Red Sox

Levine: E-Rod could save us from spring of discontent

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Levine: E-Rod could save us from spring of discontent

Spring 2015 officially began on March 20, and since then there hasn’t been too much to cheer for in Boston sports. In fact, in a most depressing turn, the highlight of the spring was probably the Celtics getting swept in the playoffs — because at least they made the playoffs. Other than that, this season has featured an overdose on Deflategate, the Bruins bland GM search and the Red Sox testing the limits of society’s patience for baseball.

To this point, it’s not so much that the Sox have played poorly — even though they have — it’s that they’ve done so in the most frustratingly unspectacular fashion. They have the American League’s second-worst run differential; they rank 11th in the AL in runs scored; they’re one of only four teams in the majors with an ERA above 4.40. This is a team that was supposed to be fueled by depth and consistency in the starting rotation and a hard-hitting, fever-inducing line-up. Instead, they might as well be sponsored by Ambien. David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval look old and/or injured and/or slow. Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts show flashes, but still haven’t broken through. Dustin Pedroia has been great, and Mike Napoli is on a tear, but in general, these have been your Blahston Red Sox. Nothing to see here. Feel free to plan your summer around not having to be in front of the TV.

Or, if the Sox send Eduardo Rodriguez back to Pawtucket this afternoon, feel free to throw that TV right out the window. And incite a coup on Yawkey Way. And hop on a flight to Arlington, Texas, march straight into the visiting clubhouse and smack John Farrell across the face with a white glove. That’s because Eduardo Rodriguez is the hero that Boston needs and deserves right now, and we can’t let anything stand in the way.

And OK, maybe that’s an overreaction, but if you watched Rodriguez last night in Texas, you woke up this morning feeling something that you haven’t felt in a long time with these Red Sox. Hope. Inspiration. In the first start of his major league career, the 22-year-old Rodriguez delivered the best start of Boston’s season. Over 7 2/3 scoreless innings, he worked confidently, and even better, he worked quickly. He had the Rangers’ high-powered offense seeing stars. Of course, it was just one start, but for a kid who came into the night already having been compared to Johan Santana and a harder-throwing Andy Pettite, Rodriguez’s debut was everything that the Sox could have hoped for, and everything that they need. It was a vey real injection of optimism and excitement for a team and a fan base that’s teetering on life support. It was a reason to look ahead in the schedule, count out five games, and think: “OK, so next Tuesday at Fenway would be Rodriguez’s next start — better make sure I’m around to watch.”

When’s the last time any Red Sox pitcher made you feel that way?

From the beginning, the plan was for last night to only be a spot start for Eduardo Rodriguez — a quick cup of coffee to spell the rotation before heading back to Pawtucket to prep himself for his real chance. But come on. The plans have changed. They have to. They need to. Rodriguez might not be the best starting pitcher in the Sox rotation, but he at least deserves the opportunity to prove that. The fans deserve the opportunity to watch that.

In the end, Rodriguez might not save the Red Sox season, but he just might save this horrible spring.

 

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

The transactions came in quick succession as the winter meetings wrapped on Thursday in San Diego. First, the Red Sox selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. A couple of hours later, they inked infielder Jose Peraza to a one-year, $3 million deal.

Both are utility infielders, and their arrivals increase the likelihood that we'll be saying goodbye to Brock Holt this winter. 

From a bottom-line perspective, it's hard to argue. Holt turns 32 in June, has battled injuries the past four years and should make more than $3 million annually on a multi-year deal. The Red Sox need to get younger and cheaper, and that includes the bench.

If this is it, though, Holt deserves more of a sendoff than a line in the transaction wire, because his impact on the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the community far outstripped his modest 5-foot-10 frame.

From high school (where he barely broke 100 pounds as a freshman) to junior college to Rice University to the major leagues, Holt beat long odds each step of the way. That a throw-in acquired with Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan before the 2013 season could earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team defied reason. That the same player would hit for the cycle not once, but twice -- including in the postseason -- while winning two World Series and becoming a gritty heart-and-soul fan favorite, let's just say guys hit that lottery maybe once in a generation.

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"I know and I've kind of gotten a taste of it coming here that certain players just really seem to bond with the fan base," said new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. "He's certainly been one of those. That's not something that's lost on any of us."

Holt brought a fun-loving energy to a clubhouse that needed it in good times and bad. Boston can be a meat grinder even when things are going well, and supporting players who take the edge off are essential. Kevin Millar mastered that role in 2004, while Jonny Gomes followed suit in 2013. That was Holt's job, too, whether he was serving as Andrew Benintendi's All-Star publicist, re-christening the 10th month on the calendar as Brocktober, or wearing a Cobra Kai-inspired headband around the locker room that others soon copied.

Holt had a knack for cracking up his teammates. After Mitch Moreland's three-run homer delivered the team its first win of 2019 in Seattle, Holt sauntered past Moreland in the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, gave it a lick, and said, "Hey Mitch, my mom says, 'Way to go,'" and then just walked out. (His mom later confirmed this account on Twitter).

He famously asked a shorts-wearing Bill Belichick if he was, "going to put some pants on," before facing the Packers on a cold October night in 2018 when the Red Sox were honored by the Patriots as World Series champions.

The night he completed the first cycle in postseason history with a ninth-inning home run to complete a rout of the Yankees, the megawatt smile on Holt's face as he rounded third and returned to the dugout could've powered the sun.

Holt's joyful persona extended to his toddler son, Griff, a glasses-clad Instagram star who developed a cult following for giggling while raiding a box of Life Cereal in the pantry, or pointing at a billboard of David Ortiz and exclaiming, "Big Papi!" or hitting what he called, "Big bomb!" with an oversized whiffle ball bat.

Holt's many viral moments with his son became all the more poignant when viewed through the lens of his tireless devotion to children's causes. He's a four-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee for community service, and he routinely leads the Red Sox in charitable appearances. He served as Jimmy Fund captain for the past five years, and his Brock Stars ticket program brought a Jimmy Fund patient to every Tuesday home game for batting practice. Director of community relations Sarah Narracci has long referred to Holt as her "go-to guy" who never says no.

"He has a great heart," manager Alex Cora said when Holt was nominated for this year's Clemente award, and if this is indeed the end of Holt's Red Sox career, he'll leave an outsized legacy that "5-10, 180" doesn't begin to capture.

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MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

Martin Perez is no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But the veteran left-hander reportedly drew a good amount of interest in free agency before the Boston Red Sox scooped him up.

A "handful" of MLB teams, including the American League East foe Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, pursued Perez before the Red Sox agreed to terms with him Thursday night, MassLive's Chris Cotillo reported.

Perez's surface-level stats aren't very inspiring: The 28-year-old posted a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins last season after the worst campaign of his career with the Texas Rangers in 2018 (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP).

But what Perez does provide is durability: He's appeared in at least 32 games in three of the last four seasons, topping 165 innings in each of those campaigns.

Durable left-handers aren't a dime a dozen in MLB, which explains why Perez drew interest from several clubs looking to fill out their rotations entering 2020.

The Venezuela native should be a rotation-filler in Boston, projecting as Boston's fifth starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi with Rick Porcello leaving to join the New York Mets in free agency.

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