Tagged: John Farrell

A Line In The Sand…?

Red Sox GM figures to stick with winning formula from last offseason

By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

It’s appropriate that both the general managers meetings that open Monday in Orlando and the winter meetings that commence in the same locale about a month later are within jogging distance of Fantasyland.

Thirty teams are dreaming big, although it remains to be seen whether the model adopted by the Boston Red Sox last winter — eschewing the biggest prizes on the market for lesser, complementary pieces — will be embraced by other clubs seeking to emulate the extraordinary strides made by the Sox in one dizzying worst-to-first leap.

Ben CheringtonOf more interest to Red Sox fans, of course, is whether GM Ben Cherington will remain faithful this winter to the philosophy of modest moves that worked wonders for him last year (it was a year ago Sunday that the Sox came to terms with the first piece of their puzzle, catcher David Ross, followed 11 days later by the signing of outfielder Jonny Gomes, the first moves in the rebuilding) or will succumb to the budget-be-damned impulse the Sox have followed in past years.

What makes that discussion especially relevant in the coming weeks is that some of the players so vital to the Sox’s success this season — most notably Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli — are among the free agents expected to reap some of this winter’s greatest financial rewards.

By this point, it should be widely understood that Ellsbury is not coming back to Boston unless the Sox make an exception and sign him for top-of-the-market years and dollars. Agent Scott Boras will make the most of market precedents the Sox themselves helped to establish when they gave Carl Crawford a seven-year, $142 million deal three years ago. Someone will give Ellsbury that kind of money; it’s very doubtful it will be Boston. (Let him walk.  He’s already proven injury prone and is obviously on the wrong side of 30.  The Sox can more easily find a stop-gap to platoon with Shane Victorino if they feel Jackie Bradley Jr. needs more time.)

Napoli and Ells

Napoli, however, would seem to be a candidate to fall within the kind of parameters the Sox set last winter, when they showed a willingness to overpay in terms of dollars in exchange for shorter years. The Sox struck such a deal with Napoli on the first day of the winter meetings in 2012, coming to terms on a three-year, $39 million deal, which subsequently blew up when Napoli failed his physical because of a degenerative hip condition.

Napoli’s performance this season, when the hip condition did not surface as an issue, would seem to put him in line for, at minimum, a similar deal this winter. It should also work in Boston’s favor that he appears so eager to return.

(Personally, I’d rather see the Sox sign Nap to a 2 year deal with roughly $26 million plus incentives and fulfill the original 3 year proposed deal than sign him to additional years based off a performance year already in the books.)

Napoli and Ellsbury both received qualifying offers of $14.1 million from the Red Sox, which places Boston in line to receive a first-round draft pick as compensation if they sign elsewhere. Shortstop Stephen Drew received a similar offer; all three players have until 5 o’clock Monday to accept a qualifying offer, which would make them a signed player for 2014.

None is expected to do so, as all three players figure to have other suitors. Teams interested in Ellsbury will not be stalled by the loss of a compensatory first-rounder; that also figures to be the case with Napoli, one of the few power bats on the market. Drew could prove to be a more interesting case, although he should benefit from a soft free-agent market at his position.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, also a free agent, did not get a qualifying offer, for the simple reason the Sox didn’t want to risk him accepting it, placing him at a salary level they have little interest in paying him. That should not be interpreted, however, as the Sox deciding against bringing Saltalamacchia back.

The most attractive free-agent catching option is Brian McCann, late of the Atlanta Braves, but he will come at a much higher price than Saltalamacchia would and will require more years. The Sox are looking for a bridge to take them to their catcher of the future — Blake Swihart, perhaps in some combination with Christian Vazquez — so signing McCann for four or more years, while also having to surrender a first-round draft pick, would seem to be a questionable proposition.

Farrell and SaltySaltalamacchia had 54 extra-base hits last season, including 40 doubles (a club record for catchers), and an .804 OPS. On the defensive side, he made noticeable strides, even though John Farrell opted for his better defender, Ross, in the World Series, a decision made easier by Saltalamacchia’s October slump. His return, while not assured, is eminently plausible.

(Agreed.  Salty would be a better choice for a two to three year pick-up, based off the lesser money and the fact he’ll still be fairly young should the Sox decide to trade him before the expiration of the contract.  Between he and Ross there is a great tandem of experience to spell the big club till the youngsters are more seasoned.  Though young and on the upswing, Jarrod has difficulty hitting outside of Fenway and that should limit his suitors.)

