Notes: Cherington discusses Red Sox roster moves

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Notes: Cherington discusses Red Sox roster moves

BOSTON -- Shortstop is a position of depth for the Red Sox, with veterans Mike Aviles and Jed Lowrie under the club's control and prospect Jose Iglesias waiting at Triple A.

Still, the Red Sox liked Marco Scutato enough to exercise the team's option for 6 million last weekend.

"He finished the year as the starter," said GM Ben Cherington, "so I would see him going into spring training as the starter."

Scutaro's contract included a 4 million player option which he could have exercised had they passed on the team option. But the Sox decided not to chance losing him.

"We see him as an above-average major league shortstop," said Cherington. "He certainly performed that way this year. We felt like a one-year deal at 6 million was very fair value for him.

"He was a guy who we knew was going to be coveted this off-season if he became a free agent. We knew allowing him to get into free agency, there was a risk that he could get a better deal than that. We wanted to keep him."

Scutaro hit .299 with seven homers and 54 RBI in 113 games with a .354 on-base percentage. In contrast to many of his teammates, he also finished the season strong with a .387 batting average in September and an OPS of 1.019.

The Sox can presumably now deal either Aviles or Lowrie and still have adequate depth at the position.

On Monday, the team declined the options on two veteran relievers-- Scott Atchison and Dan Wheeler -- though it's possible that both could return to the team in 2012.

The team had an option for Atchison for next season that would have paid him 200,000 over the the minimum major league salary, but elected not to pick it up. The team controls him, however, and could tender him a contract at a lesser number before the deadline date in December.

"It was just a matter of whether we locked in that rate or not," explained Cherington.

The option for Wheeler was more expensive at 3 milion and, according to Cherington, "we just didn't feel like we could commit to that money at this point in the off-season. We have a lot of respect for Dan and he's a pro. He pitched really well after coming off the DL (in May). We'll keep the door open and continue dialogue with him. We just weren't ready to commit to that salary this early on."

Wheeler finished the year at 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA in 47 games. He got off to a miserable start, but after returning from a calf injury, was far more effective, with a 2.54 ERA May 21 on.

Cherington and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein continue to negotiate compensation for Epstein leaving the Red Sox to become president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs, with seemingly little progress made.

The two clubs have until Tuesday to arrive at an agreement before commissioner Bud Selig steps in as a third-party arbiter.

"We're still talking," said Cherington. "It's a difficult deal to work out. It's hard to quantify the value of Theo Epstein. I have an idea of it and Theo doesn't think he's worth as much as I do. We haven't been to bridge that gap yet."

Cherington said having Selig intervene "was always a possibility . . . I think both sides are comfortable with that outcome if it happens that way."

There have been no discussions about how the process would work if Selig must rule on compensation, but Cherington's belief is that each team would present its side to the commissioner and a ruling would follow.

First impressions: Porcello settles in, helps Red Sox beat Rays, 9-4

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First impressions: Porcello settles in, helps Red Sox beat Rays, 9-4

First impressions from the Red Sox' 9-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays:

 

* Rick Porcello followed form.

Porcello has, throughout the season, struggled some in the early innings before making some adjustments and stabilizing as the game wears on.

So it was Monday night against the Rays.

Coming into the start, Porcello had compiled a 4.15 ERA in the first three innings with a 2.13 ERA in innings four through six.

Sure enough, Porcello allowed four straight hits and two runs in the third inning. After that, he looked like a different pitcher. He did yield a solo run in the fifth when he gave up a leadoff double and two groundouts.

But from the fourth through the seventh, he faced 13 hitters and retired 12 of them, including five by strikeout.

 

* Travis Shaw showed signs of digging out his funk at the plate.

Shaw was 0-for-6 to start the homestand, and since the beginning of August, had compiled an anemic .141/.236/.264 slash line with only four extra-base hits (two doubles, two doubles).

That resulted in Shaw losing playing time to Aaron Hill at third, and being dropped lower in the batting order.

But Monday, Shaw smacked a double to right -- the kind of extra-base power that he almost routinely flashed in the first half -- and later added two singles for a three-hit night.

It marked the first multi-hit game for him since July 26, better than a month ago.

 

* Lo and behold, the Red Sox can collect hits with the bases loaded.

The team's struggles in that department have been well-chronicled. Coming into the night, the Sox were hitting just .211 in such situations, ranking them 14th out of the 15 A.L. teams.

Time after time, the Sox have failed to come through with the bases full, sometimes even with no outs.

But that wasn't the case Monday. Twice, in fact, the Sox had innings with the bases loaded and both times, they scored.

In the second, Brock Holt's single to left scored Chris Young, though Sandy Leon was cut down at the plate when the Sox tried to get two runs out of it.

In the seventh, a sharp single to center by Sandy Leon scored two more.

 

After strong bullpen session, Koji Uehara could be back by Labor Day

After strong bullpen session, Koji Uehara could be back by Labor Day

BOSTON - For a bullpen that could use all the help it can get right now, there's the prospect that Koji Uehara could rejoin the Red Sox on Labor Day.

Uehara, who's been out since July 20 with a strained pectoral muscle, threw a bullpen Monday at Fenway that impressed John Farrell.

"He came out of today's work session in good fashion,'' said Farrell. "It was 25 pitches to hitters with good intensity to both his fastball and split. It's been impressive to see how he's handled the volume, and now, three times on the mound, the intensity to his bullpens and BP.''

Next up for Uehara will be a bullpen session Wednesday morning, followed by a live batting practice session Saturday in Oakland.

Since both Pawtucket's and Portland's seasons are over on Labor Day, Uehara won't have the option of going on a rehab assignment to face hitters before being activated.

But the Sox believe that he can build arm strength through these side sessions and BP sessions -- enough so that he could return to the active roster soon.

"We'll re-assess where is after Sunday,'' said Farrell, "and I wouldn't rule out activation [after that]. What we've done with Koji is just review how he feels after each session and we'll take it from there.''

Uehara, 41, is 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA, and while he's had a propensity for giving up homers (eight in just 36 innings), he had been throwing better before being injured.

And given the performance of the bullpen in general and the recent poor showings from Matt Barnes, the Sox would welcome Uehara back as soon as he's ready.

"The one thing that Koji has proven to us,'' noted Farrell, "is that, even with limited spring training work [in the past], he's been a very effective pitcher for us and obviously, he has a chance to make a very positive impact once he does return.''

Uehara's progress since late July has been a pleasant surprise for the Sox, who feared at the time of the injury that he might be done for the season.     

"To his credit,'' said Farrell, "he's worked his tail off and advanced fairly rapidly and he's withstanding the intensity that he's put into [the work]. A healthy Koji certainly adds to our bullpen.