Haggerty: Pedroia key ingredient for Red Sox

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Haggerty: Pedroia key ingredient for Red Sox

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

KANSAS CITY It sounds like a pretty simple formula: Insert game-deciding situation with a generous helping of Dustin Pedroia and good things are bound to happen for the Red Sox.

Thats how things unfolded Thursday night in Bostons tight 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Sox badly needed a victory, and badly needed a shot of Pedroia in the cleanup spot.

Thats why he is who he is," Terry Francona said. "He does come through and he kinda wills himself to do things. Its a comforting feeling when he has something to say about the outcome of the game.

It seems that Francona only taps Pedroia on the shoulder to hit in the middle of the Sox lineup when its become a dire situation, but its a move that always works. Pedroia finished 3-for-4 while driving in three of Bostons four runs including the game-winning run in the fifth inning with two outs in the inning.

Its getting close to the end of the season and everybody in here is just trying to do their part to help us win games," Pedroia said. "Thats all that this is about. Nobody needs to try and do anything extra. Were all trying to do whatever we can to help us win every single night.

That came after Pedroia slapped a two-run single up the middle in the top of the third on a Luke Hochevar cut fastball also with two outs that put a charge into a Sox offense thats looked far from energetic lately.

Both of Pedroias hits came on solid pitches, and had Hochevar talking about Bostons middle infield MVP candidate like he was a Bond villain or the latest bad guy trying to take down Bruce Willis in the endless Diehard flicks.

Instead its just a 5-foot-8, 165-pound second baseman.

"He was a nemesis. He hit the ball where it's pitched," said Hochevar. "The base hit up the middle that scored two runs I was trying to come in off the plate for a ball and I felt like it was off the plate. He put a good swing on it. He had a good piece of hitting."

At the cleanup slot, Pedroia has hit .481 (25-for-52) with six doubles, five home runs and 14 RBI in 12 games, and has made Francona look like the smartest manager alive.

Or has he?

Its either good managing tonight or horrible managing the rest of the year, cracked Francona with a smirk. Were just trying to balance it out a little bit. Were missing two big bats (David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis) and trying to get a little balance. You can put him anywhere. Hes a good player.

Youre not going to drive in three runs every night, but whether its with the bat, in the field, or on the base paths, hes going to give you everything he has.

Hes one of the best players in the game.

The bottom line: Its unfair to pin everything on one player when guys start to go down with injuries, but it looks like its going to have to be Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury carrying the offense on most nights. Youkilis and Ortiz are both gone with injuries, and it doesnt appear either one will be back soon.

Adrian Gonzalez has morphed into a singles hitter over the last month due to a nagging neck problem, and the Sox would desperately like to get him some rest. But Gonzalez will continue to trot out there as long as Ortiz and Youkilis are missing from the middle of the lineup.

So it comes down to the SI cover boy and Sox energizer bunny to rise up and be much more than the Mouth that Roared, and Pedroia does that over and over again for the Sox. Hes hit safely in 50 of his last 57 games and the batting average has spiked all the way up to a .309 mark after he was struggling along at a .272 clip at the end of June amid concerns about his knee.

All that has changed over the last two months, as hes hit at a .364 clip in his last 170 at bats. Francona and the rest of Pedroias teammates have long since stopped marveling at everything he does on and off the field to hold the Sox together, and instead simply give thanks that he is there constantly willing his team to victory.

Hes that guy even when hes hitting in the two-hole whether its guys at the bottom of the lineup or Ellsbury getting on base, said Beckett.

That guy did it again against the Royals on Thursday night, and hes going to have to do it a few more times before Red Sox reinforcements arrive.

Its the temporary formula for Sox success.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

A farewell to the many prospects Dave Dombrowski traded Tuesday

A farewell to the many prospects Dave Dombrowski traded Tuesday

A baseball lesson: There’s trading a top prospect because you know he’s not as good as everyone thinks (a la the Atlanta Braves back in the day with Andy Marte) and then there’s straight-up dumping out the treasure chest because you’re Dave GD Dombrowski and you’ll be damned if “promise” is going to get in the way of you making a zillion trades… a la Dave Dombrowski.  

MORE ON THE TRADE

Since the start of the 2016 season, Dombrowski has traded four of his top 10 prospects by Baseball America’s rankings, and three of his top five. The group is led by Yoan Moncada, who was considered the team’s best prospect before he was shipped to Chicago in Tuesday’s blockbuster trade for Chris Sale. 

 

All in all, the Sox sent out six prospects in two trades Tuesday, and they’ll join the likes of Anderson Espinoza, Manuel Margot and others with whom Dombrowski has willingly parted since taking over as Boston’s president of baseball operations. 

Here’s a look at the players the Sox gave up Tuesday: 

YOAN MONCADA, 2B 
Baseball America Red Sox ranking: 1
MLB.com Red Sox ranking: 1

Moncada’s eight games in the Major Leagues to this point haven’t been impressive, but using that as rationale (as some may have when the Sox traded a young Hanley Ramirez in the Josh Beckett trade) is likely wishful thinking. 

The Cuban infielder was ranked the No. 1 prospect in baseball by Baseball America last season. The outlet projects him as a five-tool player whose potential to hit for average and power will outweigh strikeout concerns. 

From August: 

Built like a running back at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Moncada is an explosive athlete with true five-tool potential. A switch-hitter, Moncada has electric bat speed, which combined with his strength allows him to smash hard line drives all over the field. He has at least plus raw power, with that power starting to translate more in games thanks to mechanical adjustments he’s worked on this season.  

MICHAEL KOPECH, RHP
Baseball America Red Sox ranking: 5
MLB.com Red Sox ranking: 5

A first-round pick of the Sox in the 2014 draft, Kopech has yet to reach Double A, but, per two radar guns, has reached 105 miles an hour with his fastball. If that number is accurate, it ranks just one tenth of a mile-per-hour behind Arolis Chapman’s 2010 fastball for the fastest pitch recorded. 

Regardless of the pitch’s exact speed, it does damage. Pitching in High-A Salem last season, Kopech struck out a whopping 82 batters in 52 innings. 

LUIS ALEXANDER BASABE, OF 
Baseball America Red Sox ranking: 9 
MLB.com Red Sox ranking: 8

The switch-hitting outfielder spent most of last season in Single-A Greenville, hitting .258/.325/.447 in 105 games with 12 homers and 52 RBI. The Venezuela native is considered a decent fielder with a very good arm. 

If his name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same first and last name as twin brother Luis Alejandro Basabe. Perhaps not surprisingly, Dombrowski also traded him over the last year when he shipped the second baseman to Arizona in the Brad Ziegler trade. 

MAURICIO DUBON, SS/2B
(Not ranked among Baseball America’s top 10 Red Sox prospects) 
MLB.com Red Sox ranking: 17

Maybe the kind of guy you want to keep on the same day you trade Yoan Moncada. 

Dubon is considered a very solid infield prospect, so much so that The Boston Globe noted Tuesday that “teams were absolutely drooling over Dubon’s defense and his offensive potential.” He finished the season at Double-A Portland, hitting .339/.371/.538 with six homers, six triples and 40 RBI. 

VICTOR DIAZ, RHP
(Not ranked among Baseball America’s top 10 Red Sox prospects) 
 MLB.com Red Sox ranking: 28

The hard-throwing righty reportedly hit triple digits with his fastball this season and, like Kopech, used his fastball to his advantage. He struck out 63 batters in 60.1 innings for Single-A Greenville

JOSH PENNINGTON, RHP 
(Not ranked among Baseball America’s top 10 Red Sox prospects) 
MLB.com Red Sox ranking: N/A

This is an interesting one. He was drafted as a project in the 2014 draft after learning that he would need Tommy John Surgery. He was starting to make good on his potential this past season, posting a 2.86 ERA and striking out 49 batters in 56.2 innings for Short-Season A Lowell. 

McAdam: For Dombrowski and Red Sox, the future is now

McAdam: For Dombrowski and Red Sox, the future is now

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Dave Dombrowski has jumped in. All in. With both feet.

MORE ON THE TRADE

For an executive with a reputation for making bold moves, Dombrowski may have made his boldest one yet Tueday by shipping arguably the organization's best position player prospect (Yoan Moncada) and its best pitching prospect (Michael Kopech), along with two others, to the Chicago White Sox for lefty ace Chris Sale.

Adding Sale to a rotation that already includes reigning Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and David Price gives the Red Sox the American League's best rotation and makes the Sox the team to beat in the A.L.

Hired 17 months ago with a mandate to make the Red Sox winners again after three last-place finishes in the span of four seasons, Dombrowski has acted aggressively and decisively.

Since then, he's obtained Price, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Thornburg and Sale. That translates into three lefty starters and three back-end power arms in the bullpen.

Of course, all those moves have come at a significant cost. Dombrowski has gone through the Red Sox' minor-league system and shredded it, sacrificing Anderson Espinoza, Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, and now, Moncada and Kopech.

The pitching, in particular, has been stripped bare, with Espinoza and Kopech representing the two best arms in the system. And in Moncada, the Sox gave up on arguably the single most talented propsect in the entire sport.

At a time when teams protect their best young players as though their existence depends on them, Dombrowski has demonstrated a willingess to move them for a chance to win now.

In exchange, the Sox have now built a super rotation, with three front-line starters, augmented by two other lefties (Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez) along with Steven Wright and Clay Buchholz.

It's a virtual certainty that the Sox will move one of those arms now, in a market where there's virtually no quality free-agent starters available.

Buchholz, who stands to earn $13.5 million in 2017, would give them payroll relief, while Rodriguez, because of his youth and upside, might give the team its biggest return.

Dombrowski's moves create a window for the Red Sox. Sale's deal runs through 2019, while Price has an opt-out in his deal after 2018.

That creates some urgency for the Red Sox to capitalize on the strength of their rotation and a nucleus of young position players -- Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi -- and win multiple titles in the next few seasons.

Anything less will be considered a failure.

It's championship-or-bust time at Fenway.