McAdam: Unhappy return coming for Wakefield


McAdam: Unhappy return coming for Wakefield

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Two morning-after musings:

If, as it certainly seems, Andrew Miller is about to soon join the Red Sox starting rotation, Tim Wakefield is going to be displaced, one way or another.

While one report had the Red Sox planning to slot Miller into the current mix, and, at least for a while, go with six starters, Wakefield will eventually be the odd man out.

There's no rationale for removing Josh Beckett, who sports the lowest ERA of any American League starter, or Jon Lester, who leads in A.L. in wins.

Clay Buchholz (3.59 ERA) has earned a permanent spot in the rotation, and John Lackey gets to stay based on his paycheck. The Sox aren't about to have a long man making almost 17 million per season -- there's too much invested.

That leaves Wakefield, who has a habit of finding himself squeezed out of the picture.

Wakefield pitched brilliantly Tuesday night in defeat, allowing just one earned run over seven innings. He's sure to be unhappy with the idea of being passed over, or, at the very least, moved around.

Though he's not primarily motivated by personal gain, each start Wakefield doesn't get makes his twin goals of 200 career wins (he sits at 196) and becoming the all-time winningest Red Sox pitcher (he's currently 11 away from topping Cy Young and Roger Clemens) become more remote.

Wakefield's current deal expires at the end of the season and while he's been a valuable depth piece on the Red Sox' staff for the last few years, there's no guarantee of his return for 2012 and beyond.

It will take a strong sell job by Terry Francona to have Wakefield remain invested in the team should he again be shifted to the role of bullpen long man.

Tuesday night was one more example of how difficult an opponent the Rays are for the Red Sox.

Boston's run of mighty offensive outbursts was shut down by the Rays and James Shields, and, with it, the team's nine-game winning streak was snapped.

Perhaps that shouldn't be terribly surprising, given the recent history between the two clubs, especially here.

Overall, the Rays have won 10 of their last 13 since June 30 of last season. And since the beginning of 2008, the Rays are a torrid 20-8 -- which translates into a winning percentage of .714 -- against the Sox at Tropicana Field.

It's tough to put a finger on Tampa Bay's dominance. In the past, it could be argued that the Rays' athleticism was a bad matchup for the Red Sox, who couldn't slow the Rays' running game.

Except this: Carl Crawford, once their foremost athletic player and all-around catalyst, now plays for the Red Sox.

And the Rays are no longer nearly as athletic as they were with Crawford, but are still, somehow, 3-0 against the Sox this year.

It can't be Tampa Bay's home-field advantage, either, since the crowds at the Trop are modest, and often, about 30-40 percent full of Red Sox boosters.

Crawford himself provided an interesting tidbit following Tuesday's 4-0 loss to his former team.

"I know those guys over there,'' said Crawford. "Whenever it's the Red Sox in town, they take it up a notch.''

Perhaps the Rays are particularly motivated by the turnout of Red Sox fans in their home ballpark, making them all the more determined to beat their guests. And it's a fair bet to believe that Joe Maddon reminds his team of the huge payroll advantages both the Red Sox and Yankees hold.

Whatever is being said, it's working. And it's going to make it very difficult for the Red Sox to run away with the division if they can't beat the Rays head-to-head.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play through injuries, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to hit better as the designated hitter, or give someone else a chance in his place.

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage.

Putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that he can heal up, or at least attempt to, would be reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup, as has been the case the last two days — you're hampering the roster.

Ramirez was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday because of his left knee, which was hit by a pitch Sunday. He’s been bothered by his shoulders all season.

“He’s improved today. He’s responding to treatment,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday of Ramirez’s knee. “He’s still going through some work right now. Would get a bat in his hand here shortly to determine if he’s available to pinch hit tonight. Prior to yesterday’s game, day to day, and still in that status, but he is improving.”

The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else. Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time should be on the table.

When it comes to lineups vs. lefties, Farrell might be thinking the same way. 

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’d consider playing someone at DH other than Ramirez for performance reasons.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Farrell said. “Where he was so good against left-handed pitching last year, that’s been still a work in progress, for lack of a better way to describe it. So we’re always looking to put the best combination on the field.”

A right-handed hitter, Ramirez is just 5-for-35 (.143) vs. lefties this season, after hitting .346 against them a year ago.

On the flip side: in the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage overall. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season vs. all pitchers.

“You know, the one thing you can’t completely turn away from is what Hanley did last year,” Farrell said. “While I know that’s last year, we’re still working to get some increased performance from him. I think he’s still a key member in our lineup. The presence he provides, the impact that he’s capable of. And yet, we’re still working to get there.”

Farrell said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint a particular reason for Ramirez’s struggles vs. southpaws.

“No,” Farrell said. “There’s been extensive video review. There’s been extensive conversations with him. There’s been stretches, short stretches, where he’s I think shown the approach at the plate and the all field ability to drive the baseball. That’s been hit and miss a little bit. So, we’re just trying to gain a consistency that he’s been known for.”

Mitch Moreland's been playing with a fractured big toe in his left foot. After he homered and had another impactful night Monday, Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In [Moreland's] most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Asked about that comment a day later, Farrell shot down the idea he was trying to reach Ramirez or anyone else with that remark about playing hurt.

“No,” Farrell said Tuesday. “I respect the question, but that was to highlight a guy who has been dealing with a broken toe, continues to perform at a high level and to compliment Mitch for the way he’s gone about it.”

It doesn't matter why Ramirez isn't producing, at a certain point. Either he is or he isn't. If not, they need to be willing to give someone else an extended look, whether it lands Ramirez on the DL or simply the bench.

Farrell suspended one game for last week's run-in with umpire

Farrell suspended one game for last week's run-in with umpire

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell has been suspended one game because of Saturday night's scream-fest with umpire Bill Miller, when Farrell objected to a balk call made on Fernando Abad that led to an Angels run in the seventh inning.

Farrell is to serve the suspension on Tuesday night. He has also been fined.

Farrell and the umpire couldn't have been much closer to each other's face, and some contact was made.

"There was contact made, yes. I didn't bump him though," Farrell said a day later. "The tip of my finger touched his shirt."

Miller has ejected Farrell three times, more than any other umpire.

"No, honestly I didn't even know that, someone's brought to my attention that it's been the third time," Farrell said Sunday when asked if that history played in. "I don't have a tote board of who's done what and how many times