ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Much of the talk in and around the Red Sox clubhouse Monday night and Tuesday involved the great catch made by Andrew Benintendi. In case you aren’t familiar, take a look …

But, as Benintendi explained after the Red Sox win, the only reason he was able to brace himself and bounce back onto the playing surface was due to a well-placed table.

Here is that table:

For what it’s worth, in the table wasn’t there and Benintendi fell over the five-foot wall, the play would have still been ruled an out as long as he held onto the ball. The only benefit the Rays would have managed is Tim Beckham being handed second base with the ball having gone out of play.

Here is another look at the wall Benintendi scaled:

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The last we saw Steven Wright on the mound (and not the basepaths), he was pitching a complete game shutout, Aug. 5 against the Dodgers.

The bad news for the knuckleballer is that he isn’t expecting the feel of that outing at Dodger Stadium to carry over to his start Friday night at Fenway Park against the Royals.

Steven Wright

Steven Wright

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The last we saw Steven Wright on the mound (and not the basepaths), he was pitching a complete game shutout, Aug. 5 against the Dodgers.

The bad news for the knuckleballer is that he isn’t expecting the feel of that outing at Dodger Stadium to carry over to his start Friday night at Fenway Park against the Royals.

“It was so long ago there really is no momentum,” Wright said. “Usually you try and use that momentum for your next start, five starts later. But that momentum has kind of come and gone. So for me it’s just going out there and not thinking about that last outing because it’s one of those things where it’s not affecting me good or bad. I just have to concentrate on throwing strike one and taking it pitch by pitch.”

The good news for Wright is that he will be pitching again, with the pain in his right shoulder having diminished.

The righty’s latest, and most important, test prior to hitting the mound again came Tuesday afternoon at Tropicana Field, when he threw a 60-pitch bullpen session that included getting up and down once. It went well enough that Wright was deemed ready to go in the Sox’ series opener vs. Kansas City.

“Obviously see how [Wednesday] goes, but today, to get through that, it’s big,” he said. “It’s still a little achy, but when I get out on the mound it doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s just something from not throwing consistently like I have been. It’s one of those things you have to get through. Kind of like it is at the beginning of spring training. But I don’t think it will take me as long, just because I’ve been throwing.”

With Wright moving back into the starting rotation, the assumption is that Clay Buchholz will slide back to the bullpen. Prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Rays, which Buchholz started, Red Sox manager John Farrell was non-committal regarding the pitcher’s specific role as a reliever.

“When his role ultimately changes, to be determined yet, but he has increased his responsibility and confidence in himself has certainly increased since he’s gone to the bullpen and now with his third start here [Tuesday],” Farrell said.

– Eduardo Rodriguez also experienced a successful day in his return from injury. The lefty, who is coming back from a hamstring ailment, threw three innings of a simulated game, with catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holloday getting at-bats.

Rodriguez said Monday his biggest hurdle would not worrying about the injury when on the mound, and it appears as though Tuesday’s 59-pitch exercise offered a break-through in that regard.

“In the first inning I was throwing the ball and thinking about it a little bit, but I didn’t feel anything, so then the next two innings I threw normally,” Rodriguez said. “I was a little careful with it in the first inning, but after that, it was normal, I was able to throw the next two innings normally.”

It still has yet to be determined when Rodriguez might rejoin the starting rotation, with the southpaw still having to pass another bullpen test, which is scheduled for Thursday.

– The other pitcher to make strides while working out in the Tropicana Field bullpne was Koji Uehara, who hadn’t pitched off a mound since experiencing his pectoral injury July 19.

“I don’t want to say game-like intensity, but it was much more than anticipated,” Farrell said of the 32-pitch session. “That followed 200 feet of long-toss as he’s been doing. It was a very good workday in all three cases.”

Uehara will throw another bullpen session at Fenway Park Friday, before repeating the process three days later. After that the Red Sox will plan on reassessing the reliever’s progress.

– While Yoan Moncada’s presence in the majors with the September call-ups remains in doubt, it does appear fairly certain he will be joining fellow top prospect Michael Kopech in the Arizona Fall League this offseason.

