The Red Sox, who faced concerns about the possibility of losing a pair of critical roster members in closer Koji Uehara (shoulder stiffness) and second baseman Dustin Pedroia (left wrist soreness), received positive news in the examinations of both players at Mass. General Hospital on Monday (an off-day for the Red Sox).

Koji Uehara and the Red Sox had news to jump up and down about. (AP)

Koji Uehara and the Red Sox had news to jump up and down about. (AP)

The Red Sox, who faced concerns about the possibility of losing a pair of critical roster members in closer Koji Uehara (shoulder stiffness) and second baseman Dustin Pedroia (left wrist soreness), received positive news in the examinations of both players at Mass. General Hospital on Monday (an off-day for the Red Sox). Neither player was diagnosed with structural damage, and so both will avoid a stint on the disabled list. They’re being described as day-to-day entering the series against the White Sox.

Here is the Red Sox press release:

Dustin Pedroia today underwent an MRI at Massachusetts General Hospital that revealed inflammation in his left wrist, and no fractures. He will rejoin the Red Sox in Chicago tomorrow, and his status is day-to-day.

Koji Uehara underwent an MRI today at MGH that revealed no structural damage in his right shoulder. He will rejoin the club in Chicago tomorrow, and his status is day-to-day.

Shane Victorino is scheduled to begin a rehabilitation assignment with one of the club’€™s minor league affiliates later this week.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

According to an industry source, an examination of the injured left wrist of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia on Monday revealed that the 30-year-old was not suffering from a fracture. He is thus expected to avoid a trip to the disabled list.

According to an industry source, an examination of the injured left wrist of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia on Monday revealed that the 30-year-old was not suffering from a fracture. He is thus expected to avoid a trip to the disabled list.

Pedroia was a late scratch from Sunday’s game due to increasing soreness and discomfort over the course of the week following a play against the Brewers in which the second baseman was wiped out on a double play pivot. Pedroia is just 3-for-27 with five strikeouts since the Brewers series, and he’s hitting .236/.236/.291 for the season. A year after playing in a career-high 160 games — in a season where he spent the entire year playing with a torn ligament in his thumb — Pedroia had played in all 12 Red Sox games this year until the wrist injury forced him out of the lineup on Sunday.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The hopping gives him away. In the tangle of flying Red Sox that followed the final out of the 2013 World Series, Chris Cundiff — clad in full uniform, whiskers and all — might pass for one if he weren’€™t awkwardly hopping and hugging at air.

Chris Cundiff (in numberless jersey at right) has celebrated three World Series titles with the Red Sox. (Billie Weiss/Red Sox)

Longtime batboy Chris Cundiff (in numberless jersey at right) has celebrated three World Series titles with the Red Sox. (Billie Weiss/Red Sox)

For Boston’€™s 43-year-old batboy, this pose ‘€” the embodiment of an unreturned high-five ‘€” is as practiced as it is necessary.

‘€œI’€™m not going to dive ‘€” I’€™m not high enough on the totem pole to be injuring players,’€ explained Cundiff, an insurance executive by day who’€™s entering his 20th season moonlighting as the team’€™s most visible clubhouse attendant. ‘€œAnd I don’€™t want to be the first guy out there, either. In ‘€˜04, I got excited, ran from the on-deck circle, got about halfway out and I thought, ‘€˜[Keith] Foulke’€™s going to catch [Jason] Varitek and I’€™m going to land in between them.’€™

‘€œThe players always give me a hard time about joining the pile. [Dustin] Pedroia threatened to knock me out if I did it last year, but I still got too excited. What can I do?’€

Clearly, hanging back isn’€™t an option. Witness the waning moments of the 2007 clincher in Colorado, the clubbies gathered on the top step of the dugout, receiving their orders for a prompt sweep of discarded caps and gloves. Cundiff went rogue then, too.

