June 2014

Bogaerts going through rut

There have been extremes with Xander Bogaerts during his rookie season. For a considerable part of May, Bogaerts was the hottest hitter on the Red Sox. That has not been the case of late, as he has struggled mightily.

With the addition of Mookie Betts creating somewhat of a log jam — five players competing for four positions — Bogaerts was the odd man out for Sunday’s game against the Yankees.

Brock Holt played third base, with an outfield of Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Betts.

Over his last 80 at-bats, Bogaerts has nine hits for an average of .113 with one homer ,three RBIs, a .153 OBP and a .163 slugging percentage.

“Those adjustments are in the works,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “His timing is off. We recognize that. There are some things that are tangibly different right now than when he was in a stretch where he was impacting the baseball with regularity. That is being addressed in early work, it’s being addressed in regular BP and while it’s being accomplished more readily at that speed, game speed is where some of that reverting back is taking place. It’s not about talent or commitment to work it’s the execution at game speed. We’ve got to remain patient, keep working at it and that’s what we’re doing.”

Farrell doesn’t think it’s a matter of teams changing  their approach. “I wouldn’t say pitched differently. Again, we were able to identify through video and a subjective view from the dugout so these were things that were being talked about with him, shown on video and we’ll continue to work through.”

Ortiz apologizes to MLB, Torre, scorer for gripe

First things first. Official scorer Bob Ellis changed his call from last Wednesday’s Red Sox-Twins game at Fenway Park, crediting David Ortiz with a hit on a ball first baseman Joe Mauer bobbled on a half-dive.

Ortiz gave a thumbs down sign up to the press box during the game and was critical of Ellis following the game. But on Monday, Ortiz admitted the way he expressed his frustration was wrong.

“All I have to say is I know I owe an apology to MLB, Mr. Joe Torre, even the scorekeeping guys,” said Ortiz. “I know that I had frustration come out that way, and that’s not what you really want. You don’t want things to be like that and everything.”

Ortiz admitted that the way things have gone for him this season — he was hitting .248 entering Monday’s game — probably played a role in his actions.

“This has been a season already that has been jam-packed with frustration. At the end of the day, our job is based on results. I sit down and watch that TV every night after the game and I go 0-for-4, and all people talk and [complain] about is why I’m not hitting .300. of course, you don’t want to get caught into a situation … we are a family that of course needs to protect each other. The whole week has been about me protecting over a hit. There’s a lot of people mad at me because I argued something that I didn’t think I should get. I don’t blame them. I’m not apologizing just because I got that result. It’s because the message was spread out based on frustration. That’s why I’m apologizing.”

“Like I say man, it’s just something, I didn’t want the message to come out that way but it already happened and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

When someone mentioned to Ortiz that he wound up being right that the call should have been ruled a hit, he said, “Well, let’s keep it classy.”

Cherington on the state of reeling Red Sox

For the second time in 15 days, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington expressed faith in his highly-underachieving team and forecasts an in-season turnaround that may not have to occur because of blockbuster trades.

Trades aren’t the be all-end-all at this point:  “I don’t know about moves. We’re obviously not happy with where we are. Ultimately, we’re 18-25, that’s not up to our standards, that’s not where we want to be ultimately. It’s up to me to find a way to make it better. We still believe it’s gonna get better. We believe we’ve got a very good team ahead of us this year. Most of that is still going to come from within with guys here performing, getting back to a level they’re accustomed to and then if we can do that and start playing a little better and win some games and hang in there, we’ll try to find anyway we can to make improvements to the team as the summer goes on. At this point, this early in the season, we’re still just mostly focused on the guys that are here and finding a way to play better with the guys that are here.”

Pressed again about making moves, Cherington offered this:  “I think there’s a need to play better and there’s the need to find ways to get better and all sorts of ways and again, that’s my responsibility. Not saying we wouldn’t consider moves. It’s just that this early in the season, typically, you’re sort of talking other teams into doing things and that doesn’t always leave you in the best position to make deals. I wouldn’t rule it out but, we’ll see. Because of that, look, we’re gonna get Victorino back, we’re going to get hopefully our core lineup out there more consistently moving forward and we believe in that core lineup and that core group of players and we believe we have a lot of wins in us with that core, without adding to it. if we can add to it, whether it’s sooner or later or towards the deadline in a way that makes sense, of course we’re going to work to do it in a way that makes sense. Again, that’s up to me. But just mostly focused still on the guys who are here.”

