McAdam: Sox can't escape the pain

191542.jpg

McAdam: Sox can't escape the pain

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- At this point, the Red Sox seem locked into a race with the clock, trying to determine if they can get to the All-Star break before another injury strikes.

For a while, it had been position players who were coming up hobbled, crowding the trainer's room and disabled list. Lately it's been pitchers.

Jon Lester did not return for the fifth inning Tuesday night depite having no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays for the first four innings. He suffered from a pulled left lat and was replaced by Matt Albers.

After holding off the Jays 3-2, the Red Sox and Lester stressed that the injury wasn't a major one, but it will undoubtedly require some creative restructuring for the Sox for the first next two weeks.

Consider: Of the five Red Sox pitchers who began the season in the starting rotation, one is one out for the season (Daisuke Matsuzaka); one has already spent time on the DL and continues to battle elbow issues (John Lackey); one is currently on the DL with a lingering back issue (Clay Buchholz), and another seems headed there (Lester). Only Josh Beckett has been mostly healthy, and he recently went 15 days in between starts because of the flu.

Sometime Wednesday, Lester will likely be placed on the DL, making him eligible to return July 21.

There remains the outside chance that the Sox will elect not to DL Lester and simply use the calendar and All-Star break to manipulate things. Theoretically, they could use someone on staff (Alfredo Aceves) to take Lester's final start of the first half Sunday, then stack their rotation so that Lester is at the back end when they return from the break.

Such an arrangement would give Lester 13 days' rest, without requiring a DL stint. But it would also leave Terry Francona and pitching coach Curt Young a pitcher short as they navigate the final two series of the first half and first one after the break.

The setback for Lester comes at a time when he seemingly had gotten over a rough patch of outings. After seven shutout innings against the Phillies last week to avert a sweep in Philadelphia, Lester was brilliant Tuesday night, retiring 12 of 13 hitters he faced, five by strikeout.

Moreover, it comes at a time when uncertainty surround two fellow starters. Lackey appears lost on the mound, all the while denying that his elbow is a factor in the downturn. If Lackey isn't hurt -- or refuses to acknowledge that he is -- the Sox have no choice but to run him out to the mound once every five nights, hoping against hope for better results.

Lackey currently has the worst ERA of any qualifying starter in either league. His trade value is non-existent and the Red Sox are on the hook for three more full seasons after this one.

Then there's the mysterious case of Buchholz, whose back hasn't been right since right for more than a month, leading to a trip to see a specialist Wednesday morning.

If Buchholz remains out well past the break and Lester is forced to miss a start or two, the Red Sox will face an injury strain as bad as the one which hit the club at midseason last year, when half of their infield, both catchers and two-thirds of their outfield all occupied spots on the DL.

Without Buchholz and Lester, the Red Sox are left with exactly one dependable starter: Beckett.

Both Tim Wakefield and Andrew Miller have performed better than expected, but the former has a recent history of breaking down in the second half while the latter has 16 career wins as a starter.

The Sox are fortunate to have had such satisfactory pitching depth to date. Already this seasson, the Sox have used eight starters. If they need to get a spot start out of either Kevin Millwood or Felix Doubront Sunday, that number will swell to nine.

If any of the Big Three (Beckett, Lester or Buchholz) are lost for an extended period, the Sox shouldn't count on reinforcements from the trade market. Unlike last year, when bonafide front-of-the-rotation starters were available in midseason (Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee), the best available starter this summer is Houston's Wandy Rodriguez, who would be no better than the equivalent of a No. 4 for the Red Sox.

(The thin market doesn't begin to factor in that the Sox' inventory of prospects has been stripped bare by the Adrian Gonzalez deal.)

The Yankees have somehow managed to remain in first place in a season in which their bullpen has been decimated by injuries (Pedro Feliciano, Damaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano) and their rotation has been held together from surprise contributions from veterans such as Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.

Now it is the Red Sox' turn to similarly ride out this rough patch. The alternatives -- in every sense of the word -- aren't pretty.

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

Quotes, notes and stars: Ramirez knows error 'can't happen'

red_sox_hanley_ramirez_072816.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: Ramirez knows error 'can't happen'

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels ofAnaheim

Quotes:

"I tried to get two (outs) before I got one. That can't happen." - Hanley Ramirez on his throwing error which cost the Red Sox the game.

"Executing pitches - that's the name of the game." - David Price on improvement he showed from his last start.

"Fourth time through the order, middle of the lineup. . . Price had done his job. In a one-run game, we felt it was best to start a clean inning with a reliever." - John Farrell after lifting David Price after eight innings and 108 pitches.

Notes:

* Reliever Brad Ziegler was charged with the loss for the second straight game.

* Each of the last seven Red Sox losses has been by one or two runs.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in 31 consecutive games.

* The Red Sox four-game losing streak is their longest of the season.

* The Sox are now 9-23 in their last 32 meetings with the Angels.

* David Price did not allow a run for the second time this season.

Stars:

1) David Price

After a stretch of shaky outings, Price did his job with eight scoreless innings, getting 14 outs on groundouts while walking just one.

2) Jered Weaver

At times, the radar gun made Weaver's pitches look like softball offerings. But mixing junk, he held the Sox to a single run over 5 1/3 innings

3) Mookie Betts

He had just one hit - single in the eighth - but his sacrifice fly in the third produced the only run of the night.

First impressions: Ziegler can't finish Price's strong start

angels_nava_072816.jpg

First impressions: Ziegler can't finish Price's strong start

First impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1) David Price pitched in the truest sense

Price wasn't necessarily overpowering with only six strikeouts in eight innings, but he succeeded in keeping the ball down in the zone, resulting in a ton of groundouts.

In eight innings, the Angels produced just two fly outs to the outfield, both of them routine.

Otherwise, Price deftly mixed his changeup, slider and two-seamer to produce ground balls. His location was more precise and he induced weak contact in at-bat after at-bat.

2) The danger of a closer like Brad Ziegler was on display

The throwing error by Hanley Ramirez resulted in two runs scoring but Ziegler allowed three base hits to set the stage.

Ziegler doesn't get a lot of swing-and-miss with his sinker; what he gets is a lot of balls put in play. When things are going well, that results in groundouts; when they're not, it means baserunners and strange things happening.

As inconsistent as Craig Kimbrel has been in some non-save situations, he at least has the ability to record strikeouts and keep balls out of play.  That's not the case with Zieger, as the Red Sox learned the hard way in Anaheim Thursday night.

3) The Red Sox wisely took advantage of Jered Weaver on the bases

Weaver's high leg kick and reliance on off-speed pitches make for a slow delivery time to the plate. Dustin Pedroia would have easily stole second in the first but made the mistake of going into his slide too far ahead of the bag, and though initially ruled safe, was deemed out after a replay challenge.

In the sixth, Xander Bogaerts, was more successful in his stolen base. Neither steal led to a run, but the Sox did put some additional pressure on Weaver