Boston Red Sox: Brock Holt

Sox ride spurt of optimism into break

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13

HOUSTON -- Well, at least it ended on a positive note.

The worst first half of Red Sox baseball in nearly 20 years concluded Sunday with an 11-0 win over the Houston Astros. After hobbling through much of the first three months and the first week of July, the Red Sox enter the All-Star break winners of four of five.

It was their best five-game stretch in six weeks.

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Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsBrock Holt's first-inning home run was part of his five-hit day, the first for the Sox in four years.
"We recognize the struggles of the first half, but to go into the break with some momentum is something that we're hopeful that we'll continue to build on," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We haven't conceded anything. We know that there's a little bit of a hole to climb out of, but this is a confident group that's playing well right now."

Farrell reflected on the biggest surprises and disappointments of the first half for the reigning World Series champs.

"The biggest disappointment is our record," Farrell said. "There's a few things that contribute to that. The biggest surprise is collectively, the level that we've been able to produce runs, and individually, the emergence of Brock Holt."

Holt has been the most consistent of the rookies who have played well, giving the Red Sox reason to be optimistic about the future. On Sunday, Holt had Boston's first five-hit game in more than four years.

Holt's consistency in the leadoff spot alongside his ability to play a wide variety of positions has given Farrell flexibility to tweak the roster and seek catalysts for success.

If catcher Christian Vazquez can even closely approach his production through his first three games, he will join Holt as a major bright spot. The last rookie Red Sox catcher before Vazquez to post back-to-back multi-RBI games?

Carlton Fisk in 1972.

Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, Jr., also have shown glimpses of greatness in their rookie campaigns.

"We've got some talented young players that bring energy and enthusiasm," Farrell said. "Because there's some newness to it, I think it energizes everyone in our uniform. But regardless of what our roster is comprised of, our goal is the same. That's to go out and win and hopefully, get to the point where we're playing in the postseason."

Farrell clearly is not ready to write off the Red Sox in 2014.

At nine games under .500, the Red Sox have their worst record at the All-Star break since 1997 when Jimy Williams was the manager, Nomar Garciaparra was a rookie and Tim Duncan was freshly stolen from the Celtics two weeks prior.

On the bright side for the Red Sox, the AL East is pretty bad, collectively having one of its worst seasons in recent memory. At the conclusion of Sunday's game, the Sox were just nine games out of first place with 67 games remaining.

"What we hope to accomplish is to dig out of the hole that we're in right now and to make movement north in our division with the thought that we're able to contend," Farrell said. "That's not out of our minds right now."

Call him crazy, but if the starting rotation can continue to improve the way it has across the last few weeks, Farrell's team might have a chance.

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Bob Levey/Getty ImagesClay Buchholz gets a hug from catcher Christian Vazquez after striking out a career-high 12 in a three-hit shutout.
Granted, the Red Sox were playing the Houston Astros, who rank 23rd in runs and second-to-last in batting average. But after Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz delivered their best starts of the season on back-to-back days, things are looking up.

Buchholz's three-hit shutout helped him shave nearly a run off his earned run average. He entered Sunday with a 6.11 ERA and walked out of Minute Maid Park with a 5.42 mark. He credited the improvement over his last few starts to sharpened command of his secondary pitches.

Buchholz said when he first returned from the disabled list, he was relying heavily on just two pitches. On Sunday, everything was working.

For a pitcher, the difference is massive.

"It's night and day," Buchholz said. "It's tough going out in a big league baseball game with just two pitches across multiple innings. It makes it a lot tougher on yourself, and I've done a lot of work to get command of those pitches back."

He was greeted in the tunnel outside the clubhouse by a large gathering of family and friends who made the trip from his nearby hometown of Nederland. When asked how many supporters he had on hand for his first game in Minute Maid Park since high school select ball, he didn't even try to guess.


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"I have no idea," Buchholz said. "A lot. More than 20 ... it's pretty neat."

It was a triumphant return to the top that took a long and winding road. He said he hasn't doubted himself since 2008, but this season hasn't been easy on him.

"I've come back before from being really bad," Buchholz said. "It's a matter of confidence, and you can't get confidence without results. It takes a day like the last three games I've pitched to keep building confidence, and today was the cherry on top."

If confidence is what the Red Sox need to start winning, they'll have another good chance to gain some when they return from the All-Star break to host the 48-46 Kansas City Royals.

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 11, Astros 0

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13

HOUSTON -- Clay Buchholz delivered his best start of the season Sunday, and the Red Sox didn't even really need it.

A day after Jake Peavy pitched his best game of the season and only got two runs of support and his eighth straight loss to show for it, the Red Sox gave Buchholz more than enough support in an 11-0 blowout over the Houston Astros.

In a departure from their one-run nail-biters of late, it was the Red Sox's widest margin of victory of the season. They enter the All-Star break having won four of their last five games.

Playing about 90 miles from his hometown of Nederland, Buchholz pitched a dazzling shutout, allowing just three hits, zero walks, while recording a career-high 12 strikeouts. He retired the last 17 batters he faced in the dominant performance.

On a day when Buchholz only needed one run of support to win, the Red Sox gave him much more than that.

The Red Sox poured runs on the Astros, and they did it without a whole lot of what Farrell has been preaching for weeks -- timely hitting.

The final score wasn't as lopsided as the final hits category, which ended at 16-3. After Mike Napoli was the only hitter in the starting lineup to go hitless on Saturday, David Ortiz was the lone goose egg on Sunday, as he went 0-for-4 with two walks and one RBI.

