First pitch: Time to look ahead in the rotation

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First pitch: Time to look ahead in the rotation

Aaron Cook's poor start Tuesday night -- five runs on 11 hits over five innings -- was merely the latest in a series, marking the third time in his last five outings that he's given up five or more runs and the fourth time in that span that he's failed to get through the sixth inning.

Over that span, Cook is 1-4 with a 6.92 ERA. For the season, his ERA is just under 5.00.

In turn, that led to some speculation that when Cook's spot next comes up in the rotation -- Sunday against Kansas City -- he'll be replaced by Daisuke Matsuzaka.

In what may or may not be a coincidence, Matsuzaka also pitched Tuesday -- at Pawtucket, as part of his rehab from a muscle pull in his shoulder -- and pitched effectively, tossing seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit.

That bit of neat timing would make it easy to simply plug Matsuzaka into Cook's spot for the remainder of the season, with Cook either going to the bullpen, dealt through waivers or released altogether.

"It's much too early to figure that one out," said manager Bobby Valentine when asked if Matsuzaka would take Cook's spot the next time through the rotation. "We'll watch the film tomorrow, see Dice, see how he feels and talk it over with everyone."

But while Matsuzaka has pitched effectively on his rehab, that would be a sideways move. Even if Matsuzaka turned in seven or so strong starts in the final six weeks, it would prove nothing.

Matsuzaka is a free agent at the end of the season and, obviously, isn't about to be re-signed by the Sox. He has next-to-no trade value -- the waiver deadline deal is just nine days away -- and even if he did, he has a full no-trade clause to further complicate matters.

More to the point, with the Sox falling farther back from contention with each paassing day, Matsuzaka's presence proves little. Maybe he could pitch effectively a handful of times for the remainder of the season, but toward what end? So the Red Sox can finish with 80 wins instead of 78?

At this point, the Red Sox need to frame every personnel move in the final months and a half through one question and one question only: Is this helping us get ready for 2013?

The answer regarding Matsuzaka, of course is: no. He'll be pitching somewhere else -- either in his native Japan or for some other team in the big leagues.

Every start Matsuzaka gets is a start taken away from someone who could be building toward next season.
If the Sox gave Cook's spot to, say, Felix Doubront, that would make infinitely more sense. Doubront has been sidelined with a combination of fatigue and knee issues, but will be eligible to come off the DL this weekend.

In a perfect world, the Sox would have some highly-regarded prospect at Triple A whom they could begin introducing to the big leagues. Alas, they do not. The team's best starting pitching prospect is probably Matt Barnes, who has yet to reach Double A, much less Triple A.

Without an obvious candidate in the minor leagues, Doubront should be the choice.

Doubront figures to be part of the Red Sox' rotation in 2013; Matsuzaka will most assuredly not.

That alone should point the Red Sox in the right direction.

First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Angels

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First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Angels

First Impressions from the Boston Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels

* John Farrell faced a tough call with Steven Wright in the sixth.

Wright doesn't fare well in wet weather, as the Red Sox learned earlier this season when he tried to pitch in a steady rain against Houston. With a downpour, Wright wasn't able to grip his signature knuckler, and the results showed.

In the fifth and into the sixth, the rain was picking up. By the start of the sixth, the rain intensified, and Wright began to struggle. He allowed a leadoff double to Albert Pujols, hit Jefry Marte and walked Daniel Nava to load the bases.

Farrell had Matt Barnes warming, but the manager was clearly trying to get his starter through the sixth and limit the bullpen workload, having gone to the pen in the third inning Monday and the seventh inning Wednesday.

The move backfired when C.J. Cron hit a grand slam. Wright has been terrific this season, but his inability to pitch when there's any rain at all creates a unique challenge for his manager.

* Brock Holt made his presence felt right away.

Holt missed more than a month with a concussion, and admitted before Friday's game that he still wasn't 100 percent recovered.

But that hardly seemed the case Friday night. In the field, Holt fielded a line drive in the corer by C.J. Cron and fired a strike to second, cutting down Cron attempting to stretch a single into a double.

At the plate, meanwhile, Holt clubbed two doubles to left.

Holt used that same inside-out swing both times to take pitches the other way, expertly using the Wall and Fenway to his advantage.

For the past week, the Red Sox were shuffling a few outfielders, none of whom had had much experience -- or success -- at the big league level. Even if he's not 100 percent and can't be counted on every day yet, Holt could provide a nice jolt to the bottom third of the order.

* Ortiz continues to pile up records.

His solo homer in the fifth - a line shot that curled past the right field foul pole, into the box seats -- was No. 522 of his career. That enabled Ortiz to move past three Hall of Famers: Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams -- with one swing.

Ortiz had been tied with the trio in 19th place for most career homers.

The homer also marked his 2,000th hit with the Red Sox. He became the seventh player to amass 2,000 hits in a Red Sox uniform. The others: Williams,  Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Bobby Doerr and Wade Boggs.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam

After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

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After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

BOSTON - With the Red Sox reeling coming off a month in which they went 10-16 and dropped a handful of games in the standings, speculation has recently focused on John Farrell's job security.

Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox' president of baseball operations, told reporters Thursday that Farrell's job status was not a focus and that the entire organization had to perform better. Dombrowski added that it's seldom that one person is responsible for a downturn in play.

"We've come off a tough month and finished a disappointing trip through Texas and Tampa,'' acknowledged Farrell when asked about the chatter regarding his job status. "I can understand the question and the potential speculation that's out there. But our expectation is to win and that doesn't change. The focus daily is that, is to go out and put together an effort to win.      

"My communication with Dave is very consistent. I think he's confident in my focus  and that's to win each and every day. That's where we stand. We're looking forward to  the opportunity to start this final homestand before the [All Star] break, so that gets underway tonight.''

Farrell was also asked about the dichotmy that existed between his own evaluation of David Price's outing Wednesday and Price's own estimation. 

Farrell said post-game that he believed Price "probably had his best stuff of the season, in terms of velocity and in terms of the shape of his secondary pitches.''

Price, who was in full self-flagellation mode, offered a slightly contradictory assessment.

"Changeup, that's probably the worst changeup I've had in a month,'' he said. "Curveball was awful. Can't get my cutter or my slider where I want to. I'm just bad right now.''

Farrell was questioned Friday about the seemingly contradictory analysis.

"The commentary was, here was a guy coming off an outing where he had best velocity he's shown all year -- up to 97 mph,'' said Farrell, "strikes out 10 over six-plus innings. He made some mistakes in the middle of the middle of the plate. But in terms of just raw stuff, I thought he showed a curveball that had much more consistent depth to it than in more recent starts.

So in terms of raw stuff, I thought it was one of his better outings of the year. The execution?

No, that wasn't as good as the game against San Francisco or the game against Seattle.

"Whether that's a differing opinion from someone else? That was just my view of the raw stuff.''

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam