First Pitch: Tuesday, September 20

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First Pitch: Tuesday, September 20

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Monday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

THE TRUE SOX-OCTOBER Looks like SpookyWorld got here a little early. (redsox.com)

The lead is down to one (in the loss column) after yesterday's doubleheader split with the Orioles; check here for all the details of the two games. (csnne.com) But the real game being played in Boston is the blame game, and it looks like the winner (loser?) is Theo Epstein. He's been taken to task by:

-- Foxsports.com's Jon Paul Morosi

-- The Providence Journal's Jim Donaldson

-- Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan

(He does have at least one defender -- NBC Sports colleague Craig Calcaterra -- though Craig is also positively cackling at the Sox' collapse.)

Any wonder Joe Castiglione is sounding absolutely morose these days? (baseballmusings.com)

DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY: Meanwhile, in non-SpookyWorld, the Tampa Bay Rays are relaxed and smiling. (Tampa Tribune) You might even call it a lighthearted approach to the pennant race; at least The St. Petersburg Times does. And why? Because they're just as dumbfounded that the Rays are back in it as we are. (St. Petersburg Times)

OLD FRIENDS: Can we now stop with the "They shoulda kept Kevin Millwood!" talk, please? (rotoworld.com) . . . Three walks for Wily Mo Pena? The end really is near. (rotoworld.com)

AND FINALLY . . . The Wall Street Journal is welcoming New England's 10-year-olds, who've known nothing but joy in their short lives as sports fan, to the real world.

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

Blake Swihart wasn't going to win a job. Monday merely made that official.

Swihart was optioned out as the Red Sox made further cuts, sending a player who could still be the Red Sox catcher of the future -- well, one of them anyway -- to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's expected to work on his receiving.

Swihart hit .325 in 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.

"Had a very strong camp and showed improvements defensively. Swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida.  "For the player that he is and the person that he is, you love him as a person. He's a hell of a talented player.

"He made some subtle adjustments with his setup [defensively]. That gave him a different look to pitchers on the mound. Pitchers talked positively about the look that they got from him behind the plate. I think it softened his hands somewhat to receive the ball better. And there were a number of occasions where he was able to get a pitchers' pitch called for a strike, so the presentation of the umpire was a little bit more subtle and consistent then maybe years' past."

Sandy Leon's hot hitting in 2016 earned him an automatic crack at the lead catching spot for this year. Combined with the fact that Christian Vazquez looks great defensively, went deep on Sunday and is out of options, Swihart was the obvious odd man out.

He had options, the others didn't.

Deven Marrero was also optioned to Pawtucket. Sam Travis -- who, like Swihart, could break camp with the 2018 team -- was reassigned to minor-league camp, as was catcher Dan Butler.

The Sox have 38 players left in camp, 32 from the 40-man roster.

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Righty Tyler Thornburg seems a guarantee to join David Price on the disabled list to start the season.

Thornburg, the biggest acquisition Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made for the bullpen this winter, was scratched Monday because of a spasm in his upper right trapezius — not a great sign for a pitcher who already had throwing shoulder issues this spring.

Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida the spasm was “not shoulder related.”  But the trap, a large muscle along the neck and back, does extend to the shoulder blade.

Dombrowski told reporters it is most likely that Thornburg starts the year on the disabled list. More is expected to be known Tuesday, possibly after an MRI.

Robby Scott could be a replacement for Thornburg. If so, the Sox would likely have three lefties in the bullpen, along with Fernando Abad and Robbie Ross Jr.

"Possibly. Possibly," Dombrowski said of Scott. “We still have to make those decisions. But possibly.”

Dombrowski didn’t indicate a desire to go outside the organization for now.

Thornburg had barely enough time to get ready for Opening Day prior to Monday’s setback. If he indeed starts the season on the DL, Joe Kelly would be the eighth-inning reliever for the Sox — a role Kelly was headed for anyway given Thornburg’s shaky spring.

Thornburg, 28, had a 2.15 ERA last season for the Brewers. The Sox picked him up at the winter meetings in a deal that sent Travis Shaw and prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers.