Alex Cora

Red Sox sizzling start owed to stars staying healthy

Red Sox sizzling start owed to stars staying healthy

BOSTON — At a quick glance, the Red Sox do not seem the healthiest club. 

Dustin Pedroia’s knee rehab has left his 2018 season in doubt. Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright are both on the disabled list, and so too now is Christian Vazquez, who is to miss six to eight weeks because of a fractured finger. Tyler Thornburg’s return from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery took two minor league rehab stints: his clock had to be reset. Rafael Devers just landed on the DL, and Carson Smith slammed his glove down and may never pitch for the Sox again.

Nonetheless, as the Sox have compiled baseball’s best record overall — as well as a .704 win percentage in their past 54 games (38-16) entering Saturday — their core players and star performers have been able to avoid any serious injuries or long trips to the disabled list. 

Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Rick Porcello, and David Price have two trips to the DL among them. Betts and Bogaerts both missed a little more than two weeks with injuries (including some time Betts missed before technically landing on the DL).

Bogaerts had a left ankle injury in early April, and the Sox rolled on without him, going 11-4. After a 2017 in which he should not have played through injury, Bogaerts has rebounded well. His .872 OPS is right in line with the .863 mark he posted in 2016 when he was an All-Star. 

“We know that Xander can hit .300,” manager Alex Cora said Friday. “He can go the other way whenever he feels like it, but now he's trying to do damage. That's the most important thing.”

Well, maybe the second most important, when we remember how Bogaerts played hurt in 2017.

Feels like forever ago there was worry about Betts’ health, doesn’t it? As the calendar flipped to June, he went to the disabled list with an abdominal strain, and it was unclear just how long he would need to be out. He came back June 11 and has continued to rake.

Until suffering a right ankle sprain Saturday in a first-base collision with the Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel, Eduardo Rodriguez probably deserved to be on that list of “core” players as well. E-Rod, in particular, is a success story, given where he was this time a year ago: coming back from his most recent knee subluxation. Technically, he began the year on the DL and had been great since. We'll have to see how he progresses from this latest injury after the All-Star break. 

There’s been a lot of recent talk about the success of Chris Sale’s build-up program, one that applied to other starting pitchers as well. The proof might not really come until September or August, but Sale is dominating while also pitching 12 1/3 fewer innings through 20 starts than he had a year ago: 129 compared to 141 1/3. He’s an All-Star both times.

There was talk in spring training and early in the regular season about how much Cora wanted to rest guys. What, exactly, allows someone to stay healthy can be hard to pinpoint. Everyone’s body is different, and injuries can just be a matter of luck. 

Pedroia, Wright and Thornburg were all dealing with pre-existing medical situations. Infielder Marco Hernandez, out of sight for a long time, went for his third shoulder surgery in roughly 14 months. Pedroia may wind up with three games played in 2018.

“I’m learning throughout the process, obviously,” Cora said when asked if the Sox review situations like Hernandez’s and Pedroia’s after the dust settles. “This is my first time as you guys know, doing this. So you know with Marco, it was one of those that we thought the whole time that he was going to be fine. And then it just didn’t work and didn’t work, didn’t work. He had to do it. But for me, I listen a lot throughout the process and obviously, they’ve been around this process and stuff like that for a longer period of time.”

Overall, the Sox have kept their most important players on the field, and whether that’s a product of randomness or something larger at play, it’s been essential.



Cora: Joe Kelly available vs Royals, Red Sox likely to stay away from him

Cora: Joe Kelly available vs Royals, Red Sox likely to stay away from him

After leaving Saturday night's 15-4 win over the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning with lightheadedness, Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly is available to pitch Sunday according to manager Alex Cora.

"I haven't seen (Kelly) today yet, but from what Brad (Pearson) told me, it was a lot of hydration last night. He's available but we'll probably stay away from him. It just makes sense and we're covered now that we got some arms here, so we should be fine."

The Red Sox made a number of roster moves today, bringing up two pitchers to the major league roster. 

First pitch for the Red Sox and Royals is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. EST on Sunday in Kansas City. Boston is going for their 62nd win on the year and hopes to extend their two-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East standings.


Drellich: Can David Price's case of Yankee-itis be cured?

File Photo

Drellich: Can David Price's case of Yankee-itis be cured?

David Price’s full diagnosis isn’t exactly clear. He may have big start-itis, or just Yankee-itis. Perhaps a case of both.

Now, the lefty himself might not think he’s actually sick. Remember that some people just have bad allergies.

But he definitely has all the symptoms of Yankee-itis, with an 8.43 ERA against them since joining the Sox in 47 innings, with 74 hits and 44 earned runs allowed. And no one will believe that diagnosis is wrong until he proves otherwise, not after Sunday’s incontinence. 

The combination of Price’s recent success leading into Sunday and the way he was confidently prodding the media made him look like someone increasingly a fit for Boston: a complicated, bold character who’s also effective. The latter part flew out the window on Sunday in an 11-1 rubber-match embarrassment by the Yankees.

Baseball is a sport of variability and randomness. But there’s no coincidence to lean on now. Not one that anyone can believe, anyway. 

There's a difference between a bad outing and catastrophe; a line between an off-night and a performance so pitiful that Twitter overflows with trivia detailing the horror’s place in history.

The lefty lasted just 3 1/3 innings and matched a career-high with eight runs allowed. He’s done that five times now in his lengthy career, three times against the Yanks. He never allowed more than three home runs in a game prior to Sunday. But he coughed up five in the Bronx, including two to Aaron Hicks and one to Kyle Higashioka, a guy who was 0-for-21 in his major league career to start the night.

Even if the lefty happened to be tipping his pitches, that would be his shortcoming as well as the team’s.

“It would be easy to say yes [I was tipping], because they hit five homers and eight runs, but I really don't know right now,” Price told reporters in New York. “I can't give you an honest answer about that, but I'll go back tomorrow and I'll look at it and then, I'll know.”

One of the worst nights of his career came after a cocktail of public anticipation. Price’s snark, his recent success — he had a 2.72 ERA in his prior nine starts — and his history with the Yankees added up to a night where he was woozy on national television.

The benefit of the doubt is gone when it comes to these symptoms. Yes, there was still reason to afford him some prior to Sunday.

Although the manager seems to think the pinstripes aren't a root cause.

“It’s just a matter of executing pitches,” Alex Cora told reporters. “He didn’t do it today. He didn’t do it the first time out, so it’s a work in progress. He’ll pitch again probably against them twice. We’ll make adjustments. They’re going to make adjustments and we do feel he can get those people out."

That's possible. But if Price is ever cured, or if somehow there has been a misdiagnosis, he needs to prove it. Questions of Yankee-itis won’t go away until he sees them again, and that won’t be until August at the earliest.