Red Sox

Red Sox' Heath Hembree explains why he didn't pitch in ninth inning Thursday, says he'll be fine

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Red Sox' Heath Hembree explains why he didn't pitch in ninth inning Thursday, says he'll be fine

BOSTON -- When the ninth inning of Thursday's 7-6 victory over the Rangers rolled around, Red Sox manager Alex Cora summoned a perplexing name.

Josh Smith?

With one of Cora's most effective recent relievers sitting in the bullpen, speculation immediately turned to why Heath Hembree didn't get the call. It turns out the right-hander had felt tightness in his forearm while warming in the seventh and both player and team decided to shut things down for the night.

Smith hit the first batter he faced before settling down to the record the first save of his career. As for Hembree, he sounded cautiously optimistic he won't be sidelined long.

"I'm not worried about it at all," he said. "It feels like a soreness, but it was a little bit more than that. I've pitched with aches and stuff before, but it was just a little bit more than that. It was a situation that felt best not pitching anymore tonight."

Hembree has been one of the team's most effective relievers since changing his pitch mix in late April to feature his fastball more and his slider less. Since April 25, he has cut his ERA more than in half, from 5.56 to 2.51. He's 1-0 in his last 20 games with a miniscule 0.52 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 17.1 innings.

He said he hadn't experienced any soreness until the game. He met with doctors afterwards and insisted everything is fine, but also hedged a little bit.

"Nobody's worried, I'm not worried," he said. "We'll see tomorrow. I know the difference in, I guess, a good pain and a bad pain. I guess you could say it was more of a good pain, but it was something that wasn't worth pushing any further than we did."

Could he miss a few games?

"We'll see how it is (Friday)," he said. "I might wake up tomorrow and it feels great and I'm in there tomorrow, but we're just going to kind of see how it goes day by day right now."

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Triston Casas one potential gem in a rebuilding Red Sox farm system

Triston Casas one potential gem in a rebuilding Red Sox farm system

BOSTON -- The next generation of Red Sox prospects isn't nearly as deep or talented as the one that preceded it, with perhaps one exception -- Triston Casas.

The imposing slugger was just named Red Sox minor league player of the year by Baseball America after slamming 20 homers with 81 RBIs in 120 games, all but two of them at Low-A Greenville.

A first-round pick in 2018, Casas was limited to just two games last year by a thumb injury. The 6-foot-4, 238-pounder was drafted out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla. on his power potential, and on that front he certainly delivered in 2019.

Casas's 19 homers not only tied for third in the South Atlantic League (he added his 20th with High-A Salem), but the 19-year-old was the only teenager to crack the top 10. Such outstanding production at such a young age, against older, college-tested competition, bodes well for his future.

"I think it went really well," Casas said at Fenway Park on Thursday, where he was honored as the organization's minor league offensive player of the year. "I feel like I learned a lot in this first season and I'm looking forward to the next one."

Casas showed legitimate growth from the beginning of his full-season debut to the end. He opened the season by hitting just .180 (9 for 50) in his first 15 games before heating up in May. He finished at .256 with a .350 on base percentage and an .830 OPS. He credited the turnaround to tweaks.

"Not an overhaul or anything," he said. "As the information gets a little bit better and the hitting coaches are able to relay a little more to me, we tweaked a few things, but nothing too drastic. It was a lot of things. It was set up, positioning in the box, a little bit of swing path and changing my leg kick a little bit to try time up the pitching a little bit better.

"I feel like the adjustment I made from high school to where I am right now is pretty drastic, but so is the pitching. I feel like throughout the year I made a lot of adjustments. It's led me to where I am today. I'm pretty happy where I'm at, but I'd like to get into the offseason and try to perfect it."

And what might that mean? While Casas possesses advanced strike zone recognition, he also struck out 118 times and will need to increase his contact rate.

"Strikeouts are a part of the game," he said. "I had more strikeouts than hits this year, which is something I need to improve on, but it's something I'm not really concerned with. It's part of the game. I'll keep swinging and doing my game."

When the season started, Casas was only a year removed from his high school schedule, which -- even in baseball-intense Florida -- comes nowhere close to the demands of pro ball. But all things considered, he held up well.

"Man, definitely the quick turnarounds," he said. "Coming from high school, you play two or three times a week, maybe. It's pretty different from getting an off-day every two weeks. That's the biggest thing, understanding you get a lot of at-bats, quick turnarounds, an opportunity to fail. It's just a matter of coming out and putting yesterday behind you and putting your best foot forward the next day."

Drafted as a third baseman, Casas is built more like a first baseman already, and evaluators expect that's where he'll settle. The Red Sox seem to agree, which is why he played 94 games at first base and only eight at third.

The fact that he's already built like Red Sox All-Star J.D. Martinez makes it easy to envision him one day calling Fenway Park home. Thursday's visit reminded him of what the future might hold.

"This never gets old, coming to Fenway," he said. "After this year, it felt really good."

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Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa remaining with Red Sox

Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa remaining with Red Sox

The Red Sox aren't fully cleaning house of Dave Dombrowski's top lieutenants -- Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa has agreed to remain with the organization, per an industry source. 

La Russa arrived as a special assistant to Dombrowski, but he ingratiated himself to the entire baseball operations department. A constant presence at Fenway Park and a frequent observer on the road, La Russa served not only as a sounding board for manager Alex Cora, but anyone in the organization who wanted to draw on his 56 years of big league experience.

 A three-time World Series champion and four-time Manager of the Year, the 74-year-old La Russa made an effort to get to know even lower-tenured members of the front office, often over dinner. He didn't push his views so much as make himself available, earning respect throughout the organization for both his demeanor and his insight.

The news on La Russa comes one day after the Red Sox parted ways with Frank Wren, one of Dombrowski's top assistants, and a former general manager of the Braves.

The news that the Red Sox were in talks to keep La Russa was first reported by the MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

Is Eduardo Rodriguez the only reason to watch the Sox?>>>

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