Notes: Red Sox rotation still in flux

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Notes: Red Sox rotation still in flux

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Jon Lester is scheduled to start Tuesday in Toronto, followed by John Lackey on Wednesday. Beyond that, the Red Sox rotation is not known at this point.

Not yet, said manager Terry Francona. Give us until tomorrow. Were going to try to get a couple of things back in a little bit different order.

With the pitching shuffled around over the last few games for various reasons ailments, and the infamous 13-inning game among them Francona will likely take advantage of the off-day Thursday before the start of a three-game series in New York to reset his rotation. One of the factors he will likely consider is separating Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett, who have started back-to-back days, Sunday and Monday.

Jason Varitek has been catching for both right-handers. Giving the 39-year-old catcher a day off between their starts would be preferable.

Lackey was in the bullpen Sunday. With long relievers Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves unavailable because of their outings on Friday, Lackey would have been called upon in a worst-case scenario.

We had Lack out there just in case something really went wrong ball off the
shin, something like that, Francona said. Aceves said he was available. We
werent real comfortable with that. He said he was fine. So we appreciate that
but we didn't want to do that.

Aceves and Wakefield are available today.

Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon have been stabilizers in the bullpen this season.

Its nice to know that theres an end in sight, Francona said. Some games dont go exactly the way you want. But then you get to Bard and Pap and it doesnt guarantee that you're going to win but youve gotten where you need to and then you dont have two guys throwing out in the bullpen and trying to match up and worrying about that. I dont think Bards had a lot of clean innings. Hes come in with runners on base a lot. And hes so good at it. Thats been very helpful.

Matt Albers has also been a blessing. This is a kid who was competing for a spot. And hes been going multiple innings for us, facing lefties and righties."

Although Papelbon didnt have his best showing in spring training, Francona is hesitant to attribute that to the "red light" effect when players wait for the season to start, saving their best performances for meaningful games.

I hate to say that because I think thats a scary way for us to go into the season, Francona said. Hey, the light's going to come on. Sometimes that helps guys, though, for sure. They seem to add a little bit of velocity and a bit more crispness to their pitches but he has been throwing the ball very well. Location, his splits been there, hes throwing an occasional breaking ball but hes not scattering his fastball. Last year there was a lot of nights where hed have to kind of bring it back in. Hed throw three or four or five in a row up, arm side. More often than not hed get the save but hed have to fight for it. Hes been pretty good so far.

The split comes out of the same arm slot as his fastball and if the fastballs down then the splits down with it. Thats a good combination.

Jose Iglesias is not in the starting lineup for the series finale with the Twins. Its an adjustment for young players, especially high-profile prospects, to get used to not starting.

It sure is, Francona said. Theyre used to a routine and their routine is showing up, taking their ground balls, hitting wherever theyll hit in the order and playing the game. We talked to Iggy about that yesterday. Just that exact same thing.

In his 17-game hitting streak, the best active streak among major leaguers, Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .378 (28-for-74) with 14 runs scored, 10 doubles, eight RBI, and seven stolen bases. Francona said he has not seen Ellsbury change his approach at the plate, just be more successful with it.

Sometimes you dont see the ball, sometimes you miss pitches, sometimes you get pitched to better, Francona said. Confidence grows. His mechanics havent changed. Hes just doing it better.

Hes using the entire field, driving the ball to left field, turning on the ball in, hitting the ball up the middle. Hes hitting the ball to all three fields and with speed like that if you do that -- we usually talk about things evening out. Im not sure theyre supposed to even out when you can run that fast and you use the entire field. I think youre going to get more hits than you're supposed to.

Carl Crawford has an eight-game hitting streak, in which he is 12-for-31 (.387), raising his average to .211.

It looks like things are starting to slow down a little bit, Francona said. Everything was so rushed. And its still at times like that but the balls not in the mitt. Hes seeing it a little better, seeing it a little quicker out of the hand, reacting better. Im sure it looks like its slowing down for him. He has that big open stance and when he would get back to square I think it was taking him a little longer than he realized, so hed get that foot down and the ball was already coming across the plate.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

McAdam: Poor homestand puts Red Sox on tough road

McAdam: Poor homestand puts Red Sox on tough road

The Red Sox had their chance.

They could have beefed up during the just-completed homestand and taken advantage of the worst team in the American League (Minnesota) and another that was only three games over .500 when it came to town (Detroit).

Instead, the Red Sox were just 2-5 in the last seven games at Fenway, losing ground in the standings to the Orioles and Blue Jays rather than making the race tighter.

That's not to suggest the Red Sox played their way out of contention in the last week. There are better than two months remaining in the season and the schedule isn't yet two-thirds complete.

Moreover, there is no dominant team in the East, and, thus, no one capable of pulling away and leaving the rest of the teams in their wake.

Baltimore and Toronto are flawed, too, as the first 100 or so games of the season have demonstrated.

But what the disappointing homestand means is this: Because they didn't win as much as they should at Fenway in the last week, the Sox will have to make up for that on the road.

As has been talked about ad nauseum in the last week, the schedule is about to become more demanding for the Red Sox. It's bad enough that they're in the middle of a stretch that will see them enjoy one (1) day off in the span of 44 days. Making matters worse is that 41 of the final 63 games are away from home -- including the next 11.

Put another way: The Red Sox have not yet had a three-city road trip this season, but all four of their remaining trips are of the three-city variety, including two that include travel to the West Coast.

The Red Sox have played fairly well on the road (21-19) -- they're one of just four teams in the American League with a winning road record -- but the simple fact remains: It's harder to win on the road than it is at home. And that's before you take into consideration the toll that lengthy road trips can take.

Of the next three road opponents, one has a losing record, and another is just two games over .500. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers, next weekend's interleauge road opponent, are playoff contenders from among that group.

Then again, the Red Sox thought they could roll over the Twins last weekend and came away with a four-game split, so it's difficult to handicap these things.

It should help, too, that the Red Sox are getting healthier.

Junichi Tazawa returned this week, and Craig Kimbrel could be back as early as Monday in Seattle. Chris Young and Josh Rutledge could rejoin them before they head out on their next road swing in mid-August.

With all the talk of the daunting schedule and demanding travel ahead, Dustin Pedroia was having none of it.

"We can play just as well on the road as we have at home,'' said Pedroia. "That stuff (the schedule) is irrelevant.''

Maybe. But one way or another, we're about to find out.

Source: Sox seek smaller pieces, not big names, at trade deadline

Source: Sox seek smaller pieces, not big names, at trade deadline

BOSTON -- According to an N.L. talent evaluator who is familiar with some of the Red Sox ongoing talks with teams leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline, the Sox seem focused on adding a bullpen piece and/or back-end starters.

The need for the former is rather obvious, given the current injuries to Criag Kimbrel and Koji Uehara. The Sox can use some upgrades and another experienced arm to guide them through the final two months.

As for the rotation, it's not a surprise that the Sox aren't serious bidders for more glamorous names like Chris Sale, since that would require them to gut their farm system.

But the team's starter depth is perilous, with only Clay Buchholz in reserve. It makes perfect sense that the Sox would be seeking someone else to help provide them with insurance against further injuries or under-performance.

Will Red Sox' recent poor homestand come back to haunt them?

Will Red Sox' recent poor homestand come back to haunt them?

Lou Merloni joins Early Edition to discuss whether he thinks the Red Sox poor homestand against the Twins and Tigers will ultimately come back to haunt them.