Red Sox

Agent asks Red Sox to trade Blake Swihart

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Agent asks Red Sox to trade Blake Swihart

BOSTON — Blake Swihart has spent all season in a virtually non-existent role, one that Alex Cora and Dave Dombrowski both indicated on Tuesday will not change barring injury to Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez. Swihart's agent, Brodie Scoffield of The Legacy Agency, sees a situation that's been unproductive for both the player and the team, and has asked the Red Sox to trade Swihart.

“Yes. We’ve had conversations with the team, and they’re aware of how we feel,” Scoffield told NBC Sports Boston on Tuesday night. “Blake’s in a really difficult position. We’ve got a switch-hitter, offensive impact player, and his bat deserves a chance to be in the lineup. 

“Blake’s not the type of player that’s going to ask or demand a trade [on his own]. He’s focused on what’s in front of him and happy having a positive impact on the team and the situation at hand. That being said, I don’t think we’re building any type of trade value, nor helping him progress as a ballplayer, nor is the team really being served by him in this role.”

Swihart earlier in May said he would leave the trade topic to Scoffield. Scoffield declined to comment at the time. Now, with more than a quarter of the season completed and Swihart still serving no purpose other than “protection for us as a third catcher,” as Dombrowski put it Tuesday, Scoffield is pushing for change.

"With Dustin Pedroia returning, it seems now would be the time to make a move with Blake," Scoffield said.

Reached by email Wednesday, Dombrowski did not let on how he plans to handle this situation.

"Always listen to the player/agent and understand their desire to play," Dombrowski wrote. "However, do not have any set policy about this type of request."

With Carson Smith hurt, the Sox have an obvious need for a reliever that Swihart could help them fill as a trade piece.

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The way the season has unfolded has been an about-face from the potential super-utility role Cora publicly described for Swihart in spring training. Leon and Vazquez, meanwhile, have given the Sox the worst offensive production at catcher in the majors, but even a single start for Swihart behind the plate has not materialized.

“The plan is very much like it is right now,” Dombrowski said Tuesday, prior to Scoffield's comments. “He is a protection for us as a third catcher. Really, I know people keep writing about that too, but the reality is, your 25th player usually doesn’t play that much anyway, really. It’s more an unfortunate situation I think probably for him, because a lot of times it’s a veteran-type player that fits that role that doesn’t play all that much. And for him, ideally he’d be out there playing on an every day basis, but with the rules and the optional status, we just don’t have that luxury with him. So he’s in a spot where he contributes. 

“He’s a protection, third catcher for us. He gets in the lineup every so often, and it’s just up to him to be in a position to try to do the best he can. It’s a tough role, we know it. But it’s not like if we went and moved him off and put somebody else on that that other person would be playing a great deal. They really wouldn’t be playing at that point."

Swihart, 26, has had four starts at designated hitter, one inning behind the plate, four innings at first base and 19 innings in the outfield. He has not hit well in 32 plate appearances: 4-for-29, or a .138 average. But he cannot be expected to produce with scarce opportunity.

The only merit to the status quo for the club: they retain Swihart in the organization. Dombrowski’s description of Swihart’s roster spot as one that typically relegates a player to little on-field time is a stretch, particularly on a club where Cora is emphasizing rest and keeping everyone fresh. The Sox theoretically could carry a reliever they would use in Swihart’s place.

The playing time of any player, a “25th man” or otherwise, usually depends on skillset: speed, defense, whatever it may be. But Swihart has barely had a chance to do anything. He has not been asked to pinch hit since April 27. Swihart is often praised for his athleticism, but has not pinch run since April 5.

Vazquez and Leon entered Tuesday with a combined .452 OPS, the worst in the majors. Cora on Tuesday was asked if there is a point where what those two bring defensively is outweighed by their poor hitting.

“We’re scoring a lot of runs still,” Cora said before a 5-3 loss to the A’s. “If we were struggling as a unit offensively, we might think about it, but we’re scoring runs.”

One of Swihart's outs in a rare start Monday had an exit velocity of 108 mph, a harder hit ball in play than Leon has this season, and harder than any in Vazquez's big league career.

