McAdam at the World Series: Renteria steps up again

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McAdam at the World Series: Renteria steps up again

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

SAN FRANCISCO - If you're a Red Sox fan, you remember him booting away seemingly routine grounders, blaming his alarmingly high error total on the Fenway grounds crew and making Tony La Russa look positively prophetic about his unsuitability for Boston.

The Edgar Renteria Era -- or was it the Error -- was, as they say, nasty, brutish and short: One brutal and brutally expensive season.

The Sox had cast aside Orlando Cabrera after a three-month rental and cast their lot -- to say nothing of 40 million over four years -- with Renteria. It proved to be a colossal misstep, but say this for the Sox: They didn't hold their breath and hope it would get better. They cut their losses in a hurry, paying the Atlanta Braves to kindly take their mistake-prone shortstop off their hands.

When the Sox won another World Series two years later, they were still paying off Renteria. He never seemed comfortable in Boston, and Boston, in turn, never felt comfortable with Renteria.

If you could cut out Renteria's one-year nightmare in Boston, however, he's been a pretty good player for a pretty long time. And when he gets to the World Series, as he's done three different times with three different teams, he has a habit of making his presence felt. Scan the highlights of the last 13 years of the Fall Classic and, inevitably, there's Renteria popping up again and again, in big moments, like some sort of October Forrest Gump.

There he is in 1997, singling off Charlie Nagy in the 11th inning of Game Seven, making unlikely champions of the Florida Marlins. There he is, seven years later, in the uniform of the St. Louis Cardinals eerily making the final out against the team he would join a month later, hitting a harmless tapper back to Keith Foulke in Game Four.

And Thursday night, there he was starring for the San Francisco Giants, homering in the bottom of the fifth to snap a scoreless tie and giving the Giants the only run they would need to win Game Two. It helped that when the Giants tacked on seven more runs in the eighth to make it a comfortable 9-0 shutout, Rentiera was part of that, too, delivering a two-run single.

The 2010 season was far from a career highlight. He made three trips to the disabled list for an assortment of injuries, and once, went to the minor leagues to play himself back to good health.

He lost his starting shortstop job to Juan Uribe, only to regain it when the Giants began to worry that third baseman Pablo Sandoval had become a liability. Uribe was then shifted to third and Renteria was re-inserted at short.

His timing is, once again, spectacular. He may not challenge Reggie Jackson for the title of Mr. October, but he does have an uncanny knack of rising to the occasion.

"You know, I couldn't be happier for Edgar,'' said San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy. "It's been a tough year for him. The ups and downs, the injuries . . . He'd come back from one and re-injure something else. But he's a leader in that clubhouse. Everybody looks up to him. He's been through this and he's excited about how he feels right now. He's excited about being back in the World Series.''

Renteria is only 34, but he has already played 15 seasons and with his body slowly breaking down and his contract up, retirement could be beckoning.

"He knows that he's almost at the end of his career,'' said Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens. "He wanted to be into the playoffs because he doesn't know how much longer he's going to play. But there's no better time than now. He's playing great defense and got a couple of big hits.''

According to Meulens, Renteria is a personal favorite of team owner Bill Neukom, who makes it a point to often visit with Renteria and offer encouragement.

"He tells him, 'You're not done with us . . . you're going to help us more,' '' recounted Meulens.

And so it is. The theory around the Giants is that the three DL stints are now a blessing in disguise, enabling Renteria to tap into a reservoir of energy at a time when it's needed most.

"I think the rest probably has benefitted him,'' said Bochy. "He's playing like he did 10 years ago.''

Which, if you're a Giants fan, is much better than playing like he did, say, five years ago.

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

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

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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.
     

 

McAdam: Ridiculous to think Bradley's streak ended because he hit leadoff

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McAdam: Ridiculous to think Bradley's streak ended because he hit leadoff

BOSTON -- If you think John Farrell's decision to hit Jackie Bradley Jr. leadoff for one night is the reason Bradley's 29-game hit streak came to an end, I've got some swamp land you might be interested in buying.

Such silly talk first surfaced mid-afternoon when the lineup was announced. With Mookie Betts getting his first day off this season, somebody had to hit leadoff. Farrell went with the guy who was leading the league in hitting.

That sounds reasonable. But not to some, who cried that putting Bradley at the top was (take your pick) disrupting Bradley's routine, putting him in a place with which he wasn't familiar, or asking him to change his approach.

Of course, none of those made much sense.

First of all, Thursday night marked the sixth (SIXTH!) different spot that Bradley has hit during the hitting streak. He had hit second, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth. So the notion that any change was disruptive was absurd.

As for the notion that Bradley would treat his at-bats differently because he was leading off? Also wrong. Bradley's major adjustment since spring training has been being aggressive early in the count. So, do you know how many pitches Bradley saw in four at-bats as the leadoff hitter? Eight.

Does that sound like someone who was being forced to be more patient for the night, or someone changing their approach by working the count more?

Finally, Bradley hit two balls on the screws -- one to the warning track in right, just in front of the bullpen in his first at-bat and another in front of the center field door, some 400 or so feet away, in his third.

Streaks come to an end, even when hitters belt the ball hard. Twice.