Bullpen blues return

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Bullpen blues return

The numbers, viewed as a whole, tell one story.
The results, particularly in the last week, tell another.
The Boston bullpen, abysmal in the first three weeks of the
season, has improved greatly since then. Dating to April
23, Red Sox relievers have pitched to a 2.01 ERA, lowering their
collective ERA from 8.44 to 3.09 in that span.
That's the macro view.
Up close and recently, it's not nearly as pretty.
Friday night, the Sox gave up a one-run lead in the seventh
as the Yankees scored four times and took a 10-8 decision in the
opener of a four-game series.
It was the fourth straight loss by the Red Sox, and the fourth
time in the last six losses in which a reliever has been pinned with
the loss.
On the team's disappointing 2-5 trip, much of the fault was
rightly attributed to the anemic offense, which hit .200 in the
seven games and managed to score more than two runs just once.
When an offense isn't producing runs, it stands to reason that
a team is going to lose close-scoring games in the late innings.
But the relievers were allowing the Mariners and Athletics, two of
the worst lineups in the league to score in the late innings, they're
at least somewhat to blame, too.
Alfredo Aceves entered two tie games on the trip and couldn't
keep either tied, dropping to 0-6.
Friday night, back home, it was Vicente Padilla's turn.
All season long, Padilla has been masterful with inherited runners,
stranding 18-of-19. That statistic, in many ways, is the best measure
of a middle or set-up reliever's effectiveness and points to how
valuable Padillas has been to the Sox this season.
But Friday night, in a big spot, he faltered. Brought in to face
Mark Teixeira, he yielded a two-run triple to the triangle, as the
Sox went from leading 7-6 to trailing 8-7.
It then got worse as Padilla allowed an RBI-double to Raul
Ibanez, who later scored on an Eric Chavez single off Scott Atchison.
Of course, Josh Beckett had put both the hitters and the bullpen
in a hole when he allowed six runs in the first two innings. The hitters
had to make up a big deficit, and Beckett's high pitch count forced the
bullpen to have to cover the final four innings.
And that's part of the problem. While manager Bobby Valentine has
done a nice job slotting relievers into the right roles in the wake of
the injury to Andrew Bailey, there's evidence to suggest that the poor
work by the starting rotation (a 4.64 ERA before Friday night,
good for fourth worst among American League teams) has had a negative
effect on the Boston bullpen.
Before Friday's action, the Sox relievers had pitched 253 13
innings, good enough for sixth in the league.
But of the five teams ahead of them in bullpen workload, three
went into Friday with losing records (Detroit, Kansas City and
Minnesota), and another was behind the Red Sox in the standings (Toronto).
The inference is clear: the more you ask of your bullpen, the
harder it is to win.
That's especially true as the season wears on and the hot weather
arrives.
For the Red Sox beleaguered relievers, it would seem, the "Dog
Days'' have already arrived.

Drellich: MLB could explain umpire rulings more often

Drellich: MLB could explain umpire rulings more often

BOSTON — We know that Red Sox manager John Farrell did something wrong. In the absence of any sort of formal announcement otherwise, we’re left to assume the umpires did everything properly — but there’s room for MLB to make that clearer.

If the NBA can put out Last 2 Minute reports, why can’t MLB provide more regular explanations or reviews of contested calls?

Farrell on Tuesday said he’d like to see more public accountability in the umpiring realm, hours before the manager was to sit out Game No. 77. Farrell was suspended one game for making contact with crew chief Bill Miller on Saturday night as manager and umpire rained spittle on each other over a balk call that went against the Sox.

Well, was it a balk or not? Did Miller do anything wrong as well?

“I don’t know if there was anything levied on the other side,” Farrell said. “I don’t know that.”

But would he like such matters to always be public?

“I think there have been strides made in that way,” Farrell said. “I guess I would. I think everyone in uniform would prefer that to be made public. Whether or not that happens, I don’t know, but that would be a choice I would make.”

The league has a thorough internal review system. But it is just that: internal. Most of the time, any way.

On most every night at Fenway Park, there is someone on hand watching just the umpires and reviewing them.

MLB, to its credit, has announced suspensions for umpires in the past. The league has made public acknowledgments when calls have been made incorrectly. More of that seems viable — even if it’s an announcement to reaffirm that the call was made and handled properly, and here are the reasons why.

“I haven’t received any further determination or review of what transpired,” Farrell said. “My position, my stance, remains steadfast. I still firmly believe that time was called [before the balk call was made]. I wasn’t arguing the balk. I was arguing the timing of it. As I reiterated today to those that I spoke with, I still stand by my side of the argument. Unfortunately, there was contact made.”

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play through injuries, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to hit better as the designated hitter, or give someone else a chance in his place.

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage.

Putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that he can heal up, or at least attempt to, would be reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup, as has been the case the last two days — you're hampering the roster.

Ramirez was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday because of his left knee, which was hit by a pitch Sunday. He’s been bothered by his shoulders all season.

“He’s improved today. He’s responding to treatment,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday of Ramirez’s knee. “He’s still going through some work right now. Would get a bat in his hand here shortly to determine if he’s available to pinch hit tonight. Prior to yesterday’s game, day to day, and still in that status, but he is improving.”

The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else. Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time should be on the table.

When it comes to lineups vs. lefties, Farrell might be thinking the same way. 

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’d consider playing someone at DH other than Ramirez for performance reasons.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Farrell said. “Where he was so good against left-handed pitching last year, that’s been still a work in progress, for lack of a better way to describe it. So we’re always looking to put the best combination on the field.”

A right-handed hitter, Ramirez is just 5-for-35 (.143) vs. lefties this season, after hitting .346 against them a year ago.

On the flip side: in the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage overall. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season vs. all pitchers.

“You know, the one thing you can’t completely turn away from is what Hanley did last year,” Farrell said. “While I know that’s last year, we’re still working to get some increased performance from him. I think he’s still a key member in our lineup. The presence he provides, the impact that he’s capable of. And yet, we’re still working to get there.”

Farrell said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint a particular reason for Ramirez’s struggles vs. southpaws.

“No,” Farrell said. “There’s been extensive video review. There’s been extensive conversations with him. There’s been stretches, short stretches, where he’s I think shown the approach at the plate and the all field ability to drive the baseball. That’s been hit and miss a little bit. So, we’re just trying to gain a consistency that he’s been known for.”

Mitch Moreland's been playing with a fractured big toe in his left foot. After he homered and had another impactful night Monday, Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In [Moreland's] most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Asked about that comment a day later, Farrell shot down the idea he was trying to reach Ramirez or anyone else with that remark about playing hurt.

“No,” Farrell said Tuesday. “I respect the question, but that was to highlight a guy who has been dealing with a broken toe, continues to perform at a high level and to compliment Mitch for the way he’s gone about it.”

It doesn't matter why Ramirez isn't producing, at a certain point. Either he is or he isn't. If not, they need to be willing to give someone else an extended look, whether it lands Ramirez on the DL or simply the bench.