David Ortiz benched against Francisco Liriano

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Three regulars are absent from the Red Sox’s lineup for today’s game against the Twins. Jacoby Ellsbury is still recovering from bruised ribs suffered Sunday in a collision with Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron was a last-minute scratch with a strained abdomen, and David Ortiz has been benched in favor of Mike Lowell.
Ortiz taking a seat will obviously make the most headlines, but even setting aside his 13 strikeouts in 26 at-bats so far this season it makes sense for the Red Sox to replace him with Lowell against a tough left-handed pitcher like Francisco Liriano.
Like nearly all left-handed hitters Ortiz is significantly less effective against left-handed pitchers, and last season he hit just .212 with a .716 OPS against them. Combined from 2007-2009 he hit .253 with a .777 OPS versus lefties compared to .291 with a .977 OPS versus righties. Meanwhile, during that same three-year span Lowell hit .314 with an .881 OPS versus lefties.
At this point Lowell is simply a better hitter than Ortiz against left-handers, and the decision is made even easier by the fact that Liriano has a massive platoon split as well. Since returning from Tommy John surgery he’s held lefties to .243 batting average and .632 OPS, whereas righties have tagged him for a .279 batting average and .840 OPS. Add it all up and Terry Francona would be making the right call today even if Ortiz wasn’t struggling.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.