Maybe a little rest was all Brandon Workman needed to get back on track.

Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman

After losing his last five starts and posting a 6.35 ERA since June 27, Workman was skipped in the rotation by Red Sox manager John Farrell in order to give him some rest and work on his mechanics.

The result was Workman’s seventh loss in his last seven appearances Monday night, but the extra time proved valuable as the right-hander was back to his early-season form. His two runs allowed matched his second fewest in a start this season and fewest since June 15. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out five over seven innings.

“The added rest helped,” Farrell said of Workman. “I thought his stuff ticked up in terms of action, crispness, velocity. He was down in the strike zone with more consistency. With the exception of a two-out walk in the third [and] a couple of base hits to follow, he more than did his job tonight.”

Workman said the added rest was beneficial for him. Not only did it show in his increased velocity, but he also stayed in command and got ahead of hitters, throwing 19 first-pitch strikes.

“I definitely think it had to have helped,” Workman said of the rest. “My velocity was better. I had a chance to work on some things mechanically. I felt good tonight. I felt like I had a nice rhythm and I was able to carry that through.”

He added: “Any pitcher will tell you, it’s easier when you’re working ahead of hitters, kind of on the aggressive side toward them. I was able to do that tonight. I was getting guys to swing at some pitches out of the zone.”

The 25-year-old said part of his recent struggles had been a result of rushing his pitches and not finishing them, which led to a lot of balls left up in the zone.

The only trouble Workman faced Monday came against Mike Trout. Arguably the most dangerous hitter in the big leagues, Trout went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and run scored, with both hits coming off Workman.

Trout ripped a cutter to left in his first at-bat, then drove a 3-2 fastball away off the Wall in left before Workman got him to strike out swinging on a two-strike curveball in the fifth.

“I just try to keep him off balance, make him hit tough pitches,” Workman said.

Aside from that two-run Angels third, however, Workman’s effort Monday was an encouraging sign for a young pitcher trying to rediscover some consistency mechanically.

“I felt a lot better,” he said. “I was throwing the ball where I wanted to for the most part. I was throwing a lot of strikes, getting ahead of hitters. I felt good tonight.”

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas

The runs will go down as unearned for Junichi Tazwa, but the onus falls on him alone.

The runs will go down as unearned for Junichi Tazwa, but the onus falls on him alone.

Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning, Howie Kendrick hit a ground ball back to the mound that should have been an easy inning-ending double play. But as the ball rolled to the third-base side, Tazawa was indecisive on whether or not to backhand the ball to make the play at home.

Instead, the right-hander misplayed the ball, then threw it away trying to get the lead runner at home, allowing a second run to score. The result: two errors for Tazawa and two runs for the Angels to extend their lead to 4-1 in an eventual 4-2 win Monday night.

“It was an in-between play. I was thinking of going to the backhand or just go with the front and I was caught in between,” Tazawa said through an interpreter. “If I had knocked it down straightforward I would’ve had a better shot. It rolled to the third-base side so that made it a little bit difficult, but I should’ve made that play.”

Even without the errors, it was another tough outing for Tazawa, continuing what have been regular occurrences as of late. He gave up a leadoff walk to Chris Iannetta, a double to deep center to Kole Calhoun and loaded the bases by intentionally walking Albert Pujols.

Tazawa has been one of the Sox’ most reliable relief pitchers in the last two seasons, posting a 3.18 ERA in 119 innings since the start of 2013. But his recent struggles have made it natural to suggest that his workload might be catching up to him in the last two months. He has a 5.29 ERA since July and has put runners on base in 13 of his 21 appearances in that time, leaving himself in a number of difficult spots. 

Tazawa, however, said the struggles have been a result of mental fatigue more so than physical.

“I don’t feel different physically compared to last year,” he said. “It’s probably a more mental thing, giving up unlucky hits here and there. But I still appreciate the team using me in an important role so I try to do my best.”

He added: “I try not to have it affect my pitching negatively. I think if I’m aggressive against the hitters those kinds of hits will be caught so I just want to be more aggressive and attack the strike zone.”

Tazawa said more hitters are being aggressive against him to prevent him from throwing his splitter, something he’s counteracted with an increased use of sliders and curveballs.

“I think that’s something I have to adapt to but I think I have the weapons,” he said.

Now Tazawa just needs the type of results that made him so reliable a year ago.

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas

The Red Sox skipped starter Brandon Workman‘s turn in the rotation last Wednesday in hopes that he would be rested, stronger and ready to snap his five-start losing streak.

Mike Trout had a pair of hits, scoring one run and driving in another, to lead the Angels past the Red Sox. (Getty Images)

Mike Trout had a pair of hits, scoring one run and driving in another, to lead the Angels past the Red Sox. (Getty Images)

The Red Sox skipped starter Brandon Workman‘s turn in the rotation last Wednesday in hopes that he would be rested, stronger and ready to snap his five-start losing streak.

The right-hander did his part Monday night,allowing just two runs on six hits over seven innings. It was the Sox’ offense that missed out on their opportunities in a 4-2 loss to the Angels, spoiling an effective outing from Workman.

The Red Sox had little trouble getting on base, but were seemingly incapable of pushing those runners across. The Sox had base runners in all but one inning and got six into scoring position, but scored just twice and stranded 12.

The Red Sox spoiled multiple opportunities to jump on Angels starter C.J. Wilson, who allowed just one run and took the win despite giving up five hits and walking five on 115 pitches over 5 1/3 innings.

The loss drops the Red Sox to 56-68 for the season.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– The Red Sox failed on multiple opportunities to push runs across early in the game. They left six runners on base through the first four innings and only pushed one run across. The Sox had two on and no outs in the bottom of the second after Mike Napoli and Will Middlebrooks both walked to lead off the inning, but the bottom third of the order failed to bring home a run.

The Red Sox had another opportunity in the third after Dustin Pedroia hit a one-out single and David Ortiz followed with a walk. But they came up empty after Yoenis Cespedes flew out to right and Napoli grounded out to end the threat.

Their biggest missed opportunity came in the sixth when Pedroia grounded into a 6-4-3 double play with the bases loaded and one out.

– The Red Sox haven’t had as much trouble getting on base this season as they have driving runners in. Cespedes was supposed to help address that flaw as a dynamic middle-of-the-order presence. He wasn’t that Monday night, however. Cespedes went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, came up empty twice with runners in scoring position and on a third occasion managed only an RBI groundout. He flew out with two on and one out in the third, then struck out after Ortiz’s leadoff double in the fifth before he grounded into a 5-4 fielder’s choice with runners on the corners in the ninth, when he represented the tying run.

Cespedes’ efforts Monday seemed to be an anomaly. The slugger has already had a knack for coming up with big hits after driving a pair of go-ahead home runs during the Sox’ latest road trip. However, his efforts Monday were notable given the way in which the Red Sox lost, as well as his recent slump. Cespedes is 3-for-23 with five strikeouts in the last five games, all of which have come against AL West opponents he should be familiar with coming from Oakland.

– Junichi Tazawa put himself in a tough spot in the top of the eighth inning by allowing the first two runners to reach base. He issued a leadoff walk to No. 9 hitter Chris Iannetta, then gave up a double to center to Kole Calhoun to put two in scoring position. Tazawa struck out Mike Trout then intentionally walked Albert Pujols to load the bases with one out.

The plan seemingly worked for Tazawa and the Red Sox as Howie Kendrick ground back to the mound, but the pitcher couldn’t come up with the ball, then misfired on the throw home to allow Iannetta and Calhoun to score. Tazawa picked up two errors as well as a pair of unearned runs on the play.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Monday’s start was an encouraging one for Workman given his recent funk entering Monday. The 25-year-old was 0-6 with a .635 ERA since June 27 in his previous five appearances, but seemed much more comfortable and in control on Monday. He struck out five, walked two and threw 59 of his 89 pitches for strikes.

Workman’s only trouble came in the third inning. He gave up an RBI double to Trout to score Calhoun, who drew a leadoff walk. Pujols followed with an RBI single to score Trout.

– Christian Vazquez contributed both offensively and behind the plate Monday night. Vazquez went 2-for-4 for the game with a pair of singles after going 3-for-9 with a walk in his three games against Houston over the weekend. The rookie threw out two Angels stealing in the game, gunning down Erick Aybar at second in the fourth inning and David Freese in the seventh. Vazquez has thrown out six batters in 15 stolen base attempts against him this season.

– Brock Holt extended his hitting streak to 12 games with an RBI single in the fourth to score Mookie Betts. Holt went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and a walk and drove in the only Sox run of the game. He’s hitting .302 during the streak.

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas

The outfield is becoming less mysterious for Mookie Betts with each game.

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

Now the second baseman-turned-outfielder will have another chance to show the Red Sox just how far he’s come.

Betts was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket Monday to play center field in place of Jackie Bradley Jr., who was optioned in order to work on his adjustments at the plate. This is the third time this season Betts has been sent up to the big club and the second time this month. Even in that short time, Betts said that over the course of his 10 games in center (out of 11 contests in Pawtucket), his comfort level increased at a position he hadn’t played in pro ball until this May.

“I’m just happy to get the opportunity again. I think I had a good productive three weeks,” Betts said, later adding, “I played a lot of center field. Just getting new plays — I got an opportunity to throw somebody out at home, got to throw a ball around a few times, just learning those things.”

Betts said he’s worked closely with PawSox hitting coach Dave Joppie on his outfield play, working on reading the ball off the bat as well as his routes to the ball, which he said have been noticeably better.

PawSox manager Kevin Boles agreed. Boles said he and the coaches focused on improving Betts’ center field play in Pawtucket with apparent results.

“That was a focus to make sure that he got a lot of reps in center field,” Boles said. “The initial breaks were getting a little bit better, but the closing speed is definitely, it’s really impressive how he can close on balls, even if the first initial three steps are a little bit questionable at times. Just the athleticism, the throwing, keeping things in order, throwing to bases, keeping the running game in order.”

He added: “I just think that from what he has been able to do in such a short amount of time, and those were the repetitions that he was going to get the second time through here, he’s handled it beautifully. He doesn’€™t let it affect his work habits. He was still taking ground balls on the infield, still getting his work and his maintenance done there. It never really affected his play. Similar to the big-league situation with Brock Holt, wherever he’s in the lineup, wherever he’s playing defensively, he doesn’€™t let it affect him and he’s ready to go. He’s got the right mindset for it.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell said there was “substantial improvement” in his outfield play from the first time he was called up in late June to the most recent call-up in early August.

“There were some routes that were still developing. Then when he came back to us the second time, I thought there was more range, more efficiency in those reads and those routes, and I just think that’s getting acclimated to the position,” Farrell said. “Particularly the ball deep in center field, I think he was better at going back on balls.”

Betts has also helped his cause with continued production at the plate. The 21-year-old is hitting .335/.417/.503 in 45 games with Pawtucket this season. Farrell said Betts, who’s hitting .244 in 45 major league at-bats, has shown the type of qualities at the plate that he’d like to see from Bradley.

“[Betts] didn’t take the going back to Pawtucket negatively. He picked up where he left off,” Farrell said, alluding to the team’s decision to send down the 21-year-old earlier this month. “He’s got a — I would consider — a fairly low-maintenance swing. It’s some of the things we’re talking about Jackie needing to get back to, and that’s bat speed, a more compact approach and he’s got a clear understanding of the strike zone as well.”

Now, Betts will get the opportunity to show whether he’s ready to do what Bradley could not in terms of production, with an everyday job in 2015 as the Red Sox center fielder potentially hanging in the balance.

Alex Speier contributed to this report from Pawtucket.

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas

The Red Sox had finally seen enough of Jackie Bradley Jr. to know it was time for a change.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Sox optioned the struggling center fielder to Triple-A Pawtucket Monday in a move that manager John Farrell said had been discussed among baseball operations for about the last two weeks.

While he’s been nothing short of sensational in the outfield this season, Bradley has been a liability offensively. The rookie has hit .216/.288/.290 in 112 games and had recently endured a miserable stretch in which he went 0-for-35 with 18 strikeouts before showing some improvement at the plate over the last few games.

“The move to send Jackie back to Pawtucket has been talked about for a little while now,” Farrell said. “I think it’s important to note that this wasn’t reactionary. Had it been reactionary you might suggest it was going to be done a while ago.

“We felt like some of the adjustments that were being worked on had some evidence inside of given games, but we’re sending him out to maintain some of those adjustments. That is to try to shorten down that swing a little bit more and develop a more distinct two-strike approach.”

Bradley is 5-for-16 with two walks and just four strikeouts in his last five games, which raised questions about the timing of the decision. Farrell said Bradley’s adjustments still weren’t translating to the games consistently enough, and he wanted to take advantage of the last three weeks of the minor league season.

Farrell said the team wants Bradley to get back to a “line-drive approach that has got a more defined two-strike approach in addition.”

“As we met after the game yesterday, Jackie understood and he understands the need to increase the consistency,” Farrell said. “The strikeout rate, he acknowledged, while we expected an increase coming to the big leagues, has exceeded his expectations, ours as well, and understands the needs that are in front of him.”

Farrell said he expects Bradley to be back with the Red Sox at some point this season. However, the 24-year-old’s future with the team looks bleak.

Farrell noted the depth the Sox have in the outfield with the addition Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig at the trade deadline, as well as the imminent return of Shane Victorino next season. Those three could make up the starting outfield in 2015.

That’s where these adjustments are important for Bradley. Farrell said the Sox “don’t view him as an extra outfielder,” so his window in Boston could very well be closing, especially if Mookie Betts, who was called up in Bradley’s place, proves to be a more serviceable option.