It is not expected that Kopech, who has struck out 11 batters in back-to-back outings, will be promoted from Single-A Salem before the end of the minor-league season with his team on target to make the playoffs.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The Red Sox look to stay hot vs. the Rays on Tuesday night, with Clay Buchholz on the mound.

The Red Sox look to stay hot vs. the Rays on Tuesday night, with Clay Buchholz on the mound.

The Sox have won six of eight on this potentially season-defining road trip. Monday’s victory over the Rays was made possible in large part by rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who robbed Steven Souza of a two-run homer in the eighth with a tremendous leaping catch, chronicled by Rob Bradford.

Benintendi is once again in the starting lineup, this time in left, batting ninth, against Rays starter Chris Archer, who is attempting to avoid his 17th loss of the season.

Here’s the lineup.

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Travis Shaw 3B
Andrew Benintendi LF

Blog Author: 
John Tomase
Josh Ockimey

Josh Ockimey

By the time the first half of the season came to a close, Single-A Greenville first baseman Josh Ockimey was putting up some of the best numbers in the South Atlantic League.

Through 61 games, the 20-year-old was batting .297, with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs to boot. He had an impressive .435 on-base percentage and was named a league All-Star. He managed to become the 10th-ranked Red Sox prospect at MLB.com after being ranked 16th at the start of the season.

Selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2014 draft out of Neumann-Goretti High School in Philadelphia, Ockimey began to demand attention thanks to his power at the plate. His 16 home runs are fifth most in the league, and MLB.com says that the left-handed batter has “some of the best raw power among Red Sox farmhands.”

Ockimey, who blasted a 420-foot home run at Fenway Park during a pre-draft workout two years ago, said he’s never really had difficulty showcasing his strength on the offensive end.

“I’ve always been naturally able to generate power,” Ockimey said. “I just try to square the ball up, and if you get that done, it’s part of it.”

The success at the plate came to a screeching halt, however, once opposing teams started to use a shift on the pull-happy Ockimey. He’s averaging a measly .149 in the second half, including .151 in July. It didn’t help that he had more strikeouts in July than any other month.

“He really used the left side of the field well early on, middle of the field well early on,” Greenville manager Darren Fenster said. “Then all of a sudden, teams started pounding him in and he got beat in a little bit, so he started looking in. It’s just been a back-and-forth of him kind of just getting back to the middle of the field.”

With the season winding down, and the book already out on Ockimey, it’s crucial for him to get back on track and finish strong if he wants to stand out in a organization jam-packed with promising prospects. Can he get back to his first-half self and cap off a breakout year, or will his struggles continue, suggesting his first-half performance was a fluke?

This isn’t the first time Ockimey has gone through a rough stretch. He hit only .188 in 36 games in the Gulf Coast League in 2014, describing that first year as a learning experience.

When Ockimey does go cold at the plate, however, Fenster has been impressed with the slugger’s work ethic and attitude.

“The way that he’s handled both his times where he’s been going well and when he’s been struggling here a little bit in the second half has been really, really impressive,” Fenster said. “He has not let good or bad affect the way that he goes about his business, he’s a very professional worker in every sense.”

Ockimey has spent extensive time before games working with Greenville hitting coach Lee May Jr., who was a first-round draft pick of the Mets in 1986. May echoed Fenster’s comments on the prospect’s professionalism.

“He’s grown a lot,” May said. “He’s learned a lot this year going through a full season and kind of getting a run around the track and getting a feel for what it’s about to be a professional hitter and athlete. He’s done a phenomenal job working on both sides of his game, as far as defense and the offensive side.”

One of the reasons Ockimey thrived offensively earlier this year is his improved judgment on pitches. After totaling a 34.1 percent strikeout rate with the Short-Season Single-A Lowell Spinners in 2015, Ockimey has dropped that rate to 25.7 percent during his time with the Drive.

Part of the reason is he’s now wearing contacts that improve his vision to 20/15. Ockimey also has increased his walk rate from 10.9 percent last season to 17.5 with Greenville.

“Just recognizing the pitches,” Ockimey said when asked how he’s able to draw walks at such a high rate. “Say if it’s a 2-0 count and the pitcher paints a fastball low and away, like somewhere right on the plate, you don’t necessarily have to swing at it. Just looking for the pitches that you want.”

Fenster points out that although Ockimey has had a hard time getting hits, he still is managing to get on base and be productive. His on-base percentage for the month of July was .291, thanks in large part to a 15.5 walk rate.

The on-base percentage always will be there, but Ockimey will have to beat the infield shift in order to return to his first-half self. Ockimey has the tendency to pull hits between second and first base; almost all of his ground outs have been fielded on the right side of the diamond.

According to May, all Ockimey can do is focus on making good contact, and the rest will take care of itself. He said playing a full season for the first time also has affected Ockimey, who played only 56 games with the Spinners last year.

“You don’t worry about where they’re playing on defense,” May said. “You just try to square the ball up and hit the ball hard. I don’t think the defense has played any part of his average, I just think it’s a young kid going through his first season. … It’s a lot to ask for a guy to come in and hold and do what he did from the beginning of the season all the way to the end. This is just kind of where he has to be digging and finishing up the season and trying to learn from it, learning how to play when you’re a little tired and your legs are a little heavy.”

Ockimey agreed with his hitting coach that he needs to get back to hitting the ball cleanly, and the results will follow.

“If you stay in the middle of the field, square the ball up, that’s all you can do,” Ockimey said. “Wherever it goes, it goes. If it goes for a hit, and you squared up, it’s a good thing. If you squared up and somebody catches it, it’s still a good thing. There’s nothing you can do about it, you did your job. It’s one against nine.”

It seems the pressure sits on Ockimey’s shoulders as he works to push his second-half batting average closer to the Mendoza line. The Red Sox have one of the deeper farm systems in baseball, with four prospects ranked in the top 40 overall at MLB.com and plenty of other promising athletes in the organization. Red Sox personnel surely will be looking closely at Ockimey’s numbers in the upcoming weeks to determine which player he is more like, the Ockimey from the first half of the year or the second.

Fenster said it’s not about productivity for Ockimey; rather, it’s about maintaining the same approach on the field and doing your best to finish on a high note.

“We place such an emphasis on finishing the race and trying to finish strong,” Fenster said. “That means controlling the things that we can control and being consistent in our approach every day. When we do that, all those numbers that everybody sees on the back of a guy’s baseball card at the end of the year, they tend to take care of themselves.”

This final stretch of games may be Ockimey’s most important stretch of baseball in a long time. Credit to him, he clearly isn’t stressing the numbers; he even admitted to not knowing his batting average.

“It’s funny because I was just talking to one of my teammates about it,” Ockimey said. “You don’t really look at your average until the end of the year. I was told I was hitting .240, but I felt like I was hitting .270.”

Ockimey has the right mentality to overcome his slump. Now all he can do is keep his eye on the ball and hope for the best.

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (67-61): W, 2-1, vs. Syracuse (Nationals)

— With the game tied in the bottom of the seventh inning, Marco Hernandez came through, with his go-ahead home run giving the PawSox the win. It was his fifth minor league home run of the season.

“He’s got great impact to his pull side,” Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles told MiLB.com. “He’s been a spark plug for us.”

Hernandez, who went 3-for-4, has hit the ball out of the park in his last two home games. The 23-year-old is slashing .308/.344/.449 in 55 games.

— Brian Johnson performed well in the start, limiting Syracuse to one run on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He fanned five and walked three.

“I’ve just been keeping it simple,” Johnson said. “I’ve been attacking the glove and going pitch to pitch.”

In his last five starts, Johnson has accumulated a 1.76 ERA after sporting a 5.25 ERA at one point this season. Boston’s No. 7 prospect at MLB.com now has a 3.19 ERA to go along with a 5-6 record in 17 minor league starts.

— Ryan Lamarre joined Hernandez as the only other PawSox player to collect multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. He crossed home plate on a passed ball in the second inning after drilling his 15th double of the season and advancing to third on a ground ball. Lamarre, 27, has hit safely in his last seven games. He is now batting .300/.371/.430 in 76 minor league games.

— Joe Kelly picked up his second minor league save thanks to two shutout innings. He struck out four in the impressive outing. The 28-year-old right-hander has a 0.69 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 10 relief appearances with the PawSox. Overall, he is 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 17 outings.

Teddy Stankiewicz

Teddy Stankiewicz

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS (49-76): L, 4-0, vs. New Hampshire (Blue Jays)

— Teddy Stankiewicz was handed the loss despite a quality start, letting up three runs on four hits in six innings. He fanned six batters and walked three in the outing. Stankiewicz, 22, now has a team-leading 13 quality starts this season. He is 4-9 with a 4.98 ERA in 23 starts.

— In his second game back from a sprained right ankle, Yoan Moncada went 1-for-2 with two walks while continuing to make the switch to third base. Boston’s top overall prospect at MLB.com is hitting .296/.405/.513 in 99 games with both Salem and Portland.

— Brandon Workman made his second relief appearance with Portland, allowing one run in three innings and striking out two. Workman, 28, is 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA in eight rehab appearances.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX (78-47): No game scheduled.

The Red Sox had Monday off and will hit the road Tuesday for a three-game series against Potomac (Nationals).

Jeremy Rivera

Jeremy Rivera

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE (66-60): L, 8-2, at Charleston (Yankees)

— Jeremy Rivera went 3-for-4 with two doubles. He drove in both of Greenville’s runs with his two-bagger in the ninth inning. The 21-year-old shortstop has three multi-hit outings in his last seven games. A 17th-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2014 out of El Paso (Texas) Community College, Rivera is averaging .267/.311/.339 with 17 doubles in 322 at-bats this season.

— Left-hander Logan Boyd was handed the loss after surrendering four runs on eight hits in five innings. He struck out five and walked none. Boyd saw his streak of three consecutive one-run outings snapped. The 22-year-old now is 13-7 with a 4.67 ERA in 25 starts.

— Tate Matheny went 2-for-4 to push his team-leading batting average to .297. He has recorded a hit in eight of his last 10 games, and is slashing .297/.339/.411 in 94 contests.

Bobby Dalbec

Bobby Dalbec

SHORT SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS (37-25): W, 8-1, vs. Brooklyn (Mets)

— Bobby Dalbec’s performance at the plate alone would be enough to come away with the win. He went 3-for-5 with a triple, a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. A double shy of the cycle, Dalbec blasted his sixth home run of the year in the third inning to drive in two runs. The 21-year-old infielder leads the New York-Penn League in home runs this month with five.

Dalbec has been on fire as of late, averaging .475 in his last 10 games. He has 13 RBIs and eight runs in that span. He is batting .386/.426/.727 in 23 games. He is Boston’s No. 21 prospect at MLB.com.

— Daniel Zandona got the win, pitching five shutout innings of relief. He gave up three hits and struck out five. Zandona, 23, has let up three total runs in his last four outings and now is 4-2 with a .293 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 14 appearances. Opponents are hitting only .205 when facing Zandona.

— Tyler Hill went 2-for-4 with two runs and now has three multi-hit outings in his last four games. The 20-year-old outfielder is hitting an impressive .346 this season, the best average in the league by 18 points.

— Jordan Weems pitched a perfect final frame, striking out two in one inning of work. The right-hander has given up seven runs in his last 16 1/3 innings and is 3-0 with a 3.08 ERA in 15 appearances with Lowell.

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

Red Sox first-round draft pick Jason Groome made his professional debut Monday, pitching two shutout innings for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox in a 6-3 victory over the Rays’ GCL affiliate. As shown in the video above (courtesy Jeanie Verderese) the 6-foot-6 left-hander from New Jersey allowed just one baserunner (on an opposite-field double to left with two outs in the second) while striking out three. He threw 30 pitches, 18 for strikes.

Groome, who turns 18 Tuesday, was selected with the 12th pick of the draft.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar