McAdam: Sox want health over playoff positioning

528820.jpg

McAdam: Sox want health over playoff positioning

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
TORONTO -- All things considered -- and frankly, there isn't much to go on yet except the team's say-so -- the Red Sox emerged from the Josh Beckett vigil pretty well.

Team doctors determined that Beckett is merely suffering from an ankle sprain, and not, as had been feared in a worst-case scenario, some tendon or ligament damage.

The hope in the organization is that this is all relatively minor and that Beckett will miss only one start. Given that the Red Sox had already planned to give him an extra day between his next two scheduled starts, that's a relatively rosy scenario.

(Disclaimer: the Red Sox issued no statements about the severity of the sprain itself. A minor sprain would mean being sidelined for a week or so. A more significant sprain could end up costing Beckett more time, as it has for San Francisco lefty Jonathan Sanchez.)

Again, though, let's assume that Beckett's sprain is relatively minor in nature and that he'll return to the rotation well before the post-season.

Under that scenario, the Red Sox will have their top two starters available for the Division Series. The prospect of trying to win a World Series with Jon Lester, augemented by the likes of Erik Bedard and John Lackey, was not promising.

But it's possible that the uncertaintly surrounding Beckett, the team's desire to manage his return with caution, and the fact that just 21 games remain on the schedule that the team's hope of overtaking the New York Yankees for the A.L. East crown is in serious jeopardy.

At least twice in the next week, the Red Sox will send out lesser starting pitchers when Beckett's and Bedard's turn come around.

Kyle Weiland will be plugged in for a spot start Saturday and it's likely that Tim Wakefield -- who goes for elusive career win No. 200 Wednesday night -- will get another turn that he might not have received otherwise when the Sox return home from their current six-game homestand.

The Sox trail the Yankees by 2 12 games in the East with 21 games (22 for the Yankees), and though a tie (record) would go to the Sox, by virtue of winning the season series between the two, the chase is decidedly uphill for the Sox.

The three remaining games between the clubs are in New York, where the Sox are 5-1 this year. Still, that's an advantage for the Yankees.

It's quite possible that the dropoff from Bedard and Beckett to Weiland and Wakefield (or Alfredo Aceves or anyone else the Sox choose for those spot starts) could mean the difference of a game or two in the standings.

The Sox have, all along, professed a strong preference for getting their pitching staff in order over finishing first in the division, so don't expect them to be re-arranging the rotation in final week to win games and edge out the Yankees.

Moreover, it's likely that the matter of playoff seeding could be entirely up in the air in the final week. For much of the season, it was widely assumed that Texas would finish with a better record than Detroit, and thus, host the wild-card entry in the ALDS.

But heading into Wednesday's games, the Rangers' lead over the Tigers were just a half-game. So while the Red Sox' half-hearted quest for first could well go down to the final days, so, too, could the identity of their first-round opponent. It's tough to devise a strategy to face a certain team over the other when the other teams in question are involved in some jockeying of their own.

Opening on the road may not be as problematic for the Red Sox at it could be for others. The Sox own the best road record in the majors.

Now, like it or not, it would seem they're going to put that success to the test, starting in the Division Series.

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

Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

fm_buchholz_0527161464384330150_3450k_1280x720_694466115630.jpg

Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

As expected, Eduardo Rodriguez will start for the Red Sox on Tuesday in Baltimore and Clay Buchholz will go to the bullpen, manager John Farrell told reporters in Toronto.

The move became apparent after Buchholz (2-5, 6.35 ERA) struggled again Thursday night, allowing three two-run home runs in an 8-2 loss to the Rockies.

Rodriguez, who hurt his knee in spring training, has yet to pitch for the Red Sox this season. The left-hander, who was 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie last season,  made three rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. 

"The bottom line is the results, and there's been a strong precedent set with that," Farrell said of Buchholz in annoucning the move. 

Friday’s lineups: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays - Ortiz and Bautista out

red_sox_david_ortiz_042816.jpg

Friday’s lineups: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays - Ortiz and Bautista out

David Ortiz is out of the starting lineup and Jose Bautista sits for the Blue Jays as the Red Sox open a three-game series tonight in Toronto.

It’s a night off for Ortiz, while Bautista is serving his one-game suspension for his fight with the Texas Rangers' Roughned Odor earlier this month.

