Red Sox

Red Sox lineup: Tzu-Wei Lin becomes the latest starter at second base

Red Sox lineup: Tzu-Wei Lin becomes the latest starter at second base

The Boston Red Sox are gearing up for a three-game series against the first-place Tampa Bay Rays. The team is looking to get back on track, but they'll have to do so without most of their top options at second base.

The Red Sox are down three second basemen with Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez, and Brock Holt all on the injured list. As a result, the team will be starting Tzu-Wei Lin at second base. Lin has bounced between the majors and minors for the past few seasons and has posted a .254 average in 122 major league at-bats.

While the Sox called up one of their top prospects, Michael Chavis, on Thursday, he won't be in the lineup.

Eduardo Rodriguez will make his fourth start of the season for the Red Sox. He carries a bloated 7.98 ERA, but he earned a win last time out against the Baltimore Orioles, as he allowed just two runs over 6 2/3 innings. He became the first Sox starter to earn a win with the victory. 

Here's a look at the lineups for both teams as the Red Sox vs. Rays series gets started.

BOSTON RED SOX (6-13)

Andrew Benintendi, LF
Mookie Betts, RF
Mitch Moreland, 1B
J.D. Martinez, DH
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Rafael Devers, 3B
Christian Vazquez, C
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Tzu-Wei Lin, 2B

Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP (1-2, 7.98 ERA)

TAMPA BAY RAYS (14-5)

Yandy Diaz, 1B
Tommy Pham, LF
Austin Meadows, DH
Avisail Garcia, RF
Daniel Robertson, 3B
Guillermo Heredia, CF
Brandon Lowe, 2B
Willy Adames, SS
Michael Perez, C

Ryne Stanek, RHP (0-0, 1.93 ERA)

Rays reaping the rewards of a Derek Lowe/Jason Varitek type deal>>>

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Rooting for John Henry to do right thing and eliminate all Astros from Red Sox GM search

Rooting for John Henry to do right thing and eliminate all Astros from Red Sox GM search

The Red Sox would like to build an organization that rivals the Houston Astros for top-to-bottom talent, smarts, and sustainability.

Here's hoping they look anywhere other than the Astros for the man to run it.

If you've ever wondered what makes Houston a curiously unlikable organization despite an eminently likable roster, let's just say assistant general manager Brandon Taubman ended the suspense during a grotesque display following Saturday's ALCS clincher that was topped only by the organization's appallingly tone deaf series of responses.

As reported by Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated and since confirmed by pretty much everyone in earshot, Taubman picked the champagne-soaked moments after Jose Altuve's dramatic walkoff homer to berate a trio of female reporters over reviled closer Roberto Osuna.

"Thank god we got Osuna," he reportedly yelled in the clubhouse. "I'm so (expletive) glad we got Osuna!"

Additional reporting by NPR has since revealed that Taubman appeared to be directing his malevolence at a journalist wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet who had previously tweeted about that cause after various Osuna outings in 2018.

The Astros had many ways to handle this situation. They made a choice so spectacularly wrong it highlighted a pervasive institutional rot that should disqualify their chief decision-makers from being handed the reins anywhere else.

I hope John Henry is watching.

How did the Astros respond? They dug a trench, manned the howitzers, and defended Taubman like a modern-day Private Ryan, defiantly declaring Apstein's story a fabrication. Taubman was just a victim supporting a player during a difficult interview, they claimed, ludicrously. When that story got Mutomboed by pretty much everyone in the room, they followed with a classic non-apology. "I am sorry if anyone was offended by my actions," Taubman wrote remorselessly, as if that remained a question open to debate.

Such institutional arrogance has defined the Astros for years, however. They're the same organization that drafted California high schooler Brady Aiken with the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft and offered him $6.5 million, only to halve their offer when they saw something they didn't like on his MRI.

Despite cries that they had done Aiken dirty — he ended up refusing to sign and blowing out his elbow at a post-grad academy — the Astros were rewarded, via a careful manipulation of the rules, with the second pick in the 2015 draft, which they used on an LSU third baseman you've heard of named Alex Bregman.

That was bad, but for pure moral bankruptcy, nothing tops the acquisition of Osuna from Toronto last summer. The immensely talented young closer was only available after being suspended 75 games for beating the mother of his 3-year-old. Swell guy, clearly. While most of baseball — including the Red Sox — considered Osuna radioactive, the Astros viewed him as an undervalued asset and pounced for next to nothing, because, hey, winning.

They then intoned about zero-tolerance policies and abhorring domestic violence, outing themselves as amorally transactional. It felt just as gross then as it does today.

Well now the Astros are in the World Series — they lost Game 1 to the Nationals on Tuesday night, praise be — and their executives are sure to be high on the list of anyone with an opening. Someone like, for instance, the Red Sox.

GM Jeff Luhnow has been mentioned as a pie-in-the-sky candidate, and who knows, maybe Taubman would've been on their list, too, though that ship has clearly sailed to waters where women shut up and cheer for the laundry, no matter who's wearing it (and probably before they're made to wash it).

What Henry and Co. must ask themselves is if anyone associated with the signing of Osuna, the defense of Taubman, and even the physical banning of reporters from their clubhouse — as the Astros did to a Detroit journalist who wanted to join a group interview with Justin Verlander — is fit to run the Red Sox.

