Boston Red Sox

Swihart returns to Red Sox with a new job description

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Swihart returns to Red Sox with a new job description

BOSTON -- Blake Swihart is back with the Red Sox. This time, however, it's primarily as an outfielder and not a catcher.

Swihart, who began the year as part of the club's catching tandem with Ryan Hanigan, was optioned to Pawtucket when Christian Vazquez was activated from his rehab stint. Once there, the Sox had him playing the outfield to help expand his versatility and create ways he could help the major league club this season.

It didn't take long to get him into the lineup, either -- Swihart was in left field, batting ninth, Friday night against Cleveland. He'll play left field regularly against right-handed pitchers, with Chris Young starting against lefties.

"He adapted, by all accounts, pretty rapidly [to left],'' said John Farrell. "I think that speaks to his work ethic and openess to add the outfield to his defensive alignment. The only thing he hasn't experienced is working against [the left-field] wall here. That's going to be a first in-game for him.

"But we feel like the athlete that it is, he's got a short stint of left field in his days as an amateur player. But he adapted pretty well with the footwork and precise routes while at Pawtucket.''

"I've gotten a lot of work out there,'' said Swihart, "and everything is going pretty well. I played it a lot when I was young, so (I've been trying) to get those instincts to take over again -- getting jumps on balls, and I find myself backing up bases without even thinking about it, so the instincts are taking over.''

Swihart spent about an hour Friday afternoon taking balls off the left-field wall, trying to get acclimated.

"I've been picking all the outfielders' brains,'' Swihart said. "Anything they can give me to work with, I'll take it.''

Farrell said the Sox still envision Swihart catching in the future, but while here, Vazquez and Hanigan will continue to handle the vast majority of work behind the plate.

"How we can keep his [catching] sharp while he's here is going to be a challenge,'' conceded Farrell. "But some of the early work (will be focused on catching) because we don't want that to be eliminated.''

Drellich: John Farrell fighting himself when it comes to bullpen roles

Drellich: John Farrell fighting himself when it comes to bullpen roles

CLEVELAND — John Farrell is fighting himself. More than he might realize, he’s willing to mix up his bullpen usage in a way that’s smart. But in some of the most crucial innings, Farrell will stubbornly and perhaps reflexively revert to tradition and a false sense of role — one that actually runs counter to the logic the manager employs at other times.

Look at the big cat, Craig Kimbrel, who was again left in the bullpen Monday night as the eighth and ninth innings deteriorated in a 5-4 Red Sox loss to the Indians. 

It’s all about the inning with Kimbrel, you see — or in Monday’s case, it's a matter of when Farrell would have been forced to use him.

“On a night where if I use Kimbrel tonight, he's got the need for one, if not two days off,” Farrell said. “That's why you need the contributions from everyone.”

But the indication was Kimbrel was available for a save, or perhaps the 10th inning when the lineup turned over again. If he needs rest, rest him. Farrell did not say that Kimbrel was down entirely.

But the eighth inning? No, that’d be lunacy.

“I know that there’s this overriding thought that you can just drop Craig Kimbrel in anywhere from the sixth inning to the ninth inning,” Farrell said Friday. “And with all due respect, there’s a lot more that goes into it than just that. We’ve used Craig for four outs or more this year. And there’s a willingness to do that. 

“But when we’re completely rested down there, there are roles that guys have performed very well to. And there’s a reason why our bullpen has excelled to the point they have. There are roles that are established and they pitch to them.”

Seriously, what roles? The roles change as often as Farrell’s logic defending them, aside from Kimbrel’s overwhelming need to be in save situations.

The Sox were not “completely rested” on Monday, for one. Addison Reed was unavailable entirely.

But step back for a moment, and look at the overall usage of the reliever who initially got the Red Sox into trouble Monday in the eighth, Matt Barnes. 

The righty this year has pitched in the sixth inning three times. He’s been used in the seventh inning 18 times and the eighth inning 29 times, including Monday. 

Another nine times, Barnes has pitched in the ninth or later. Fourteen times, he’s made multi-inning appearances.

Does that sound like a rigid role to you?

When Farrell spoke recently of his plan for using Reed and Barnes, it sounded pretty darn progressive.

"Addision, we’ve initially said it’s the eighth inning," Farrell said. "We’ve used him accordingly based on where we are in the lineup and based on the potential of running threats. … As we map out the seventh and eighth inning, it’s going to be Barnes and Addison and we’ll see where the right matchups provide themselves.”

So what matters more, lineup position and running threats, or what inning it is?

Depends which reliever Farrell is talking about on which night, or maybe which way the wind is blowing.

For Monday night, Barnes all of a sudden was a reliever with a role.

“On a night when not everyone's available, [Barnes is] the one that has had the most experience in the eighth inning against both lefties and righties,” Farrell said.

Experience in a particular inning, now that’s the primary factor for Barnes? What about the fact Barnes has been terrible on the road lately?

What about the fact that Brandon Workman has a 1.40 ERA, or that Farrell said before the game Workman is now in the high-leverage mix?

Workman gave up a leadoff double on Monday in the ninth inning. He might have blown the eighth inning anyway. Farrell also prefers a clean inning for Workman, and wanted to avoid using the righty Monday for workload reasons as well.

But Workman was, indeed, available. So why let extra innings or a tie game in the ninth force you to use him, as opposed to pitching him at a time he perhaps could have protected the lead?

Workman in the eighth could have thrown in place of either Barnes or Heath Hembree. The latter’s done worse than anyone on the Sox with inherited runners and came on to try to clean up Barnes’ mess. Workman has six inherited runners this year and none have scored.

But Workman has a role. Except he doesn’t. Or if he does, it’s as loosely defined as everybody else’s, save for the guy who can only get saves.

Guyer scores winner on Holt's error in 9th, Indians top Red Sox, 5-4

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Guyer scores winner on Holt's error in 9th, Indians top Red Sox, 5-4

CLEVELAND - Brandon Guyer scored when first baseman Brock Holt threw away Roberto Perez's bunt in the ninth inning, lifting the Cleveland Indians over the Boston Red Sox 5-4 on Monday night in a matchup of first-place teams.

After Guyer's leadoff double against Brandon Workman (0-1), Holt fielded the bunted ball and tried to throw out Guyer at third. Guyer slid into the bag as the throw skipped past third baseman Rafael Devers, then got to his feet and raced across home plate. Teammates ran onto the field and doused Perez with water and white powder.

Perez also had a three-run homer in the second inning.

Cody Allen (1-6) allowed Christian Vazquez's leadoff single in the ninth, but retired the next three hitters. The inning ended when shortstop Francisco Lindor ran down Mookie Betts' popup in center field with his back to home plate.

Cleveland relief ace Andrew Miller left in the seventh inning after aggravating the patellar tendinitis in his right knee. Miller recently returned after over two weeks on the disabled list with the knee injury.