Drellich: Is there more to Farrell's decision to not pinch hit for Sandoval?

Drellich: Is there more to Farrell's decision to not pinch hit for Sandoval?

PHILADELPHIA — If letting Pablo Sandoval bat in the ninth inning helps show Dave Dombrowski that Sandoval has no logical place on the roster these days, then Red Sox manager John Farrell might be more calculating than you think.

It’s sink or swim time for Sandoval, and Farrell’s top boss seems to want Sandoval to have that chance.

Chris Sale let the Sox bullpen breathe on Thursday night, returning to his most dominant form with his ninth double-digit strikeout game of the season in a 1-0 loss to the Phillies.

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Three out of four wins vs. the Phillies is fine. But check back in October to see if Thursday’s loss stings more after the fact. In a sport where the best teams win 60 percent of the time, there might not be a game all season where the match-up better favors the Red Sox: a terrible team vs. the ace.

The way it ended, with an ugly Sandoval strikeout on a pitch way out of the zone and down, created some bad optics.

Why have Sandoval bat if Hanley Ramirez is available off the bench, Manager John?

He was quick with his answer after the game: he did not consider pinch-hitting Sandoval with Phillies closer Hector Neris on the mound. 

“No,” Farrell said. “Not against a right-hander, no.”

What a dummy, right?

Look deeper. Farrell has been starting Josh Rutledge over Sandoval lately. This isn’t some sort of Sandoval love affair for the manager.

It’s one of two things, or maybe a combination thereof. Sticking by players usually includes letting them have at-bats. That’s an easy explanation. It’s the reason Chris Young batted against a right-hander early last season and everyone flipped out.

How else to get Sandoval going than to give him a chance, than to convince Sandoval he’s believed in? It’s not always defensible, but, managers do make choices for that reason.

Look even deeper, though. We already can tell Farrell doesn’t believe much in Sandoval. Rutledge’s usage lately shows us that. 

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, meanwhile, seems to be of the mindset that Sandoval needs a chance.

“I think you also have to remember that Pablo has done everything that we asked him to do,” Dombrowski said before the game. “He got himself in shape, he’s worked very hard. He’s continued to work hard. He’s worked on the dietary aspect of it. He’s worked on the skill aspect of it. When I came in here, he was working out. So he’s done everything he possibly can, he had a very good spring training. 

"Early in the season his numbers weren’t great, but yet he hit the ball very hard. He was one of the top five in the league statistically as far as hard hit balls when he went down at that time. So he’s just come back for a short time period. I thought he had a very good game last night, offensively and defensively. So I think sometimes you have to give guys an opportunity before you just jump to the conclusions right away. And we’ll continue to monitor his situation. It’s up to him to do well and we’ll see what takes place.”

Sounds like the leader of the front office wants Sandoval to get at-bats, doesn’t it?

How many ABs would Dombrowski want to see, though, before deciding with Farrell on a course of action? To play him every day or cut him or whatever else?

“I can’t even answer that question,” Dombrowski said. “I don’t know that there is a 100 percent answer to that. Everybody’s different. Some guys get back quicker than others. In his case, he’s not playing per se every single day. He hasn’t been so far, at least. People forget he missed all of last year basically too. So I think that’s another part of it. So I don’t really have a certain number of specific at-bats.”

But he’s not there yet, it would seem. Again: sounds like the leader of the front office wants Sandoval to get at-bats, doesn’t it?

So if you’re Farrell, and Dombrowski wants Sandoval on the roster until some hazy number of at-bats are reached, you’re handcuffed. Don’t play him, and this grey-area at third base drags on. Play him, and give Sandoval a chance to get rolling — and a chance to show the top boss whether he truly can perform.

Sandoval’s played 29 games and has 105 plate appearances. It's not much. Different statistics stabilize after a different number of appearances, on average. 

Dombrowski’s not exactly a stats wonk, though. He wants to see Sandoval play? Well, Farrell’s letting him. The visual’s saying something, and it might be exactly the message Farrell hopes is delivered.

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

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David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."

Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels

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Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels

BOSTON - JC Ramirez rebounded from his shortest career start with six solid innings, Cameron Maybin doubled home a run and scored another and the Los Angeles Angels held off the Boston Red Sox 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Angels look for their fifth series win in their last six on Sunday.

Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the Red Sox, who lost for only the third time in their last 13 home games.

Ramirez (7-5) allowed one run and four hits with five strikeouts after lasting just three innings and giving up five runs in his previous start.

Blake Parker struck out pinch-hitter Chris Young with the bases loaded for the final out for his first save of the season after Boston scored twice in the ninth.

Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected by third-base umpire and crew chief Bill Miller after Fernando Abad was called for a balk, scoring a run that made it 5-1 in the seventh.