MINNEAPOLIS — This is not working out, as the Red Sox‘ latest loss reminded us.

Rick Porcello had his second straight rough outing Wednesday. (Hannah Foslier/Getty Images)

Rick Porcello had his second straight rough outing Wednesday. (Hannah Foslier/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS — This is not working out, as the Red Sox‘ latest loss reminded us.

The pitcher, Rick Porcello, who the Red Sox designated their ace — judging by the $95 million committed over the next five seasons — allowed six runs over seven innings and now has an ERA of 5.37. In his last two starts, Porcello has given up 13 runs in 11 1/3 innings.

The three hitters (David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) the team invested in combined $52 million for this season finished off the Sox’ three-game series against the Twins with four hits (4-for-35, .115) and two RBI between them.

Most importantly for the Red Sox, the end result of the struggles was a three-game sweep at the hands of the Twins after Paul Molitor’s club’s 6-4 victory over the Sox Wednesday afternoon at Target Field.

The latest defeat pushed the Sox to five games under .500, entrenching their position in the basement of the American League East.

The three games also marked the first time the Twins have swept the Red Sox since completing the feat in June 13-15, 2006 at the old since demolished Metrodome.

The only thing keeping the Red Sox competitive in the series finale were a pair of two-run homers from Dustin Pedroia.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Pedroia. The second baseman finished the series with a team-high five hits after his two homers and now finds his batting average at .290. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– As has been a trend this season, the Red Sox allowed their opponent to score immediately after their own offensive flurry. This time it was the Twins putting up three runs against Porcello in the third inning, a half inning after Pedroia’s first homer. The hosts’ response came in the form of two walks and three singles, including a Torii Hunter cue shot down the first base line that plated a pair.

– Porcello allowed his 10th and 11th homers of the season. The first came on a first-pitch changeup to Aaron Hicks in the fourth inning, with the Twins adding another in the sixth thanks to Eddie Rosario. The sinkerballer has now allowed the fourth-most homers of any pitcher in the majors.

– Swihart made a legitimate bid at tying the game in the seventh inning, driving a Brian Duensing pitch to the wall in left field. But Rosario, the Twins’ defensively-challenged left fielder, reached up at the last minute to grab the frame’s final out before crashing into the wall.

– Ortiz’s struggles were punctuated in the eighth inning, grounding out to third base with runners on first and second and two outs. The DH wasn’t able to continue his dominance at Target Field, finishing off the series going 1-for-12 to lower his batting average to .216. His day Wednesday included three ground outs and a pop up to the catcher.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Xander Bogaerts continued to display his improvement when it comes to defense. This time the shortstop ranged into the hole between short and third base, gathered in a Joe Mauer, leaped in the air (Derek Jeter-style) and tossed to first to end the first inning.

– The two home runs marked the second time this season Pedroia has managed a multiple home run game. It was the sixth time in his career he has managed the feat.

– Blake Swihart threw out his fourth base-stealer in 19 attempts, nailing Eduardo Escobar in the sixth inning. Escobar, who already had one stolen base in the game, was ruled out after a replay. It was particularly important at the time considering Eddie Rosario launched the first pitch after the replay into the right field bleachers to build the Twins’ lead back up to two runs.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox, their status within the American League East and

Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox, their status within the American League East and how they can improve. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Last week, with the Red Sox seeming to heat up, Olney said that the team had a great opportunity to take advantage of a relatively weak AL East. Since then, the Sox offense has sputtered and the team has lost five of seven. However, Olney maintains that the Red Sox still have the best chance of any team in the division to turn things around.

“When you look at what they have as their list of potential solutions, it’s just a lot longer than, say, a team like Tampa Bay or the Yankees, where they’re pretty much stuck with the guys that they have, and it’s part of the reason why I think going forward [the Red Sox] have a chance to get better,” Olney said.

While the Red Sox have struggled this season, Olney said, “They have the most fixable problems and the most resources to fix them with,” as compared to other teams in the AL East.

One change Olney recommended is to move the lineup around based on day-to-day matchups rather than each player’s pedigree. The Sox, for example, moved the struggling David Ortiz down to fifth in the order for Tuesday and Wednesday’s games.

“That feels like the first step in what has to happen next in fixing the 2015 team, which is to get away from stature and past records and all that and just get back to picking the best lineup every day,” he said. “If you move Ortiz, who has the most stature on that team, you can probably do a lot of other things as you go.”

As for the pitching staff, Olney said that manager John Farrell may consider moving Joe Kelly to the bullpen if Kelly continues to underperform as a starter.

“At some point if they decide to put him out there I think he has a chance to be dynamic because of his stuff. If Joe’s in a position where he knows that once every two or three days he’s coming out of the bullpen for 18 to 20 pitches, he could be someone who could really light up a radar gun and change the options for John Farrell in the eighth or ninth inning,” Olney said.

Olney indicated he expects Red Sox manager Ben Cherington to make a move for a pitcher via trade, but only if it comes at the right price.

“The fact that the division is so mediocre and there doesn’t appear to be any team poised to run away buys Ben Cherington time to wait to see if anything materializes that’s actually a good deal. I do think at some point he’s going to strike and add a guy like a [Scott] Kazmir,” Olney said. “Maybe that right guy for the right price is Cole Hamels, maybe it’s Johnny Cueto, but he doesn’t have to jump because of what’s going on with the other teams.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On pitchers getting suspended for using a foreign substance on the baseball: “To me, they’re like the guys who get caught going 56 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone and they’re getting their license suspended. It’s ridiculous, because everybody in the game knows that this goes on.”

On Ortiz getting older and getting out of his prolonged slump: “He’s told me a number of times he’s got to focus on taking the ball to left-center, and once he can get that going, then that’s fine. … Once you start to get older, people don’t talk about you being in a slump, they just talk about you being old, and that’s right with David now. He’s at that point where the Red So have to ask that question seriously, especially when they do have other options on their roster if they’re looking to play more of a matchup thing.”

On the possibility that Alex Rodriguez could become the next Marlins manager: “The guy knows baseball, he’s actually really good with young players, he has a passion for the game, he’s never been someone who’s been afraid of working hard and he certainly would fit [Marlins owner] Jeffrey Loria‘s intention to make a splash with his managerial hiring. … For all of the other B.S. and the suspension and the lies that he’s had in the past, the guy loves the game and he actually has a lot of knowledge about the game.”

Blog Author: 
Josh Slavin

Yoenis Cespedes’ time with the Red Sox was brief, and he said he knows why.

Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes’ time with the Red Sox was brief, and he said he knows why. Cespedes, now with the Tigers after an offseason trade, said he clashed with Sox first base coach Arnie Beyeler, and that led to what the outfielder implies was a smear campaign against him.

“There were some rumors in Boston, things that were said about me that I said were not true, so I knew they were going to trade me,” Cespedes told USA Today’s Jorge L. Ortiz. “The first base coach treated me like I was a rookie when I got there, wanted me to do things a rookie would do, and I told him I wasn’t going to, so he started talking.”

Cespedes was acquired by the Sox from the A’s at last year’s trade deadline. Right away there was speculation that he would not last in Boston, as he is due to become a free agent after the 2015 season.

The 29-year-old also questioned the decision-making of the A’s, who saw a drop-off in production after moving the Cuban slugger in a deal for Jon Lester. Oakland, which was in first place in the AL West at the time of the trade, went 22-33 the rest of the season. This season the A’s have the league’s worst record (17-31).

“[Fellow Cuban Ariel Prieto] would tell me Oakland is a school where they develop the players, then they let them go,” Cespedes said Monday before the Tigers opened a three-game series in Oakland. “I was a little surprised to see some of the main figures leave.”

Reminded that the A’s have a reputation for trading up-and-coming players rather than paying them, Cespedes replied: “Then why operate? Don’t they want to win a championship?”

A’s manager Bob Melvin said he’s not interested in discussing his former player.

“I think we have to move on,” Melvin said. “He’s with a new team and we have a new complement of guys. . . . Baseball’s a transient business. Guys move around from time to time. He’s just one of the guys who was here and had an impact, and he’s no longer here.”

Cespedes, who is hitting .285/.318/.469 with five home runs, 24 RBIs and a league-high 16 doubles in 47 games, is the two-time defending All-Star Home Run Derby champion, and he said he plans to defend his title this summer.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar
Live Blog Red Sox vs. Twins, series finale
 

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Brock Holt has played six different positions in the field so far this season. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Brock Holt already has played six positions this season. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Versatility is becoming more and more important to a team’s success.

Of the 13 position players on the Red Sox‘ 25-man roster, six have played multiple positions this year, and over the course of their careers 10 have played more than one position.

This movement goes down to the Triple-A level as well. Of the 12 position players on the active Pawtucket roster, nine have played multiple positions this year, many three positions.

“The benefit is the more options the manager has. At the major league level with good players, the better chance the manager has to fill out a deep lineup 162 times a year,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. “If you have a bunch of guys on your roster that are more bound to one position or two, it just gets harder to get through the season and create deep lineups, good matchups, and then it’s also a huge advantage in terms of managing players’ health throughout the season.

“Brock Holt could play seven, eight places on the field theoretically. If there is a time when a player is dragging for whatever reason you can play Holt one day and still give yourself a chance to get good production and not get a drop-off. It might help the team, but also helps the player who gets the day off. There are all sorts of things for a potential benefit.”

The most notable versatile player in the organization is Holt, who has played six positions this year and last year played every position in the field besides catcher and pitcher.

There are others like Mookie Betts who was an infielder until early in the season last year when he was switched to center field, Xander Bogaerts, who added third base to his repertoire in 2013 and played both positions last year, and Hanley Ramirez, who is playing left field after spending his whole career on the left side of the infield.

“It’s huge,” Betts said of being able to play multiple positions. “You get to get in the lineup every day and, like I said, you create value for yourself and the team as well. That’s huge.”

“Being versatile gives you a better opportunity I think, especially to break in, especially if you’re blocked at a certain position,” PawSox first/third baseman and left fielder Travis Shaw said. “Being able to play two or three different spots, if someone goes down you have more of a chance to get called up.”

WHEN DOES IT START?

Generally, once players come to the organization they have at least some experience playing multiple positions — infielders other infield positions and outfielders other outfield positions. As an organization, the Red Sox try to keep the multiple positions going at first, but when a more drastic change is called for (i.e., switching from infield to outfield) that happens more in the upper levels of the minors.

“I don’t think there is any specific time,” Cherington said. “I think we’ve started to do it more probably in the minor leagues, but typically at the upper levels, Double-A, Triple-A. I think when a player first comes into the system, they are always usually going to play a couple positions, like an infielder at least as a shortstop we’re always going to expose to second, third — maybe one other spot early on. If they are an outfielder, a center fielder, they are probably going to see some time on the corners. That would probably happen from the beginning, but more aggressive movement generally doesn’t happen until the upper levels of the minors.”

The general rule is to expose players to as many possible positions while you can in the minors, as players are still developing and it’s about individual development, not necessarily team results. Once a player reaches the majors and experimenting starts, then actual meaningful games can be impacted.

Another asset is the coaches in the minors. Minor league coaches are paid to teach, and more often than not have more patience and the time to work with players on developing skills at new positions. At the major league level there just isn’t as much time due in part to travel issues, and coaches have other things to be concerned with sometimes.

“I think that’s why it’s perfect to do at the minor league level because you have people who are paid to teach and that is what they are doing,” Cherington said. “We’ve got good teachers in the minor leagues that have the time to spend with these guys. It might be early work one day at second and the next day in center field. We’ve got people who can do that and have the time to do it. That’s why it’s a good time to do it.

“Once you get to the big leagues, there’s more going on. You have to work harder to find time to get your work in. Travel is more difficult and all that stuff. It’s important to get that stuff started in the minor leagues.”

Betts made his transition from second base to center field first in Double-A, but also continued it once he moved up to Pawtucket. He gives all his coaches a lot of credit.

“They played a huge part,” he said. “They actually did a lot — I went out every day and worked on a lot of different things.

It requires more work on the players’ parts, but for the ones who are serious about making it to the next level, putting in the extra time is part of the job and part of what it takes.

“Obviously you’re going to put more of a priority on the one you’re not as comfortable at,” Shaw said. “For me, I am pretty comfortable at first base, so there has been a lot more work at third this year than I have done at first. It’s just trying to even that comfort level. That way you feel confident at both spots.”

WHAT MAKES A PLAYER VERSATILE?

Clearly, playing multiple positions isn’t for everyone. Some body types don’t allow for multiple positions, and some players don’t have the mentality to do it.

The word most used by players who are playing multiple positions is athletic.

“You have to be athletic and you have to be talented to do it,” said PawSox middle infielder Deven Marrero, who now is playing second base in addition to shortstop. “Not many people can play different positions and play them well. We pretty much have everyone in our lineup and play a different position every night and play it well. It’s very important.”

“It’s awesome because we have a lot of great athletes that can do a lot of stuff,” he added. “It’s important and it’s cool seeing all these guys go to different positions and do well and want to do well. We don’t have any guys that are mad they are playing different positions, they are excited because you know that is an opportunity for them to get to the show.”

Cherington knows versatility isn’t for everyone and is rather difficult. Generally the minors give evaluators and executives the chance to see how a player is doing and if it is something that can happen at the next level.

“They have to have the skills to move around the field, first of all. It’s easier said than done,” he said. “You can tell a guy to move to another spot — in order to be an asset in the big leagues you have to do that well, play multiple spots functionally well. That’s easier said than done, and if you’re not doing it in the minor leagues, if you’re not starting that process, I just think it can be hard for it to happen in the big leagues.

THE BROCK HOLT EXCEPTION

There are always exceptions to rules, and Holt is the exception to starting the versatility process in the minors. In the 2014 season the Red Sox had 14 hitters make trips to the disabled list at one point or another, and number of other players who had nagging injuries all season long and needed a day or two off.

This is where Holt came in.

“It was more of a necessity,” Holt said. “I started doing it last year and we just had guys go down with injuries, I was up here and I was swinging the bat pretty well so they just asked me if I would be open to taking some fly balls and moving around. I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ To have an opportunity to stay in the lineup as much as possible I was open to do it and it worked out.”

While ideally the Red Sox would have liked to have had Holt get some work in the minors — or even spring training — at other spots on the field besides the middle infield, he become one of those exceptions.

“The exception is Brock Holt,” Cherington said. “He moved around a little bit in the infield a little bit in the minor leagues, but as far as the outfield stuff, he never had done that ’til last year. He’s probably the exception to the rule. He’s just a baseball player, a good athlete — he was able to do it on the fly. I think most guys probably benefit from a little bit more practice.”

It’s paid off, as Holt committed an error last Thursday that ended an impressive display of defense. He had combined for 168 chances in 476 2/3 defensive innings at six positions (2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF) since his last error on Aug. 2, 2014.

WHAT IS THE MINDSET LIKE?

Being asked to play a new position may be taken as a negative by certain players, but these players in the Red Sox system who have been asked to do it have the attitude of taking it as a compliment, as the organization sees something positive in them.

“For me it was a positive. I felt like they wanted to keep me in the lineup so I took it as a positive,” Holt said. “You go out and try to do what I can. I saw it that the more positions I can play, the better chance I had to being on the field.”

“It’s a good thing, that’s for sure, because it makes you more useful to a big league club,” Marrero said. “You can play this position, that position, so down here they want to make you as versatile as possible as they can so if you do get a chance to go up there you’re ready to do all those different things and you can fill more spots rather than just fill one spot that you’re good at. Being versatile is a big deal and is very important, especially in this game now because there are so many versatile players in the big leagues that stay there for a long time just because they can play many positions very well.”

Having drastic changes in positions pay off in Betts and Holt not only is beneficial for the organization and its success, but also for the players who may follow. The coaches now have a better idea of the process, and the players see that it can work and it can ultimately be a huge break for a career.

“I think you look at Mookie and Brock to see how that has helped create an opportunity,” Cherington said. “I think you learn something from their reactions. You hope that the reaction is going to be, ‘OK, this gives me a better chance to create an opportunity in the big leagues, help the big league team win.’ You hope the reaction is a positive one. We’re trying to increase opportunity and help guys.”

Being versatile and playing multiple positions is a movement that is likely to be around for awhile, and the Red Sox and their players seem to be in sync about it.

“They don’t do it just to do it,” Marrero said. “They know what they are doing. They have been doing this a very long time. Whatever they say goes, and there is a good reason behind it. There is no bad reason behind it. There reason is to make that ball club up there the best as possible. If that is what it takes, that’s what it takes.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

MINNESOTA — The Red Sox continue to mix things up a bit.

Eduardo Rodriguez

Eduardo Rodriguez

MINNESOTA — The Red Sox continue to mix things up a bit.

Prior to his team’s series finale against the Twins Wednesday, John Farrell announced Eduardo Rodriguez would be getting the start against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas Thursday.

It will be the major league debut for Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Orioles at last season’s non-waiver trade deadline in exchange for Andrew Miller.

The righty has posted a 2.98 ERA in his eight starts with Triple-A Pawucket, striking out 44 and walking just seven. He is coming off a seven-inning outing Saturday in which the 22-year-old allowed two runs on nine hits, fanning six and not walking a batter.

Farrell noted that the Rodriguez start will allow for an extra day of rest for the rest of the Red Sox starts, while allowing for an opportunity get major league experience for the rookie.

According to Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart, who caught Rodriugez earlier this season in Pawtucket, the pitcher’s strength is his power and competitiveness.

“He’€™s not scared to go after guys,” Swihart noted. “He’€™s very confident out there on the mound and he goes out there with the confidence that he’€™s going to win the battle. To just have a guy who goes out there and competes like that is nice.

“He just went out there and was consistent every time. You know you’€™re going to get a good game out of him, even if he doesn’€™t have his best stuff that day. … When you make it look easy to throw 95 it’€™s pretty easy to go with that. It’€™s just sneaky. Everything is hard. Slider is hard. Changeup is hard. And everything moves so much it’€™s effective.”

– Rusney Castillo, who made two outstanding diving catches in the Red Sox’ 2-1 loss Tuesday night, is out of the lineup after aggravating a shoulder injury that plagued him during his time in Triple-A.

Farrell noted that it didn’t appear a trip to disabled list was going to be needed.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford