Red Sox

Series preview: Red Sox vs. Indians

Series preview: Red Sox vs. Indians

CLEVELAND -- Exactly one game separated the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians in the standings over the course of the regular season. The teams are about as evently matched as can be.

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Here's a look at how the various positions stack up as we prepare for Game 1 of the ALDS Thursday night in Cleveland:

FIRST BASE: Hanley Ramirez vs. Mike Napoli
Though Carlos Santana gets some playing time here, the Indians mostly go with Napoli, no stranger to Red Sox fans. He may have slightly more power than Ramirez and see more pitches, but he also strikes out at a high rate. Ramirez had a monster second-half and redeemed himself with his transition to first base. Edge: Even

SECOND BASE: Dustin Pedroia vs. Jason Kipnis
Kipnis is sort of a left-handed, younger version of Pedroia. He has a little more power and a few more stolen bases. But Pedroia, healthy for a change, enjoyed a terrific season and remains one of the position's best defenders. Edge: Red Sox

SHORTSTOP: Xander Bogaerts vs. Francisco Lindor
This is a faceoff of two of the best young shortstops in the game. It's hard to believe Bogaerts is in his fourth season already, with Lindor just completing his first full year in the big leagues. Lindor has a slight edge defensively with more range; Bogaerts has more power and is a more polished hitter -- especially with two strikes. Edge: Even

THIRD BASE: Brock Holt/Aaron Hill/Travis Shaw vs Jose Ramirez
The Red Sox have experimented at third all season, trying to find a full-time solution. Holt will see most of the action in this series, with Cleveland using exclusively right-handed starters. He's adequate defensively, and while he can be an offensive sparkplus, doesn't offer much power. Ramirez is an underrated part of the Cleveland lineup, and offers speed and some power. Edge: Indians

OUTFIELD: Andrew Benintendi/Chris Young vs. Rajai Davis Jackie Bradley Jr. vs. Tyler Naquin/Coco Crisp Mookie Betts vs. Lonnie Chisenhall/Brandon Guyer.
Terry Francona has been known to platoon at all three outfield spots. The Red Sox platoon in left, but with three righty starters lineup for Cleveland, Benintendi will get the majority of the playing time there. Bradley is an elite center fielder with pop while Betts may well be the A.L. MVP. The Indians are badly outmatched here. Edge: Red Sox

CATCHER: Sandy Leon vs. Yan Gomes/Roberto Perez/Chris Gimenez
A healthy Gomes would swing this debate to Cleveland, but he's just now returning from hand and shoulder injuries and is nowhere near 100 percent. Leon seemed to tire at the plate late in the season, but still gave the Red Sox much more than they could have hoped for. Edge: Red Sox

DH: David Ortiz vs. Carlos Santana
Santana is a selective hitter with good power (34 homers), but he's no match for Ortiz -- especially in October. Edge: Red Sox

STARTING ROTATION: Rick Porcello/David Price/Clay Buchholz/Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Trevor Bauer/Cory Kluber/Josh Tomlin
The Red Sox don't own a postseason win from any of their starters, but overall, the rotation is a strength -- a far cry from last season. Porcello's turnaround has made him into a legitimate No. 1. The Indians are without both Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar; with them, this would have been an entirely different series. As it is, Terry Francona may have both Bauer and Kluber pitch on short rest. Edge: Red Sox.

BULLPEN: Craig Kimbrel/Koji Uehara/Brad Ziegler vs Cody Allen/Bryan Shaw/Andrew Miller
Assuming Kimbrel has straightened out the command issues he fought in the last week of the season, this is a formidable group, especially if lefty Drew Pomeranz can become a postseason weapon. Still, they're no match for the Indians, who can utilize Miller in almost any role or inning. Edge: Indians

BENCH: Chris Young/Travis Shaw/Aaron Hill/Christian Vazquez vs. Yan Gomes/Coco Crisp/Brandon Guyer
Given Francona's penchant for matchups and platoons, his bench will be more active. But the Red Sox have experienced role players and more power in their extras. Edge: Red Sox

MANAGERS: John Farrell vs. Terry Francona
These good friends turn competitors for the next week. Farrell has a World Series win to his credit, but Francona is the better in-game tactician and has two World Series rings. Edge: Indians

The injuries to the Cleveland rotation will be felt. The Red Sox are the superior offensive team and their starting pitching is strong enough. RED SOX in four games.

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."