Injuries no excuse: “I wouldn’t assign it to injuries. We’ve had some injuries. Every team has injuries. I think our job is to be good enough and deep enough to play through the injuries and still win games and hang in there through the tougher times. So I wouldn’t assign it to injuries. It would be better not to have injuries. I don’t know. it’s a variety of things. I think we would have guessed coming into the year that in all likelihood we would face a little more adversity this year than we did last year. it’s just the way baseball goes and we have in different ways. Offensively, we just haven’t clicked in any sort of consistent way. we’ve been in most games because we’ve been running pretty good pitchers out there most often whether it’s the starters or the bullpen mostly keeping us in games. We just haven’t clicked offensively and I can’t point to one thing. for the reason, we know we have to get better. We believe we will. We’re not there yet.”

How much longer can they go with Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr.? “You know, we’ve got to play better and you’re talking about two very different players there so in jackie’s case, he’s playing really good defense, he’s grinding, he’s making offensive adjustments. He’s here working every day to get better.He’s a very important guy for us and we feel he’s the right guy to be our center fielder. In Grady’s case, we’ve seen flashes, as I said 10 days ago. I think he would tell you he hasn’t’ been as consistent as he’d like to be. Hasn’t made the impact as he’d like to. Look, we’re all in this together, we know collectively we’ve got to get better. We all have to perform better, that starts with me. And we just have to make that happen. we’re not ready to proclaim that this has to happen or that has to happen or there needs to be any particular move. We just have to play better.”

Pressed again on Sizemore:  “He’s here. He’s one of our 25 guys. John’s trying to put him in positions to succeed. We believe Grady Sizemore is going to be a good Major League player again. We’re going to do whatever we can to help him be that guy here. We’ll see. We just have to play better, the whole team has to play better. I have to do my part. If we all do that, we’ll look up and things will look a lot better 10 days from now.”

On the struggling offense of the outfield:   “Well it’s still evolving you know? We came into the year obviously thinking in left field we were going to have something analogous to last year, a combination with Gomes and Nava or some other left-handed hitter. In right field we certainly expected Victorino out there, we hope that he will be out there soon. And in spring training the question was on center field and ultimately Grady played his way onto the team and then we had an injury so Jackie ended up on the team and his defense was so good that he kind of takes over. Look we expected Jackie to be our center fielder of the future back this winter, we just didn’t know what date that was going to start on. I don’t think anything has really changed there. We just haven’t had that corner group out there consistently and we haven’t had the production out of the corners that we thought we would and need to have.

Cherington didn’t say if part of the agreement of Drew’s contract was that he be recalled after the minimum 10 days were used in his Minor League option: “I don’t want to get into the specifics of our discussion before signing him but we definitely felt like given where he was physically at the time of the signing that it wouldn’t take him a long time in the minor leagues to be able to help our team. There’s a different between being at maximum capacity and full speed with perfect timing and all that, there’s a difference between that and helping a major league team. And we felt like Stephen drew made us a more complete roster, a better, deeper roster, even if he was still working on some things. So we signed him with the understanding that assuming he physically checked out that he’d be on the team son, as soon as we could and that’s the way it turned out. We don’t have any regrets for that. We also knew we might have to manage his playing time a little bit early on, so it’s not unexpected that he’s getting a day here and there. All the reasons we signed him are still in place and we’ll see how it works out.”

In hindsight, did  Cherington need more outfield depth going into the season? “I guess you can never have enough right? We felt we did. There was a combination of guys including Nava, Carp, Gomes, Victorino, Bradley, Sizemore, Brentz and down the line we felt we had enough good players, enough good options to be deep enough in the outfield. There has been a combination of underperformance to some of those guys and injuries to others that kind of tapped into that a little bit, so it showed up. Ultimately it’s my responsibility to figure that out and get better. We felt that we did have enough depth. To this point we haven’t gotten the production out of the outfield that we need to. We still feel like we can and it’s up to us to figure that out.

Cherington was stunned to see it written somewhere that the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew because of pressure in the media, and staunchly denied it: “False. I was really surprised to see that today. We know Stephen Drew really well. We signed Stephen Drew because I made a recommendation to ownership to sign Stephen Drew. We had been talking internally for a little while, and then on a Friday, our third baseman got hurt, and we expected, based on the initial evaluation, that Will might miss a significant amount of time. At that point, during that game, we were 20-20, and scratching and clawing for every win and certainly right in the mix in the AL East. We had known, if there was an area on the team that we wanted to add some depth to, it was the left side of the infield. It wasn’t a reflection on any of the players we had. We want as many good players as we can for each spot. It happened to be that Will got hurt, Stephen Drew was still out there, he was a free agent, and we felt like, if we didn’t sign him, we might be in position to have to make a trade at some point and give up talent to address, potentially, an area of need, so we have a guy who we trust, who we like, who’s a good player, who’s a trustworthy player, who’s been here and done that who’s available to sign without giving talent, so we did it. I made that recommendation, and I would make that recommendation again.”

