Red Sox notes: Valentine doesn't believe in momentum

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Red Sox notes: Valentine doesn't believe in momentum

BOSTON -- The first inning has been the toughest inning for Josh Beckett this season. In 15 starts, he's allowed 17 first-inning runs for an ERA of 10.20.

Beckett faces the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park tonight, and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine doesn't believe that those first-inning woes will be an issue.

"I think he'll get by the first inning without a problem, and I think he'll build on his start from last time," said Valentine before the game. "He's feeling good. And I'm really confident that he's going to give us a chance to win this game."

The Red Sox are coming off a dramatic walk-off win over the Chicago White Sox in which they also saw a dominant eight-inning performance from Clay Buchholz. The night before, they crushed the White Sox 10-1.

But even with those two wins, Valentine doesn't believe any of that will carry over to tonight against the Blue Jays.

"I don't believe in momentum," said Valentine. "I mean, I think that you could have momentum in a game and in an inning, but I don't think yesterday necessarily carries over, other than you have a good feeling when the game starts.

"You know, 10 runs on Wednesday, sometimes maybe you get a little overconfident. Everyone gets hits and they figure it's going to be easy. It's never easy at the Major League level, never. And as soon as you think it is easy, that's when it gets really difficult."

--Reliever Andrew Bailey (thumb) threw off the mound today, and he'll throw another bullpen session on Sunday. After that, Bailey could possibly throw to hitters on Wednesday.

"I don't think he has a health issue to deal with any longer," said Valentine. "He now just has the conditioning, a pitch build-up, and the competition challenge ahead of him."

--Reliever Rich Hill (elbow) is still throwing off flat ground and long toss, but he's healing "really good" and is pain free in all of his programs, according to Valentine.

"He's getting close," said the Red Sox manager. "He's feeling good."

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.