Mike Napoli is not in Boston’s lineup tonight. Mike Carp is at first. This is becoming a big issue for the Red Sox when you consider how well Carp has been hitting in limited opportunities and the fact that Napoli’s bat has gone ice-cold since his grand slam homer at Yankee Stadium the night of June 1.
In his last 74 at-bats, Napoli is hitting .230 with one double, no homers and 10 RBIs.
In Napoli’s first 212 at-bats of the season, he hit .269 with nine homers, 44 RBIs and an .846 OPS.
The Red Sox need Napoli’s production from the right side, particularly because of the protection he can give David Ortiz in the lineup.
Napoli was out before today’s game taking extra batting practice. This is definitely a story to monitor in the coming weeks.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington discussed a variety of subjects today in a lengthy session with Boston baseball scribes. Here is a sampling.
On where the team is and where they might go:
“We’re always trying to get better. Over the course of the season, there’s going to be parts of a team that perform really well at different points of the season. Guys are going to go through hot streaks and slumps. We’re like any other team. But overall, the effort’s been great. Our players and staff have worked really hard everyday, we’ve been prepared every night and we’ve come out on the winning end more often than we haven’t. The guys have put us in a position here in the middle of June to be right in the thick of things. The division is not really that different than anyone thought it would be. It’s a jumble. I don’t think anyone knew exactly what the order was going to be, but it’s very competitive. We knew it was going to be competitive. And I still think that the teams that end up on top are going to be the ones that stay the healthiest, get the best starting pitching and make the best in-season adjustments. We’re going to try to do that. Time will tell.”
On the bullpen:
“Overall, the guys have done a good job. Andrew’s had a couple tough outings here recently, but if you look at the total body of work, his performance over the course of the season, he’s still having a very solid year. Every player goes through slumps. When your outfielder goes through slumps, those 0-for-5 days, nobody really notices. When it’s the closer, it gets more attention. He’s going through that, but we’re really confident he’ll get back on track and start closing out games again. Certainly no one is working harder at it than he is. Before the ninth inning, we’ve been pretty solid of late — the combination of Uehara, Tazawa, Breslow, Miller are doing a good job. So you can’t ever be complacent when it comes to pitching. We have to keep our eyes open to what’s going on. We think we have some internal options if needed, perhaps a little better situated there than we have been the last year or two. But it’s something that, if the season goes on, it’s just something to stay on top of, stay aware of, and if there are ways to get better, we’ll consider those. But moreover, the guys have done a good job and we’re in the position that we’re in because a lot because the guys in the bullpen pitching in the seventh, in the eighth and ninth inning overall, on the whole this year, have done a pretty good job.”
Could Andrew Miller develop into a closer?
“He’s certainly got that kind of stuff. As you said, he hasn’t been in the role yet. But he’s certainly got the kind of stuff. The confidence is growing. You see him out there executing, getting right-handers out as much as he’s getting left-handers out, all those things, he’s certainly got the attributes to pitch at any point in the game. I think a lot’s made of the ninth inning. We understand why. It’s the last three outs of the game. I’m not trying to diminish the importance of those outs. But we need to get hitters out from the time the starter leaves through the last out of the game. We need as many effective pitchers as possible, give John as many options as possible. We have a lot of those, but we’ll certainly keep our eyes open if there are ways to improve.”
On the move of Xander Bogaerts to Triple-A:
“I’ve always kind of felt like there’s no such thing as a prospect in Triple A. Once you’re in Triple A, you’re either ready to come to the big leagues or you’re not. And that’s what we’re finding out about the guys in Triple A now. We felt like Xander had done enough in Double A to warrant a promotion. He spent some time there last year, went back this year and really improved in the areas he needed to.”
Will Dustin Pedroia eventually get a contract extension?
“Well, as you know, I’m not going to comment on any contract issue with a player. To speak generally about Dustin, certainly he’s a guy that we think very highly of. He’s a huge part of our organization, not just this team. He represents a lot of what we’re all about. Our sincere hope is that he’s here for a long time, but you know, that’s all I can say about it. We have a good enough relationship with Dustin and his representatives that the conversation can happen over time and at the right time. He’s a very valuable player and shows up every day in all sorts of ways.”
