'What we learned': Red Sox' 8-7 win over White Sox
BOSTON - Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 8-7 win over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. . .
1) The trustworthy options in the bullpen keep decreasing
Koji Uehara, who served up batting practice Wednesday night, was already unreliable with an ERA of 4.78 and more homers allowed in less than half a season than all of last year. Carson Smith is gone until next June, at the earliest. And Junichi Tazawa was pounded for a three-run homer by Jose Abreu, another bit of evidence that he isn't what he once was.
That leaves Craig Kimbrel and a cast of question marks.
Heath Hembree made his case Thursday with a strong outing which included pitching himself out of trouble in the eighth. But the Sox are concerned with the difficulties he's had against lefty hitters. Matt Barnes is largely unproven in high-leverage situations.
Robbie Ross Jr. has improved velocity, but he, too, is something of an unknown in those situations.
All of which reinforces the notion that Dave Dombrowski must make the bullpen his No. 1 priority. If Eduardo Rodriguez has some things figured out, the Sox could get by with a rotation of David Price, Steven Wright, Rodriguez, Rick Porcello and Clay Buchholz - especially if/when the offense starts to produce again the way it did in the first two months.
What they can't do is win with the bullpen as currently constituted. That's Job 1, period.
2) Left field is now essentially vacant
First, Brock Holt went on the DL with a concussion. Then, Blake Swihart ripped up his ankle. Then, Rusney Castillo was placed on outright waivers.
And now, Chris Young is on the DL with a strained hamstring. This could take a while, too, since Young heard a pop, and his reaction was not unlike the one displayed by Dustin Pedroia last season. Pedroia, you'll recall, ended up missing almost half the season.
Where do the Red Sox turn? Holt is still another week from being ready to return. Swihart is weeks (plural) away. And Castillo, having been taken off the 40-man roster, isn't eligible unless the Red Sox want to go through the trouble of putting him back on and again having his salary count against the CBT (competitive balance tax).
What to do? Ryan LaMarre isn't the answer, even in the short term. Perhaps Bryce Brentz could get the call. But Brentz has had difficulty making contact even at the Triple A level, making it unlikely that he can contribute much offensively at the major league level.
Travis Shaw could conceivably play there for the short-term while Deven Marrero and Marco Hernandez job share at third, but that's not a good response, given Shaw's lack of experience there and his own hobbled lower leg restricting his mobility.
Just when Dave Dombrowski thought he could concentrate on pitching and pitching alone at the trade deadline, another black hole has opened for him to fill.
3) Enough. With. The. Bunting
Though he doesn't use the bunt often, John Farrell gives his players -- some of them, anyway -- the latitude to bunt on their own. This needs to stop. Yesterday.
A few weeks ago, the Red Sox had a starting pitcher on the ropes and runners at first and second and no out. Xander Bogaerts bunted, poorly, and the Sox saw their lead runner cut down on the bases at third.
There have been other instances, too, when players have made ill-advised decisions to bunt at inopportune times.
It happened again Thursday when Jackie Bradley Jr. took it upon himself to try to drag a bunt to the right of the pitcher's mound. Except he didn't execute it well, hitting the bunt on a line, which Brett Lawrie managed to glove, taking the momentum away from the Red Sox.
At a time when the Sox have been scuffling to score runs and aren't able to deliver the big hit with men in scoring position, you can understand some players thinking that a bunt could be a nice surprise weapon.
Most times, however, it's merely giving away an out. And even when the timing seems right, too many players seem incapable of executing the bunt properly -- which is a whole other topic for another day.
For now, Farrell needs to have an edict: no bunting unless otherwise instructed.