Buyers or sellers? Sox still aren't sure

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Buyers or sellers? Sox still aren't sure

BOSTON -- Last week, general manager Ben Cherington vowed to re-assess the Red Sox' standing after their road trip before determining how aggressive the organization would be in its approach to the non-waiver trade deadline.

But like everything else associated with the 2012 Red Sox, there are no simple answers.

The team's 3-3 swing through Texas and New York, which concluded with two final-at-bat wins at Yankee Stadium, may have given the Sox hope the season can be salvaged.

Indeed, internally, the Sox believe the team can still rally and play over .600 ball for the final two months and vault into a playoff spot.

That sentiment is shared by others. Last week, New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman cited three American League East executives who believe the Red Sox have the best chance of any team in the division to catch the New York Yankees.

But potential and ability are one thing, and execution is another. And 102 games into the season, the Red Sox sit at .500, with a half-dozen teams in front of them in the wild-card race.

If Josh Becket and Jon Lester can each pitch as well as they did in their most recent starts -- and to be sure, neither was great, but each was good enough to give the Red Sox a chance to win -- then maybe the Sox can catch fire in the final two months and make good on that unrealized promise.

According to some who have talked to Red Sox executives, one thing is clear after the weekend in New York: The team is not in full-sell mode.

For instance, if they could trade Josh Beckett for a return of players that set them up for 2013 and beyond, they'd be willing to do so. But they're not willing to take much of Beckett's money to facilitate such a deal.

If Beckett is dealt, it will be because the Sox can improve, and not to unload Beckett at any cost.

The team's attitude toward a number of role players, however, has crystalized somewhat. While a week ago, the Sox seemed reluctant to move players such as catcher Kelly Shoppach, outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Daniel Nava and starter Aaron Cook, there is now a belief the Sox would trade any or all of the role players if the return is enticing enough.

There's no evidence to suggest the Sox have lowered their asking price on these players, though. In fact, a National League source indicated that the New York Mets, who have long had an interest in Shoppach, have decided the Sox are asking too much and are focusing their search elsewhere.

Cook had teams interested back on May 1, when his opt-out clause forced the Sox to add him to their 25-man roster, and his recent run of starts had only amped up interest. But his most recent outing, in which he was pounded for six runs on seven hits over four innings against the Yankees in New York last Friday, may have leveled interest somewhat.

Sweeney and Nava have some value, too, are bench players, though the one Red Sox outfielder attracting the most interest is Cody Ross. Ross can't be classified as an untouchable, but given his modest salary (3 million), right-handed power (.523 slugging percentage) and strong makeup make a deal almost out of the question.

Quotes, notes and stars: Farrell sticks with Price

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Quotes, notes and stars: Farrell sticks with Price

BOSTON – Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Yankees:

 

QUOTES

“I was talking to Chili Davis before he got to the mound, so I was trying to get a fastball.” - Christian Vazquez said on his game plan against Dellin Betances before he hit his go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh.

“He was still in good shape in terms of the number of pitches thrown. It didn’t seem like his stuff was backing up . . . I thought he was still strong . . . We knew what Alex had done in the previous couple of at-bats, but I just went out to check with him.” - John Farrell on his decision to leave David Price in the seventh to face Alex Rodriguez after he’d hit a home run and double in consecutive at-bats.

“I appreciate him leaving me out there in that situation against a guy that [had] hit the ball well against me twice . . . For them to stick with me today I really appreciate it.” - Price on Farrell leaving him in against Rodriguez in the seventh.

“He’d started me off with first pitch breaking ball both times. I was having a hard time picking it up all day. So I thought, let’s see if he does it again – and he threw it again.” - Travis Shaw on his two-run home run off Nathan Eovaldi in the fifth inning.

 

NOTES

* Of Travis Shaw’s 16 career home runs, seven have been on the first pitch. All three of his home runs against the Yankees have either tied the game or given Boston the lead.

* Both of Christian Vazquez’s career home runs have been two-run, tie-breaking shots at Fenway, with the other one coming in September of 2014.

* With his single to the left side in his second at-bat, Jackie Bradley, Jr. extends his hitting streak to eight games.

* Boston has stolen 22 bases in 24 attempts. The 2016 group is only the second Red Sox team in the last 20 years to steal as many as 22 bases in the first 25 games (2013 being the other team).

* Nathan Eovaldi notched three strikeouts, snapping his 6+ strikeout streak at eight games. He was tied with Rick Porcello for the longest active streak.

