Melancon deal doesn't solve Sox problems

613344.jpg

Melancon deal doesn't solve Sox problems

Wednesday represented a flurry of activity for the Red Sox, who traded two players for reliever Mark Melancon and signed free agent utilityinfielder Nick Punto.

But when it was over, the Red Sox hadn't made much progress toward solving their most obvious needs -- the back end of their starting rotation and a closer.

They merely gave themselves more options from which to choose, which is a polite way of saying that they succeeded in making things, for the time being at least, more complicated.

Melancon is unlikely to start 2012 as the team's closer. If he does, it should be read as an indcitment of the front office.

All of which isn't to suggest that Melancon is without value. He's young (26), apparently healthy (following Tommy John surgery earlier in his career) and controllable (he doesn't reach free agency until after the 2016 season).

And Melancon provides a quality arm, someone who can help in the seventh or eighth innings. Entrusting Melancon with the ninth inning, however, is another matter altogether.

For now, there's little evidence that Melancon can handle closing in the American League East. He converted just 80 percent of his save opportunties in the N.L. Central in 2011.

It's worth noting that against opponents from the A.L. East -- the Astros happened to play the division in interleague play last season -- Melancon allowed A.L. East batter to hit .351 with a 1.061 OPS.

True, it's a relatively small sample size (seven games). But it suggests that the Melancon may need more experience -- or another quality pitch -- before he can handle the toughest outs in the toughest lineups.

Just because Melancon isn't yet equipped to close doesn't mean the deal wasn't worthwhile.

Kyle Weiland profiles as a back-end starter and the Red Sox have plenty of candidates for that slot, including Alfredo Aceves, Felix Doubront and Andrew Miller. It was all but certain that Weiland was going to start the season at Triple A.

If he develops into much more than depth starter in the big leagues, most scouts will be surprised.

For the Sox, moving Jed Lowrie was the bigger gamble. Lowrie had value around the game, thanks to his versatility and affordability. At the very least, he can be a useful, flexible part of a big league roster, capable of playing all four infield positions and providing some pop at the plate -- at least from the right side.

But Lowrie was given chance after chance to establish himself as something more with the Red Sox, and outside of three terrific months -- July and August in 2010 and mid-April through mid-May of 2011 -- never truly made his case as an everyday player.

Only once in four seasons did he play more than half a season, his career stalled by a series of injuries and infirmities -- everything from a lingering wrist injury to mononucleosis to a shoulder issue.

Perhaps, with a fresh start and an opportunity to play every day, Lowrie will make good on his potential. But the Red Sox essentially replace Lowrie within hours of his departure with the signing of Nick Punto, a veteran utility piece who, like Lowrie, is a switch-hitter.

Roughly translated, then, the Sox got an older, more experienced version of Lowrie Wednesday and traded a potential back-end starter for a late-inning reliever with upside.

In the strictest sense, that represents a small step forward in terms of roster-building for 2012.

What it doesn't represent, for now at least, is any clearer sense of who's going to be getting the toughest outs. It gives the Sox more options without precluding further moves, some of which will surely be coming.

Or else.

Quotes, notes and stars: Wright 'able to neutralize' top of Orioles lineup

red_sox_steven_wright_053016.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: Wright 'able to neutralize' top of Orioles lineup

BALTIMORE -- Quotes, notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 7-2 win over the Orioles.

 

QUOTES

"He was able to neutralize their top half (of the lineup) and that was the biggest thing.'' - John Farrell on Steven Wright.

"He never broke stride, continued in a full-out gait around third base. It was a good heads-up play on his part.'' - Farrell on Mookie Betts scoring all the way from second on a swinging bunt.

"It kind of throws them off because then if I leave one up, I'm hoping the difference in the speed will get them out front.'' - Steven Wright on changing speeds on the knuckleball.

"Yeah, I do. Off the field. Not when I'm at the park, but off the field, I do.'' - Xander Bogaerts, acknowledging that he does think about his ongoing hitting streak.

"It was amazing. Hitting my first home run and putting us ahead three (more) runs, it's awesome.'' - Marco Hernandez on his first major league home run.

 

NOTES:

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 23 games with two doubles.

* Marco Hernandez's three-run homer in the eighth inning was his first major league homer.

* Mookie Betts has now reached in 13 straight games against the Orioles.

* Betts has scored 14 runs in his last 11 games.

* In his last seven games, David Ortiz is 14-for-28 in his last seven games.

* Ortiz has seven homers in his last 12 games at Camden Yards and 12 homers in his last 16 games here.

* Ortiz has homered in each of his last three games, the 18th time in his career that he's done that.

* Steven Wright tossed a career-high 122 pitches.

* Wright became the third Red Sox starter to toss three consecutive complete games on the road since Roger Clemens in 1991-92.

 

STARS:

1) Steven Wright

Wright's third complete game of the season was a gem, with just four hits allowed - just three them into the outfield. He's got a 1.79 ERA on the road this season.

2) Xander Bogaerts

In addition to extending his hitting streak to 23 games, Bogaerts had two doubles and knocked in two runs.

3) Marco Hernandez

Hernandez's first big league homer was a big one, extending what had been a two-run lead to a five-run cushion with a three-run blast in the eighth

 

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 7-2 win over the Orioles

usatsi_9316806.jpg

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 7-2 win over the Orioles

BALTIMORE -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 7-2 win over the Orioles:

* Steven Wright had six 1-2-3 innings among the nine he pitched.

For a brief time in the second, after two were out, Wright battled command. Then, in the fifth, he yielded three straight hits and a sacrifice fly, accounting for the only two runs he allowed.

Otherwise? Wright carved through the Baltimore lineup, facing the minimum number of hitters in six of the nine other innings and one over the minimum in another.

He got a number of weak squibbers - including a couple he fielded himself and of the four hits he allowed, only three left the infield.

* Mookie Betts stole the first Red Sox run with some alert baserunning.

Betts was on second when Xander Bogaerts hit a tapped in front of the mound.

Catcher Caleb Joseph pounced on the ball about 15 feet from home plate, but then stood there after throwing out Bogaerts at first. With home plate unguarded, Betts got to third and alertly kept going, beating the throw home from first baseman Chris Davis.

Betts is the probably the Red Sox' fastest baserunner, but in instances like that one, he showed he's also one of their smartest.

* David Ortiz is a menace at Camden Yards.

There's a reason John Farrell waited to make out the lineup card, hoping that David Ortiz was available after missing Sunday's game with a sore foot. Ortiz usually makes his presence felt here and Monday was no different.

He homered to right to lead off the eighth, giving him seven homers in his last 10 games at Camden Yards and 12 homers in his last 28 games.

If Ortiz played for the Orioles, it's frightening to think what sort of power numbers he could put up playing half the time in a ballpark with an inviting right field porch.

* The Sox have gotten plenty of contributions from bench players.

Josh Rutledge (.830 OPS) has helped out in the infield, with Brock Holt relegated to LF, and more recently, the DL. On Monday, it was Marco Hernandez's turn. Hernandez supplied a three-run homer from the ninth spot in the eighth inning, turning a two-run lead into a five-run advantage.

Their contributions have allowed Farrell to make some moves around the infield, such as Monday's decision to give Hanley Ramirez a day off while shifting Travis Shaw to first.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter @Sean_McAdam.