McAdam: It could be a Field of Dreams again

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McAdam: It could be a Field of Dreams again

BOSTON -- Leaving behind the obvious question of "Why did the Red Sox pick the eighth anniversary to celebrate the virtues of the 2004 championship team?'' there were another couple of reasons to question the wisdom of Tuesday's on-field pregame ceremony.

First, the presence of the 2004 club was a stark reminder of how things used to be at Fenway, when baseball was fun, the players were likeable and winning was norm.

Never mind the 86-year gap that was erased when the Sox finally won it all; the eight years that have passed since the first of two 21st-century titles now seem like a lifetime ago.

Secondly, the presence of the '04 team is a reminder of the value of "team.''

Sure, that Red Sox team had its share of superstars, players big enough to be known by one name: Nomar, Pedro and Manny included. But there were important pieces, too. What made the 2004 team more successful than past Red Sox clubs was the mix of All-Stars and role players.

Without discounting the contributions of big-name acquisitions such as Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke, there was the undeniable input of lesser lights such as Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn, Mike Timlin and Kevin Millar.

Beyond his success at drafting and developing, it could be argued that Theo Epstein's real talent was finding genuine value in the free-agent market.

On the field Tuesday night, then, was a blueprint which the Red Sox can use to dig themselves out of their current mess. To say nothing of serving as a reminder that the road back to respectability and, eventually, contention, may not be as long and winding as some have forecast.

In 2001, recall, the Red Sox were a mess. Jimy Williams was fired in August, replaced by Joe Kerrigan, leading to a disastrous final six weeks in which the Red Sox splintered, tripped and fell. The same team which was a wild-card contender in midseason embarrassed itself in the second half, both with its play and off-field problems.

Sound familiar?

And yet, two years later, the Red Sox were in the American League Championship Series. A year after that, they were the champions of baseball.

Epstein himself has famously cited "the Monster'' -- the internal, self-generated pressure to sign stars in order to make the Sox more marketable -- as part of the team's downfall. But a less-publicized change of philosophy also contributed to the downward spiral.

Worried that the "Cowboy Up'' and "Idiot" personas were overtaking the clubhouse, the Red Sox made a conscious decision to avoid players with personality and instead focused on those whose behavior was deemed more "professional.'' The latter, it was argued, wouldn't be distractions and could be more effectively managed over the course of a long season.

Thus, out went Johnny Damon, Millar and Martinez. In came the likes of Carl Crawford
and Adrian Gonzalez, who came to view the game dispassionately and seemed overwhelmed by the Boston environment.

While the Red Sox wait for their best prospects (Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr.) to arrive in 2014, they'd do well to remember that character and personality count for something.

Signing someone like outfielder Torii Hunter to a two-year deal could do wonders for the clubhouse. Hunter is a respected leader, a sunny presence and, not incidentally, a close friend of David Ortiz. Though he lacks a championship on his resume, Hunter is no stranger to winning: he's taken part in the postseason six times and counting.

Eight years removed from the 2004 World Series, the camaraderie and joyfulness with which those Red Sox teammates regarded one another was on display at Fenway Tuesday night. It helps that they won, of course -- few losing teams are happy teams.

But their obvious bonhomie is a reminder that baseball can be fun, an element not enough found at Fenway this season.

Red Sox injury updates: Holt, Rodriguez returns still uncertain

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Red Sox injury updates: Holt, Rodriguez returns still uncertain

BOSTON -- The return dates for both Eduardo Rodriguez and Brock Holt remain uncertain.

Holt visited with concussion specialist Micky Collins in Pittsburgh the last two days and is returning to Boston Tuesday night.

The Red Sox placed him on the seven-day DL last week when he began experiencing symptoms associated with a mild concussion, following an incident on the last homestand when he went to dive for a ball at second and felt some whiplash in the neck.

"He went through a battery of tests in Pittsburgh,'' said John Farrell. "After a full workup with Micky there, we feel like there's a very detailed plan in place. He'll begin some general conditioning when he gets back. He's still dealing with some symptoms, minor as they might be, and in the coming days, baseball activity will start. [But] we're going to miss him for a little bit.''

Holt clearly won't be ready to return this week.

"He's going to need some time to get back to game speed for us,'' confirmed Farrell. "But we don't feel like this is a real long-term type of scenario.''

As for Rodriguez, the question of a return date to the major-league rotation remains something of an open question.

"He came out of last night's start in pretty good shape,'' reported Farrell of Rodriguez's seven-inning, one-run performance for Pawtucket on Tuesday. "He's set to throw his bullpen [Thursday] and right now tentatively set (to pitch) for Pawtucket on Sunday, but we obviously have the ability to adjust if needed or if we choose to do so.

