Apparently “toughness” was the Red Sox’ biggest problem in 2011

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Word count in the latest column from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe about the new values Bobby Valentine plans to instill in the Red Sox:

  • Some variation of the word “tough”: 26
  • Some reference to running out ground balls: 6
  • “grit”:  3
  • “Punto”: 2
  • Mentions of the quality of the starting pitching: 0
  • Mentions of the pitchers’ “shenanigans”: 1

Ah, the offseason. When a 90-win team’s failure to make the playoffs can be cast as a function of grit, determination and a Punto deficit disorder, and nothing that actually happened on the diamond.

Rays sign lefty Ryan Merritt to a minor league deal

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The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.

Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.

His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.

The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.