Boston Red Sox

Drellich: A lesson for Dombrowski to learn with Thornburg, Smith trades

Drellich: A lesson for Dombrowski to learn with Thornburg, Smith trades

PHILADELPHIA — The lesson for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is simple: stop paying high prices for set-up men. Stop pursuing them at peak value or near to it.

You probably can’t prevent Tyler Thornburg from happening. You definitely can prevent Travis Shaw from happening.

Thornburg won’t throw a pitch for the 2017 Sox, heading for season-ending surgery Friday. Carson Smith has thrown 48 pitches for the team, all last year, when he went for Tommy John surgery. He might be back soon, he might not.

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Put the medical process aside. Season-ending surgeries alone don’t make Dombrowski’s trades bad. What made them poor is the principle that drove them in the first place. Process, rather than outcome.

Bullpens are volatile. Guys like Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly and Robby Scott emerge. 

Ironically, a guy who built notoriously bad ‘pens in his years with the Tigers finally has a good one now, and hasn’t needed Thornburg or Smith. That’s a credit to Dombrowski — and also a reminder why the trades were not the best use of resources.

He went after overpriced products.

Smith’s expected return will be vital for a taxed group of relievers, yes. And Dombrowski’s deal for Craig Kimbrel is a huge part of the ‘pen’s success. But Kimbrel is a different category of pitcher. 

Medical problems for Sox pitchers have repeatedly been noticeable this year. But thoracic outlet syndrome, Thornburg’s diagnosis, is difficult to detect and was reached in a process of elimination.

“It’s just one of those things that happen. When you make trades at times, it’s buyer beware,” Dombrowski said Thursday. “There’s no way you would know this. You just hope that you get a healthy player back for next year and it ends up taking place. I’ve had guys throughout my career that I’ve traded that unfortunately have gotten hurt in other places. And I don’t believe in anyway, when I say that, that Milwaukee knew that this was taking place. They gave us all the information. There’s no question that they were very upfront in that regard. It’s just a very unfortunate situation and you just want to get the player healthy and move on from there.”

Dombrowski said Thornburg received chiropractic treatment last year, but that “there was never any indication that there was any major problems in that regard.”

Maybe not with Thornburg’s health. But with the trade? 

There was room for Shaw, one of the principal pieces dealt to the Brewers, on this team. A change of scenery may be part of the reason Shaw is thriving. But the Sox undervalued him while overvaluing what they sought. He was just one part of a trade that could really sting in years to come.

Entering Thursday, Shaw had a .299 average, .353 on-base percentage and .534 slugging percentage to go with 11 home runs. Those numbers make Brewers GM David Stearns look like a new-age genius and Dombrowski like a man left behind.

“First is you have a relatively young player who’s demonstrated above-average power production throughout his career, not only in home-run production, but extra-base production,” Stearns said on the CSNNE Baseball Show podcast in May. “We saw some positional versatility and the ability to play both third base and first base. We were really impressed with his ability to pick up third base a little bit later in his career. That’s not easy for someone to do, and demonstrated a degree of athleticism that maybe isn’t evident on a lot of corner players throughout the league, and he was a guy we felt like if given an opportunity, if given regular playing time, he might have a chance to flourish.”

On Thursday afternoon, Dombrowski was asked if Shaw’s success caused him to go back and look at his evaluation.

“I really wouldn’t talk about another organization’s player at this point,” Dombrowski responded. “It’s really not a proper thing for me to do.”

But that’s not the question that was asked. The question was about the evaluation that was made, about his own team’s process.

The proper thing to do is consider that he had it wrong.

Red Sox extend division lead to five games with 5-1 win over Yankees

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Red Sox extend division lead to five games with 5-1 win over Yankees

BOSTON - Jackie Bradley Jr. tripled in two runs and singled in another, and Rick Porcello pitched six innings of a combined three-hitter to help the AL East-leading Red Sox beat New York 5-1 on Sunday and extend their lead over the Yankees to five games.

The Red Sox won for the 14th time in 17 games, taking two out of three from New York for the second weekend in a row. The archrivals meet again in the first week of September for a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.

Porcello (8-14) allowed all three New York hits, striking out four and walking three to win his fourth straight start. Three relievers provided a perfect inning apiece.

Porcello has allowed two runs or fewer in all six career starts against the Yankees in Fenway Park. That's the longest such stretch for a Red Sox pitcher since at least 1913, the ballclub said.

Sonny Gray (7-8) allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings.

Brett Gardner homered near the Pesky Pole for the Yankees, who had won five of their last six.

Devers, Sale making mark on history as Red Sox battle for division

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Devers, Sale making mark on history as Red Sox battle for division

BOSTON — The Red Sox on Saturday lost a game in which Chris Sale pitched and Rafael Devers homered. Let the Yankees’ 4-3 victory be a reminder: the American League East race isn’t going to close any time soon. At least, it shouldn’t. 

But even in close losses, there’s a parallel track to the pursuit of the division that should be a compelling sideshow for Red Sox fans: history.

The importance of Chris Sale breaking Pedro Martinez’s club single-season strikeout record is minimal compared to KO’ing the Yankees. Yet, with every passing start, tracking each K becomes a tad more intriguing. 

The southpaw on Saturday surpassed 250 strikeouts for the season, becoming just the third pitcher to do so in his first 25 games. Randy Johnson did that in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001, and Pedro Martinez did it in 2000 as well.

But now, unexpectedly, it’s not just Sale’s work that’s worth watching. He has a partner in the pursuit of bookkeepers. 

Devers, in just 20 games, has become the hitting foil for the ace. He ripped his eighth home run in Saturday’s 4-3 loss, a seventh-inning shot just to the right of the yellow line reaching out of the triangle in center field. The homer was also a record breaker, because no one else under the age of 21 has hit eight home runs in their first 20 games, per Elias. That’s in major league history, to be clear. 

The record for a player of any age is nine home runs, matched most recently by Trevor Story last year, and once upon a time by George Scott, in 1966.

A chubby left-handed hitter swatting home runs everywhere, defying everyone’s expectations? It’s almost too stunning to properly contextualize or explain. 

“I try not to look too much at videos because I would go out there with the mentality of what this guy has,” Devers said. “I just try to do my batting practice and do my fielding practice every day and just keep things the same.”

“If it's in the strike zone I try to be aggressive with it, and try to lay off the ones outside the strike zone. But I don't look for any location or any type of pitches.”

He’s that good: he steps in and rips and the results have been stunning. Almost Ruthian. Or, in fact, Ruthian.

Devers on Saturday became the first player under the age of 21 to homer in three consecutive games against the Yankees since Ruth did it in 1915, per Elias. Ruth, of course, was still with the Sox then. Those home runs happened to be the first three of his career.

Devers’ 28 hits through his first 20 games are the most by a Red Sox hitter since Johnny Pesky had the same amount in 1942.

Four Sox hitters have hit safely against the Yankees in their first five games against them since the age of 21: Jack Rothrock (1925), Ruth (1914-15), and Ted Williams (1939).

Sale needs 63 strikeouts to tie Martinez’s 1999 mark of 313. He shouldn't have a hard time meeting that figure if he makes another, say, seven starts.