Boston Red Sox

First Pitch: Red Sox start working toward their future

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First Pitch: Red Sox start working toward their future

SEATTLE -- After seven straight losses, the Red Sox would have taken any win Tuesday night -- blowout, nail-biter, anything in-between. When you haven't won since two time zones ago, any victory is a good one.

But there was something extra packed into the Red Sox' 4-3 decision over the Seattle Mariners, something that might be more significant than a September win over a losing team.

Ryan Lavarnway hit what proved to be the game-winning homer and Jose Iglesias collected his first hit after starting out 0-for-17 -- and it was a double, his extra-base hit of his major league career.

Whether the Red Sox win 78 or 79 games the season won't be important in 2013. This will go down as the most dispiriting season for the Sox since the inglorious 2001 campaign, and nothing that happens in the final four weeks will change that.

But if the Red Sox are going to be better in '13, if they're going to take more than baby steps back toward contention, then Iglesias and Lavarnway are likely going to be big parts of the reason.

And the truth of the matter is that, amid the losses and the subsequent Bobby Valentine Death Watch, Lavarnway and Iglesias haven't shown much. Couple that with the scant contributions they've received from Ryan Kalish in three separate stints with the major-league team, and there's real reason for concern about the future.

Here's why: If the Red Sox are going to be more "disciplined" in their free-agent spending and refocused on homegrown player development, they've got to have an influx of talented prospects ready to make contributions every year.

If you count the injured Will Middlebrooks as a projected 2013 starter, then Kalish, Igleisas and Lavarnway are the three position prospects closest to the big leagues. The other top hopefuls (Xander Bogaerts, Matt Barnes, Jackie Bradley Jr.) are all at least a year away.

And yet the trio has done nothing to signal a readiness to play in the big leagues.

Kalish has been bothered by recurring shoulder and neck issues, the same injuries that cost him most of 2011 before two surgical procedures were performed last winter.

It's clear he's far from 100 percent healthy. The Sox conceded as much as when they started infielder Pedro Ciriaco in left field for the first time ever Sunday, rather than Kalish.

Some close to Kalish have tried to remind him it often takes almost two years to completely recover from the shoulder surgery he had. That, as much as anything, explains his anemic numbers in Boston: .216 batting average, no homers , .505 OPS.

Until Kalish starts to play as the Sox hope, he'll be thought of -- fairly or unfairly -- as the outfielder the Sox chose to keep over Josh Reddick, who is nearing 30 homers for Oakland.

Lavarnway, perhaps intent on making another good impression after his promising late-season callup in 2011, appeared to be pressing at the plate until his sixth-inning homer. Despite some raw power, he was slugging just .217 and had knocked in only two runs in his first 22 games with Boston this year.

"For me, a lot of the time, it's about pitch selection,'' he said. "Laying off the bad pitches so they often end up having to come to me.''

Worse, his defense has been shaky. Lavarnway was voted the best defensive catcher in the International League by Baseball America, but that improvement hasn't been evident in the big leagues. His actions have been stiff, and his throws have been off.

Finally, there's Iglesias, who, nearly three full seasons into his professional career, still hasn't demonstrated he can hit well enough to play every day in the big leagues.

The Cuban infielder looks overmatched and, despite some streaks of offensive improvement at Pawtucket, still too prone to chase pitches out of the strike zone.

It may be too much to hope that Iglesias grow into a gap hitter who can occasionally drive the ball. But it isn't setting the bar too high to hope he can make regular enough contact to put the ball in play and hit .250.

With a better lineup surrounding him, the Sox would probably accept that, given Iglesias's defensive virtues. His did-that-just-happen? quick flip to Dustin Pedroia to start a double play Monday was jaw-dropping, a snapshot of what he's capable of at shortstop.

But he has to hit at least some to get on the field. He did Tuesday, chopping a ball over third base for a double.

That, combined with Lavarnway's homer, were the real takeaways from Tuesday's skid-snapping win. The real momementum won't come from September wins but, quite literally, player development.

A's Maxwell becomes first MLB player to kneel during anthem

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A's Maxwell becomes first MLB player to kneel during anthem

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics became the first major league baseball player to kneel during the national anthem Saturday, pulling the sport into a polarizing protest movement that has been criticized harshly by President Donald Trump.

Before a home game against the Texas Rangers, Maxwell dropped to a knee just outside Oakland's dugout, adopting a protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in response to police treatment of blacks. The 26-year-old rookie catcher pressed his right hand against his heart, and teammates stood in a line next to him. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, put his right hand on one of Maxwell's shoulders, and the two hugged after the anthem finished.

"Everybody watches sports and so everybody loves sports, so I felt this was the right thing for me to do personally," Maxwell said.

Maxwell's protest comes after Trump blasted football players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes.

"That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for," Trump said of kneeling through the anthem. He added, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, `Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired."

Maxwell informed A's manager Bob Melvin and general manager David Forst of his intention to kneel before Saturday's game. He also held a team meeting in which he addressed questions from teammates. Maxwell did not play in Oakland's 1-0 win.

Canha approached Maxwell after the meeting to offer his support.

"I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that's going on in this country right now," Canha said. "I felt like every fiber in my being was telling me that he needed a brother today."

The Athletics released a statement on Twitter shortly after the anthem, saying they "respect and support all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression" and "pride ourselves on being inclusive."

The league also issued a statement: "Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together."

Maxwell was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, while his father was stationed there in the Army, but he grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, which is where Trump made his statements at a rally Friday.

"The racism in the South is disgusting," Maxwell said. "It bothers me, and it hits home for me because that's where I'm from. The racism in the South is pretty aggressive, and I dealt with it all the way through my childhood, and my sister went through it. I feel that that's something that needs to be addressed and that needs to be changed."

League executives and star players alike condemned Trump's words on Saturday, and Maxwell predicted on Twitter that athletes would begin kneeling in other sports following "comments like that coming from our president."

A few hours later, he followed through.

"This now has gone from just a BlackLives Matter topic to just complete inequality of any man or woman that wants to stand for Their rights!" Maxwell wrote.

Maxwell is decidedly patriotic and comes from a military family. His agent, Matt Sosnick, told The Associated Press that "the Maxwells' love and appreciation for our country is indisputable."

"Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump's response to a number of professional athletes' totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

"Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion."

Red Sox move closer to A.L. East title with 5-0 win over Reds

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Red Sox move closer to A.L. East title with 5-0 win over Reds

CINCINNATI -- The Red Sox took another step toward a division title, putting up another shutout that ended with a feel-good moment for their manager.

Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and Boston beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.

Boston has won 13 of 16, holding a four-game lead over the Yankees with eight to play. The Red Sox are trying to win back-to-back AL East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. They've got their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.

It ended with a ninth inning that was unlike anything manager John Farrell has experienced. His son, Luke, relieved for the Reds, giving them a special moment in a competitive situation.

"It was somewhat surreal," he said. "Very proud. You're standing there looking through a netting in the dugout and you think you're maybe watching him throw back in Little League, in high school. To see it happen on a major league mound -- a special day, a special inning."

The reliever walked two in a scoreless inning and glanced back at the Boston dugout, momentarily removing his cap, as he headed for the Reds dugout.

"There was a little added pressure for me," said Luke Farrell, who like his father wears No. 52. "That's the first time we've been on the same field together. You want to do well for your team."

The last time a manager faced his son as an opposing player was 2004, when the Giants' Felipe Alou went against his son Moises of the Cubs.

"There's a major conflict going on inside," John Farrell said. "You're always pulling for your guys, but that's a unique arrangement there."

The Red Sox got what they wanted, closing in on a title with an offense that's an anomaly in the homer-heavy major leagues. Moreland's shot off Robert Stephenson (5-6) was the 160th by a Red Sox, fewest in the American League.

"That gives us a little breathing room," said Moreland, who broke an 0-for-19 slump with only his second homer in September. "That was nice."

Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21, making sure he'll be in the conversation for a prominent postseason role.

He would love a chance to start a playoff game.

"That's going to be the best feeling in the world," he said. "That's what people who have started in the playoffs tell me."

The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.

HOMECOMING

Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi , who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.

INTERLEAGUE

The Red Sox are 11-1 against the Reds all-time in their interleague series. The Reds beat the Red Sox in seven games for the 1975 World Series championship. Overall, Boston is 15-4 in interleague play this season. The Reds are 5-14.

RED TO GREEN

The Reds wore green jerseys and caps as part of their day honoring Irish heritage.

GOODBYE BRONSON

The Reds and Red Sox honored pitcher Bronson Arroyo , who is retiring at age 40. He came back from several years of arm problems and made 14 starts for Cincinnati this season before ending his comeback. Tributes on the videoboard included one from Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Among his gifts were a customized guitar and guitar case. He performed with a band on the field after the game.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: RF Mookie Betts was scratched from the lineup to get treatment on his left foot. He fouled a pitch off it during his second at-bat on Friday night but stayed in the game. It bothered him running on Saturday pregame. ... INF Eduardo Nunez plans to run on Sunday, the next test as he recovers from a sprained knee,

Reds: CF Billy Hamilton broke his left thumb while bunting on Sept. 6 and returned Friday night, getting two hits. He was out of the lineup on Saturday as the Reds ease him back into playing.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Doug Fister (5-8) is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three career starts against the Reds.

Reds: Rookie Jackson Stephens (2-0) makes his third career start. He gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings of an 8-7 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday.

CSNNE SCHEDULE