Red Sox

Drellich: Big questions loom for Farrell's September lineup construction

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Drellich: Big questions loom for Farrell's September lineup construction

NEW YORK —  John Farrell's lineup construction in September might be a tougher task than usual.

A log jam appears to be coming. The simple, intuitive answer: play the hot hand. 

Is that always the right answer?

For this team in particular, everything will center on a basic question: who is Hanley Ramirez right now? What are the reasonable expectations for him in the present when compared to his past? Just because a player hasn’t hit lately doesn’t mean he won’t start to hit.

Let’s take it from the top.

September means the cavalry is rolling in for the Red Sox, assuming some key names have healed. Dustin Pedroia could be activated from the disabled list Friday— the day rosters expand — along with righty Matt Barnes. Jackie Bradley Jr. is to return the next day, with other call-ups coming as well.

For Pedroia in particular, there’s a layered question of playing time. How much can he handle, and at what positions?

“He hasn't been in games for weeks,” manager John Farrell said. “So whether it's his knee, low back, hamstrings, just getting back active there's going to be some things we'll have to monitor. Pedey's wanting to be on the field as he has for the last month, but I think we also have to be realistic too in that there's going to be some progression here to the point where hopefully it's unrestricted, nine innings for consecutive days over a long run. But that'll be something that we'll continue to work through in the early days of his return.”

No matter what, Pedroia seems destined to see some amount of time as the designated hitter.

What becomes of Ramirez those days, if it’s a choice between Mitch Moreland and Ramirez at first base? What becomes of Eduardo Nunez on the days Pedroia is at second base and the rest of the regular infield plays?

Left field is not in the cards for Nunez at this point, per Farrell.

“The versatility that Eduardo brings us and that was one of the bigger drawing points when we acquired him,” Farrell said. “He can go to any one of the three infield positions and will probably rotate through there on days that Pedey is on the field, so that we can keep guys fresh a little bit more and as we move forward and get deeper in the season. Without giving you [an estimate of], ‘I see this many days per week for this guy’ — we’re not there yet, but the versatility is there.”

Swapping players in and out makes sense. The criteria Farrell uses will be worth watching.

The danger is in overweighting what a player has done most recently. Results are one thing, but understanding why they’re there is another. Is there hard contact? Ramirez’s 88 mph average exit velocity entering Thursday night was higher than Andrew Benintendi’s 87.3 mph, per BaseballSavant.com's numbers.

At the same time, if there are clear, identifiable issues that need to be corrected, it’s easier to ignore a player like Ramirez’s track record.

For example, a player could be too passive or too aggressive at the plate. That’s the kind of thing the Red Sox (and other teams) can analyze behind the scenes, be it in the front office or via the coaching staff or both, and pass on to the player.

It's generally accepted that players find a zone, that they get hot. But it's dangerous to let those streaks entirely dictate playing time — yet, how crazy would Farrell look to take a hot hitter out of the lineup?

How much he weighs recent days and weeks vs. more well-established trends — and why, if he chooses to explain some of it — is a notable subplot as the Red Sox go down the stretch run. The right button to push sometimes falls in a gray area.

Report: Red Sox trade target Jeurys Familia close to A's deal

Report: Red Sox trade target Jeurys Familia close to A's deal

Earlier in the week, the New York Post's Joel Sherman reported the Boston Red Sox were among several teams inquiring about the availability of New York Mets reliever Jeurys Familia.

But it appears the veteran closer is likely headed to the West Coast, according to ESPN's Buster Olney:

In 40 appearances this season for the last-place Mets, Familia has posted a 2.88 ERA with 17 saves and a 1.23 WHIP. The Red Sox have been actively seeking to add another veteran arm to their bullpen before the July 31 trade deadline, a search that has included talks for Orioles closer Zach Britton according to FanCred Sports' Jon Heyman.

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Price, Red Sox win again by blanking Tigers, 1-0

Price, Red Sox win again by blanking Tigers, 1-0

DETROIT -- One run was enough for David Price and the Red Sox - but only after Boston escaped a couple of dicey jams.

Price pitched four-hit ball into the seventh inning and the Red Sox kept right on rolling in their first game after the All-Star break, beating the Detroit Tigers 1-0 on Friday night. Price worked out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the fourth, and reliever Matt Barnes maneuvered through a tough spot of his own in the eighth.

The Red Sox (69-30) have won 13 of their last 14, have baseball's best record and extended their lead to 5 1/2 games over the New York Yankees in the AL East. Price (11-6) walked one and struck out five in 6 1/3 innings.

"Any time you can win 1-0, that's a good game," Price said. "We got a run there in that first inning, and everybody did their job after that."

Steve Pearce hit an RBI double in the first, and the Tigers could never match that one run. Matthew Boyd (4-9) allowed a run and three hits in five-plus innings. He struck out six and walked two.

Barnes wriggled out of a jam in the eighth after the Tigers put a runner on third with one out. Craig Kimbrel worked the ninth for his 31st save in 33 chances.

Detroit has lost seven of eight.

Price has 97 wins from 2012-18, matching teammate Chris Sale for the most in the American League during that span. He retired the first nine batters he faced Friday, then got in trouble by allowing three straight singles to start the fourth.

"We had some chances, but he made a lot of good pitches in big spots and when he made a mistake, we fouled them off," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's a very good pitcher who can move the ball all over the plate, and he's been doing it to teams for a long time."

With the bases loaded, John Hicks flied out to shallow left field, starting a wild play that ended with Boston second baseman Brock Holt on the ground injured. Andrew Benintendi caught Hicks' fly and threw wildly toward the plate, but Detroit's Niko Goodrum stayed put at third. Jeimer Candelario took off from second to third, then had to go back when he realized Goodrum was still there.

The throw went back to second, but Candelario was able to slide in safely. Holt went down with a right knee injury after Candelario's slide, although he was able to walk off the field.

Price struck out James McCann and retired Victor Martinez on a flyout to end the inning.

Goodrum led off the eighth by reaching on a strikeout when Barnes threw a wild pitch on strike three. Candelario then struck out, but strike three bounced away again. Candelario wasn't allowed to take first in that situation, but Goodrum was able to go all the way from first to third.

Nicholas Castellanos followed with a one-out grounder to third, and Goodrum was retired in a rundown between third and home.

"That's 100 percent going on contact - you have to go there," Gardenhire said. "We hadn't scored a run and we wanted to try to make something happen. Even if it doesn't work, we still have a runner on second, so it is worth the chance."

After a walk to Hicks, McCann struck out to end the inning.

BACK IN MOTOWN

Boston slugger J.D. Martinez was back in Detroit after playing for the Tigers from 2014-17. He was traded to Arizona around this time last year, part of a rebuilding effort in which the Tigers later traded Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and Ian Kinsler.

"It was inevitable. I think everybody knew it," Martinez said before the game. "You can only be good like that for so long."

Martinez made a fine catch in right field while running into the wall in the third.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Holt left with a bruised knee. ... LHP Drew Pomeranz (left biceps tendinitis) is expected to return Tuesday at Baltimore. ... Manager Alex Cora said 3B Rafael Devers (left shoulder inflammation) will be back and part of the roster Saturday.

Tigers: Detroit put RHP Michael Fulmer on the disabled list before the game with a left oblique strain, and Gardenhire said Fulmer will be "out for a while." OF Leonys Martin (left hamstring strain) returned from the DL and started.

UP NEXT

Boston LHP Brian Johnson (1-2) takes the mound Saturday night against Detroit RHP Mike Fiers (6-6).

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