Red Sox stuck in limbo at trade deadline

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Red Sox stuck in limbo at trade deadline

At a game over .500, nine games out of first place and four games behind the second wild-card leader, the Red Sox found themselves in limbo on the day of the non-waiver trading deadline.

They're not fully engaged in the playoff race, but neither are they completely out of it, and their actions -- or lack of same -- toward the deadline.

The Red Sox made just one deal involving personnel on their 25- man roster, and it was essentially a swap of journeyman relievers -- with a 36-year-old outfielder thrown in for good measure.

As deadline deals go, it didn't exactly rival the four-team blockbuster that sent Nomar Garciaparra out of town and sent the Red Sox to their first championship in 86 years.

Fans wanted more, of course, a dramatic move in one direction or the other. Some wished for a massive sell-off; others wanted a trade of impact.

The Red Sox delivered none of the above.

They weren't seller or buyers. They were more like interested bystanders.

If they had been, say, eight or 10 games below .500, then they could have done what the Philadelphia Phillies did -- throw up the "For Sale'' sign and make the best deals they could for some established veterans, stockpiling prospects to fight another day.

The Phils auctioned off outfielder Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence in part because they were really, truly out of contention.

Conversely, if the team had been eight or 10 games over, the Sox would have been motivated to obtain a difference maker. Maybe then, the Sox would have been convinced to package two of the three Killer B's -- Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. -- to trade for Josh Johnson or someone else who could make a difference this year and several seasons beyond.

For the best example of that approach, think of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who, in the last week, landed Hanley Ramirez, Brandon League and Victorino.

But the Red Sox weren't in it, or out of it. They just were.

You could see the seeds for this approach being planted two weeks ago, when Cherington, the day before the second of the half of the season, noted that, in Boston, giving up on a season simply isn't permissible.

And it's here that "The Monster'' of which Theo Epstein spoke, is in play. Because there are tickets to be sold, sponsorships to be negotiated and TV ratings to bolster, starting over isn't an option.

Yet they haven't been good enough or consistent enough to warrant a big acquisition.

Limbo can be uncomfortable.

Larry Lucchino revealed a week ago that the Sox had "empowered'' general manager Ben Cherington to do something "bold,'' thereby whetting the appetites for those who hoped for either a fire sale or blockbuster acquisition.

"It was an unfamiliar position,'' said Cherrington. "You're trying to balance the desire to make the team better and give the guys in the clubhouse every chance, (vs) the reality of where we are. You need to do the math and the cluster of teams ahead of you and what you need to actually pass all of them. We have to weigh that against the desire to make the team better.

"It was an additional layer in the decision-making process, as opposed to the past, when we've sort of been more clearly buyers.''

Acknowledging Lucchino's permission to be bold, Cherington didn't "find anything bold that made sense to us.''

Cherington, in his first year as GM but a veteran of many deadlines as Theo Epstein's assistant, labeled this July experienced "uncharted waters. It gives you more clarity when you're on side or the other.''

And so, they stood (almost) pat, which is a gamble in itself, considering that the inaction is, in effect, a show of faith in team's underachieving roster.

"We're happy with the guys we have here,'' said Cherington. "It's really a reflection more on them. We believe in the group. We feel we like we have as good a chance as any of the teams in this cluster of teams fighting for a wild card and win a lot of games the next two months.''

That, in point of fact, may be the boldest move of all at the deadline, for Cherington and his assistants are banking on a bunch that have done little to inspire anyone through the first two-thirds of the season.

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Infielder Marco Hernandez may make the Red Sox roster after all.

Fellow infielder Josh Rutledge, the presumptive 25th man on the Red Sox, suffered a left hamstring strain on Tuesday against the Pirates, according to reporters in Florida, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald.

If Rutledge isn’t ready for opening day, Hernandez, a left-handed hitter, may have his crack. 

The question is whether the Sox would be comfortable without a right-handed bat to complement both Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland on the corners. Rutledge was going to give the Sox that right-handed look they sought. (When Hanley Ramirez's shoulder will be healthy enough to play first base is unclear, but isn't expected to be too long.)

Neither Rutledge nor Hernandez has played first base in the majors or minors.

A big-league rookie last year, Hernandez has done decently against lefties at the upper levels of the minors, hitting .328 vs. them at Triple-A Pawtucket last season in 67 at-bats. He hit .315 in 54 at-bats at Pawtucket, with a .318 average against them that season in 88 at-bats for Double-A Portland.

Rutledge is a Rule 5 draft pick who has to remain on the major league 25-man roster the whole season or the Sox risk losing him. Placement on the disabled list doesn’t affect his status unless he’s on the disabled list for a very lengthy time.

An alternative option is Steve Selsky, who has first-base experience, but he's already been optioned.

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t scream “fake news" on Tuesday,  but he might as well have.

The only problem is he seems to be forgetting his own words, and his reliever’s.

Righty Tyler Thornburg is starting his Red Sox career on the disabled list because of a shoulder impingement. 

Another Dave Dombrowski pitching acquisition, another trip to the disabled list. Ho hum.

But the reason Thornburg is hurt, Farrell said, has nothing to do with the Red Sox’ shoulder program -- the same program Farrell referenced when talking about Thornburg earlier this month.

“There’s been a lot written targeting our shoulder program here,” Farrell told reporters on Tuesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “I would discount that completely. He came into camp, he was throwing the ball extremely well, makes two appearances. They were two lengthy innings in which inflammation flared up to the point of shutting him down. But in the early work in spring training, he was throwing the ball outstanding. So to suggest that his situation or his symptoms are now the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”

Let’s go back to March 10, when Farrell was asked in his usual pregame session with reporters about Thornburg’s status.

"He is throwing long-toss out to 120 feet today," Farrell said that day. “He’s also been going through a strength and conditioning phase, arm-wise. What we encounter with guys coming from other organizations, and whether it's Rick [Porcello], David [Price], guys that come in, and they go through our shoulder maintenance program, there's a period of adaptation they go through, and Tyler’s going through that right now. We're also going to get him on the mound and get some fundamental work with his delivery and just timing, and that's soon to come in the coming days. Right now it's long toss out to 120 feet.”

So Farrell volunteered, after Thornburg was taken out of game action, that the shoulder program appeared involved. 

Maybe that turned out not to be the case. But Farrell's the one who put this idea out there.

On March 11, Farrell was asked to elaborate about other pitchers who needed adjusting to how the Red Sox do their shoulder program.

“Rick Porcello is an example of that. Joe Kelly,” Farrell said. “And that's not to say that our program is the end-all, be-all, or the model for which everyone should be compared. That's just to say that what we do here might be a little more in-depth based on a conversation with the pitchers, that what they've experienced and what we ask them to do here. And large in part, it's with manual resistance movements on the training table. These are things that are not maybe administered elsewhere, so the body goes through some adaptation to get to that point. 

“So, in other words, a pitcher that might come in here previously, he pitched, he’s got recovery time and he goes and pitches again. There's a lot of work and exercise in between the outings that they may feel a little fatigued early on. But once they get those patterns, and that consistent work, the body adapts to it and their recovery times become much shorter. And it's one of the reasons we've had so much success keeping pitchers healthy and on the field.”

Except that Kelly has had a shoulder impingement in his time with the Red Sox, last April, and so too now does Thornburg.

In quotes that appeared in a March 12 story, Thornburg himself told the Herald’s Michael Silverman that he didn’t understand the Red Sox throwing program.

Thornburg said that after the December trade, he was sent a list of exercises from the training staff. The message he did not receive was that all of the exercises were to be performed daily.

“I kind of figured that this is a list of the exercises they incorporated, I didn’t think this is what they do all in one day,” said Thornburg. “I thought, ‘here’s a list of exercises, learn them, pick five or six of them,’ because that was pretty much what we did in Milwaukee.”

But according to Farrell, Thornburg’s current state has nothing to do with the program -- the same one Farrell himself cited when directly asked about Thornburg before.

Maybe the program was the wrong thing to point to originally. But Farrell did point to it.

"This is all still in line with the shoulder fatigue, the shoudler impingement and the subsequent inflammation that he's dealing with. That’s the best I can tell you at this point," Farrell said Tuesday. "Anytime a player, and we've had a number of players come in, when you come into a new organization, there's a period where guys adapt. Could it have been different from what he's done in the past? Sure. But to say it's the root cause, that’s a little false. That’s a lot false, and very short-sighted."

Hey, he started it.

Thornburg is not to throw for a week before a re-evaluation.