Josh Rutledge is Becoming a Luxury for the Red Sox

Boston Red Sox bench player, Josh Rutledge, has been a bright spot for the team this season as a reliable option off the bench. With the Sox struggling to hit left handed pitchers this season, Rutledge’s ability to do so is invaluable to this team.

The Sox as a team this season have struggled mightily against left handed pitchers, hittingJosh Rutledge just .226 as a team with a meager three home runs in 186 at bats. Rutledge has provided the team with a reliable bat against lefties this season, hitting .625 thus far, albeit in a small sample size, just eight at bats. He has shown improvement against left handers throughout his young career. In his first two seasons, he hit just .247 as a rookie and then .196 against them in his second year. The last two years have provided a different story as Josh Rutledge has come around picking up pitches from lefties, hitting .321 in 2014 followed by .318 last season and now off to the strong start this year. Coming off the bench primarily, Rutledge is the preferred option when a left handed specialist comes into the game.

In Friday night’s game, Josh Rutledge was called upon to pinch hit for catcher Christian Vazquez against New York Yankees left handed relief pitcher, Andrew Miller. Miller is one of the best all around relievers in the business and Rutledge furthered the notion that he has figured out lefties by ripping a single up the middle off of Miler to start the ninth inning. If Rutledge continues hitting like this, he might find himself starting at third base when the team is facing a southpaw. Sox starting third baseman Travis Shaw is hitting just .083 against lefties and is a big part of the team’s struggles against them. John Farrell should consider inserting Rutledge in the starting lineup at third base for Shaw against left handers. However, until Farrell realizes that this is the right move, Rutledge will continue to provide the team with offense off of the bench as a pinch hitter.

Eduardo Rodriguez Trade Was a Steal for the Red Sox

Two years ago at the MLB trade deadline, former Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington made one of the best trades in recent seasons, trading away one year rental relief pitcher Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles for the once highly regarded starting pitching prospect, Eduardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez signed with the Orioles at the age of 16 from Venezuela. He had been a highly regarded pitching prospect in the Orioles system since Eduardo Rodriguezsigning. Following a rough 2014 season at the Double A level for Rodriguez, the Orioles traded him in order to bolster their bullpen for a World Series run. However, the Orioles ended up being ousted in the postseason by the Kansas City Royals and Miller left in the off season, signing with the New York Yankees. Rodriguez is still with the Sox following a strong rookie campaign, proving to the Orioles that his 2014 campaign at Double A Bowie was a fluke and he actually is the pitcher they once believed he was.

Eduardo Rodriguez: How Good Can He Be?

As a 22 year old last season, Rodriguez had a 3.85 ERA in 121.2 innings pitched for the Sox. Their starting pitching was horrible, but Rodriguez provided a glimmer of hope for the future whenever he toed the rubber. Though he has the potential to be a strikeout pitcher, he only had 98 strikeouts. Rodriguez brings a deceptive fastball to the table.”It’s just experience what he needs now. Every time he throws his fastball to the inside corner, see how the guys react. It’s a late reaction every single time. That’s how he whips. You think it looks like 88, it comes by you at 95,” said the Orioles scout who was responsible for the team signing him when he was just 16, Calvin Maduro. With so much praise from scouts and front office guys, what does the future hold for Rodriguez in a Sox uniform, how good can he be?

Rodriguez has ace potential for the Sox as long as he continues to develop. While he was considered the ace of the team last year, that was only because nobody else was pitching near the level of a major league pitcher. Now, with David Price in the clubhouse, Rodriguez has the chance to learn from one of the game’s best. Current Sox GM Dave Dombrowski has already come out publicly and said that he believes Rodriguez can be an ace in a rotation. As Rodriguez nears his 2016 debut for the Sox, look to see if he can take that next step toward becoming just that.

Is It Too Early To Call-Up Eduardo Rodriguez?

