With money to spend, Sox sign Ross, target pitching

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With money to spend, Sox sign Ross, target pitching

Saturday's trade of Marco Scutaro to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitcher Clay Mortenson wasn't a trade at all. It was, pure and simple, a salary dump.

By shedding Scutaro's 6 million salary for 2012 -- which is actually valued at over 7 million for the purposes of the luxury tax -- the Red Sox did two things: 1) created some financial wiggle room for themselves to make other roster improvements and 2) opened a hole at the shortstop position.

A look at both issues:

1.) The Red Sox didn't wait long to re-allocate some of the money saved from dumping Scutaro's contract.

Source say the Sox reached agreement with outfielder Cody Ross Monday night on a one-year deal worth 3 million. Announcement of the deal will be made after Ross takes a physical.

The Colorado Rockies, New York Mets and Atlanta Braves were the other teams involved with Ross, but the Mets and Braves don't want to meet his asking price while the Rockies, ironically, may have been priced out of the race for him when they took on Scutaro's contract.

Ross gives the Red Sox a right-handed bat to pair with Ryan Sweeney in right field until Ryan Kalish is cleared to play and claim the position.

Over his career, Ross has compiled a .563 slugging percentage against lefties, making him the perfect platoon partner.

Ross could also see some playing time in left in the early part of the season as the team waits for Carl Crawford's surgically-repaired left wrist to fully heal.

That would leave the Sox with approximately 5 million of Scutaro's money to focus on upgrading the rotation.

Veteran Roy Oswalt is the best of the remaining free agents, and with February drawing closer, his asking price has come down considerably. It's thought that Oswalt is requesting something in the neighborhood of 8 million on a one-year deal.

However, multiple sources Monday indicated that an agreement with Oswalt -- even with the freed-up money -- is far from a done deal. The Sox continue to evaluate the market as the asking price for several pitchers drop. Other notable free agent pitchers include Edwin Jackson

Moreover, there are trades to consider. The Sox have been linked to both Matt Garza (Cubs) and Gavin Floyd (White Sox), each of whom will make significant money in 2012. Garza stands to get somewhere around 10 million either through arbitration or a settlement while Floyd is set to make 7 million with a 9.5 million club option for 2013.

One executive familiar with the Red Sox' thinking said Monday it was his impression that the Sox wouldn't be limited to spend only only what they saved on Scutaro, suggesting they could spend in excess of thatfigure.

"I think," said the executive, "Scutaro's money is more of a ballpark figure."

2.) When the offseason began, the Red Sox seemingly had a surplus of shortstops. Now, months later, they don't have enough.

Having included Jed Lowrie in the trade which brought them Mark Melancon, then shipping Scutaro to the Rockies, the Sox are left with three shortstops on the 40-man roster -- and that might be stretchingit.

Mike Aviles, who was obtained at last summer's trade deadline, has played shortstop in the big leagues, but hasn't done so in a while -- at least not on everyday basis.

If Scutaro was a fringe average shortstop defensively, Aviles is something less than that.

Aviles had, in fact, played the outfield in Puerto Rico this winter, hoping to get more comfortable in that spot. Now that Ross is on board, Aviles is freed from outfield duty and can concentrate on the infield.

Nick Punto, signed in the immediate aftermath of Lowrie's trade, was brought in to be the utility infielder. He's played short in the past, but not for extended periods of time and certainly not in an everyday capacity.

Over the last three seasons, Punto has played a total of 97 games at short and only once in his 10-year career has he played more than 60 games at short.

It's been suggested that the Sox could employ an Aviles-Punto platoon at short to at least start the season, but that would mean that Punto, with a career OPS of .652, would play about 70 percent of the games. Even for a lineup as powerful as that of the Red Sox, that would be an offensive sinkhole.

By now, of course, the Red Sox expected that they could turn the position over to Jose Iglesias, the Cuban defector who is a wizard with the glove. But while Iglesias could play the position in the big leagues right now, he's nowhere near ready offensively -- as his hitting struggles indicate at Triple A.

What's more, there's precious little left on the market unless you consider Ryan Theriot the answer.

For now, it appears the Red Sox are willing to patch the position together and hope that Iglesias can progress enough in the first few months of the season, but that seems like a huge gamble at such a critical position.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

Three Things we learned from the Boston Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

1) It only seems like David Ortiz can come through every time.

When Ortiz comes to the plate as he did Friday night -- bases loaded, no out, bottom of the ninth, Red Sox trailing by a run -- it seems like a win is a fait accompli.

