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Red Sox Column to be Named Later

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In this week’s BSoT Red Sox Column to be Named Later, I revisit the Red Sox decision to release Hanley Ramirez given recent struggles by the offense, and look back at Alex Cora’s decision to give the starting pitchers two extra days rest.  I also see who is trending up, who’s trending down, and take a brief look at the Red Sox upcoming 11 day, three city road trip. 

Hanley Ramirez – Released Too Soon?

The Red Sox offense has struggled over the past four games of the weekend, losing three of their last four games at home, including two of three at home to the lowly Chicago White Sox.  The series loss to Chicago was only the second series the Red Sox have lost at home this season (Oakland was the other).

Over that four game span, the Red Sox have scored a total of eight runs, have struck out 38 times, and have batted a lowly .192.  With runners in scoring position, the average drops to an anemic .054.

The Red Sox are certainly beginning to feel the effects of the prolonged absence of Mookie Betts, out since May 26th with an undisclosed upper body injury.  While it is difficult to replace a player of Betts’ caliber for an extended period, the loss was further magnified coming the day after the Red Sox designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment.

Reports were Manager Alex Cora intended to reduce Ramirez’s role with the team in order to get more at bats for Mitch Moreland.  Ramirez had been struggling at the plate in May, batting only .163 in 19 games.  Fearing Ramirez would not adapt well to a reserve role, Cora made the bold recommendation to Team President Dave Dombrowski to release the high-priced first baseman.

With Betts and Ramirez both unavailable, and Dustin Pedroia’s comeback limited to only three games, Brock Holt and Blake Swihart have been thrust into more prominent playing time.  Each has appeared in ten games in that span, and neither have seized the opportunity.

In those 10 games, Holt has batted only .226 with seven hits, two extra base hits, seven RBI and nine strikeouts.  Swihart has been even less productive, batting .176 over that same span with six hits, one extra base hit, only two RBI and 13 strikeouts.

Of course, neither Cora nor Dombrowski could have known that Betts was about to go out for the next two weeks plus when Ramirez was designated for assignment.  But the simple fact is the release of Ramirez and the Betts injury exposed a glaring lack of depth in the Red Sox position players.  The Sox chose to not take the chance with a disgruntled Ramirez, and did not give him the opportunity to regain his form and contribute to the team.  The timing was not ideal, and it may have cost them a couple of wins over the past weekend.

Cora’s Pitching Experiment

Cora’s decision to give Steven Wright a spot start last Tuesday, in effect give all the starting pitchers two extra days rest with last Monday’s off day, can be classified a moderate success.  Wright turned in a seven inning, two hit, no-run gem in his first start since 2016, and the rest of the starters all turned in quality starts, with the exception of Eduardo Rodriguez, who fell 1/3 of an inning short.  None of the starters allowed more than two earned runs in their starts.  

Chris Sale seemed to benefit the most from his extra rest.  Sale threw eight strong innings against the White Sox on Friday night, and his fastball topped out on several occasions at 100 MPH.  Sale allowed only one run in those eight innings, striking out ten.  Unfortunately, the Red Sox could not score a run for him and he ended up with the loss.

The plan hit a bit of a speed bump when Drew Pomewranz landed on the disabled list and, instead of moving everyone up in the rotation with five days’ rest, Cora stuck to his plan and gave a spot start to Jaleen Beeks, who had been dominant at AAA Pawtucket.  Beeks showed he was not quite ready for prime time, allowing five runs in the first inning and six overall in four innings of work.  Beeks showed some poise in settling down after a disastrous first inning, and the experience may benefit him if he’s needed in the future for another spot start or to bolster the bullpen.

Although the Red Sox ended up going only 3-3 on the week, the starting pitching performed well and were let down by a lack of run support.  Look for Cora to take the opportunity to try it again if/when Pomeranz returns.

Who’s Trending Up

Christian Vazquez has finally started to show some pop at the plate.  Vazquez batted .357 in four games this past week, with a double and a home run. Vazquez OPS for the week was a lofty 1.060.

With the exception of Beeks, the other five Red Sox starters for the week turned in solid to exceptional performances.  As a group, the starters allowed only six earned runs in 32 2/3 innings, gave up no home runs, struck out 32 and sported a WHIP of 1.04.

Who’s Trending Down

Not surprising, a number of Sox saw slippages in their offensive performances.  Mitch Moreland has cooled off of late, batting only .222 last week with only one extra base hit.  Eduardo Nunez turned in a .200 average for the week with no extra base hits.  Finally, Jackie Bradley, after showing signs of potentially busting out of his season lump funk, batted only .214 in five games and struck out six times, though he did have a home run.

A Look Ahead

After playing 12 of their last 16 games at Fenway, the Red Sox head out on the road for their next ten games.  The Sox will first travel to Baltimore for a three game set with the cellar dwelling Orioles, who are already 25 games out in the AL East. 

The Sox then fly cross country for a four game set over the weekend with the Mariners, who are one of the bigger surprises of the 2018 season.  The Mariners are currently 41-24 and in first place above the Astros and Angels in the AL West, despite the loss of All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano to a PED suspension.

The Sox close their trip with a visit to Minnesota and three games against the Twins.  Unlike most non-division opponents, these two teams should be very familiar with each other.  The Red Sox and Twins each winter in Fort Myers and play each other seemingly every other day during spring training.  This will be the first meeting of the teams since the Red Sox took the county Lee County Commissioner’s Cup.

Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_BSoT. 

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