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.”
By Jason Mastrodonato/MLB.com
Jose Iglesias no longer has an every-day position to call his own, but he can take some pleasure in knowing he’s not going back to Triple-A Pawtucket just yet.
Will Middlebrooks returned from the 15-day disabled list and was in Monday’s lineup against the Rays, batting eighth and taking over at third base, where Iglesias has been keeping the seat warm.
The Boston Globe first reported that Pedro Ciriaco, the Red Sox’s utility infielder who has hit .216 in limited action this season, has been designated for assignment. He would have to clear waivers to stick with the club in the Minors, though the demand for middle infielders across baseball this season indicates that Ciriaco should be claimed by some team in need.
The opening leaves Iglesias as the new utility man, a role he hasn’t yet discussed but manager John Farrell has said could get him in the lineup at least twice a week.
Iglesias hasn’t stopped hitting since being recalled when Middlebrooks went down in late May. The 23-year-old is a wizard with a glove but hasn’t hit well until this season, when he’s hitting .446 in 74 at-bats with the Red Sox.
The Red Sox, picking seventh in the First-Year Player Draft for the first time in 20 years, took perhaps the best two-way player available in Trey Ball.
Though Boston drafted him as a left-handed pitcher, Ball, a product of New Castle Chrysler High School (Indiana) is also highly-regarded as a let-handed hitter and outfielder.
Listed at 6-5 and 174 pounds, Ball will turn 19 later this month.
“I’m a pitcher and outfielder from New Castle, Indiana and I can hit for power, I can hit for contact,” Ball said during the pre-recorded segment MLB Network displayed immediately after he was picked. “The best word that describes me as a baseball player would probably be athletic. The most influential coach in my baseball life has probably been my dad.
“He’s taught me the game since I was very little and he’s brought me to where I am now. I try to model my game after Cliff Lee. He was always very consistent in the strike zone.”
Ball has a fastball that travels into the low to mid 90s. His changeup is a plus pitch. The curveball is a work in progress, but has promise, according to scouts.
The Red Sox will now start the process of trying to sign Ball, who has a commitment to the University of Texas.
The last time the Red Sox drafted as low as seventh was 1993, when they took a left-handed hitting outfielder named Trot Nixon, who played most of his career in Boston and helped the team achieve World Series championship glory in 2004.
Ball clubbed 10 home runs in his senior year of high school. As a pitcher ,he was 6-0 with a 0.76 ERA.
When Will Middlebrooks returns to the active roster in one week against the Angels, don’t be so sure Jose Iglesias will be heading back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Don’t forget, Iglesias had been getting some work at third and second base for Pawtucket even before the back injury to Middlebrooks.
Pedro Ciriaco hasn’t performed well in a utility role on offense or defense, and Iglesias is at the point in his development where he might benefit more from staying in the Majors — even in a bench role — than playing every day at Pawtucket.
“We haven’t ruled out that he would remain here in a utility role,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “So, he’s been exposed more to third than he has been to second. Obviously, we’re more than comfortable with him at shortstop. At some point, if we’re to strongly and surely consider him for a utility role, then he’s got to get some exposure to second base. The one thing we’re cautious of is just the pivot on the double play. I don’t know how you can emulate that in early work or in simulated-type situations, but I think most importantly, we haven’t ruled out him being in a utility role.”
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.”
Lots of moving parts at Fenway Park here on Tuesday. Joel Hanrahan has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain. With Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey on the disabled list at the same time, Junichi Tazawa assumes the closer’s role for now.
Meanwhile, in another wrinkle, prospect Allen Webster has replaced Hanrahan on the roster and will start tomorrow night, with the struggling Felix Doubront spending the next two days in the bullpen.
Manager John Farrell said that his plan for now is to slot Doubront back into the rotation the next time around.
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.
Obviously the circumstances weren’t ideal for Terry Francona’s reunion with the Red Sox. Boston was devastated by tragedy on Monday, with three people getting killed and more than 100 injured by multiple bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Here is a look at what Francona said to the media before today’s game.
Obviously Francona has roots in Boston, where he lived year-round for most of his eight years as Red Sox manager.
“I’m not sure you have to have roots in Boston to care about that,” Francona said. “Obviously I do, as you guys do, too. It just seems when you turn the TV on, it’s hard for everybody. Whether it’s personal or not, it seems like it gets personal. You turn on the TV and you hear left wing, right wing. I wish there were no wings. I just wish people would get along. I don’t understand it and I don’t pretend to. I hope there are people way smarter than me who are somehow, some day able to figure this out, so stuff like this doesn’t happen. It’s hard enough being an adult. You can imagine being a little kid growing up now? It’s hard. It just makes you feel bad.Can baseball help heal people during a tough time?
“I hope so. That would be terrific. If it helps anybody at all, that would be terrific. I think that is the case. Just from being there the time I was, that day is so special to people in Boston. They’re so proud of that day. You have the Marathon, the game, it’s a big deal. It’s kind of a personal day for the city of Boston, shoot, and New England. There’s no way, I don’t know how you quantify what happens. It’s unfair. I just hope maybe this game does help some people.”
How did Francona hear about the news?
“I was here at the ballpark and one of my daughters, I saw I had a bunch of missed calls, so I called her back. That’s how I knew.”
When did he realize the magnitude of it?
“I couldn’t get to anything right away. I was tied up for a while. Then I went and turned the TV on and saw right where it was. It’s personal for just about everybody. Some of those views, you can see the church my daughter got married in. It’s very unsettling, for everybody,” Francona said.
How about playing the Red Sox for the first time?
“It’s OK. Just being as honest as I can, I had a year removed. We’re not in Boston. I had mostly eight really good years. I don’t think I’d have scripted the way it ended, but sometimes it’s time to move on. I’m really happy where I’m at here. I think it’s unfair to the players for me to have a nostalgia week. Our job is to beat them, and it is them. It doesn’t take away anything, the people I’m close to there, there’s a lot of them. I like where I’m at. I think they like where they’re at. Everything’s pretty good. I do think it will be harder when we go to Boston for me.”
How does Francona think Boston will react to the recent events?
“I really don’t know. I don’t know how anybody could answer that. I imagine they’ll be very resilient. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.”
Did Francona have time to see his old buddy, Dustin Pedroia?
“I went out and saw him for a minute, me and [former Sox catcher Kevin Cash]. He didn’t get any better looking. Neither did I.
Francona on John Farrell?
“It’s hard when the season starts. You get tunnel vision. But the day he got hired, I said the glass became half full, and I still believe that. I hope for the next three days everything that could go wrong does for them. But he’s one of my best friends, not just in baseball, but in life. They got a good hire.”
The Indians come to Boston May 23-26. That should be a far more emotional time for Francona.
On Tuesday night, 11 of the 25 players on Boston’s roster played for Francona during his time in Boston. They are: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross, Daniel Nava, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Add in three players on the DL (David Ortiz, John Lackey and Franklin Morales) and there are 14 Francona holdovers left.
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.