Red Sox

Friar: Signing Papelbon makes sense for bullpen-challenged Red Sox

Friar: Signing Papelbon makes sense for bullpen-challenged Red Sox

While the Red Sox' 5-3 win over the Orioles Tuesday night was about Mookie Betts and his continued emergence as Boston’s best bat, it easily could have been about the bullpen’s continued struggles.

Matt Barnes did his best to maintain Eduardo Rodriguez’s no-hitter, throwing two dominating innings after a hamstring pull forced E-Rod out of the game in the top of the fifth. But Barnes had buzzard luck in the seventh.

Then came the real bullpen problems.

Labeling Fernando Abad a disappointment isn’t fair at this point -- he’s way past that.

At first, his pitching elicited a slew of puns . . .

But after last night . . .

Abad has an 11.25 ERA and given up seven hits and three walks in four innings of work. He's looking for all the world like another pitcher who thrived in a small market but can’t hack it in Boston.

Then it was Brad Ziegler’s turn. Tuesday wasn't one of his better nights -- he came on with a one-run lead and two runners aboard, and allowed the Orioles to tie the game by allowing a hit and a walk with two outs -- but he still struck out Jonathan Schoop with the bases loaded to keep the game tied. He’s averaging an appearance almost every other day, and John Farrell has to be careful he doesn’t overuse the valuable submariner.

After Robbie Ross Jr. did what was asked of him in the eighth -- striking out the only batter he faced, Chris Davis -- Craig Kimbrel nailed it down with a 1-2-3 ninth after the wild ride in Cleveland.

Kimbrel has pitched three times in the last four days and is probably not available tonight -- rather, hopefully not available tonight -- because the Red Sox don’t need another injured or fatigued reliever on their hands.

Missing from Tuesday night's parade of hurlers was Junichi Tazawa. It's understandable because, regardless of everything positive Farrell has said about him, he's clearly not at his best.

He has zero confidence in his fastball -- which hasn’t touched the mid-90s since the beginning of the year -- and he’s leaning too heavily on his curveball. According to Fangraphs, Tazawa has thrown his slider 11.8 percent of the time and his curve 14.0 percent of the time in 2016. Last year those numbers were 8.3 and 9.3, respectively.

And it doesn’t look like Koji Uehara (strained pectoral muscle) will return soon, either. Which is just as well, because Farrell was using him based on what he was in 2013 rather than what he is in 2016.

So what does Farrell have? Two dependable veterans (Kimbrel and Ziegler) who are in danger of being overworked. A youngster (Barnes) who is emerging as a reliable arm, and a mid-career left-hander (Ross) who appears to be able to handle the limited role being asked of him. A recently promoted minor-leaguer (Heath Hembree) who, after early promise, was pounded hard the last time he was here, earning a demotion to Pawtucket. And two others (Abad and Tazawa) who, for different reasons, can't be counted on.

Dave Dombrowski has to do something unless he wants to turn these Red Sox into the Detroit Tigers teams he was in charge of -- contenders who couldn't get over the hump because of relief woes.

It makes a Jonathan Papelbon experiment all the more sensible.

As expected, it's Sale, Price and Porcello to start Sox season

As expected, it's Sale, Price and Porcello to start Sox season

New Red Sox manager Alex Cora has announced that, as expected, left-hander Chris Sale will be the Opening Day starter when the Red Sox begin their season nine days from now against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. David Price will pitch the second game and Rick Porcello the third. 

Cora told reporters in Fort Myers, Fla. that Eduardo Rodriguez would be in the fourth starter's spot if he's ready as he continues to recover from off-season knee surgery and left-hander Brian Johnson is preparing to be the fifth starter for now.

In Price's second Grapefruit League start on Tuesday, he pitched five innings and allowed two runs on three hits, walked one and struck out four in the Red Sox' 12-6 victory over the Pirates. Third baseman Rafael Devers, hitting .349 this spring, hit his third home run of the spring. Andrew Benintendi (.405) had a double and two RBI and first baseman Sam Travis drove in three. 

Sale had a much rougher outing Monday, giving up four runs on five hits, with three walks and six strikeouts in five innings against the Phillies. 



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.

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“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.