Jackie Bradley Jr. isn't crediting his recent move in the batting order to turning things around. (Winslow Townsend/USA Today Sports)

Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t crediting his recent move in the batting order to turning things around. (Winslow Townsend/USA Today Sports)

Jackie Bradley’s take on the matter wasn’t hard to decipher.

Would you say you don’t care where you hit in the lineup?

“Somewhat.”

Do you care?

“I don’t make the lineup. I just play. You obviously get more opportunities in the top and middle of the lineup.”

Does hitting ninth matter?

“I’ve never heard of a spot in the order that swings the bat. I’ve never heard a pitcher talk about certain sequences with a number in the order. They pitch to hitters no matter where they are in the order. For example, I had a 3-2 splitter in the game yesterday. If I’m the No. 9 guy why don’t you throw me a fastball? You don’t pitch to a number in the batting order. You pitch to tendencies. You pitch to each batter individually. If you hit David in the No. 9 spot he’s going to hit one [home run]?”

Judging by his comments before Monday night’s game, it’s pretty clear that Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t running into John Farrell’s asking to be kept in the lineup’s No. 9 spot. But, for the time being, that’s where the center fielder finds himself. Why? Because one he went back to the bottom of the order, Bradley Jr. started getting on base again.

“Seems to be,” said Farrell when asked if there was a correlation to Bradley Jr.’s recent comfort at the plate and the shift in the order. “His at-bats have been better. He walked a couple of times last night. It’s a really interesting conversation to see or suggest there’s a different mindset based on the number in the lineup in which you’re hitting at. But I think there’s something real to that for certain individual. But Jackie’s had good production in a lot of different places in the lineup this year. He’s going through a little bit of a spell where maybe he’s getting a little bit too pull oriented. I know the work continues to be concentrated to stay inside the ball, use the whole field. That’s there in BP. Does it allow him to see the ball deeper, track the ball better? That might be evident in the walks last night. All in all, multiple times on base the last couple of nights, and certainly that’s a positive.”

After going through 2-for-25 with 13 strikeouts, Bradley Jr. was moved to the No. 9 spot. Since the switch he has reached base five times in eight plate appearances.

For the season, Bradley Jr. came into Monday night hitting .371 with a 1.044 OPS in his 108 plate appearances hitting ninth this season. The production has helped the Red Sox carry far and away the best OPS of any team in the No. 9 slot (.793), 82 points higher than the second-best club, Kansas City. (They are vying to become just the seventh team in Major League Baseball history to have the ninth spot in its order to carry an OPS of .800 or better.)

But Bradley Jr. isn’t buying there is a tangible difference when it comes to either the pitchers’ approach, or how hitters have to look at things.

“Obviously they know certain times when you’re scuffling a little bit. They want to attack you more. But they’re still not wanting to miss their spots,” he said They’re not going to be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to throw this pitch down the middle.’ They’re still going to pitch to their scouting report. I’m just trying to hit, no matter where it is. Everybody tries to stereotype a certain number in the order. I think the main goal is to hit, produce. If you’re producing, it don’t matter.

“There was criticism of Bogey [Xander Bogaerts] hitting third because he didn’t hit with a lot of power. But Bogey could always hit for power, but he doesn’t want to. He wants to hit for average. I don’t think it really matters where because after you go around the first time in the order the number is irrelevant.”

So, if it’s not the spot in the batting order, what has been the difference for the outfielder?

“I touched the baseball,” Bradley Jr. matter-of-factly explained. “Good things happen when you touch the baseball. It’s that plain and simple. I was missing pitches down the middle.”

So, why was he all of a sudden touching the baseball?

“I wish I had that answer, but I’m glad I’m making contact now,” Bradley Jr. said. “Touch the baseball and there is a probability good things can happen.

My timing wasn’t off. I was on the pitches. The thing about it with me is I get frustrated at strikeouts where I shouldn’t be in that kind of at-bat in the first place. I either extend the at-bat by missing pitches I normally hit, or fouling off too many pitches. I’m getting the pitches that I want, I’m just not making the contact that I want.

“I don’t have to worry about my numbers. I just don’t like striking out. The probability is better that you’re getting a hit when you touch it than when you don’t touch it.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Reinforcements could be arriving for the beleaguered Red Sox bullpen.

Veteran Koji Uehara, whose season appeared in doubt following a pectoral injury on July 19, threw a 25-pitch bullpen on Monday and could activated as soon as the weekend, according to manager John Farrell.

Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

Reinforcements could be arriving for the beleaguered Red Sox bullpen.

Veteran Koji Uehara, whose season appeared in doubt following a pectoral injury on July 19, threw a 25-pitch bullpen on Monday and could activated as soon as the weekend, according to manager John Farrell.

“He came out of today’s work session in good fashion,” Farrell said. “It was 25 pitches to hitters with good intensity, both his fastball and his split. He may have mixed in an occasional cutter, but 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 the BP.”

The next step for Uehara is another bullpen on Wednesday, followed by one on Saturday in Oakland before the Red Sox face the A’s. He could be activated shortly thereafter, if all goes according to plan, particularly since the minor league seasons end next Monday, depriving him the opportunity for a rehab assignment.

“I don’t know that we would send him to a playoff team in Salem to get any additional work,” Farrell said. “We’ll re-assess where he is after Sunday. I wouldn’t rule out activation after the BP. Again, I think in fairness to Koji, what we’ve done is just review how he feels after each work session and we’ll take it from there.”

Uehara, 41, is 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA. He’s in the midst of a his worst season as a big leaguer, but if healthy, he’d still represent a considerable upgrade for the Red Sox, who have struggled in relief all season, with Sunday’s 10-4 loss to the Royals the latest example.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Listening to Dave Dombrowski Monday morning, it sure sounds like Yoan Moncada might not be spending his September in the majors. Christian Vazquez? That’s another story.

Dave Dombrowski

Dave Dombrowski

Listening to Dave Dombrowski Monday morning, it sure sounds like Yoan Moncada might not be spending his September in the majors. Christian Vazquez? That’s another story.

Speaking with the Ordway, Merloni and Fauria Show during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, Dombrowski explained that part of the decision regarding whether or not to promote Moncada when rosters expand on Sept. 1 will have to do the opportunity for playing time. And right now, that would seem to be hard to come by for the infielder.

“First of all, if you’re going to bring a guy like that up, you want to make sure he has a chance to play some,” said Dombrowski of Moncada, who has been primarily working out at third base, of late. “It doesn’t do you much good if you’re going to bring him up and he just sits and doesn’t play. That doesn’t do you much good. For example, when [Andrew] Benintendi came up he played. We put him right out there in left field. That’s one thing with Moncada. The second thing is that you do have some roster situations, how you work with that with the 40-man roster (which currently has 39 players on it). I wouldn’t let that stop him from being brought up if he was going to play. But those are the conversations that we still need to have over the next day. We’ve talked a lot of generalities.”

The one opening Moncada might fit on the big league roster would be as a pinch-runner. But Dombrowski warned of jumping to the conclusion that just because of the infielder’s minor-league success stealing bases (44-for-56 this season, but just 8-for-12 with Double-A Portland), that doesn’t mean he will become a viable base-stealing threat in the majors during the Red Sox’ pennant race.

And while Dombrowski is on the lookout for potential base-stealing options to add to the big league club, finding the right player, he explained, might not be an option.

“The unfortunate part is that clubs have gotten pretty smart on that so there’s not a lot of those guys available like they used to be at the end,” he said. “It’s a situation where it’s difficult to find those speed guys. For us, a lot of times too you want to get guy who can steal a base. If you can’t find that you want to have a guy who can score from first on a double. We have a lot of those type of guys, so we’re in pretty good shape in that regard.

“Even if you look at Moncada, who, in my estimation, is going to be a great player. He’s going to be an exciting player. He’s going to steal a lot of bases at the big league level. But he’s learning that art at the upper-levels. He hasn’t stole as many bases at Double-A as he did in A-ball. In A-ball his speed just took over. You’re working with him, but he hasn’t stolen quite as many bases yet at the Double-A level. And I do think he will do that at the big league level, eventually.”

Dombrowski did sound more optimistic about recalling Christian Vazquez in September, although it could most likely give the Red Sox four catchers. The backstop is hitting .276 with a .714 OPS in 38 games with Triple-A Pawtucket.

“Christian Vazquez is an important part for us,” Dombrowski said. “I think what we have done with Christian this year is it has been more important for him to play every day and get that rust out from not playing. He has played well for us in Triple-A, continues to improve from a defensive perspective, which he’s very good at. He’s throwing better. His hitting is coming along. I wouldn’t be surprised if he see him in September. It’s also a two-fold thing. You can bring some guys up, for us, the second, because we don’t play on the first. Then we have another few guys who can come up Sept. 6, after the Triple-A system. … But Christian Vazuqez is important for us.”

Dombrowski also insinuated that relievers Joe Kelly and Heath Hembree were locks to be promoted, mentioning hte pair when stating, “I think we have some reinforcements that are probably better than some other organizations.”

But the Red Sox’ president also clarified why all decisions involving call-ups might not take place until the last possible minute.

“My tradition with call-ups is that you wait to the very last moment and there are a couple of reasons behind it,” Dombrowski said. “One, you see how your club shapes up as close to the deadline as you possibly can. The second thing is that as soon as you start announcing some guys are coming up, other guys in Triple-A are disgruntled for those next few days. So if you can put those off as far as you can I think you’re much better off from an organizational perspective. … If it’s not them that particular time, you create a little more problem for your manager than you need to.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The Jonathan Papelbon Watch has lingered for most of August, and figures to continue to do so until the end of the month.

Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon

The Jonathan Papelbon Watch has lingered for most of August, and figures to continue to do so until the end of the month.

But with Papelbon still not choosing to sign with a team since his release from the Nationals Aug. 13, time is becoming a major factor when it comes to the idea of the reliever joining the Red Sox. It’s a point Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski reiterated when appearing with the Ordway, Merloni and Fauria Show during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon. (To donate, click here.)

“We had interest in him, and we expressed that to him,” Dombrowski said Monday morning. “John Farrell spoke with Jonathan Papelbon, and I think a couple of our players spoke to him, too. For his own personal reasons, he’s just decided so far not to sign. I’m not sure if he’s going to sign or not. I know he has a lot of strong feelings about Boston if he decides to sign. It’s just more of a situation where his agent says he’s not ready to make a decision.

“And now it becomes complicated because he hasn’t thrown in a game since Aug. 6. So you’re in a position where you just can’t thrust him out there. I don’t know what he’s been doing as far as throwing is concerned. I would doubt that he’s been throwing a lot. So you would have to go back out there and build up his arm strength and be in a position to face some hitters. It’s not just inserting him like it would be if you signed him right off the bat.”

Another fly in the ointment is the deadline for Papelbon to be added to an organization in time for postseason eligibility. The pitcher would have to be signed by the Red Sox before Sept. 1 for such a qualification.

“I’m sure he and his representatives know that. But I think it’s more of his own personal situation that he’s decided,” Dombrowski said. “It has nothing to do with a club interest. It’s just more, for whatever reason, his own decisions are like that.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Clay Buchholz has emerged as one of the Red Sox' most important pitchers. (Bob DiChiara/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz has emerged as one of the Red Sox’ most important pitchers. (Bob DiChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox-centric social media world predictably started raising it’s collective heart rate as soon as the sixth inning started unraveling Sunday night.

Clay Buchholz HAD to go back to the starting rotation. This outing by Eduardo Rodriguez simply wasn’t going to do.

But what the loss to the Royals actually should have reminded was how important Buchholz has become as the next eighth inning option. Remember when Matt Barnes was considered that guy? Well, after giving up three runs on five hits without recording an out, he has now allowed 12 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his last eight outings.

As mediocre an outing as Rodriguez turned out in his return from a hamstring injury, he — and all of the starting rotation — remains less of a concern than the bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel.

That’s where Buchholz comes in.

“The fact that he’s on the mound in the eighth inning, he’s lived it with all of us what that eighth inning has been of late,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell regarding Buchholz. “I’m sure he looked upon that as, hey, this is an opportunity to fill that role.”

The previous two nights were the warm-ups. Buchholz didn’t even get in the game on Friday, simply getting ready just in case. And pitched a semi-meaningless eighth Saturday night. But both began to set the stage for commitment the Red Sox are about to extend.

“[Friday night] if tied the game I was going in, so that was a different role. Before if we tied a game late in the game it was going to be Barnes, Craig or Ziegler. The opposite of going in,” Buchholz said. Talking to John, this is going to a little bit more of a defined type of role.”

The Red Sox’ pitchers OPS-against in the eighth is the highest of any inning other than the first. Brad Ziegler is best when he can be matched up against righties, with left-handed hitters batting just about 50 points higher against the side-winder since he joined the Red Sox. And while Koji Uehara’s progress toward returning has been encouraging, there can’t be any assumptions regarding his effectiveness.

That leaves the Red Sox with Buchholz.

“It’s still the eighth inning. There’s one guy behind you. We haven’t pitched all that well out there,” said Red Sox bullpen coach Dana LeVangie. “They all want to protect each other. There’s responsibility out there, we just have figure it out and put everything in line. It got a little bit loose when Koji left and we had some moving parts.

“Those guys dictate when they pitch out there. When they pitch well with consistency, they get moved back to later innings. We’re going to get it. It’s just putting everybody in comfortable spots to pitch in. And when we get everything back everybody will exhale and say, ‘We’ve got what we want'”

But there is no time left for dancing around the need for the righty to fill this role, a notion Farrell cemented when talking with Buchholz prior to his return to the bullpen. And the manager’s actions in how he called down for Buchholz over the weekend only reinforced the mindset.

“Having a role, it’s a little bit easier to prepare for that rather than going out there and sitting for the first three innings and maybe one of our starters getting hit around a little bit and having to go in and mop up,” Buchholz said. “When the game is on the line you tend to think about what you’re doing. It allows you to prepare.

“I’m not anybody who is going to run around and stretch out. Phone rings, they call my name, I’ll get ready.”

It has taken a month or so, but Buchholz has figured out how to live the relieving life. LeVangie points out that the pitcher only needs about 15 tosses to get ready, and has shown the ability to figure out how to get ready for some of the games’ most important moments.

“He studies beforehand. He knows what he wants to do,” LeVangie said. “He asks questions. It’s more about the mental preparation than anything else.”

Now there’s no turning back. Unless an injury occurs to one of the starting pitchers, or one of them suffers a complete collapse, Buchholz has found his stretch-drive role. And it promises to be one of the most important roles in the season’s final 32 games.

“That feels better going into a game knowing I can watch the game unfold and I can sort of understand when I’m going to pitch rather than just flipping a coin,” he said. “In games that mean something, it feels better knowing that.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (70-64): W, 6-0, at Syracuse (Nationals)

Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (70-64): W, 6-0, at Syracuse (Nationals)

— Roenis Elias helped the PawSox record their 16th shutout of the season, a new team record. The southpaw tossed six scoreless innings for his team-leading 10th victory. He let up just three hits and struck out six while walking three. Elias, 28, has won three of his last four starts, and now is 10-5 with a 3.78 ERA in 20 appearances with Pawtucket.

— Rusney Castillo led the way at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a triple, a double, an RBI and two runs. He now has three multi-hit performances in his last four games. The 29-year-old outfielder is having a great August, batting .365 with five triples in 22 games this month.

— William Cuevas came in to pitch two scoreless innings after Elias left, letting up no hits and striking out one. It was the first scoreless outing for Cuevas since May 7. He is 6-7 with a 4.27 ERA in 24 appearances.

— Chris Marrero went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. He now has back-to-back multi-hit games, but he has not homered since Aug. 15. He is slashing .285/.344/.501 with 23 home runs in 123 games.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS (53-78): L, 4-3 in 11 innings, vs. Trenton (Yankees)

— In the team’s final home game of the season, the Sea Dogs were unable to come away with the extra-inning win for the second straight game. Reliever Austin Maddox gave up two runs in the top of the 11th inning, picking up the loss in the process. Maddox, 25, saw his streak of three consecutive scoreless outings come to an end. He now is 5-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 37 total outings with Pawtucket, Portland and Salem.

— Top prospect Yoan Moncada drilled his 11th home run of the season on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning Portland at-bat. His shot put the Sea Dogs on the board first. Boston’ No. 1 prospect at MLB.com, the 21-year-old infielder has recorded a hit in six consecutive games. He is batting .298/.411/.520 in 104 minor league games.

— Jalen Beeks got the start for the Sea Dogs, letting up two runs on four hits in six innings. The lefty fanned five and walked two. Beeks, 23, now has pitched at least five innings in his last nine starts. Boston’s No. 29 prospect at MLB.com now is 9-7 with a 3.68 ERA in 25 starts.

Jordan Procyshen

Jordan Procyshen

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX (83-49): W, 1-0, vs. Frederick (Orioles)

— It was a thrilling ending for Salem, as Jordan Procyshen hit a two-out double off the right-field wall in the ninth inning to score Bryan Hudson and give the Red Sox the walk-off win. It was Salem’s ninth walk-off victory of the season. Procyshen, 23, is batting .342 in his last 10 games. He is hitting .262/.318/.386 in 202 at-bats.

— Daniel McGrath pitched six scoreless innings in his start, allowing just four hits and striking out four. Coming off an outing in which he surrendered six runs in three innings, the Australian southpaw bounced back to pitch his ninth quality start of the season. The 22-year-old is 7-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 18 starts.

— Jose Sermo went 2-for-4 with a double to push his hitting streak to eight games. He has crossed home plate eight times in that span. He now is batting .345 with 18 runs in 23 games in August.

— Jake Cosart, called up to Salem on Aug. 4, let up one run in two innings in a relief appearance. He struck out two and walked one, and now has pitched seven straight scoreless outings. The 22-year-old right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.64 ERA in 35 appearances. He is Boston’s No. 19 prospect at MLB.com.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE (68-64): L, 5-1, vs. Asheville (Rockies)

— Roniel Raudes pitched three scoreless innings in his start, letting up only one hit. The 18-year-old right-hander now has back-to-back scoreless outings. Boston’s No. 13 prospect at MLB.com is 11-5 with a 3.63 ERA in 23 starts, and opponents are batting .256 against him.

— J.T. Watkins recorded the only Greenville hit with an RBI single in the fifth inning. It was his first RBI since Aug. 14. Watkins, 26, has seven RBIs and six runs in 27 games with the Drive.

— Austin Glorius picked up the loss in relief, letting up three runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings. He fanned a season-high five and walked four in the shaky outing. The 23-year-old right-hander now is 2-2 with a 3.39 ERA in 30 minor league outings.

Jerry Downs

Jerry Downs

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS (42-26): W, 9-6, at Tri-city (Astros)

— Jerry Downs went 2-for-4 with a home run and a season-high four RBIs. His three-run blast in the third inning was his third home run of the season. Downs, 22, has three multi-hit performances in his last five games. He is averaging .231/.336/.354 in 38 games with the Spinners.

— Kevin Steen got the win after letting up four runs on seven hits through five innings. He fanned three and walked three in his third win of the season. The 20-year-old right-hander has given up 12 runs in his last three starts. He is 3-4 with a 5.58 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 13 starts.

— Tyler Hill went 1-for-3 with three runs to push his hitting streak to seven games. Hill, 20, crossed home plate three times for the second time in that span. His .346 batting average continues to lead the New York-Penn League.

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier