Red Sox

Red Sox ready for the challenge of repeating as World Series champions

Red Sox ready for the challenge of repeating as World Series champions

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Like a worn, scratchy old record, the question of how the Red Sox can win another World Series is on repeat. They hear it constantly, over and over.

No one's done it since the Yankees, who won three straight from 1998-2000. Manager Alex Cora, however, feels these Sox are built to handle the pressure. 

“We know where we play. The challenge of going out there and performing for this fan base and the media and everybody else is what gets us going.”

Cora also knows there are certain things you can’t control, like the health of a team. When he was asked about the 2008 Red Sox, who missed a chance to repeat when they lost the ALCS in seven games to Tampa Bay, Cora quickly pointed out that team was hurt. 

“Mikey (Mike Lowell) wasn’t playing. [Mark] Kotsay had to play first. [Sean] Casey was on one leg. Josh [Beckett] was banged up. Pap (Jonathan Papelbon) was banged up.”

Nathan Eovaldi, who secured cult status with his marathon relief stint in Game 3 of the World Series, knows banged-up bodies are the one thing that can derail another championship.

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“Everybody has to stay healthy, that’s the biggest thing,” said Evoaldi, “Getting overused at the beginning, like we talked about earlier, everybody is going to need to contribute.

Blake Swihart added: “I think just how long we play and that extra month of playing time. In the long run we want to play that extra month, but you lose a month of workouts and training.”

Which is why many of the players in the clubhouse adjusted their offseason routine. That's easier said than done for someone like Eovaldi, who's known for his work ethic. 

“It’s definitely hard for me," Eovaldi admitted. “I’ve thrown a couple bullpens and I’m frustrated with where I’m at right now. I have to keep reminding myself it’s a long time before the season starts.”

Swihart worked with a UFC trainer who monitored not only his workouts, but his rest. 

“You are still tired today, you are still worn out," he said. "So we would go based off that. I think a lot of guys have been doing that, listening to their body and just trying to do as much that day without over training.”

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Xander Bogaerts honors Koji Uehara on Instagram after retirement

Xander Bogaerts honors Koji Uehara on Instagram after retirement

Former Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara has called it a career. Uehara last pitched in the MLB for the Chicago Cubs in 2017, and he announced his retirement from baseball in Japan.

Uehara, 44, had most recently played for the Yomiuri Giants, the franchise he began his career with back in 1999.

After Uehara's retirement, Xander Bogaerts took a moment to honor Uehara with a touching Instagram post.

Bogaerts had been effusive in his praise of his former teammate over the years. Recently, Bogaerts said that the Red Sox wouldn't have won the 2013 World Series without Uehara's performance.

"The ’13 team was a big success because of him," said Bogaerts, per Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe.

In his four-year career with the Red Sox, Uehara posted a 14-13 record with a 2.16 ERA, 291 strikeouts, and 79 saves. During the 2013 postseason, he recorded 7 saves and struck out 17 batters en route to winning the ALCS MVP award.

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Benching Jackie Bradley was never an option, but first homer of season reminds us what he can be

Benching Jackie Bradley was never an option, but first homer of season reminds us what he can be

It took nearly two months, but on Monday Jackie Bradley's drought finally ended.

The Gold Glove center fielder, mired in a historically brutal slump even by his standards, launched his first home run of the year in a 12-2 pounding of the Blue Jays. His opposite-field shot in the sixth played no role in the outcome -- the Red Sox were already cruising to victory -- but the badly needed blast came with more of us questioning his place in the everyday lineup.

Bradley entered the game hitting .144 with no homers and only four extra-base hits. For someone coming off a strong second half and excellent postseason that included the American League Championship Series MVP award, Bradley's season-long funk felt particularly demoralizing.

While we've always accepted streakiness as part of the package, it really did feel like he had turned a corner last year. He began consulting with J.D. Martinez's personal hitting coach around the All-Star break and in the second half delivered some of the most consistent offense of his career, batting .269 with an .827 OPS. He followed by posting a .943 OPS between the ALCS and World Series, driving in 10 runs in 10 games with three homers and a double.

He arrived at spring training confident in a new swing that would end his streakiness once and for all, and in a sense he was right, because there have been no streaks to speak of, just struggle upon struggle.

But Bradley's path forward is actually deceptively simple. It's easy to forget that he only hit .200 last postseason, because virtually all of his production was pivotal, but it showed the way he could validate his existence from an offensive standpoint: hit for power and his place in the lineup would be secure.

When he opened this season by failing to homer in his first 38 games, however, concerns over his viability began gaining urgency. How long could the Red Sox carry an everyday player who wasn't even hitting .150, let alone .200, no matter how game-changing his glove?

Replacing him isn't as easy as it sounds, though, which is why he's not going anywhere. One option would be to make Martinez a more frequent outfielder and move Andrew Benintendi to center, but the DH has battled back issues and is an average defender at best. The Red Sox need his bat in the lineup, not his glove.

The other would require toppling dominoes that would leave the Red Sox worse than where they started: bench Bradley, move Benintendi to center, try power-hitting youngster Michael Chavis in left, and then fill second base with Eduardo Nunez, Tzu-Wei Lin, Dustin Pedroia, or Brock Holt, depending on who's healthy.

Their averages range from .063 (Holt) to .200 (Lin), so you'd be leaving yourself in the same position offensively, but weakened defensively at two positions. The same logic applies to putting Steve Pearce (.131) in left.

In that context, there's little incentive to bench Bradley, which is why he has appeared in all but eight games. It helps that every regular except Benintendi now owns an OPS of greater than .800, so there's enough offense to go around. The emergence of Chavis and Christian Vazquez lower in the order has saved Bradley from answering some seriously tough questions.

So forget about benching him. A far more palatable option is that Bradley rediscovers his power stroke, maintains a solid eye (16 walks), and keeps making web gems.

Maybe Monday represented a tentative first step in that direction.

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