- The Red Sox seem pleased with Hanley Ramirez’s transition from left field to first base, and the 32-year-old has won fans over with his effort and attitude, but the club needs more from him offensively, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe offers. Ramirez, a career .296/.366/.493 hitter, is batting a disappointing .277/.290/400 with 17 strikeouts and two walks in 69 PAs this year. Since signing a four-year, $88MM contract with Boston in November 2014, the Red Sox’s current No. 5 hitter has put up a below-average .253/.291/.423 line in 499 PAs.
- Meanwhile, Red Sox reliever Carson Smith looks to be on track for a return in early May, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. He’ll need to make at least three minor league outings, including two on back-to-back days, before being activate. The righty will be a welcome addition to the back of the Boston pen. Likewise, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez may be on his way back soon, as Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald tweets that he could return to the majors after two rehab starts.
- In other Red Sox pitching news, the club is hopeful that Joe Kelly won’t miss much more than the minimum on his 15-day DL stint, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports (Twitter links). Southpaw Henry Owens will step into Kelly’s place in the rotation. He’s put up three solid outings at Triple-A thus far, allowing just two earned runs in 18 innings with 23 strikeouts and ten walks.
- Red Sox right-hander Carson Smith is nearing a return, writes WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable. Smith is slated to appear in extended Spring Training games on Friday and Saturday, and following that pair of appearances he’ll head out on a minor league rehab assignment early next week (barring any form of setback, of course). The Sox picked up Smith in the trade that sent left-hander Wade Miley to the Mariners and will be counting on him to pair with Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel in what, on paper, should be a dominant trio of relievers.
Boston will be forced to expose Escobar to waivers, if it can’t first work out a trade, because of a need for fresh arms at the major league level. In addition to Cuevas, Noe Ramirez will be coming back up as Joe Kelly hits the DL. Infielder Marco Hernandez is heading down to Pawtucket on optional assignment to clear room for Ramirez.
Escobar, who’ll soon turn 24, came to the Sox along with Heath Hembree from the Giants in the 2014 Jake Peavy trade. Though he was added to San Francisco’s major league roster before the 2013 season, he has only made two major league appearances; this is his final optionable year.
Though he has previously received some top-100 prospect consideration, Escobar hasn’t been terribly impressive since coming to Boston. Last year, he worked to a 5.07 ERA in 49 2/3 Triple-A innings while seeing time as both a reliever and a starter. He issued 25 walks against just 24 strikeouts in that span — a far cry from the impressive K:BB ratios he sported at times earlier in his minor league career.
The Red Sox have placed right-hander Joe Kelly on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder impingement, manager John Farrell told reporters, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton (Twitter link), following tonight’s game. Kelly left the game in the first inning after facing just four batters and walking two of them. He’ll join left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez on the disabled list and further deplete the Sox’ rotation for the time being, though it’s not clear exactly how long Kelly will be sidelined. The taxing night on the relief corps, though, will likely lead to another move for the BoSox, as Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald tweets that Farrell said the club will discuss making an additional roster move to offer some reprieve to a beleaguered bullpen that worked 9 1/3 innings of relief in tonight’s 10-inning game.
A timetable on Kelly, or at least further details on the matter, should be available in the coming days, but Scott Lauber of ESPN Boston tweets some potential context for the ailment, noting that Kelly’s teammate, Travis Shaw, tells him that he went more than four weeks without even throwing a ball upon being diagnosed with an impingement in his own right shoulder last October. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Kelly will face a shorter layoff from throwing, but Farrell did concede that it “looks like he’s going to miss some time,” Britton tweets.
The Sox do have a number of alternatives to step into Kelly’s spot in the rotation, and it’s also worth noting that Rodriguez is nearing a minor league rehab assignment, as he’s said to be slated for a 70- to 75-pitch appearance in an extended Spring Training game on Saturday. In the interim, the Sox will have David Price, Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello and Steven Wright in their rotation, and that quartet could be joined by one of Roenis Elias, Henry Owens or Brian Johnson — each of whom is currently in the rotation at Triple-A Pawtucket and is on the 40-man roster. Owens pitched most recently (yesterday), so his current schedule would seem to align the best with the big league club’s need for a fifth starter, which will arise on Sunday in Houston.
Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly left tonight’s start in the first inning after walking two of the first four men he faced. As Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald writes, Kelly has been diagnosed with a right shoulder impingement, though little else beyond that point is known. Boston has already been without left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who had been expected to fill one of the spots at the back of the rotation but suffered a patellar subluxation during Spring Training. It remains to be seen if Kelly will require a DL stint, though it’s worth noting that Rodriguez is slated to throw 70 to 75 pitches in an extended Spring Training game this weekend, as Scott Lauber of ESPN Boston tweets, and he could progress to a rehab stint if all goes well in that outing.
More from Major League Baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna drew trade interest from the Reds, Indians, Mariners, Rangers and Orioles this offseason, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN in listing 10 players that stand out as change-of-scenery candidates. The Marlins sought big-league-ready starting pitching to insert into their rotation in any deal, though, and when no one offered up a pitcher that met their desires, the club instead turned to the free-agent market and signed left-hander Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year deal (with an opt-out clause). Bowden also notes that both manager Don Mattingly and hitting coach Barry Bonds were interested in holding onto Ozuna, believing that they could help him rebound to his 2014 levels.
- Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post opines that the time is now for the Lerner family, who own the Nationals, to step up and make a record-setting extension offer to Bryce Harper. Boswell notes that in addition to proving himself on the field with last season’s dominant MVP campaign, Harper has proven to have matured as well, taking the initiative to bury the hatchet with Jonathan Papelbon even after Papelbon took the blame for last season’s dugout altercation with Harper. Boswell acknowledges that Harper and agent Scott Boras, of course, may not be amenable to a long-term deal. However, a “career contract” that shatters Giancarlo Stanton’s record $325MM pact with the Marlins could potentially grab his attention. The Post scribe adds that the Nats right now have about as much leverage as they’ll ever have, as Harper’s current MLB earnings are still relatively minimal, the club is contending and he’s nearly three full seasons from free agency.
- The Braves could be without center fielder Ender Inciarte for another two weeks, writes David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Manager Fredi Gonzalez tells O’Brien that an “optimistic” timeline for Inciarte would be late April or early May, though Gonzalez says he’s not certain how much the club will push its newly acquired center fielder and lineup catalyst. Rookie Mallex Smith and veteran Drew Stubbs have been patrolling center field in Inciarte’s absence, though neither has hit much.
- WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford spoke to Red Sox manager John Farrell about his working relationship with new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Farrell said that while he’s aware of some front offices that play a larger role in daily lineup decisions, Dombrowski isn’t involved at that level (nor did Alex Anthopoulos when Farrell managed in Toronto or Dombrowski’s predecessor, Ben Cherington, in Boston, he added). Farrell said that he doesn’t consider his relationship with Dombrowski to be drastically different than with his previous bosses, though he did note that his conversations with Dombrowski are in-person more often due to Dombrowski’s larger travel schedule.
The ongoing saga between the Red Sox and Pablo Sandoval seemingly took another odd turn today. As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports, manager John Farrell says that the third baseman’s scheduled examination by Dr. James Andrews was punted because his ailing left shoulder was too sore. Sandoval did receive a cortisone shot to treat the inflammation, and is set for another visit to Andrews in a “couple weeks.” Sandoval will obviously remain on the DL at least until that time, though it remains unclear what kind of activity (if any) he’ll participate in during the interim.
- Rob Bradford of WEEI.com wonders if some time away from the Red Sox will create the opportunity for Pablo Sandoval to follow the route of former Sox pitcher John Lackey, who was a largely unpopular figure in Boston after the first few seasons of his five-year deal but won his way back into the hearts of Red Sox fans with a very strong 2013 in his return from Tommy John surgery. Bradford notes that it won’t be easy for Sandoval, though right-hander Clay Buchholz tells Bradford that Sandoval’s teammates are all behind him. “We all know what Panda can do,” said Buchholz. “He’s an elite player. He’s battled through some pretty tough criticism and now with this … I hope it’s not anything like it sounds.” Sandoval is currently on the shelf for an undetermined amount of time after visiting Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his ailing shoulder.
- If the Red Sox rotation continues to struggle, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald suggests some fixes to get the staff on track later in the season. These include internal solutions (Eduardo Rodriguez making a strong return from the DL, or Henry Owens or Brian Johnson stepping up to deliver solid innings) or possible trade answers, though acquiring a top-tier arm could be difficult. Rival teams asked for the likes of Xander Bogaerts or Mookie Betts when the Sox asked about pitching over the winter, and Boston isn’t too keen on trading even less-established young talent after already unloading several prospects in the Craig Kimbrel deal.
- Thanks in part to a disastrous showing as a left fielder last season, the Red Sox’s Hanley Ramirez was among the league’s least valuable players during his first year in Boston. But the Red Sox like what they’ve seen this year from Ramirez, who is now their first baseman. “We have a different player,” manager John Farrell told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). “He’s in a good place,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said (link via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald). In addition to finding a more suitable position, Ramirez has shown signs of life offensively, slashing .293/.318/.463 in 44 plate appearances. A shoulder injury helped lead to an uncharacteristically poor season at the plate in 2015 for Ramirez, who hit .249/.291/.426 in 430 PAs.