‘€œI’€™m like, ‘€˜Are you going to run out there?’€™’€ recalled clubbie Dean Lewis, on whose recommendation Cundiff landed his job. ‘€œHe goes, ‘€˜Damn right I am. And, sure enough, he bolted.’€™

‘€œWe like to say, ‘€˜Oh look. Here’€™s a World Series picture without Chris Cundiff in it.’€™ ‘€

* * *

Scan all three iconic scrums of the past decade for the bespectacled Cundiff and you’€™ll indeed spot him, keeping to the margins, straddling the line that so suits his role: hardly a full-fledged member of the team, yet closer than the average fan will ever be.

‘€œWe’€™re all fans,’€ Cundiff said on behalf of the behind-the-scenes crew he assisted in the cumbersome task of unloading the team’€™s dual-18-wheeler spring training cargo on an early April Sunday. ‘€œThat’€™s why you see people doing it 20, 30 years.’€

Cundiff’€™s age, of course, makes him an oddity in the big leagues, where most of his peers fit the description. But it’€™s hard to imagine the end on a day like the home opener, when Cundiff, same as David Ortiz and countless other longtime employees, received his third World Series ring.

Cundiff, here with umpire C.B. Bucknor during Game 2 of the 2007 World Series vs. the Rockies, is a familiar sight to Red Sox fans. (Phoebe Sexton/Red Sox)

Cundiff, here with umpire Laz Diaz during Game 2 of the 2007 World Series vs. the Rockies, is a familiar face to MLB personnel, having served as Sox batboy since 1992. (Phoebe Sexton/Red Sox)

‘€œI just love the job,’€ said Cundiff, a Lexington, Ky., native who moved to Marlboro at age 10. ‘€œYou can’€™t get a better seat in the ballpark. Sometimes, when the sun’€™s setting over the wall in left field, the view is just awesome. I wouldn’€™t trade it for the world.’€

An authentic albeit numberless uniform is Cundiff’€™s reward for what he terms the ‘€œinglorious’€ grunt work of a clubbie; a perch between home plate and the home dugout at Fenway Park his payoff for all the ‘€œ15-, 16-, 17-hour’€ shifts spent toiling in the bowels of the century-old stadium.

He completes the enviable ensemble with the double-earflap helmet of a switch hitter, an MLB mandate that offers him equal protection when scurrying to either side of the dish to retrieve or deliver bats and balls. But it doesn’€™t guard against what gets through the earholes, a combination of his apparent, um, experience and the length of the games making him a prime target.

‘€œI’€™ve heard pretty much everything imaginable,’€ Cundiff said. ‘€œSometimes people rip you because you do it and you’€™re older. A blowout in either direction, yeah, they look for something to entertain themselves with.’€

But then, not everybody’€™s a critic.

‘€œI had two Rays fans behind the dugout during the 2008 ALCS ask me how old I was,’€ Cundiff said. ‘€œThey had been debating it for two games.’€

At his home in Bellingham, the heckling is only slightly hushed. It’€™s not without a flexible full-time employer and an even more understanding wife that Cundiff has his sights set on the next two decades, but let’€™s just say Michelle ‘€” for whom he took a few years off in the mid-’€™90s to start their family ‘€” is eagerly awaiting his retirement.

‘€œOh, God, yeah,’€ Cundiff said. ‘€œIt’€™s a long summer for her to be carting our kids (Billy, 11, and Allison, 8) around. There are a lot of things that you miss.’€

* * *

Cundiff had dropped out of Framingham State University in the spring of 1992 (he later went back and finished his degree during the strike-shortened season of ‘€™94) and was preparing to enter the Air Force when Lewis reached out about the position.

‘€œBack in those days, somebody would leave and we would look around and go, ‘€˜Anybody got somebody?’€™ ‘€ said Lewis, a 35-year veteran of the clubhouse who started in high school. ‘€œNow it’€™s a whole process ‘€” it’€™s really hard to get in.’€

Jobless and carless at the time, Cundiff didn’€™t require a hard sell, and it was on his second day when he was first thrust into on-field duty, the regular batboy a late scratch due to college exams.