The Red Sox knocked Houston starter Brad Peacock out of the game just one out in, as Brock Holt led off with a home run and the Red Sox loaded the bases early. Houston burned through five relievers, and the Red Sox touched just about every one of them in the hitting clinic.

Holt stays hot: Brock Holt has hit well pretty much everywhere he has played since his May call-up, but he really liked Houston. A few miles down the road from where he spent a year playing college ball at Rice University, Holt destroyed the Astros in the series, going 10-for-15 and hitting for the cycle across three games, collecting two RBIs and scoring four runs. He was 5-for-6 on Sunday with two runs scored and an RBI.

Ducks on the pond: Although the Red Sox scored 11 runs, they could have scored a whole lot more. They stranded 11 runners on base and hit into five double plays.

Walking the line: Several players were asked after Saturday's game if it felt like they were pressing and trying too hard to make things happen. If their patience at the plate is any indication, the Red Sox couldn't be much more relaxed. They drew eight walks on Sunday, nearing the season high of 10, and rank second in the majors in walks, trailing only Oakland.

Vazquez going bananas: After Friday's three-hit breakout performance where he collected his first major-league hit, catcher Christian Vazquez said, "After the first one, they come in like bananas." On Sunday, Vazquez picked up two more hits along with two RBIs.

Holt leads rookie uprising as Sox walk off

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10

BOSTON -- Forget the birth certificates. The Red Sox all played like kids Wednesday night, won in their last at-bat and then went out for ice cream afterward -- John Farrell's treat.

Just when you thought fun had become a permanent no-show on Yawkey Way, with the Sox having lost seven of eight games on a homestand that was supposed to serve as a trampoline into contention but instead turned into a trap door, it made an after-hours appearance Wednesday night.

With the Sox seemingly headed to another dry-dock defeat -- blanked through the first seven innings by White Sox ace Chris Sale -- they burned the white flags and scored five times in their last two at-bats. Rookie Mookie Betts started a three-run, eighth-inning rally with that rare art form known as an infield double, and rookie Brock Holt singled for the first walk-off hit of his career in a 5-4 win over Chicago.

"We were able to finish it off, which is something we haven't been able to do recently," Holt said. "So it's a good feeling."

[+] EnlargeBrock Holt
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesBrock Holt celebrates after driving in the winning run in the Red Sox's comeback victory.
Those in the crowd of 36,218 who bought one might want to hold onto the scorecards from this affair.

This was the first time since Aug. 16, 1987, that the Sox started five rookies, not including September call-ups, in a game. The latest addition, No. 55 on your program, was 23-year-old catcher Christian Vazquez, the replacement for A.J. Pierzynski, the 37-year-old veteran whose torpid bat had made him dead weight on a roster that isn't through molting.

Holt played shortstop for the first time this season, alongside third baseman Xander Bogaerts, who might yet return to short, according to GM Ben Cherington, who said he'll leave that decision up to Farrell (Note to reader: In the 21st century, lineup decisions are never left to just the manager. If Bogie winds up back at short, more than one voice will be heard, including the GM's).

Jackie Bradley Jr. was in center, Mookie Betts was in right, and Vazquez was catching another kid, Rubby De La Rosa, who technically isn't a rookie but was appearing in just his 17th game for the Sox and his sixth this year. It was the big leagues as finishing school, which shouldn't be confused, Farrell insisted, with pulling the plug on a season that has yet to reach the All-Star break.

"We haven't conceded anything," the manager said. "The bottom line is to go out and win."

De La Rosa was pitching with an overabundance of rest, as his routine was disrupted when the Sox kept him on the big league roster in case they made a change, then sent him down to Pawtucket. After throwing back-to-back gems against the Twins and Athletics in his last two big league starts before his demotion, De La Rosa had pitched just 6 2/3 innings since June 21, in one start for the PawSox and what amounted to a one-inning tune-up on Sunday.

Maybe it was the rust, maybe it was the thunder in the White Sox bats, but De La Rosa quickly found himself down 3-0 on home runs by Cuban strongman Jose Abreu and Conor Gillaspie, who homered for the second straight night, and a fielding error by first baseman Mike Napoli, his third in less than a week's time.

When the White Sox added another run in the seventh on three straight hits off Edward Mujica, the Red Sox looked headed to their sixth straight loss against Chicago teams -- they lost three to the Cubs this past week.

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Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesRed Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. robs Tyler Flowers of extra bases on Wednesday night.
But even while being stymied by Sale, who didn't walk a batter and had allowed just three hits entering the eighth, the Sox had offered some resistance, at least defensively. Bradley made a spectacular diving catch in center, Vazquez cut down Dayan Viciedo attempting to advance to second on a throw home, and Jonny Gomes -- nobody's idea of a rookie -- relayed a Wall carom off his nose to Bogaerts, who threw out Alejandro De Aza at the plate, with Vazquez making a nice sweep tag.

Those headed for the exits -- understandable behavior given how lifeless the Sox have been of late -- came to rue their departure when Betts ignited a rally by beating out a hit to the hole at short, then high-tailing it to second when he realized neither Chicago middle infielder could outrace him to the bag. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez was closer to third than second, and second baseman Gordon Beckham had gone to back up the play at first.

"It was a big gamble, but Farrell says [to] be aggressive the same way I've been my whole career," Betts said.

With Betts on third and two out, White Sox manager Robin Ventura lifted Sale, and the Sox capitalized on his departure. Score one for the old guys. Dustin Pedroia singled home Betts. David Ortiz doubled home Pedroia. Gomes doubled home Ortiz. It was turn-back-the-clock night at Fenway, and the Sox were down by just a run.

Koji Uehara then blasted through the top of the ninth and struck out the side, and Betts turned instigator again in reaching first when he was hit by a pitch from reliever Javy Guerra. Vazquez was due to bat next, but Farrell opted to forgo the storybook ending and sent up pinch-hitter Daniel Nava instead. Nava doubled home Betts, Holt punched a single to right that scored Nava with the game-winner, and the Sox piled out of their dugout just like school kids when the day's final bell rings.

Fun. What a concept. Come back tomorrow. With these kids around, there might be more.

Reporting from's Gordon Edes, Brendan Hall and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Bogaerts (6-for-66) sits; Holt plays 3B

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
NEW YORK -- The first person to sit as part of John Farrell’s rotation designed to make room for Mookie Betts was third baseman Xander Bogaerts. Brock Holt started at third in Bogaerts’s place, with Betts playing right field.

It is only the third time this month that Bogaerts has not started, but he is mired in a horrific slump. On June 8, Bogaerts was batting .299; he has lost 48 percentage points since, dropping to .251. In 18 games over that span, he is just 6-for-66 (.091), with one extra-base hit, a home run. In 70 plate appearances, he has 19 strikeouts and three walks.

“His timing’s off,’’ manager John Farrell said. “We recognize it. There are some things that are tangibly different from when he was in a stretch where he was impacting the baseball with regularity.’’

Farrell said the flaws in Bogaerts’ mechanics were detected both on video and from the dugout, and that Bogaerts is working on making corrections. The problem to date, Farrell said, is that at game speed, Bogaerts has not yet been able to make the adjustments. “We’ve got to remain patient,’’ he said.

Sox lose AL-high 16th one-run game

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Red Sox found yet another way to lose a one-run game Friday night, their American League-high 16th of the season.

This time they were deadlocked 3-3 with the Oakland A's entering the bottom of the eighth inning and had left-handed reliever Andrew Miller on the mound.

Over his previous 27 appearances, Miller had struck out 39 and walked just five. He entered the game averaging 14.28 strikeouts per nine innings, fourth-best among AL relievers. He had been money out of the bullpen, and he struck Brandon Moss on four pitches for the first out.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz singled in Xander Bogaerts to pull Boston even with Oakland at 3-3 in the third inning.
What happened next, no one saw coming, least of all Miller. He hit Kyle Blanks with an 0-2 slider in the lower right shin. Then he hit Alberto Callaspo in the same spot with a first-pitch fastball.

Miller struck out Nick Punto for the second out, but former Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp lined an RBI single to right, snapping the tie, and the A's held on for a 4-3 win, their second straight victory over Boston.

Blanks had swung and missed an inside slider for strike one.

"I was just trying to throw a breaking ball kind of to the same spot to Blanks," Miller said. "He chased the first one. I was trying to throw one a little bit lower, get him to chase again. I just went a little too far. And the second one was just a bad yank. That was not even close to where I wanted to get. Just can't afford to hit those two guys in that part of the lineup right there."

Miller said he made a mistake to Crisp, who has been battling a sore neck and didn't enter the game until the bottom of the seventh.

"Fastball away. Hindsight, wrong pitch," Miller said. "It was away, but it wasn't down enough. At the same time, 2-2 pitch, you want to go right after him. Hindsight, I should have thrown a breaking ball or thrown something in. I didn't."

Red Sox manager John Farrell seemed stunned after the game after watching the bizarre eighth inning.

"He hung on to a breaking ball to Blanks, which I thought he swung on the pitch," Farrell said. "And then the first pitch to Callaspo, he clips both runners, puts guys on first and second. He regroups, has an outstanding at-bat against Punto for the strikeout.

"And [we] wanted to keep Coco on the right side of the plate, and a lot of success by Andrew in the past against him. He gets in the middle of the count and a base hit to right field for the difference in tonight's game. I thought, overall, our bullpen did an outstanding job of coming in and making pitches when needed. We left a number of people on base, which is once again the story in this one."

Left-hander Felix Doubront came off the disabled list an made his first start since May 20, when he lasted only four innings against Toronto before leaving with a strained left shoulder. Doubront allowed three runs on two hit over 4 2/3 innings Friday, but one of those hits was a three-run home run by A's third baseman Josh Donaldson in the first inning.

"Bad pitch to Donaldson, I think middle up," Doubront said. "That's pretty much what happened in the first inning. A mistake, and he put a good swing on it.

"Overall, I felt good. I threw my curve very good today, and when I got ahead in the count, I was able to throw it two times in a row and get the hitter out. I just tried to feel my mechanics again and all my pitches. I did good work today."

The Red Sox have scored a combined 10 runs in their past five games, but they almost came up with that elusive big inning in the second inning.

Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. brought two runs in on a sharp single to center with the bases loaded and two outs. Right fielder Brock Holt then hit a line drive to right-center that looked headed for the gap, but A's center fielder Craig Gentry made a diving catch. Then he got up and threw to second to double off Stephen Drew, who had headed to third.

"That's a big play Gentry made," Holt said. "Frustrating on our part. It feels like every time we hit the ball hard with guys on, they make plays like that or we hit it right at them. That's just another instance where that happened, but big play by him. If that gets down it's a double, Drew scores, maybe Jackie scores if it gets by him. Prevented a big inning, for sure.

"Losing in general's pretty frustrating, but we've been losing one-run games. They got a big two-out hit, Coco got a big two-out hit in the eighth and we didn't get the big hit. ... It just seems that's the way it's been going."

Rapid Reaction: Athletics 4, Red Sox 3

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller gave up a tiebreaking run in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox suffered a 4-3 loss Friday night to the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum.

