Red Sox

First impressions: Red Sox start long road trip on right foot with 3-2 win

First impressions: Red Sox start long road trip on right foot with 3-2 win

First impressions of the Red Sox' 3-2 win over Cleveland:

Craig Kimbrel loves to live on the wild side.

As if Fernando Abad on the mound isn’t nerve-wracking enough, Kimbrel took it to another level in the ninth innng.

On to protect a one-run lead, he started his outing by hanging a breaking ball to Francisco Lindor that resulted in a leadoff double, putting the tying run in scoring position for two big-time power bats in Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana. He tried the curve again to Napoli and wound up walking him, putting the winning run on base with no outs.

Thankfully Kimbrel realized his fastball is his friend. He struck out Santana and pinch-hitter Jason Kipnis, then retired Abraham Almonte on a pop up to end the game.

This win is huge with everything else coming down the line

Given that the Sox have a weird night-day combination coming up -- in Baltimore on Wednesday night, in Detroit on Thursday afternoon -- they needed this one.

It also serves as a bit of validation. They’d just beaten the lowly Diamondbacks into submission, but they've been beating up on bad teams all season. This -- a one-game makeup against a division leader -- was a truer test, one their critics say they've been failing all year.

And yet they won, not with offensive fireworks but with the type of tight pitching and defense (and timely hitting) they'll need going forward. 

Drew Pomeranz finally had a start worthy of his trade.

And against a good lineup, too.

Pomeranz got bailed out here and there, like when Jose Ramirez tried to steal third and was called out and thus was on the bench when Napoli followed with a double.

But all in all, Pomeranz pitched well against a playoff team with a high-powered offense.

This was the longest start of Pomeranz’s career.

That’s pretty shocking to consider, knowing what the Red Sox dealt to get him: A top-tier prospect for a pitcher who’s best outing ever was seven innings long. Rick Porcello and Steven Wright have done that on the regular all season.

Sending Travis Shaw on Pedroia’s single was one of Brian Butterfield’s worst calls this season.

First, Almonte had already shown off his rocket on Andrew Benintendi’s fly ball, nearly throwing Shaw out at second. If the scouting reports said Almonte couldn’t throw, he’d clearly proven otherwise

Second, and more important, Xander Bogaerts was due up next. 

Obviously you want to take advantage of every opportunity -- especially with two outs -- but when you have your No. 2 hitter coming to the plate, with knowledge of Almonte’s arm, you need to play it safer.

David Ortiz’s attempt at another stolen base wasn’t smart.

First off it was on a 3-and-1 count -- with Mookie Betts up.

Second, even if his foot is feeling much better, is it worth risking an injury, given how much his foot has been a bother all year?

The Red Sox have already suffered one costly, unnecessary injury from a bonehead baserunning decision (Wright's dive back into second base against the Dodgers, which hurt his shoulder and landed him on the disabled list). They certainly don’t need another one.

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."