Red Sox

First impressions: Red Sox can't seem to solve Drew Smyly


First impressions: Red Sox can't seem to solve Drew Smyly

First impressions from Red Sox' 3-0, 10-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.


It didn't look good for the pitching staff in the first inning

Joe Kelly left the mound with what was later announced as a shoulder impingement. But the Sox got fantastic work from both Heath Hembree and Robbie Ross Jr.

The two relievers combined for 6 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing just three hits while striking out seven and walking none.

It could have been an ugly night with 8 2/3 innings of outs to get from the bullpen, but the two saved the day.

Unfortunately for Hembree, with the bullpen maxed out Tuesday and the need for fresh arms, he'll probably be rewarded with a return trip to Pawtucket.


It may be time for Mookie Betts to be dropped from the leadoff spot

Betts was 0-for-4 Tuesday night and 2-for-21 with five strikeouts. He seems to be pressing, and as John Farrell noted before Tuesday's game, occasionally expanding the strike zone.

Problem is, the Red Sox don't have a natural replacement. Dustin Pedroia is a possibility for the short-term, but he's not exactly white hot, either, to say nothing of the fact that he's said in the past he prefers not to hit leadoff. When Brock Holt returns to the lineup, he could be a possibility.


The Sox can't seem to solve Drew Smyly

On Tuesday, he limited the Sox to a single hit over eight scoreless innings, at one point retiring 17 hitters in a row. He retired the side in order in every inning except the third when two walks and a ground ball single from Jackie Bradley Jr. loaded the bases with no outs.

But Smyly got Mookie Betts to ground into a fielder's choice as Chris Young was cut down at the plate and then induced an inning-ending double play from Dustin Pedroia.

Over the last two seasons, Smyly has allowed one run in the last 26 1/3 innings against the Red Sox.


Third base coach Brian Butterfield made the right call in the third.

The Sox had runners at first and second and no out when Jackie Bradley hit a ground ball up the middle for a single. Butterfield, in recognition of center fielder Kevin Kiermaier's arm, held Chris Young at third.

Kiermaier has a plus-plus arm in center, and the Sox had the top of order coming up with, again, no out.

A fielder's choice by Mookie Betts forced Young at the plate and Dustin Pedroia then hit into an inning-ending double play. And, of course, the Sox didn't score any runs at all the rest of the way.

Still, given the circumstances and Kiermaier's arm strength, it was prudent thing to do.


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."