Will Middlebrooks exited Tuesday night’s game against the Angels with what the Red Sox described as right hamstring tightness, one batter after he’d appeared to pull up lame after beating out an infield single against Angels starter Jered Weaver. Though he stayed in the game for a batter (a Xander Bogaerts strikeout), he was then visited by a team trainer and manager John Farrell. He walked off the field under his own power.

Middlebrooks has already been on the disabled list twice this year, once for a calf strain in April and again for a fractured finger suffered in May. The 25-year-old has been on the field for just 35 big league games this year, hitting .188 with a .275 OBP and .282 slugging mark.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Despite hitting at a productive .308 (4-for-13) clip over his last four games with Boston, the Red Sox had evidently seen enough of Jackie Bradley Jr. at the major-league level.

Boston optioned Bradley down to Triple-A Pawtucket prior to Monday’€™s game against the Angels –€“ the final stage in a long series of evaluations that general manager Ben Cherington and the rest of Red Sox management went through to determine Bradley’€™s standing as a big-league hitter.

“€œWith Jackie, I think we had gone through several phases through the year,” Cherington said. “Obviously it looked like, before the All-Star break, that there were some things that were starting to take hold and some momentum, so we certainly hoped and expected that might continue after the All-Star break, and he started to struggle again. I think as we got past the deadline and as the direction of the team changed, I think we started about how do we give him the best chance to build some momentum going into the offseason knowing that he’€™s a really important guy for us going forward.”

Bradley already emerged as a Gold Glove candidate in his rookie campaign, leading all major-league outfielders in assists (13) while seemingly tracking down every fly ball hit near him out in center field.

However, Bradley’€™s great defensive play could not carry over to when he stepped up to the plate. At the time of his demotion, Bradley was hitting just .216 with a .288 OBP and .290 slugging percentage this season. The 24-year-old was on pace to register the lowest batting average from an American League starting center fielder since Mike Cameron hit .210 in 1998.

“Certainly there’€™s no questions about the defense, so it was really more focused on the offense,”€ Cherington said. “We just got the point where we felt like …  it would be best for him to get a bunch of at-bats in Pawtucket and try to lock into a routine that works for him – that he can feel good about.”

Cherington made it a point to mention that this will likely not be the last that anyone sees of Bradley at Fenway this season, as the club will not need to use one of their two remaining options on him if he’€™s called up when rosters expand in September.

“We fully expect him to be back in September, but then to be able to go into the offseason feeling like he has a good, solid routine plan in place to build off of in 2015,” Cherington said.

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

The Red Sox have no plans to send Xander Bogaerts to the minors despite his far-reaching struggles.</p>
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There may be 37 games remaining on the schedule this year, but for a Red Sox squad that’€™s 15 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East, it’€™s already time to look forward to the offseason.

Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

There may be 37 games remaining on the schedule this year, but for a Red Sox squad that’€™s 15 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East, it’€™s already time to look forward to the offseason.

Possessing both a deep farm system and a multitude of talented players at the major-league level, the Red Sox certainly have the means and resources to orchestrate a quick rebuild this winter, possibly by contemplating landmark trades with other clubs.

For Boston general manager Ben Cherington, the offseason provides a multitude of avenues for the team to take en route to constructing a winning team in 2015, but he added that parting ways with some of the organization’€™s blue-chip prospects would only become a tangible scenario if the right offer presents itself.

“€œI don’€™t think we’€™ve ever been unwilling to trade prospects. … For the right player, of course we would consider trading prospects,”€ Cherington said. “Clearly, there’€™s some areas that we’€™d like to add to this offseason. We have to figure out what makes the most sense –€“ whether that’€™s trying to add through free agency, trades. … There’€™s definitely times when a trade makes more sense than free agency, and there’€™s times when it’€™s vice-versa.”

One of the first prizes of the offseason may be claimed by the end of the week, as Cuban defector Rusney Castillo is reportedly “moving rapidly”€ towards a decision on signing with a team.

Described by Red Sox left fielder Yoenis Cespedes as “at least a four-tool player,”€ Castillo, 27, could fetch a deal for around $50 million when he eventually signs.

While he would not discuss Boston’€™s evaluation of Castillo, Cherington did acknowledge that the Red Sox have been one of several teams that have established an open dialogue with the intriguing outfielder.

Said Cherington: “There’€™s obviously been attention on this, he’€™s a player that we’€™ve seen and have talked to, but we’€™re just one of several teams that have done that, so there’€™s nothing more I can say about that.”

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

When it comes to evaluating players during these last couple months of the season, the Red Sox aren’€™t just concerned with taking stock of rookie performances.

Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

When it comes to evaluating players during these last couple months of the season, the Red Sox aren’€™t just concerned with taking stock of rookie performances. It’€™s been a chance to see how newly acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes fits into the lineup as well.

Cespedes’€™ approach at the plate is a little different than the two players he’€™s sandwiched between in the lineup, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. While Napoli and Ortiz are accustomed to drawing a lot of walks (Napoli has walked at a 16 percent rate this season), Cespedes embodies a much more aggressive approach and doesn’€™t work many free passes (less than six percent of plate appearances this season).

“With it will come some quick outs, but at the same time the ability to impact the baseball is a result of the aggressiveness as well,” Farrell said of Cespedes’€™ plate approach, which has yielded a .251 average, .294 OBP and .456 slugging mark on the season, including a .219/.231/.406 line with one walk and 11 strikeouts with the Red Sox. “€œHe hasn’€™t become more aggressive since coming over here. This is the player we were well aware of and pursued heavily. We’€™re fully accepting of the style of player he is.”

Batting in between Ortiz and Napoli, Cespedes provides some contrast in the lineup. Farrell says that the outfielder may be shifted in the order to find what combination works best.

“€œHe’€™s been accustomed to hitting in the four hole. [We're trying] to transition him in here with as much comfort as possible. That doesn’€™t mean that going forward there won’€™t be an alignment that flips him and Napoli,” Farrell said. “I’€™m not saying that’€™s going to be tomorrow, but we’€™ll take a look at every combination that’€™s available to us.”

Cespedes is not in the lineup on Tuesday night, but Farrell confirmed it’€™s just an off day. The 28-year-old has started every game since coming over from the A’€™s, though he’s mired in a 3-for-23 slump over the last five games.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

– A stark contrast to a player like Cespedes, Daniel Nava has hit .329 with a .396 OBP over his last 54 games. Nava hasn’€™t hit for much power since returning to the Red Sox in early June, with 11 doubles and no homers in 187 plate appearances, and that may be a result of the adjustments he made early in the season after he seemed to sacrifice his characteristic on-base skills while looking to loft the ball.

“If his approach early on was the hit for more power, it took away from the average,” Farrell said. “€œHe’€™s gotten back to a very consistent approach that he’€™s been known for, to me he’€™s a more productive hitter currently than one who is going to sell out to try to drive the ball with more consistency. I think by going to the plate looking to hit home runs, that’€™s worked against him. But he’€™s in a good place right now.”

– While Christian Vazquez has been impressive while handling the bulk of the catching duties over the last couple of weeks, he’€™ll see some of that time decrease a bit soon as David Ross is set to be activated from the disabled list on Wednesday. Ross has been sidelined since August 2 after he ruptured the plantar fascia tendon in his right foot. The 37-year-old did not require a rehab assignment before returning to the club, so Farrell said that his workload will be slightly reduced for his first couple of weeks back rather than splitting the time equally with Vazquez. Initially, the team plans to have Ross catch twice a week and to build him up from there.

– Allen Craig was with the team at Fenway on Tuesday after going 0-for-2 with a walk in his first rehab game with the PawSox on Monday night. He’€™ll return to Pawtucket and play right field on Wednesday.

Blog Author: 
Katie Morrison
Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

Many prospects don’€™t get a chance to get their first taste of the big leagues until September call-ups, when their playing time is limited thanks to the sheer number of players on the roster and, often, the importance of the games played if the team is in the playoff race. But the Red Sox‘ otherwise awful season has presented the team with some unusual opportunities, such as a chance to get prospects like Christian Vazquez some consistent playing time at the major league level in the midst of the regular season.

Manager John Farrell sees value in exposing someone like Vazquez to starts on a regular basis before September call-ups.

“€œI firmly believe that April through August is your typical and normal regular season,”€ Farrell said. “You’€™ve got 25 guys that you can’€™t mix and match to always get the right matchup. You’€™re part of a team that, in many cases, is contending or hoping to, so you’€™re exposed. It’€™s more of an accurate evaluation of what a player is capable of.”

In his particular case, Vazquez has seen an increase in playing time over the past month or so with the Red Sox than he had experienced even in Triple-A. With the injury to David Ross, Vazquez has started 12 of the last 15 games for the Sox, a workload that had been unavailable with the PawSox due to the logjam of catchers that included Dan Buter and, at times, Ryan Lavarnway and Matt Spring, with Blake Swihart now up in Triple-A while Vazquez and Butler handle the catching duties at the major league level.

“If the increased number of games played consecutively has been an increase over Pawtucket because of the three catchers there, he hasn’€™t shown any endurance issues, even catching 19 innings one night…he was dog tired afterwards but he’€™s handled the workload very well,” Farrell said.

The exposure has allowed the Red Sox to take stock of what they have in Vazquez, who has seemingly acclimated quickly and found success both offensively and defensively with the Red Sox. The extended stay in the majors has allowed Vazquez to work on his game-calling abilities and his capacity to handle the pitching staff.

“I think there’€™s been some times when he’€™s asked really good questions in between innings. We have a system in place if he needs some help from the dugout, and that’€™s been used from time to time,” Farrell said of Vazquez’€™s progress behind the plate. “He throws himself at this 100 percent, and that doesn’€™t mean he’€™s trying to overload himself with information, but there’€™s a feel behind the plate, there’€™s a feel for what the strengths of an individual pitcher are on a given day. I go back to the game he caught with [Allen] Webster in Anaheim [on August 8] that was a prime example of that, where if there were some inconsistencies with the fastball he’€™d go to the slider to get him back in the strike zone.

“€œI think he comes to us with some good self-confidence. The energy he shows is an outward display of that. Guys on the mound completely trust him, the way he blocks balls the way he calls games…there’€™s been some learning moments along the way but he’€™s come to us with a lot of self-confidence and belief in his ability to not only receive but reading swings and making proper pitch selection.”

While Vazquez’€™s prowess behind the plate has been well-documented through his minor league career, the Red Sox have also had the opportunity to see what the 23-year-old can do on the offensive side of the ball. Overall on the season, the catcher is hitting .244/.301/.305 through 95 plate appearances.

“I think he’€™s handled pitches on the outside part of the plate extremely well for a young hitter. He’€™s got some understanding of situational hitting, and I think because his swing is built to handle the ball away, he hasn’€™t been exposed on breaking balls off the plate away,”€ Farrell said. “€œHe’€™s got a pretty clear, defined strike zone and the bat stays in the zone. His work offensively is one that you’€™d say it’€™s going to play here. To what level remains to be seen, but he’€™s handled himself fine.”

Blog Author: 
Katie Morrison

After playing in 15 straight games with his new club, Yoenis Cespedes will finally get a day off Tuesday against the Angels. The Red Sox left fielder is hitting .130 (3-for-23) over his last five games with five strikeouts.

After playing in 15 straight games with his new club, Yoenis Cespedes will finally get a day off Tuesday against the Angels. The Red Sox left fielder is hitting .130 (3-for-23) over his last five games with five strikeouts. With Cespedes out, the corners will be manned by Brock Holt in right and Daniel Nava in left.

RED SOX LINEUP

Brock Holt, RF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Daniel Nava, LF

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

Mookie Betts, CF

Christian Vazquez, C

Allen Webster, SP

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan