Pablo Sandoval Benched! Travis Shaw is the Red Sox’ starting third baseman

Associated Press
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This has been telegraphed for a couple of weeks now, but I have to admit that I didn’t think John Farrell would actually do it: Pablo Sandoval has been benched. Travis Shaw is the starting third baseman for the Boston Red Sox.

A few weeks ago Dave Dombrowski said that Farrell had a free hand to put the best players on the field, regardless of contractual status. It’s been pretty clear this spring that Shaw has been the better player, especially defensively. Sandoval’s defense was always suspect, but his conditioning, Farrell noted, has caused his range and agility to suffer even more than it had in the past. Meanwhile Shaw, though primarily a first baseman in his rookie season, was a third baseman in college and has handled the position ably this spring training.

As for offense, Shaw hit 13 homers in 65 games last year for the Sox and is a .261/.359/.445 hitter in over 500 minor league games. He started off hot this spring but is slumping of late. Sandoval is a better hitter than Shaw when he’s at his best, but whether he’s at his best is the issue here. He had a terrible year at the plate in Boston last season. This spring he is 10-for-39 with two homers.

Not that spring stats are what led to this move. This seems based on defense and approach first and, secondarily, may very well be something of an exercise in message-sending to Sandoval. The Red Sox may have signed him to a five-year, $95 million contract before last season, but that doesn’t guarantee his playing time. If this motivates him — and if Shaw doesn’t Wally Pipp him — Sandoval will either be back at third at some point or, possibly, at DH next year after David Ortiz is gone. If it doesn’t, the Sox are making it quite plain that they will walk away from a bad deal made by the previous front office administration.

In the meantime: welcome to the pine, Kung-Fu Panda.

 

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.