Boston Red Sox

Henry's versatility could be an asset for the Sox

989509.jpg

Henry's versatility could be an asset for the Sox

PAWTUCKET, R.I Sometimes a change of scenery is whats needed.

Justin Henry was the ninth-round pick of the Tigers out of the University of Mississippi in 2007. In six minor league seasons, the left-handed batter has hit a combined .293 with a .372 on-base percentage and .362 slugging percentage. In 181 games over parts of the past three seasons with Triple-A Toledo he hit .296.369.356 with 95 runs scored and 33 stolen bases in 50 attempts. In 543 plate appearances over 131 games in 2012 with the Mud Hens he hit .300.372.357 with 72 runs scored and 22 stolen bases in 34 attempts.

Justin does a lot of things well, said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. He can play multiple positions, he runs well, he gets on base. Hes a good hitter. So I think all those things really make him a well-rounded player that can fit in in a lot of ways and has a chance to really help us in different ways. So those things in particular were attractive.

The Red Sox acquired Henry, who turns 28 in April, following Decembers Rule 5 draft. The Sox selected second baseman Jeff Kobernus from Washington in the draft, trading him to Detroit for Henry.

I was kind of hopeful that something may happen Henry said. I enjoyed my time in Detroit but I was just kind of hoping for something there. I was there for my whole career since I was drafted in 07. Obviously you want to make it to the big leagues and I didnt really know if I was going to get that opportunity there. So to be given an opportunity to go somewhere else, I was very excited about it.

Henry gives the Sox some roster flexibility because, although he was acquired pursuant to the Rule 5 draft, he is not subject to its directives and does not have to be kept on the major league roster for the upcoming season. He was not on the Tigers 40-man roster and did not have to be placed on the Sox 40-man.

But his versatility could be an asset for the Sox this season. Henry will likely start the season with Triple-A Pawtucket. He has played every position expect pitcher and catcher over the last six seasons. Henry made most of his appearances, 67, in center field last season. But he also played 25 games at second base and 37 games at third base. In order of appearances, over his career he has played 378 games at second, 101 in center, 85 in left, 60 at third, 30 in right, seven at first, and six at shortstop. He has no intention of adding catching or pitching to his resume, though.

I dont think I want to get behind the plate and I dont think anybody wants to see me on the mound, either, he said with a laugh. So Ill stick to the other seven.

For some players, though, that kind of versatility can be a sort of Catch-22 in which they are thought of as a jack-of-most-positions, master of none.

Its kind of a double-edged sword sometimes, Henry said. I feel like sometimes in the Detroit organization there were opportunities at some spots and I wasnt given that opportunity because I was thought of as a utility guy. So it can hurt you that way. But also every team needs a guy or two who can play everywhere. So I feel like it can help you and hurt you. Im hoping it will help me more than hurt me. So well see.

The Sox are not ready to put a label on him yet.

We need to get him into spring training and see him every day before I think were ready to make any evaluation and say that he necessarily will even be bounced around, Crockett said. He may be in one spot all year for us. I know he was in center field for a majority of last year, having done different things.

More than anything he hasnt really been a utility guy. Hes been a regular at different positions. But I think his athleticism allows him to do that. So I think that will give us the ability to get his bat in the lineup. But also I think certainly when youre talking about making that jump to the major league level that is a huge factor in terms of whatever that need might be, when the call might come.

Henry, who played winter ball in Venezuela in the past two offseasons, was at McCoy Stadium on Friday as part of the PawSox hot stove events, his first opportunity to meet some new teammates and front office personnel. He is anxious to get to spring training to show his new team what he can do, wherever on the field that might be.

Hopefully just come out and put my best foot forward, he said. Ive been working hard this offseason so I can be prepared when I go to spring training. You just want to make a good impression. Sometimes the first impression is an important one so Im planning on hopefully doing that.

Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

red_sox_jackie_bradley_christian_vazquez_091917.jpg

Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

BALTIMORE — On the night Major League Baseball saw its record for home runs in a season broken, the team with the fewest homers in the American League took a scoreless tie into extra innings.

In the 11th, the Red Sox won in a fashion they hadn’t in 100 years.

Just how peculiar was their 1-0 win over the Orioles, the AL leaders in homers? The lone run came when Jackie Bradley Jr. bolted home on a wild pitch from Brad Brach. So? So, the Red Sox won, but did not officially record a run batted in on the day MLB’s greatest league-wide power show to date was celebrated.

MORE:

The last time the Sox won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI was a century ago, in 1918. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in that game. 

It’s a weird time for the Sox offense. A weird year, really. Because the Sox are in first place, and have been, but they don’t drive the ball. Their .408 slugging percentage was the fifth lowest in the majors entering Tuesday.

