Heath Hembree Fan Club

The Heath Hembree Fan Club was born in the wee hours of Monday, April 25 after closer Craig Kimbrel blew hist first save against the Houston Astros. But fear not! For a knight in shining armor appeared and mowed down the Astros hitters for the final 3 innings of a 12-inning circus show. That knight who threw 49 pitches (and only 8 were balls) is RHP Heath Hembree.

At first glance, you may think to yourself “wait…is that John Lackey, I thought we traded him?” Fan ClubOthers have compared him to Kenny Powers from the hit HBO show Eastbound and Down. Personally I think he resembles a John Lackey/Craig Hansen with a splash of Bryce Brentz. Regardless, he’s a guy who the Sox have had to rely on early in his call-up and he has welcomed the challenge with open arms.

Hembree who was one of the pieces acquired from the San Francisco Giants during the summer of 2014 as part of the return for pitcher Jake Peavy, has made three appearances so far this season. In 7 2/3 innings he’s allowed four hits and just one walk to counter his 11 strikes. Over his 3 years with the Sox, Hembree has accumulated a 3.38 ERA while appearing in 30 games. Now I know 30 games over 3 seasons is a very small sample size, but so far in 2016 he’s looking like the real deal.

In a season that has been plagued with injuries so early on and huge pitching woes it’s nice to finally see a pitcher that has not only shown some consistency, but has also been pretty effective. That’s a weapon that John Farrell didn’t have in the beginning of the season and, like they say, sometimes it’s better late than never.

The Heath Hembree fan club will be riding high this week. Twitter will be exploding with Hembree references, jersey sales will be through the roof, and you can bet he’ll be making his way around the late night television circuit. Obviously I am kidding about some of these things, but make no mistake about it: the Red Sox have found what I believe is to be a key piece to this bullpen moving forward. The only question is how long can he keep up this dominance? I’m hoping FOREVER!

Christian Vazquez: The Pitcher Whisperer

Hey Dave, are your pitchers struggling early on this season? Let me introduce you to Christian Vazquez, also known as The Pitcher Whisperer.

It’s no secret that the current Red Sox rotation struggled right out of the gate posting an American League worst 7.32 ERA thru the first 9 games of the season. Pitcher WhispererIt’s also no secret that last May the Sox had to rush Blake Swihart to the major leagues after losing both Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan to injury. And now, with a healthy Vazquez returning to form after recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox had no choice but to bring him back to help stabilize this disaster of a rotation.

Pitcher Whisperer Gets Results

In his first major league start since returning from Tommy John surgery, Vazquez showed Red Sox Nation why he’s highly regarded as one of the top catchers in the game today. Not only did he help guide Porcello to his 2nd win of the year (6.1 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 B and 8 K’s), but he also showed us his cannon of an arm by gunning down Tulowitski in the 1st inning with a nasty pick-off at 1st.

Up next, David Price who is known to get off to a slow start in the month of April (4.70 ERA in April since 2013) looked to have some good chemistry with Vazquez behind the plate. Price only allowed 2 ER in 7.0 IP, while striking out 9 Jays en-route to his 2nd win of the season.

Now I’m not saying Vazquez was 100% responsible for the back-to-back wins against the Jays, but it’s hard not to notice how the pitchers respond to his game calling ability. In my opinion, Porcello looked like a completely different pitcher confidence wise; he was throwing more of his sinker and attacking the strike zone. Nothing against Swihart by any means, but clearly pitchers seem to perform better with Vazquez as their battery-mate.

Back in the winter of 2015, during the Red Sox Winter Weekend, Joe Kelly had nothing but praise for the young defensive catcher, and even went as far to  compare him to his former teammate and catcher in St. Louis, Yadier Molina. “Mini Yadi. That’s his nickname. I call him that”, said Kelly.

Now obviously that’s a pretty big comparison for someone who has only been in the major leagues for less than 2 full seasons, but it’s not far-fetched. Christian is a special talent no doubt about that and as time goes on he will only become that much better. But in the mean time the Sox don’t need him to be “Yadier 2.0” they just need him to be Christian Vazquez, the Pitcher Whisperer for the Boston Red Sox.

 

Downfall of Pablo Sandoval in Boston

Downfall of Pablo Sandoval…sounds like a movie screenplay debuting at the Loews Boston Common doesn’t it? Well, it’s not unfortunately. The tumultuous career of the Panda in a Sox uniform took another turn on Tuesday afternoon with the news of the Panda being placed on the disabled list retroactive from April 11th with what manager John Farrell is calling a left shoulder strain. A little surprising seeing as I wasn’t aware you could strain a shoulder while riding the pine on the bench, but hey, that’s the Panda for you.

Taking his place on the 25-man roster will be INF Josh Rutledge. Downfall of Pablo SandovalRutledge appeared in 39 games for the big club last season and hit .284 with 1 HR and 10 RBI.

For Pablo, who hit .245 with 10 homers and a .658 OPS, this trip to the disabled list could actually pay dividends for the third basemen. It will not only give him a chance work on his conditioning and weight, but it will also take him out of the media spotlight for the time being.

The Downfall of Pablo Sandoval is Weighty

With all the talk centered around his weight as well as the 95 million dollar price tag associated with that, Sandoval has become a lightning rod for criticism. It’s hard to envision him returning in a few weeks a changed man, but you never know. Best case scenario Pablo loses a few pounds, gets some regular at-bats on a rehab assignment and comes back ready to contribute. Worst case scenario he comes back and contributes jack, but let’s be honest are we really expecting him to come back and wow us? If you truly believe that well, that’s a conversation for another time.

I think the main things for him to focus on his getting his health and weight in check, finding a rhythm at the plate with some regular at-bats once he begins a rehab assignment, and a chance to clear his mind from all the scrutiny he has faced since spring training. The downfall of Pablo Sandoval has been tough to watch but it’s looking more and more like his time in Boston is coming to an end.

History Made At McCoy Stadium as Castillo Demoted

On April 13th 2016, the baseball world was shaken to its core when history was made at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Records were broken, ticket sales skyrocketed and soon the Boston media will be swarming the Triple-A affiliate. Why? Well, with Rusney Castillo demoted to Triple-A, McCoy Stadium is nowCastilo demoted to pawtucket home to the highest payroll of all minor league baseball teams with over 70 million dollars on the books.

Rusney Castillo has more than 48 million dollars left on his seven-year, 72.5 million dollar deal that he signed in 2014. Old friend Allen Craig, who was once a promising slugger with the St. Louis Cardinals, has 21 million dollars (and a team-friendly 13 million dollar option in 2018) attached to his name. And if you want to be even more precise, once Pablo Sandoval joins the team on a rehab assignment they will have easily amassed the 100 million dollar threshold with the 72.4 million dollars remaining on the beefy third baseman.

Rusney Castillo Demoted to Pawtucket: History Made But at What Cost?

All kidding aside this is quite frankly embarrassing to a franchise that has already faced it’s share of criticism from media and fans alike since spring training. How an organization can have players with big major league contracts playing in Triple-A is beyond me, but it boasts an even bigger question—who’s to blame? Easy answer: ownership.

Spending a total of 275.5 million dollars on Castillo, Sandoval and Ramirez was not just a mistake, but a costly one. This team needed pitching in 2015, and they desperately  need pitching in 2016. Currently this pitching staff,including the bullpen, has a combined ERA of 5.40. Yes it’s still early enough that things can, and should turn around, but in the interim this organization is becoming the laughing-stock of the baseball world.

But hey, if you’re looking for family friendly baseball outings with major league talent, head on down to McCoy Stadium. Castillo and Craig will be there welcoming you with open arms. And maybe you’ll even get to see a Panda in action in weeks to come. Now wouldn’t that be a treat?

The Legend of Holt Continues in 2016

Using the word “Legend” might be a stretch of the imagination, but when you consider what the 27-year-old Brock Holt has done since arriving via trade from the Pittsburg Pirates, legend actually kind of suits him. The phrase the Legend of Holt Continues was coined by former NESN Red Sox Analyst Don Orsillo during the 2014 season.

After being drafted in the 9th round by the Pittsburg Pirates in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft, Brock Holt put up some pretty impressive numbers as he climbed the ranks of the farm system. The Legend of Holt
In 2012, Brock hit .322 in 102 games with Double-A Altoona, and later that season hit .432 in 24 games for Triple-A Indianapolis before joining the big club on September 1st and batted .292 with a triple and 3 RBI in 24 games.

And on December 26th, 2012, the Brock Star was traded to the Boston Red Sox in what has become one of the greatest Christmas gifts this team has ever received.

The Legend of Holt is Born

We didn’t get to see much of Holt during the 2013 Championship season. He played in only 26 games, while hitting .203 with 11 RBI. Despite not making the postseason roster Holt received his first championship ring when the Sox beat the Cardinals in the World Series.

During the 2014 season Holt was called-up on May 17 to replace former Red Sox, Will Middlebrooks. Immediately manager John Farrell inserted Holt in the leadoff spot in which he would continue to occupy for the remainder of the season. Holt not only went on to hit .281 in 449 at-bats, but he also showed his athleticism, versatility, and tremendous defense by starting games at every position except pitcher and catcher.

He carried that momentum heading into the 2015 season by cracking the Opening Day roster for the first time in his short but history making career. On June 16 against the Atlanta Braves the Legend of Holt reached new heights when he became the first Red Sox since John Valentine in 1996 to hit for the cycle. Just a few short weeks later, Holt’s game was taken to another level when he was chosen to represent the Red Sox in the 2015 All-Star Game.

Holt finished the season hitting .280 after again seeing time at every position except pitcher and catcher. Now one big knock that fans have highlighted is that he’s not an everyday player and he’s going to breakdown half way through the season. You guys are right, at the time he wasn’t expected to be an everyday player but injuries arose throughout the team and Holt welcomed the challenge with open arms.

2016 looks to be no different and in the first 4 games he’s batting .412 with 2 long balls and 8 RBI. Heading into the season knowing he was going to be counted on all year-long, Holt was able to not only physically prepare but also mentally prepare and that is going to pay huge dividends as the season goes on, believe it.

So go ahead and call him the Brock Star, the man of many gloves, All-Star, hell I’ll even throw Gold Glover and Silver Slugger in there as well. He hits, he plays terrific defense, and he wins. All he does is win. So call him what you want but just rest assure that in 2016 the Legend of Holt will continue and will surely reach another height.

The Joe Kelly Experiment Has To End

The Joe Kelly Experiment has to end, and it has to end now. In Kelly’s first start of 2016 he went 3.3 innings while giving up 7 hits, 7 runs (all earned), issued 3 walks, struck out 4, and gave up a monster grand slam to the 2015 MVP, Josh Donaldson. Not to mention almost beheading Kevin Pillar with a 97 mph fastball that luckily only hit the brim of his batting helmet, which Pillar was then able to bounce back up after being knocked to the ground.

Control issues have been hampering him since arriving in Boston. For a guy who can hit triple digits with his fastball well, let’s just say it doesn’t end well. Joe Kelly ExperimentSo it begs the question, why is he still in the rotation? Why is Farrell so intrigued to keep working on what I believe is a failed project. After spending some time down in Triple A last year, Kelly came back up to Boston and showed signs of major improvement. 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA. But it took a trip down to the minors for him to “fix” whatever issues he was having and now we’re to believe he’s figured it all out? Nope, not buying that one bit.

The fact of the matter is this, the 2016 Red Sox pitching rotation is already looking like the teams biggest downfall. Had it not been for some timely offense and relatively strong bullpen in the most recent game, who knows what the outcome would’ve been. But I do know this—and I hope Farrell finally grows a pair and see’s—Joe Kelly should not be in this rotation whatsoever.

If you want to throw him in the bullpen, great! I’m all for it. The more power arms there the better. But if you’re going to keep him in the rotation expect similar results that we not only saw in the last game, but that we’ve seen since he’s arrived in Boston.

They say in baseball a change of scenery is sometimes all that is needed for a player. Well, I think it’s finally getting to that point for Joe Kelly and I hope it happens sooner rather than later because the Joe Kelly Experiment has finally run its course.