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In Fort Myers this spring, Cora made a reference to Astros standout Marwin Gonzalez when talking about Swihart.

“The Marwin Gonzalez’s of the world are good for the manager. They really help you out,” Cora told reporters in mid-March. “With Swi, the way he’s moving around and the way he’s swinging the bat, I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say super utility. But that’s what you envision, like Marwin. He’s good on both sides of the ball, so you can move him around and your lineup doesn’t suffer and defense stays the same.”

Said Scoffield: “We’re talking about Blake being the Marwin Gonzalez of the Red Sox. We’re talking about ground balls at second base, we’re taking ground balls at third base, we’re in the outfield, we’re catching. But none of that’s materialized. And so it’s mixed messages. It’s an undefined role for a player that can catch, that can hit, and whose athleticism allows him to move all around the diamond.”

Swihart’s case is a unique one where the player has been particularly agreeable to the team’s needs and requests. But there's no way his lot improves now besides someone being moved or getting hurt. When Swihart sits, he doesn't grow personally or in trade value. Swihart cannot be sent to the minor leagues freely because he is out of options.

A top prospect and first-round draft pick out of high school in 2011, the Red Sox had Swihart move from shortstop to catcher when he entered the organization. They asked him to move to the outfield in 2016 when catching didn’t work out immediately at the big league level, and Swihart got hurt playing the outfield. He wasn’t fully himself in 2017 until winter ball, when he hit well. In spring training this year he drew a lot of attention with early success. He's been working hard at multiple positions during the season, including at catcher. But his only starts have come at DH.

Dombrowski hinted that a move with Swihart could indeed come when Pedroia returns in roughly two weeks. But that's not a guarantee. If the Sox make room for Pedroia in a way that doesn't directly involve Swihart — say Eduardo Nunez happens to go to the disabled list — Swihart could find himself in the same situation. Sitting around, waiting for the very slim chance he gets to play.

“With the flexibility that we have, with [Brock] Holt and Nunez both, now when Pedey comes back — which I anticipate sometime in a couple weeks, I don’t have the exact time, but he’s making significant strides — we’ll have to make a move at that point,” Dombrowski said. “And we’ll see that, where it takes us."

Scoffield hopes the Red Sox agree the moment should take Swihart to greener pastures, somewhere he has a chance to help his team.

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Red Sox offense quiet again in 4-1 loss to Twins

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Red Sox offense quiet again in 4-1 loss to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Facing a run of starting pitching that included two-time Cy Young winner Corey KluberCarlos CarrascoChris Sale and David Price, the Minnesota Twins could have seen their fledgling playoff hopes fade toward another long summer.

Instead, Minnesota's been rejuvenated by beating some of the best pitching in the American League.

Robbie Grossman and Max Kepler homered to back an effective start by Lance Lynn as the Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Grossman led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run and Kepler added a two-run shot off Boston starter David Price (8-5). Brian Dozier added a pair of doubles to help Minnesota win for the fourth time in five games.

The Twins beat Kluber and Carrasco in taking two of three games at Cleveland before returning home and winning the first two games against the Red Sox with Sale and Price starting.

"Yeah, after the game when you acknowledge who's on the mound," Kepler said when asked if Minnesota can take something away from beating the recent competition. "I feel like we go into games and we're kind of blind to who's on the mound and we grind together, which is awesome about this team."

Lynn (5-5) again struggled with command, issuing five walks, but he surrendered just one unearned run and three hits in five innings.

Four relievers combined for four scoreless innings, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters, with Fernando Rodney securing his 16th save in 19 chances.

"If you can find a way to battle every at-bat, wait for something to break, try to build pitch-count when you can, and if you're holding them down as our starting pitching has been doing, you know you've got a chance late," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.

The Red Sox were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and are 2 for 22 in the first two games of the series. They've stranded 18 baserunners in the two games and lost for the fourth time in five games.

"Pitching-wise, we've been great," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "I'll take that. If we keep throwing the ball the way we've been throwing we're going to win a lot of ballgames. We know the offense, you know how it is."

Lynn has had an uncharacteristic wild season in his first year with the Twins. He walked at least five batters for the fifth time in 14 starts. But the veteran right-hander has limited the damage and allowed less than three runs in five of his last six starts.

