Red Sox

McAdam: A new look to the lineup?

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McAdam: A new look to the lineup?

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- A month before the start of spring training, Terry Francona moved to cut off any debate about one of the spots in his lineup before it got started.

Speaking to reporters before the annual Boston Baseball Writers Association awards dinner, Francona stated: "Marco Scutaro is our shortstop."

In Fort Myers, when the topic was broached again, Francona again made his thoughts on the subject known: Jed Lowrie would get some occasional playing time as Scutaro's backup, fill in around the infield and maybe even DH some.

But the point was clear: Scutaro was the starter.

That was then; this is now.

Now the Red Sox are desperate, or, at the very least, in search of some answers.

Scutaro is not the reason the Red Sox are 2-9, the worst record in Major League Baseball. And the team's problems are such that Jed Lowrie isn't about to fix them by himself, not unless he can suddenly A) pitch and B) help the rest of the lineup overcome its failings with men in scoring position.

That said, the Red Sox need to try something different.

Lowrie banged out two doubles Tuesday night in a frustration-filled 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. In his last three games, Lowrie is 6-for-9 with an RBI and a walk and has reached base safely 7 times in his last 10 plate appearances.

"I think when he's swinging it like this," said Francona, "you probably look for ways to get him in the lineup."

"The results are there," said Lowrie of his recent streak. "Thats always nice. But Im really, really happy with the way that Im working right now and my approach. Ive always believed that if I keep that approach the results will be there, and theyre there right now."

Francona isn't about to make any dramatic announcement about Lowrie becoming the new everyday shortstop, because he isn't. Think of the situation like a job share, with, for the time, Scutaro's playing time being reduced somewhat and Lowrie's increased.

Over the winter, there were some in the organization who wanted Lowrie made the starter. He has a higher ceiling offensively than Scutaro, with the ability to drive the ball for extra bases.

The switch-hitting Lowrie showed that ability in the final two months of the season when he compiled an OPS of .907. Against lefties, Lowrie slugged .606.

That was enough to catch the Red Sox' attention and remind them of Lowrie's potential. His problem had been one of durability. Between a hand injury and a case of mononucleosis, Lowrie had been unable to stay (or even get) on the field for the previous season-and-a-half.

But Francona believed he owed Scutaro the courtesy of retaining his job at the start of the year if only for the toughness that Scutaro showed during the injury-plagued 2010 season.

Scutaro continued to play, often in great pain, despite shoulder, neck and arm issues. With the right side of the Red Sox infield already decimated by injuries, Scutaro felt it was his duty to remain in the lineup even though he was far from 100 percent.

Francona couldn't overlook that dedication and knew that putting the job up for grabs in spring training would be unfair to Scutaro.

"If I did that," said Francona said during the spring, "I wouldn't want to play for me."

The manager also recognized that making Scutaro compete for his job in spring training would have an impact in the clubhouse. Scutaro earned his teammates' respect, too, last season, and allowing Lowrie the chance to take the position away would be sending the wrong message to the rest of the clubhouse.

Now, however, Lowrie's going to get a chance to get into the lineup, at least on a more consistent basis than he has been.

Who knows how long this will last? And who knows what Lowrie will do with his opportunity? Not to mention there's no guarantee that one tweak to the everyday lineup will cure what ails the Sox.

But it's a start. And for a team unexpectedly in the division cellar two weeks into the season, it's something.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

For the glass-is-half-full folks, there are those back-to-back Eastern Division titles. For the glass-is-half-empty folks, well, there are those two first-round playoff ousters (though both their conquerers made it to the World Series, and one of them won it). But, here on Thanksgiving night, there's plenty for Red Sox Nation to be thankful for, starting with . . . 


YOUR GOOD HEALTH

We know you don’t need the Red Sox to know you how important the most basic elements of life are. But sometimes, the typical fantasy land of baseball can grab our attention. The death of 17-year-old Sox prospect Daniel Flores (above) this month from complications because of cancer didn’t take away only a potentially great baseball career. It took away a beloved, hard-working young person from the people who loved him. He had just made millions of dollars in July for his talent on the field, but what does such a windfall matter compared to one’s health? His cancer was both rare and fast-moving, per the Boston Globe.

MOOKIE, JACKIE, XANDER, BENINTENDI, DEVERS

The kids deserve some love. They probably won’t be together on the Red Sox forever. Heck, the group could get broken up this winter. But while any of the Killer B’s (plus a D) remain on the Sox, there should be a sense of optimism. Two straight 93-win seasons may have resulted in a first-round exit, and 2017 didn’t meet expectations for some individual performances. But you know what? The youths are still damn good, and there’s time for them to show us they can be even better.

INSANELY GOOD PITCHERS IN CHRIS SALE AND CRAIG KIMBREL

Neither hogs the spotlight once the game ends or says too much. Sale doesn’t even have Twitter. But the righty closer and lefty starter both do two things exceedingly well: make batters swing and miss, and prevent runs. When both pitch, your seat at the park may well be worth the price of admission. (But we won’t ask what you paid for those seats.) Sale didn’t take down Pedro Martinez’s Sox single-season strikeout record this year, finishing with five fewer than Martinez’s 313 in 1999. But he could have done it. And with a little more rest next year, one can envision him plowing his way through playoff opponents too.

ALEX CORA'S NEW DIRECTION

A first-time manager’s not a sure thing, but as Sox owner John Henry noted, there was a feeling it was time for a change. It’s a little early to be thinking ahead to a New Year’s resolution, but a manager who better connects with his players and brings a different vibe to the day-to-day scene is reason to feel the Sox are following the right road map. Plus, if nothing else, Cora took that awesome picture walking toward Fenway.

A CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SPREE MAY BE AROUND THE CORNER

We don’t want to be too materialistic. But Uncle Dave Dombrowski couldn’t let you buy everything you wanted last year. The credit card companies needed him to step back for a year. Now he’s ready to spend. He might not close down Bloomingdale’s for the day for you to do your private shopping, but if you need a couple great jackets to complete your look, it sounds like he’s ready to get you some designer threads. He probably feels there won’t be too many chances to have a moment like this with you, at this stage of your life, and he wants to make the most of it.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

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.