Red Sox

McAdam: Now the test begins for Red Sox

McAdam: Now the test begins for Red Sox

Ordinarily, completing a three-game road series against the defending world champions means the most demanding stretch of schedule is over.

Instead, for the Red Sox, it's just beginning.

Starting Friday, the Red Sox begin a patch in which they play 16 games, 13 of which are against playoff-caliber teams. There's three with Cleveland starting Friday, preceding a three-game set with Colorado. Then it's on the road for three in Toronto followed by four in Baltimore, capped by a home series for three with Toronto again.

In recent weeks, before their trip to Kansas City, the Red Sox had the good fortune to face a series of teams that weren't playing well at the time (Houston, for a total of seven games) or aren't very good in the first place (Oakland, three games).

During that stretch, the Red Sox lit up the scoreboard at Fenway like a pinball machine, averging more than 10 runs per game.

The quality of the opposition -- or more accurately, lack thereof -- helped camoflage the fact that the Red Sox pitching was uneven. That fact doesn't seem to matter as much when you're regularly posting double digits in runs and piling up extra-base hits.

But the three-game set in Kansas City served as a reminder that not every opponent is a willing patsty, existing solely to serve up batting practice.

Cleveland, Toronto and Baltimore all rank in the top six in pitching in the American League, ahead of the Red Sox, suggesting that the days of winning games by bludgeoning the opponent into submission -- as the Sox did with the A's and Astros -- is, temporarily at least, over.

Even Colorado's pitching can be a challenge -- outside of Coors Field. The Rockies' staff is currently fourth in the N.L. on the road.

And it isn't as if the Red Sox don't face pitching challenges of their own. While Wednesday's day-night doubleheader featured two strong performances from starting pitchers -- a complete-game loss by Steven Wright in the afternoon, followed by 7 1/3 strong innings from David Price in the nightcap -- the rotation has been uneven of late.

Rick Porcello had his worst start of the season Tuesday night in the opener with the Royals, and Clay Buchholz has exactly one (1) quality start in seven weeks.

The reinforcements to the staff, long promised, have been slowed. Yes, Joe Kelly is set to return to the rotation Saturday but, given his career-long inconsistency, can hardly be viewed as any kind of savior.

Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, isn't coming back anytime soon. It was thought that Rodriguez was nearing the end of his rehab assignment, but the Sox announced Tuesday that he was still experiencing soreness in his right knee.

Rodriguez first injured the knee on Feb. 27 and it's anyone's guess when he'll be back in the rotation. What's clear is, it isn't going to happen anytime soon.

There are further complications with Carson Smith, too. Smith has made only three appearances in relief since returning from the DL better than two weeks ago, and on Wednesday John Farrell revealed that he's still experiencing issues with his forearm. Smith first walked off the mound March 21, and two months later, still isn't right.

Carson was obtained in the offseason to bolster the bullpen and add another late-inning weapon with swing-and-miss stuff, but hasn't been healthy enough to contribute.

To date, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa have been reliable in set-up roles. Tazawa has been brilliant (1.65 ERA; 0.86 WHIP; .161 batting average against) while Uehara has overcome two poor outings (at home against Tampa Bay on Patriots Day, and Tuesday night in Kansas City) to otherwise pitch well.

But the Sox can't continue to rely on a 41-year-old (Uehara) or a reliever who has burned out in Augsut in each of the last two seasons (Tazawa) to handle the high-leverage spots alone. With Smith's availabity very much in doubt for the near future, somone else -- Matt Barnes? -- must step forward.

There's a old saying in baseball that the season doesn't really get started until Memorial Day. But given the upcoming schedule and the absence of any immediate pitching help, the Red Sox' real first test starts now.

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."