Ask Nick: Rough stretch for the Sox

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It’s certainly been a rough stretch here for the Red Sox, who have suffered their first downturn of the season after a hot April. And it doesn’t get easier starting Tuesday night against the Rays in St. Petersburg. The Rays have been hot.

With injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, the Red Sox bullpen is somewhat depleted — or at least the pitchers are out of their normal roles. Big Papi is obviously slumping, which doesn’t help matters in the middle of the lineup. It might be time for a lineup change where Dustin Pedroia returns to his familiar No. 2 spot.

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We addresses your comments and concerns in the mailbag.

The long list of useful players acquired by the Yankees over the past two years is impressive. The Red Sox sign players like Gomes (.188 against lefties this year and a poor defender). The Red Sox had the money to get a Vernon Wells or a Torii Hunter or (gulp) an Overbay, so it would not seem to be just money. Are the Yankees that much better at evaluating players by talent/skill?

Random thoughts:

Middlebrooks. We used to call his early second-year results the sophomore jinx, which is of course just pitchers making adjustments. I believe he will be fine in time. What has really impressed me is that he charges the ball as well as any Red Sox third baseman I have seen since Frank Malzone. He has better range than I thought and a strong arm.

LOB and RISP. It could get ugly. It is noteworthy that the Red Sox starting right and center fielders have 1 home run. The worst in baseball. Looking ahead, Jackie Bradley Jr. is not the kind of player who is going to contribute power, so they will need to get power elsewhere. I am hoping Brentz can help in this area when he is ready.
Appreciate your thoughts.
Mike

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Interesting thoughts, Mike. On the evaluation part, you can’t argue with the Yankees’ success identifying players who suit their ballpark and who can contribute legitimate roles. Brian Cashman is a master at that. Brian Sabean is tremendous at it. Dan Duquette is good at it. Kevin Towers as well. So I wouldn’t go as far as to say Ben Cherington doesn’t know how to do it, because I think he hit on Mike Napoli and Victorino, David Ross, and I like the Ryan Dempster pickup. The Red Sox would have loved Torii Hunter, but the Tigers were going to offer more. They kept Mike Carp over Overbay because Carp could play the outfield and he was already on the 40-man roster and that’s always a real issue.

This is the same operational department that found Daniel Nava. No question, there are wins and losses in personnel. But that holds true for anyone. Cashman traded for Michael Pineda and he immediately had major shoulder surgery. Cherington traded for Joel Hanrahan and there’s an immediate elbow surgery.

I think we react on things differently depending on how the team is doing. The Red Sox are in a rut right now so we look at things differently than we did in April when they were on that great run. On Middlebrooks, I thought his play Saturday on those slow rollers was excellent. He will be a good one. On the RISP, ask the Dodgers how that can kill you. It’s a problem lately. You’re right about the power shortage. Ellsbury is very talented but quite a disparity from the guy two years ago and the guy we saw second half of last year and now. Have no idea what to expect there. As for Brentz, Gary DiSarcina said he reminded him of Jay Buhner, and Buhner hit for power.

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I may have missed it, but I am puzzled at not having seen anyone question Farrell’s failure to have Drew bunt Middlebrooks to third in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game. It seemed to me exactly the right thing to do. You’d have one out and a man on third, one run behind. Still a chance for a sac fly to tie the game. Still two chances to get the run in with a hit or an error. And, maybe most important, the batter now knows that the pitcher is far less likely to send something into the dirt, thus giving the hitter the advantage. Wasn’t this a bad managerial blunder that may have affected the outcome of a critical game?
Gordon, White Plains, N.Y.

It was asked of Farrell, and the feeling he had was Drew has swung a hot bat lately, so why not let him swing away? I understand your point, but I also understand Farrell’s. Sometimes you want a hot hitter to swing away and do some damage. Just didn’t work out in that situation.


What are your thoughts on the Red Sox acquiring LHP Neal Cotts from the Rangers? He is pitching very well for Texas’ Triple A affiliate and would likely be available without giving up too much. He had Tommy John surgery a few years ago and was a former AL “Set-up Man of the Year” during the White Sox’ World Series season.
Dave, Clarksville, Tenn.

