Yoenis Cespedes has struggled in left field at Fenway Park. (Getty Images)It was a bad night for Yoenis Cespedes. 



Thanks to their midseason remake, the Red Sox have a glut of outfielders. But how they align them in 2015 remains anyone’s guess.

Yoenis Cespedes has not looked comfortable playing in front of the famed left field wall at Fenway Park. (Getty Images)

Yoenis Cespedes has not looked comfortable playing in front of the famed left field wall at Fenway Park. (Getty Images)

Thanks to their midseason remake, the Red Sox have a glut of outfielders. But how they align them in 2015 remains anyone’s guess.

Mookie Betts (currently playing second) has shown the most promise of the lot, yet the Sox just signed Rusney Castillo to a $72.5 million deal with the expectation that his best position is center field. Castillo could, of course, also play right field, though Shane Victorino remains on the roster. Corner outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig has rarely been seen in the lineup, and when he has, he’s struggled horribly. And while Yoenis Cespedes has shown some intriguing tools, he both expressed discomfort with the idea of shifting to right field for the Sox (at least this season) and he’s looked terribly uncomfortable playing left field in front of Fenway Park‘s Green Monster.

The latter trait sat in the spotlight in the Red Sox‘ 6-2 loss to the Rays. Cespedes — who earlier in the game had gunned down Yunel Escobar at the plate to keep the Rays off the scoreboard — went back on a liner to deep left with two on and two out in the top of the eighth, at a time when the Sox were leading, 1-0. He stopped short of the Wall and came up just short in his effort to corral the catchable liner off the bat of Ben Zobrist, permitting both runs to score en route to an eventual five-run inning.

Such plays have been commonplace for Cespedes at Fenway. He’s impressed at times in left field while on the road, thanks in part to his closing speed while able to roam wider stretches of the lawn, but it’s possible that, as with other players such as Cody Ross, he is simply unable to perform with the comfort necessary to permit his athleticism to play in front of a giant wall. And if that’s the case, then the Red Sox had better hope that he’s open to a move to right.

How it plays out remains to be seen, but for now, it remains the case that the Red Sox have a wealth of outfield options without any clear best alignment for next season.

OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT TUESDAY’S RED SOX GAME

– The loss preserved the Red Sox’ lead in the race for the No. 6 draft pick, and has a chance to edge them close to the No. 5 pick in 2015. While the Astros (who opened the day a half-game “behind” the Sox in the race for No. 6) were keeping pace with the Sox by losing 2-0 to the Rangers, the Twins were leading the Diamondbacks, 5-1. If the Twins win, the Sox will be within one game of Minnesota for the No. 5 pick.

Clay Buchholz‘s night unraveled quickly following the Cespedes misplay, as he ended up going from what seemed like it might be his third complete-game shutout of the year to a five-run yield. Still, what he’d shown prior to that — tremendous efficiency in carving up the Rays with a low-90s fastball, curve, change and cutter — continued a recent run of solid appearances to end the year. He’s pitched into at least the seventh inning in seven of his last nine starts, and into at least the eighth in four of his last nine.

That strong stretch — in combination with the fact that Buchholz has stayed healthy this year, his lone DL stint for a “hyperextended knee” as much for a mental break as a physical one — has offered the Red Sox some hope of what Buchholz might be, again, next year.

“You look at the starts he’s made in the second half, there’s been more consistency that we’ve known Clay to be able to perform to,” manager John Farrell said prior to Tuesday’s game.

– Mookie Betts offered a reminder that he remains an unfinished product. He committed a throwing error while getting wiped out on a double play pivot, throwing the ball into his dugout, and later ran into an out by turning towards second after beating out a fielder’s choice (something that signifies an effort to advance), then walking slowly back to the bag. The Rays observed his misdeed and tagged him out.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

A pair of Red Sox were scratched from Tuesday’s game against the Rays due to ailments.

A pair of Red Sox were scratched from Tuesday’s game against the Rays due to ailments. Xander Bogaerts, who was removed from Sunday’s game due to a stiff neck (incurred on the ricochet of a batted ball inside of a batting cage), was in Tuesday’s original starting lineup but then was scratched after batting practice. Will Middlebrooks, meanwhile, was scratched due to a right hand sprain. In their places, the Sox inserted Jemile Weeks at short and Garin Cecchini at third.

RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts, 2B

Jemile Weeks, SS

David Ortiz, DH

Yoenis Cespedes, LF

Daniel Nava, 1B

Rusney Castillo, CF

Garin Cecchini, 3B

Christian Vazquez, C

Jackie Bradley Jr., RF

Clay Buchholz, SP

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The Red Sox will begin their final homestand of the season against the Rays on Tuesday night. Clay Buchholz will pitch against Tampa Bay’€™s Alex Cobb.

Buchholz (8-9, 5.29 ERA) was roughed up in his last outing last Wednesday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. In four innings, the right-hander allowed six hits and four runs in the loss — his first defeat in six starts.

The Pirates got to Buchholz in the first inning with a Gregory Polanco home run. After a Mike Napoli error in the second, Pittsburgh used four consecutive hits to add three more runs. Neil Walker added the final run off Buchholz with a solo home run in the third.

“He made some mistakes against some good hitters. Ran into some hittable counts and they took advantage of him,” pitching coach Juan Nieves said of Buchholz after the loss.

Buchholz finished the first half of the year with an abysmal 5.42 ERA and a 4-5 record. But in four starts before the one against the Pirates, Buchholz had a 3-0 record and a 2.10 ERA. One of those appearances included a six-strikeout shutout against the same Rays team he’€™ll face Tuesday. Buchholz used pinpoint accuracy with his fastball to dominate the Rays at Tropicana Field on Aug. 31.

“He was hitting all the spots, every pitch,” catcher Christian Vazquez said. “He was painting every pitch. He was pitching to his best, and it was easy for me.”

The start in Florida was Buchholz’€™s only start against the Rays this season. Over his career, Buchholz has handled Tampa Bay’€™s top hitters, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, well. In 36 at-bats, Zobrist is hitting just .111 against Buchholz, while Longoria has seven hits in 41 career plate appearances.

Alex Cobb

Alex Cobb

Cobb (9-8 2.82 ERA) has been a bright spot in a down year for the Rays. In his previous start, though, he took a hard-luck loss against the Yankees last Wednesday. He allowed three runs over six innings of work but came away on the wrong end because the Tampa Bay hitters could not come through.

The right-hander has stepped up over the last two months in the wake of the David Price trade to the Tigers. After a 1.49 ERA month in August, Cobb has a 1.77 ERA and .084 WHIP in September. His 2.82 ERA is the best of any Tampa Bay pitcher with at least 10 starts this season.

Cobb’€™s only start against the Red Sox came during Buchholz’€™s complete game. The 27-year-old pitched well, allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings, but took the loss. Vazquez and fellow rookie Mookie Betts drove in both runs.

Cobb has pitched well against most of the current Red Sox hitters, as the offense has a combined .236 average against Cobb. Daniel Nava, however, has a .294 average in 18 plate appearances against the right-hander.

Rays vs. Buchholz (RHP)

Ben Zobrist (42 career plate appearances): .111 average/.238 OBP/.139 SLG, 1 double, 2 RBIs, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts

Evan Longoria (41): .189/.268/.270, 3 doubles, 1 RBI, 4 walks, 13 strikeouts

Matt Joyce (30): .280/.367/.360, 7 strikeouts, 4 walks, 2 RBIs, 2 doubles

Jose Molina (27): .320/.333/.360, 1 double, 4 RBIs, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts

Yunel Escobar (24): .158/.304/.316, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 4 walks, 1 strikeout

Desmond Jennings (20): .235/.278/.294, 1 double, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Sean Rodriguez (15): .231/.214/.308, 1 double, 1 RBI, 4 strikeouts

David DeJesus (14): .364/.500/.455, 1 double, 3 walks, 1 strikeout

James Loney (11): .111/.273/.111, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Brandon Guyer (4): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Kevin Kiermaier (4): .250/.250/.250, 1 strikeout

Logan Forsythe (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Red Sox vs. Cobb (RHP)

Daniel Nava (18): .294/.333/.353, 1 double, 3 RBIs, 2 strikeouts

Yoenis Cespedes (16): .125/.125/.125, 4 strikeouts

Mike Napoli (15): .250/.400/.417, 2 doubles, 4 RBIs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

