Red Sox

Drellich: Pedroia, Thornburg uncertainties should impact Red Sox trade mindset

Drellich: Pedroia, Thornburg uncertainties should impact Red Sox trade mindset

BOSTON — As a trade deadline approaches where the Red Sox cannot afford to spend much in dollars or prospects, a handful of tricky health situations loom over the team. The safest approach the Sox can take is one where they assume Dustin Pedroia and Tyler Thornburg are bonus additions, not essentials for the 2018 team’s division run. Where Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski operates as though that duo, both coming back from surgery, will be limited the rest of the season.

In actuality, both may contribute near daily at a high level after both underwent surgeries with particularly complex rehab processes. But it’s a matter of caution and contingency planning, a choice in perspective and evaluation, as the non-waiver deadline approaches.

Thornburg is closer to returning than Pedroia. The former is set for two innings on Wednesday with Double-A Portland and then another appearance on Saturday at Triple-A Pawtucket. But even if Thornburg has turned a corner physically, the Sox shouldn’t assume trouble is only in the rearview.

The Sox already have their eye on bullpen help and a right-handed hitting infielder. The question seems to be whether that right-handed bat can handle second base, or fits as more of a corner infield type. Brock Holt has been very good for the Sox, but is a lefthanded hitter who has barely played vs. southpaw pitching. 

Dombrowski on Tuesday gave his outlook on the deadline in regards to Pedroia in an interview with NESN.

“Well, it’ll factor into it, but I can’t say that it’ll factor largely into it,” Dombrowski said. “Because I think when you look at our club, one thing we’re looking for is some improved production vs. left-hand pitching. So of course Dustin can help that, he’s a righthand hitter, he’s a good hitter. Some of our left-handed hitters can be better in that regard too and some of our righthand hitters can be better in that regard. We have been a little bit here recently in a couple of games. So that could influence it, but I can’t say that it would influence it in a major proportion.

“Because at second base, I’d feel comfortable if you said Holt and Nunez are playing there for us the rest of the year. Maybe they’re not Dustin, but they can still do a solid job. Holt has really played well I think in this year, and Nunez has never played second base this much. He continues to get better from I think an offensive perspective. He will [continue to.] He has not been the offensive performer he was last year. But I think between the two of them they can handle it very well.”

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Pedroia’s still in a waiting game, for consecutive days without knee soreness. A baseball source said Tuesday “it’s simply a matter of time” and that they fully expect Pedroia back this season.

“He’s had good days, he comes in and feels great,” Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday of Pedroia. “But then the next day is not a great day, so we’re looking for him to have three or four days in a row where he feels good. It’s frustrating for everybody, especially for him, but at the same time we’ll take our time. … Hopefully when he comes back, it’s for the rest of the season. And also I think we have to make sure he’s OK the rest of his career.

“He’ll probably, when we go to New York [at the end of the week], he’ll stop by and go see him [his knee surgeon] again and go from there. As of now, everything that he’s doing, everything that we’re doing in the training room, in the weight room, is according to the doctors the things that we have to do."

Starting pitcher Steven Wright went to the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday. Wright’s left knee, which was operated on in similar fashion to Pedroia’s left knee, was still in a rehab process. Just because he was pitching at a high level did not mean that the surgery he underwent in May 2017 and its recovery were entirely behind him.

Wright and Pedroia are in similarly unpredictable situations. But the Sox’ rotation depth is stronger than their depth on the infield or in the bullpen. The priorities the Sox have at the trade deadline probably should not shift to a starting pitcher because of the Wright news alone. There’s a front four of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez, with a reasonable hope that one or both of Drew Pomeranz or Wright will be able to help down the stretch from the back-end.

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Mookie Betts blasts desperately needed homer, but what really mattered was his reaction

Mookie Betts blasts desperately needed homer, but what really mattered was his reaction

The swing looked vintage. The fist pump around the bases felt like a dam bursting.

But for my money, the most encouraging aspect of Mookie Betts' go-ahead homer to center on Friday night was his ear-to-ear grin in the dugout.

Sounds corny, but we haven't seen much in the way of happiness from Betts this season. Mired in a slump that dates to the 2018 postseason, the defending MVP has spent April trying to find his way, with limited success.

On Friday night, however, he showed signs of life. Not coincidentally, so did the Red Sox, taking an embarrassingly important 6-4 victory from the division-leading Rays in the opener of a three-game series at Tropicana Field.

After grounding into a double play as the second batter of the game and seeing his average fall to .197, Betts found his groove. He doubled to left leading off the sixth and scored on a J.D. Martinez single. Then he unloaded on a 97-mph, dead-red fastball in the eighth of off Diego Castillo to break a 4-4 tie, slamming it 424 feet to center.

Betts pumped his fist once around second, once as he neared third, and once again as he turned towards home plate. He may not have exhibited the exuberance of, say, his joyous race around the bases after his marathon at-bat grand slam against J.A. Happ last year, but he at least looked more like himself in the dugout.

He ran the high-five gauntlet before breaking into a broad smile, which he repeated moments later at the bat rack.

That's the Betts the Red Sox want to see. That's the Betts the Red Sox need to see. The season hasn't started the way anyone wants, but it's not like it's over.

"When you look around in big league stadiums and there's a lot of -- look everywhere, there's the average," manager Alex Cora told reporters in Florida, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. "Back in the day, you didn't have that. You only learned because of the newspaper. Now it's all over the place. Although you don't want to look, it's there for you. It's not cool when you're struggling.

"It's hard to smile when you're struggling. But he prepares, gives 100 percent regardless of the results. Sometimes, yeah, he gets down, because he knows what he can do. But just like the team, it's a long season. Still got plenty of games. Good to see him doing that."

Betts takes his struggles very seriously, which is why he termed his play unacceptable last week. The concept of a short memory doesn't always apply. He wears it when things aren't going well, and he'll work himself to exhaustion trying to make it right.

He needed to feel rewarded.

"He keeps working," Cora told reporters. "He was hitting .380 or .400 last year and kept working the same way. He tries to be the best out there. He showed up today and worked his swing and didn't start the right way, but the double, then he crushed that pitch. It's good to see him contribute."

Cora has insisted for the last week that a hitter as talented as Betts can turn things around with just one swing. Who knows? 
Maybe this was the one.

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Highlights from the Red Sox' 6-4 win over the Rays

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USA TODAY Sports photo

Highlights from the Red Sox' 6-4 win over the Rays

FINAL SCORE: Red Sox 6, Rays 4

IN BRIEF: Back-to-back home runs from Mookie Betts and Mitch Moreland in the eighth inning propelled the Red Sox over the Rays on Friday night.  BOX SCORE

RED SOX RECORD: 7-13

HIGHLIGHTS:

2nd inning
Brandon Lowe solo home run (TB 1-0)

3rd inning
Avisail Garcia RBI triple (TB 2-0)

5th inning
Rafael Devers RBI double (TB 2-1)

Christian Vazquez two-run home run (BOS 3-2)

6th inning
J.D. Martinez RBI single (BOS 4-2)

Daniel Robertson two-run double (4-4)

8th inning
Mookie Betts solo home run (BOS 5-4)

Mitch Moreland solo home run (BOS 6-4)

UP NEXT:
At Rays, Saturday, 6:10 p.m., NESN
At Rays, Sunday, 2:05 p.m., NESN
vs Tigers, Monday, 7:10 p.m., NESN

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