On the trading front, Cherington can expect to field inquiries about his starting pitchers, though teams likely will be far more inquisitive about some of the team’s young arms (Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Henry Owens) than the pieces he probably would be more open to dealing, such as Ryan Dempster or Jake Peavy. The Sox value their young arms, which isn’t to say they wouldn’t move any of them, although Barnes, Ranaudo and Owens almost certainly are not going anywhere. There would seem to be little downside, from a depth perspective, to keeping Dempster and Peavy, neither of whom is signed past 2014.

What the Sox do in the coming weeks will be dictated in good measure by what happens with their own free agents; once they have clarity there, they will know what holes must be filled. In the meantime, the inquiries they reportedly are making about the likes of Carlos Beltran and Tim Hudson and Carlos Ruiz are nothing out of the ordinary; the Sox have a history of making contact with just about everyone on the market.

Coming decisions also will be shaped by their judgments on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s readiness to take over in center field (indications are a qualified yes) and their willingness to entrust the left side of the infield to rookie Xander Bogaerts at short and Will Middlebrooks at third. Middlebrooks’ name often is bandied about as trade material, but the Sox still project him as a useful corner piece with 25-home run power, not an easily found commodity.

With so many good young players who potentially could be included in a trade package, there has been speculation that the Sox would take a run at Marlins slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, but one Marlins source reiterated Sunday he believed there was “no way” Miami would move him.

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A few pressing questions for the Red Sox….

The duck boats have yet to be parked following Saturday’s celebratory parade, but some pressing business is already upon Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and his baseball operations staff.

John and Ben share the trophy

In the wake of their third World Series triumph in 10 years, Red Sox players have expressed deep admiration for one another. As much as any team in recent memory, this was a united crew. To a man, they would love to keep it together.

Yet to a man, they understand that business often comes first, and Boston will have a different look when it reconvenes in Fort Myers to begin the process of defending its crown. Red Sox president Larry Lucchino admitted as much Friday morning.

John Tom and Larry Celebrate
“I can’t give you a precise answer as to how many players will come and how many will go,” Lucchino said in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI. “We love the core of this team. We know the core of this team will be here and be with us. We know we have some new players who were signed for a couple of years, like Jonny Gomes and David Ross. So we do know that the core of this team will remain. But there’s absolutely no chance that the 25 guys who finished in the World Series will be the same 25 guys who will start Opening Day next year.”

Seven Red Sox players were among the 147 players who officially filed for free agency Thursday: catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, first baseman Mike Napoli, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, shortstop Stephen Drew, relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan, infielder John McDonald, and pitcher Alfredo Aceves, who was exiled to the minors last season.

Free agents can begin to sign with new teams beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday. Until that time, they are not eligible to negotiate contract terms with a new team, although they and their representatives are allowed to talk with any team about a potential match. Teams retain exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents until that time.

But in the interim, the Sox must also decide whether they will extend a qualifying offer to their free agents, which determines whether they will receive draft-pick compensation if a free agent leaves.

Qualifying offers must be extended by 5 p.m. Monday. The value of a qualifying offer has been calculated by formula to be a one-year guarantee of $14.1 million for 2014. Any player accepting a qualifying offer is considered to be a signed player. A free agent has until 5 p.m. on Nov. 11 to accept a qualifying offer. If he declines a qualifying offer and signs with another big league team, his former team receives an amateur draft choice as compensation, while the signing team forfeits its highest available draft pick and the accompanying bonus pool money in the draft.

Stephen DrewWhat do you do with the left side of the infield?  Shortstop Stephen Drew is a free agent and will be coveted in a market that features very little at the position. Because of that fact, he may be inclined to turn down any qualifying offer (one year, $14.1 million) the Red Sox give him and seek a long-term deal elsewhere. If that’s the case, Xander Bogaerts slides right on in, likely leaving Will Middlebrooks to man third base.

But is that ideal for the Sox?

Middlebrooks’ up-and-down (but mostly down) 2013 campaign, coupled with a lackluster October, casts some doubt as to whether he is ready to be an everyday player in the majors. Meanwhile, Bogaerts looked like a 10-year veteran as the club’s third baseman in the World Series. Both he and the organization have said Bogaerts is a shortstop, but another year (at age 21) at the hot corner would not hinder his future at another position.

Xander WS 2013

At the same age, Cal Ripken Jr. played the first half of his first full season at third base. Perhaps if the team finds a way to keep Drew, who doesn’t turn 31 until March, Bogaerts could do the same and Middlebrooks could be dealt or moved across the diamond to first base, if Mike Napoli moves on.

Will Salty return?  Jarrod Saltalamacchia told ESPN prior to Game 6 that he had already wondered if he was spending his final few days as a Red Sox. David Ross, who is signed for next year, was John Farrell’s choice in the final three games of the World Series.

It seems as if we have been hearing his name forever, but Saltalamacchia is still just 28 and is coming off his best all-around offensive season (.273 average, 14 homers, .804 OPS). He fits in the clubhouse and with the pitching staff, and if the Sox see him continuing to improve defensively, a qualifying offer could be in the cards.

That could change if the organization feels that Ryan Lavarnway is ready enough to split time with Ross, or if it makes a push for someone like free agent Brian McCann. Prospect Blake Swihart could be knocking on the door in another year or so, and Christian Vazquez had a solid season at the plate and behind it at Double-A Portland, so more help is on the horizon.

Lester Game 5What’s the long-term future of Jon Lester?  Boston will exercise its option for Lester for next year, which carries with it a $13 million price tag. His value is at an all-time high after a brilliant October (4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts), and discussions of a long-term deal may be forthcoming.  The Sox gave Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz lengthy, pricy extensions in recent years. They also gave John Lackey a five-year, $82.5 million deal and Ryan Dempster a two-year, $26.5 million contract, then took on Jake Peavy’s $14.5 million salary for 2014. If there’s anything left over, locking up a durable, homegrown ace who is not yet 30 seems like a no-brainer.

What about David Ortiz?  While similar to Lester in some ways, the Ortiz situation is a little murkier. Many observers felt as if the organization had lost its mind when it gave the slugger, at the time 36 and rehabbing from an Achilles injury, a two-year deal that will now total $30 million due to an achieved incentive this year. When that contract expires after the 2014 season, would Ortiz — who would then be approaching 39 — seek one more multiyear deal elsewhere? And do the Sox want to prevent one of the cornerstones of their franchise from leaving?

As crazy as it seemed to lock him up last offseason, it would be awkward to let the World Series MVP go too far into the final year of his deal with an uncertain future. An extension beyond 2014 could be in his future.

Ells Fenway WSBid adieu to Jacoby Ellsbury?  There have been whispers for months that the two sides are far apart in negotiations. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported this week that a $30 million gap existed after Ellsbury’s phenomenal 2011 season and that the sides could not get together again after his down 2012. With Ellsbury a Scott Boras guy, the long-held assumption has been that the center fielder has been waiting to test the free-agent waters. Coming off a much better 2013 (.298 average, 52 steals) seems like a great time to do so.

Boston’s aggressiveness in this matter rests largely in its opinion of Jackie Bradley Jr. The youngster had a rough time in his first stint in the big leagues in April but looked a bit more comfortable in his Red Sox skin once he was called up again in September, even getting support from some to be included on the postseason roster.

Bradley will not disappoint in the field; he has range and a great arm. Enduring some growing pains at the plate would hurt much less than paying Ellsbury upward of $18 million when he is 36 and beginning to break down. Not saying that would necessarily happen, but it’s the risk you run with big-money long-term deals, and Bradley will come at a pittance as he approaches his prime.

Who’s on the bench?  The 2013 Red Sox did not have many holes. However, there were times when it felt as if they needed one more utility guy in the infield. Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder did not impress in their brief stints, and once Jose Iglesias left, there was a relative lack of options some nights if one of the starters went down.

To illustrate the conundrum, Middlebrooks stood as Dustin Pedroia’s backup for a handful of games. Veteran John McDonald was brought in late to add an extra hand, and Bogaerts’ call-up gave the club another option, but the organization would do well to bring in an Alex Cora-type who can ably back up multiple spots. Someone with speed who can play center would help even more if Ellsbury leaves and Bradley needs a backup.