 

STARS

1) Christian Vazquez

His second career home run gave Boston the lead and insurance it needed.

2) Travis Shaw

After striking out twice against New York’s starter, Travis Shaw hit a no-doubt two-run homer to tie the game at 6-6.

3) Alex Rodriguez

After missing out on an RBI opportunity in his first at-bat, the Yankees’ DH took advantage of two big mistakes by David Price, blasting a homer and a double, knocking in three runs in the process.

First impressions: Red Sox get to Yankees bullpen

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First impressions: Red Sox get to Yankees bullpen

First Impressions from the Red Sox' 8-7 victory over the Yankees.

 

All of a sudden, David Price is having issues at Fenway.

When the Sox signed Price last December, they cited his past

success in their home ballpark (1.95 ERA) as evidence that he could thrive here. But six starts into his Red Sox career, his three worst starts have come here. He's pitched 22 2/3 innings and allowed 21 earned runs.

Even stranger is that so much damage was done by Alex Rodriguez, who previously had compiled a .237 career average against Price with just one homer in 57 at-bats.

 

It's highly unusual for John Farrell to go to the mound and not take the starting pitcher out.

But that's what happened in the top of the seventh. David Price was in the mid-90s with his pitch count and Rodriguez -- who had homered and doubled off Price in his previous two at-bats -- was due. It seemed obvious that Price was coming out of the game.

Instead, Price was left in and grounded out to second to end the inning. It says something about Farrell's trust in Price - or Price's powers of persuasion -- that the lefty stayed in the game.

 

Credit Travis Shaw with making some in-game adjustments.

In his first two at-bats against New York starter Nathan Eovaldi, Shaw struck out twice. Both times, Eovaldi started him off with a curve ball.

But when Eovaldi tried it again in the fifth, Shaw hammered the pitch deep into the right field seats for a two-run homer.

 

The Red Sox bullpen far outshone that of the Yankees in this series.

In the three games just played, Boston relievers tossed seven shutout innings in the series, while Yankees' righthander Dellin Betances twice yielded two-run homers to cost the Yanks both games.

 

Dustin Pedroia insists he's not focusing on hitting the ball the other way, but the results suggest otherwise.

Pedroia banged out three singles Sunday night and all three were hit to right. On the current homestand, Pedroia has a total of eight hits; five were hit to right field.

 

Farrell on Sox rotation: 'We've got to get Clay going'

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Farrell on Sox rotation: 'We've got to get Clay going'

BOSTON - Maybe it wasn't a warning shot, but more of an idle observation. Maybe it wasn't a challenge at all.

But what John Farrell had to say Sunday afternoon about Clay Buchholz was, if nothing else, noteworthy.

In assessing his team's play in the just-completed first month of the season, Farrell noted that the starting rotation, after a particularly rough beginning, had stabilized of late.

With one exception, that is.

"We've got to get Clay going, particularly," Farrell said. "He's an important part of our rotation, an important part of this team. We've got to get him on track." Buchholz is winless in his five starts, with an 0-3 mark and an inflated ERA of 6.51. He's given up a minimum of five earned runs in each start and has yet to pitch through the seventh inning.

Farrell noted that the issue has been less about quality of stuff and more about his aggressiveness - or lack thereof.

"There are times,'' Farrell said, "when we've seen Clay execute pitches with, I think, a greater conviction to the pitch. There are other times where maybe he's pitched away from contact a little bit too much and not attacked the strike zone. To me, there comes an attitude on the mound that's got to be prevailing."

The Sox aren't far from welcoming back to starters. Eduardo Rodriguez, who tweaked his knee in early March, is set to make his second rehab start for Pawtucket Tuesday and could conceivably return five days after that. At most, Rodriguez will be ready with one more additional outing.

Next up is Joe Kelly, who is on the DL with a shoulder impingement. Kelly has thrown some bullpen sessions and could begin a rehab assignment later in the week.

That will lead to the Sox making some tough decisions in the coming weeks. It had been widely assumed that knuckleballer Steven Wright would be he most vulnerable starter, but Wright is 2-2 with a 1.37 ERA in four outings.

Asked to assess where the Sox within the context of the division, Farrell said: "We're probably searching to shore up areas that are in need, and that first starts with making the necessary adjustments with the guys that are on our roster now. Not that we're going to make wholesale changes. Like I said, we've got to get Clay going. That's a big improvement that we could make."