"I don't know that we're there to say where it's definitively going to be next. Over the coming few days, we'll certainly map them out with Eduardo first and foremost. If it's (with the big-league club), it obviously won't be until early next week at the [earliest]. We're still working through some things on that.''

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineup: Ramirez back at first base

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineup: Ramirez back at first base

BOSTON -- Hanley Ramirez had to come out of Tuesday night's game after getting hit in the foot with a pitch, but fears that he'd be sidelined for a while were unfounded.

Ramirez is back in the lineup tonight, at first base and batting fifth as always, as the Red Sox host the Rockies in the second game of a three-game series. In addition, Travis Shaw -- who was held out of Tuesday's starting lineup because of a minor hand injury but who came in as Ramirez's replacement after the HBP -- is back at third base, hitting seventh.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has been moved up to sixth as John Farrell continues to search for ways to make sure Bradley isn't pitched around. Bradley will be attempting to extend his hitting streak to 29 tonight.

The lineups:

ROCKIES:
Charlie Blackmon CF
DJ LeMahieu 2B
Nolan Arenado 3B
Carlos Gonzalez RF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Gerardo Parra LF
Ryan Raburn DH
Tony Wolters C
Cristhian Adames SS
---
Chat Bettis P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Ryan Hanigan C
Blake Swihart LF
---
Steven Wright P

McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

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McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

BOSTON -- The last two seasons, tourists weren't the only ones eager to visit Fenway Park. Opponents, too, couldn't wait to get to the old ballpark.

In 2015, the Red Sox barely finished above .500 at home (43-38). In 2014, their performance at Fenway was truly troubling -- 34-47, worse than they were away from home.

The days of juggling rotations to avoid unfavorable matchups against the Red Sox in Boston were a distant memory. It didn't much matter who pitched at Fenway. The Red Sox weren't much to worry about.

That's not the case in 2016, however. Overall, the Sox are 17-9 at home this season. Since April 24, they're 12-2.

And they're not just winning at home; they're bludgeoning other clubs into submission. Since the start of the season, the Red Sox are averaging 6.73 runs per game at Fenway Park . . . and over the last 18 games, they've pumped that average up to exactly eight runs per outing.

In 11 of their last 13 home games, they've scored at least six runs and pounded out 11 or more hits.

So it was, again, Tuesday that the Red Sox kicked off a three-game set with the Colorado Rockies with another eight-run performance.

A decade after the PED era crested, the Red Sox are putting up late 1990s/early 2000s offensive numbers at home.

"Our roster, our personnel has changed,'' said John Farrell after the 8-3 win over the Rockies in explaining the surge in Fenway offense. "We've added young, energetic, athletic guys that are able to go first-to-third, which is key in this ballpark because a man at second base in not always a guaranteed run on a base hit, particularly to the left side of the field.

"It's an all-field approach. That's the other thing. This has historically been a great doubles ballpark. Our hitting approach plays to that. The combination of those two things is the reason why.''

Indeed, the numbers bear all of that out. When it comes to their numbers at home, the Red Sox lead the league in runs scored, doubles, hits, total bases, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS.

They've scored 175 runs at home; that's 59 more than the next-best team (Texas) has scored in its home ballpark.

Why, the Red Sox even lead the league in home triples (seven), evidence of how much more athletic they've become.

Farrell's right to point out the improved athleticism. Once more on Tuesday night, Xander Bogaerts scored from first base on a double by David Ortiz, something Bogaerts has seemingly done several times a week at Fenway this season.

The ability to take an extra base or two extends big innings and puts further pressure on an opponent.

When slow-footed catcher Christian Vazquez is rifling a ball to the triangle and ending up on third with a triple -- as was the case Tuesday -- then you know that things have changed at Fenway.

Chili Davis, the Red Sox hitting instructor, has been preaching the importance of using the entire field, and hitters are listening. On Tuesday, Ortiz slapped a single through the shortstop hole against the shift in the first for a two-run single.

Then, two innings later, Ortiz pulled a ball into the right-field corner for two more runs.

It's like that night after night, game after game for the Red Sox. The hits and runs pile up, and the wins follow.

The Sox are advised to take full advantage now of a schedule that is decidedly home-friendly in the first half of the season. In August and September, they'll will play the vast majority of their games on the road.

For now, though, there are plenty of games lined up at Fenway . . . an opportunity to keep the offensive numbers surging and the opponents cowering.