Buch delivers WSLester-Buchholz-Lackey-Peavy-?  Pencil in Lester, Buchholz, Lackey and Peavy as the top four starters. Who gets the No. 5 spot? Felix Doubront made strides in 2013 and figures to have earned it, but Dempster is on the books for $13.25 million. Also, waiting in the wings are a few young, intriguing arms who could make a push, including Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo.

Chances are Doubront gets a spot, Dempster serves as an expensive long man/spot starter, a la Tim Wakefield late in his career, or gets traded, and the youngsters are given more time to prepare for when somebody goes down.

And somebody will go down.

Felix in the 2013 WS
The Sox were actually quite fortunate to suffer only one long-term injury among starters, that being Buchholz’s three-month absence. There will be injuries, and having the depth to atone for them is as important as anything through the course of a long season.

Nap rounds the bagsBring back Nap?  “I want to be here. I love this place.”

That was Mike Napoli after the World Series triumph. Lines like that one are thrown around like empty beer cans during such celebrations, but it is clear that Napoli has been a nice fit in Boston.

Napoli’s agent told the Boston Globe that his client would not accept another one-year deal, and that the club would analyze the condition of Napoli’s hips to see if there has been any significant wear and tear since the last checkup. With a clean bill of health, perhaps something like the three-year, $39-million deal that the two sides reportedly agreed on last offseason — before the discovery of the hip condition altered things — could become a reality. Napoli agreed to a $5 million base salary for 2013 but earned the full $13 million with incentives.

Napoli 2013 WS

The Sox will likely make a qualifying offer to Napoli and receive a draft pick if he elects to move on, but expect the man who ranked second on the team in home runs (23) and RBIs (92), and who surprised some with a quality showing at first base, to return.

The easy decisions on making qualifying offers include Ellsbury, who is expected to be one of the most highly sought free agents on the market, and Napoli, one of the few power bats available on the market. Neither is likely to accept a qualifying offer, given the certainty of receiving multi-year offers from multiple teams.

McDonald and Aceves, whose value falls far below the $14.1 million qualifying mark, will not receive qualifying offers. The Sox also will not tender a qualifying offer to Hanrahan, who said in October he had just begun throwing 60 feet and will not be ready for the start of the season after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in May.

That leaves two players, shortstop Drew and catcher Saltalamacchia. First, Saltalamacchia: At 28, he is the youngest catcher on the free-agent list, and unless the Sox decide to go all-in on free agent Brian McCann, a qualifying offer makes sense, which would buy some time while prospects like Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez develop, yet spare them from a long-term commitment. It also would assure them of draft-pick compensation if Salty leaves. Drew is also one of the better options in a light shortstop market, and while the Sox have his replacement in the wings in Xander Bogaerts, there would seem to be little downside to extending a qualifying offer.

Will the coaching staff remain intact?  Those who toiled under Farrell received loads of credit this year, particularly Juan Nieves for his work in turning around the pitching staff, Brian Butterfield for his defensive genius and Torey Lovullo for his overall work in helping to create the most complete team in all of baseball.

Lovullo is being linked to the Chicago Cubs’ managerial vacancy. Cubs president Theo Epstein is obviously familiar with Lovullo, who has interviewed for jobs in the past. Farrell said earlier in the World Series that he expects Lovullo, and others, to get their shots.

Farrell and Butterfield worked together in Toronto, and Butterfield was brought over after Farrell got the managerial job in Boston. He has also interviewed for vacancies, but perhaps these two will establish something like the Terry Francona-Brad Mills partnership that survived many years in Boston and was rekindled this season in Cleveland.

On Nov. 11, the general managers’ meetings begin in Orlando, where talks about potential trades often percolate, with the winter meetings following a month later, also in Orlando.

‘A really great day’…

Since winning the World Series on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager John Farrell has been a busy man.

Welcoming Farrell

He and general manager Ben Cherington have already begun to prepare for the offseason, while reviewing 2013. When asked if he’s been able to celebrate the team’s championship, Farrell just smiled.

“Just hanging out,” he said with laugh. “A little bit, a lot of recover after Wednesday night. Going through the last couple of days with some meetings with the players, beginning some offseason conversations with Ben, and with each passing hour, what we just accomplished starts to sink in a little bit more.”

Farrell WS Manager

This isn’t Farrell’s first World Series parade.

