Boston Red Sox

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland put up mediocre numbers and won a Gold Glove in a walk year. For his efforts, he received a one-year, $5.5 million contract on the open market. 

That’s not a lot. Maybe his .233 average stood out to teams more than his 22 homers, but either way it’s somewhat surprising that a one-year deal on low money is the best he could do given the fact that his career average was .258 prior to last year and he’d hit .275 or higher in two of his previous four seasons. 

The contract might not be a major score for Moreland, but he said choosing Boston was. 

“I had a couple options, but really just the whole fact that it’s place that I really wanted to play,” he said of Boston. “Getting an opportunity to come here and be a part of a winning environment, being part of a winning environment and having a chance to go out and play for a championship is huge to me, personally, and this is a great option. 

“What they were able to do last year, you know you were in for a fight when you were playing these guys. It was a gritty group of guys that had a ton of talent. I like to think of myself as that type player, as a gritty type player and hopefully I felt like I could fit in here and move forward and try to help out and make that goal happen of winning a championship. 

“That’s the main goal as far as playing this game for me. I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity here, and that was before the [Chris] Sale news broke, too, you know? So seeing that also, it just shows you that we’re in it. We’re in it and trying to go all out to make that happen. I’m happy to be a part of it.” 

It doesn’t hurt that his batting average is higher at Fenway Park than it is in any other stadium in which he’s had at least 30 at-bats. Moreland has hit .341/.378/.683 with four homers and eight RBI in 41 career at-bats at Fenway. Asked to explain his success in Boston, he noted that “comfortable” was the only word that came to mind. 

So what is the Red Sox’ plan for the former Rangers first baseman? To play him at first against righties and let Hanley Ramirez DH, John Farrell said. 

Farrell did also point to Moreland’s recent work against lefties. Last season was one of two in his career (the other being 2013) in which Moreland had a better average against lefties than against righties. Moreland hit .277/.320/.479 against southpaws last season, with .221/.293/.407 marks against righties.

“Against right-handed starters, Mitch will be the first baseman,” Farrell said. “That gives us the flexibility to DH Hanley in that spot. One thing I also mentioned to Mitch is we’re certainly open to his at-bats growing in number against left-handers, last year was his best year against left-handers in his big league career.

"With Mitch, getting everyday at-bats against right-handed starters at first base and Hanley moving to the DH slot, that alignment, we also have the ability against quality left-handers, where Hanley would go back to first base and then we’ve got the ability to rotate some guys through the DH slot. 

Added Farrell: “His strengths as a player are many, but we feel this is a very good fit in a number of ways, and positionally first and foremost.” 

Drellich: Health of Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez essential in final week

Drellich: Health of Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez essential in final week

BOSTON — Considering the Sox offense lacks the firepower of potential playoff opponents, significant health issues for key hitters going into the final week of the season is disconcerting.

Every other American League team that's clinched a postseason spot or is expected to stands in the top five for runs scored per game across the majors: the Astros, Yankees, Indians and Twins. The Sox are 10th. 

Every team is dealing with injuries. But the Sox are in a particularly precarious spot because of how they're built. 

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The regular-season results show the Sox have adapted well overall when Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez have missed time. But how much the Sox can get from those two in October is up in the air.

Nunez was in the lineup for the first time in 16 games on Monday night at Fenway Park, a positive sign as he recovers from a ligament injury in his right knee.

He’s not exactly full go quite yet.

“It’s quicker than what it possibly could have been. You’re talking about a ligament damage to the PCL and I know it’s less severe than an ACL/MCL, but still it’s about pain tolerance,” Sox manager John Farrell said Monday. “It’s about managing it. His body has to recondition to take care of that. His muscles have to respond in a different way. … If he feels a little bit of a zinger, that’s going to go away. He’s not putting himself at further risk.

“Whether or not he’s a stolen base threat tonight versus growing into it over this final week — I would anticipate he’s going to have to test it more game speed than we’ve been able to simulate right now.”

Meanwhile, Dustin Pedroia, managing a left knee injury all season, was not in the lineup after a 1-for-26 road trip.

“When the knee starts to talk back to him a little bit, we’ve all got to listen to it and give him a down day,” Farrell said. “I would expect him to be back on the  field tomorrow.”

Farrell thought it reasonable to connect the knee to Pedroia’s recent poor performance hitting wise.

All year, resiliency has been a buzz word for Sox because of their propensity for late-inning comebacks. Sunday’s eighth-inning rally against the Reds was the latest example, leading to the Sox’ 42nd come-from-behind win. 

How they’ve dealt with a variety of health situations adds another layer to their reputation for handling adversity. Per spotrac.com, the Sox have had the fifth most disabled list days this season, 1,601. 

The Indians were doubted going into last year’s postseason because of health situations with their pitching. But it’d also be foolish to minimize the importance of Pedroia and Nunez, and how they look in this final week.

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Price can pitch with less rest, but unlikely to go back-to-back before playoffs

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Price can pitch with less rest, but unlikely to go back-to-back before playoffs

BOSTON -- It’s unlikely David Price will pitch in consecutive games in the regular season, and it doesn’t sound like manager John Farrell feels Price needs to do so in the postseason, either.

Nothing is ruled out, however.

“Initially it would be multi-innings,” Farrell said of Price's postseason role. “But if there was an outing in which it was one inning -- that’s not to limit the fact if he felt physically fine the next day, we could possibly use him. But in this final week, it's not an item that’s got to be checked, to get him on back-to-back days.”

Farrell said Price can already be used with fewer than four days rest, which is the interval starting pitchers use and is also the amount of rest Price had between his two appearances. Farrell said Price ideally would be used with fewer than four days rest some time this week.

“And you know what, he was available two days after he pitches two innings in Tampa,” Farrell said. “He pitched two innings in Tampa [on Sept. 17], was going to be a minimum of two days down. He was ready to pitch on Wednesday [on Sept. 19] in Baltimore. We got a one-sided game [that day], off-day Thursday. So yeah, I can tell you this right now, he’s ready for a better frequency than four days.”

Yet, at the same time, Price is likely going to have at least three days rest before his next outing. Farrell said he wants to stay away from him Monday.

Farrell said Price's role is usage-dependent.

“Likely wouldn't go to him tonight for another day of rest after 40 pitches [Friday]," Farrell said. "We would only pitch him back to back if there was an outing in which it was 12 pitches or less, and he was available the next night. But I think in the two outings in which he’s pitched, that's probably more the role that I envision. 

“Not to say that couldn't change going forward, but that was a big 2 2/3 innings the other night. It bridged the gap to Addison [Reed] and then to Craig [Kimbrel].”

Farrell on Monday noted that “Price has kind of allowed that bullpen to kind of fall in line a little bit more consistently.” Yet, if Price can’t pitch on consecutive days, that leaves open a question of how things go without Price available in the postseason.

Could the Sox get more out of Price if they pitch him in Games 2 and 3 of the Division Series, with one off-day in between for travel, rather than using him in Game 1? 

Maybe that’s the thinking. Because ideally, the Sox wouldn’t need Price for much length in a game Chris Sale starts, and Sale’s obviously going to be the Game 1 starter.