Memories return for Theo as Red Sox visit Wrigley


Memories return for Theo as Red Sox visit Wrigley

CHICAGO -- At the intersection of Clark and Addison on Chicago's North Side, Theo Epstein's past and present collide.

"Obviously,'' said Epstein Friday, surrounded by reporters in front of the Chicago Cubs dugout, "it brings back a lot of memories. It's good to see a lot of great friends. I'm looking forward to it. It will be great to see everybody. We don't play these guys that often, so you've got to relish it.''

Before Epstein can look forward, however, Epstein has been doing a lot of looking back at his 10 years with the Red Sox, nine as their general manager.

That tenure included two World Series titles and two other visits to the American League Championship Series, but it concluded with a historic collapse last September that resulted in wholesale changes within the organization.

Even as he goes about trying to build the Cubs into winners, some of the sting from last fall remains.

''I think everybody moves on,'' said Epstein. "But I remember stuff from 2003. I sit there and see Aaron Boone coming to the plate. So every time you have an opportunity to advance and do some damage or get to the postseason and you don't, that always stays with you, last September in particular, because we not only fail to perform in the standings, but we kind of lost our identity as a team.

"That was a tough pill to swallow. I think everyone that was involved, it will stay with them. But at the same time, you move on from it and try to get better.''

As he looks back, Epstein feels culpability for the 7-20 collapse and a squandered 9 12-game wild-card lead.

"I take responsibility for the team not getting where we were supposed to go,'' he said, "and from what I can tell, a lot of the people involved are taking responsibility. You just learn from it and move on.''

The Cubs own the worst record in baseball at 21-42, last in the National League Central, and Epstein understands that it's tough to measure progress in the early stages of the Cubs' rebuilding process.

"There's progress in a lot of different areas; some of it's behind the scenes,'' he said. "We've put together a scouting and player development philosophy and gotten everyone on the same page. We've committed to a vision of the future, built around our core of young players that we're trying to identify and develop. There's a lot of work behind the scenes and hopefully we'll see some on-field progress soon.''

Epstein readily admits that this rebuild is far different from the one he undertook in Boston. In 2002, the year before Epstein was promoted to GM, the team won 93 games and had a core of talented players that included Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra.

"Maybe it was a more subtle process, but we made some moves at the big-league level and had success right off the bat,'' said Epstein. "That bought us time to commit to the Red Sox way of doing things, which we established.

"A lot of the work is similar. Here, there's clearly a mandate for change. We didn't have to that much convincing. We just got everybody together in the same room and talked about how we want to teach the game, what we're going to stand for as an organization and how we're going to execute at the minor league level.''

But while the Cubs rebuild from the bottom up, focusing on the draft, international signings and development of prospects, there's the sobering reality that the present-day Cubs have a .333 winning percentage.

"It's never easy,'' he said of the losing. "You can talk about a vision and a plan and theory, but when you have to get in the trenches, day-in and day-out and suffer through some losses, it's really tough. It should be. If it was easy, you'd be in the wrong game.

"You have to strike a delicate balance. You don't want to talk too much about the future because you have complete respect for what these 25 players are trying to accomplish and the integrity of this season and how hard they're preparing each and every night.

"We're not where we want to be and there are some games we'd like back. But these guys are playing hard, they're preparing hard and they're not backing down. It's all about wins and losses. That's what matters in this game. But if you dig a little deeper, you see a manager and a coaching staff that set high expectations and the players who are working hard to live up to those expectations.

"There's a little bit of a talent deficit right now that will close as we move forward. I like what's being established in the clubhouse and I think that will pay dividends down the line.''

Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays


Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Notes, quotes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Rays:


* "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully, the tests come back clean.'' -Andrew Benintendi, on the uncertainty surrounding his knee injury.

* "Sometimes, I like that, sometimes I don't because I'd kind of take a couple of quick outs in place of those to get a couple of more innings out there.'' -Drew Pomeranz on his career high 11 strikeouts.

* "That's probably the spot that looms the largest. Jackie's become more aggressive early in the count, but at the same time, that aggressiveness can work against you.'' -Farrell on Jackie Bradley Jr. swinging at the first pitch following a walk with the bases loaded.


