Castillo to play in Double-A playoffs

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo will be with Double-A Portland Wednesday night in Binghamton, N.Y., when the Sea Dogs open their best-of-five Eastern League semifinal playoff series, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Monday.

Both Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland are scheduled to open best-of-five playoff series on Wednesday, the PawSox playing at home against Syracuse on Wednesday and Thursday, the Sea Dogs in Binghamton, N.Y. on the same days. The PawSox would then go to Syracuse for games Friday, and if necessary, Saturday and Sunday, while the Sea Dogs would return home to play Binghamton under the same format.

If either team wins its series, it would advance to the best-of-five league finals, which would open Sept. 9 for both the PawSox and Sea Dogs. If the Triple-A finals go the distance, they are scheduled to end on the 13th; the Double-A finals are scheduled to end on the 14th.

Castillo played five innings Monday for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox in the deciding game of their rookie league finals series against the GCL Yankees. Castillo grounded out in his first at-bat and drew a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded in his second plate appearance. He also hit into a force play and flied out to shallow right.

Farrell suggested that as long as Pawtucket or Portland was still playing, Castillo would remain in the minor leagues.

“Let’s get every available at-bat before those teams shut down before we entertain the thought [of Castillo taking] the next step with us,’’ Farrell said.

Adhering to that approach, Castillo could make his Red Sox debut on the next homestand, which opens Friday against Toronto, if the PawSox and Sea Dogs are both knocked out in the semifinals. If not, he could either join the Sox in Kansas City during their four-game visit there (Sept. 11-14) or in Pittsburgh, where they open a series against the Pirates on Sept. 16.

Rapid Reaction: Rays 4, Red Sox 3

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In front of a smaller paid crowd in Tropicana Field (10,543) than the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox had the night before in McCoy Stadium (11,767), the Red Sox fell to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, in 10 innings.

Matt Joyce’s bases-loaded single over a drawn-in outfield brought home the winning run off Burke Badenhop, the sixth Sox pitcher. Ryan Hanigan opened the inning with a double to the wall in left, Hanigan just beating an amazing throw by outfielder Yoenis Cespedes with a head-first slide into the bag. Two intentional walks sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt set the stage for Joyce, who lofted a ball over Cespedes’s head for the winning run.

Cespedes had sent the game into extra innings with a two-out RBI single in the eighth. Cespedes is batting .382 (13-for-34) with runners in scoring position since joining the Red Sox.

The walk-off win was only the fourth this season for the Rays, the last three coming against the Sox. The Rays had three straight walk-offs May 22-24, Cole Figueroa doubling off Badenhop for the only run in a 1-0 game May 23, and Andrew Miller’s throwing error giving the Rays a 6-5 win in 15 innings the next day.

The Red Sox, who split a four-game series here after taking two of three in Toronto, will conclude their penultimate trip of the season with three games against the Yankees in New York beginning Tuesday night in Yankee Stadium.

With Dustin Pedroia (concussion) and David Ortiz (day off) out of the lineup, the Sox managed just six hits against Rays starter Drew Smyly and five relievers. Mookie Betts drove in a run with a double in the third and Mike Napoli hit his 17th homer in the fourth.

The Rays scored all three of their runs off Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa in the third, on an RBI double by Wil Myers and a two-run single by Evan Longoria.

De La Rosa went 5 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and striking out four. He did not walk a batter.

Jemile Weeks, acquired from Baltimore in a trade Saturday night, made his Sox debut as a pinch runner in the 10th for Christian Vazquez, who had singled. Weeks was picked off by Grant Balfour, a former teammate in Oakland.

The future of non-playoff teams

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1

As of Sunday night, FanGraphs had 10 teams pegged as having 0.0 percent odds of reaching the 2014 postseason. These teams, which will of course be joined shortly by others, are merely playing out the string. But while these teams have nothing to play for this season, they will get a fresh start next season. Let's look ahead at what the near future holds for these 10 teams:

Houston Astros: The "new wave" gets a full season

The Astros have "graduated" a number of their top prospects this season, including George Springer, Jon Singleton, Mike Foltynewicz and Domingo Santana from their own system, and Jake Marisnick from the Miami Marlins. These players have had rough patches to be sure, but they all have flashed their potential.

Pedroia may miss Yankees series

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As expected, Dustin Pedroia sat out a second straight game Monday with concussion symptoms, and manager John Farrell said it would be “optimistic” to expect him to play this week in New York against the Yankees.

“He’s a little bit better, yet he still has some symptoms,’’ Farrell said Monday morning.

“Clearly, it’s a day to day thing. He’s probably at least another day away from any kind of exertion tests or any kind of ramping up of the heart rate to see how he does. He’s still sore from where the impact [occurred] on the side of the head.’’

Pedroia has not played since the second inning Saturday night, when he was injured on a tag play at second base. Rays base-runner Logan Forsythe, who had tagged up on a fly ball and came into second base with a head-first slide, struck Pedroia in the head with his right forearm when Pedroia turned to apply the tag.

With rosters expanding on Monday, the Sox have no procedural need to place Pedroia on the seven-day disabled list, but Pedroia still must be cleared medically through MLB’s concussion protocol before he can return.

“Like I mentioned, we’ll be cautious with this,’’ Farrell said. “If he returns sometime in the Yankee series that’s optimistic. Not ruling it out. Dustin may have a different view of that right now.’’ Farm clubs faring well

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
The minor league season wraps up for most leagues on Labor Day, but five of the seven Red Sox affiliates will be participating in the postseasons of their respective leagues.

Triple-A Pawtucket clinched a wild-card spot Sunday with a 10-4 win over Rochester. The International League playoffs are expected to get underway Sept. 3, with the PawSox likely hosting the club's opening game that day.

Meanwhile, Double-A Portland recorded its best winning percentage in franchise history: 88-53 heading into Monday's final game. The Sea Dogs will start the best-of-five Eastern League division finals at Binghamton on Sept. 3. That same day, high-Class A Salem is scheduled to begin the best-of-three Carolina League division finals at Myrtle Beach. Low-Class A Greenville and short-Class A Lowell, the only Boston affiliates not headed to the postseason, both close out their seasons Monday.

The rookie-level affiliates’ regular seasons are already over, and both Boston affiliates are deep into playoff runs. The GCL Red Sox are scheduled to play the GCL Yankees in the decisive Game 3 of the Gulf Coast League finals Monday, and outfielder Rusney Castillo is slated to play three to five innings in center field. The DSL Red Sox beat the DSL Rangers 4-1 in Game 1 of the best-of-five Dominican Summer League championship series Sunday, with Game 2 slated for Monday morning.

Here's a look at how the Red Sox system's top prospects fared in August (SoxProspects ranking as of Sept. 1 in parentheses):

Notes: Betts has played only center field since Boston's acquisition of center fielder Castillo, calling into question whether the club sees the top prospect's future at another position or whether he might be dangled as trade bait this offseason. ... Swihart, arguably the top catching prospect in the minor leagues, has struggled offensively since his promotion to Pawtucket on Aug. 4, but he has seen most of the time behind the dish despite splitting time with backstops Dan Butler and Ryan Lavarnway. ... Devers, 17, appears to have hit a wall offensively, which is not surprising given that this is his first pro season, but he has impressed in three games in the GCL postseason, with an OPS of 1.024. ... Vazquez has dazzled defensively since his promotion to the majors, making it easy to overlook (or even excuse) his lackluster offensive performance in August. ... Margot posted the best numbers in the entire system in August, showing no signs of an adjustment period after a midmonth promotion to Salem. ... Chavis showed he was past his adjustment period to pro ball in August, bringing his overall numbers back in line with what was expected from Boston's 2014 first-round pick. ... Cecchini returned to form this month after two consecutive poor months, showing increased power and more comfort defensively at third base. ... Marrero, an Arizona State alum, will play in the Arizona Fall League, which gets underway Oct. 7. ... Longhi was hitting .330/.388/.440 before landing on the disabled list with a torn UCL in his thumb July 24.

Notes: After pitching 135 innings in 2013, Owens is up to 159 innings for the season and likely will get at least one postseason start with Pawtucket. ... He was recently named the 2014 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. ... Rodriguez has been spectacular for Portland since being acquired from Baltimore for Andrew Miller on July 31, but not better than Brian Johnson, who seems in line to win the organization's minor league pitcher of the year award this season after going 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. ... Ranaudo has earned consideration for a spot at the back end of Boston's starting rotation in 2015, but there could be a lot of competition for rotation spots if the club brings in a couple of starters from outside the organization this offseason, as expected. ... Barnes must have taken exception to not being mentioned as a possible starting option in 2014, possibly using that fire to take his game to another level in August. ... Ball, the No. 7 overall draft pick in 2013, started to show flashes of brilliance in July and August after a dreadful first three months of the season. ... Escobar, acquired from St. Louis as part of the July 26 Jake Peavy deal, made his major league debut Aug. 27.