“We need to regain some consistency through the minor league level and the performance history that’s there,” Farrell said of Bradley. “We’re doing what we can to get back to that.”

Ross, Craig on track for return

Farrell said catcher David Ross, who has been out since Aug. 2 with a plantar fascia tear, will be evaluated on Monday before the team determines when he’ll be activated, which could come as soon as Tuesday.

“Today we’ll have pretty much everything to determine that,” Farrell said. “He’s got a couple of bullpens he’s catching today, he’ll throw to the bases once again, he’ll do some running. How he comes out of today’s work will impact his activation.”

Allen Craig begins his rehab with Pawtucket Monday night. Farrell said the outfielder, who tweaked his ankle in his Red Sox debut Aug. 1, will DH for the PawSox Monday night and will likely play in the outfield Wednesday and Thursday.

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Even as Jackie Bradley Jr.’s struggles as a rookie assumed historic dimensions, the outfielder had resisted dwelling on whether he might get sent down to Triple-A. After all, he reasoned, there was nothing productive to be gained from doing so, at a time when the most important thing he could try to do was correct course.

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Even as Jackie Bradley Jr.’s struggles as a rookie assumed historic dimensions, the outfielder had resisted dwelling on whether he might get sent down to Triple-A. After all, he reasoned, there was nothing productive to be gained from doing so, at a time when the most important thing he could try to do was correct course.

And so, when the conversation with manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington finally took place following the Red Sox‘ 8-1 loss to the Astros on Sunday, Bradley was caught a bit by surprise. With just two weeks left before rosters expand from 25 to 40 players, Bradley hadn’t anticipated that he would be sent down now, even though (after going 5-for-16 to snap out of an 0-for-35 slump) he was hitting .216 with a .288 OBP and .290 slugging mark in 112 games.

“I didn’€™t know. I was definitely caught off surprise a little bit, especially with it being two weeks left. But you know, move had to be made. I’m down here, getting better,” Bradley said in the PawSox clubhouse. “I’ve got to be accountable for myself and for the season, and I didn’€™t perform at the level that I feel like I’m capable of performing. Like they told me, it’s a performance-based league.”

Bradley said that he has been feeling like he’s been in a good rhythm at the plate recently, with “comfortable” timing.

“I’m swinging the bat the way I like to,” he said.

Still, he acknowledged that he needs to do a better job of making more consistent contact (his 28.7 percent strikeout rate is among the worst in the majors) to put himself in a better position to post the sort of offensive numbers that will be necessary to maintain a spot in the big leagues.

“It’s definitely different. It’s frustrating because I do feel like I’m putting good swings and not making contact,” said Bradley. “I think it’s just over time it will change. Obviously your strikeouts are going to go up once you get there, but I obviously don’t want it to be to where it has been. I’m working on improving that.”

Now, he will focus on improving on that particular aspect of his offensive approach in Triple-A, with the Red Sox electing to give the 24-year-old an opportunity to catch his breath in Pawtucket in the coming weeks, with the possibility of a September call-up looming for a player whose defense in center field had been little short of outrageous.

Bradley expressed understanding for why the organization decided to send him to Triple-A, and suggested that his disappointment was not with the decision that the team made but instead with the performance that led it to do so.

“I wasn’t disappointed — not disappointed in the sense of going down,” said Bradley. “I was just disappointed in myself, not necessarily about the move, because if you play better, then they won’t send you down. It’s one of those things where, you get the news and you just move on. That’s what I was able to do, move on and then get back to playing ball.”

Bradley described this prolonged struggle as novel, something that he’s never before faced at any phase of his baseball career. He was a decorated college player who dominated in the minors in 2012 and was the best player for extended stretches of the 2013 season in Pawtucket.

Despite the fact that he now finds himself in an unfamiliar situation, however, Bradley suggested that he is unbowed by the fact that his struggles have cost him, for now, the job that he secured in April.

“My confidence will never waver as long as I’ve got a breath in my body,” said Bradley. “Talent is talent. You see the numbers, they don’t necessarily reflect talent. There’s talent all throughout the minor leagues that can play in the major leagues. It’s all about refining your talent and making the best and bringing out the best of your talents, being able to use it to the best of your abilities.

“This is pretty much the first time that I’ve really had to go through a true struggle in my baseball career,” he added. “But you’€™ve got to keep persevering and keep playing. It’s far from over. I’ve just got to keep playing and enjoying myself and having fun.”

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

Mookie Betts will play center field and bat eighth for the Red Sox Monday night as they begin a four-game series against the Angels at Fenway Park.