Boston Red Sox

Cherington faces a mountain of work

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Cherington faces a mountain of work

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ben Cherington has been part of the Red Sox organization for more than a decade.

No one has to show him how to get from the clubhouse to his office. He doesn't need to be introduced to people throughout Fenway Park.

All of which means Cherington can hit the ground running when he's introduced as the Red Sox new general manager Tuesday.

Which is good for Cherington, because there's a long list of things that require his immediate attention.

Among them:

1) Find a manager.

This, naturally, is Job One. Terry Francona parted company with the Sox two days after the ugly conclusion of the regular season.

For most of the last few weeks, Cherington has split his time between researching potential candidates for manager and working on compensation with the Cubs in exchange for Theo Epstein.

The compensation issue should be decided by Tuesday's press conference or soon thereafter. That will free Cherington to pay full attention to his first big hire.

It's not as if Cherington is going to deviate from the list of potential candidates put together with Epstein. There will be no search for a high-profile, big-name manager such as Bobby Valentine or Joe Torre. Cherington will probably select from among the group of current major-league coaches -- Philadelphia's Pete Mackanin; Tampa Bay's Dave Martinez; Cleveland's Sandy Alomar Jr.; Milwaukee's Dale Sveum; Los Angeles's Tim Wallach and one or two more.

This isn't any hire, of course. It will be the first significant move of Cherington's tenure and he must find someone capable of bringing together a clubhouse that seemed more obsessed with beer, chicken, and mostly, self.

2) Hire a coaching staff
This will be done in conjunction with the new manager. Don't rule out the return of hitting coach Dave Magadan and perhaps third-base coach Tim Bogar, though it's more likely Bigar would move to bench coach.

Either way, given that almost all of the managers under consideration have little or no major-league experience, a strong and capable coaching staff will be a must if the Sox are to succeed in turning around the culture that infected the clubhouse in the final months of the season.

Special attention needs to be paid to the pitching coach. The starters took advantage of easygoing Curt Young in his one season in the role and a more authoritative personality is a must.

3) Make some tough decisions on the Red Sox' own free agents.

David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and J.D. Drew are all eligible for free agency.

It seems likely that Varitek, whose tenure with the Red Sox goes back to 1997, and Wakefield, who joined the club in 1995, have reached the end of their careers in Boston.

Wakefield needed 10 starts to reach his elusive 200th career win and though he held up rather well physically, at 45, his value to the team isn't what it once was. As for Varitek, he may still be a capable backup, but with Ryan Lavarnway ready for some playing time, it's probably time to move on.

Ortiz and Papelbon will present interesting challenges.

Ortiz finished with the fourth-best OPS in the American League and was easily the top DH in the league. It will likely take a two-year commitment of around 20 million to keep Ortiz and that seems a reasonable price.

Papelbon will present a tougher decision. Though clearly one of the handful of best closers in the game, the Red Sox philosophy -- developed under Epstein, but shared by Cherington -- is that closers in their 30s are risky investments.

Papelbon has looked forward to free agency for years and won't settle for a one-year arbitration deal. A three-year deal for somewhere near 40 million might be a reasonable compromise for both sides.

4) Develop a strategy for the offseason.

Do the Red Sox aggressively pursue some big-name free agents (C.J. Wilson; Japanese-Iranian import Yu Darvish) or use the trade market to re-tool their roster?

Given the team's poor track record in recent years with free agents (John Lackey, Carl Crawford), it's difficult to imagine ownership green-lighting a big bucks shopping spree.

More likely, Cherington will use some tradeable parts (Kevin Youkilis? Jed Lowrie? Josh Reddick?) to address some of the needs and hope that Lavarnway, Ryan Kalish, Felix Doubront and Jose Iglesias are ready to contribute in meaningful ways in 2011.

5) Steer the Red Sox back to normalcy.

This is at once the toughest and most important chore on Cherington's list.

The team's brand has been sullied by the stories coming out of the clubhouse in the aftermath of the club's disastrous September and a steady hand is needed.

He needs to convey to the fan base that the Red Sox are running smoothly again following two months of disappointment and chaos. The best way to send that message is to go about his normal business, with one goal in mind: Getting the Red Sox back into contention and into the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Around baseball, too, people will watching to see if Cherington gets to exert his independence in his new position or whether he's dominated by president and CEO Larry Lucchino, who may see Cherington's ascension as a chance to exert his influence on the team's Baseball Operations department.

Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

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Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

BALTIMORE — On the night Major League Baseball saw its record for home runs in a season broken, the team with the fewest homers in the American League took a scoreless tie into extra innings.

In the 11th, the Red Sox won in a fashion they hadn’t in 100 years.

Just how peculiar was their 1-0 win over the Orioles, the AL leaders in homers? The lone run came when Jackie Bradley Jr. bolted home on a wild pitch from Brad Brach. So? So, the Red Sox won, but did not officially record a run batted in on the day MLB’s greatest league-wide power show to date was celebrated.