Eduardo Rodriguez

Justin Masterson goes 5 innings, Wade Milley goes 4 innings, Joe Kelly goes 5 innings. That has been a common theme for those Red Sox starters after the first month of the season. Masterson’s velocity is down and not getting ground balls the team thought he would be getting. Milley’s adjustment to the American League seems to be a big one, although in his last two starts he has kept the team in the game. Kelly continues to miss bats, but also can’t find the plate at times as shown this weekend in Toronto with seven walks on Saturday.

Is it time to start thinking about a change to the rotation? John Farrell seems to think not Eduardo Rodriguezjust yet, but how much more can he tolerate? Juan Nieves lost his job because of these starters inability to get out of jams and to find the plate. Maybe a new pitching coach will do the job at first, but they are who they are; obviously vastly under performing, but there is no ace on this staff.

Trading for Cole Hamels will not solve the pitching rotation problem as he is just one pitcher, and all five have had their troubles in the first month of the season. The minor leagues are stocked with almost ready arms, most notably Eduardo Rodriguez, but is it too early to bring him up?

In five starts with the PawSox this season, Rodriguez, just 22, is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA. In his most recent start this past weekend in Columbus he allowed 4 run in 5 innings of work walking 2 while striking out 7. Rodriguez had given up just 5 runs total in his previous four starts. Rodriguez only has 6 starts above AA making one for the PawSox last post-season. The Red Sox insisted the Orioles give up Rodriguez in the Andrew Miller trade last July, and so far it has worked out as Rodriguez was having a down year in the minors before coming to the Red Sox.

Only 6 starts above AA doesn’t sound like a pitcher who is ready to face the Yankees in Yankee Stadium or a powerful Blue Jays lineup but, he has shown the Red Sox something early on this season, being able to miss bats and keep runners off base. Would he be better than the bottom of the rotation starters the Sox have now? Maybe. Only time will tell if the patience of John Farrell runs thin and the team turns to more young players who are a part of the future and forced into the present.

Should The Red Sox Have Brought Back Andrew Miller?

Andrew Miller

There is no question last season the Red Sox were in sell mode and, with Andrew Miller set to be a free agent, the Red Sox wanted to get something of value for the pitcher who would command a lot on the open market. With the trade to the Orioles on July 31st, Andrew Miller stepped in and was a part of the Orioles team that won the American League East behind their lefty closer Zach Britton.

Fast forward to this past week at Fenway Park and Andrew Miller is now the closer of the division rival—first place Yankees.Andrew Miller Miller has been paired with Dellin Betances to form one of the more dominant 1-2 punches thus far in the major leagues when it comes to shutting down teams in the late innings.

The Red Sox acquired Eduardo Rodriguez from the Orioles in the Miller trade and he has looked great since coming over from Baltimore. Rodriguez started the year in AAA Pawtucket, but could prove to be valuable down the stretch should the Sox need a starter. With this pitching staff so far, we may be seeing Rodriguez sooner rather than later.

Obviously the Red Sox are happy they got Rodriguez for Miller, but could they have both of them? In the off-season Miller was being heavily pursued as a set-up man and closer for some teams; the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros and Orioles were all in the running. Miller turned down the Astros offer, who then signed Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson. The Orioles were cutting payroll so, Miller likely was not returning to the Orioles in the first place. The Yankees gave Miller $36 million over 4 years and the Red Sox were left in the dust. The thought of trading Lester and then re-signing him in the off-season was made into a huge deal, but re-signing Miller should have been a big deal, in my opinion, as well.

The biggest deal in this is that Miller is still only 29 so, he still has a while to pitch and pitch well. The Red Sox bullpen so far has been over used, but they have not been impressive either. Koji Uehara, who missed the first week, has seen his velocity go down substantially and Edward Mujica has been relegated to mop up duty. Junichi Tazawa, who has been the best pitcher on the staff as a whole, is still owned by the Blue Jays and, as we saw this weekend, Alex Rodriguez. The Red Sox bullpen would look a lot better with Andrew Miller in it.

