Amid his quest to regain his timing and production at the plate, Hanley Ramirez was moved down to the No. 7 spot in manager John Farrell’s batting order. It was the first time Ramirez has started a game in the No. 7 spot in the batting order since 2006. Chris Young was vaulted up to the No. 5 spot.
“Yeah, as we know, Hanley’s been working through some things to try to get timing on track,” said Farrell. “Bottom line, the players are going to kind of tell you where they hit in the order. Chris has done an outstanding job this year, particularly against left-handed pitchers. And while Hanley works through the timing issues, we felt we needed a little jump start or a spark potentially.”
Ramirez thought he had found something a week ago when he hit a mammoth home run against Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman.
“Yeah, even it wasn’t a home run, you saw hard contact,” Farrell said. “Really, that’s kind of what you’re looking for when timing is a little more consistent or on the mark. The fact that it went out of the ballpark in my mind is somewhat irrelevant. He squared up a breaking ball that stayed up in the middle of the strike zone. As we’ve talked about, the leg kick, the timing, the bat path, that’s all being worked on.”
After a monster first month with the Red Sox in 2015, Ramirez hasn’t hit for the type of production the Red Sox envisioned when they signed him to a four-year, $88-million contract. Since May 1, 2015, Ramirez has a line of .250/.303/.372 with 14 homer and 70 RBIs.
Mookie Betts got his first day off of the season on Thursday night against the Rockies. Betts was Boston’s only player to start the first 46 games.
In his place, the ultra-hot Jackie Bradley Jr. batted leadoff. However, this is just a one-day thing, as Bradley will move back toward the middle of the order on Friday.
Blake Swihart is Boston’s emergency catcher tonight if something happens to Christian Vazquez. Ryan Hanigan is still ill. Manager John Farrell said there’s a chance Swihart could start at catcher on Friday if Hanigan isn’t up to it.
David Ortiz was out of the lineup on Tuesday night, marking his first day off since April 26, when he the Red Sox didn’t have the DH in Atlanta.
With the Red Sox facing lefty Sean Manaea, manager John Farrell felt it was a good time to give Ortiz a rest during this stretch in which his team plays 32 games in 33 days.
“As strong a start as he’s had, personally, I lose sight that he’s 40 years old,” said Farrell. “There are going to be periodic days for rest. I thought tonight was a matchup that, maybe our right-handers have a better matchup. David’s a good matchup against anyone. If you’re picking your spots, this is a day for David to be down.”
Brock Holt also got a rest, with Chris Young playing left. Hanley Ramirez replaced Ortiz at DH, with Travis Shaw moving from third to first and Josh Rutledge got the nod at third.
David Price had a good discussion with reporters today, detecting some flaws he picked up, with help from Dustin Pedroia.
What did he find? “I mean still execution, absolutely. But you know I had a good talk with Pedey today, he showed me some stuff. You know he was just watching video of himself hitting off lefties and I came into that video and he showed me — you know, we were talking in the food room — and he was like, ‘Man, something, you know something doesn’t like right. Something looks a little off.’ And he showed me a picture of myself in 2012, 13, 14, and then you know, what I’ve done so far this year. It’s a simple fix for myself to not be able to feel that, or to pick up on that, to me that’s the most frustrating thing. ‘Cause I know I’m very good at making adjustments on the fly and you know I didn’t pick that up. It’s something I’ve said many times — I’ve said it this year, whenever I talk to other pitchers or to you know at baseball camps, it’s something that I always say. I want my hands and my right leg or my right knee to be connected by a string. Whenever my knee goes up, I want my hands to go up. Whenever my knee goes back down, I want my hands to go back down.
“My hands have stayed right here. And that’s not allowing me to get my full leg lift. It’s been about a half of a leg lift of what I’m used to and it takes away you know the rhythm of what I do out there on the mound and whenever my hands stay here, I have to be able to time it up perfect for me to be able to execute that pitch. It gives me no margin of error because I don’t have that rhythm.
