The player who is slated to earn $153 million, and is slated to make just more than $20 million annually through 2020, is starting the playoffs on the bench.

The player who is slated to earn $153 million, and is slated to make just more than $20 million annually through 2020, is starting the playoffs on the bench.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has benched Jacoby Ellsbury for his team’s wild-card, one-game playoff against the Astros Tuesday night.

New York will start Brett Gardner in center field in the place of Ellsbury, with the right-handed-hitting Chris Young manning left field against Houston ace Dallas Keuchel.

Ellsbury has been slumping badly in the second half of the season, totaling just a .601 OPS since July 8. He missed six weeks with a knee sprain. The left-hitting Gardner hasn’t been much better, totaling a .592 OPS since making the American League All-Star team.

Against Kuechel, who has shutout the Yankees over 16 innings in his previous two meetings with New York, Ellsbury is 2-for-7 with a walk while Gardner is 0-for-4.

Here are the lineups for both the Yankees and Astros:

Brett Gardner CF
Chris Young LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann C
Chase Headley 3B
Greg Bird 1B
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Didi Gregorius SS

Jose Altuve 2B
George Springer RF
Carlos Correa SS
Colby Rasmus LF
Evan Gattis DH
Carlos Gomez CF
Luis Valbuena 3B
Chris Carter 1B
Jason Castro C

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Hanley Ramirez is one of the great unknowns as we enter the offseason. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)The building blocks are clearly in place. Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts have the potential to be franchise players, and both only just turned 23.

The 2015 season didn’t go how Red Sox 2014 first-round pick Michael Kopech had hoped.

Michael Kopech

Michael Kopech

The 2015 season didn’t go how Red Sox 2014 first-round pick Michael Kopech had hoped.

The right-hander was suspended 50 games on July 16 for testing positive for Oxilofrine, a stimulant in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The 50 games didn’t allow him to pitch the rest of the season.

He denied knowingly taking the substance through a statement, saying he had never heard of Oxilofrine. The 19-year-old is now pitching in the Fall Instructional League where he hopes to “redeem” himself.

“What most players down here are doing is trying to work on their pitches and stuff, but I had 50 games to work on that already, so personally I am trying to redeem myself, I guess that is the best way to put it,” Kopech said.

In 16 games with Single-A Greenville before the suspension, Kopech was putting up solid numbers. In 65 innings he had a record of 4-5, but had a 2.63 ERA and struck out 70 batters.

During the suspension Kopech was at the team’s facility at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers and was able to work on a few things. He said he’s pitching better now than he was before the suspension, so in a way the suspension was a “blessing in disguise.”

“It was difficult because I was finally starting to do well and kind of get some smaller issues behind me that were making me pitch better,” he said. “Then the suspension came and kind of put a set back on it, but I got to come down to [Fort Myers] and work on everything that I needed to. I guess in a way it was a blessing in disguise because I think I am pitching better now than I was during the season.”

One of the things he was able to work on was a new off-speed pitch, which he worked on during simulated games with the other players who were down at the facility.

“I just worked on my off-speed stuff that I hadn’t been executing very well,” Kopech said. “I had a slider and a curveball and I kind of morphed the two so now I am throwing I guess you could call it a slurve. It’s a breaking ball, but it’s a lot better than either of the two I had before.”

Having the instructional league is very beneficial to Kopech because he’s getting the live game action that he missed because of the suspension and he’s able to make up the innings he lost.

“Most guys are coming out here and at the most they will do two innings. I am going to do four and five innings my next couple of outings,” he said. “I will throw about 15 innings before it’s all set and done down here, which would give me close to what my innings limit would be this year anyway. It’s really helpful.”

The instructional league runs through Oct. 13.

Contributor Erin Lashley contributed to this report from Fort Myers, Florida.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

With the Major League Baseball playoffs upon us, and the Red Sox not in the picture, it’s time to look at what former members of the Sox are still actually playing baseball (and what they did this season) …

Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees, starting center fielder): 111 games, .257 batting average, .663 OPS, seven home runs, 21 stolen bases.

Stephen Drew (Yankees, out with a concussion): 131 games, .201 batting average, .652 OPS, 17 home runs.

Andrew Miller (Yankees, closer): 36 saves in 38 opportunities, 100 strikeouts, 20 walks, 2.04 ERA

Jed Lowrie (Astros, starting third baseman): 69 games, .222 batting average, nine home runs, .712 OPS.

Mike Napoli (Rangers, first baseman/left fielder vs. lefties): 35 games (with Rangers), .295 batting average, .908 OPS, five home runs.

Adrian Beltre (Rangers, third baseman): 143 games, .287 batting average, .788 OPS, 18 home runs.

Jonny Gomes (Royals, backup outfielder): 12 games (with Royals), .167 batting average, .469 OPS, four RBIs.

Jonathan Herrera (Cubs, potential odd man out for wild card game): 73 games, .230 batting average, .576 OPS.

David Ross (Cubs, Jon Lester‘s personal catcher): 72 games, .176 batting average, .518 OPS, home run.

Anthony Rizzo (Cubs, starting first baseman): 160 games, .278 batting average, .899 OPS, 31 home runs.

Quintin Berry (Cubs, pinch-runner): 8 games, two stolen bases, one caught stealing.

Jon Lester (Cubs, No. 2 starter): 11-12, 205 innings, 3.34 ERA, 207 strikeouts, 47 walks.

Mark Melancon (Pirates, closer): 51 saves, 53 save opportunities, 2.23 ERA.

John Lackey (Cardinals, No. 1 starter): 13-10, 218 innings, 2.77 ERA, 175 strikeouts, 53 walks.

Brandon Moss (Cardinals, on playoff roster bubble): 51 games, .250 batting average, .753 OPS, four home runs.

Yoenis Cespedes (Mets, starting left fielder): 57 games (with Mets), .287 batting average, .942 OPS, 17 home runs.

Bartolo Colon (Mets, starter/reliever): 14-13, 194 2/3 innings, 4.16 ERA, 136 strikeouts, 26 walks.

Adrian Gonzalez (Dodgers, first baseman): 156 games, .275 batting average, .830 OPS, 28 home runs.

Carl Crawford (Dodgers, in outfield rotation): 69 games, .265 batting average, .707 OPS, four home runs, 10 stolen bases.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

With the regular season wrapped up, here is the schedule for the Major League Baseball playoffs:

Tuesday, Astros at Yankees, 8 p.m., ESPN
Wednesday, Cubs at Pirates, 8 p.m., TBS

Game 1: Thursday, Oct. 8 (FOX, FS1 OR MLBN)
– Rangers at Blue Jays, TBD
– Wild Card winner at Royals, TBD

Game 2: Friday, Oct. 9 (FOX, FS1 OR MLBN)
– Rangers at Blue Jays, TBD
– Wild Card at Royals, TBD

Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 11 (FOX, FS1 OR MLBN)
– Blue Jays at Rangers, TBD
– Royals at Wild Card, TBD

Game 4: Monday, Oct. 12 (FOX, FS1 OR MLBN)
– Rangers at Blue Jays, TBD (if necessary)
– Wild Card at Royals, TBD (if necessary)

Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 14 (FOX, FS1, MLBN)
– Rangers at Blue Jays, TBD (if necessary)
– Wild Card at Royals, TBD (if necessary)

Game 1: Friday, Oct. 9 (TBS)
– Mets at Dodgers, TBD
– Wild Card at Cardinals TBD

Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 10 (TBS)
– Mets at Dodgers, TBD
– Wild Card at Cardinals, TBD

Game 3: Monday, Oct. 12 (TBS)
– Dodgers at Mets, TBD
– Cardinals at Wild Card, TBD

Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 13 (TBS)
– Dodgers at Mets, TBD (if necessary)
– Cardinals at Wild Card, TBD (if necessary)

Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 15
– Mets at Dodgers, TBD (if necessary)
– Wild Card at Cardinals, TBD (if necessary)

Blog Author: 

Don Orsillo said goodbye to Fenway last week, and goodbye to NESN on Sunday.</p>
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A few days ago, Dave Dombrowski told Ian Browne of that it was the Red Sox‘€™ hope that Hanley Ramirez came into spring training with a different body type than the gigantic physique he presented this time around.

Sunday, Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo elaborated on the organization’€™s expectations.

“It has been discussed. It was outlined in his exit physical that he comes in at a certain weight,” Lovullo told reporters prior to the Red Sox’€™ final game of the season. “That’€™s our expectation. I dont have the paperwork in front of me but I think it was 15 or 20 pounds lighter, that’€™s what was asked of him.”

Ramirez clearly was focusing in on becoming a power-hitting outfielder when bulking up heading into 2015.

This is what he told’€™s John Tomase in spring training regarding his added 20-or-so pounds (click here for the column):

“I’m not a shortstop anymore,” Ramirez said. “I knew I could get stronger in the outfield, so I tried to get a little bit bigger. My shoulders, my back, my legs, I feel stronger all over. I can maintain my body more and stay healthy. I can’t wait to see how it goes.”

It didn’€™t go well.

Ramirez not only couldn’€™t stay healthy, but he couldn’€™t move the way so many had counted on when envisioning a transition to the outfield. The end result: 105 games, a .717 OPS and not a single game played in September.

That’€™s why the mandate has changed, particularly now he has to play a new position at first base.

“Stay healthy. Less stress on the body. All from a health standpoint,” Lovullo said in regards to the impetus for asking Ramirez to get smaller. “All for getting through a season and not having those aches and pains that a big body has. We all know when you carry extra weight it puts more stress on your joints. I think that’€™s the main reason why. ‘€¦ I think to be an infielder you have to be a little more agile.”

Lovullo added Ramirez wasn’€™t the only one who was asked to alter some things heading into 2016.

“I want to make sure that we’€™re not picking on Hanley as an organization,” he noted. “These are all very common conversations we have with guys. We set up goals for what you need to look like when you come to spring training. So, if you can, please don’€™t make it sound like we’€™re picking on him. I know sometimes he sounds like an easy target but that’€™s not the case. We’€™re trying to do the best thing for Hanley and this is what we outlined.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Dave O’Brien offered a farewell from the Red Sox radio broadcast after serving as Joe Castiglione’s partner for the last nine seasons …