‘€œA lot of guys from the ‘€™86 [American League pennant-winning] team were still there,’€ he said. ‘€œWade Boggs and [Roger] Clemens ‘€” it was awesome.’€

Led by Don Zimmer, then a Red Sox coach, the team broke in Cundiff using age-old pranks, one of which resulted in quite the pregame scene.

The anthem had been sung, the pitcher was just about done warming up and here was Cundiff, new and nervous and now in frantic pursuit of the key to the batter’€™s box.

‘€œI ran to the bullpen to get it, then they sent me to the Kansas City Royals dugout to get it,’€ he said. ‘€œGeorge Brett sent me back to the bullpen and I think they finally called me in as I was crisscrossing the outfield.’€

The incident mirrors what’€™s perhaps the most public hour in Cundiff’€™s tenure. With the bullpen phone in the visitors dugout malfunctioning during a Fourth of July tilt with Tampa Bay in 2007, Cundiff was used to relay manager Joe Maddon‘€™s warm-up orders, which also required Cundiff to traverse the outfield, 36,000-plus watching.

‘€œ[Maddon] could’€™ve hollered to the second baseman, the second baseman could’ve hollered to the right fielder, and they could’ve had the sign in the dugout,’€ reasoned Johnny Pesky at the time, but the Rays skipper reportedly wasn’€™t at his coolest.

‘€œWith all the good things the Red Sox do, they forgot to pay their phone bill, I guess,’€ Maddon said.

* * *

Postseason pig piles aside, Cundiff prefers his anonymity. And it’€™s a good thing, because clubhouse culture has a way of leveling the playing field.

‘€œEverybody gets their chops busted,’€ Cundiff said. ‘€œIf [the players] didn’€™t like you, they wouldn’€™t mess with you.’€

Cundiif (Michael Cummo/Red Sox)

An insurance executive by day, Cundiff moonlights with long hours at Fenway Park. (Michael Cummo/Red Sox)

The fraternal atmosphere on the inside can make for some blurry lines on the field: Players make the plays or don’€™t; batboys feel no less invested but helpless.

‘€œThings go really bad when you’€™re watching on TV, you can always change the channel or walk away,’€ Cundiff said. ‘€œYou can’€™t do any of that when you’€™re stuck sitting there. When you’€™re getting killed a bunch of games in a row, it gets frustrating.’€

Cundiff and Andrew Crosby were in a batboy rotation during the 2004 ALCS, and after the 19-8 shellacking in Game 3 at Fenway, a despondent Crosby, who’€™s now a Boston police officer, handed over his Game 4 assignment.

It was the beginning of Cundiff’€™s long and prosperous run as the team’€™s primary batboy. The Red Sox didn’€™t lose for the remainder of the postseason, and players took note of the change in mojo, requesting his presence on the road as they reeled off eight straight victories en route to the title.

‘€œI think it was Trot Nixon, that’€™s what I was told,’€ Cundiff said. ‘€œI think I said, ‘€˜Yeah I’€™d love to go, I’€™ll see what I can do.’€™ And Trot was like, ‘€˜No, he has to go.’€™

‘€œThe ring is inscribed with ‘€˜8-0.’€™ I tell people it’€™s for me.’€

Fulfilling as it is to live on forever in photos and YouTube clips, some of Cundiff’€™s most vivid memories are of candid scenes: Nixon and pitcher Jeff Suppan playing Wiffleball in the main concourse of the old Yankee Stadium to dull the pain of the Game 7 loss in the ‘€˜03 ALCS, the irrepressible positivity of Kevin Millar in the doldrums of the ‘€˜04 rematch, supremely affable 2013 newcomer Shane Victorino lingering into the wee hours to help clubbies distribute fresh laundry.

Cundiff’€™s son has been photographed with Ortiz just about every year since he was born, which sure beats pencil marks on the door frame for charting growth.

‘€œI’€™m hoping I can do it long enough to have him take over,’€ Cundiff said, only half-kidding.

Billy is a little young for the family business right now ‘€” the minimum age for MLB batboys was set at 14 shortly after the near-flattening of Dusty Baker’€™s then-3-year-old son, Darren, during the 2002 World Series.

But that hasn’€™t stopped him from professing to teachers his desire to do so when he grows up.

If he’€™s like his dad, he won’€™t have to anytime soon.

Blog Author: 
Chris Brodeur
Right-hander Allen Webster got tons of groundballs but continues to struggle to throw strikes. (AP)

Right-hander Allen Webster got tons of groundballs but continues to struggle to throw strikes. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-5 WIN (12 INNINGS) AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

– If Dustin Pedroia lands on the disabled list, Brock Holt would be in line for a call-up, with the possibility that the Sox could entrust everyday second base duties to him while keeping Jonathan Herrera in his current third base platoon/utility role. After all, Holt is off to a scorching start for Pawtucket — though 1-for-6 (with a double and walk) on Sunday, he’s now hitting .389/.476/.583 with five extra-base hits, four steals (in four attempts), five walks and two strikeouts in nine games. While Holt made little impact in the big leagues last year, hitting .203/.275/.237 in 59 plate appearances, he performed well in his only everyday opportunity in the big leagues, hitting .292/.329/.354 in 24 games with the Pirates at the end of 2012.

If Pedroia doesn’t end up on the DL and the Sox decide they need to make their bench deeper for the White Sox series with both Ryan Roberts and Herrera pressed into everyday duty, then utility man Mike McCoy — who can play virtually anywhere on the field — would become a consideration, as Holt cannot be called up until at least Thursday given that he was called up on April 7; barring a position player landing on the D.L., he needs to spend at least 10 days in the minors before he can return to the big leagues.

– Right-hander Allen Webster is at an interesting career stage, seemingly in a cocoon from which it is unclear if he will emerge as a butterfly or a moth. The 24-year-old had an outing that showed both his considerable potential and underscored the questions of whether he will be able to reach his ceiling, logging five innings in which he allowed four runs (three earned) on just three hits (one of which was a homer). He recorded a whopping 12 groundball outs, underscoring the degree to which his two-seam fastball can be a devastating offering, but he also had just one strikeout and walked four, while throwing a modest 58 of 96 pitches (60.4 percent) for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to just half of the 24 batters he faced.

In three starts this year, the 24-year-old has seen last year’s strikeout rate of 9.9 per nine innings cut roughly in half to 4.9 per nine innings, and he’s also walked an identical 4.9 per nine innings. But he’s once again getting groundballs at a tremendous rate that had characterized much of his career prior to 2013.

If Webster can execute his two-seamer consistently in the strike zone, then it’s such a powerful weapon that it permits the possibility of opening up the rest of his arsenal and permitting him to have a starter’s pitch efficiency. But if he struggles to throw the pitch for strikes, then the possibility exists that concerns about his inability to give reliable innings will result in a move to the bullpen. Thus far in 2014, there are few indications of which outcome is more likely.

– Right-hander Dalier Hinojosa had his best outing of the year, retiring all five batters he faced while striking out two and getting three groundball outs. In four appearances, Sunday marked the first time that the 28-year-old hadn’t walked a batter.

– Utility man Justin Henry threw a perfect 12th inning in just six pitches (five strikes) for the save, concluding seven no-hit innings by the PawSox bullpen. It was the first career trip to the mound for the 28-year-old, who is now in his eighth pro season.

– Consider Brandon Workman on call. The right-hander was scheduled to make his first start of the year in Triple-A on Monday, but he and Anthony Ranaudo (originally scheduled for Tuesday) were flip-flopped, with Workman now slated for a Tuesday start. While the Sox expect Koji Uehara to be able to pitch in the upcoming series against the White Sox, pushing back Workman to Tuesday would allow the Sox to bring him back up to the big leagues to pitch immediately if Uehara ends up on the D.L.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-3 LOSS VS. NEW BRITAIN (TWINS)

(BOX)

– Feats of Mookie: Everyday excellence. Mookie Betts went 1-for-3 with a double (his fifth two-bagger and seventh extra-base hit of the year) and a walk while stealing his fourth base of the year. He’s reached in all nine of Portland’s games (and 39 straight games dating to his final month in High-A Salem last year), hitting .457/.512/.743 with five walks and three strikeouts despite being one of the youngest position players in Double-A. He leads all Double-A players in average, ranks third in OBP and is fifth in slugging, and he’s also considered to have above-average defensive tools at second base and the ability to be an impact baserunner.

So, it’s worth asking — is there any chance the Red Sox would consider him for a call-up if Dustin Pedroia is out for any significant duration?

Answer: Almost certainly not — for now. The reasons to leave Betts in Double-A are numerous:

1) He has all of nine games of experience there against upper levels pitching.

2) Committing to Betts at this early stage would leave the Red Sox with a lineup that was short on predictability, given that Betts would join Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and, eventually, Will Middlebrooks in the lineup — GM Ben Cherington has often spoken of the need to manage the transition to young players so that the team is not overreliant on players without a track record (and performance baseline) at any given time.

3) Betts is not on the 40-man roster, meaning that the team would have to risk losing someone in the organization in order to get Betts onto the big league roster.

4) Given his inexperience, the Red Sox would be putting themselves in a position where they could jeopardize his long-term outlook by starting to burn options on Betts before they had to do so.

5) Holt’s been very good in Pawtucket, and he’s already on the 40-man roster.

6) The Red Sox would be loathe to mess with a good thing. Betts has been moving at a blistering player development pace, having made his mark in Single-A, High-A, the Arizona Fall League and Double-A in the last 13 months. He’s responded brilliantly to the most aggressive player development pace that the Red Sox have had for a position player out of high school since Lars Anderson made it to Double-A at 20. But Anderson offers something of a cautionary tale, a player who was sprinting on the player development treadmill only to be thrown off when the pace was ratcheted up too aggressively. The Sox like to push their talented players in order to challenge them, but at the same time, they don’t want to cut corners in a fashion that jeopardizes a prospect’s long-term potential. In the case of Betts, that means giving him time to take stock of his surroundings and get challenged at some point in Double-A, where he’ll be forced to make an adjustment to the league — an important learning experience that will position him to make adjustments as he moves up to Triple-A and eventually the majors.

Ultimately, there’s a chance that Betts could force a path all the way to the big leagues this year if Pedroia is indeed out for a substantial stretch. But such a development would be unlikely to occur until later in the year. Still, it’s a credit to Betts’ feats that he has necessitated even a disclaimer about his potential big league timetable. It is worth noting that some suspect Betts might not be human.

– Right-hander Noe Ramirez tossed two shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out a pair. He has six punchouts and no walks in six innings of work in Double-A this year, continuing a minor league career in which he’s recorded almost exactly a strikeout an inning at every level he’s performed at. (He’s posted between 8.7 and 9.7 strikeouts per nine in Single-A, High-A and Double-A.)

– Shortstop Derrik Gibson went 3-for-3 with a double. The 24-year-old, a 2008 second-rounder, has made the most of his sporadic playing time, hitting .333/.385/.417 in four games.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 9-5 LOSS VS. MYRTLE BEACH (RANGERS)

(BOX)

– Left-hander Brian Johnson had an ugly line, allowing six runs (five earned) in four innings while permitting seven hits (five singles, two doubles), walking three and striking out five. The 23-year-old now has 20 strikeouts in just 13 2/3 innings, but he’s seen the duration of his starts dwindle from five innings to 4 2/3 to four in his three outings to date. He hasn’t given up a homer, but opponents are hitting .317 against the 2012 first-rounder.

– Outfielder Kevin Heller, a 24-year-old out of Amherst College, remained torrid in the early going, collecting a single, double and walk in four plate appearances. He’s reached base in each of his seven games, hitting .409/.519/.636. Heller also stole a base (his second of the year) and collected an outfield assist.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-4 WIN (14 INNINGS) VS. KANNAPOLIS (WHITE SOX)

(BOX)

– While it may be little consolation to the Sox at a time when they are fretting about whether Pedroia is injured, their system does appear to have some depth of quality second base prospects thanks to Holt, Betts and Greenville’s Wendell Rijo. On Sunday, Rijo cleared the fence in left-center for his first professional homer as part of a 2-for-4 day in which he also walked. Rijo has reached base at least once in all eight of his games this year, posting a .321/.441/.500 line with five walks and seven strikeouts, a statistical picture of a player whose hitting approach is uncommonly advanced given his age (the average age of position players in the South Atlantic League is 21). He and middle-of-the-diamond partner Tzu-Wei Lin also collaborated to turn four double plays. Thanks in no small part to that duo, Greenville leads the South Atlantic League with 15 double plays to date.

– Infielder Carlos Asuaje, an 11th-rounder out of Nova Southeastern University last year, continued his strong start. The 22-year-old was 2-for-6 with a double and a walk, and his 14th-inning single gave Greenville a walkoff victory. Asuaje is hitting .355/.429/.581.

– Right-hander Myles Smith submitted a largely overpowering outing, firing five innings in which he allowed just one hit (a solo homer) while walking two and striking out five.

– Infielder Jimmy Rider worked a scoreless top of the 14th inning for the win. Rider, 23, had pitched once before, also recording a scoreless inning in a New York-Penn League game in 2012.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The potential absence of Dustin Pedroia is something the Red Sox would rather not contemplate. (AP)The Red Sox would much rather leave the 2010 yearbook on the shelves, unopened.



Check it out, starting at the 1:50 mark …

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Red Sox manager John Farrell felt that the replays were inconclusive. His feelings about the replay system are anything but.

John Farrell was ejected after arguing a decision reversed by replay. (AP)

John Farrell was ejected after arguing a decision reversed by replay. (AP)

Red Sox manager John Farrell felt that the replays were inconclusive. His feelings about the replay system are anything but.

On Sunday night, the Red Sox saw a video review go against them for the second straight day. On Saturday, the ruling both on the field and by replay officials — who failed to uphold Farrell’s challenge that Dean Anna had overslid the bag and was thus out — proved an immediate embarrassment when decisive still shots proved that the Yankees shortstop had been out. On Sunday night, the replay ruling – an overrule of a call on the field, with Francisco Cervelli deemed to have beaten out what would have been an inning-ending double play and instead having legged out what proved to be a decisive run-scoring fielder’s choice in New York’s 3-2 win — was less egregious.

Nonetheless, Farrell insisted that the replays did not offer decisive evidence to support the reversal of the on-field call. He said that the ball was in first baseman Mike Napoli‘s glove by the time Cervelli’s foot landed on the bag, and that the Sox had been told that a player need not squeeze the ball with his glove for the out to be called. And given his discomfort with the decisions of the two consecutive games, the Sox manager used the opportunity to unload on the replay system that Major League Baseball has introduced this year.

“We felt that it was clear that the replay was inconclusive,” Farrell told reporters in New York. “The frustrating part is when this was rolled out and explained to us, particularly on the throw received by the first baseman, we were instructed that when the ball enters the glove, not that it has to hit the back of the glove, is where the out is deemed complete. At the same time, any angle that we looked at, you couldn’t tell if the foot was on the bag behind Mike Napoli’s leg. Where this became conclusive is a hard pill to swallow. On the heels of yesterday, it’s hard to have any faith in the system, to be honest with you.”

Farrell went onto the field to argue the video reversal, prompting his immediate objection (by rule). The manager admitted that his protest was a reflection of multiple days of dismay.

“I argued the point that it was inconclusive. I know that arguing a challenge play is not allowed, evident by spending most of the game inside. But on the heels of yesterday and today, this is a tough pill to swallow,” Farrell told reporters. “It’s extremely difficult to have any faith in the system, the process that’s being used.

“When you’re talking about something as substantial as replay being brought into the game, there’s going to be a learning curve and everybody becoming familiar with it. You would think that video replay would be conclusive — or there’s plays where it’s not conclusive, which is [Sunday night],” Farrell added. “Unfortunately we’re on the wrong side of it both times. … As much as they’re trying to help the human element inside this system, it seems like it’s added the human element at a different level.”

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier