Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN MLB insider Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox outfield, Jackie Bradley Jr. and how the Red Sox view him, if Stephen Drew could still return and if A.J. Pierzynski is at risk of losing his job. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

With so many moving parts in the outfield, following Jacoby Ellsbury‘€™s departure to the Yankees, the Red Sox already have seen a variety of lineups there. For Olney, he could see the Red Sox going with Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino (once healthy) and Grady Sizemore.

“They definitely wanted to develop Jackie Bradley Jr. and they believe he is, if not the best defensive center fielder in the American League, they think he could be,”€ Olney said. “They want to get him established. Shane Victorino, has probably played right field better than any Red Sox player since Dwight Evans. Then you put Grady in left and you potentially have a shutdown outfield. I think the biggest question at that time was of course whether Grady was going to hold up, and I think that’€™s going to be a question all season.”

Bradley had a rough spring training, batting .158 and striking out 17 times, losing the starting job to Sizemore. However, because of injuries to Victorino, Bradley quickly got an opportunity again, batting .400 in 20 at-bats. Olney knows that the Red Sox were always confident in Bradley.

“A lot of the doubts that were reflected were in the media based on his performance,”€ Olney said. “€œI know that when you talked to the Red Sox during the winter time about what their plans were, and this is before Grady came into the equation in any serious way, their feeling was like, ‘Look, Jackie Bradley Jr.’€™s got a ton of talent and he’€™s going to do what we like and that’€™s get on base and play great defense at that position.’ I talked to evaluators with other teams during spring training leading up to those two broadcasts we did and they talked about how they thought that Jackie’€™s confidence was down.”

With Will Middlebrooks out indefinitely, some have suggested that the Red Sox should move Xander Bogaerts to third base and sign Drew to play shortstop. Olney sees the move as unlikely, as the Red Sox are hoping another team will sign him so they can get a draft pick.

“They’€™re hoping, probably internally at this point, that Drew signs with another team so they get a compensation draft pick,” Olney said. “€œAnd I know that the Indians felt this way with Ubaldo Jimenez and the Royals felt this way with Irvin Santana, that if they’€™re going to sign back those guys, and the Red Sox are in that same position with Drew, they essentially will attach a discount to whatever they’€™re going to offer him by saying, ‘Look, in order to sign him now, we have to give up a draft pick.’ ”

Pierzynski has been hitting well for the Red Sox to start the 2014 season. However, due to his age and below-average defense, Olney sees a situation where Christian Vazquez could get called up and push the veteran for playing time.

“His defense has drawn notice of rival scouts, I talked to them the last couple of days, and they say he’€™s struggled early in their eyes,”€ Olney said. “I don’€™t think there’€™s any question to me, because the Red Sox have great defensive alternatives in the minor leagues, that A.J. has got to hit to hang on to that job. And the way that this was structured was that they essentially brought A.J. in to be a placeholder for the young catchers they have in the farm system — Vasquez being the guy who’€™s the most developed, who is viewed, without a doubt by people of other teams, being a strong defender.”

Blog Author: 
Arjuna Ramgopal

Though the Rangers are featuring a left-hander on the mound for the second straight day, Jackie Bradley Jr. is back in the lineup for the Red Sox, in what appears increasingly to be an everyday role in the absence of Shane Victorino.

Though the Rangers are featuring a left-hander on the mound for the second straight day, Jackie Bradley Jr. is back in the lineup for the Red Sox, in what appears increasingly to be an everyday role in the absence of Shane Victorino. Grady Sizemore has the day off with a day game following a night game, resulting in Bradley getting the start in center and Daniel Nava returning to the lineup in right field. With left-hander Robbie Ross on the hill for the Rangers, Jonny Gomes is playing left and leading off. David Ross is starting behind the plate for right-hander Jake Peavy.

