First win of road trip offers bit of relief for Sox

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First win of road trip offers bit of relief for Sox

SEATTLE -- The music blared in the clubhouse for the first time in more than a week. The conversation among players was loud and joyous instead of muted and somber.

One win isn't going to change the Red Sox' season with just four weeks remaining, but after a brutal stretch that saw them outscored and outclassed every night for a week, the Red Sox' 4-3 win over the Seattle Mariners sure beat the alternative.

"The guys looked happy after the game," said Bobby Valentine. "It's great to see them with smiles. It was a good win."

The Sox would have taken any victory that came their way after being swept in Anaheim and Oakland, then kicking off the final series of the West Coast road trip with a loss Monday.

Valentine said that the team was physically and mentally spent after Monday's loss, the constant drone of losing having worn them down for the last week.

There seemed more energy in the clubhouse before the game and there was little doubt that, post-game, some stress was being blown off.

"It wasn't easy," said Jon Lester, who picked up his fourth win in his last five starts. "It wasn't easy. But it's big, especially the way we did it, coming back."

The Sox trailed 3-0 heading into the sixth before Cody Ross hit high fly left that carried into the seats, scoring Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury ahead of him.

Three batters later, Ryan Lavarnway followed up with a solo homer that put the Sox ahead to stay.

"It feels good to shake hands," said Ross. "It's been a really long time. It's been, what, probably a week now? But we're not going to give up. We're going to keep fighting. We're going to keep going out and keep battling. That's all we can do at this point."

The playoffs, of course, are completely out of reach and even a winning record is highly unlikely. But there's pride on the line for the Sox.

"We want to play well and keep fighting and try to create some momentum for next year," said Ross. "There's a lot stake right now. Even though we're not in the hunt, there's jobs at stake. Guys have to stay hungry, go out and battle and try to win a spot for next year.

"Whether you're a young kid or a free agent, you have to keep fighting and being a professional. That's what we're planning to do."

"Maybe it'll get something started," concluded Valentine of the win, which snapped the team's longest losing streak in more than a decade.

Then, after a beat, he added perhaps the understatement of the season.

"We're due," he said.

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.

Baseball Show Podcast: The right time to call up Rafael Devers?

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Baseball Show Podcast: The right time to call up Rafael Devers?

The Red Sox have called up third baseman Rafael Devers. Lou Merloni, Evan Drellich, and Jared Carrabis discuss if this is the right time to bring up their top prospect and if they should still trade for another veteran third baseman.