A.J. Burnett

Red Sox fall, Rays climb to within a half-game

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The Red Sox dropped yet another game in the first of two against the Yankees on Sunday, falling 6-2 despite a pair of homers from Jacoby Ellsbury.  Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Blue Jays 5-2 and are now just a half-game out in the wild card chase.

If the Red Sox falter again tonight, they’ll enter the final three games of the series tied with Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox fell behind early yet again, as their opponents scored first for the ninth time in 10 games.  The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the first after both Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter dropped down bunt singles to start a rally.  The Bombers added a two-run homer from Jorge Posada in the third, and in spite of Ellsbury’s best efforts, the Red Sox never threatened from there, as A.J. Burnett pitched into the eighth inning for the first time since July 29 and won for just the third time in the second half.

The Rays’ game played out similarly, as Tampa Bay scored two in the first and two in the third to take an early 4-1 lead.  Wade Davis allowed just three hits over eight innings for his victory.  B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Kelly Shoppach all homered for the Rays.  Zobrist’s was an inside-the-park homer on which Jose Bautista was injured crashing into the wall in right field.

Tampa Bay will finish off the regular season with a three-game series at home against the Yankees.  The Red Sox will play Baltimore three times after finishing the series in New York tonight.

Rusney Castillo disappoints again by not running out a routine grounder

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 18:  Rusney Castillo #38 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after he was caught off third base for the third out of the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on August 18, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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The Red Sox inked Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract back in August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.

Kyle Schwarber is the frontrunner to bat leadoff for the Cubs

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 07:  Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the MLB game at Chase Field on April 7, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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Cubs manager Joe Maddon says C/OF Kyle Schwarber is the frontrunner to bat leadoff for the team this season, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports.

Schwarber, 23, has hit out of the leadoff spot only eight times in his young career, but the move up the batting order mostly just means more opportunities for him to swing his potent bat. He hit .246/.355/.487 with 16 home runs and 43 RBI in 273 plate appearances in his rookie season in 2015.

Schwarber suffered serious injuries early in the 2016 season when he collided with teammate Dexter Fowler in the Arizona outfield. He tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments, which everyone thought ended his 2016 season entirely. However, Schwarber returned for the start of the World Series against the Indians. In 20 plate appearances over five games, Schwarber contributed six singles, a double, and three walks.