Other top performers: Portland outfielder Keury De La Cruz, who spent much of the season on the disabled list, hit .337/.402/.547 with four home runs in August. The former Red Sox Latin Program Player of the Year, NY-Penn League all-star and South Atlantic League all-star is Rule 5 eligible this offseason and likely won't be protected by the club. A small-market team might be willing to take a chance on him in December's Rule 5 draft.

Two other top offensive performers were Salem utility man Carlos Asuaje, who hit .342/.417/.541 for the month, and GCL Red Sox second baseman Victor Acosta, who hit .390/.446/.525.

On the pitching front, one of the top performers was Greenville right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz, who went 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 29 strikeouts and four walks in 38 innings for the Drive. The 20-year-old was Boston's second-round pick in 2013, signing for a $915,000 bonus. He throws an 89-93 mph fastball with fringe-average command, a plus-potential 11-to-5 curveball and a developing low-80s changeup. Stankiewicz is likely to be promoted to Salem to start the 2015 season.

Other strong performers on the mound were Portland right-hander Justin Haley and Lowell righty Aaron Wilkerson. Haley, 23, went 3-1 with a 1.14 ERA and 1.20 WHIP for the Sea Dogs. The 2012 sixth-round pick is a ground ball specialist with decent control and a two-pitch mix, making him profile more as a reliever over the long term. Wilkerson went 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 0.84 WHIP for the Spinners. The 25-year-old former indy leaguer is not considered a prospect at this point, but he is a name to keep an eye on in 2015, especially if he's given a shot at higher levels.

Promotions: Eleven players got the call to Boston from the minor leagues in August: pitchers Heath Hembree, Steven Wright, Alex Wilson, Tommy Layne, Ranaudo and Escobar, catcher Dan Butler, infielder Carlos Rivero and outfielders Corey Brown, Alex Hassan and Betts.

Minor leaguers who received level promotions during the same time frame included Swihart from Portland to Pawtucket; catcher Carson Blair and infielder Mike Miller from Salem to Portland; pitcher Taylor Grover, catcher Jake Romanski and outfielder Margot from Greenville to Salem; pitchers Oscar Perez and Ellis Jimenez, catcher Jordan Procyshen, first baseman Travis and outfielder Danny Mars from Lowell to Greenville; and pitcher Williams Jerez and catcher Alex McKeon from the Gulf Coast League to Lowell.

Mike Andrews is the founder and editor-in-chief of and a special contributor to

Buchholz turns in virtuoso performance

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Sweet music has long been a part of Clay Buchholz’s repertoire, whether it’s playing guitar so skillfully in the clubhouse that Yoenis Cespedes grabs a spot on the couch to listen, or pitching like a virtuoso the way he did here Sunday afternoon.

Too often this season, his pitching has struck some dissonant chords, but that has not been the case of late. Buchholz needed just 98 pitches Sunday to shut out the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 on three hits and no walks, and said afterward that he may have hit some high notes he’d never reached before.

“Fastball command to both sides of the plate, that’s probably the best it’s been, ever, maybe," said Buchholz, who faced just 29 batters, only two over the minimum, abetted by a first-inning double play started by Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks and six strikeouts.

Manager John Farrell put the brakes on the suggestion that this may have been Buchholz’s best start ever, noting that the right-hander does have a no-hitter to his credit.

But Farrell did not skimp on the praise, either.

“Today he was extremely efficient," Farrell said. “When you consider the number of first-pitch strikes he threw, overall strikes, command of the count, multiple pitches for strikes, he was very good.

“He was able to bring his two-seamer back to the inside part of the plate to left-handers and to the outside part of the plate to right-handers. A key double play, and he was in complete command for nine innings."

[+] EnlargeBuchholz
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsClay Buchholz said his fastball command to both sides of the plate on Sunday may have been as good as it's ever been.
Tampa Bay’s only hits were a leadoff, ground-ball single by Kevin Kiermaier in the first inning, a two-out double by Matt Joyce in the fourth and a single by Jose Molina to open the sixth. No Rays baserunner advanced beyond second base.

