McAdam: Sox need continuing relief

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McAdam: Sox need continuing relief

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- The winning hit was delivered by Jacoby Ellsbury, the winning slide from unlikely pinch-runner Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

But perhaps the real key to the Red Sox' 3-2 win over Cleveland Tuesday night came from the bullpen, which provided three innings of one-hit relief.

Franklin Morales, who recorded three strikeouts in two innings of work, pitched as well as he has since arriving in a trade from Colorado earlier this season. Jonathan Papelbon, entering a tie game in the top of the ninth, overpowered the Indians in an impressive ninth.

It's precisely this kind of contribution from the bullpen that the Red Sox are going to need in the coming weeks.

Consider:

Clay Buchholz is likely finished for the regular season, replaced for the next two months by Erik Bedard.

Bedard has thrown all of 1 13 innings at the major-league level over the last five weeks. He'll be on a pitch count Thursday when he makes his Red Sox debut.

It's likely to take at least two starts for Bedard to fully build up stamina and be cleared to go as deep into games as the situation dicates, without regard to pitch count.

For the time being, the Sox will continue to use both Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield in the rotation.

In eight starts to date, Miller has yet to pitch beyond the sixth inning. In fact, in three of those starts, he's failed to get into the sixth.

Wakefield, meanwhile, turned 45 Tuesday, and while he pitched well in his last start in Chicago (three runs in seven innings), he pitched past the sixth just 6 times in 14 starts this season.

Finally, there's John Lackey, who remains as enigmatic as ever.

Though Lackey has generally pitched better since coming off the disabled list with an elbow injury, he remains far from dependable when it comes to going deep into starts. Just 7 times in his first 18 starts has Lackey gotten an out past the sixth inning, and seven times, he's given up five or more runs, putting his team sometimes hopelessly behind.

Boston's collective bullpen ERA is 3.49, ranking it sixth in the American League, about half a run higher than the league-leading Yankees at 3.07. Ranked against all teams, the Red Sox are 14th among the 30 clubs, decidedly middle-of-the-pack.

At the trade deadline, the team understandably focused on upgrading the rotation, armed with the-then undisclosed news that Buchholz was not likely to return during the regular season.

That strategy was in contrast to the approach taken by the Texas Rangers, who, ranked 11th in AL bullpen ERA, determined that they had to prop up the back end of their pitching staff. The Rangers landed Mike Adams and Koji Uehara.

The deals gave the Rangers arguably the deepest and most dominant bullpen in the American League.

If the Red Sox had a bullpen upgrade in mind, they didn't address it. They could use a more experienced lefty for matchup purposes, especially given the makeup of some of their potential opponents come October (New York, Texas).

(Despite needing a roster spot to make room for Bedard's activation, the Sox held on to Randy Williams Tuesday, giving them a second lefty option in the bullpen with the left-leaning Indians in town and the Yankees due this weekend).

But Williams and Morales aren't proven matchup lefties. Williams has had too little consistency at the major-league level and Morales has frequently struggled with his command.

There may still be time to pick up a reliever in a waiver deal this month, but for now, the load will fall on Daniel Bard, whose scoreless streak of 26 13 innings was snapped Monday, and Matt Albers to bridge the team to Jonathan Papelbon.

(Papelbon, it should be noted, has exactly one blown save at almost exactly the two-third mark of the season).

Partiuclarly as they navigate the next few weeks, Alfredo Aceves may be one of the most importnat pitchers on the staff, with the ability to provide multiple innings in relief. Seven times this year, Aceves has pitched three or more innings; the Sox are 6-1 in those games.

Without reinforcements, the trio of Aceves, Albers and Bard will be counted upon greatly from the sixth through the eighth. How well they respond will go a long way in determining how the Red Sox finish the season.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

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Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

The Adam Jones-Yadier Molina verbal skirmish is as predictable as it is annoying.

Was every cultural nuance for the 16 World Baseball Classic teams explained in a booklet the players had to memorize before the tournament?

No? Then it’s amazing there weren’t more moments like this.

Jones, the Orioles outfielder, said Team USA's championship game win over Puerto Rico was motivated by Puerto Rico's choice to plan a post-tournament parade for the team before the final game.

As Jones and his teammates know, parades in pro sports are for championship teams. Red Sox fans are likely aware of this.

As Jones and his teammates know, discussing a parade before a title is secured suggests overconfidence. Rex Ryan fans are likely aware of this.

After an 8-0 win for the U.S., Jones revealed the parade was used as bulletin-board material.

"Before the game, we got a note that there was some championship shirts made -- we didn't make 'em -- and a flight [arranged],” Jones said. “That didn't sit well with us. And a parade -- it didn't sit well with us."

But apparently, Jones didn't know the full context of the parade. It was reportedly planned regardless of whether Puerto Rico won.

One Team USA teammate of Jones whom CSNNE spoke with didn't believe that, however.

"It was called a champions parade that got turned into a celebration parade once they lost," the player said. "I think they just don't like getting called out by Jones, but all Jones did was tell exactly what happened."

Jones’ comments weren’t received well.

Puerto Rico's going through a trying time, a recession, and the entire island rallied behind the team.

“Adam Jones . . . is talking about things he doesn't know about," Molina told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. "He really has to get informed because he shouldn't have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made.”

No one should be upset Jones explained what he was thinking.

Jones actually asked MLB Network host Greg Amsinger, “Should I tell the truth?”

Yes. It’s better than lying.

Look at the reactions across the WBC: the bat flips, the raw emotion. Honesty conveyed via body language.

People in the U.S. are starting to accept and crave those reactions. The WBC helped promote a basic idea: let people be themselves.

Jones said what was on his mind. We can’t celebrate bat flips and then say Jones should keep his mouth shut.

But there's an unreasonable expectation being placed on Jones here.

He heard about a parade -- which is to say, a subject he wouldn't normally think twice about or investigate before a championship baseball game.

Plus, it gave him motivation.

Why is Jones, or anyone with Team USA, more responsible for gaining an advance understanding of Puerto Rico’s parade-planning conventions -- we're talking about parade planning! -- than Puerto Rico is responsible for keeping U.S. norms in mind when making and/or talking about those plans?

No one involved here was thinking about the other’s perception or expectation. It's impossible to always do so.

But that’s how these moments develop: what’s obvious to one party is outlandish to the other.

Now Molina, Puerto Rico's catcher, wants an apology.

"He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people," Molina told ESPN. "Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn't know what this means to [our] people."

Jones can clear the air with an apology, but he doesn't owe one. And he definitely doesn't owe one after Molina took it a step further.

"I'm sending a message to [Jones], saying, 'Look at this, right now you're in spring training working out, and we're with our people, with our silver medals,' " Molina said. "You're in spring training and you're working . . . you have no idea how to celebrate your honors, you don't know what it means.”

Team USA had no parade. Manager Jim Leyland made clear how the U.S. was celebrating, by recognizing those serving the country.

The silver lining here is how much attention the WBC has drawn, and how much conversation it can drive. People care, a great sign for the sport -- and its potential to foster better understanding across cultures.

Internationally, the sport is on parade.

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

The angst surrounding the David Price- and (possibly) Drew Pomeranz-less Red Sox starting rotation may have eased a little -- or a lot -- on Thursday.

Steven Wright extended his string of scoreless spring-training innings to 9 1/3 by blanking the Pirates for 4 1/3 innings in his third spring-traing start, leading the Sox to a 10-7 victory over the Pirates at SkyBlue Park.

Red Sox-Pirates box score

Wright allowed two hits -- the only two hits he's allowed this spring -- with one walk and three strikeouts.

Several of his pitching brethren, notably Heath Hembree and Robbie Ross Jr., didn't fare nearly as well. (See box score above.) But the Sox -- using what may be their regular-season batting order for the first time -- bailed them out with a 16-hit attack, led by Dustin Pedroia (3-for-3, now hitting ,500 for the spring). Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and, yes, Pablo Sandoval each added two hits. Sandoval also drove in three runs and is now hitting .362.

Xander Bogaerts went 1-for-4 in his return to the Sox from the World Baseball Classic.