MLB Team Report - Boston Red Sox - INSIDE PITCH


The move -- veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski out and prospect Christian Vazquez in -- was seen by many as the Boston Red Sox waving the white flag even before the All-Star break.

After all, why else would a team bring up a kid with no experience and play the next game with five rookies in the lineup?

Hang on, said manager John Farrell.

"I think it's important to note that we haven't turned into completely a development situation," Farrell said that day, July 9. "This is still -- while they're young players -- our goal and intent is to win, and that's how the game will be managed."

Then came reports that Pierzynski became a cancer in the clubhouse, and that teammates wanted him gone. He also managed just one RBI in his last 53 at-bats, leading to the quick move.

More important, though, is that the Red Sox earned four wins in their final five games leading up to the break. That injected some optimism, be it false or otherwise.

So, do the defending World Series champs have any kind of a shot at this thing? They sit tied for last place in the American League East, 9 1/2 games behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles.

"We recognize the struggles of the first half, but to go into the break with some momentum is something that we are hopeful we'll continue to build on," Farrell said after Clay Buchholz struck out 12 and pitched a shutout and rookie Brock Holt delivered five hits in the final game before the break. "We haven't conceded anything."

Nor should they.

Buchholz, also set up start when play resumes, is pitching like Buchholz again. Jon Lester is an All-Star. John Lackey is pitching like one. And the division certainly appears to be wide open -- even for a team that limped to a 43-52 record in the unofficial first half.

"We know there's a little bit of a hole to climb out of," Farrell said, "but this is a confident group that's playing well right now."

And a group that likely will get back rehabbing right fielder Shane Victorino, whose presence changes the look of the lineup, right after the break.

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MLB Team Report - Boston Red Sox - NOTES, QUOTES


RECORD: 43-52

STREAK: Won one

FIRST-HALF MVP: INF/OF Brock Holt started the season in Triple-A, and he even went back there after an early recall and major success. He finished the first half by going 10-for-16 in front of family and friends in Houston -- capped by a five-hit game. A natural second baseman, Holt started games at first and third base, shortstop and all three outfield positions -- though none at second base. He is the second Red Sox player ever to start at all those spots in the same season. All he did was bat .327 overall, hit safely in 15 of the last 18 games at a .350 clip and play 49 consecutive games at the leadoff hitter.

FIRST-HALF-GRADE: F -- When the defending champions are in a virtual tie for last place at the All-Star break, with a 43-52 record that includes a 10-game losing streak, what other grade can there be? Yes, the Red Sox closed the first half with four wins in their last five games, but those games were against two losing teams. Is there a chance in the second half? Sure there is. But this team is going to have to get some kind of hot to get there. Last year, following the disastrous Bobby Valentine season, manager John Farrell displayed a magic touch that produced a surprise championship. In the first 95 games this year, cracks were clear in his managerial moves, but he still is doing more right than wrong. GM Ben Cherington and his superiors, who hit everything right in the previous offseason, did nothing to help Farrell in 2014.