Red Sox

Friar: For the first time in a long time, Red Sox-Yankees means something

Friar: For the first time in a long time, Red Sox-Yankees means something

BOSTON -- Since it reached its height in the 2004 postseason, the greatest rivalry in sports had declined to near irrelevancy the past decade.

But now, a Red Sox-Yankees game has a unique feeling similar to the one it had back when Boston was always chasing New York. Only now, roles are reversed -- but everything is still on the line.

“Red Sox-Yankees is always a great rivalry,” Mookie Betts said following Saturday’s 6-5 win, “but knowing that it’s for playoffs, too, makes it that much more fun.”

While the Yankees’ chance at winning the AL East title isn’t great, their chances at the wild card were still very much realistic entering this series.

The Red Sox -- who were only one game up in the AL East standings entering the series -- were in danger of becoming a wild-card team after losing two of three at Fenway Park to the Orioles.

Now, Boston holds a three-game lead entering Sunday night's series finale with New York. The Yankees have dropped to four back in the wild-card race behind the Blue Jays and Orioles.

“That walk-off that [Hanley Ramirez hit on Thursday night], that’s probably what shifted everything,” Xander Bogaerts said following his three-hit performance Saturday. “If we would have lost that game, [this series] probably feels a little bit different. We’re happy we got that one.

“This is what fans live and die for. They want to see Red Sox-Yankees baseball, and we’re doing a good job of winning the ballgames.”

Boston hasn’t just been winning the games this series alone. They now sit 10-5 against New York -- securing a season-series win -- with three games left to play in the Bronx following Sunday’s nightcap.

While the tensions are at their height, with both teams scratching to make the postseason, some players feel as if that tone has run throughout 2016.

“Even the games earlier this year, when Papi [David Ortiz] hit the oppo-home run off [Dellin] Betances, and then Vazky [Christian Vazquez]  -- I forget the order they did it in -- hit the homers in the [eighth],” Matt Barnes said referencing the Red Sox wins on April 29 and May 1. “To me those games were just as crazy and excited as they are now.

“These games have a little more leverage behind them, but its fun being a part of this rivalry and being a part of this series and winning these games. It’s a blast.”

A lot can change for both teams with 14 games remaining and their playoff hopes very much alive, but one thing will ring true -- the New York vs. Boston rivalry is back in baseball.

Wouldn’t it be something to have that in October again, too?
Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar


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."