Hector Velazquez

Red Sox scratch Velazquez from start vs. Mets, Cuevas gets the call

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Associated Press

Red Sox scratch Velazquez from start vs. Mets, Cuevas gets the call

Red Sox right-hander Hector Velazquez has been scratched from his scheduled start tonight against the Mets at Fenway Park with an illness and another right-hander, William Cuevas, will make the start, the team announced.

It'll be the first major league start for Cuevas, 28, called up from Pawtucket after rosters expanded on Sept. 1. He's made four relief appearances and allowed three runs in 7 1/3 innings and struck out nine.

He'll be opposed by Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard (11-3, 3.44 ERA) in the opener of the three-game series. The Sox enter with their magic number for clinching the American League East title at 6.

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Will Beeks' bleak debut make Sox reluctant to turn to him again?

Will Beeks' bleak debut make Sox reluctant to turn to him again?

BOSTON — First impressions are probably more vital to starting pitchers than anyone else.

A reliever is usually asked to pitch in a low-leverage situation when he makes his major league debut. A hitter is just one of nine. Starters have a spotlight normally, and that’s no different on Day 1. 

But the effect is further magnified on a contender. Fairly or not, a spot start on win-now team can flip a switch: make it easier for the manager to turn to you again, or vice versa. It’s just one game, and it shouldn’t be that way in such a random sport. Yet, that’s the reality when every game is meaningful and every choice a manager makes is scrutinized.

Jalen Beeks’ debut wasn’t a catastrophe, even if his five-run first inning was. The Sox have a clear vision of what they want the lefty to work on when he gets back to Triple-A Pawtucket: his pitch mix. The lefty was optioned after the Sox lost 7-2 on Thursday night to the Tigers, with Beeks lasting four innings and allowing six runs. He threw 88 pitches, 60 of them fastballs per BrooksBaseball.net.

“A lot of fastballs over the heart of the plate early,” manager Alex Cora said. “After that, he settled down and he started mixing up his breaking ball and his changeup. He started elevating, and it wasn’t the start that he wanted or we wanted from him. 

“After that first inning, he kept going, he kept attacking and he made some adjustments so we’re proud of the way he competed today.”

Consider a hypothetical: it’s August. The Sox have choices in the rotation. The safe move in terms of public reception for Cora may be to lean on a more known quantity. Hector Velazquez or Brian Johnson, if they happen to be stretched out, for example. (Who knows what the landscape looks like then?)

Cora, thus far, seems to march to his own drum. But he’s not immune to public perception, so how he’ll handle Beeks going forward will be interesting. Does he turn to him immediately when the Sox next need a starter? 

Sometimes, need and scheduling trumps all. If Beeks is fresh and on his turn, he may be the guy no matter what. Still, Beeks will need to show continued success at Pawtucket to make his return viable. Not in numbers so much as in approach.

“We’re going to map out a plan, and there’s going to be some adjustments as far as his pitch usage at that level,” Cora said. “Regardless of the results, it’s very important for him to use the breaking ball, and from there, he can use the fastball up. He’s been very successful down there in Triple-A with strikeouts and he’s been dominant. 

“At the same time, there’s another level and he needs to [reach] that. [Pitching coach Dana LeVangie] will talk to [Pawtucket pitching coach Kevin Walker] and they’ll make a plan and he’s going to start doing that."

Beeks was told after the game he was optioned back to the minors.

“We just told him that sometimes, it doesn’t matter the results,” Cora said. “You go down there and you start making adjustments as far as what we want you to do, and he’ll be fine.”

Blake Swihart, by the way, isn’t to blame for Beeks’ outing. A different catcher might have encouraged slightly different usage, but a pitcher that relies on deception simply wasn’t deceiving the opposition on Friday.

Beeks will be back. He’s not throwing 86 mph. He sits in the low-90s and can dial it up to the mid-90s. He's viable as a big leaguer.

What will be worth watching, though, is just how soon Beeks makes it back — particularly if the opponent is someone more impressive than the middling Tigers. 

"I think spin rate and his fastball will play at this level, but you have to mix it up,” Cora said. “You have to slow them down a little bit so the fastball plays up in the zone.”

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Pomeranz goes on DL; rookie Beeks starts Thursday

Pomeranz goes on DL; rookie Beeks starts Thursday

BOSTON — The Red Sox’ list of medical problems seems to be growing.

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz was the latest to go to the disabled list on Tuesday, with left biceps tendinitis. Righty Brandon Workman was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket in his place. Pomeranz’s next start was slated for Thursday and manager Alex Cora said after the 6-0 victory over the Tigers that Pawtucket lefty Jalen Beeks (3-3, 2.56 ERA in 10 Triple-A starts) will be called up to make that start in his major league debut. 

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Steven Wright, who started Tuesday night for the first time in 2018, is to stay in the rotation in the meantime. Wright was initially intended to be just a spot starter. Now, with Pomeranz out, Wright, who pitched seven scoreless innings, enters the rotation.

Although Pomeranz’s velocity has been down all year (he's 1-3 with a 6.81 ERA in eight starts), Cora said the injury was a new development.

“It happened after this one, this last one,” Cora said of Pomeranz’s most recent start, Thursday in Houston. “Hopefully, it’s something that he’ll come back right away...We had our plan already set up with the guys, pushing them back, and we feel they need that for them to catch a breather. No way we were going to move them up after their mind was set to have their off days and go through their preparation that way.”

Dustin Pedroia was on his way back from New York on Tuesday, where he visited with his surgeon, which "went well," a source said, vaguely but optimistically.

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Mookie Betts, who’s on the 10-day disabled list along with Pedroia, took swings off a tee on Tuesday. Asked if the Sox considered telling Betts not to swing for a longer period of time, Cora indicated a couple days seemed enough.

"He didn’t swing on Sunday, he didn’t swing yesterday,” Cora said. “Today is kind of like tee [work and] that’s it. And he was feeling OK doing the tee work. No, there was not a thought going five days or six. Not swinging Sunday, not swinging yesterday, today just like an easy day for him, should be OK. He feels a lot better. 

“I asked him Sunday, [he was] like, ‘Oh I feel great.’ Like, OK, cool, that sounds good...You got to trust him. This is the third time this season, I know the area’s a little bit different [with an abdominal strain], but he’s pretty honest about how he feels physically.”

In the reliever category, there’s still no update on how Carson Smith wants to proceed following this right shoulder subluxation. 

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Tyler Thornburg was granted a new 30-day minor league rehab assignment after the first one on his way back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery resulted in right shoulder tendinitis. Thornburg is with Pawtucket.

Austin Maddox, meanwhile, has been recalled from his minor league rehab assignment because of shoulder inflammation. A shoulder injury had Maddox on the DL in the first place.

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