Sox have options replacing Middlebrooks

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Sox have options replacing Middlebrooks

CLEVELAND So Will Middlebrooks will be the next Red Sox player to go down with an injury during a star-crossed season?

Middlebrooks suffered a fractured right wrist after taking a fastball off the bony part of his lower hand in the ninth inning of Friday nights win over the Indians.

The Red Sox will call up recently acquired Danny Valencia for the open roster spot, but theyve got several options to choose from while scattering to replace one of Bostons best hitters this season. Middlebrooks is hitting .288.325.509 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 267 at bats as an energizing rookie in the Sox mix, and hes been one of the consistent bright spots on an otherwise mediocre baseball club.

So how do the Sox replace him?

Theyve got a number of different possibilities.

Surely the Sox will want to get a look at Valencia after acquiring him during the August waiver deadline. The former Twins third baseman was hitting .198.212.310 in 34 games with the Twins this season, and went 3-for-7 in his first two games with Triple-A Pawtucket before his promotion. Theres also Nick Punto, but hes more of a stopgap solution than a guy the Sox are willing to play over the next seven weeks.

Mike Aviles also sits as a potential option at third base given his versatility across the infield, and the potential that the Sox could call up Jose Iglesias to play some shortstop.
The Sox shortstop prospect has picked it up offensively at Pawtucket, and his promotion would fit right in with a youth movement Boston should be embracing given their present state of going nowhere in the standings.

Hes actually hitting .300 with an OPS over .700 in his last seven games, and has raised his overall season batting average to the .259 mark at Triple-A.

Theres also the possibility of sliding PedroCiriaco in as the permanent shortstop, and moving Aviles over to third base on a regular basis. It would give the Sox a chance to truly evaluate Ciriaco, and what the future holds for him in Boston. Hes only played a handful of games at third base over the last two seasons in the Pirates organization, and hes looked comfortable at shortstop.

The timing is interesting given Bobby Valentines musings prior to Friday nights win when he wondered aloud whether Ciriaco had a future as some kind of super-utility guy. Hes been working with coach Alex Ochoa on getting comfortable playing in the outfield with an eye toward being able to play Ciriaco five or six days a week while shifting him all over the field.Hes getting a little more playing time with DH-ing and hes been very productive. I talked to him about playing left field on Friday. I almost did it. If hed given me a little more assurance after working out there for a couple of days that hed be able to do the job, I would have started him. But he isnt there yet, said Valentine. He talks a little more time than youd like to see getting rid of the ball at shortstop. His release is a little slow, but he can work on that.

Hes a pretty good player. When we had him earlier this year in a perfect world he should have been playing the outfield and some third base, but they needed him at second base. Maybe well get some winter time ball to do that. He seems to be way too valuable to not be too versatile.

That kind of versatility from a player could be highly useful as injuries this season continue to tie the managers hands behind his back. Valentine also wanted to be careful not to rule out the 26-year-old Ciriaco still developing into an every day player after his short stint in Boston. Hes hitting .341.349.482 in 28 games and the Sox want to get a longer look at him before making any kind of determinations.

There are a lot of everyday players that dont have his skill, said Valentine. He runs fast enough. He throws well enough to play in the outfield. It depends on how his workouts go with Ochoa.

But no matter what the Sox do, theres no denying that the loss of Middlebrooks is dealing a fatal blow to a team that had only a sliver of playoff hope to begin with.

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.