Red Sox look to load up in MLB draft while they can

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Red Sox look to load up in MLB draft while they can

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

Though a new collective bargaining agreement is months away from being negotiated, speculation looms that a new CBA for 2012 and beyond will eliminate the existence of compensation draft picks for lost free agents.

Under the current system, however, teams are still compensated for losing free agents to whom they offer salary arbitration, and next week, the Red Sox intend to take full advantage.

Thanks to the loss of Victor Martinez (Detroit), Adrian Beltre (Texas), the Red Sox will have four of the first 40 picks in the annual entry draft which begins Monday and runs through Wednesday.

The Sox will select 19th (Martinez), 26th (Beltre), 36th (Martinez) and 40th (Beltre). By signing Class A free agent Carl Crawford from Tampa, they forfeit their own first-round pick at No. 24.

"It's always a great feeling to have extra picks," said general manager Theo Epstein. "I think it energizes the scouting staff for the whole year, because they know, going in and seeing players, there's a much better chance that they can get a guy instead of seeing someone they like and realizing they're going to go before we pick.

"When you get in the room and put them all together, it's exciting because you know when you rank the first 40 guys, you know you're getting four of them. We just have to do our job and get them in the right order."

Since this might be the last time the Red Sox have these many picks this early, there's a feeling that they need to take full advantage of the opportunity.

"We've tried to make the most of the current system," said Epstein. "That's always been a factor in some of our free agent decisions, trying to accumulate picks because that's one of the best ways to create an advantage: accumulate sandwich picks.

"We recognize that that's the system in place now, so we should try to take advantage of it while we can. We're in a wait-and-see approach. Who knows what the next CBA might look like. Because of the uncertainty, I think it just puts an emphasis on the moment, now, and taking advantage of the system that exists now. Let's work extra hard, let's get an extra look and let's do everything we can to make the right selections now that we can.

"There might be a day where we wake up and we're talking fondly of bygone days when we had four of the first 40 picks of the draft and nobody will ever have that again. Who knows what the next system will be? We've got to take advantage of this one while it exists.''

Further motivation comes from the fact this year's crop of high school and college players is among the deepest in recent years.

"It's a pretty talented class," said Red Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye, now heading his second draft after replacing Jason McLeod. "We see most of the depth in college pitching. There's a good group of high school pitchers (at the top), the top five or 10 guys in the draft that we're probably not going to get.

"It's a pretty good draft. Nothing historically great, but it's a good draft."

As usual, the Red Sox will try to take a long-term view when making their picks and not focus on filling present-day needs.

"We try not to get too caught up in drafting for need,'' said Epstein. "I think that gets you in trouble because the college guys don't get there for three or four years, the high school guys (take) four or five years, so who knows what our needs will be at the big league level by then. Even organizational depth can shift by then, so we try to stick with the best player available."

Having multiple picks in the first few rounds could allow a team like the Red Sox to be more aggressive in drafting a player that might have both high upsides and some risk.

"You want to get good players and you want to combine upside and probability,'' said Epstein. "But when you don't have extra picks, it's sometimes hard to take that extra risk for the very high upside. You can diversify your portfolio a little bit when you have extra picks, take that chance.''

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

First impressions: Porcello settles in, helps Red Sox beat Rays, 9-4

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First impressions: Porcello settles in, helps Red Sox beat Rays, 9-4

First impressions from the Red Sox' 9-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays:

 

* Rick Porcello followed form.

Porcello has, throughout the season, struggled some in the early innings before making some adjustments and stabilizing as the game wears on.

So it was Monday night against the Rays.

Coming into the start, Porcello had compiled a 4.15 ERA in the first three innings with a 2.13 ERA in innings four through six.

Sure enough, Porcello allowed four straight hits and two runs in the third inning. After that, he looked like a different pitcher. He did yield a solo run in the fifth when he gave up a leadoff double and two groundouts.

But from the fourth through the seventh, he faced 13 hitters and retired 12 of them, including five by strikeout.

 

* Travis Shaw showed signs of digging out his funk at the plate.

Shaw was 0-for-6 to start the homestand, and since the beginning of August, had compiled an anemic .141/.236/.264 slash line with only four extra-base hits (two doubles, two doubles).

That resulted in Shaw losing playing time to Aaron Hill at third, and being dropped lower in the batting order.

But Monday, Shaw smacked a double to right -- the kind of extra-base power that he almost routinely flashed in the first half -- and later added two singles for a three-hit night.

It marked the first multi-hit game for him since July 26, better than a month ago.

 

* Lo and behold, the Red Sox can collect hits with the bases loaded.

The team's struggles in that department have been well-chronicled. Coming into the night, the Sox were hitting just .211 in such situations, ranking them 14th out of the 15 A.L. teams.

Time after time, the Sox have failed to come through with the bases full, sometimes even with no outs.

But that wasn't the case Monday. Twice, in fact, the Sox had innings with the bases loaded and both times, they scored.

In the second, Brock Holt's single to left scored Chris Young, though Sandy Leon was cut down at the plate when the Sox tried to get two runs out of it.

In the seventh, a sharp single to center by Sandy Leon scored two more.

 

After strong bullpen session, Koji Uehara could be back by Labor Day

After strong bullpen session, Koji Uehara could be back by Labor Day

BOSTON - For a bullpen that could use all the help it can get right now, there's the prospect that Koji Uehara could rejoin the Red Sox on Labor Day.

Uehara, who's been out since July 20 with a strained pectoral muscle, threw a bullpen Monday at Fenway that impressed John Farrell.

"He came out of today's work session in good fashion,'' said Farrell. "It was 25 pitches to hitters with good intensity to both his fastball and split. It's been impressive to see how he's handled the volume, and now, three times on the mound, the intensity to his bullpens and BP.''

Next up for Uehara will be a bullpen session Wednesday morning, followed by a live batting practice session Saturday in Oakland.

Since both Pawtucket's and Portland's seasons are over on Labor Day, Uehara won't have the option of going on a rehab assignment to face hitters before being activated.

But the Sox believe that he can build arm strength through these side sessions and BP sessions -- enough so that he could return to the active roster soon.

"We'll re-assess where is after Sunday,'' said Farrell, "and I wouldn't rule out activation [after that]. What we've done with Koji is just review how he feels after each session and we'll take it from there.''

Uehara, 41, is 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA, and while he's had a propensity for giving up homers (eight in just 36 innings), he had been throwing better before being injured.

And given the performance of the bullpen in general and the recent poor showings from Matt Barnes, the Sox would welcome Uehara back as soon as he's ready.

"The one thing that Koji has proven to us,'' noted Farrell, "is that, even with limited spring training work [in the past], he's been a very effective pitcher for us and obviously, he has a chance to make a very positive impact once he does return.''

Uehara's progress since late July has been a pleasant surprise for the Sox, who feared at the time of the injury that he might be done for the season.     

"To his credit,'' said Farrell, "he's worked his tail off and advanced fairly rapidly and he's withstanding the intensity that he's put into [the work]. A healthy Koji certainly adds to our bullpen.