David Price may have pitched the Rays past a treacherous Game 163 to get into the Wild Card playoff, but the Red Sox clearly aren’t impressed. The Rays’ lefty, who led the league with a 5.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio and four complete games, was tagged for two runs in the first inning due to two of the more prominent features of the Red Sox offense.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom of the first with a bloop single to right field. Ellsbury paced the league with 52 steals during the regular season, so it was no surprise that he would attempt to swipe second base against Price and catcher Jose Molina. He did, and Molina’s throw was a bit off the mark, trickling into the outfield, allowing Ellsbury to scamper to third base. Shane Victorino then grounded out, leaving Ellsbury 90 feet from home plate with one out. Dustin Pedroia picked up his teammate, driving a fly ball to center field, more than deep enough to allow Ellsbury to trot home for the game’s first run. David Ortiz followed up by driving a 1-0 cutter deep to right-center for a solo home run. Price ended the inning by striking out Mike Napoli.
The Red Sox easily disposed of the Rays 12-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS yesterday and are in a good situation leading 2-0 in Game 2 with one inning in the books. The Rays would prefer not to head home to Tampa trailing 0-2 in a best-of-five series.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.