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.


How Red Sox coaches pranked Kyle Hart before summoning him to big leagues

How Red Sox coaches pranked Kyle Hart before summoning him to big leagues

Kyle Hart got called into the manager's office at Pawtucket on Tuesday, and the news wasn't good -- Major League Baseball planned to fine him for not wearing a mask.

Manager Billy McMillon and pitching coaches Shawn Haviland and Paul Abbott waited a beat alongside farm director Ben Crockett. Then they broke the real news.

"I was a little worried at first," Hart said, "but then they told me, you can go pay your fine at Fenway Park tomorrow."

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And so it is that Hart, a 19th-round selection in the 2016 draft, will make his debut on Thursday when he starts the finale of a four-game set with the Rays.

It's the culmination of a journey that began in college at Indiana, where Hart spent five years, his career interrupted by Tommy John surgery. The 6-foot-5 lefty has never lit up radar guns or blown away scouts with his pure stuff, but he has gotten results at every stop along the way, posting a 3.13 ERA in 77 minor league appearances.

"My mindset going into tomorrow is the same as it has been my entire career," Hart said. "Every year, I started a level lower than what I thought I should be at. I thought I should be in Greenville, they started me in extended. I thought I should be in Salem, they started me in Greenville, and so on and so forth. This year I thought maybe I had a chance of starting with the big league team and they put me at the alternate site.

"Honestly, I appreciated it, because that's how every year has gone. And every year I've kind of sought out success. I'm comfortable in the position I'm in right now, of being a midseason callup, and kind of fulfilling that need. My mindset is they're giving me an opportunity tomorrow, I need to go pitch to earn another one. That's going to be my mindset as long as I play this game. Hopefully you look back and you've got six, eight, 10 years in this league. Right now I need to go out and earn every single start, opportunity to pitch, whatever it is, every single night."

And guess what? He doesn't owe any fines.

"They told me that I was actually getting fined by Major League Baseball for not wearing my mask. That's kind of a real scenario that's going to happen and probably has happened," Hart said. "Luckily it was just a prank and they were pulling my leg."

Daniel Bard's remarkable comeback story, summed up in one incredible number

USA TODAY Sports photo

Daniel Bard's remarkable comeback story, summed up in one incredible number

Daniel Bard's comeback story for the ages took another improbable step on Tuesday night when he recorded his first save since 2011.

Summoned with two outs in the ninth and runners on the corners of a wild game vs. the Diamondbacks, Bard nailed down Colorado's 12th win by striking out Stephen Vogt looking with a backdoor slider that painted the black.

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The Rockies needed it, too, because Arizona had clawed back from an 8-2 deficit with five runs in the ninth before Bard replaced Jairo Diaz to record the biggest out of the game.

It continued a comeback tale that's almost impossible to believe. Until making Colorado's opening day roster, Bard hadn't thrown a pitch in the big leagues since 2013 with the Red Sox. He hadn't won a game since 2012, and he hadn't saved one since 2011.

He spent the intervening years trying to solve a case of the yips that had transformed him from fireballing future closer to broken and retired. He underwent surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome, pitched in Puerto Rico, attempted comebacks with the Rangers, Mets and Cardinals that saw him walk 46 batters in just 13 minor-league innings, and finally left the game to become a player mentor with the Diamondbacks in 2018 and 2019.

He never gave up on his dream of returning to baseball, however, and the Rockies gave him a shot this spring.

Now 35 years old, he has rewarded them with a 3.00 ERA in eight appearances. And here's his most astonishing statistic: in nine innings pitched, he has recorded 12 strikeouts and ZERO walks. From 46 walks against Single- and Double-A hitters to none in the big leagues. He's one of only three pitchers with at least nine innings pitched and no walks.

Baseball's best story of 2020 just keeps getting better.