when we acquired him,” Farrell said. “He can go to any one of the three infield positions and will probably rotate through there on days that Pedey is on the field, so that we can keep guys fresh a little bit more and as we move forward and get deeper in the season. Without giving you [an estimate of], ‘I see this many days per week for this guy’ — we’re not there yet, but the versatility is there.”

Swapping players in and out makes sense. The criteria Farrell uses will be worth watching.

The danger is in overweighting what a player has done most recently. Results are one thing, but understanding why they’re there is another. Is there hard contact? Ramirez’s 88 mph average exit velocity entering Thursday night was higher than Andrew Benintendi’s 87.3 mph, per's numbers.

At the same time, if there are clear, identifiable issues that need to be corrected, it’s easier to ignore a player like Ramirez’s track record.

For example, a player could be too passive or too aggressive at the plate. That’s the kind of thing the Red Sox (and other teams) can analyze behind the scenes, be it in the front office or via the coaching staff or both, and pass on to the player.

It's generally accepted that players find a zone, that they get hot. But it's dangerous to let those streaks entirely dictate playing time — yet, how crazy would Farrell look to take a hot hitter out of the lineup?

How much he weighs recent days and weeks vs. more well-established trends — and why, if he chooses to explain some of it — is a notable subplot as the Red Sox go down the stretch run. The right button to push sometimes falls in a gray area.

As expected, it's Sale, Price and Porcello to start Sox season

As expected, it's Sale, Price and Porcello to start Sox season

New Red Sox manager Alex Cora has announced that, as expected, left-hander Chris Sale will be the Opening Day starter when the Red Sox begin their season nine days from now against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. David Price will pitch the second game and Rick Porcello the third. 

Cora told reporters in Fort Myers, Fla. that Eduardo Rodriguez would be in the fourth starter's spot if he's ready as he continues to recover from off-season knee surgery and left-hander Brian Johnson is preparing to be the fifth starter for now.

In Price's second Grapefruit League start on Tuesday, he pitched five innings and allowed two runs on three hits, walked one and struck out four in the Red Sox' 12-6 victory over the Pirates. Third baseman Rafael Devers, hitting .349 this spring, hit his third home run of the spring. Andrew Benintendi (.405) had a double and two RBI and first baseman Sam Travis drove in three. 

Sale had a much rougher outing Monday, giving up four runs on five hits, with three walks and six strikeouts in five innings against the Phillies. 



Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge are about to go global.

Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy on Monday confirmed the Sox are interested to play the Yankees in London during next year's regular season. Bloomberg reported the clubs are nearing an agreement to play two games there in June 2019. Discussions are indeed taking place, but a deal is not done.

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“We would love to participate in a series in London against the Yankees but this is a decision that MLB and the MLBPA will make," Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said.

Bloomberg reported the games would be played at London Stadium, which was the main facility for the 2012 summer Olympics.

MLB has not played any games in Europe before. The Red Sox have made trips before, including to Japan before the 2008 season.