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The last time the Sox won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI was a century ago, in 1918. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in that game. 

It’s a weird time for the Sox offense. A weird year, really. Because the Sox are in first place, and have been, but they don’t drive the ball. Their .408 slugging percentage was the fifth lowest in the majors entering Tuesday.

They’re also in the bottom third for strikeouts, the top five in steals and the top 10 in batting average (.260). That's the description of an effective National League offense. An old-school, move-the-line group that makes more contact than all but four teams in the majors. 

The rest of baseball is switching to golf swings to pound low-ball pitching. The Sox look like they could be on a black-and-white newsreel shuffling around the bags.

Should you have faith in that method come the playoffs? There's reason to be dubious.

But the construction should be appreciated for the sake of disparity, both in the context of recent Red Sox history and the sport’s home-run renaissance.

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the season’s 5,964th home run Tuesday, besting the record mark set in 2000 — dead in the middle of the steroid era.

At present, the Sox lineup is particularly out of sorts because of injuries. Dustin Pedroia should be back Wednesday, but was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Hanley Ramirez isn’t starting either. Eduardo Nunez’s rehab from a knee injury is coming along, but may not move quite as quickly as expected.

Even if all are healthy, this group remains strange. Because the Sox offense looks so different than what people expect of the Sox, the opposite of what people expect of an American League East-winning team. The opposite of what people expect of any American League team, period.

The arms are the driving force for the Sox, and must remain so if they’re to be successful in October. The sturdiness of the bullpen, tired but resolute, cannot be understated when the workload is extended in September. No team can go 15-3 in extra-inning games without stellar and timely pitching.

But the entirety of pitching coach Carl Willis’ staff has been wonderful. Drew Pomeranz didn’t have his best fastball velocity on Tuesday and was still effective in 6 1/3 innings.

The outfield play can’t be overlooked either. Bradley’s a brilliant patrolman in center field and his leaping catches to rob home runs — he took one away from Chris Davis Tuesday — have been their own attractions.

The Sox, meanwhile, just don't hit many balls far enough to be robbed.

If you’re cut from an old-school cloth, and didn’t really love those station-to-station, home-run powered offenses of yore, this Sox team is for you. There's something to be said for the experience of simply watching something different.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

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Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Though they rank last in the American League in home runs, the Boston Red Sox have found plenty of other ways to win - especially in extra innings.

Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and Boston used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles' bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games - tying a franchise record for extra-inning wins set in 1943.

In this one, pitching and defense proved to be the winning formula. After Drew Pomeranz allowed five hits over 6 1/3 innings, five relievers held the Orioles hitless the rest of the way.

"They've been able, to a man, hand it off to the next guy and continue to build a bridge until we can scratch out a run - tonight not even with an RBI," manager John Farrell said. "We find a way to push a run across."

With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw.

Joe Kelly (4-1) worked the 10th and Matt Barnes got three outs for his first save.

"They've been unbelievable," Boston's Brock Holt said of the bullpen. "That's why our record is what is in extra-inning games, because of those guys."

The game stretched into extra innings in part because Bradley made a sensational catch to rob Baltimore slugger Chris Davis of a home run in the fifth inning. Bradley quickly judged the trajectory of the ball while running to his left, then left his feet and stretched his arm over the 7-foot wall in center field.

The finish came after Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman locked up in a scoreless duel that was essentially the exact opposite of Monday night's 10-8 slugfest.

Although he didn't get his 17th win, Pomeranz lowered his ERA to 3.15 and set a career high by pitching at least six innings for the 17th time (in 30 starts).

Gausman was even sharper, giving up just three hits over eight innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

The right-hander retired the first 14 batters he faced before Rafael Devers singled off the right-field wall.

Baltimore threatened in the third inning when Manny Machado hit a two-out double, but he was thrown out by Benintendi trying to score on Jonathan Schoop's single to left field.

No one else got to third base until the sixth, when Baltimore had runners at the corners with two outs before Pomeranz struck out Mark Trumbo with a high, outside fastball.

The Orioles have lost 11 of 13 to fall out of contention.

"They're very frustrated right now," manager Buck Showalter said. "You can imagine grinding as our guys have since February and not being able to push a run like that across in some of these games when we pitch well. That's been a challenge for us. I feel for them because I know how much it means to them."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, who left Monday's game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his nose, did not start but was used as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning and grounded into a double play. Farrell said Pedroia will likely return to the starting lineup Wednesday. . DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game. Farrell said Ramirez was available to pinch hit and is likely to start Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Chris Sale (16-7, 2.86 ERA) will seek to match his career high in wins Wednesday night in the series finale. He needs 13 strikeouts to become the first AL pitcher with 300 in a season since Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Orioles: Wade Miley (8-13, 5.32 ERA) has lost his last three starts. The left-hander gave up six runs and got only one out against the Yankees on Friday night.