David Ortiz (14): .125/.500/.125, 1 RBI, 6 walks, 1 strikeout

Will Middlebrooks (13): .167/.231/.167, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jemile Weeks (6): .200/.333/.200, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Jackie Bradley (5): .200/.200/.400, 2 strikeouts, 1 double

Ryan Lavarnway (4): .250/.250/.250, 1 strikeout

Mookie Betts (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 RBI

Xander Bogaerts (3): .667/.667/1.000, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Brock Holt (3): .333/.333/.333, 2 strikeouts

David Ross (3): .000/.333/.000, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Christian Vazquez is 1-for-2 with an RBI against Cobb.

Blog Author: 
Andrew Battifarano

Dustin Pedroia will be needed by the Red Sox in 2015 and beyond. (Getty Images)On Monday Dustin Pedroia got his stitches out.



ROB BRADFORD

BIO | ARCHIVE | FULL COUNT BLOG


Mookie Betts has seemingly found a home at the top of the Red Sox batting order. (Getty Images)There is no uncertainty when it comes to Mookie Betts' first-inning at-bats. He knows the drill.



ROB BRADFORD

BIO | ARCHIVE | FULL COUNT BLOG


BALTIMORE — When the dust settled following the Red Sox‘ drastic July 31 reconfiguration, the team committed itself to using the final two months to evaluating a number of newcomers and unproven big

Right-hander Joe Kelly has been the Red Sox' most consistent starter in his two months since joining the Sox. (Getty Images)

Right-hander Joe Kelly has been the Red Sox‘ most consistent starter in his two months since joining the Sox. (Getty Images)

BALTIMORE — When the dust settled following the Red Sox‘ drastic July 31 reconfiguration, the team committed itself to using the final two months to evaluating a number of newcomers and unproven big leagues for their potential to contribute in 2015. By and large, the results have been uninspiring, with two notable exceptions who led the Sox to a 3-2 victory in Baltimore on Sunday.

On Saturday, Mookie Betts went 0-for-3 with a walk. As manager John Farrell observed on Sunday morning, “Last night might be the first game in a while he hasn’t been on base twice in a game. Getting back to the on-base, that is still a major factor and he’s doing that.”

He resumed doing so on Sunday in noteworthy fashion. Betts led off the game by jumping on a 90 mph fastball from Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez in a 1-2 count, launching it well over the fence in left-center for a solo homer to give the Sox a lead they would never relinquish. He later added a single, with his 2-for-5 game improving his line for the season to .285 with a .362 OBP and .389 slugging mark, including a line of .293/.379/.431 in 15 games since taking over as the leadoff hitter, a role to which he may be laying fairly secure claim for 2015.

The reason why that early offense held up was because of another strong outing from right-hander Joe Kelly. Kelly allowed just two runs on three hits while walking three and punching out five. The outing was Kelly’s fifth straight of six or more innings, and continued to underscore why the Sox view him as a source of reassurance for the rotation next year. He showed mid-90s velocity that elicited both swings and misses and some timely groundballs, while getting swings and misses on his changeup and showing a useful curve. In his last five outings, Kelly has a 3.94 ERA. Between his stuff and his apparent competitiveness on the mound, along with the suggestions of a somewhat reliable ability to delivery six to seven innings, Kelly gives the Sox a second defined rotation piece — along with Clay Buchholz — for next year.

OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT SUNDAY’S RED SOX GAME

– The Sox won, while the Twins and Cubs both appear headed towards losses. Assuming those results hold, the Twins will remain in position for the No. 5 pick in next year’s draft (with a record 1 1/2 games worse than the Sox), while the Sox’ “advantage” over the Cubs for the No. 6 pick would stand at one game.

– Rusney Castillo extended his career-opening hitting streak to four games by going (for the fourth straight game) 1-for-4. He also stole the first base of his career.

David Ross crushed a solo homer well over the fence in straightaway center field, his seventh of the year.

– Garin Cecchini, serving as DH, went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk, the first time in his big league career that he’s reached base multiple times.

– Edward Mujica continued to give the Red Sox some comfort with their late-innings options for next year, converting his fifth straight save attempt with a scoreless ninth. He’s allowed two run in 9 2/3 innings this month.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier