Red Sox

Drellich: Chris Sale's biggest start of the season is about his hitters, not him

red_sox_chris_sale_082417.jpg

Drellich: Chris Sale's biggest start of the season is about his hitters, not him

NEW YORK — Chris Sale will be making his biggest start since joining the Red Sox on Sunday, in the final scheduled game between the Yanks and Sox this season.

The spotlight will shine brighter on the hitters behind him.

Eduardo Nunez made his Red Sox debut on July 28. From that day through Saturday’s 5-1 Red Sox loss to the Yanks, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez are hitting a combined .225.

The Red Sox cannot continue to receive that level of production and expect good results. What’s really amazing is how well the team has played in spite of such numbers, in spite of the absences of key injured players.

MORE: Robby Scott, one year into the big leagues: 'Nothing’s going to stop me'

The Sox are 21-12 since Nunez arrived, with the third-best win percentage in baseball. (Some Saturday games were still underway at the time this was written.) Their 3.86 ERA was the eighth best in the majors.

The pitching’s excellence has been consistent most of the year. The questionable nature of the lineup has been as well. 

“Just kind of going along with the ride,” Betts said Saturday. “Just doing what I can to help the team win that’s all I’m focused on.”

Sox manager John Farrell said he hasn’t thought about a couple down days for Betts a la Bogaerts, namely because of how important Betts is even when not hitting well.

But Betts’ .313 slugging percentage since July 28, a 32-game stretch for him, is worse than all but 10 qualified players. 

Ramirez on Saturday had loud outs and has looked better of late. But the offense that powered the Sox in August could wind up looking like an outlier rather than a correction.

Rafael Devers’ growing pains have been realized, both at the plate and in the field. There’s no surprise there, because he’s a 20-year-old rookie.

Mitch Moreland didn’t help Devers on a throw to first base Saturday that was wide, yet not so wide that it needed to skip away. 

Devers had only himself to blame when he later took too long on a routine grounder from Brett Gardner, creating an infield hit.

“Yeah, he took his time,” manager John Farrell said. “Obviously, too much time. But I thought he was in good shape on the [wide] throw against [Gary] Sanchez and pulled it wide a little bit, and then took his time setting his feet against Gardner, and it cost him. These are key learning opportunities, learning moments, for him.”

Pennant races are an easier time to learn when there are others to lean on.

Nunez has eight home runs? How the heck did that happen? The surprise performances have come from all corners.

It’s very hard to be convinced they’ll continue.

Reality sets in. There’s a mean, a true ability and performance level, that typically shines through by the end of a season. That goes for both disappointing and bust-out performances, so you can find positivity in that thinking as well.

Bogaerts has been hurt, with a nagging right hand. Betts’ knee gave a scare in Cleveland, but there’s been no sense it’s holding him back at the plate.

Andrew Benintendi’s taken a step forward, hitting .322 since July 28. Bradley, fresh off the DL, has a .352 OBP in that stretch, so he has contributed as well.

But without Betts and Bogaerts close to form, the Red Sox offense is in an uncomfortable place. Others have picked up the slack, the pitchers included. But it’s a certain brand of optimism — more commonly called naivete — to think the Sox can find continued success with this formula.

August is gone. Now to find out if the offense is as well.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Delay in J.D. Martinez's introduction suggests complication in medical review

cp-spark-jd-martinez-122017.jpg
File photo

Delay in J.D. Martinez's introduction suggests complication in medical review

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They’re leaving us to speculate now.

Sox manager Alex Cora said essentially nothing Friday about J.D. Martinez’s unfinished contract, a five-year, $110 million pact that was in the medical-review process. 

“I’m not concerned. I’m not concerned. I’m just  -- the thing I can do is do my thing,” Cora said Friday. “My job here is to show up every day and get ‘em ready.”

MORE J.D. MARTINEZ

Cora’s statement that he is not concerned appeared less an assessment of Martinez's direct situation and more a reinforcement of Cora’s larger point: He is not going to publicly engage the topic as the field manager.

Cora said he was unsure if Martinez was still in Fort Myers. Here's guessing Cora really does know. But, this is traditionally a front-office matter. 

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, both have made comments about the process this week. Not on Friday, however. On Friday, they went silent. 

So let’s consider what we know, and what it could mean.

Multiple times this week, the media waited at JetBlue Park because there was a belief a press conference was imminent. Terms were agreed to Monday. We’re about to enter Saturday without a press conference. We know for a fact the Sox and Martinez were still going through the medical process as of Thursday.

Added up, everything is highly suggestive of some sort of complication during J.D. Martinez’s medical review. What is impossible to know is the impact of any potential complication. 

The original agreement could go through completely and totally untouched. A contract could be revised in a slight way or a larger way. Other doctor visits could be arranged, and indeed, probably have been. 

MORE RED SOX

A complication does not mean a contract will fall apart. That would be a wildly unexpected scenario. 

Rather, it could mean the sides once again dig in. The Red Sox have doctors, and so too does Boras. Sometimes, there are differing medical opinions.

And it would be strange if there wasn't some medical concern.

ALSO ON NBCSPORTSBOSTON.COM

Scheduling or a similar matter may have contributed in slowing down this process. But by now, with a nine-figure investment at stake -- plus the involvement of top doctors and a major league baseball team -- it’s hard to imagine what logistical issue could exist. They have email for records, they have planes for visits.

Everyone else has little in the way of answers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Marco Hernandez returns to Boston after setback with shoulder

red_sox_marco_hernandez_041716.jpg
File photo

Marco Hernandez returns to Boston after setback with shoulder

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox’ infield depth was tested mightily in 2017. The group is already seeing some attrition in 2018.

Marco Hernandez, who appeared in the mix at second base (at least up until the recent signing of Eduardo Nunez), returned to Boston because his surgically repaired left shoulder, his non-throwing shoulder, was bothering him. 

On May 26, Hernandez's season was cut short when he had an open stabilization (Latarjet) procedure, which is intended to prevent the shoulder from dislocating. Part of the procedure included the insertion of foreign materials — hardware, as Cora referred to it on Friday — and at least some of that has now been removed.

“He was feeling discomfort in his shoulder,” manager Alex Cora said Friday morning. "Flew him to Boston, at the end, they took out the hardware off of it. It seems like… it was creating the discomfort. Obviously, everything went well. Can’t give you a time when he’s coming back.”

Hernandez’s recovery will be dependent on how he’s feeling. 

“There’s guys that come out right away and they can go and there’s people who will still feel it and it’s a longer process,” Cora said. “Hopefully he can come back sooner rather than later. He was feeling it and at the end, they checked everything and it was the hardware that they have there. He’ll be fine.”

Hernandez, 25, is entering his third major league season. In 116 plate appearances, he has a .284 average. He's a left-handed hitter and looked particularly impressive last spring training.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE