Red Sox

McAdam: Price and Kimbrel haven't delivered as promised

McAdam: Price and Kimbrel haven't delivered as promised

BOSTON -- It was merely a single loss in the course of the long, six-month slog that is the regular season. But in some ways, the Red Sox' 7-2 defeat to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night served as a telling snapshot to their troubles.

Over the offseason, the Red Sox addressed their two primary needs -- a front-of- the-rotation starter and a proven closer -- with the singing of David Price and the trade for Craig Kimbrel.

Whatever else needed attention for the 2016 Red Sox, at least Dave Dombrowski had solved the biggest holes in the pitching staff.

Or so it seemed.

But on Tuesday night, it didn't work that way at all. Price needed exactly one pitch to fall behind 1-0, and trailed 2-0 after one inning.

Price then righted things and deftly pitched out some mini-jams, but made the mistake of giving back a run an inning-and-a-half after the Red Sox had fought back to tie the game at 2-2. He got through the eighth, and left the game trailing 3-2.

Ordinarily, three runs allowed in eight innings hardly constitutes a poor start. But it was the way Price pitched -- putting the Sox behind from the top of the first, then yielding a demoralizing go-ahead run not long after they'd pulled even -- that left an unsatisfying feel to the outing.

Price, for the second straight start, was downbeat in his postgame remarks. He must have uttered the word "execute'' -- or some form thereof -- no fewer than a dozen times.

No, he wasn't interested in another double-digit strikeout performance (he fanned 10, with just one walk). No, he wasn't re-thinking his pregame routine after yet another poor first inning. Yes, he knew he had to get better.

It's become a familiar refrain for Price. He patiently, without much expression to his face, takes questions after his starts and often sounds the same themes: He has to be better. He expects more from himself. It will improve.

He says these things with conviction, but there's a weariness to his remarks. He's the underperforming student vowing to do better on his next test. He's the repentant child promising to do the chores he's once again negelcted.

There are no excuses offered, no others to blame. He knows, he knows.

Then there's Kimbrel, who's less forthcoming and less interested in going over the details of a soiled outing.

Typically, Kimbrel offers up an all-too-obvious, slightly sarcastic explanation for his stumbles.

Asked for his theory on why he struggled so in non-save situations, Kimbrel is apt to respond, straight-faced: "I've been giving up too many runs.''

Beyond stating the obvious, Kimbrel appears to have few theories about the true root cause. He swears it's not mental, but given the incredible disparity between save situations (1.45 ERA) and non-save situations (6.75 ERA), it's tough to think otherwise.

As manager John Farrell correctly noted, Tuesday's outing was hardly adrenaline-free: The Sox trailed by one and had the middle third of their order due against a Texas bullpen that has been every bit as suspect as Boston's. This was hardly mop-up duty, for which a closer might have difficulty becoming invested.

To be fair, Kimbrel has been mostly excellent. He's converted 17-of-19 save opportunities and Tuesday represented only the second time since May 31 that he'd been scored upon. If you're going an entire month without allowing a run, you must be doing something right.

But closers don't get to always pick and choose their spots and the job requires consistent excellence, not periodic displays of dominance.

It's been much the same with Price, who had an eight-start stretch that featured a 2.48 ERA. But just as Kimbrel needs to pitch better when his team needs him to keep a game tied or close, Price must become more consistently reliable and exhibit the dominance that he's only hinted at.

It's far too soon to say that Price and Kimbrel have been busts, or that the Red Sox spent too much money on the former and too many prospects on the latter.

What is clear is this: Neither has been the pitcher he was expected to be.

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."