Inconsistencies plague Sox offense

794358.jpg

Inconsistencies plague Sox offense

CHICAGO -- To look at some of the numbers, the Red Sox' offense has been plenty good enough.

Entering Friday's action, the Red Sox were second only to Texas in runs scored among American League teams. What's more, they lead all of baseball in extra-base hits and were tied for third in doubles.

But Boston's offense has also been ridiculously inconsistent. When they're not scoring in double figures -- as they've done 10 times, as much as any team in either league -- they seem to be in danger of scoring just a couple.

Or, like Friday, none at all.

The Sox were shut out for the third time this season Friday. They had chances right from the beginning when the first two hitters of the game -- Scott Podsednik and Dustin Pedroia -- reached base. But despite the first-and-second, no-out opportunity, the Sox couldn't score.

They put the leadoff man on base in three of the first five innings, but came up empty.

In his final three at-bats, Dustin Pedroia came up with four runners in scoring position -- and six baserunners overall -- and made the final out each time.

The frustration took its toll on Pedroia in the seventh when his opposite-field liner toward the right field line was hauled in by Cubs outfielder David DeJesus, leaving the bases full of Red Sox teammates. Enraged, Pedroia slammed his helmet with both hands into the ground down the first base line.

"We hit some balls good, man. We just hit it right to 'em,'' said Pedroia. "We're not trying to be (lousy); everyone's trying, man. We're not playing good. Today we didn't play good. We scored no runs. You can't win a game if you score zero runs.''

The inability to score much has haunted the Red Sox of late. Friday marked the seventh time in the last 11 games in which they scored three runs or fewer. Unsurprisingly, they're just 1-6 in those seven games.

"We had some balls hit hard,'' lamented Kevin Youkilis. "It just stunk. It really did. (The scoreboard didn't reflect) how we swung the bats. We swung the bats pretty good. It's just, man, we couldn't get anything to fall.''

In addition to hard-hit balls by Pedroia to right which were caught by DeJesus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia sent Alfonso Soriano to the warning track in left with a runner on and one out in the fifth before Soriano made a catch with his back against the ivy-covered wall.

Youkilis himself is in a 3-for-30 funk since the start of the last homestand, dropping his average to .212 for the season.

"They said it evens out, so if it evens out, I'm in good shape,'' said Youkilis. "Today was frustrating. Every at-bat was great and I didn't have anything to show for it. It's discouraging. It's good to drive the ball, but nothing fell in.''

The Sox have run into top starters in the past week, including Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and, Friday, Ryan Dempster.

But Youkilis doesn't want to use that as an excuse for the team's offensive failings.

"You can always say it's good pitching,'' he said, "but as a hitter, you have to go out there and hit. They always say good pitching will beat good hitting. But this team has great hitting and it's not getting the job done. And it's frustrating.''

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.