It’s been less than nine months since the Red Sox hoisted the World Series trophy and less than eight months since general manager Ben Cherington won the Executive of the Year award, but with the team sitting at 43-52 he’s already started to apologize for this year’s product.
Appearing on WEEI radio in Boston this morning, Cherington admitted that “I didn’t do a good enough job building a complete offense” and also said of the Red Sox’s last-ranked lineup:
I think obviously our biggest issue, at least up until very recently, has been offensive production. I think our pitching has been good enough to win, we just haven’t produced offensively. It certainly wasn’t our intent. We thought we would have that, we thought we had reason to believe that we could have that going into the year, but the reality is that we have not through a big chunk of the first part of the season. That has hamstrung our ability to win games.
Last season Boston led all of baseball in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and runs scored. This season the Red Sox rank ninth in on-base percentage, 27th in slugging percentage, and 25th in runs per game.
As far as big changes from 2013 to 2014? Well, replacing Jarrod Saltalamacchia with A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate worked out horribly, leading to Pierzynski getting released. Stephen Drew sat out the first two months and has been a mess since taking back over at shortstop. Shane Victorino has been hurt. Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. struggled to step into Jacoby Ellsbury’s big shoes in center field. And stars Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz (plus fellow holdovers Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava) have seen their production plummet.
Cherington got a ton of the credit last season, so it’s good to see his willingness to take on lots of the blame this year, but even with some better offseason decision-making from the front office injuries and off-years seemed destined to derailed the Red Sox’s offensive train no matter what.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.
David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.
Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.
The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.