Miller now is tied for the league lead in saves with 10, two of which he got this weekend at Fenway, with a whopping 23 strikeouts in 13 innings of work. The Red Sox are the team that moved Miller to the bullpen, which he became successful in doing after some struggling years as a starter. Why shouldn’t they be reaping the rewards with a decision they made? Instead he is on the team you hate to lose to and collecting up saves and strikeouts left and right.

Koji Uehara Is a Question Mark This Season

koji uehara

One of the first moves the Red Sox made this off-season was resigning closer Koji Uehara before he hit the free agent market. He likely could have gotten more money if he hit the open market—after seeing the contracts that Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson, and David Robertson received. Although all three of those pitchers are not entering their age 40 season.

Uehara will turn 40 on April 5th and whether he is on the roster the next day for OpeningKoji Uehara Day in Philadelphia remains to be seen. It was labeled as a “close call” just Wednesday after it was reported Uehara has suffered a hamstring strain. Hamstring strains for pitchers are not easy to recover from, as their legs are important—especially for Uehara who doesn’t hit the upper 90’s on the gun anymore. This is also not the first time he has suffered a strain of his hamstring, as he missed two months in 2010 while with the Orioles.

To replicate his great 2013 second half run many thought Uehara would have to drink from the fountain of youth. The first half of last season it seemed Uehara made a trip to that fountain, as he continued his great run earning a trip to the All-Star Game for the first time. As the Red Sox fell out of contention, Uehara became victim to the home run and was even shut down for a time. He arrived at spring training talking about how he suffered through an injury last season that may have effected his play, but did not disclose the injury. Now with a hamstring strain many Sox fans have to wonder: will he be on the roster in Philadelphia and, if he is on the roster, will he be effective?

In 3 games of Grapefruit League action, Uehara has given up 2 runs on 7 hits in just 3 innings of work. Some may say spring statistics do not matter, but it is always nice to see a pitcher give up less hits than innings pitched. The growing concern could be that Uehara is not recovered, thus resulting in poor performance on the mound. If the Sox want him to be an important piece across the season, he cannot be rushed back.

Closing option one with Uehara out is Edward Mujica, who had a tough first half last season in his first in the American League, but had a solid second half of the season. John Farrell has said he will be closer “B.” A pitcher to keep an eye on is Alexei Ogando, who the Red Sox brought in after being non-tendered by Texas. Ogando has been injured for much of the past two seasons, but has been better out of the bullpen in his career. He is a two pitch pitcher, featuring a live fastball and an above average slider. Junichi Tazawa seems to be best in a set-up role, so he might not get many save opportunities. The trickle down affect of this Uehara injury could open up a bullpen spot for either Brandon Workman or Matt Barnes to start the year. One thing is for certain, the starting rotation is not the only question mark going into the season as Koji Uehara has now been added to the list.

Grading the Andrew Miller Trade

Andrew MillerThe Boston Red Sox completed the first of two deals within the AL East, a couple of hours before the trade deadline was complete, with a trade that sent lefty reliever Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.

Miller has been used in key situations all season for the Red Sox in 2014, including becoming the setup reliever in most games. He was 3-5 with a stellar 2.34 ERA this season. He had 69 strikeouts in just 42.1 innings of work. The lefty reliever was a high commodity this trade deadline and the Red Sox got a really solid offer from the Orioles.

The Orioles gave up their No. 3 prospect in the lefty Rodriguez. In Double-A ball this season, the 21-year-old was 3-7 with a 4.79 ERA through 16 starts.

This deal was another great trade deadline acquisition for the Red Sox, as they took away one of the better pitching prospects in a division foes farm system.

Rodriguez might not be a top of the line prospect or starter, but he is another young arm the Red Sox could use in a  deal or as an arm out of the bullpen.

Miller will be missed, but it is only a two-month rental before he hits free agency. The 29-year-old will be looking to sign a long-term deal in the off season and the Red Sox will be just one of many teams in on the fire-baller after the season is over.

If Rodriguez can be used in a big trade during the off season, then this trade could be graded higher. However, with the 21-year-old’s struggles in the minors this season, the Orioles get the better end of this deal.

Grade: B-