McAdam: Red Sox soap opera continues for now

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McAdam: Red Sox soap opera continues for now

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BALTMIORE -- Over the weekend, forced to address reports of a "disconnect'' between himself and his manager, Theo Epstein, on more than one occasion, declared that his team was not, in fact, a "soap opera.''

Despite some evidence to the contrary, Epstein is correct.

But this season itself? Cue the theme music from "The Young and the Restless.''

The Red Sox are going down to the final game of the regular season -- and very likely, beyond -- to determine whether they qualify for the postseason.

Such a scenario would have, of course, been unthinkable only a few weeks ago, when the focus was on who would start Game 3 of the ALDS.

And now? The Red Sox haven't said who would start a play-in game at Tampa Bay Thursday afternoon, and one of the reasons they're putting off any sort of announcement is because they're still casting about for a potential trade acquistion to make the start.

This would give "short-term rental'' a new meaning. No fewer than three club sources on Tuesday night offered variations on "highly unlikely'' when asked about the chances of a deal being made to obtain a starter for Game No. 163.

But the very fact that the notion was still being batted around tells how strange this season -- and in particular, the last month -- has been.

In the span of about seven months the Red Sox have gone from having an embarrassment of riches when it comes to pitching to just plain embarrassing.

Tim Wakefield couldn't crack the rotation at the start of the year, but for the last two months, he's been part of the regular five-man crew. Kyle Weiland probably didn't expect to make five regular season starts for a team with designs on a championship -- especially when he began his season at Double A.

And in anticipation of a play-in game, the Sox are desperately in search of an alternative to one of their own, whom they paid 82.5 million and who, not long ago, enjoyed a reputation as one of the most dependable "big game'' pitchers in the business.

Consider, too, that the Red Sox have been caught from behind by a team which is 16-10 for the month of September.

If the Rays had gone on one of those torrid, nothing-can-stop-us runs like the Colorado Rockies in 2007 and again in 2009, that would have been perfectly understandable.

Sometimes, teams play .750 ball down the stretch and overtake a team which has dipped to, say, .500 or less in the final weeks, victims of some injuries or fatigue or disinterest -- or a combination of all three.

But 16-10 is not exactly a team with a mission, some unstoppable force. Being caught from behind by a team playing six games over .500 for the month may not be unprecedented, but is sure is rare.

It's the equivalent of being lapped on the track by a tortoise. But the Sox have been so bad, so inept, that they have not only invited the Rays into the playoff party, they have held the door open for them.

A win Wednesday night likely guarantees the Red Sox nothing but a one-day trip to Tampa for a play-in game, meaning that the same team which has not won back-to-back games since the final week of August -- think about that -- now must
win three games in a row just to make the postseason.

That same postseason berth seemed a layup a month ago, one that wouldn't require last-minute heroics from the team's third-string catcher; that wouldn't involve a desperate, scrambling, never-been-done before deal to find a pitcher from outside the organization for the 163rd game of the season.

A week ago, the one word I kept hearing repeatedly from fans was "disgust.'' The shoddy play of the Red Sox, coupled with their cliff-dive in the standings, turned people off to the degree that they not only didn't care about the playoff battle, they were openly rooting for them to fail.

In the last week, between the 14-inning win Sunday night in New York and Ryan Lavarnway's cameo right out of The Natural, that's changed. People, I suspect, are hooked again. They can't turn away. They need to watch to see what happens next, follow it to its logical conclusion, see how the story ends.

And isn't that, really, the very embodiment of a soap opera?

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

Sandoval happy to return to the field after shoulder surgery

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Sandoval happy to return to the field after shoulder surgery

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For the first time in months, Pablo Sandoval met up with his Red Sox teammates Wednesday, breaking from his rehab program two hours away in Fort Myers.

Sandoval, who underwent shoulder surgery in April to repair a torn labrum, has been working out six days per week at the club's spring training complex and appeared noticeably lighter.

"I just starting taking ground balls two days ago,'' said Sandoval. "I feel a little better. I'm happy to be back here with my teammates and happy that I'm starting to work in the field.'' 

Sandoval said his surgically repaired left shoulder is "not back to normal, but it's feeling a lot better. I've started doing a lot of things in the field -- ground balls, playing catch, handling the ball, working out.''

He plans to see Dr. James Andrews soon, and hopes to get clearance to start swinging a bat.

Sandoval appeared to make some veiled references to his weight and conditioning, saying "you learn a lot. You learn from all the mistakes you make, all the things in the past. I have good people around me, supporting me every single day.''

He added that he feels "way different'' than he did in spring training.

"Now that I've learned my lesson,'' he said, "I can do a better job out there. Everything out there is not easy. You have to work hard to learn all the things you were doing wrong. I'll keep working hard and do everything I can to be a better person on the field and off the field.''

As he grinds through conditioning and rehab, Sandoval said he's motivated by "my little boy (Leon). Every time I wake up, I want to do everything for (him), so he can see me back on the field, playing baseball.''

He deflected a question when asked what role he envisioned for himself next February at the start of spring training.

"Whatever,'' he said. "I'm just going to do best that I can. I just want to prepare myself to be better next year.''

Sandoval met with John Farrell Wednesday afternoon.

"He's in good spirits,'' Farrell said. "I think he feels good with all the work he's done. To date, he's done a good job with what he's been capable of doing. The one thing that's clear in getting to know Pablo, I see a guy who's got a lot of pride. Maybe things haven't worked out the way he anticipated through the first two years.

"But it's clear through my conversation with him that he's motivated, he feels like he's got a lot to prove. And I think when you combine his ability with the drive and motivation, this has got a chance to prove to be a productive player here in Boston.''

Meanwhile, Sandoval acknowledged that the Red Sox had not seen him at his best in his two seasons with the club.

"I know that I can prove more and do a better job out there,'' he said. "Things happen for a reason. I'm happy, but I'm not satisfied with the things I'm doing. I'm just going to keep working hard, continue my rehab and be better for next year.''

Sandoval said he misses the game, but watches the Red Sox on TV "every single day.''

"This (time down) is a bonus for me,'' he said. "I want to play, but at the same time, I (get) to see my baby growing up.''

 

All signs point to Rodriguez returning to rotation Sunday, Buchholz to bullpen

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All signs point to Rodriguez returning to rotation Sunday, Buchholz to bullpen

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It won't be made official until Thursday, but all signs point to Eduardo Rodriguez returning to the Red Sox' starting rotation Sunday night against the Kansas City Royals.

That, in turn, should also result in Clay Buchholz going back to the bullpen after three spot starts recently.

Rodriguez, who pulled himself out of his last scheduled start Sunday in Detroit when he wasn't confident that he could compete with a strained left hamstring, threw a three-inning simulated game Tuesday and emerged from that session convinced that he was heading toward a return to the rotation.

But just to make sure, the Sox want Rodriguez to test himself physically Thursday morning before the Sox complete their road trip with a game here Thursday afternoon.

"He went through some aggressive long toss today,'' said John Farrell of Rodriguez, "and came out that feeling fine, no restrictions in the hamstring. We'll take this each work day at a time. Once we get through tomorrow, we'll have a little bit more clarity going forward.''

Buchholz threw 94 pitches while allowing a run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings Tuesday night, so he wouldn't be available out of the bullpen for a few days.

"He's going to need a couple of days down regardless,'' noted Farrell.

 

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

Hanley Ramirez is getting a night off as the Red Sox look for their third straight win against the Rays tonight at Tropicana Field.

Travis Shaw will play first base, with Brock Holt at third.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Andrew Benintendi LF
---
Rick Porcello P

RAYS:
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SH
Matt Duffy SS
Logan Morrison 1B
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Bobby Wilson C
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Matt Andriese P