They’re also in the bottom third for strikeouts, the top five in steals and the top 10 in batting average (.260). That's the description of an effective National League offense. An old-school, move-the-line group that makes more contact than all but four teams in the majors. 

The rest of baseball is switching to golf swings to pound low-ball pitching. The Sox look like they could be on a black-and-white newsreel shuffling around the bags.

Should you have faith in that method come the playoffs? There's reason to be dubious.

But the construction should be appreciated for the sake of disparity, both in the context of recent Red Sox history and the sport’s home-run renaissance.

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the season’s 5,964th home run Tuesday, besting the record mark set in 2000 — dead in the middle of the steroid era.

At present, the Sox lineup is particularly out of sorts because of injuries. Dustin Pedroia should be back Wednesday, but was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Hanley Ramirez isn’t starting either. Eduardo Nunez’s rehab from a knee injury is coming along, but may not move quite as quickly as expected.

Even if all are healthy, this group remains strange. Because the Sox offense looks so different than what people expect of the Sox, the opposite of what people expect of an American League East-winning team. The opposite of what people expect of any American League team, period.

The arms are the driving force for the Sox, and must remain so if they’re to be successful in October. The sturdiness of the bullpen, tired but resolute, cannot be understated when the workload is extended in September. No team can go 15-3 in extra-inning games without stellar and timely pitching.

But the entirety of pitching coach Carl Willis’ staff has been wonderful. Drew Pomeranz didn’t have his best fastball velocity on Tuesday and was still effective in 6 1/3 innings.

The outfield play can’t be overlooked either. Bradley’s a brilliant patrolman in center field and his leaping catches to rob home runs — he took one away from Chris Davis Tuesday — have been their own attractions.

The Sox, meanwhile, just don't hit many balls far enough to be robbed.

If you’re cut from an old-school cloth, and didn’t really love those station-to-station, home-run powered offenses of yore, this Sox team is for you. There's something to be said for the experience of simply watching something different.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

red_sox_celebrate_091917.jpg

Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Though they rank last in the American League in home runs, the Boston Red Sox have found plenty of other ways to win - especially in extra innings.

Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and Boston used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles' bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games - tying a franchise record for extra-inning wins set in 1943.

In this one, pitching and defense proved to be the winning formula. After Drew Pomeranz allowed five hits over 6 1/3 innings, five relievers held the Orioles hitless the rest of the way.

"They've been able, to a man, hand it off to the next guy and continue to build a bridge until we can scratch out a run - tonight not even with an RBI," manager John Farrell said. "We find a way to push a run across."

With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw.

Joe Kelly (4-1) worked the 10th and Matt Barnes got three outs for his first save.

"They've been unbelievable," Boston's Brock Holt said of the bullpen. "That's why our record is what is in extra-inning games, because of those guys."

The game stretched into extra innings in part because Bradley made a sensational catch to rob Baltimore slugger Chris Davis of a home run in the fifth inning. Bradley quickly judged the trajectory of the ball while running to his left, then left his feet and stretched his arm over the 7-foot wall in center field.

The finish came after Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman locked up in a scoreless duel that was essentially the exact opposite of Monday night's 10-8 slugfest.

Although he didn't get his 17th win, Pomeranz lowered his ERA to 3.15 and set a career high by pitching at least six innings for the 17th time (in 30 starts).

Gausman was even sharper, giving up just three hits over eight innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

The right-hander retired the first 14 batters he faced before Rafael Devers singled off the right-field wall.

Baltimore threatened in the third inning when Manny Machado hit a two-out double, but he was thrown out by Benintendi trying to score on Jonathan Schoop's single to left field.

No one else got to third base until the sixth, when Baltimore had runners at the corners with two outs before Pomeranz struck out Mark Trumbo with a high, outside fastball.

The Orioles have lost 11 of 13 to fall out of contention.

"They're very frustrated right now," manager Buck Showalter said. "You can imagine grinding as our guys have since February and not being able to push a run like that across in some of these games when we pitch well. That's been a challenge for us. I feel for them because I know how much it means to them."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, who left Monday's game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his nose, did not start but was used as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning and grounded into a double play. Farrell said Pedroia will likely return to the starting lineup Wednesday. . DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game. Farrell said Ramirez was available to pinch hit and is likely to start Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Chris Sale (16-7, 2.86 ERA) will seek to match his career high in wins Wednesday night in the series finale. He needs 13 strikeouts to become the first AL pitcher with 300 in a season since Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Orioles: Wade Miley (8-13, 5.32 ERA) has lost his last three starts. The left-hander gave up six runs and got only one out against the Yankees on Friday night.