Red Sox

Farrell open to changing Red Sox lineup; has already altered rotation

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Farrell open to changing Red Sox lineup; has already altered rotation

BOSTON -- Sox manager John Farrell is still open to shaking up the Red Sox lineup. Three runs were enough Sunday night behind an excellent David Price, but it’s still been a rough stretch for the Sox of late offensively.

However, the top of the order -- Mookie Betts in the leadoff spot, followed by Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts -- remains the same for Monday night's game against the Blue Jays. They’ve each occupied those slots more than anyone else this season: Betts 65 times, Pedroia 48 times and Bogaerts 60 times.

“Haven’t completely gone away from [the possibility of changing the batting order],” Farrell said. “We have the top three guys, a lot of it is pretty consistent. If you look at the individual matchups against Marcus Stroman here tonight . . . players know what they do against opposing pitchers. And that’s not to say it’s a guarantee for success but I’d like to think guys will come in and say, ‘You know what, I’ve had some success against this guy in the past, let’s take a run with it.’ That’s where we are.”

Against Stroman, Betts is 6-for-19 (.316), Bogaerts 10-for-20 (.500) and Pedroia 7-for-15 (.467).

Moving Betts to a different spot in the lineup -- such as the two- or three-hole, so his first at-bat could come with someone on base -- has been a point of public debate.

“Mookie is not a typical leadoff type of guy,” Farrell said. “Granted, he’s got more power than many other leadoff types, but the ability to get on base, the ability to steal a base, those are parts of the profile that you’d ideally like to get. A little bit of speed to maybe disrupt the defense. But I think over the past probably five, six years, lineup construction has taken a completely different look, where so many teams had looked at the No. 3 spot in the order as your most pivotal. That’s your best hitter. 

“A lot of teams now are putting that guy in the two-hole. I’m sure there’s a lot of debate, a lot of sabermetric approach that goes into where you want your so-called best hitter. Bottom line is, you want your guys who get on base the most get to the plate the most often, so you stack the top of your order as best as you can.”

Farrell made clear he wants his on-base guys up top -- that’s his most important criteria. Pedroia leads the team at .385, followed by four players in the .350-range: Bogaerts (.357), Jackie Bradley Jr. (.353), Andrew Benintendi (.352) and Betts (.352). 

Benintendi’s had 40 starts in the two-hole.

While Farrell waits on possible lineup alterations, he has altered his rotation so that Chris Sale and David Price get an extra day of rest. Sale, throughout his career, has often pitched on extra rest and the Sox seem to want to keep it that way.

Here’s how it lines up, with seven pitchers in seven days:

  • Monday vs. Toronto: Eduardo Rodriguez
  • Tuesday vs. Toronto: Brian Johnson
  • Wednesday vs. Toronto: Drew Pomeranz
  • Thursday vs. Toronto: Doug Fister
  • Friday at Anaheim: Chris Sale
  • Saturday at Anaheim: David Price
  • Sunday at Anaheim: Rick Porcello

Porcello previously was wedged in between Sale and Price.

“The two most similar [pitchers] might be Eddie and David,” Farrell said. “Just trying to split those two guys up, where Chris has got a different arm slot, different type of stuff, different action on the breaking balls.”

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press