“I’m not putting myself in my normal power position, absolutely. My leg lift, it at least comes up to my belt if not a little bit higher. And for right now, it’s getting about right here — it’s almost a slidestep out of the windup. And you know I’ll fix that tomorrow and hopefully Thursday I’ll go out there and I’ll be back to my normal self.
Nice to have Pedroia help out? “Absolutely, it’s definitely appreciated. We’re 25 pieces to a puzzle. Everybody has to do their job. And I’m always talking to hitters, young old it doesn’t matter. I’m sitting in the cage, I’m watching ‘em swing. If they ask me something, I want to tell ‘em what I think, how certain pitchers are gonna pitch them. What I look for with certain hitters, whether their hands start real high or they start open and they close themselves off, how I would attack that hitter. Everybody can help everybody. And to have Pedey kind of — it took two minutes. It’s easy, and it’s something I definitely appreciated and I’ll make the according adjustments and get back out there.
“It’s tough. This is definitely a time period where I wanted to throw the baseball well. You know, to come here and to not pitch you know the way that I know that I’m capable of with a new team and you know a team that I’ve been a rival against for pretty much six seasons. I wanted to, I know my teammates know how I can throw that baseball and I know our fan base knows that as well. I definitely wanted to start off well, because that’s — whenever you put yourself behind the 8-ball like I’ve done, it makes it tough. It does. But I’m going to be alright. I’m going to bounce back from this, I’m going to get through this and I’m going to finish strong.”
You seem relieved? “Absolutely. And when he said it, so much stuff clicked. It makes so much sense. To me that’s the most frustrating part. Whatever my ERA, is a 7, or whatever it is, that’s frustrating. But, to know that it’s something so small and to not be able to pick up on that, even before I pitch every game, I’m watching video and I’m into the things that I see, and to to not be able to pick up on that, that’s not like me. It stinks.”
Salary in your head? “I don’t think so. I really don’t. I don’t think about the amount of money I make. Honestly, I don’t, every 14 or 15 days when we get paid, I don’t’ know what my paycheck looks like. I’m not going to ask my agent. I’m not going to sit down and do the math. I don’t spend money. I don’t live a lavish lifestyle. I wear free Jordan stuff to the field every day. The money that I spend is probably on Amazon and that’s with stuff I need for the house and stuff like that. I’m the same guy. I’m not going to let my struggles affect me. The amount of money that I make, I’m not going to change. I can’t change. I love this game. I put everything I have into it. It’s why I show up to the field the time that I show up and the reason I work as hard as I work. I love it.”
Pressure not getting to you? “That’s the guy I’ve been since I was 14 years old. I’ve been looked at as that guy for as long as I can remember. It’s not new to me, honestly. I feel like that’s the norm. That’s something I feel like I’ve always been able to handle and I’m not pitching well because of that. I’m just, I haven’t pitched well. I know that I will and I know that my teammates and my coaching staff, they have that confidence in me to be able to turn it around. This is the worst seven-game stretch I’ve ever had in my career, I think. I’m pretty sure it is. For me, I know, it’s got to get better [knocks on wood], it can’t get any worse than what’s going on right now. It’s tough but I’m mentally strong. I can get through this.”
Worry that your performance has hurt team? “I guess our bullpen could have logged less innings. We’ve had other guys that have picked up that slack. Porcello has thrown the ball really well. Buchholz has pitched well his past couple of starts deep in the game. Steven Wright, he’s been phenomenal all year long. I’ve been the weakest link. That’s unacceptable from my end but the other four guys, they’ve picked it up. They’ve picked up my slack. That’s what good teams do.”
Affecting you off the field? “I try and let it go whenever I leave the field. I don’t want it to affect my relationships outside of baseball. I don’t want it to trickle into my family or to my girlfriend or just my friends. That was tough, absolutely. I didn’t lose sleep. I went to sleep probably a little earlier last night than I would have but I wanted to get back to the field tomorrow, flush it, and get here to do my work.”
Biggest takeaway? “Probably just trying to get on top of the baseball. Not being on the side and that’s an adjustment that I’ll go through and it looks different right now but I think it can also cause a lot of good things as well.”
Dave Dombrowski spoke to the media for roughly 15 minutes today to talk about Pablo Sandoval and Blake Swihart/Christian Vazquez. Here is a sampling.
The latest on Sandoval:
“So, he had an MRI yesterday. There’s a great deal going on in his left shoulder from a medical perspective. He is going to get a second opinion on Monday, from Dr. Andrews. Monday morning. Then we will have a disclosure at that point on what actually is involved with his shoulder. Until we get the second opinion, we’re going to wait to make any kind of statements on that because we want to make sure whatever is diagnosed is the proper one. We talked to his agent about that this morning, Rick Thurman. He felt comfortable with that situation, as does Pablo. And so that’s what our plans are.”
Could the injury require surgery?
“I’m not going to speculate on anything but I won’t rule anything out either.”
Is it an ominous sign that Sandoval is seeing Andrews?
“Well, Dr. Andrews, if he’s not the best, he’s one of the best. We’ve sent many people to them. But I think when you’re dealing with a situation that’s with any player really, but a player that you want to make sure what exactly is in there that he’s one of the best and so you send it to him. I’ve had plenty of guys go there and come back with the same exact diagnosis and everything be smooth. And other guys, sometimes they see a little bit different. Dr. Andrews, I have the utmost respect for him, as does our medical team as does Pablo and his agent.”
The playing time issue is officially on the backburner.
“Well, right now, we’re in a situation where we need to get him healthy. And when people ask what his situation is, really, speculation doesn’t serve me any good. It’s just really a situation, the first thing with him is to tackle the medical aspect of it. And I would do that with any player.”
What about a report from Yahoo that Sandoval only wants to stay in Boston if he’s playing every day?
“It’s never been termed that way to me. I know he wants to play every day. But he also understands the situation.”
Then, the conversation switched to Swihart.
How hard was it to send him down?
“Yeah, lot of conversations on that situation. Very difficult decision because of how much we like Blake and how good a player we think he is. We emphasized that to him when we talked. We’ve thought about, should we carry three catchers or not? A lot of people were involved in the decision, really the whole staff. I had a long conversation with Jason Varitek. I ran into him the other day, it just so happened, in the morning at Dunkin Donuts, having a cup of coffee, and we talked for over an hour on the situation. Then we met that afternoon. And really our feelings at this time are two-fold.
“One is, what it comes down to, we think he has a chance to be a good catcher, an all-star type of catcher. It won’t hurt him to go down and continue to develop those skills. With Christian coming on board, we don’t think that the catching time here will be enough to continue for him to grow in that regard. We do want him to continue to catch. The second part of it is as we look towards the future and even as time goes on, we would like Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart to both be part of our club. And they’re both not going to be everyday catchers with our team.
“Blake’s more athletic. He’s a converted catcher. We think he can make a conversion to another position. Even on a part-time basis, so we can keep his bat in the lineup. So he’s also going to learn, when we send him out, we’re going to start hitting him flyballs in left field. We think that’s more fair to do that down in Triple-A then just put him in at the big league level and say, here you go, so he’s also going to start working on that. so the combination between catching, we’re not going to put him right in left field to play. We’re going to start hitting him some flyballs. We think he’ll be able to make the conversion while continuing to catch and DH. He’ll be in the lineup every day and we think that’s more beneficial for him at this stage of his career than it would be playing on a periodic basis here.”
How did Swihart take the news, and the suggestion to try left field?
“He was fine. I think to probably describe him would be that he would be a little disappointed, as anybody would be if they aren’t staying here. But he handled it professionally. John Farrell’s the one who told him. I was in there with Mike Hazen and with Dana and John presented to him very well because we had emphasized to him, which we heartfully meant, how important he is for us in the future, how highly we think of him as a player and as a person. We think he will be a key contributor to the Boston Red Sox for years to come. But we thought this was the best plan at this point.
“And John can tell you better than I can because he was the one involved with it in spring training, but it was even before we started playing games in spring training. This was a topic we’ve talked about. Where this is going to go? But we couldn’t tackle it during spring training because he was a No. 1 catcher, our Opening Day catcher, and we didn’t want him thinking about something else other than that at this particular moment. But he was standing in the outfield and I don’t think we had started playing regular official workouts at that time and he asked John, ‘Christian is doing pretty well.’ ‘Yeah, he is doing pretty well.’ ‘It looks like he might be back pretty quickly.’ ‘He could be.’ We had thought at one time that Christian could be ready for Opening Day. We just took our time a little more with that.
“He said, ‘What’s the plan?’ And John said, ‘We love you. We think you’re great. We like your catching and your our guy. But you might want to think about taking some fly balls in the outfield here in left field.’ It never really came to fruition because Christian never really got close to being ready Opening Day, but Blake’s response was, ‘I’ll do anything. I just want to play for the Red Sox. I just want to be ready to go and I’m ready to help wherever I can.’ He was open-minded to that and John touched on that conversation today.
Why have Swihart keep catching and play the outfield?
“Well, it’s a great question. Basically, still he’s a foul-tip away from coming back to the big leagues as a catcher. So, he needs to keep working on that skill totally. I mean, Jason Varitek, I’m sure he would tell you, he’s told me, ‘I think he’s going to be an All-Star catcher.’ That’s what Jason Varitek tells me. He knows catching better than I do. Only time will tell that. He thinks he’s going to be that good. He also says, ‘I think Christian Vazquez is a gifted receiver, like not too many others.’ So, you’re really tackling an issue that’s kind of a difficult one, but as Ruben Amaro pointed out in our meeting, he said, ‘It’s a much better situation to be talking about having talent than not having talent.’
“I think what it does, it allows us to be in a position to just analyze how it goes at this time. He’s not doing it under the microscope here. I don’t think it would be fair to him to put him in left field here and start playing him in games. We just want to try to develop both skills. And it doesn’t mean, for example, as we talked about too in our meeting, let’s say he’s catching tomorrow. Well, that particular day, he’s not going to be taking a bunch of fly balls in left field that particular day. He’s going to be focusing on catching. Doesn’t mean at 2:30 he may not go out there and here 10 minutes of instruction at some point, but we’re going to try to do things in a wise fashion.”
With a quick turnaround after last night’s thrilling victory, manager John Farrell made a couple of lineup changes for Saturday afternoon’s matinee in Toronto.
Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo, who are owed a combined $134.5 million for the balance of their contracts and are playing bench roles, are both in the lineup. Sandoval is at third, with Travis Shaw moving to first and Hanley Ramirez serving as the DH. David Ortiz will get a rest. Castillo is in center, with Jackie Bradley out of the lineup.
“To get everybody on the field, get everybody involved in a ballgame on this first road trip,” said Farrell. “[R.A.] Dickey’s kind of an unusual matchup for us and I think there are certain types of swings that we have felt, over a course of time, that have played better against a knuckleballer. It’s an opportunity for Rusney to get into center field, put Panda on the field as well, who’s swung the bat in a limited number of bats but at least he’s swung the bat decently against Dickey. This keeps everybody involved.”
Chris Young, who is 1-for-13 lifetime against Dickey, is expected to make his first start of the season tomorrow.
Despite needing the bullpen for six innings on Friday, Farrell thinks he’ll have enough coverage on Saturday.
“Barnes will be available. We’re certainly covered, we’ve got the ability to match up if needed. We’re in decent shape,” Farrell said.
The Red Sox open the 2016 season against a familiar face in Indians manager Terry Francona, who guided Boston to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.
Francona is always all-business once the games begin. But he was expansive on his close friend John Farrell as well as David Ortiz during Sunday’s news conference.
This will be Farrell’s first regular-season game since undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer last summer. Francona accompanied Farrell to his first treatment and has been in constant contact with his former pitching coach.
“Once the game starts, you want to win so bad that you don’t really care who is over there. But certainly seeing him, I saw him earlier today walking to the clubhouse, certainly seeing him healthy and smiling and laughing is more meaningful than any game we’ll ever play. Once the game starts, we want to win bad. So do they. But seeing him happy and healthy and smiling is better than anything else.”
He’s one of my best friends so I’ve talked to him a lot. I don’t think he ever doubted this would have happened this way. I don’t think, as a friend, I would have doubted it either just because I know him. I know the care he was getting. That was really something to see. One of the things I was happiest about is that I knew Larry Ronan was watching out and was in charge of everything that was going on with John. I was really grateful for that. If you’re going to have something that’s serious, you can’t be in better hands.”
Francona has never downplayed how vital Ortiz was to the two World Series rings he owns. There will be a lot of attention on Ortiz in this, his final season. Francona thinks the gregarious slugger deserves all the accolades he gets.
“I know what he’s meant to Boston. He went there and some guys kind of shrink in that atmosphere and he just blossomed. It brought out his true personality and he embraced it. He’s been through a lot there. He’s certainly the face of the Red Sox, or one of them, and probably the same goes for the face of baseball. He’s got that big smile that when you walk in the room, or when somebody walks in the room, he can disarm you just like that. I don’t care who you are. He’s a big teddy bear.”
Then, Francona displayed the humor he is known for.
“I think all things considered, because it is his last year, I think he should take the next three days off and just enjoy Cleveland and we’ll honor him at home plate, but he should probably not play.”
Francona realized early on in his time in Boston that Ortiz was not only an impact figure on the field but also off of it.
“Early on when I got there, I realized real quick you could go to him if you got something you needed to get done, which is important, real important. And we had a lot of guys like that. David transcends languages, colors, things like that. If you were in his uniform, that was what mattered. That meant a lot to me. David and I went through a lot. Good. Some tough, The pinch hitting one year. He’s a proud man. That was hard for him. Hard for me. But we fought through it and that’s what’s more important.”
Red Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech will have another abbreviated season after fracturing his right (throwing) hand in a recent altercation with his Spring Training roommate.
The incident comes on the heels of Kopech being suspended 50 games last year for testing positive for Oxilofrine, a stimulant in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Kopech is the ranked No. 5 among Red Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline.
“There’s a small fracture in his hand,” said Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen. “We’re still trying to figure out what the medical [recovery] is going to be. We have to go through more tests just to make sure we know exactly what we’re dealing with.”
Without question, the Red Sox are displeased Kopech has cost himself more time away from the mound with an off-field mistake.
“It’s disappointing,” said Hazen. “Very disappointed. It was stupid. He’s going to have to grow up, obviously, with the things that have happened so far. He’s got a long road to go to get to the big leagues. He obviously has a ton of potential and he’s got a long way to go. These types of things, you don’t want to put more barriers in front of you than playing professional baseball already presents to you.”
The Red Sox took Kopech in the first round (33rd overall pick) of the 2014 First Year Player Draft out of Mount Pleasant (Texas) High School. Kopech is 19 years old.
“I don’t want to go into details of what happened,” Hazen said. “He was very apologetic. He’s very disappointed by what happened certainly, and now he’s going to pay for it with regard to more lost time.”
In the coming days, the Red Sox should get a better understanding of how much time Kopech will miss.
“It depends on the severity of the fracture and if we have to do anything with it [surgically] or not,” said Hazen. “Right now, we’re unsure exactly. There’s a wide range of time frames depending on what we have to do. We don’t have those answers yet.”
Kopech pitched in 16 games for Class-A Greenville last year, going 4-5 with a 2.63 ERA and notching 70 strikeouts over 65 innings.
Pablo Sandoval arrived at Red Sox camp today, two days before reporting date for position players. He is excited to turn the page and start fresh after a highly-disappointing first season in Boston.
At first, Sandoval said he had nothing to prove. Interestingly, he gave the exact opposite answer later in the near nine-minute session with reporters.
“No, I don’t got nothing to prove. I just prepare myself to perform well, for my teammates to perform well, to try to get to the World Series. That’s what I’m doing. I put some goals in my mind, and I’m working hard to get it done on the field.”
And here is what he said the second time he was asked if he had something to prove.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m going to prove to the fans, to my teammates that I can be a better defensive player, offensive player to win games. I have to work hard to get to that moment. Keep working hard, keep your head up and do everything you can do on the field.”
Is Sandoval motivated to erase the bitter taste of last year?
“Real motivated. I just want to be one thing to my teammates, performing well and trying the best that I can performing out there and try to get my team to the World Series. That’s’ my goal.”
Manager John Farrell had said in January that Sandoval lost 20 to 22 pounds. But Sandoval was evasive when asked about his weight.
“I don’t weigh. I don’t weigh in at all. I just do my work and try to do everything I can. I don’t weigh in all offseason. I just tried to get better and be in better position like I said and and be an athlete.”
Did the Red Sox tell him to lose weight going into the offseason?
“Nope,” Sandoval said.
However, Sandoval did talk about improving his condition.
“After the season was over for me, when I was sick with pneumonia. I got the clearance to start working out in October. I started working out to prepare myself to be an athlete on the field. That’s what I did. I don’t’ try to lose weight, I don’t try to do nothing. I just try to put in my work and feel better and do the things I can do on the field to get better out there. That’s what I did.”
Was last year a disappointment?
“It’s not a disappointment. It’s baseball. It’s a surprise. You’re not going to have the whole season great. You’re going to have some ups and downs. You have to prepare yourself to be ready for when those down moments come, shake it off and you work hard to do everything you can do to prove next year you can be better than that. Like I said, It was a tough, tough year, but it’s in the past, and now I’ll prepare myself to be better and be in a better position this year.”
What went wrong in 2015?
“Bad moments. For me, bad moments. It was up and downs during the season, but you have to prepare yourself, put your mind in the right spot to be better.”
As John Farrell said a couple of days ago, Sandoval will resume switch hitting after giving it up righty last May.
“I’ve been working out all offseason just righthanded. I didn’t hit left-hadned at all. I’m focused on that. I’m trying to get my confidence back. That was one of the things I lost last year — my confidence. Now I’ve got my confidence back, and I’m going to taste it again.”
It was noted to Sandoval that his numbers have spiraled downard the last four years.
“I don’t worry about numbers. I worry about wins. You can see all the years that my numbers went down and how many championships I’ve got. That’s what I worry about.”
Sandoval admits he lost his confidence.
“If you don’t have that, if you don’t feel confident at home plate from the right side, you’re not going to trust your swing, and you’re going to put pressure on you so that’s what I did.”
How hard was that? “Hard. Hard because it is the moment when you lost that confidence to perform well. You put in that spot but what am I going to do? What’s the next step? That’s what I’m working the offseason to try to shake it up and work hard and get my confidence back. that’s what I did right now, I feel great. I’ve been working hard to be a better right-handed hitter so that’s what I did.”
Dave Dombrowski’s first offseason with the Red Sox continues to gain steam. On Monday, Dombrowski dealt lefty Wade Miley to the Mariners for a pair of promising young arms in righty Carson Smith and lefty Roenis Elias.
Smith, 26, was one of the top setup relievers last season. In 70 games, he posted a 2.31 ERA while striking out 92 over 70 innings and holding opponents to a .194 average.
Elias, a 27-year-old Cuban, gives the Red Sox some rotation depth. In 51 career appearances over the last two seasons — all but two of them starts — Elias is 15-20 with a 3.97 ERA.
Miley, 29, went 11-11 with a 4.46 ERA in 2015, his only season with the Red Sox. It was last year at the Winter Meetings that Boston acquired Miley from the Diamondbacks.
The Mariners have good cost control with Miley, who will earn $6 million in 2016, $8.75 million in in ’17 and has a club option for $12 million in ’18.
With three days still left in the Winter Meetings, it will be interesting to see if Dombrowski tries to acquire a Number 2 starter. Shelby Miller — who is Joe Kelly’s best friend — is an intriguing possibility. However, the Braves are said to be asking a lot for Miller and for good reason: He is under control of whatever team he pitches for through 2018.