* Drew Pomeranz recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts

 * Since moving to the leadoff spot, Dustin Pedroia has a slash line of .397/.418/.460 in 16 games.

* Pomeranz has yielded two runs or fewer in five consecutive starts.

* On the just-completed road trip, the Red Sox led in all but one game.

* Thursday's loss was the fourth this season in which the Sox allowed two runs or fewer.

 * The past 18 Red Sox losses have come by a combined 37 runs.

* Until Thursday, the Red Sox had won 20 of their past 31 day games.

* The bottom third of the makeshift Red Sox lineup combined to go 2-for-12.

* The Sox missed out on a chance to have an eight-win road trip, which would have been their first since 2011.


1) Jake Odorizzi

The Rays started, facing a depleted Red Sox lineup, limited the Sox to a single run over seven innings, allowing just five hits and getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing just one run.

2) Mikie Mahtook

Mahtook was 0-for-34 when facing Drew Pomeranz in the seventh inning, but that didn't stop him from doubling home Steven Souza Jr with what proved to be the winning run.

3) Dustin Pedroia

The Sox couldn't generate much of anything at all offensively, but don't blame Pedroia. The leadoff hitter had three hits and a walk and was on base four times for the Sox.

Benintendi's MRI inconclusive; will undergo more tests Friday in Boston

Benintendi's MRI inconclusive; will undergo more tests Friday in Boston

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Andrew Benintendi saga will continue for at least one more day, as an MRI taken here Thursday morning was, in the words of John Farrell, "inconclusive" and the rookie left fielder will undergo more tests Friday in Boston.

"Our doctors want to get him back to a full exam with (team orthopedist) Dr. [Peter] Asnis," Farrell said after the 2-1 loss to the Rays, which concluded the team's 11-game road trip. "Hopefully, when I speak to you all [Friday] afternoon (at Fenway Park, prior to the team's game against Royals), there will be a little more information on this."

Farrell said Friday's tests "will include some other imaging".

The Sox placed Benintendi on the 15-day disabled list after he injured his left night while running the bases Wednesday night. 

"We're going to do some more tests tomorrow and take it day-by-day," he said. "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully the tests come back clean.''
Benintendi found one sliver of hope:
"The more I walk on it, the better it feels. I'm going to stay as positive as I can.'' 

First impressions of Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Rays


First impressions of Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First Impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field:


* When the guy who was 0-for-34 produces the go-ahead RBI, it's probably not your day.

The Red Sox and Rays were tied 1-1 in the seventh when Steven Souza Jr. singled to lead off the inning. That brought Mikie Mahtook, hitless in his last 34 at-bats to the plate.

Naturally, Mahtook roped a line-drive double to left field, scoring Souza all the way from first base. It was that kind of day for the Red Sox, who were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and stranded five baserunners.

For a team that still leads the majors in runs scored, the Red Sox have shown an uncanny ability to go cold at the plate.

On Thursday afternoon, that happened again, while the most unlikely hero for Tampa Bay came through in an improbable spot.


* The Red Sox' struggles with the bases loaded is almost comical.

It happened again.

In the sixth inning, the Red Sox loaded the bases with no out. Mookie Betts then hit a sacrifice fly to left, scoring one run. Hanley Ramirez then walked, re-loading the bases, this time with one out.

But Jackie Bradley Jr. then swung at the first pitch and hit into an inning-ending, rally-killing 4-6-3 double play.

In two plate appearances with the bases loaded, the Sox failed to get a hit.

The Sox are hitting .216 with the bases loaded (24-for-111), ranking them 14th in the American League. Only Seattle and Detroit have had more bases-loaded opportunities, and yet the Red Sox rank in the second half in runs scored in such situations.


* Drew Pomeranz is showing no signs of innings fatigue

True, Pomeranz failed to provide a shutdown inning in the sixth after the Red Sox had gotten him a run in the top of the inning.

Still, Pomeranz pitched into the seventh and allowed just two runs while striking out a season-high 11 batters.

In his past five starts, he's compiled a 2.37 ERA, and both the power to his fastball and the sharpness to his curve offer no evidence that he's hit any sort of wall despite already establishing a career high at the major league level with five weeks remaining in the season.