Hanley Ramirez moves to DH for the Red Sox, with Travis Shaw playing first base and Marco Hernandez filling in at third against Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez (4-1, 3.20 ERA). Joe Kelly (2-0, 5.28) makes his second start since coming off the disabled list for the Red Sox. He pitched 6 2/3 no-hit innings Saturday in his return, a 9-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

The lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Travis Shaw 1B
Hanley Ramirez DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Marco Hernandez 3B
Christian Vazquez C
Blake Swihart LF

Joe Kelly RHP

BLUE JAYS
Ezequiel Carrera RF
Josh Donaldson 2B
Edwin Encaracion DH 
Michael Saunders LF
Troy Tulowitzki SS
Justin Smoak 1B
Russell Martin C
Devon Travis 2B
Kevin Pillar CF

Aaron Sanchez RHP 

McAdam: Sure, take Buchholz out of the rotation, then what?

mcadamsnc1464323970833_3450k_1280x720_693942851954.jpg

McAdam: Sure, take Buchholz out of the rotation, then what?

It's easy -- obvious, even -- that Clay Buchholz should be immediately replaced in the Red Sox rotation.
     
What's more, it's apparent who should replace him. Eduardo Rodriguez, though his velocity remains mysteriously subpar, is otherwise healthy and available.
     
Even with the acknowledgement that Rodriguez's fastball isn't as lively as the Red Sox would prefer it to be, he remains a logical option.
     
And there can be little debate over the move to extract Buchholz from the rotation. In 10 starts, he's compiled a 6.35 ERA, and while pitcher’s won-loss records are notoriously misleading, this stat isn't: the Red Sox are 3-7 with Buchholz starting and 26-11 with everyone else.
     
Buchholz's confidence is shattered. You can see it in his body language on the mound. You can sense it with the glacial-like pace in which he works
with runners on base. You can observe it in his postgame remarks, where he looks and sounds like someone with no idea how to reverse his slide.
     
Case closed.
     
But the next part of the equation is a little trickier: what do the Red Sox do with him now?
     
It's highly unlikely that the Sox will just release him. For one thing, there's more than $8 million coming to him for the remainder of the season and those decisions aren't made lightly.
     
For another, it's possible -- hard as it might be to imagine now -- that Buchholz could help the 2016 Red Sox before the season is through. And if you think that's a ridiculous notion, then you've forgotten other similar stretches in his career.
     
In 2014, when Buchholz had what was, until then, the worst season of his career, he still managed to put together a seven-start stretch at the end of the season that saw him go 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA.
     
Or the 13-game stretch inside the otherwise hideous 2012 (season ERA: 4.56) in which Buchholz was 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA.
     
Those two stretches are at the heart of the paradox that is Buchholz - even in the course of miserable seasons, he invariably finds a stretch where he figures some things out and pitches brilliantly for a time.
     
It's one reason the Red Sox have stuck with him for the first two months -- the knowledge that, at any time, something may click, sending Buchholz on one of his patented rolls.
     
After all, Buchholz is just 31, too young to be finished. And as both the pitcher himself and manager John Farrell said Thursday night, in the wake of another poor outing, health isn't an issue.
     
And that's the rub here.
     
If Buchholz hadn't been given a public clean bill of health, the Red Sox could have discovered a heretofore undetected "general soreness'' somewhere on Buchholz's body -- a balky shoulder here, or a tender elbow there.
     
That would have bought Buchholz and the Red Sox some time to place him on the DL, take a mental break from the mound and work on making some adjustment away from prying eyes.
     
Now, that would seem not to be an option -- unless Buchholz, ahem, stubbed a toe getting on or off the Red Sox charter flight to Toronto early Friday morning.
     
Finally, Buchholz is long out of options and has sufficient service time to refuse an assignment to the minor leagues.
     
So what's left? Not much, beyond a trip to the bullpen. And that's where things get complicated.
     
In a 10-year major league career, Buchholz has made exactly two (2) appearances in relief, the most recent of which took place in 2008.
Given that Buchholz has struggled mightily early in games -- until Thursday's start, when he completely flipped the script and retired the first nine hitters he faced, Buchholz had allowed a batting average of  .366 the first time through the order -- it's difficult to imagine him being successful in relief.
     
Sure, the Red Sox could designated him as their mop-up man in  relief, brought in when the team has fallen behind early or jumped out to a huge lead in the middle innings.
     
But such scenarios can't be counted upon to provide Buchholz with enough regular opportunities, and even  if they did present themselves, there's no guarantee that Buchholz would thrive under such circumstances.
     
So, the club appears at a dead end -- unwilling to release Buchholz because of meager starting depth options and the likelihood that he might be needed in a few weeks or months, and unable to find a spot for him to get straightened out.
     
It's the ultimate conundrum, which, when you think about it, is the perfect way to view Buchholz's career.