The Red Sox accumulated another lefty reliever on Thursday when they signed veteran Rafael Perez, who had spent his entire Major League career with the Cleveland Indians. It was a Minor League contract and Perez is expected to report to Double-A Portland.
The 31-year-old Perez pitched in 338 games for the Indians from 2006-12, posting a 3.64 ERA.
Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller are Boston’s curent lefties in the bullpen. Franklin Morales would be a third when he comes off the disabled list in the near future.
When the Red Sox played Terry Francona’s Indians in Cleveland from April 16-18, slugger David Ortiz was still in the final stages of his Minor League rehab.
On Thursday night at Fenway, Ortiz will stand in the batters box against Francona for the first time since they parted ways at the end of the 2011 season.
“I mean, yeah, it’s definitely going to bring memories back,” Ortiz said. “I was with Tito for eight years. He’s a good dude. He did a lot of good things. I learned a lot of things from him. It’s going to be a little weird just watching him from the other side. It is what it is, right?”
Ortiz and Francona experienced a lot of success together, winning two World Series championships together, most memorably the one in 2004 that included the comeback from 3-0 down in the best-of-seven ALCS against the Yankees.
“It was weird watching him on ESPN at the beginning until you get used to it,” Ortiz said. “So now you watch him on the other side and it will feel weird for a couple of series. At some point, it will be pretty normal.”
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has been hitting at a torrid pace since coming off the disabled list. This, even as he deals with a personal matter.
Ortiz and his wife Tiffany are filing for a divorce. The couple has been married for nearly a decade after meeting when Ortiz was in the Minor Leagues.
“There are some situations in life that work out for a period of time and at some point they don’t work out anymore and you have to move on,” Ortiz said in an interview with MLB.com and WEEI.com. “I’m moving on. She’s moving on. Hopefully everybody respects that.”
While Ortiz wanted to release the news before it leaked out, he hopes the public will respect his family’s privacy in the ensuing weeks.
The one thing Ortiz hopes nobody will do is try to look for a connection between his marriage ending and his performance on the field.
“I’m going to separate things,” Ortiz said. “Whatever is happening to me off the field is happening, but I try not to confuse that and bring that into my job. I know how to separate things. Personal life matters, and hopefully everybody respects that.”
The couple raised three children together, daughters Jessica and Alexandra, and son D’Angelo, who remains a constant presence in the Red Sox’ clubhouse.
Ortiz wanted to emphasize that the separation has been amicable, and that both sides want to move forward with their lives.
In Sunday’s win over the Astros, Ortiz went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Over eight games, he is hitting .516 with two homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.400 OPS.
Jose Iglesias will get the thrill of playing in Monday’s home opener, as Stephen Drew will need an extra day at Double-A Portland thanks to a postponement on Saturday.
Drew, who sustained a concussion on March 7, will make his debut for the Red Sox on Wednesday.
“I think just talking with him late yesterday afternoon, he felt an additional eight to 10 at-bats would be helpful,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He’s starting to feel much more comfortable but he felt like two additional games, to go nine innings each day, would put him in a better position to return to us.”
Meanwhile, Iglesias was back in the lineup on Sunday after missing Saturday’s game with a bruised right forearm.
“Yeah, and even yesterday, he was available yesterday but we had planned a down day for him, day game after the night game, just trying to balance guys’ not being accustomed to the turf here, which is the same reason Napoli is DH-ing today with Daniel at first. Jose is fully ready to go,” said Farrell.
David Ortiz will be on a plane to Florida on Thursday to continue his rehab there, and could be playing in extended Spring Training games by the beginning of next week.
An official Minor League rehab assignment might not be too far behind. In fact, it’s starting to sound as if Ortiz could play for the Red Sox in April.
“In talking with David, I think he’d feel comfortable with 25, 30 at-bats, likely to be taken place at Pawtucket,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “When that rehab assignment begins remains to be seen. We’re still hopeful of a target timeframe of sometime middle to third week of April.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Drew played in an extended Spring Training for the second day in a row and will play at Double-A Portland tomorrow. Drew could play for Boston in the Fenway Park Opener on Monday.
