Merloni: Farrell will have big impact on pitching staff

994263.jpg

Merloni: Farrell will have big impact on pitching staff

Lou Merloni is live from Fort Myers, FL for Red Sox Spring Training and joins Mike Felger on Sports Tonight to talk about the Sox pitching staff.

The staff was a disaster last year, but the hope is that new Sox manager, and former Sox pitching coach, John Farrell can change things. Merloni is on board with that way of thinking.

"I think he can have a big impact. Listen, the last time he saw these guys, a lot of them were on top of their game. Whatever liberties they took with Terry Francona, and the last couple of pitching coaches, I think that does go away. There was that fear factor with John Farrell; he does have that presence."

Merloni and Felger also tackle the news that John Lackey has arrived in camp having lost a ton of weight. Merloni doesn't seem to care much, but Felger thinks it's a good signs.

The two do agree on Jon Lester's recent comments regarding another "level" he can reach as a pitcher.

Check out the video.

Red Sox claim utility man Travis d’Arnaud off waivers from Braves

Red Sox claim utility man Travis d’Arnaud off waivers from Braves

BOSTON - The Red Sox added some utility help Thursday, claiming Chase d’Arnaud off waivers from the Braves. With Dustin Pedroia banged up and Brock Holt and Pablo Sandoval both on the disabled list, the Sox’ infield depth was worn down. 

How exactly the Sox make room for d’Arnaud on the 25-man roster wasn’t immediately clear. He’s not going to be on the active roster until Friday.

Manager John Farrell on Tuesday, the day d’Arnaud was designated for assignment, said the Sox were actually comfortable with their infield depth, despite all the injuries. Josh Rutledge, Marco Hernandez and Steve Selsky are center stage these days.

“No, I think we’re good because with Rutledge’s ability to play all four, Marco’s ability to play three, we feel like we’re in pretty good shape,” Farrell said. “In addition to Selsky’s ability more comfortably at first base and the outfield as well, we feel like our depth has us in a good position to be covered.”

The 30-year-old d’Arnaud was on the Opening Day roster for the Braves and went 3-for-8 with a couple walks. He can play any position, infield or outfield, and is a .231 lifetime hitter in 170 games between three teams.

The Pirates drafted d’Arnaud, who bats right-handed, in the fourth round in 2008. He’s done well as a pinch hitter, going 11-for-37 (.297) with a .381 on-base percentage in his career.

He's also well known for his music.

Right-handed reliever Carson Smith was moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster. He is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and not expected back until June any way. (The point Smith went on the DL, which was the start of the season, doesn't change.)

Health, not home runs, is biggest question for Red Sox offense

Health, not home runs, is biggest question for Red Sox offense

BOSTON - The Red Sox offense will be fine, if healthy. Better than fine.

The power question is really an extension of the health question.

Wondering whether Dustin Pedroia can fully, quickly heal from Manny Machado’s slide makes more sense than worrying about the lack of home runs. Are Hanley Ramirez’s shoulders the reason he has a .589 OPS, or is he just off to a cold start?

"I don’t complain," Ramirez said Tuesday when asked about his shoulders. "It’s just timing."

The fact the Red Sox have just 11 home runs, the fewest anywhere, is odd. It’s also been just 20 games, a one-eighth slice of the season.

“I think home runs can come in bunches,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It can happen quickly. I’m not surprised that they don’t have them, or I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a ton. Either way. It’s just a small sample size. They’ve been to some cold weather cities as well. I know they were in Detroit, and that’s not a great place to hit home runs. And they had people that were ill. They had to deal with a number of things, so let’s hope it lasts a couple more days.”

The Sox start Thursday with the fifth most pitches seen per plate appearance, 3.98. Their .273 batting average is best in the American League and third in the majors. Their .339 OBP is also best in the AL.

These aren’t indicators of an unproductive lineup.

The past eight games haven’t been a tutorial in bringing runners home. The Sox have the fifth-worst average with men in scoring position in that stretch: .224 from April 17 on. 

The first-place Orioles are hitting .227 with runners on in the same time. On the season, the Sox still have a .286 average with runners in scoring position, the sixth-best mark in the majors.

This, in fact, is almost the same lineup from a year ago, minus arguably the best hitter in baseball from 2016, David Ortiz. 

The loss is huge. But not huge enough to make an entire team stop hitting home runs.

The trouble caused by Big Papi’s absence, like most everything about him, can be overstated. It surely already has been.

If Big Papi were here… the Sox would be a better team. But they wouldn’t have 40 home runs like Eric Thames’ Brewers.

The Sox’ record through 20 games this year and last year is identical, 11-9. The 2016 Sox had four more home runs at this point.

Undoubtedly, the optics have changed sans Ortiz, and maybe opposing pitchers don’t have to be as careful as they were in the past. 

The 2016 group was the most productive offense in the majors, with 5.42 runs per game. But the home run total was ninth, at 208. The doubles total, 343, was tops.

“It’s definitely different, but you’ve got to remember, there’s some really good hitters still in this lineup,” Girardi said of the lack of Ortiz. “A lot of them, from top to bottom. Maybe you don’t have that big bopper in the middle with all the presence and the experience, but they’re extremely talented offensively.”

As long as they're healthy.