Miller struck out leadoff hitter Brandon Moss, but he hit Kyle Blanks and Alberto Callaspo, putting runners on first and second. After Miller fanned Nick Punto, former Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp lined an RBI single to right, snapping a 3-3 tie.

Welcome back: Left-hander Felix Doubront (left shoulder strain) was activated from the disabled list and made his first start since May 20 against Toronto, getting a no-decision. He gave up three runs on two hits over 4⅔ innings, striking out four and walking four.

Digging deep: Doubront dug himself a 3-0 hole in the first inning, giving up a three-run blast to A's third baseman Josh Donaldson. After Craig Gentry hit a leadoff single, Jed Lowrie grounded what looked to be a double-play ball to second baseman Dustin Pedroia. But Pedroia bobbled the ball and got only the force at second. Doubront walked Yoenis Cespedes, and Donaldson lined an 89 mph fastball to left for his 18th home run of the season.

Quick response: The Red Sox scored twice in the top of the second as Jackie Bradley Jr., who entered the game batting .281 with runners in scoring position, drilled a two-run, bases-loaded single off Brad Mills, who made his A's debut and first start in the major leagues since July 8, 2012, with the Angels.

Give and take: The Red Sox, in search of that elusive big inning, could have scored more runs in the second if Gentry hadn't made a diving catch in right-center of Brock Holt's line drive, then doubled off Stephen Drew at second, ending the inning. Of course the Red Sox might have come away empty if Punto hadn't botched Drew's perfect double-play grounder with one out, flipping the ball low and wide left of second. The Red Sox pulled even with a run in the third when Xander Bogaerts worked a leadoff walk and scored on David Ortiz's one-out single.

Shift buster: Ortiz beat the A's defensive shift for singles in the third and fifth innings, using two different approaches. In the third he hammered a line drive into the teeth of the shift, ripping the ball past a diving Punto to drive in Bogaerts. Then in the fifth with no outs and Pedroia on first, he grounded a single to left through a vacant left side of the infield. What's next, a bunt?

Still streaking: Right-handed reliever Burke Badenhop threw two high-stress but scoreless innings, extending his streak to a career-high 18. He hasn't allowed an earned run for 32⅓ innings, the third-longest such streak in Red Sox history.

Flashing the leather: Holt, who had never played right field professionally at any level before this season, made a diving catch in the sixth inning, robbing Callaspo of likely extra bases off Badenhop, and possibly saving a run. With one out and Blanks on first after a single, Callaspo hit a sinking line drive down the right-field line, but Holt turned on the speed and made the highlight reel play.

Stressful seventh: Badenhop gave up a one-out single to Lowrie, who moved to second on Cespedes' single in the seventh. Donaldson hit a ground ball to Pedroia, but the Red Sox couldn't convert the double play. That was it for Badenhop, who gave way to Miller to face the left-handed hitting Stephen Vogt. Vogt hit a line drive to shallow left, but Jonny Gomes made a running catch.

Brock Holt doing it all for Sox

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18

BOSTON -- David Ross had a conversation with Brock Holt. “I asked him the other day if he can catch," Ross said. “I might be out of a job."

Not to worry.

“I’m going to leave that one to him and [A.J.] Pierzynski," Holt said. “One foul tip off my mask, I’d be done."

Everything else, however, seems to be fair game for the Red Sox rookie, who in Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins debuted at his third new position, center field, and made the kind of play that would make a veteran proud. Holt, who was shaded to right center, rescued left fielder Jonny Gomes when he lost Brian Dozier’s third-inning fly ball in the opaque twilight, diving backwards to make a catch after hustling to back up the play.

Red Sox manager John Farrell called it “the third-inning recovery play."

[+] EnlargeBrock Holt
Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images Holt couldn't hide the smile after making a diving catch to rescue left-fielder Jonny Gomes, who lost the ball in the twilight.
“I don’t know how else to describe it," he said. “When a ball is lost in the twilight he comes out of nowhere, makes a diving catch. In a way, he took over the inning because he leads off [the bottom of the third] with a double, steals third and scores on a sacrifice fly that ends up being the difference tonight."

Sox starter Jon Lester, who had endured a 33-pitch first inning but emerged unscathed when he induced Kendry Morales, the Twins’ new DH, to pop out, appreciated that Holt brought to a close an inning that would have continued if Dozier’s ball had landed safely.

“Huge," Lester said. “It seems like Brock each game has an effect on what’s going on. Two great at-bats tonight, steals third, produces a run for us.

“I didn’t know where the ball was. Jonny was running in, Dirt [shortstop Stephen Drew] was running out, guys were pointing and screaming and yelling, and all of a sudden Brock dives out of nowhere in left center."

From the dugout, Farrell said dryly, “Jonny didn’t look like he had a bead on it."

Holt’s first clue?

“I looked over and saw Gomes’ arms were out," he said. “He never picked it up. I ran to the wrong spot. That’s why I had to [dive]."

Holt kept alternating between looking at Gomes, to see if he would catch sight of the ball, and looking at the ball. “I noticed he wasn’t running toward the ball, and it was behind him."

As beautiful as the night was, it can be treacherous.

“Twilight here is really a tough time for everybody,” Ross said. “That gray sky right there at dusk is really tough.”

Holt, though, said he had a better angle than Gomes, and was able to detect it against the tough backdrop.

“The biggest thing that impressed me," Lester said, “especially for a guy who hasn’t played much outfield, is to be backing up and running that ball down. A smart baseball player."

[+] EnlargeBrock Holt
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaHolt is congratulated by teammate Dustin Pedroia after he scored on a sacrifice fly by Xander Bogaerts in the third inning.
Holt finished the game in right field, another new position, when Jackie Bradley Jr. took center in the ninth as a defensive replacement.

