Red Sox

Farrell still expects Uehara to take over eighth-inning role


Farrell still expects Uehara to take over eighth-inning role

TORONTO -- Thanks to a succession of injuries and underperformance, the Red Sox have gone through the last few weeks of the season without a designated eighth-inning reliever.

But as the team's biggest series of the year arrived Friday, manager John Farrell made it clear that he hopes that, eventually, the eighth-inning man down the stretch will be the same pitcher who began the season in that role: Koji Uehara.

Uehara missed more than six weeks with a strained pectoral muscle and when he made an appearance Wednesday in San Diego, it was his first time in a game since July 19.

Uehara tossed a scoreless inning with two strikeouts, raising hope that the 41-year-old could reclaim the role. But first, Farrell noted, the Sox will use him a couple more times in low-leverage spots to get him re-acclimated on the mound.

“I think there's still the need for another one or two (appearances),” said Farrell. “In fairness to him, we've got to build arm strength. I wish there was another way to do it, but needs action, he needs activity. We hope to find those opportunities.

”I thought the other night was extremely encouraging. The strike-throwing is pretty remarkable when you think of (almost) two months off. I think he threw one ball, two balls (in the entire inning). That was a good first outing.

”Depending on how games go, if the option's available to us at a given moment...(But) based on the way we started the season, (Uehara) would be the guy (in the eighth inning). You don't really (have to worry) about left/right.”

Indeed, unlike others in the bullpen, Uehara can be equally effective against lefthanded and righthanded hitters.

The same can't be said for, say, Brad Ziegler, who has limited righties to a .248 average, but has allowed lefties to hit .295 against him.

”We're always going to try use Brad's strengths to our advantage,” said Farrell. “But I think the more that we can get to someone knowing that they have the eighth inning, they can prepare mentally and they're more equipped (to succeed).”

Farrell has a number of relievers in the pen, thanks to the expansion of rosters. Joe Kelly, among others, could pitch himself into a more significant role.

”Because it's September,” said Farrell, “we've got a lot of available options to us.

“Game situations are going to dictate it. Some history's going to dictate it. We've got some guys with some favorable matchups in certain areas of a lineup. We'll see where it goes.”


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.

MORE - Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

“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.


Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Blake Swihart’s strong spring seems to have the Red Sox more inclined to deal one of their natural utility infielders, such as Brock Holt or Deven Marrero, rather than Swihart, a converted catcher with high upside who's getting a look in other roles.
"Sounds like they’re holding Swihart to open," a rival executive said. "More likely to move a utility guy."
A true utility guy, that is.


The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported Sunday that Marrero has been drawing interest from other teams.

"We do have depth with our middle infielders," Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday. "However, [I] would not get into potential trade discussions."
Swihart, who turns 26 on April 3, is most valuable as a catcher. But he could still be useful in a bench role for the 2018 Red Sox, and a win-now mentality may be the driving force here. (It is possible, as well, that there is nothing available via trade for Swihart that has piqued the Sox’ interest. Marrero or Holt wouldn’t require as much in return.)
The potential drawback is that Swihart won’t grow much if he’s not playing every day -- and in particular, if he's not catching every day. But the Sox may be be at a juncture where they feel his bat is a worthwhile experiment off the bench, at least for this season. They can figure out his future -- and their future at backstop -- later.
"He’s a great athlete," Cora told reporters on Sunday. "We’ve seen it in the batter’s box. It’s not only the results, but the way he’s driving the ball to left field as a left-hander, the quality of at-bats as a right-hander. [On Saturday], as a pinch-hitter, that kid was throwing 99 and he throws a breaking ball and squares a ball up."
Swihart entered Monday with a .283 average in Grapefruit League play, with a .905 OPS and a pair of home runs. But he does not have the infield experience that Marrero or Holt has, and the Red Sox essentially have to carry one of those two to start the year. 
Eduardo Nunez, the temporary replacement for Dustin Pedroia, is coming off a knee injury, and a sure-handed infielder -- Marrero’s glove is particularly good -- is a must. Rafael Devers is still coming into his own at third base. 
Tzu-Wei Lin is available in the minors too, and the Sox could see some redundancy with him, Holt and Marrero. Lin, unlike Marrero, has minor league options remaining. Lin also has some limited outfield experience.
The way the Sox roster looks now, they have two spots available for the three guys: Marrero, Holt and Swihart. Health can change that. Holt, despite being the most veteran of the group, has minor league options remaining, so he theoretically could go to Triple-A to start the season. But if the Sox don't see a role for him on this year's team any way, they'd be wiser trading him, considering he's due to make $2.225 million. It also would be kindest choice for Holt, to let him have an opportunity elsewhere, if one exists.


Swihart has played first base, third base and left field in addition to catching this spring. Perhaps, in time, there will be a way to work Swihart in behind the plate for the Sox. At the least, retaining him would be insurance if Christian Vazquez or Sandy Leon do not perform well offensively.
There was a clear personal-catcher system for the Red Sox in 2017. Leon was Chris Sale’s guy, for example. Manager Alex Cora said he is not taking that approach. As an auxiliary effect, moving away from a personal-catcher system might make it easier for Swihart to receive more time behind the plate, if called on.
"Whoever I feel comfortable with that day behind the plate, he'll catch," Cora told reporters in Florida. "Christian already caught him. Sandy's going to catch him today. And then the next turn, Christian's going to catch him. Everybody's going to work with everybody."