Sox content to stand pat at Winter Meetings

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Sox content to stand pat at Winter Meetings

DALLAS -- A year ago, there was frenetic activity surrounding the Red Sox at winter meetings. The day before they arrived, they traded for Adrian Gonzalez, and right before they left, they shocked everyone with the signing of Carl Crawford.

In stark contrast, the Red Sox hardly drew attention to themselves this time. Other than retaining Andrew Miller (re-signed to a non-guaranteed deal) and David Ortiz (through arbitration), the Red Sox are essentially unchanged.

But as general manager Ben Cherington left here Thursday, he sounded far from disappointed and said the Sox weren't through building their roster for next season.

"We feel we have a really good team that just needs some (complementary parts),'' said Cherington, "and needs to put in a better position to win over a six-month stretch and that's what we're focusing on.''

Cherington and his staff spent much of the week exploring pitching options -- through trades and free agency -- and while they didn't do anything beyond adding lefty reliever Jesse Carlson, they believe that other moves will eventually come.

"I think we have a good idea of what we may or may not be able to do,'' he said. "On the pitching front, I think we felt all along that this is really going to be an all winter project and some of the moves would be very under the radar. There may be some that are on the radar, but we have a much better idea of what's out there and what it would take now than we did Monday.''

The first priority is to uncover a closer. Andrew Bailey continues to be shopped by the Oakland A's and several free agents (Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge and Francisco Cordero) remain on the market.

"I think we have some internal options,'' said Cherington. "Being out front on things doesn't always lead to the best outcome in the long run. We're in a good position, frankly, in respect to the closer, because we have guys who we think can do it. If there's a deal that makes sense to acquire one this offseason, we will pursue that.''

The starting rotation can use some re-inforcements, too, though that's likely to be focused on back-end options and depth. Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, ending months of speculation, announced Thursday that he would indeed be posted by his club, putting himself up for bid for Major League teams, but Cherington strongly hinted the Sox weren't going to be involved.

"I'm not sure the timing of this offseason puts us in a position to be the most aggressive team,'' said Cherington. "He's a good pitcher. We have a lot of respect for him. We'll certainly discuss it and figure out if the post makes sense. But we've got a lot of commitment to the starting rotation and we feel pretty good about the front end of our rotation.

"Certinaly, if a team's going to be posting and trying to sign (Darvish), it's to be a part of the front end of the rotation and we feel pretty good about that part of our team.''

Retaining Ortiz was a step forward, since he finished last season with the fifth-best OPS in the American League.

"We're happy about it,'' said Cherington. ''He's one of the best hitters in the American League, so it's a good outcome. We wanted him back one way or another and this (accepting arbitration) is one way to do it, so we're happy about having him in the lineup again.''

Ortiz will likely get somewhere between 13-14 million -- either in a ruling or a settlement beforehand -- which might eat into the budget and prevent the Sox from being in on the likes of Carlos Beltran, Michael Cuddyer or any other prominent free agent outfielder.

"To some degree,'' confirmed Cherington. "It doesn't mean that we would rule out making an addition to the outfield. But David's a huge bat in the lineup. I don't think we're in a position where we need to add a lot more offense.''

If the Sox have either Ryan Kalish andor Josh Reddick as their right field option, they would again feature an all-lefthanded-hitting outfield, plus Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez in the order.

But Cherington said the Sox will live with that imbalance if the lineup produces like it did year ago when the Sox finished second in the American League in runs scored.

"There's been a lot made of that,'' said Cherington, "and I guess, in a perfect world, you'd like to go left-right-left-right. But our lineup last year, even with down years from a couple guys and some injuries, was one of the best offenses in baseball. So I'm not really that worried about it. We have some lefthanders who hit lefties. And there are guys like (Kevin Youkilis) who we expect and hope for a more
complete season out of.

"In a perfect world, every team would like to have a perfectly balanced lineup. But I think our lineup's pretty good. We're going to score a lot of runs.''

Hitting coach Chili Davis is the perfect shoulder for Hanley Ramirez to lean on

Hitting coach Chili Davis is the perfect shoulder for Hanley Ramirez to lean on

Shoulder injuries don’t have to be damning for hitters. Look at the 469-foot home run Hanley Ramirez decimated Saturday in a 7-4 loss to the Cubs.

Yes, he’s gotten off to a slow start. Through 19 games played, he has two long balls.

But he had just one homer through the same number of games in 2016. He’s hitting .250 now. A year ago at this point, he was hitting .266.

“Last year, Hanley started slow,” hitting coach Chili Davis said prior to the Cubs series. “I watched him, work, and work, and work, and work, and you know, he didn’t abandon what he was working on. He didn’t abandon it, he stuck with it and he perfect ed it. And when he perfected it, he went off. He’s still working.

“Timing, consistency with timing, and it could be partially the shoulder bothering him.”

At least eight times in his career, Ramirez has been considered day-to-day or gone to the disabled list because of a shoulder injury. He partially dislocated his left shoulder, his lead shoulder, in 2007.

Hey, did you notice it was 83 degrees at first pitch Saturday?

“When it’s cold, and you’ve got bad joints, it affects you,” Davis said during the week. “When it warms up, it loosens up more.”

Davis knows better than most how to handle shoulder pain, how to be a successful power hitter despite it. The former switch-hitting slugger has a metal screw in his left shoulder after a 1986 surgery.

“For 13 years I played with it,” Davis said. “It was multiple dislocations. I slipped down some stairs in Riverfront Stadium. Grabbed a rail, and dislocated it. It dislocated like five times after this. It was so loose.”

Davis, now 57 years old and last a big leaguer in 1999, still has the screw in that shoulder. Today they make dissolvable ones, but didn't back then.

Believe it or not, Davis believes the surgery helped his righthanded swing. He was a switch-hitter, and batting righty, he liked to hook the ball.

“I’d get out and around,” Davis said. “And then I realized I had to use my top hand more. … It created power the other way for me. It was ridiculous how that happened. I mean, it was ridiculous. 

“Because if you really think about it, [the right] is my strong hand. I do everything with this hand, I eat, I’m a right-handed guy. … Everything right-handed was all over the field.”

Davis said hitters are always aware of their health situations. He remembers coming back from ankle surgery and the bad habits he created. The day he finally let himself act normally, he heard a pop. But it wasn’t trouble: it was merely scar tissue breaking up.

The shoulders are, of course, important. But Davis explained that a swing where the shoulders do most of the work is probably not ideal.

“People talk to connection with the backside, feel that connection. Well, that connection creates synchronicity,” Davis said. “Yeah, it creates some power, but you can try to feel connection and lose your hands, your hands get lost in the process. So they got to work perfect together. 

“But the bigger muscles, to me, were the stop muscles for me. If I was going to swing and I went to stop, that’s when I felt these things holding me back, or the connection holding me back. So just from experience alone, yeah, if the shoulders are involved in your swing, then you’ve got a long swing and your hands aren’t going to work the right way.”

There was a moonshot Saturday that suggested Ramirez’s hands are working properly, and that his shoulder pain won't mean a drop-off from last year necessarily.

“I think at times he may [be compensating],” Davis said. “He’s working on things. If he wasn't working, if he came in the cage during BP and I didn’t think that he was working on something, then I’d have a problem with that. But he’s working, and last year he worked and worked and worked until it clicked. So, I’m hoping the same thing happens this year.”

Rizzo hits one of Cubs' three home runs in 7-4 win over Red Sox

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Rizzo hits one of Cubs' three home runs in 7-4 win over Red Sox

BOSTON - Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Montero and Ben Zobrist had solo shots, helping the Chicago Cubs rebound from a series-opening loss with a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

Kris Bryant had two hits and scored twice for Chicago, backing a decent start by former Red Sox righty John Lackey.

Lackey (2-3) gave up four runs in six innings, snapping his string of losses in three straight starts. He was part of Boston's 2013 World Series title team.

Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi had solo homers for the Red Sox, who have the majors' fewest homers.

Steven Wright (1-3) gave up five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his sixth save.