The unfamiliar surroundings didn’t impact Holt's performance at the plate. He had two hits, a single in the first in addition to his double, and scored both Boston runs.

“He seems to hit more doubles off that wall than anybody I’ve seen in my short time here," Ross said. “He’s been a great spark for us."

This, remember, was a guy who couldn’t even win the backup infield job coming out of camp.

“You’d hardly know it was his first game in center field," Lester said. “I’m sure we’ll see him in catcher’s gear or on the mound at some point this year. The guy’s done an unbelievable job."

The constant shuffling?

“A lot of fun," Holt said. “New challenge, I enjoyed it. I’m enjoying the challenge of moving around."

So are the Sox.

“The best way to wrap it up -- he’s a good baseball player," Farrell said. “And I say that in general, but he understands the game, he’s athletic, he’s got speed. I think he’s improved his base stealing and overall base running from the time we got him here. I think, more than anything, he’s really flourishing in the flexibility we’re providing for him.”

Cherington: 'Still trying to find solutions'

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
BOSTON -- With the designation of Grady Sizemore and Brock Holt’s debut in center field specifically in mind, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington on Tuesday offered an assessment on his team’s current situation.

“It’s symbolic of the fact that things haven’t happened, particularly on the offensive side, the way we wanted or hoped. We’re still trying to find solutions,” Cherington said. “I still think we will and we can, but it’s an ongoing thing.”

The Red Sox entered Tuesday at 32-38, 8½ games out of first in the AL East. A large reason for this has been the offense, which has scored the second-fewest number of runs in the American League.

“It’s always hard to find good bats,” Cherington said. “We think we have some of them here that will continue to be better than what they have been so far.”

“The more good hitters you have, the better chance you have to score runs. It’s up to us to always be searching for that and trying to fill the rosters with as many good hitters as possible. That’s an ongoing thing.

“That said -- it is unusual not to score runs at Fenway Park. Even in years where the Red Sox haven’t been very good that’s something that the team has done. It’s just been a combination of things. That area hasn’t clicked. We’ll keep trying to find solutions for it.”

In 37 games at Fenway, the Red Sox have averaged four runs per game, a run lower than their average in 2013 (5.2).

Holt making debut in center for Red Sox

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
BOSTON -- Since the start of June, Red Sox utility man Brock Holt has made his professional debut at first base, left field and right field. And on Tuesday, Holt will take his talents to center field for the first time in his career.

With outfielder Grady Sizemore designated for assignment and Jackie Bradley Jr. getting a day off, Holt will man center for the Red Sox as the team looks to take the second game of their three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.

“He’s done an excellent job on both sides of the ball,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Felt like with [Twins starter Phil] Hughes going tonight, right-handers have had better success against him this year. Looking to add Jonny [Gomes] to the mix today.”

After playing his first 21 games with the club at third base exclusively, Holt has shuffled between first, third, left, right and now center over the past 17 days. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington praised the 26-year-old’s versatility, saying the team has few reservations testing him out at a new position on any given night.

“Every time he’s at a new position for a first time we probably hold our breath a little bit,” Cherington said. “But he’s a baseball player and one of those guys that probably grew up more as a baseball player than at a particular position.”

“I think he almost kind of enjoys it and is enjoying the challenge of just moving around and proving that he can do it.”

Cherington also said he’s been impressed with Holt’s offense out of the leadoff spot.

“We thought he would hit at the major leagues, we didn’t know that he would be able to handle this,” Cherington said. “Good for him, it’s been good for us.”

In 112 at bats out of the No. 1 spot in the lineup, Holt is hitting .339 with a .367 OBP and an .831 OPS.

New day, new position: Holt starts in RF

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14
BOSTON -- Brock Holt's continued shuffle across the Red Sox's infield and outfield will take him to uncharted territories on Saturday.

Facing Cleveland Indians left-hander T.J. House, Holt will be making his first career start in right field. Perhaps more notable, it will be his first experience manning Fenway Park's cavernous right field.

"Brock is in right in large part because Jonny [Gomes] has played left field so well here," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Wanted to keep that continuity with Jonny in left. Even though we've moved Brock around some, we feel like we can take advantage of his speed and added range in right field if it's needed."

Since Mike Napoli's return from the disabled list Sunday, Holt has primarily spent his time in left field, with the only exception being giving Xander Bogaerts a day off at third Thursday night. Having returned to left for Friday's contest, Holt will now be the playing a third position in the past three days.

Farrell praised Holt's "ability to adapt" as a reason for entrusting the 26-year-old with right-field duties.

"Throwing him in the outfield with really no lead-up or repetition at the minor league level prior to coming here," Farrell said, "and then quickly we saw some of the reads and routes he's made, particularly over in Detroit. Makes another good running catch last night. It's his ability to adapt to a new position as quick as he has -- that's the thing that's been most surprising."

Farrell added, "We felt he could move around and be a utility type. He's exceeded the versatility on the defensive side right now."

In his five outfield starts thus far, Holt has faced six total chances without committing an error.

Here's how the rest of the Red Sox lineup shakes out for Saturday:

1. Brock Holt (RF)
2. Xander Bogaerts (3B)
3. Dustin Pedroia (2B)
4. David Ortiz (DH)
5. Mike Napoli (1B)
6. Jonny Gomes (LF)
7. A.J. Pierzynski (C)
8. Jonathan Herrera (SS)
9. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (CF)

Jake Peavy (SP)

Ortiz delivers much-needed blast

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9

DETROIT -- The Boston Red Sox finally got the big hit they needed on Sunday night.