"I think everybody in the ballpark just assumed this one might have a chance to be ended right there,'' said John Farrell. "He's been so big for us that everybody in the dugout felt the same way -- confident that the stage was set for him to come through with another dramatic moment.''

Instead, Ortiz rolled over a ground ball to second, and with the Twins infield drawn in, it was enough to turn a 4-2-3 double play that took the starch out of the inning for the Sox.

If anything, though, the inning revealed how remarkable Ortiz has been so often. It's not easy to come through even most times, and it's certainly far from automatic.

"The pitcher (closer Brandon Kintzler) made good pitches,'' said Ortiz. "That's the name of the game. I'm always looking forward to something happening. It just doesn't work out all the time.''

2) Eduardo Rodriguez has his slider back.

When Rodriguez endured a rough stretch in late May and June, he seemed to all but abandon his slider, relying almost exclusively on his two-seam fastball and changeup.

But since returning from a stint in Pawtucket, Rodriguez has flashed the slider that made him so effective as a rookie last season.

"Since he's come back,'' said Farrell, "he's added much more depth. He's able to get to the back foot of some righthanders for some swing-and-miss. He was on the plate with three quality pitches for strikes tonight.''

"I feel like I can locate it better, where I want it,'' confirmed Rodriguez. "Outside, inside corner...I'm getting more confident in it. I think I got out of my mind the tipping (pitches) stuff and all that stuff and I'm just working to throw the ball right where I want it.''

It's almost impossible for a starter in the big leagues to survive with just two pitches, as Rodriguez was attempting to do earlier this season. And it seems foolish to even try, given that Rodriguez's slider can be a plus-pitch for him at times.

3) If Mookie Betts has to miss some time, the Red Sox have options in right field.

Farrell said Betts has been dealing with soreness and stiffness in his right knee since after the All-Star break and has been undergoing treatment.

There's no evidence that this is serious, and he's considered day-to-day. But even if Betts needs some time off, or in a worse-case scenario, has to go on the DL, the Sox can do some things with their outfield.

Michael Martinez's best outfield position is right, as he demonstrated Friday night after taking over for Betts in the top of the fifth. Martinez ran a long way to grab a ball in foul territory for the final out in the sixth, then turned in a fine, tumbling catch in the eighth to take extra bases away from Adam Grossman.

Bryce Brentz, who's been in a platoon of sorts in left with Brock Holt, has played a lot of right field in the minors and has the arm strength to play there.

Finally, there's the matter of Andrew Benintendi. The Sox raised some eyebrows with the news that they were having Benintendi move over to left field at Double A Portland, perhaps in anticipation of playing the position for Boston at some point later this year.

Benintendi is a natural center fielder and even though he doesn't much experience in right, if you're athletic enough to play center, you can usually move to either corner spot.

Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

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Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Boston Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

QUOTES:

"I think everybody in the ballpark just assumed this one had a chance to be ended right there.'' - John Farrell on David Ortiz's at-bat with no out and the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

"I feel like I can locate it better - outside, inside corner -- so it's given me more confidence.'' - Eduardo Rodriguez on the improvement with his slider.

"I always look forward to something (good) happening; it just doesn't work out all the time.'' - David Ortiz on his ninth-inning at-bat.

NOTES:

* The Red Sox saw a seven-game winning streak at Fenway -- their longest of the season -- snapped.

* Boston has homered in 13 consecutive games.

* The Red Sox bullpen has posted a 1.17 ERA since July 6.

* Mookie Betts became the first Red Sox hitter to hit 20 homers in a season before he turns 24 since Nomar Garciaparra.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in 30 straight games.

* The eight strikeouts posted by Eduardo Rodriguez were a season high and one shy of his career high.

* The loss was only the 15th this season in games in which the Red Sox score first.

* Rodriguez has not allowed an opposing baserunner to steal a base since July 5, 2015.

STARS:

1) Kyle Gibson

Don't let the 5.12 ERA he had coming in fool you. Gibson worked out a little jam in the first, then completely shut the Red Sox down the rest of the way, allowing just one hit and one walk after the first.

2) Brian Dozier

Dozier homered in the second to tie the game, singled in the fourth, walked in the sixth and singled again in the eighth -- reaching base in all four plate appearances.

3) Miguel Sano

Sano invited trouble when he dropped a routine pop-up to allow the Red Sox to put the potential tying run on base in the eighth. But he had three base hits on the night, including a run-scoring double that put the Twins ahead to stay in the sixth.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam