Red Sox

Pitching is Dombrowski's 'primary focus' in offseason


Pitching is Dombrowski's 'primary focus' in offseason

BOSTON -- Dave Dombrowski only watched the 2015 Red Sox for the final five weeks.

But that was plenty of time to see what the team needs -- and doesn't need -- to contend in 2016.

"First and foremost,'' said Dombrowski, "we've talked about trying to improve our pitching staff -- our starters and our bullpen. That will be the primary focus we go after. Those are areas we want to improve. The rest of the club is pretty well set.''

Indeed, the outfield seems taken care of with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo. David Ortiz returns at DH. Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts represent the middle infield and Pablo Sandoval returns at third base.

The catching position has plenty of candidates, with Christian Vazquez having undergone Tommy John surgery, joining Blake Swihart and Ryan Hanigan.

Only first base - where the Sox hope that Hanley Ramirez can transition -- seems at all unsettled.

The Sox have seven starters under control, including Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens and Steven Wright.

"Our depth in starting pitching is pretty good,'' said Dombrowski. "I don't think the back end of our rotation is going to be the difficult part. When I say 'back end,'' I mean (Nos.) 3-4-5 -- Porcello, Miley, Kelly. We saw Owens, he pitched well. We had Rodriguez and he can take that step forward at any point.

"So I don't think it's the depth, as much as you're looking for that one guy who can maybe be your horse, if you can get him.''

The ''if you can get him'' is, of course, the tricky part.

There are a handful of intriguing free agent starters, including David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann and, should he elect to opt out of his current deal with the Dodgers, Zack Greinke.

"There's definitely more starting pitchers available (on the free agent market) than there is bullpen, as far as closers are concerned,'' said Dombrowski.

"How that affects us, I'm not really sure. But there are many more starting pitchers available in free agency than there are bullpen guys. So I'm sure that will come into play at some point.''

But Red Sox ownership is known to oppose long-term deals for free agent starters in their 30s, citing the inefficiency of such contracts.

If the Sox want to land a true front-of-the-rotation starter, however, than they may have to swallow hard and sign a big check.

"I think you're much more apt to be in a position where the availability of what you're looking to acquire is out there in free agency'' said Dombrowski. "Now can you do it? What's the cost of making a trade? Those conversations are just starting.''

Dealing for potential No. 1's isn't easy, or cheap. The Sox would need to package multiple high-end prospects -- and perhaps throw in a tested major-league starter like Kelly or Miley -- to pull off such a trade.

Past the rotation issues, Dombrowski's biggest challenge may come in reconfiguring the bullpen.

He hinted that he wants other closing options, with 41-year-old closer Koji Uehara set to return, but coming off a broken wrist that cut short his season in the final month.

"People have told me that he can fit different roles,'' said Dombrowski of Uehara. "But you also feel comfortable that he can close games at this point in his career. I would hope that we could find somebody else to help in that regard.''

The trend in the game has certainly shifted toward power arms in the bullpen. A number of contending teams boast multiple relievers who can throw 95 mph-plus, but among the current Red Sox, only Junichi Tazawa fits that criteria.

"I love hard throwers,'' said Dombrowski. "But I love hard throwers who get people out. It's a situation where (I would advocate) sort of just a mixture of getting the best guys out there to get the job done. Where that's going to take us, I don't know. I'm open to trades; I'm open to free agency; I'm open to hard-throwers.''

"Ideally, you want an arm out there that could be a power arm in some role, to get a strikeout at a key time for you.''

Before Dombrowski was brought in to the organization. former GM Ben Cherington had trade discussions about Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman and San Diego's Craig Kimbrell.

It's possible that either might be again made available this winter.

Michael Chavis bolsters AL Rookie of the Year case in latest Red Sox win

Michael Chavis bolsters AL Rookie of the Year case in latest Red Sox win

Dustin Pedroia was the last Boston Red Sox player to win American League Rookie of the Year in 2007, and Michael Chavis is doing his best to potentially join the veteran second baseman among the award's winners.

Chavis blasted a grand slam in Boston's 10-8 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Monday night, becoming the first Red Sox rookie to do it since Mookie Betts in 2014. 

The 23-year-old first baseman now leads AL rookies with 52 RBI. Among AL rookies, Chavis' 16 home runs rank tied for second, his 73 hits rank second, his 40 runs are tied for first, his 27 walks are tied for second, his .330 on-base percentage ranks second and his 1.1 WAR ranks third.

Chavis, overall, is hitting .259 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI in 282 at-bats over 73 games. This is a pretty good stat line for a player with no Major League Baseball experience before 2019.

Chavis has plenty of competition for AL Rookie of the Year. Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe and Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher John Means are the two favorites. But if Chavis is able to remain a key part of the Red Sox lineup on a consistent basis, he should be among the top candidates for the award when the regular season concludes, especially if his performance helps Boston earn a postseason berth.

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Xander Bogaerts joins Hall of Famers as hot streak hits historic level

Xander Bogaerts joins Hall of Famers as hot streak hits historic level

The Boston Red Sox have won five of their last seven games despite some less-than-stellar pitching.

And they have Xander Bogaerts in large part to thank.

Bogaerts stayed scorching hot Monday night, going 3-for-5 with one RBI and two runs scored to help the Red Sox defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 10-8 at Fenway Park.

With that performance, the Sox shortstop now has recorded at least one hit, one RBI and one run scored in seven consecutive games. That puts Bogaerts in some very elite company.

Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Jimmie Foxx and Joe Cronin all have their numbers retired at Fenway Park and are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, while Troy O'Leary was a solid outfielder for Boston in the late 1990s.

Bogaerts still has four games to go to catch Williams (the Chicago Cubs' Ray Grimes owns the MLB record of 17 consecutive games with an RBI) but he's still put up some eye-popping numbers of late.

The 26-year-old has amassed 12 hits in that seven-game span to raise his batting average to .307 while adding 12 RBIs and four home runs since July 4.

Bogaerts has been Boston's best hitter in a lineup with plenty of big bats as he continues to earn every dollar of his recent contract extension.

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