Trade Jon Lester if the team falls out of contention and there is no progress with his contract situation? “We haven’t even thought about that. Jon’s focus is to go out and pitch every five days and help us win, and he’s done a very good job of that this year. We’re trying to support him in any way we can. Our position hasn’t changed. We hope to have a conversation again about his contract. We’d love to find a way to keep him here. But right now we’re just trying to win games and stay in this thing. I believe we will. When we do, we’re going to want Jon Lester pitching for us down the stretch.”

John Lackey might retire rather than pitch for the player minimum that his contract dictates next year? “No. I have not heard anything about it. That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I don’t know — I’m not sure I’m the person to respond to it. This is more of a question for John, I guess. But I know that, the way he’s pitching right now and what I know of him as a competitor and how much he likes being in the clubhouse and how important it is for him to compete and be a guy, I would certainly expect him to want to keep playing, and he certainly looks like a guy who’s going to keep pitching for quite some time. I haven’t heard anything about that, and obviously our expectation is that he’s going to be here.”

 On Clay Buchholz: “Physically, he says he feels good, and we were able to identify a couple of things in the delivery that he thinks and we think can help him. It’s likely a gradual thing, right? It’s not going to be — typically players don’t go from struggling to lights out overnight, but there are some tangible things that he’s identified that will help him, and he’s been doing that. He’s been working on that. He’ll pitch in the minor leagues a little bit to start, and we’ll see where we are.”

Burleson on Zimmer: “Best manager I ever played for”

Former Red Sox shortstop Rick Burleson was saddened to hear that Don Zimmer, the man he referred to as “the best manager I ever played for”, died on Wednesday.

Here is the Rooster on Zim, who managed the Red Sox from 1976-80 and also had two stints as a Boston coach.

“It was a wonderful experience. I was a rookie when he came over there in ’74 to coach third and I got called up basically May 1 of ’74 and he was there and of course I had him that spring. All the players loved him. Then he became manager, I think it was middle of ’76. I was with him from ’76 through ’80 as a player. So five years as a player, and seven years total.”

Burleson played for Darrell Johnson, Jim Fregosi and Gene Mauch, among some others, but he thinks Zimmer was the best he played for.

“He was the best manager I ever played for, without a doubt. Fregosi was wonderful when I was here for a brief time in ’81 when he was with the Angels. Zim was a player’s manager. He knew the game really well. The thing that you knew with him was that you were going to be in the lineup and basically where you were going to hit pretty much every day. We had kind of a set deal there in Boston in those years and he just expected you to go out there and give it your all. And that’s basically what we tried to do and he was outstanding.”

But Zimmer was more than just a manager to Burleson. He was family.

“This was a guy, when I was in Spring Training in ’77, when he was the manager, he asked if he could babysit so that my wife and I could go out to dinner by ourselves. Him and his wife came over and babysat our oldest boy Tyler.”

Burleson marveled at the fact Zimmer worked in baseball — and only in baseball.

“He probably spent 60-some years in the game and he told me at one time he never had a job in his whole life other than baseball. I don’t think there’s many people you can count on your hand that can say that. We all have to do something at some point. So I mean, I feel for his wife Soot and their family and his daughter and son. It’s a sad day to see that happen. He had a great life. He did what he wanted to do. I don’t think you can ask for any more than that.”

In Burleson’s mind, Zimmer’s door was always open.

“He was helpful, he was very helpful as a coach. And then as a manager, he was a good leader. That’s all any player wants, is for someone to be honest with them and there to talk to when you need to talk to him. He was always the guy.He will be missed and he was definitely one of our favorites here in this family, that’s for sure.”

Napoli: “I feel great now”

Caught up with Mike Napoli this morning, and the time off has definitely done the big slugger some good. John Farrell said the first baseman will return the first day he is eligible — on June 8 at Detroit.

Though Napoli is sidelined with a left fourth finger sprain – an injury he originally suffered in Chicago on April 15 – he was dealing with a variety of maladies before finally being placed on the disabled list on May 25.

“It wasn’t just the finger,” said Napoli. “I was dealing with a lot of stuff. It was probably the best thing for me. I was going to keep on trying to grind it out, grind it out, but this is probably the best time for me just to get everything fixed, get better so I’m playing somewhat healthy. I think it was just time to do it.”

And the decision was easier for Napoli to accept with the Red Sox going on a tear with him out of the lineup. The club had a six-game winning streak entering Sunday.

“Seeing them playing like this and winning definitely helps,” said Napoli. “I’m concentrating on getting better and coming back and trying to help us.”

What was bothering Napoli aside from his finger?

“Toe issue, calf, hammies,” Napoli said. “My whole body was beat up. I’m feeling great now. I’m just getting treatment.”

And the finger, which he mangled backwards on a head-first slide in Chicago?

“It’s getting better. The swelling is starting to go down,” Napoli said. “I can actually fit my finger in my batting glove now. I don’t have to cut it off.”

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