With Jenks on DL, Sox mull bullpen options


With Jenks on DL, Sox mull bullpen options

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- On the face of it, the news that Bobby Jenks was placed on the disabled list (for the third time this season) Saturday seemed to increase the odds that the Red Sox will look to add a reliever by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Except for this: the Sox were already looking at the reliever market with an eye toward a bullpen upgrade.

And this: the Sox don't believe that Jenks will necessarily be sidelined for long after a second bout with back spasms.

And finally, this: there are some Red Sox talent evaluators who believe they have better pitching options within the organization than anything they might be able to get in a trade.

It would have been nice for Jenks to remain healthy and prove to the Red Sox that he can contribute over the final third of the season. To date, his inability to stay off the DL and failure to pitch consistently when he has been healthy have marked him as an expensive (6 million) disappointment.

When the Sox signed Jenks to a two-year, 12 million deal last winter, the idea was that he would give them another late-inning power arm to share the set-up load with Daniel Bard, as well an experienced closing options for games in which Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable.

Neither role has been realized because of nagging injuries and poor performance.

The trade market for relievers, of course, is a crowded one, with virtually every contender intent on improving their pen. The few proven relievers available will command inflated prices in what is a seller's market.

The Red Sox, of course, gave up three top prospects to land Adrian Gonzalez last December, a deal they would do again in a heart-beat.

But having traded their best pitching prospect (Casey Kelly), their best position player prospect (Anthony Rizzo) and a former first-round pick (Reymond Fuentes), the team's inventory has been somewhat picked over.

The Sox still have enough top prospects to make a deal, but must ask themselves: is it worth surrendering yet another top young player for two months of a reliever to pitch the seventh inning?

The answer, likely, is no, particularly since the Sox have some internal options. Felix Doubront, who has started most of the year, could help provide a hard-throwing lefty, just as he did in August last year before a neck injury cut short his season in the first week of September.

Matt Albers, as much of a pleasant surprise as Jenks has been a disappointment, has evolved into a late-inning option by virtue of the job he's done to date.

If starter Clay Buchholz doesn't return to the rotation in the next few weeks, that could alter the depth and create additional urgency.

If the reliever market is spotty, the starter market is almost non-existent. Andrew Miller, who has pitched well in four of his first five outings, could go to the bullpen and contribute when Buchholz returns healthy. If Buchholz remains sidelined, Miller remains anchored in the rotation, eliminating one fewer relief option and further limiting what the Red Sox can do.

If Jenks comes back and helps, it must be considered a bonus. If he doesn't, the Red Sox have amassed the best record in the league without him.

It's hard to see, then, that Jenks' continued absence is going make the Red Sox any more aggresssive than they planned to be at the deadline.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.