The Rays have now gone nearly two full seasons and 22 innings (three starts) against Buchholz without scoring a run.

“He’s always pitched well against us," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, “but today there was nothing he didn’t have going on. Whether it was his two-seamer in, cutter away, curveball for a strike, elevated when he wanted to, he could have thrown a strike where he wanted to all day long."

Buchholz threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of the 29 batters he faced. When he started with a curveball, it was nine out of 10. He did not have a three-ball count in the first six innings, had just four overall, and did not have an inning in which he threw more than 14 pitches.

He set down the last dozen batters he faced after Molina’s single in the sixth.

Farrell said the key to Buchholz’s outing was the way he pitched off his fastball.

“It’s the late action and quality of location combined," Farrell said. “He puts hitters on the defensive. He sinks it, cuts it to both sides of the plate. That really slows some hitters down."

This was Buchholz’s eighth career complete game and sixth shutout, his first since July 13 in Houston, when he struck out a dozen Astros and did not walk a batter. The Sox had hoped that start, which came just before the All-Star break, signaled that Buchholz had worked out the issues that landed him on a rehab assignment to Pawtucket, but he was lit up in his next four starts for 31 hits and 23 earned runs in a span of 22 innings.

Since that stretch, however, Buchholz has turned in a quality outing in four of his past five starts, including last Tuesday in Toronto, when he shut out the Blue Jays for eight innings, then loaded the bases on two hits and a walk, all three runs scoring when Koji Uehara blew the save.

This time, Buchholz needed just eight pitches to finish off the Rays in the ninth.

“He’s throwing the ball right now like he did early last season, when he was dominant," Farrell said.

Having dispensed with four of the five starters with which they began the season -- Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront -- the Sox would love to be able to count on this version of Buchholz heading into 2015. But experience has taught them that’s hardly the safest of bets.

Buchholz has four or five more starts left this season. He will once again fall far short of 200 innings, the benchmark for a staff ace, he has won just six games and his earned run average remains an unsightly 5.40.

Still, the hope is that Buchholz will use September as a proving ground.

“Consistency, durability," Farrell said, “and going through the final month pitching the way he is now."

Cespedes provides blueprint for Castillo

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- While Rusney Castillo was making his professional debut for the Red Sox 120 miles south in Fort Myers on Sunday, fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes was here, closing the book on his first month with the Red Sox.

Cespedes’s performance -- a team-high 22 runs batted in during August -- would suggest that he has handled the transition to a new team with some degree of ease.

He was inclined to agree.

“My adjustment here, I am comfortable both on and off the field,’’ said Cespedes, who had a single in four trips in Sunday’s 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field.

[+] EnlargeYoenis Cespedes
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaYoenis Cespedes had a .754 OPS in his first month with the Red Sox, a big improvement from the .573 he had in his last month with Oakland.
Cespedes, batting .333 (8-for-24) in the first six games of this trip, posted a slash line of .276/.297/.457/.754 in his first month with the Red Sox. That’s a marked improvement over the .198/.221/.352/.573 he posted in his last month with Oakland. His 22 RBIs were the most he has had in any month this season, and his four home runs matched Mike Napoli for second-most on the Sox in August, one fewer than David Ortiz.

Cespedes, Napoli and Ortiz combined to hit 13 of Boston’s 19 home runs in August, the fewest the team has hit in any month in 2014.

“I was able to adapt more quickly here than in Oakland,’’ Cespedes said through translator Adrian Lorenzo, the Miami native, Penn grad and Sox baseball operations intern who has had extensive experience with Spanish-speaking players while working with agent Adam Katz (who, incidentally, represents Cespedes).

“Not because of any difference in Oakland,’’ Cespedes said. “Just the result of three years here in the major leagues, understanding the system. In both clubhouses, everybody has been incredibly nice, welcoming and receptive. It’s just been a little easier, given my experience. So yes, I’m comfortable.’’

When Cespedes was traded by Oakland for Red Sox ace Jon Lester on July 31, the Athletics had the best record in baseball and held a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.

A month later, the Athletics are five games behind the Angels in the West after losing four straight this weekend in Anaheim, and are facing the prospect of a one-game wild-card play-in to qualify for the playoffs. On Sunday, they acquired all-or-nothing slugger Adam Dunn from the Chicago White Sox to provide a presence in the lineup sorely missing since the Cespedes trade.

The Athletics had a worse record in August (12-17) than the Sox (12-16). The Red Sox outscored the Athletics, 111-103. Nineteen times in August, the Athletics were held to three runs or fewer, and they scored a total of four runs in four games against the Angels this weekend.

It’s pretty clear, then, what effect subtracting Cespedes from the Oakland lineup has had on the Athletics, even though his numbers in June made for by far the worst month in his nearly three seasons in the big leagues. In his first season with the Athletics, in 2012, Cespedes did not have a single month in which his OPS dipped below .800. That happened twice in 2013, and three times this season.

Cespedes said he could not pinpoint a reason for his struggles in June.

“I don’t think there was anything specific or special in that period,’’ he said. “Every ballplayer goes through their ups and downs.’’

He was equally opaque when asked to describe how he knows when he is locked in at the plate.

[+] EnlargeYoenis Cespedes
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsYoenis Cespedes, who has enjoyed a smooth transition to Boston, could help fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo experience the same.
“The results tell me,’’ he said. “I don’t really know when I’m in the zone. I’m going to come in and work hard anyway. If something is not going well, I will work on that specific thing, but there are no indicators of when I’m in the zone. The results tell me, but the process remains the same.’’

With a month to observe Cespedes, Red Sox hitting coach Greg Colbrunn has come away impressed by what he has seen.

“Fun to watch him play,’’ Colbrunn said. “He can beat you with his arm, glove, bat, baserunning. I knew he was a good athlete, but watching him on an everyday basis, he can do some things out there.’’

Cespedes’s sub-.300 on-base percentage and total of three walks in 111 plate appearances this month would seem to run counter to the prevailing philosophy of the Sox in recent years.

“But he’s been swinging at good pitches,’’ Colbrunn said. “That’s what we talk about, getting a good pitch. Not necessarily trying to draw a walk, but going up there and getting a good pitch, and taking good swings at good pitches.

“For the most part, he’s done that. And his approach with runners in scoring position, that’s added to our lineup immensely.’’

All four of Cespedes’s home runs with the Sox have given the team a lead.

Colbrunn said Cespedes is not one to study much video, but has excellent work habits.

“He’s been great in the cage,’’ Colbrunn said. “He comes in every day, working hard. He doesn’t miss a day swinging. He works very hard when he’s hitting.’’

Cespedes said that like Castillo, he went nearly a year and a half without playing in a game after leaving Cuba. The difference for him, he said, was that he had the benefit of spring training with Oakland. Castillo is learning on the fly.

“It will probably be to [Castillo’s] benefit to see some live pitching before he gets here,’’ Cespedes said.

And if Castillo, eager to make a good first impression, struggles when he does arrive in the big leagues?

“If it’s not a strong-minded player and he gets here and doesn’t succeed right away and struggles, it will go a little different for him,’’ Cespedes said. “But to his benefit, he’ll have me and David (Ortiz) and everybody else to help him, explain how this works and the ups and downs.’’

Cespedes may even be able to help Castillo with his English. While he employs a translator to conduct interviews, it’s clear he understands a good deal of what is said in his adopted language. That became apparent when a reporter concluded an interview by asking him whether it was too late for the reporter to have a physique like Cespedes’s.

The player did not wait for the translation. “I think so,’’ he said.

Castillo makes first step toward Fenway

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rusney Castillo’s professional baseball career began at 12:05 p.m. Sunday on Field No. 1 at the Fenway South complex with a ground-ball single to left off a 20-year-old pitcher named Luis Cedeno.

Castillo, the Cuban defector signed by the Red Sox to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract earlier this month, was thrown out a minute or two later trying to steal second base in a Gulf Coast League playoff game against a team of New York Yankees minor leaguers.

Castillo, 27, followed it up 30 minutes later striking out on three pitches, all fastballs. In that at-bat, he swung and missed on the first pitch, fouled the next pitch back, then took a called third strike on a pitch on the outside corner.

That was the end of Castillo’s first professional game. He was the designated hitter, batted leadoff, wore No. 38 and played only three innings in the GCL playoff game.

It was the beginning of a process for Castillo, who hopes to play in Fenway Park before the end of the season.

While the game continued, Castillo and a translator met with reporters in the shade of JetBlue Park on a typically scorching Florida August day.

“I’ve wanted this day to come for a long time now,” Castillo, who doesn’t speak English, said through the translator.

It was his first baseball game since July 2013.

“I’ve done this for a long time,” Castillo said. “It’s like riding a bike. I’m happy. … Saw six pitches, got on base, was able to run around a little bit.”

The speedy center fielder was thrown out in the first inning on the steal with a headfirst slide.

“That’s my game,” Castillo said to several reporters as curious fans watched from a short distance away. “Get on and try to steal.”

Although he hasn’t played in a game in more than a year, Castillo is confident he’ll be able to proceed swiftly to Fenway Park. He’s not sure how many at-bats will be required before he feels ready to face big-league pitching.

His at-bats Sunday were against a pitcher who turned 20 in July. Cedeno, despite a 1-3 record in the GCL, has a 1.13 ERA and opponents have batted .161 against him.

“There’s no specific number of ABs,” Castillo said. “It’s a matter of just playing and we know the goal from the beginning has been to play in the big leagues this year.”

Castillo is eager to play a game in the outfield instead of being a DH. Between now and the end of the big-league season, he expects competition to make him better.

“I love to hit like any hitter loves to hit,” Castillo said.

He’s heartened by the success fellow Cuban players Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu are enjoying in the big leagues.

“It’s definitely added a lot of confidence,” Castillo said. “Motivates me. I want my countrymen to do well. … It’s definitely a motivating factor.”

When he arrives in Boston near the end of the season, Castillo expects to be the same player he’s always been.

“Try not to do too much and try to become somebody else,” Castillo said. “Another type of player I’m not.”

On Sunday, Castillo was an old-timer compared to many of his teammates and opponents. Every other Red Sox starter except 22-year-old right fielder Derek Miller is in his teens. Third baseman Rafael Devers is 17 and six of the starters are 18.

Although he was the oldest player on the field by a considerable margin, many Red Sox fans in attendance look on Castillo as part of the future, part of a chance to forget the miserable 2014 season and look ahead to better days.

Several dozen fans clustered in the bleachers around the field and peered through a chain-link fence, trying to catch a glimpse of the latest Cuban phenom playing his first game in a Red Sox uniform.

“This whole thing had a Woodstock, love-in feel to it,” said Red Sox fan Roy Kaplan, who drove a few miles from his Fort Myers home to watch the game.

Longtime fan Bob Maloney, who will turn 90 later this year and attended his first Red Sox game in 1935, also came out for the event. Despite the hype over Castillo, Maloney isn’t ready to anoint him the starting center fielder for Opening Day 2015.

“I’m going to have to see a lot more to put him ahead of Mookie Betts,” Maloney said.

Dustin Pedroia out of lineup

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
[+] EnlargeDustin Pedroia
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaDustin Pedroia was removed from the game after being struck in the head by the arm of Logan Forsythe on a play at second base.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was out of the starting lineup Sunday after taking a blow to the head on a tag play Saturday night.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Pedroia has exhibited symptoms consistent with a concussion, primarily dizziness, but was improved Sunday morning. 

Pedroia appeared briefly in the clubhouse while reporters were present, but declined comment.

"He was seen by a doctor last night and likely will be checked again today,'' Farrell said. "We're holding him out for obvious reasons. Hoping this is a short term thing, but we'll have to go through the normal protocol, which is continued exams by doctors, making sure there are no symptoms, no fatigue, no dizziness, that are consistent with a concussion.''

(Read full post)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rusney Castillo might have been welcomed to the United States by celebrity rapper Jay Z, but leave it to El Ganso to help make the Cuban outfielder feel at home.

"El Ganso" is Spanish for Goose, the nickname going on 40 years now for 64-year-old Glenn Gregson, who is listed as Boston's Latin American pitching coordinator but is so much more, a bilingual port of first call for many of the youngest players to pass through the Sox system.

[+] EnlargeGoose Gregson
Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesGlenn "Goose" Gregson, shown talking to David Ortiz at 2013 spring training, isn't afraid to make a mistake when speaking Spanish with players.
With Castillo spending his first days in the Sox system with the team's rookie-level entry in the Gulf Coast League -- he is scheduled to play three innings Sunday in Fort Myers -- he is certain to have crossed paths with Gregson, who made it a mission while playing winter ball to add Spanish to his repertoire.

Gregson taught himself by watching Spanish-language TV when he played in the Dominican Republic and by reading the local sports pages.

"Trial and error," said the native of Hamlet, N.C., which is about as big as it sounds. "I used to tell the Latin players: I don't mind if you laugh if I make a mistake. They tend to withdraw if they say something in English and people laugh.

"I try to convince them it's OK if they laugh, but just correct me. The give and take really helps. When kids from the Dominican or Venezuela come to spring training the first time and see a friendly face that tries to communicate with them, they appreciate that."

Gregson, of course, is not the only bilingual member of the Sox staff in Fort Myers. Castillo has been working out with Laz Gutierrez, the former University of Miami pitcher who is in his second season as the Sox player development programs coordinator. But it is rare for a person of Gregson's experience to be planted at an organization's entry level.

Gregson has been a big league pitching coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1988) and again with the Red Sox for six weeks in 2003 when Tony Cloninger was recovering from bladder cancer. He also served as the Sox pitching coordinator for three years.

But approaching the tail end of a career in baseball that has spanned more than four decades, Gregson says he is content to spend his summer days in Fort Myers, with the teenagers who populate the team's rookie league roster, and in the Dominican Republic, which is where he first encountered a 16-year-old Pedro Martinez.

"Pedro was like a son to me," said Gregson, who was with the Dodgers at the time and also coached Pedro's older brother, Ramon.

"I still, to this day, use Pedro when I'm talking to the Latin players," he said. "Pedro, when he was 16, outworked every pitcher I ever worked with. Even to this day, he's the best worker I ever had.

"I used to ask him what drove him. Pedro was a cocky guy. He looked me in the eye and said, 'I am better than every pitcher you see out there on that field, and because I believe that I will outwork every pitcher.'"

Gregson, who got his nickname because Cal Emery, his manager in Rocky Mount, N.C., said he had an arm that was loose as a goose and would flap his arms from the dugout when he wanted him to warm up in the bullpen, travels frequently to the Dominican Republic to track the pitchers in the Red Sox academy. But when mid-June rolls around, he joins the GCL Red Sox as pitching coach and will grab a fungo bat for manager Tom Kotchman, another old pro, when the need arises.

He has never limited his interactions with just the pitchers, which is why he counts Adrian Beltre, who came up with the Dodgers and later played a season with the Red Sox, as an all-time favorite.

"When Adrian came here, he couldn't speak two words of English," he said. "Now look at him."

Having traveled so frequently to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and seen first-hand the impoverished backgrounds from which many players come, Gregson appreciates the special challenges facing these young men. One, he said, is a common fear of failure, which means every outing becomes a referendum on whether they are returned to the island.

"We have to make them understand," he said, "that we will be patient with them."

In other cases, he says, sometimes a sense of complacency sets in, with players believing because they have made it to the United States they are automatically on their way to greater riches.

"We have to reverse that," he said.

But what he finds most often, he said, is players looking for someone they can trust.

"That's understandable, especially when they come to a country where so many don't speak their language," he said. "When they find someone who tries, even if it's in broken Spanish, they feel like they have an ally."

Castillo will soon be gone from Fort Myers, a course laid out before him that is expected to take him to the big leagues sometime in September. Gregson will remain behind -- instructional league begins in mid-September.

Castillo, signed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract by the Sox, already has a support system in place that far transcends that of the typical Latin player who comes to the Sox: The agency that represents him, Roc Nation Sports, has assigned him a full-time assistant that he or his wife can call at any time.

But like so many other players who have passed through here, he knows he can count on at least one friendly face. Every team should have an El Ganso.

"My opportunities to be at the major league level have come and gone," Gregson says. "I'm perfectly content to be here. I derive great pleasure from helping kids."
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The trade that sent corner infielder Kelly Johnson from Boston to Baltimore on Saturday night, prompted by the Orioles' search for a third baseman to replace the injured Manny Machado, gave Johnson a rare distinction.

By going to the Orioles, Johnson now has played for all five teams in the American League East. After stints with the Braves and Diamondbacks, he was traded to the Blue Jays in late August 2011, then signed as a free agent with the Rays after the 2012 season, then signed as a free agent with the Yankees the past winter, then was traded to the Red Sox at the July 31 deadline for Stephen Drew and now goes to the Orioles as part of a four-player transaction.

