Red Sox

Source: Red Sox eye reliever, right-handed bench help via trade

Source: Red Sox eye reliever, right-handed bench help via trade

BOSTON — As a six-game homestand begins and trade season picks up, the Red Sox have an eye on adding a reliever and a right-handed bat, a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said.

Trade plans can change and evolve in the next month, but the Sox see room to add a piece to complement their left-handed hitting infielders: Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers and Brock Holt. Adding a reliever and an infielder should not mean mortgaging an already thin farm system.

Alex Cora has barely used his bench this year. The Sox are tied for the third-fewest plate appearances as a pinch hitter, at 29. The pinch hitters have also done terribly, for whatever such a small sample size is worth, with a .074/.138/.111 line. The Sox have one extra-base hit and two hits total, with the latter tying them for the fewest in the majors.

The Sox also have a .670 OPS against left-handed pitching overall, the fourth-worst mark in the majors and the worst in the American League. They may naturally rebound, but it’s a stark comparison to the two major league leaders: the Yankees, at .828, and Astros, at .805.

In a way, the Sox are in a similar position to last year: they added a right-handed bat in Eduardo Nunez and a reliever in Addison Reed. Both were solid contributors, Nunez beyond expectations. But Nunez this season has shown poor range in the field and has dipped significantly at the plate (.247). 

With uncertainty surrounding Dustin Pedroia’s health, the Sox presumably would want to add a bat that can handle second base as well as a potential corner infield spot. But, with Brock Holt competent at second base, the Sox might find it easier to find a corner infield type rather than an all-around utility infielder.

Devers is clearly a great talent who may be at the hot corner for years to come. But in the short term, the Sox have to consider late-inning defense in a playoff setting, and what can make the 2018 team the strongest it can be come October. Smart teams will find moments to target subpar defenders on the infield, and the Yankees and Astros are both smart teams. Devers may be a great defender down the road, but for now, the Sox may be wise to mitigate his learning curve.

As for the bullpen, the loss of Carson Smith for the season in combination with the slow progress of Tyler Thornburg has left a spot for the Sox to add a late-inning reliever. Arguably, that spot has existed since the offseason, when Reed left as a free agent, but Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes have stepped up admirably.

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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

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.