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: Red Sox, Orioles should leave Machado-Pedroia feud in past

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Drellich: Red Sox, Orioles should leave Machado-Pedroia feud in past

Dustin Pedroia, still injured, apologized for something he didn’t do. 

Matt Barnes, trying to protect his injured teammate in barbaric baseball tradition, apologized for something he did do.

Pedroia then went as far as to say he loved — loved! — Manny Machado, who has maintained innocence in this dust-up all along, even on Sunday.

This episode of Red Sox-Orioles anger should die here, after any presumed discipline the league finds suitable for Barnes is delivered.

There’s a four-game set starting May 1 between these two at Fenway Park, and the reset button should be hit before then.

In a clear attempt at retribution for Machado spiking Pedroia two games earlier, Barnes threw at Machado in the eighth inning of a 6-2 Sox win Sunday at Camden Yards.

The pitch actually wound up a foul ball, but was way too close to Machado’s head — and no one pretended otherwise.

“That’s bull (crap),” Pedroia was caught on camera yelling from the dugout at Machado after the pitch.

Pedroia was telling Machado they actually shared the same view: that what Pedroia’s teammate Barnes did was wrong.

That the outcome was wrong, specifically.

“He’s not trying to hit Manny in the head,” Pedroia told reporters after the game. “It’s just a bad situation man.

“I'm sorry to him and his team. If you're going to protect guys, you do it right away. … There was zero intention of (Machado) trying to hurt me. He just made a bad slide. He did hurt me. It's baseball, man. I'm not mad at him. I love Manny Machado. I love playing against him. I love watching him. If I slid into third base and got Manny's knee, I know I'm going to get drilled. That's baseball. I get drilled, and I go to first base. That's it."

Barnes denied he was trying to hit Machado, but everyone knows otherwise. The Sox tried to even the score with Machado and the O’s on Sunday and failed dangerously.

Considering how the Sox responded immediately; considering how Barnes and Pedroia both apologized, Pedroia profusely; considering Pedroia is the one who’s hurt, and Machado was — thankfully — not hit with the terribly placed pitch; this should be the end of it.

“It’s a short term memory that we need to have and that’s what we’re going to do here,” Machado told reporters Sunday.

Let’s see if that holds true on both sides.

Barnes’ pitch hit Machado, but only on a ricochet. It caught the bat extended over Machado’s right shoulder instead, strangely creating a foul ball that bounced off the bat and into Machado’s back. 

Machado proceeded to double off the the next pitcher, Joe Kelly, who entered because Barnes was ejected.

Pedroia’s going for tests on his knee and ankle on Monday, three days after Machado spiked him. He still hasn’t played since that slide.

A pitch to the head is much more threatening than a spike to the leg. It’s also harder to fathom a pitch to the head being made with any form of intent.

Machado never apologized publicly, although he has tried to make clear that what he did was unintentional. 

He and Pedroia communicated by text Friday and Sunday.

“I wasn't expecting anything, no,” Machado told reporters Sunday of retaliation. “I thought I did a good slide. Everyone saw the replay, they know on that slide, that's on them whatever happened today. I'm going to keep doing me, keep playing baseball.

“I'm going to respect Pedey to the end of this day. I look up to a guy like that.”

Machado maintaining he made a good slide is a little out of tune while the Sox sat there and apologized. Intentional or not, Machado made a bad slide, his foot high in the air.

Note, too, that Pedroia said he’d expect to get drilled if he spiked Machado — while Machado said he expected nothing. 

Tit for tat clearly remains standard operating procedure, without regard for player safety.

O’s manager Buck Showalter praised the “courage” his team had not to escalate everything, although a more appropriate word would have been discipline. Showalter’s right: a pitch in the area of head is not the kind of thing that’s easy to ignore.

But Machado, who once threw a bat at Fernando Abad, knows what his reputation is in this game.

“They think I’m the villain. It’s always me,” Machado told reporters Sunday. “Manny always does something wrong.”

On Sunday, he did it right. He stayed calm when the Red Sox wronged him. That’s commendable. 

Maybe everyone can do it right going forward.

Red Sox salvage finale of series with 6-2 win over Orioles

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Red Sox salvage finale of series with 6-2 win over Orioles

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