RED SOX LINEUP

Jonny Gomes, LF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

Daniel Nava, RF

Ryan Roberts, 3B

David Ross, C

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Jake Peavy, SP

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
Right-hander Allen Webster induced 10 groundball outs on Tuesday. (AP)

Right-hander Allen Webster induced 10 groundball outs on Tuesday. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-1 WIN VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Allen Webster threw strikes and showed a strong two-seamer over the course of six efficient innings in which he threw 54 of 83 pitches (65 percent) for strikes. Though Webster punched out just three batters (while walking two), he allowed just three hits (a double and two singles) while eliciting 10 groundball outs.

“My fastball command was 10 times better than where it was the last game. I was throwing my off-speed for strikes and they were getting bad contact,” Webster told Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times. “I was staying more in line and driving the ball to the spot rather than jerking it.”

Ryan Lavarnway, who had been 0-for-14 in his first four starts of the year, made his first hit of 2014 a resounding one, launching a solo homer to the opposite field in right. Lavarnway once again played first base, making his third start at that position (compared to one each at DH and catcher).

– Utility man Justin Henry put on an uncharacteristic power display, going 2-for-4 with a double and homer. In his seventh minor league season last year, the versatile 28-year-old set a career high for homers with two.

Christian Vazquez was hitless for the second straight game, going 0-for-4, but he did throw out the only runner who attempted to steal against him.

– Left-hander Drake Britton struggled, allowing a run on two hits and two walks in an inning of work that saw him throw just 14 of 29 pitches for strikes. He’s walked three, struck out two and allowed five hits in 4 1/3 innings spanning three appearances to start the year, though the run on Tuesday was his first earned run yielded of the year.

– Also from McGair: Bryce Brentz‘s defense has been thought to have limited his prospect ceiling in his time in the Sox organization, but thus far this year in Pawtucket, Brentz has been working to challenge that perception.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 10-1 LOSS AT TRENTON (YANKEES)

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– Catcher Blake Swihart had his third multi-hit game in four starts this season, going 2-for-4 to improve to .467. He has neither walked nor strcuk out to date.

– Second baseman Mookie Betts suffered his first hitless game in Double-A, going 0-for-2, but he did walk twice. He’s accepted three free passes while whiffing just once in his first five games, forging a .474/.545/.789 line in 22 plate appearances.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 12-11 WIN OVER WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX)

(BOX)

– Salem set a franchise record by winning its fifth straight game to open a season and tied a Carolina League record with its 16th straight win dating to last year; the record had been unchallenged since it was established by the 1950 Winston-Salem Cardinals. Salem play-by-play broadcaster Even Lepler is mildly enthused about the streak. Within this thoughtful post about why a winning streak like this is so fascinating — in a player development realm where the focus is typically on individual player development rather than team outcomes — you can hear his call of the final out.

– Left-hander Brian Johnson was hit hard in his second start of the year, with four of his eight hits allowed going for extra bases (three doubles and a triple) en route to a five-run yield in 4 2/3 innings. Most of the damage came against his fastball, which found the middle of the plate with increasing frequency as the game progressed, and so the 2012 first-rounder ended up pitching backwards in the latter innings of his outing. Despite the hard contact, he did get eight strikeouts — six of them swinging — while walking just one, on a night when he featured an 88-91 mph fastball yet still recorded 17 swings and misses — four on his fastball, seven on his curve and six on his changeup. All 11 changeups he threw were for strikes. Johnson now has 15 strikeouts and three walks in 9 2/3 innings in Salem this year.

– Though 23-year-old right-hander Kyle Martin allowed three runs in his 2 1/3 innings (while also permitting a pair of runners inherited from Johnson to score), he punched out nine and walked none, giving him nine strikeouts without a walk in his 5 1/3 innings this year.

– Speedy outfielder Matty Johnson went deep as part of a 2-for-6 game, his second homer in 1,059 career professional plate appearances in indy ball and the Sox minor league system.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 10-1 LOSS AT CHARLESTON (YANKEES)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Mario Alcantara allowed seven runs (five earned) on just three hits in four innings. He did allow a homer, but his primary undoing came from four walks and a hit batter, on a night when the hard-throwing right-hander threw just 37 of 74 pitches for strikes.

– Right-hander Myles Smith — like Alcantara, a high-ceiling, hard-throwing wild card in the lower levels after being taken by the Sox in the fourth round of last year’s draft — likewise struggled with his control, finding the strike zone with just 32 of his 66 offerings while permitting a pair of homers among his five hits allowed, walking four and striking out two.

– Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin went 0-for-1 but worked a pair of walks, and he now has four walks (against three strikeouts) in his first four games of the season in which the 20-year-old has hit .455 with a .563 OBP.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The Red Sox will head into the final game of their three-game series with the Rangers on Wednesday when Jake Peavy gets the nod against lefty Robert Ross Jr.

Peavy last took to the mound during an emotional home opener last Friday against the Brewers. Despite scattering six hits and allowing just two earned runs over six innings during the start, Peavy got a no-decision after Edward Mujica gave up four earned runs in the ninth. Peavy struck out three in the first but allowed two runs in the second, including a solo home run by Jonathan Lucroy.

“Anytime you have a chance to win and you don’€™t have your best stuff, you don’€™t feel the best or have the best feel, you’€™re OK with it, but you expect more,” Peavy said, (via MLB.com). “At the end of the day, you want to pitch deep in the ballgame, you want to give up less than two runs. That second inning got away from me. I couldn’t stretch it out late.”

The 32-year-old righty has not played against the Rangers since his time in a White Sox uniform. Peavy came away with a no-decision on April 7, 2012, after he gave up three runs on eight hits over the course of six innings en route to Chicago’€™s 4-3 win over the Rangers. Due to struggles against the Rangers in 2010 and 2011, Peavy has an 0-2 record with a 7.59 ERA and a WHIP of 1.59 in games against Texas.

Ross also enters Wednesday’€™s game after a no-decision in his first start of the season. The 24-year-old gave up three runs, two of which were earned, on seven hits over five innings against the Phillies on April 2. The Rangers ultimately won the game 4-3 after they scored three runs in the ninth inning.

While Ross is in his third season in a Rangers uniform, his outing against the Phillies was the first start of his major league career. Consequently, Ross has only 3 1/3 innings of experience against the Red Sox. During that limited time on the mound, Ross has given up one earned run on five hits while walking one and striking out three. That lone run came in Ross’€™ most recent outing against Boston — a relief appearance on June 6, 2013, when he lasted just a third of an inning.

Rangers vs. Peavy (RHP)

Adrian Beltre (40 plate appearances): .222 AVG/.250 OBP/ .444 SLG, 2 doubles, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts

Prince Fielder (38): .278/.316/.389, 4 doubles, 2 RBIs, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts

Shin-Soo Choo (24): .429/.500/.714, 2 HR, 3 RBIs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Elvis Andrus (12): .333/.333/.333, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Robert Ross Jr.

Robert Ross Jr.

J.P. Arencibia (8): .167/.375/.167, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Mitch Moreland (6): .500/.500/1.500, 2 HR, 5 RBIs

Josh Wilson is hitless in two plate appearances vs. Peavy.

Red Sox vs. Ross (LHP)

Jonny Gomes (2): .500/.500/.500

Dustin Pedroia (2): .500/.500/.500, 1 strikeout

Jackie Bradley Jr. and A.J. Pierzynski each have one strikeout in one plate appearance vs. Ross.

Mike Carp, Jonathan Herrera and Daniel Nava are hitless in one plate appearance vs. Ross.

David Ortiz has one walk in one plate appearance vs. Ross.

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri

Jackie Bradley Jr.'s outfield defense has been a difference-maker for the Red Sox. (AP)In spring training, it was an either/or. That's not necessarily the case anymore. The time may be coming when we see Shane Victorino and Grady Sizemore flanking Jackie Bradley Jr.  



Forget the 3-5 record, the .211 average with one homer with runners in scoring position and the five ground ball double plays Tuesday night in a 10-7 loss to the Rangers.

Jonny Gomes (AP)

Jonny Gomes (AP)

Forget the 3-5 record, the .211 average with runners in scoring position and five ground ball double plays Tuesday night in a 10-7 loss to the Rangers.

Jonny Gomes isn’t worried about the timely hitting yet because, the way he looks at it, the Red Sox haven’t really started.

“I don’t think we’re scuffling,” Gomes said. “I don’t think we’ve started. I think it’s too early in the season offensively, defensively, pitching to say we’re scuffling. The starters are barely cracking 40 at-bats right now.”

On Tuesday, the Red Sox were 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position while grounding into a season-high five double plays, one shy of the club record.

“That’s a pitcher’s best friend but it’s early in the season and you want to look at the positive side of things. We hit into five double plays and we scored seven runs, I’m sure that’s pretty rare, too. Like I said before, I like where we’re at. If we can score seven runs on five double plays, I think we’re scratching the surface on some things on the positive side.

“He’s got a good downward angle to his ball, a left-hander who is extremely over-the-top with some velocity behind it. Saw some ground balls today from that.”

“I just had my sinker working,” added Rangers starter Martin Perez, who induced all five double plays, including three in the first three innings and five in the first six frames.

Manager John Farrell watched as Felix Doubront made matters worse by giving up five runs in the third inning and the Red Sox weren’t able to recover.

“Once we’re down five, even though we got a number of lead-off hitters on base, we’ve got to be a little bit protective of just giving away outs and it was the ground ball double play that snuffed everything out,” Farrell noted.

“I think that speaks for itself. It makes it a lot easier on the starting pitcher and they were able to add some early runs. Playing catch up is tough, especially at this level,” Gomes said.

Gomes, who is 0-for-4 this year with runners in scoring position, would rather just look forward to Wednesday’s starter Jake Peavy.

“Jake is getting his second start [Thursday],” Gomes said. “Two days ago our bullpen sure wasn’t scuffling with all those Ks. We just have put a positive nine together and we’ll roll.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Life can be cruelly unjust for players at the start of their big league careers, a notion that gained reinforcement on Tuesday night in the person of right-hander Brandon Workman.

Brandon Workman got optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket following his strong outing on Tuesday night. (AP)

Brandon Workman got optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket following his strong outing on Tuesday night. (AP)

Life can be cruelly unjust for players at the start of their big league careers, a notion that gained reinforcement on Tuesday night in the person of right-hander Brandon Workman.

Workman pitched brilliantly in long relief for the Red Sox on Tuesday night, delivering three perfect innings before permitting a run — his only one in 6 1/3 innings this year — in the ninth inning, giving the Sox an opportunity to mount a comeback.

“He did great,” said catcher A.J. Pierzynski. “One thing about Work, he’€™s going to throw it over the plate. He’€™s not afraid. He works fast, throws three or four different pitches over the plate that all have the ability to get hitters out. I’€™m proud of the work Workman did.”

His impressive open to the 2014 campaign followed a 2013 season that Workman concluded by throwing 8 2/3 postseason relief innings without permitting an earned run.

His reward? On Tuesday night, it was being optioned down to Triple-A Pawtucket. In some ways, the decision to send Workman down represents a compliment to his abilities, as the team feels that he offers them perhaps their most reliable source of starting pitching depth (at a time when Chris Capuano is at a point where he’s unlikely to be stretched out), and so the team wants him to take the ball every five days. Still, the idea of getting sent down — no matter the reason — is inevitably disheartening.

Still, the 25-year-old said that he understood the team’s rationale behind sending him down in order to clear a roster spot for left-hander Craig Breslow.

“That’€™s just part of it. They said they wanted me to keep being stretched out and stuff. That’€™s just the way it goes,” said Workman. “Obviously it’€™s not ideal but I understand what they’€™re doing. It’€™s part of it.’€

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier