Notes: Red Sox rotation still in flux

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Notes: Red Sox rotation still in flux

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Jon Lester is scheduled to start Tuesday in Toronto, followed by John Lackey on Wednesday. Beyond that, the Red Sox rotation is not known at this point.

Not yet, said manager Terry Francona. Give us until tomorrow. Were going to try to get a couple of things back in a little bit different order.

With the pitching shuffled around over the last few games for various reasons ailments, and the infamous 13-inning game among them Francona will likely take advantage of the off-day Thursday before the start of a three-game series in New York to reset his rotation. One of the factors he will likely consider is separating Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett, who have started back-to-back days, Sunday and Monday.

Jason Varitek has been catching for both right-handers. Giving the 39-year-old catcher a day off between their starts would be preferable.

Lackey was in the bullpen Sunday. With long relievers Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves unavailable because of their outings on Friday, Lackey would have been called upon in a worst-case scenario.

We had Lack out there just in case something really went wrong ball off the
shin, something like that, Francona said. Aceves said he was available. We
werent real comfortable with that. He said he was fine. So we appreciate that
but we didn't want to do that.

Aceves and Wakefield are available today.

Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon have been stabilizers in the bullpen this season.

Its nice to know that theres an end in sight, Francona said. Some games dont go exactly the way you want. But then you get to Bard and Pap and it doesnt guarantee that you're going to win but youve gotten where you need to and then you dont have two guys throwing out in the bullpen and trying to match up and worrying about that. I dont think Bards had a lot of clean innings. Hes come in with runners on base a lot. And hes so good at it. Thats been very helpful.

Matt Albers has also been a blessing. This is a kid who was competing for a spot. And hes been going multiple innings for us, facing lefties and righties."

Although Papelbon didnt have his best showing in spring training, Francona is hesitant to attribute that to the "red light" effect when players wait for the season to start, saving their best performances for meaningful games.

I hate to say that because I think thats a scary way for us to go into the season, Francona said. Hey, the light's going to come on. Sometimes that helps guys, though, for sure. They seem to add a little bit of velocity and a bit more crispness to their pitches but he has been throwing the ball very well. Location, his splits been there, hes throwing an occasional breaking ball but hes not scattering his fastball. Last year there was a lot of nights where hed have to kind of bring it back in. Hed throw three or four or five in a row up, arm side. More often than not hed get the save but hed have to fight for it. Hes been pretty good so far.

The split comes out of the same arm slot as his fastball and if the fastballs down then the splits down with it. Thats a good combination.

Jose Iglesias is not in the starting lineup for the series finale with the Twins. Its an adjustment for young players, especially high-profile prospects, to get used to not starting.

It sure is, Francona said. Theyre used to a routine and their routine is showing up, taking their ground balls, hitting wherever theyll hit in the order and playing the game. We talked to Iggy about that yesterday. Just that exact same thing.

In his 17-game hitting streak, the best active streak among major leaguers, Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .378 (28-for-74) with 14 runs scored, 10 doubles, eight RBI, and seven stolen bases. Francona said he has not seen Ellsbury change his approach at the plate, just be more successful with it.

Sometimes you dont see the ball, sometimes you miss pitches, sometimes you get pitched to better, Francona said. Confidence grows. His mechanics havent changed. Hes just doing it better.

Hes using the entire field, driving the ball to left field, turning on the ball in, hitting the ball up the middle. Hes hitting the ball to all three fields and with speed like that if you do that -- we usually talk about things evening out. Im not sure theyre supposed to even out when you can run that fast and you use the entire field. I think youre going to get more hits than you're supposed to.

Carl Crawford has an eight-game hitting streak, in which he is 12-for-31 (.387), raising his average to .211.

It looks like things are starting to slow down a little bit, Francona said. Everything was so rushed. And its still at times like that but the balls not in the mitt. Hes seeing it a little better, seeing it a little quicker out of the hand, reacting better. Im sure it looks like its slowing down for him. He has that big open stance and when he would get back to square I think it was taking him a little longer than he realized, so hed get that foot down and the ball was already coming across the plate.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Drellich: MLB could explain umpire rulings more often

Drellich: MLB could explain umpire rulings more often

BOSTON — We know that Red Sox manager John Farrell did something wrong. In the absence of any sort of formal announcement otherwise, we’re left to assume the umpires did everything properly — but there’s room for MLB to make that clearer.

If the NBA can put out Last 2 Minute reports, why can’t MLB provide more regular explanations or reviews of contested calls?

Farrell on Tuesday said he’d like to see more public accountability in the umpiring realm, hours before the manager was to sit out Game No. 77. Farrell was suspended one game for making contact with crew chief Bill Miller on Saturday night as manager and umpire rained spittle on each other over a balk call that went against the Sox.

Well, was it a balk or not? Did Miller do anything wrong as well?

“I don’t know if there was anything levied on the other side,” Farrell said. “I don’t know that.”

But would he like such matters to always be public?

“I think there have been strides made in that way,” Farrell said. “I guess I would. I think everyone in uniform would prefer that to be made public. Whether or not that happens, I don’t know, but that would be a choice I would make.”

The league has a thorough internal review system. But it is just that: internal. Most of the time, any way.

On most every night at Fenway Park, there is someone on hand watching just the umpires and reviewing them.

MLB, to its credit, has announced suspensions for umpires in the past. The league has made public acknowledgments when calls have been made incorrectly. More of that seems viable — even if it’s an announcement to reaffirm that the call was made and handled properly, and here are the reasons why.

“I haven’t received any further determination or review of what transpired,” Farrell said. “My position, my stance, remains steadfast. I still firmly believe that time was called [before the balk call was made]. I wasn’t arguing the balk. I was arguing the timing of it. As I reiterated today to those that I spoke with, I still stand by my side of the argument. Unfortunately, there was contact made.”

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.