Taubman's entitled behavior and the team's contemptible response suggest an organization that sees human decency as nothing more than an impediment to winning.

Red Sox players and fans deserve better, so my advice to Henry is this: cross any Astros off your list and go find someone who will kick their ass.

Two paths Sox can take to find their next GM>>>>>

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It's a killer rotation, all right -- Red Sox starters are an albatross, and it's worse than you think

It's a killer rotation, all right -- Red Sox starters are an albatross, and it's worse than you think

They are the three horsemen of a financial apocalypse that is galloping towards the Red Sox on thundering hooves.

We know the team is determined to shed roughly $40 million in payroll from 2018 to drop below $208 million and reset its luxury-tax schedule. To get there will require some unappetizing decisions, like potentially parting ways with both defending MVP Mookie Betts and All-Star slugger J.D. Martinez.

In a perfect world, management would cut from another part of the roster, where price, performance, and reliability are no longer moving in unison. We're talking, of course, about the starting rotation, which is effectively unmovable. We've devoted many GB of cyberspace to the damage the top three pitchers can potentially inflict to both the long- and short-term health of the franchise, but a deeper dive into the numbers suggests the situation is even worse than we thought.

In David Price, Chris Sale, and Nathan Eovaldi, the Red Sox have committed $252 million to the three biggest question marks on their roster. The trio will count for $79 million in each of the next three seasons, including $32 million for Price and $30 million annually for Sale. That led Martinez, after the season finale, to note that Betts was probably a goner because, "you can't pay three guys $30 million."

In a perfect world, the Red Sox would move a starter to free up money for one of their sluggers. But good luck finding takers for any of the above, given the health concerns associated with each.

The Red Sox have already announced they're taking it slow with Sale, who visited Dr. James Andrews in Florida after an August elbow scare. His five-year, $145 million extension begins in 2020, and it wouldn't be shocking if he ends up needing surgery. There's little incentive for the Red Sox to trade him with his value so low or another club to acquire him with his health such an unknown.

Price, with three years and $96 million remaining, has already gone under the knife to remove a cyst from his wrist. He's also lugging off-field issues, thanks to his blowup at Hall of Fame broadcaster Dennis Eckersley, which has damaged his reputation. Any team acquiring him would have to be willing to take on not only some portion of his considerable salary, but also his questionable health and negative attitude. He remains talented, but that's a lot of baggage.

Then there's Eovaldi. The right-hander parlayed a magical two weeks last postseason into a four-year, $68 million contract. He then promptly went under the knife in April to remove loose bodies from his elbow, finishing the season as a glorified opener. October of 2018 sure feels more like the exception than the rule with him.

If all three are healthy and return to form next season, the Red Sox could win the World Series. The more likely path, given their respective ages, workloads, and injury histories, is far less appealing. And those factors are unlikely to improve with the passage of time.

So just how hamstrung are the Red Sox by their rotation? With the luxury tax threshold set to rise to $210 million in 2021 before the collective bargaining agreement expires, they know they'll be devoting 38 percent of their payroll to those three pitchers in 2020 and 37.5 percent in 2021.

Only one other team will pay its pitchers more both next year and beyond, and they're in the World Series. In Max Scherzer ($42.1 million), Stephen Strasburg ($25 million), Patrick Corbin ($19.41 million), and Anibal Sanchez ($7 million), the Nats have devoted $93.5 million to their 2020 rotation, and a staggering $318 million to their top three pitchers moving forward, a number that will jump to $336 million of they exercise Sanchez's $18 million option in 2021.

The difference between the Red Sox starters and Washington starters is that the former broke down after a long World Series run, while the latter remain atop their games, although we'll find out next year if a similar fate awaits them. Washington's Big Four went 54-28 while posting ERAs between 2.92 and 3.85 and combining for nearly 750 innings.

The only other team with a situation even remotely comparable to Boston's is the Cubs, who owe their five starters $78.5 million next year (including Jose Quintana's $11.5 million option) and $182 million moving forward (that number can jump by $25 million if they exercise Jon Lester's 2021 option).

Giving the oft-injured Yu Darvish $126 million on a six-year deal that runs through 2023 looks like a mistake, but the rest of Chicago's commitments are manageable, since the only other pitcher signed beyond next year is Kyle Hendricks, who inked a four-year, $55.5 million extension before last season.

Otherwise, just one other team has more than $100 million committed to its starters, and that's the Astros, who will likely lose co-ace Gerrit Cole in free agency, but still owe two more seasons and $136 million to veterans Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke.

Everywhere else, the best big-market teams in the game have minimized their risk when it comes to long-term pitching contracts. The Yankees will pay Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and Luis Severino $50.5 million next year, with only Severino remaining on the books thereafter for the final two seasons of his four-year, $40 million extension.

The Dodgers have committed only $34 million to 2020, and the bulk of it belongs to former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, who will make $31 million in both 2020 and 2021 as part of a three-year, $93 million extension. Kershaw and Kenta Maeda are the only two Dodgers starters making guaranteed money, and they're only owed $74.5 million moving forward.

Everywhere you look, baseball's most nimble organizations have left themselves with financial flexibility in the rotation. But not the Red Sox. They're locked in to the Three Horseman, and the apocalypse feels inevitable.

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