David Ortiz's three-run homer off Joba Chamberlain with one out in the ninth inning gave Boston a come-from-behind 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

The win snapped the Red Sox's five-game losing streak and averted a series and season sweep at the hands of the Tigers, who won the first five games between the teams this season.

“We needed a win,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “We had so many opportunities that we couldn't capitalize on, then David Ortiz gets the three-run homer in the ninth.”

The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the third against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, but got only one run out of it. That came on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly, which gave Boston a 1-0 lead. Ortiz ended the inning by striking out on a 3-2 pitch.

[+] EnlargeOrtiz
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportDavid Ortiz receives congratulations from Dustin Pedroia after his go-ahead home run in the ninth.
The Sox missed out on another opportunity in the fourth with runners on first and third with one out. Sanchez struck out Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley Jr. to get out of it.

Boston had a chance to break a 2-2 tie in the seventh after Brock Holt's one-out triple, but with the infield pulled in, third baseman Nick Castellanos made a diving stop on a Xander Bogaerts grounder and threw him out at first. Ortiz then flied deep to center against lefty reliever Phil Coke, who was brought in to face Ortiz (now 2-for-19 against Coke).

In the eighth, Coke struck out Bradley with runners on first and second to end the inning.

But when Ortiz stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth, Holt on second and Pedroia on first, he was looking for one thing from former Yankees reliever Chamberlain: a slider.

Ortiz got one that hung out over the plate and sent the 1-1 pitch deep into the right-field stands for his 14th home run of the season.

“You just have to fight,” Ortiz said. “Lately, I think I've made a career of hitting balls right at people. But that's baseball. You just have to fight through it.”

The clutch homer made a winner of John Lackey, who improved to 7-4 with eight solid innings.

“We've seen so much of that,” Lackey said of big home runs by Ortiz. “We think it's a possibility every time he hits. He lives for those situations. You almost expect it.”


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The big right-hander allowed three runs -- two earned -- and seven hits. He walked one and struck out five. He threw 112 pitches, 74 for strikes.

“I threw the ball pretty good. Getting to the eighth inning against this club is an accomplishment,” Lackey said. “And we were able to pull it out.”

Koji Uehara retired the side in order in the ninth for his 12th save.

Chamberlain (1-3) took the loss. He gave up three runs on three hits with a walk and a strikeout.

First baseman Mike Napoli returned for the Red Sox on Sunday after being on the disabled list since late May due to a sprained finger on his left hand and made an immediate impact. His line homer into the right-field seats leading off the sixth inning tied the game 2-2. It was Napoli's sixth home run of the season, the first off Sanchez since Napoli hit one against him at Comerica Park in last season's ALCS. Napoli was 3-for-4 with a walk and even stole his first base of the season.

It's safe to say Napoli's presence in the No. 5 spot behind Ortiz was felt.

“They wouldn't have thrown the ball near the strike zone [against Ortiz in the ninth] if Mike wasn't standing on deck,” Lackey said.

Farrell said that Napoli's presence in the lineup also helped the Red Sox drive up Sanchez's pitch count.

Despite getting only two runs and six hits in six innings off of Sanchez, the Red Sox made him throw 112 pitches. He walked two and struck out seven.

With Napoli back, Holt made his professional debut in left field. He continued his hot hitting by going 4-for-5, but he also made an outstanding running, twisting catch in left of Ian Kinsler's long drive to end the third inning. Holt made the catch on the warning track near the fence while running toward the fence and the left-field line.

“Unbelievable” Ortiz said. “That's a guy who's never played left field before. He's very athletic.”

An error by Bogaerts at third on Austin Jackson's grounder in the seventh gave Detroit the opportunity to take the lead. The miscue put runners on first and second with none out. One out later, Eugenio Suarez's line single to left brought home Nick Castellanos to make it 3-2.

But Bogaerts made amends in the bottom of the ninth, making a diving stop on hot smash by Castellanos to get the second out and leaping to snare a liner by Jackson to end it.

Sox set to activate Napoli on Sunday

June, 7, 2014
Jun 7
DETROIT -- The Boston Red Sox are anticipating the return of their No. 5 hitter on Sunday.

First baseman Mike Napoli, who has been on the disabled list since late May with a finger strain on his left hand, is scheduled to be activated on Sunday, and the plan is for him to go right into the lineup at first and his accustomed fifth spot in the batting order, behind David Ortiz.

Getting Napoli back would be a good thing at any time but it's particularly good now because the Red Sox are struggling to score runs.

"You're talking about a guy who had over 20 home runs and almost 100 RBI for us a year ago [23 homers and 92 RBIs]," Boston manager John Farrell said. "So that's a guy we're happy to have back."

In addition to the finger, Napoli also had a couple of other nagging injuries when he was placed on the DL.

Napoli's return means that Brock Holt, who has been playing first in Napoli's absence and batting leadoff, will move to left field.

Holt, who has been shagging flies in the outfield for the past few days, has played all four infield positions during his professional career but never the outfield.

"His athletic ability will allow him to play left field. It's a learn-on-the-job situation," Farrell said. "We like what he's done in the leadoff spot."

Holt is hitting .314 in 26 games with a .357 on-base percentage.

Buchholz pushed back

Right-handed starter Clay Buchholz, on the DL with a hyperextended left knee, was scheduled to pitch a simulated game before Saturday night's contest against the Detroit Tigers.

But Farrell said the Comerica Park field wasn't available and that the simulated game is now scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 3:30.

Colbrunn update

Farrell said hitting coach Greg Colbrunn was feeling better, walking around more and was less disoriented than he had been.

Colbrunn was diagnosed with bleeding in the brain, a potentially life-threatening condition, after being taken to the Cleveland Clinic before Wednesday's game with the Cleveland Indians.

Farrell said that he has texted with Colbrunn, who is expected to make a "good" recovery.

Badenhop extends streak

With 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in Friday night's 6-2 loss to Detroit, right-hander Burke Badenhop extended his streak of not allowing an earned run to 26 1/3 innings (22 games).

"He's been tremendous in relieving with his sinker ball and the number of double plays he has produced has been great," Farrell said. "A great addition to our bullpen and the success that it's had."

Badenhop was acquired from Milwaukee in a trade in November.

He was originally drafted by Detroit in 2005 (19th round) and in December 2007, Badenhop was one of the players the Tigers sent to the Florida Marlins in exchange for Miguel Cabrera. Badenhop's current Red Sox teammate, left-hander Andrew Miller, was also sent to the Marlins by Detroit in that deal.


Infielder Xander Bogaerts was 1-for-4 with a RBI on Friday night and has reached base in 22 of his last 24 games. He is batting .351 (34-for-97) in that span.

Holt, Sox riding high on upswing

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell sounded something like a television weather presenter Sunday while trying to describe Brock Holt’s meteoric ascent in the past couple of weeks.

“I can’t predict tomorrow, let alone two weeks,” he said.

You know it's a topsy-turvy world when Holt has more doubles on the season than David Ortiz. Four of Holt’s nine doubles came during Sunday’s 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, tying the major league record. According to Elias, Holt is just the second leadoff hitter since 1900 to go 4-for-4 or better with four doubles in a game (joining the Phillies' Denny Sothern in 1930).

With that, the Red Sox ran their season-high winning streak to seven games. They matched the major league record for consecutive wins following a double-digit losing streak, joining the 1989 Detroit Tigers and 1942 Pittsburgh Pirates in a bit of dubious distinction.

Is the glass half full or half empty? After they secured their third straight series sweep, on the whole the Red Sox’s glass is somewhere in between -- two games under .500 (27-29) to be exact.

“It’s a lot more fun when things are going well than when things are going wrong, that’s for sure,” Holt said after Sunday’s win. “Baseball’s a funny game though, you’ve got to stay humble.”

While Holt continued to tear the cover off the ball Sunday, Jon Lester turned in his best start in nearly a month, throwing seven innings of shutout ball with 12 strikeouts and just one walk and four hits.

There was a “Gold Dust Twins” spin to Sunday as well, as both Alex Hassan and Garin Cecchini made their major league debuts, collecting their first hits in the game. Cecchini’s came with his first RBI as well, on a double off the Monster in the seventh. It was the first time that had happened for the Red Sox since -- you guessed it -- 1975. You might not have guessed that it was Steve Dillard and Andy Merchant -- not Jim Rice and Fred Lynn -- who accomplished the feat, however.

“Just to be a small part, whether it’s just one game or whatever, I just wanted to help out in some way,” Hassan, the pride of Milton, Massachusetts, and Boston College High, said of the winning streak.

The Red Sox pipeline from Triple-A Pawtucket has been paramount to the streak. Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa dazzled Saturday before Hassan and Cecchini had their moments on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeBrock Holt
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsBrock Holt played his first professional game at first base, a role he may fill more often as John Farrell tries to keep his bat in the lineup.
Of course, none has defied logic or exceeded expectations as much as Holt, who is now batting .337 with an on-base percentage of .385 on the season.

“I’ve always been able to hit the ball -- not home runs -- but doubles, hit the ball to the gap,” Holt said.

There’s also the intangible element Holt has showcased in the recent weeks. He took a stab at playing first base in Sunday’s game as Farrell was in a pinch with Mike Carp nursing a broken foot. It wasn’t perfect (Holt made an error in the eighth inning on a pretty routine cross-diamond throw), but it was meaningful.

Holt joked before the game that he’d just started playing first base that morning at 10:30, when he and third base coach Brian Butterfield worked on his footwork around the bag.


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“He’s doing a great job, he’s solidified the leadoff spot,” Farrell said. “As we mentioned before the game, we’re trying to find ways with defensive flexibility to keep him on the field.

“He stays inside some pitches to go the other way, he uses the whole field, he’s driving the ball with a little bit more authority this year than a year ago and is playing with a lot of confidence. [It was] the first time he’s ever played first base today, and he did a good job.”

And so the Red Sox sail on, boats against the current through injuries, hit batsmen and the like. With a series fraught with hostility behind them, they head to Cleveland, where the climate will undoubtedly be more serene, reacquainting themselves with Terry Francona for the first time this season.

They'll also reacquaint themselves with shortstop Stephen Drew, who will join the team in Cleveland, push Xander Bogaerts to third base and leave Holt's everyday lineup spot in limbo.

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to win games, we’re not trying to win brawls or fights,” left fielder Jonny Gomes said. “I think that’s first and foremost -- winning the ballgame.”

They’re doing it with gumption, too.

“I think there’s a lot to be said about the guys that aren’t in our lineup and we’re still able to win,” Gomes said. “You take Mike Napoli out, you take [Shane] Victorino out, you take [Dustin] Pedroia out -- to be able to get some wins with one of those guys out of our lineup, never mind all of them together, is pretty valuable.”

Cecchini soaks in life in the bigs

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1
BOSTON -- Garin Cecchini is one excitable young man.

Upon getting his call-up from Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday night, the 23-year-old third baseman could hardly sleep. In fact, he got to Fenway Park so early he was concerned he wasn’t going to be let in.

“I’m glad there was somebody around to let me in,” Cecchini said of his first major league experience. “It took a little while.”

It’s been an exciting few days for Cecchini, who saw PawSox roommate Alex Hassan get his big league call on Friday.

“When he got the call, I think I was more excited than him,” Cecchini said of Hassan, who will make his major league debut on Sunday, playing right field against the Tampa Bay Rays.

To make room for Cecchini, right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was optioned back to Pawtucket.

Cecchini’s stay in Boston could be brief -- he likely will be sent down when Stephen Drew is activated this week -- but he was simply intent on soaking up the scenes of Fenway. He was out early before batting practice with Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield learning the lay of the land and going over defensive shift assignments.

“It’s cliché, but I’m just trying to live this day,” Cecchini said. “It’s a big day for me and my family.”

While observers say Cecchini has a way to go defensively before becoming a major league third baseman, he’s in the process of acclimating to Triple-A pitching, leading the PawSox with 49 hits. A fourth-round selection of the Red Sox in the 2010 draft, Cecchini was hitting .278 (.354 OBP) with a home run and 21 RBIs at the time of the recall.

“I’m getting more consistent every day,” Cecchini said. “That’s what it’s all about now. I’m just getting the job done. It doesn’t matter how it looks -- just get the job done.”

Local boy makes debut: Even in Boston, there’s little separating Cecchini from his roommate, Hassan. There are two temporary locker stalls set up for Cecchini and Hassan in the middle of the Red Sox clubhouse.

Red Sox manager John Farrell looked back fondly on Hassan’s spring training experience, seeing promise in the plate discipline from the Milton native and Boston College High School graduate.

“If goes out and puts on the at-bats we’ve seen in spring training, he’s going to be just fine,” Farrell said. “He had some of the most consistent at-bats the entire time he was there with us.”

Hassan is batting sixth in Sunday’s lineup.

Holt in a new role: Is there anything Brock Holt can’t do? Sunday we'll see if the utility infielder, who’s taken up residence in the leadoff spot of the Red Sox lineup, can tackle first base as well.

Holt said has never played the position at any level of competitive baseball -- “until about 10:30 this morning.”

With Mike Carp being given a day’s rest -- after being hit by several pitches in the last week -- and a left-hander on the mound in former Red Sox Erik Bedard, the move was made to keep Holt in the lineup, as Farrell continues to seek out ways to expand Holt’s on-field repertoire.

“He’s adding versatility,” said Farrell, who also has had Holt taking fly balls in the outfield during recent batting practice sessions.

“Really, it’s just hold the guy on and then coming off,” Holt said of navigating the first base bag. “Other than that, you mess around at BP catching balls for guys at first. It’s going to be fun being over there today.”

Injury front: It might be a while still, but some members of the Red Sox MASH unit that has grown over the last couple of weeks could be getting closer to the field -- in particular, first baseman Mike Napoli.

Farrell expects Napoli (finger) to be ready next Sunday, in Detroit, when he’s first able to come off the disabled list.

“Everything projects for him to be ready to go,” Farrell said.

Farrell also provided updates on several other Red Sox who are a bit further away.

Shane Victorino (hamstring) has begun running the bases, while Clay Buchholz (knee) will throw a simulated game on Monday.

Felix Doubront (shoulder) has thrown two bullpen sessions this week, but plans have not yet been made to begin a rehab assignment.

Farrell also reported that Will Middlebrooks (right index finger) now has a full range of motion with his injured digit, meaning he soon could be cleared for baseball activity.
BOSTON -- Red Sox third baseman Brock Holt’s first Major League home run ball is likely to land in the same place of honor as many youth athletic achievements: the family mantle.

“[I’ll] probably write 'first home run' on it or something,” Holt said after Saturday’s 7-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. “I got the ball, so that’s pretty good.”

Holt launched a 3-2 fastball from Jake Odorizzi into the Red Sox bullpen in the third inning, marking his first blast in 202 at-bats.

[+] EnlargeBrock Holt
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesBrock Holt rounds the bases after hitting his first Major League home run -- a two-run blast that landed in the Boston bullpen.
The 25-year-old infielder is becoming increasingly comfortable in the leadoff spot, as well. Holt has reached safely in 10 of his last 12 games and is batting .327 in that span with six multi-hit games.

But, like most utility infielders who don’t have a career home run through 70 games, Holt made his way to Boston largely with his glove.

That was evident in the second inning, when Holt helped starter Rubby De La Rosa avert danger. With runners on the corners with two outs, Holt snagged a Sean Rodriguez chopper with a dive to his right, snaring the ball even as it took a hop back over his head. Holt calmly completed the long throw across the diamond to get Rodriguez at first and keep the game scoreless.

“He’s done an outstanding job on both sides of the ball since he’s come back to us,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Holt. “He’s seemingly settled into that leadoff role and he’s given us some stability at the top of the order.”

As Holt continued to set the table, the Red Sox also got a bump in production from the No. 9 hole, with Jonathan Herrera making a spot start in place of Dustin Pedroia (hand).

In making his first start since May 11, Herrera went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. He also drove in Boston’s fourth run, dropping down a perfect safety squeeze in the fourth. The bunt was placed on the first-base line and scored Grady Sizemore easily.

“I feel great, I’m happy about it,” Herrera said. “Those are the little things that come right to me. When I’m in the game, something is going to happen -- to put the ball down or to move the guy.”

While it likely was just a one-day substitute job -- Farrell said he “fully expects” Pedroia to be back in the lineup Sunday after X-rays and an MRI on his right hand came back negative on Saturday -- Herrera will be ready the next time his name is called.

“I prepare myself every day,” he said. “I come to the ballpark and do the little things -- bunt and take my regular ground balls.

“Just be ready all the time, that’s part of my job.”