"Command was really not there," Lynn said. "But I was able to make pitches with runners in scoring position and not give up a bunch of runs. With this offense we have, you keep them to one run, we're going to win the games more times than not."

Boston's lone run scored in the second as Lynn couldn't catch first baseman Logan Morrison's high throw to first for the final out of the inning, allowing Mitch Moreland to score from second base on an error charged to Morrison.

"We've been through stuff like this in the past, even this year early on," Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said of the offense. "The pitching has been doing great. It's up to us now to come through."

PAYING THE PRICE

Price was hurt by the home run but allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk. He had given up just one home run in his previous five starts and seven total in 14 starts this season coming into Wednesday.

"Not so much that he could hit it like he did, but to keep it fair, that's pretty impressive," Price said of Kepler's home run.

SHOWING SIGNS

Dozier had just one extra-base hit in his previous 13 games while hitting .068. His double off the left-field wall in the eighth plated Eddie Rosario.

Kepler hit his first home run in 22 games and the fifth of his eight this season against left-handed pitching. Kepler was hitting .158 over his previous 21 games with just four RBIs.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz is getting closer to having his first throwing session since he went on the 10-day disabled list on June 5 for left biceps tendonitis. Cora said Pomeranz was dealing with soreness in his neck but has recovered.

Twins: Molitor said OF Byron Buxton's first rehab game in Triple-A on Tuesday went well and that his left foot with the broken toe is "in a good place and we haven't said that for about seven weeks or so." There is no timetable for Buxton's return.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (8-3, 3.70 ERA) will start the series and road trip finale on Thursday afternoon. Porcello pitched six innings and gave up four runs in a no-decision at Seattle in his last start.

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (2-4, 3.27) counters for Minnesota. Gibson has allowed five total runs over his last four starts, spanning 26 2/3 innings.

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Drellich: Every move Red Sox, Yankees make has new meaning

Drellich: Every move Red Sox, Yankees make has new meaning

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has a newfound sense of urgency. A feeling that every move counts and will count, be it at the trade deadline in a month and a half, or when Alex Cora determines his second baseman on a nightly basis.

It's not because these franchises hate each other, because of their steep history. It's because they actually have to best the other, or suffer an unwelcome consequence.

Unlike the early 2000s, both teams cannot enter the playoffs on equal footing. A second-place finish in the American League East will sting. Participating in the Wild Card game for the right to move on to the five-game Division Series will be a stomach-turning experience for one of these two teams.

The upshot presently: even as the Sox and Yanks play teams that are uninspiring, and there are plenty such clubs, there is reason for fans and players alike to stay intently focused. (In the midst of a 162-game season, there will be lapses for everyone.) There is reason to care, in fact, if the ideal lineup or pinch-hit decision is made by Alex Cora, at every juncture. There is reason to care about whether Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has sufficiently helped rebuild the farm system, because it’s a matter of depth options now and via trade.

The Sox can have the best record in the majors in June, or be one win off the pace-setters, and the smallest of details will still matter. “They’re great,” doesn’t cut it. “Is this move optimal to beat the Yankees, the team that can relegate the Sox to a one-game playoff scenario?” is the question to be answered

As trade season arrives, the concept of the marginal win is out the window for both clubs. Or it should be. In divisions where one team is clearly superior, the need to add by trade isn’t always so clear. What’s the difference between 93 wins and 95 wins if you’re heading to the Division Series either way? Is the slight upgrade worth whatever you’re giving up?

The playoffs are always a crapshoot. But the Sox and Yanks are playing to avoid the biggest crapshoot of all in the Wild Card.

Passion between fan bases in the regular season wasn’t lacking 15 years ago. It was greater, obviously. But for different reasons. Second place in the division was usually a matter of bragging rights, rather than actual reward or worthiness. 

We’ve returned to a world where the Sox and Yanks are clearly better than virtually everyone. Were the rest of the AL stronger this year, the Wild Card could be a blessing for the Sox or the Yanks — a chance to make a postseason run that did not previously exist when there were four playoff teams instead of five. 

But the present landscape shows three powerhouses, and two of them happen to be classic rivals in the East. What they do before October means more now than it used to.

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