McAdam: Relief-seeking Sox may need to go back to trade market

McAdam: Relief-seeking Sox may need to go back to trade market

BOSTON -- Now that the Red Sox have addressed their starting rotation needs -- with the acquisition of Drew Pomeranz and a much-improved performance from Eduardo Rodriguez -- another leak has sprung.

In the last two weeks, the Red Sox have placed three key bullpen arms on the disabled list. Junichi Tazawa, who had a shoulder injury, has been sidelined since July 3, though he's expected to be activated Friday. Craig Kimbrel, who underwent knee surgery, will be sidelined until well until August. And today they placed Koji Uehara on the DL because of a right pectoral strain that forced him out of Tuesday night's game after seven pitches.

It's unknown how serious the setback is, but it's safe to say Uehara will be unavailable for at least a little while.

Here it is, late July, and the Red Sox are, for the time being, without their three best relievers.

That means there's a good chance that Dave Dombrowski may have to re-assess his position from the night he landed Pomeranz, when he said the Red Sox were likely done with any significant trades with the deadline still 12 days away.

The earlier deal that netted them Brad Ziegler from Arizona looms even more significant now. Not only as Ziegler been highly effective in his set-up role to date with three scoreless appearances, but he may be asked to take on a bigger role with the absences of Kimbrel, Tazawa and Uehara.

For the time being, expect Ziegler to handle the closing duties, with Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree as the primary high-leverage options in the seventh and eighth innings.

Should Uehara require a stint on the DL, the Sox could replace him by speeding up Joe Kelly's return to the big-league roster. Kelly has been impressive as he transitions to the bullpen in Pawtucket, though he has little experience pitching in relief in the big leagues.

There's also the matter of roster spots. When the Sox activate Tazawa later this week, they'll face a tough call in creating space. Their choices would seem to come down to cutting ties with Clay Buchholz -- either dealing him, designating him for assignment or releasing him altogether -- or optioning Hembree to the minors.

Before Uehara got hurt Tuesday night, the Hembree option made the most sense, if for no other reason that it allowed the Sox to continue to control all the pitchers in question. Hembree has pitched well and deserves to stay, but as one of just two pitchers in the bullpen with remaining options -- Barnes is the other -- he might be a victim of the numbers game.

More interesting is what the Red Sox intend to do with Buchholz.

While he's done little to inspie confidence at any point this season with a 5.91 ERA and a WHIP of 1.488, Buchholz is, for now, the only depth starting option in the entire organization. Would the Sox let him go without having any suitable insurance in the event something happens to one of their five starters?

The situation will be clarified later Wednesday, when more is learned about the severity of Uehara's condition. But either way, the Sox face some tough calls and, perhaps, a commitment to sacrifice additional prospects in a deal for more bullpen help before the deadline.

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

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Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, lefthanded hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike 3 — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox win 4th straight behind stellar outing from Pomeranz, 6-2

Red Sox win 4th straight behind stellar outing from Pomeranz, 6-2

BOSTON - Drew Pomeranz pitched six strong innings and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts to lift the Boston Red Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to their fourth straight win.

Pomeranz (4-3) made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and has lost 15 of 21 on the road.

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez (1-3) early.