First Pitch: A starless summer in Boston

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First Pitch: A starless summer in Boston

SEATTLE -- On Sunday afternoon Major League Baseball will reveal the rosters for the All-Star Game, to be played on July 10 in Kansas City.

David Ortiz, who was the leading vote-getter in fan balloting when the last totals were released, will undoubtedly be the starting DH for the American League.

Beyond that, however, the Red Sox aren't guaranteed any other All-Star representatives. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who belted his 15th homer of the season Friday night, could be selected as a reserve, but that's far from assured.

Saltalamacchia must battle Matt Wieters, Joe Mauer and Mike Napoli at the position.

The Sox, then, for the first time in more than 10 years, face the very real possibility that they will have only one representative (Ortiz) in the All-Star Game, quite a dropoff from recent seasons.

Only last year in Phoenix, the Red Sox had five representatives -- Ortiz, Jon Lester, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett. The year before that, 2009 in Anaheim, the Sox had no fewer than six players selected to the squad: Ortiz, Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Clay Buchholz and Adrian Beltre.

Indeed, for the better part of the last decade, the Red Sox have almost always sent a multitude of players to the mid-summer classic. To find a year in which only one Red Sox player was chosen, you have to go back to 2001: Manny Ramirez.

(That season, both Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, perennial All-Stars at that point in their careers, were injured.)

This summer, it isn't injuries so much as underperformance. Lester has been healthy all year, but has just five wins. Beckett, who is coming back from a brief DL stint, has four wins. Both Beckett and Lester, nominally the top two starters on the staff, have ERAs over 4.00.

It's the same around the infield: Gonzalez is hitting under .270 with just a half-dozen homers as the season reaches the midway point and Pedroia, though undoubtedly hampered by a thumb injury for nearly two months, entered Friday's game hitting .267.

What does the lack of All-Stars say about the current edition of the Red Sox?

It's too simple to suggest that a lack of All-Stars signifies a poor team, or, conversely, that an abundance of Stars guarantees success. The last two years, in which the Sox placed five (2011) and six players (2010) on the squad, they failed to make the playoffs either season.

Then again, the fact that only Ortiz is assured of being on the A.L. team does seem to say something about the current Red Sox and explain some of the apathy toward the team.

Some of the ill-will felt by fans toward the team is undoubtedly the result of last September's bitter aftertaste. But there's also a distinct lack of star power, especially with Ellsury and Carl Crawford missing almost the entire first half of the season, and Pedroia and Gonzalez underachieving.

Beyond the likes of rookie Will Middlebrooks and persevering journeyman Daniel Nava, there's not a lot of individual appeal to this edition. For a team which so carefully markets itself and presents itself as much an ongoing TV show as a baseball team, that's a curious end result.

Perhaps this lack of star power is temporary. Perhaps, by next summer, Middlebrooks and others will be more established and the veterans will have rebounded and the Sox will again pack the American League All-Star roster.

But in two weeks, for this season anyway, the team with the third-biggest payroll in the game might not have any more representatives than cellar-dwelling non-contenders like San Diego and Houston.

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.