Just wrote about him in this week’s Sunday Baseball Notes. Having a nice run. I think the Red Sox feel they’re OK lefty-wise because of Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow, and a comebacking Franklin Morales. But you can’t have enough good pitchers no matter which side they pitch from. I’m also sure the Red Sox are looking for another reliever.
Is Rubby ready to take over as closer? If not, do we have anyone in the pipeline that could handle the job?
Dan, Virginia Beach, Va.

Don’t think Rubby is ready. I think the Red Sox thought Allen Webster was ready and look what happened. De La Rosa needs more time and more innings. That’s my opinion, and from speaking to some of the Red Sox people, they also think he needs some time. But sometimes necessity accelerates things. And I don’t think there’s really anyone who could come in and be a closer for them from the system at this point.
Should Dan Shaughnessy apologize for an unfounded, inflammatory article accusing David Ortiz of using PEDs? I feel, like Red Sox management, Dan has crossed a line of respect and decency regarding Big Papi.
P.C., San Jose, Calif.

That’s between Dan and Ortiz. Dan made two legitimate points, in my mind, One, Ortiz was on a list of players who tested positive for PEDs in 2003, a list of some 8 percent of the players, which triggered testing and discipline. Ortiz has never explained what he took. Secondly, Dan made the point that when we were all watching the height of the steroid era, most journalists, including myself, never asked the question, “Are you on steroids?” Dan believes we shouldn’t make that mistake again.
Can you please tell the Sox first base coach to stop walking over to the runners at first base every pitch? It makes me laugh but wastes time. I think the Red Sox lineup would be awesome with a good No. 4 hitter, getting Pedey batting second and Ortiz third, how about you?
Donald C.

If the first base coach has something constructive to say, he should do it. He’s doing his job. As for the No. 4 hitter, that should be Napoli with Ortiz batting third and Pedroia second. That’s one thing we do agree on. I wrote this offseason that the Red Sox should go get an impact hitter. I suggested Josh Hamilton, who is off to a poor start. But I believed they needed an impact guy.
With regards to San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford, do you think Jose Iglesias has the ceiling of this type of player? Crawford hits around .250 and has some pop. It seems like the Giants really like his defense and that’s why they keep in him in the lineup.
Zubin, Milwaukee, Wis.

Absolutely love the comparison. That’s exactly what Iglesias could do. The only thing Iglesias has to do is stop moping and get his concentration level back to where it should be. It’s lousy to get sent down and lose your job when you’re batting .500, but that’s life. He didn’t do himself any favors when he went down necessitating Gary DiSarcina to bench him. He should know better.
Considering how well Carp and Nava have worked out, do you think the Sox trade Gomes for another need (and if so what) or do they go for depth?. (Keep in mind I love Gomes. I’d keep him on the team just for that iconic pose.)
Tyler, Charlottesville, Va.

Great question. I think the Red Sox still love the energy and clubhouse stuff Gomes brings to the table. I think the Red Sox would have to be really out of things by the trade deadline for this to happen and/or someone like Bryce Brentz would be ready to come up and be part of that left field platoon. Gomes is a special guy for his team-binding attributes.
Watching the Sox-Blue Jays tonight, I see Toronto reliever Brett Cecil has a fairly sizable tattoo on the inside of his (left) throwing arm, and his undershirt is pulled up to his elbow. I would think it is a distraction to hitters when they try to pick up his release point. Does MLB have any official policy on this?
K.G., Gilbert, Ariz.

My short answer is, I don’t think so. Have discussed this with MLB officials recently, but the violations they get are with uniform issues, the way they’re worn, or whether there are improper emblems etc. on the jersey itself. They have many shoe violations where the shoe color has to be at least 60 percent of the certain team color etc. Tattoos are commonplace now. The Red Sox are a heavily tattooed team.
I have a question regarding the injury Middlebrooks had before being cleared to play. If he had landed on the DL, who would’ve been the call-up? I’m hoping Iglesias can be trained to be play at third needed.
Rhys, Stoneham

My guess would be Brock Holt. He’s on the 40-man roster.

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