Jon Lester might have had a down year in 2012, but the Red Sox still view him as an ace. And that’s why the lefty will take the ball at Yankee Stadium on Monday for Opening Day.
After weeks of speculation, manager John Farrell finally made it official on Wednesday morning. Lester will be Boston’s first pitcher out of the gate for the third consecutive season.
The news was revealed just hours before Lester got ready to make his final start of Spring Training against the Miami Marlins.
“The way he was lined up, he was probably targeted all along,” said Farrell. “At the same time, we didn’t want that to be a focal point. His work that was needed and the adjustments that he’s continued to reinforce and repeat on the mound were the priorities. We felt like it was important to focus on the needs of Spring Training for every pitcher, including Jon, before we got into the rotation [order].”
In his first five starts of Grapefruit League action, Lester went 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA, looking a lot more like the pitcher who dominated in 2008-11 than the one who stumbled last year.
“He’s gotten back to a delivery that was similar to what he had in the past,” Farrell said. “I think he’s executing pitches with the consistency we saw before that made him one of the top left-handers in the game. He’s had a very strong Spring Training. “
Right-handers Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster will follow Lester in New York, pitching Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Left-hander Felix Doubront and righty John Lackey will round out the rotation, pitching the first two games in Toronto.
Buchholz is on tap to pitch the Home Opener on April 8 against the Orioles.
Lester was 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA in 33 starts in 2012.
“I didn’t really like what happened last year as far as me and the way I pitched,” Lester said earlier this spring. “That’s solely on me – that’s not on anyone else, that’s not on the revolving door of pitching coaches, that’s not on our manager, that’s not on anybody but myself. I want to prove that last year was a fluke and it’s not going to happen again.”
The Red Sox will have some decisions to make early next week when it comes to some of their veterans who are on the bubble.
Lyle Overbay, who is competing to be the backup first baseman, has an opt-out clause in his contract that he can activate on Tuesday. Outfielder Ryan Sweeny can become a free agent on Thursday. Both those players might exercise their rights to become free agents if they don’t have assurances they will make the team.
“We certainly try to communicate with everyone as respectfully and professionally as we can, as we get close to those decisions,” said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. “Of course, they’re not all on the same day. We’ll have plenty of conversation between now and next week. But right now, there’s baseball still to be played in Spring Training. We’ve got to keep watching.”
With David Ortiz not making the progress he had hoped with his right Achilles injury, the Red Sox sent the slugger out for a precautionary MRI on Saturday. The team should have the results later today. Interestingly, Ortiz had images on both heels.
He hasn’t been ruled out for Opening Day yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it eventually heads in that direction.
“He’s undergone an MRI on both his heels and that’s where he’s been feeling the discomfort,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “It hasn’t been in that right Achilles specifically, it’s been overall in both heels. Just to rule everything out, he’s undergone that imaging here today. I think the one thing that we still hold in all this is that while the timing might not be what was maybe initially expected, the bigger picture is he’s still making progress. He’s been able to run the bases – as we know – on the days that he has. He’s been taking BP every single day. There’s progress, yet, maybe not as fast as he might have anticipated or hoped. Like I said, we’re ruling everything out but at the same time we acknowledge that there’s progress being made.”
When would the Red Sox officially rule Ortiz out for Opening Day?
“Well, we’ll see how this week goes,” Farrell said. “We don’t have a date earmarked. Our goal is to have David in our lineup for the greatest number of games that we can throughout the course of the year. It’s not like April 1 is a drop-dead date for an entire season. We’re not going to rush to any decision where we’re saying, you know what, Opening Day is out.
The Red Sox will only start examining alternative plans for the lineup once they know for sure Ortiz will start the season late. Could there be an option in which Jackie Bradley, Jr. starts the season on the active roster, with an outfielder — say Jonny Gomes – serving as the DH?
“That discussion is yet to be had. Regardless of who would fill out the 25-man roster, you know what, I can’t sit here today and say that’s not an option that wouldn’t be discussed. Keep in mind that we fully expect Jackie to begin the season in the Minor Leagues. So we’ll see – we’ll work through the combinations that exist here in camp and, again, we haven’t ruled out David either.”