With right-hander Masahiro Tanaka starting for the Yankees tonight at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager John Farrell has opted to go with the right-handed batting Jonny Gomes in left field, rather than switch-hitting Daniel Nava.
Against right-handers Gomes is batting .261 with a .333 on-base percentage and .478 slugging percentage while Nava’s numbers are .174/.283/348.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference between lefty and righty against [Tanaka],” Farrell said. “He’s a very talented pitcher. Jonny has been putting up a lot of quality at-bats of late. I know the easy target is going to be ‘Why isn’t Daniel Nava in this game tonight?’ We’re trying to get him going offensively, and Jonny gives us a little more of that right now.”
Right-handers or left-handers, Nava has been struggling this season. In 17 games, he is batting .149/.240/.269. Of his 10 hits, in 67 at-bats, four have been for extra-bases – two doubles and two home runs – with 17 strikeouts.
“He’s probably swung the bat a little bit more earlier in counts than we’ve seen in the past and that might be some reflection of the current level of confidence,” Farrell said. “When he’s squared up some balls he hasn’t seen the fruits of that as much. Like all players, they go thru a little bit of peak and valley, and we’re trying to get him out of that right now. But I can’t say it’s any one thing that he’s breaking down from a swing mechanic standpoint.”
But with right fielder Shane Victorino likely to be activated from the disabled list tomorrow, could that mean Nava will be the odd man out? Nava still has options and could return to Triple-A Pawtucket.
• Victorino, who has been on the DL all season with a right hamstring strain, is scheduled to play his third rehab game for Pawtucket tonight. If all goes well, he could be activated Wednesday. He is 1-for-7 in two games with Pawtucket. He had four at-bats on Monday, taking the last one as a left-handed batter. He popped up to short stop in that at-bat.
• Will Middlebrooks, on the DL since April 5 with a right calf strain, has a scheduled day off today after playing for Pawtucket last night. He went 0-for-3 and played five innings at third base last night. He will resume his rehab with the PawSox on Wednesday.
• Right-hander John Lackey had two rough outings after two strong outings.
“I think there’s been some things that as we’ve sat down with him and [pitching coach] Juan [Nieves] we’ve seen a couple things that we can address or adjust from, we won’t get into specifics, but I think there’s some things we discovered that are a little bit different than last year,” Farrell said.
It hasn’t been a matter of arm strength or velocity, though, Farrell said.
“All that has been consistent,” Farrell said. “Like any pitcher when a pitch is mislocated, we haven’t gotten away with many of those mistakes. That’s part of what we’re looking at. And there’s another thing or two that we’re trying to correct.
“I wouldn’t say it’s overall sequencing. It’s mislocated pitches that opposition has taken advantage of.”
• When it was pointed out to Farrell that the Red Sox have never made the playoffs when they started a season being under .500 after the first 20 games, he replied:
“Well, there’s a first time for everything. We’ve got 142 to go and tonight is Game 1 of those 142 … we did some pretty special things with this group and we’re confident we will again.”
• Red Sox fans of a certain age may remember some heated rivalries with the Yankees, whether it was a Jason Varitek face wash to Alex Rodriguez or some knock-down, drag-outs between Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson. That kind of a rivalry has cooled in recent years, with players more cordial to each other.
“The names have changed,” said Farrell. “I think both teams had more stability year over year, or longer-tenured players on each side. So there might have been tempers that flared because of a lot of history with one another a little bit more in those times. That’s not saying it wouldn’t take place now.
“I think still at field level it’s still a game, guys are going out to compete and yet it’s the stage that both teams play on that maybe makes as much of the rivalry as anything. And that’s, I don’t want to say just media-driven, but two successful franchises that are going at it with very good players.”
• Farrell on what kind a reception Jacoby Ellsbury might get:
“There might be a mixture. All we can go on is what we experienced with Jake. Very good player, and experienced a lot of success here in Boston. He’s been a little disruptive through the first four games against us. That’s where our focus is on, how do we contain him?”