It took Johnson just 1,103 days -- three years and a week -- to make the circuit of the division. Johnson, who was on the DL with a strained groin when the Sox acquired him, appeared in just eight games for Boston -- four starts at first base and one at third. He had four hits, including a double, in 25 at-bats.

The Sox sent Johnson and minor-league third baseman Michael Alamanzar to the Orioles for switch-hitting second baseman Jemile Weeks and shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr. In another odd aspect of the deal, both Almanzar and DeJesus are returning to clubs that dealt for them once before.

Almanzar, 23, was claimed by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft this past winter but returned to the Red Sox when he did not stick on the big-league roster coming out of camp.

DeJesus, meanwhile, was part of the megatrade with the Dodgers in 2012, went hitless in his eight at-bats with the Sox and then was dealt to the Pirates in the Joel Hanrahan/Brock Holt deal. He signed as a minor-league free agent with the Orioles this past winter and has spent the past two years in the minors.

The switch-hitting Weeks, younger brother of Brewers second baseman Ricky Weeks, has not come close to duplicating the success he enjoyed as a rookie with Oakland in 2011, when he posted a slash line of .303/.340/.421/.761 in 2011. He slumped to .221 the following season, spent most of 2013 in the minors for the Athletics, then was traded to the Orioles for closer Jim Johnson this past winter. He played three games with the Orioles this season and split the balance of the season between Triple-A and Double-A.

Weeks is reporting to the major league club, and DeJesus to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Rapid Reaction: Rays 7, Red Sox 0

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Red Sox were held to one hit for the third time this season and second time in nine days Saturday night by the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-0 winners before a crowd of 17,463 in Tropicana Field.

Of greater concern to the Sox was the condition of second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who walked off the field in the second inning after being struck in the left side of the head by Logan Forsythe's forearm on a tag play at second base.

Pedroia had started 131 of Boston's first 134 games, and until Saturday had departed from a game with an injury just once this season, when he fouled a ball off his foot against the Rays in late May.

No announcement of Pedroia's condition was made during the game.

No suspense, one hit: The only Boston hit came in the fourth inning, a leadoff single by Will Middlebrooks, who entered the game only because Pedroia was hurt (Brock Holt shifted from third base to second). Right-hander Jake Odorizzi went the first seven innings, striking out seven.

His only jam came after he issued his first three walks of the night to load the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Xander Bogaerts (1 for his last 29) popped out to end the threat.

Lefty Jeff Beliveau worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and right-hander Kirby Yates finished off the Sox in the ninth.

Webster found wanting: Allen Webster failed to go five innings for the second straight start, charged with six runs on five hits, three walks, and two hit batsmen. He left after opening the fifth with a walk and infield hit off his glove, both runners scoring when catcher David Ross threw Brandon Guyer's bunt single into right field for a two-base error.

Shocking development: A power outage in Tropicana Field that delayed the start of Saturday night's game by 12 minutes was caused by a lightning strike at a nearby substation.

Record zeroes: The shutout was the 18th for the Rays, a club record.

Alejandro De Aza traded to Orioles

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30

BALTIMORE -- The AL East-leading Orioles acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza and infielder Kelly Johnson in a pair of trades Saturday night, bolstering their bench in the wake of a couple of injuries to key players.

Baltimore sent two minor league right-handers to Chicago for De Aza, who hit .243 with five homers, 31 RBIs and 15 steals in 122 games with the White Sox this year. He made his major league debut with the Marlins in 2007 and is a .268 career hitter with 35 homers and 179 RBIs in seven seasons.

The Orioles got Johnson and minor league infielder Michael Almanzar from Boston in exchange for minor league infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus.

The addition of Johnson provides some infield depth with Manny Machado out for the year with a knee injury and Steve Pearce bothered by an abdominal strain.

Baltimore also completed the moves before Sunday's deadline for postseason eligibility. Players must be with an organization by Aug. 31 to be eligible for the postseason with that team.

The 32-year-old Johnson hit .212 with six homers and 23 RBIs in a combined 87 games for the Yankees and Red Sox. He has played first, second and third base this season, along with left and right field.

Almanzar, 23, was a Rule 5 pick by the Orioles prior to the season.

Weeks, 27, batted .278 in 62 games for Triple-A Norfolk. De Jesus, 27, hit .282 in 113 games for the Tide.

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