Sox content to stand pat at Winter Meetings

570248.jpg

Sox content to stand pat at Winter Meetings

DALLAS -- A year ago, there was frenetic activity surrounding the Red Sox at winter meetings. The day before they arrived, they traded for Adrian Gonzalez, and right before they left, they shocked everyone with the signing of Carl Crawford.

In stark contrast, the Red Sox hardly drew attention to themselves this time. Other than retaining Andrew Miller (re-signed to a non-guaranteed deal) and David Ortiz (through arbitration), the Red Sox are essentially unchanged.

But as general manager Ben Cherington left here Thursday, he sounded far from disappointed and said the Sox weren't through building their roster for next season.

"We feel we have a really good team that just needs some (complementary parts),'' said Cherington, "and needs to put in a better position to win over a six-month stretch and that's what we're focusing on.''

Cherington and his staff spent much of the week exploring pitching options -- through trades and free agency -- and while they didn't do anything beyond adding lefty reliever Jesse Carlson, they believe that other moves will eventually come.

"I think we have a good idea of what we may or may not be able to do,'' he said. "On the pitching front, I think we felt all along that this is really going to be an all winter project and some of the moves would be very under the radar. There may be some that are on the radar, but we have a much better idea of what's out there and what it would take now than we did Monday.''

The first priority is to uncover a closer. Andrew Bailey continues to be shopped by the Oakland A's and several free agents (Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge and Francisco Cordero) remain on the market.

"I think we have some internal options,'' said Cherington. "Being out front on things doesn't always lead to the best outcome in the long run. We're in a good position, frankly, in respect to the closer, because we have guys who we think can do it. If there's a deal that makes sense to acquire one this offseason, we will pursue that.''

The starting rotation can use some re-inforcements, too, though that's likely to be focused on back-end options and depth. Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, ending months of speculation, announced Thursday that he would indeed be posted by his club, putting himself up for bid for Major League teams, but Cherington strongly hinted the Sox weren't going to be involved.

"I'm not sure the timing of this offseason puts us in a position to be the most aggressive team,'' said Cherington. "He's a good pitcher. We have a lot of respect for him. We'll certainly discuss it and figure out if the post makes sense. But we've got a lot of commitment to the starting rotation and we feel pretty good about the front end of our rotation.

"Certinaly, if a team's going to be posting and trying to sign (Darvish), it's to be a part of the front end of the rotation and we feel pretty good about that part of our team.''

Retaining Ortiz was a step forward, since he finished last season with the fifth-best OPS in the American League.

"We're happy about it,'' said Cherington. ''He's one of the best hitters in the American League, so it's a good outcome. We wanted him back one way or another and this (accepting arbitration) is one way to do it, so we're happy about having him in the lineup again.''

Ortiz will likely get somewhere between 13-14 million -- either in a ruling or a settlement beforehand -- which might eat into the budget and prevent the Sox from being in on the likes of Carlos Beltran, Michael Cuddyer or any other prominent free agent outfielder.

"To some degree,'' confirmed Cherington. "It doesn't mean that we would rule out making an addition to the outfield. But David's a huge bat in the lineup. I don't think we're in a position where we need to add a lot more offense.''

If the Sox have either Ryan Kalish andor Josh Reddick as their right field option, they would again feature an all-lefthanded-hitting outfield, plus Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez in the order.

But Cherington said the Sox will live with that imbalance if the lineup produces like it did year ago when the Sox finished second in the American League in runs scored.

"There's been a lot made of that,'' said Cherington, "and I guess, in a perfect world, you'd like to go left-right-left-right. But our lineup last year, even with down years from a couple guys and some injuries, was one of the best offenses in baseball. So I'm not really that worried about it. We have some lefthanders who hit lefties. And there are guys like (Kevin Youkilis) who we expect and hope for a more
complete season out of.

"In a perfect world, every team would like to have a perfectly balanced lineup. But I think our lineup's pretty good. We're going to score a lot of runs.''

Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

fm_buchholz_0527161464384330150_3450k_1280x720_694466115630.jpg

Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

As expected, Eduardo Rodriguez will start for the Red Sox on Tuesday in Baltimore and Clay Buchholz will go to the bullpen, manager John Farrell told reporters in Toronto.

The move became apparent after Buchholz (2-5, 6.35 ERA) struggled again Thursday night, allowing three two-run home runs in an 8-2 loss to the Rockies.

Rodriguez, who hurt his knee in spring training, has yet to pitch for the Red Sox this season. The left-hander, who was 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie last season,  made three rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. 

"The bottom line is the results, and there's been a strong precedent set with that," Farrell said of Buchholz in annoucning the move. 

Friday’s lineups: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays - Ortiz and Bautista out

red_sox_david_ortiz_042816.jpg

Friday’s lineups: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays - Ortiz and Bautista out

David Ortiz is out of the starting lineup and Jose Bautista sits for the Blue Jays as the Red Sox open a three-game series tonight in Toronto.

It’s a night off for Ortiz, while Bautista is serving his one-game suspension for his fight with the Texas Rangers' Roughned Odor earlier this month.

Hanley Ramirez moves to DH for the Red Sox, with Travis Shaw playing first base and Marco Hernandez filling in at third against Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez (4-1, 3.20 ERA). Joe Kelly (2-0, 5.28) makes his second start since coming off the disabled list for the Red Sox. He pitched 6 2/3 no-hit innings Saturday in his return, a 9-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

The lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Travis Shaw 1B
Hanley Ramirez DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Marco Hernandez 3B
Christian Vazquez C
Blake Swihart LF

Joe Kelly RHP

BLUE JAYS
Ezequiel Carrera RF
Josh Donaldson 2B
Edwin Encaracion DH 
Michael Saunders LF
Troy Tulowitzki SS
Justin Smoak 1B
Russell Martin C
Devon Travis 2B
Kevin Pillar CF

Aaron Sanchez RHP 

McAdam: Sure, take Buchholz out of the rotation, then what?

mcadamsnc1464323970833_3450k_1280x720_693942851954.jpg

McAdam: Sure, take Buchholz out of the rotation, then what?

It's easy -- obvious, even -- that Clay Buchholz should be immediately replaced in the Red Sox rotation.
     
What's more, it's apparent who should replace him. Eduardo Rodriguez, though his velocity remains mysteriously subpar, is otherwise healthy and available.
     
Even with the acknowledgement that Rodriguez's fastball isn't as lively as the Red Sox would prefer it to be, he remains a logical option.
     
And there can be little debate over the move to extract Buchholz from the rotation. In 10 starts, he's compiled a 6.35 ERA, and while pitcher’s won-loss records are notoriously misleading, this stat isn't: the Red Sox are 3-7 with Buchholz starting and 26-11 with everyone else.
     
Buchholz's confidence is shattered. You can see it in his body language on the mound. You can sense it with the glacial-like pace in which he works
with runners on base. You can observe it in his postgame remarks, where he looks and sounds like someone with no idea how to reverse his slide.
     
Case closed.
     
But the next part of the equation is a little trickier: what do the Red Sox do with him now?
     
It's highly unlikely that the Sox will just release him. For one thing, there's more than $8 million coming to him for the remainder of the season and those decisions aren't made lightly.
     
For another, it's possible -- hard as it might be to imagine now -- that Buchholz could help the 2016 Red Sox before the season is through. And if you think that's a ridiculous notion, then you've forgotten other similar stretches in his career.
     
In 2014, when Buchholz had what was, until then, the worst season of his career, he still managed to put together a seven-start stretch at the end of the season that saw him go 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA.
     
Or the 13-game stretch inside the otherwise hideous 2012 (season ERA: 4.56) in which Buchholz was 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA.
     
Those two stretches are at the heart of the paradox that is Buchholz - even in the course of miserable seasons, he invariably finds a stretch where he figures some things out and pitches brilliantly for a time.
     
It's one reason the Red Sox have stuck with him for the first two months -- the knowledge that, at any time, something may click, sending Buchholz on one of his patented rolls.
     
After all, Buchholz is just 31, too young to be finished. And as both the pitcher himself and manager John Farrell said Thursday night, in the wake of another poor outing, health isn't an issue.
     
And that's the rub here.
     
If Buchholz hadn't been given a public clean bill of health, the Red Sox could have discovered a heretofore undetected "general soreness'' somewhere on Buchholz's body -- a balky shoulder here, or a tender elbow there.
     
That would have bought Buchholz and the Red Sox some time to place him on the DL, take a mental break from the mound and work on making some adjustment away from prying eyes.
     
Now, that would seem not to be an option -- unless Buchholz, ahem, stubbed a toe getting on or off the Red Sox charter flight to Toronto early Friday morning.
     
Finally, Buchholz is long out of options and has sufficient service time to refuse an assignment to the minor leagues.
     
So what's left? Not much, beyond a trip to the bullpen. And that's where things get complicated.
     
In a 10-year major league career, Buchholz has made exactly two (2) appearances in relief, the most recent of which took place in 2008.
Given that Buchholz has struggled mightily early in games -- until Thursday's start, when he completely flipped the script and retired the first nine hitters he faced, Buchholz had allowed a batting average of  .366 the first time through the order -- it's difficult to imagine him being successful in relief.
     
Sure, the Red Sox could designated him as their mop-up man in  relief, brought in when the team has fallen behind early or jumped out to a huge lead in the middle innings.
     
But such scenarios can't be counted upon to provide Buchholz with enough regular opportunities, and even  if they did present themselves, there's no guarantee that Buchholz would thrive under such circumstances.
     
So, the club appears at a dead end -- unwilling to release Buchholz because of meager starting depth options and the likelihood that he might be needed in a few weeks or months, and unable to find a spot for him to get straightened out.
     
It's the ultimate conundrum, which, when you think about it, is the perfect way to view Buchholz's career.