Crawford's spot in lineup still to be determined

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Crawford's spot in lineup still to be determined

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- So now we know ''how much'' (142 million over the next seven years) and "where" (left field in Boston) regarding Carl Crawford.

Still to be answered: when? As in: when will Crawford's turn come in the Red Sox batting order?

In the past, Crawford was said to be disinclined to batting leadoff.

For much of his major league career, Crawford has hit either first (367 games), second (590 games) or third (201 games) for the Tampa Bay Rays.

At his introductory press conference at Fenway Saturday, Crawford said he had no real objection to hitting first.

''I really don't mind hitting anywhere in the lineup,'' said Crawford. "I think those statements (about not wanting to hit leadoff) came when I was a little younger in my career and (that statement) kind of stayed with me, that I didn't like hitting leadoff. But I definitely don't have a problem hitting anywhere.

"As far as knowing where I'm going to hit, Terry's the manager and I'm pretty sure whatever lineup he makes out, I'll be fine with. I told him I didn't mind (hitting) anywhere; whatever he wants to do with me is fine.''

"When we went down to visit him (in Houston),'' recounted Francona, "we talked about where he was comfortable hitting in the batting order. He was kind of telling me, 'I can hit first, I can hit second, I can hit third.' I told him, 'What we want you do to do is be yourself. We'll sit down with Carl, Pedey (Dustin Pedroia)...obviously, he's going to hit in the top of the order -- (probably) second or third.''

"There are some things to think about,'' said Francona. "It's not an issue for me, because we're not asking to do different things because they're hitting in a different area. We just want them to be the players they are and we'll line it up the way we think it works best.

One of the factors that Francona must address is maintaining as much left-right-left balance in his lineup with a team which has five lefty hitters (Jacoby Ellsbury, Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and J.D. Drew) among its seven best offensive players.

"At some point,'' said Francona, "we're going to have two (lefty hitters) -- maybe three on some days -- in a row. Thankfully, they're good hitters. We'll try to line it up. I need to do some thinking about that.

"The last couple of years, David and J.D. haven't been quite as strong against lefthanders; Adrian has. So there are ways to line it up where you can take away some of the other managers' (flexibility).''

In 2009, Ellsbury's last full healthy season, he improved his ability to get on base with a .355 OBP and is the likely choice to return there.

"I think I've been pretty consistent all along -- our best team is when Jacoby is hitting first,'' said Francona, "whether that's Opening Day, or it's May 1...Whatever is in his best interest, ends up being in our best interest. You know, he missed pretty much the full year. If he's ready to (hit leadoff), that's great. If he's not, we'll give him a little bit of a break and hit him down in the order a little bit. We've done that in the past
and we can do it again.

"But I still think our best lineup is when (Ellsbury) leads off.''

In that scenario, Ellsbury would be followed by, in order: Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Ortiz, Drew, the catcher, and Marco Scutaro.

If Ellsbury isn't fully healthy or is unavailable, another option under consideration would be use Drew, whose lifetime OBP is a stellar .387, as the leadoff hitter.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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.