Red Sox

McAdam: A step toward October for Rodriguez and Sox

McAdam: A step toward October for Rodriguez and Sox

BALTIMORE -- Even with a solid lead in the division as the season winds down -- four games over Toronto, five over Baltimore with just 11 to play -- the Red Sox aren't interested in discussing what now seems inevitable: The postseason.

Their qualifying for the playoffs seems assured now, even if they don't want to talk about it. And given that they don't want to acknowledge the games that are looming in October, they surely aren't interested in dissecting a possible postseason starting rotation.

But that's an issue hanging over their heads. Rick Porcello and David Price give the Red Sox a strong front two, but playoff series aren't won with two starting pitchers -- not easily, anyway.

The Sox are going to need at least one -- if not two -- starters to claim spots. Drew Pomeranz has damaged his chances with two poor starts in a row and the realization that perhaps his innings workload has caught up to him here in September.

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Clay Buchholz? He's pitched far better in the second half than he did in the first, but his penchant for inconsistency is always worth noting.

So it was not without significance that on Tuesday night, Eduardo Rodriguez stepped forward to stake his claim.

Rodriguez didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning, and when he left with one out in the seventh, he had made a pretty compelling case for himself.

He mixed a mid-90s fastball with a killer changeup and occasional slider, navigating his way through a powerful Baltimore lineup in a cozy ballpark. Trouble lurked everywhere, but other than a solo homer to rookie Trey Mancini in the fifth and three other hits, Rodriguez was impressive.

The manager, loathe as he may be to acknowledge what's on the horizon, couldn't help but take notice. Farrell was asked how important it was for the Sox to have someone beyond Porcello and Price get going as the season draws to a close.

"It's extremely important," said Farrell. "Tonight was a major step forward for Eddie, regardless of what takes place (in the future). When you look at that kind of stuff, where he can get good major league hitters out, that's a strong ingredient as you go deeper into the season."

Rodriguez, predictably, wasn't about to say he was trying to impress anyone for the post-season.

"I'm just pitching," shrugged Rodrigurez. "If they give me a chance (in the post-season), I'll take it. I'll just pitch wherever they put me. This isn't fighting for a spot. We're just trying to keep pitching normal and get the team in the post-season.''

If there was a highlight to the start, it came in the sixth with the Sox clinging to a 2-1 lead. Chris Davis was on second and Mark Trumbo, only the A.L.'s leading home run hitter, was at the plate.

It took eight pitches, and three separate mound visits, but Rodriguez finally pulled the string on a nasty changeup that Trumbo swung through.

"Obviously, given the year's Trumbo's had," said Farrell, "the way he's handled lefthanded pitching, that's a moment Eddie can continue to grow from. A big moment for Eddie."

Maybe even an audition for October.

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 the 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."