As a member of Terry Francona’s coaching staff from 2007-2010, Farrell’s already been on a celebratory ride on the duck boats. This time around, however, he expected it to be a lot better.

“I expect an awful lot of people to share in a really great day,” Farrell said. “Having been on one of these after the ’07 series where it was maybe a little bit more of an expected outcome, winning that World Series, this [parade] will have a much more intense feel. All that we’ve come through, the way this group came together and what we achieved as a team, and the way our fans have shared in this and rekindled a relationship back with this team, it’s an awesome day.”

Time Changes All Things…. Even the LineUp Card

Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Shane Victorino’s back strain is much improved and he will be available off the bench in Game 5 Monday night, but there were still questions about how long he could go if he started, so he’s not in the lineup.

Farrell said he expects Victorino to be able to start Game 6 in Boston.

Farrell also made a small but significant change to his batting order, sliding Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Gomes up one spot in the order, with Nava dropping from second to fifth. Farrell said he did so to “lengthen” the lineup behind Ortiz, who is batting .727 (8 for 11) in the Series and has reached base safely seven consecutive times, his on-base average at .750.

As for his bullpen for Game 5, Farrell said Game 3 starter Jake Peavy will be available, and that he would turn to left-hander Felix Doubront, who has pitched in back-to-back games for the first time since 2011, “only in an emergency.’’

W2ST8288.JPGFarrell praised Doubront for his work the past two nights, “especially in this environment, his poise and control, and the way he attacked the strike zone.’’

Doubront would appear to loom as a potential option in the event Farrell elects not to start Peavy in Game 7, especially since the Cardinals hit right-handers significantly better (.278/.340/.413/.753) than left-handers (.242/.309/.366/.675) in the regular season. However, the Cardinals routed baseball’s best pitcher, Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, 9-0, in the deciding game of the NLCS.

Left-hander Craig Breslow, who has retired only one of seven batters he’s faced in the World Series (the out came on a sacrifice fly), looks “a little bit tentative — he hasn’t settled in against their lineup,’’ Farrell said. “He doesn’t have the same familiarity with them as he does with the American League lineups.’’

In something of a surprise, Farrell said that Game 4 starter Clay Buchholz came to him Monday and volunteered to pitch out of the pen when the Series returns to Boston on Wednesday. Game 2 starter John Lackey did the same thing last week, Farrell said, and pitched a scoreless eighth inning Sunday night.

“The way [Buchholz] came out of [Sunday’s start], he told me last night he would be in here [Monday] to get ready for another opportunity,’’ Farrell said. “By no means has he shut down anything physically or mentally.

“When he came back to the dugout after the second inning, he said, ‘I haven’t even tried to throw the ball hard yet,’’’ Farrell said. “I said, ‘Based on what’s happened, you don’t need to.’ He has such feel and can manipulate the ball, even when he’s lacking power, his cutter and two-seamer are very effective.’’

Asked about his rotation plans, Farrell said that as far as Peavy starting Game 7, “everything points to that right now,’’ but added, “Everybody’s available in Game 7.’’

For Game 5, Allen Craig, who has been dealing with a foot injury, was a late addition to the Cardinals lineup. He will bat sixth and play first base. Also, Mike Matheny moved Carlos Beltran, who batted second in an 8-1 loss to Game 5 starter Jon Lester in Game 1, will hit cleanup behind Matt Holliday. Shane Robinson, who hit eighth in Game 1, will bat second.

Lester will start Game 1; Ortiz to play 1B

Lester Fenway

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell announced Monday that left-hander Jon Lester will start Game 1 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

Big Papi Boston StrongFarrell said the final roster and other lineup and rotation decisions have not been finalized but expects to have everything in order by Tuesday afternoon. The manager did say veteran designated hitter David Ortiz will play first base when the series shifts to the National League park, but Farrell hasn’t determined how many games Ortiz will play. If Ortiz started at first base, it would send Mike Napoli to the bench.

“With David going to first base, which he will when we get to St. Louis, how many days he’ll play in those three days there remains to be seen,” Farrell said. “Losing the DH is different for us. Personally, when we go into National League ballparks we’re at a greater disadvantage than the reverse of that when the National League teams come in here.”

Also, it appears Farrell will stick with Jonny Gomes, who started Games 5 and 6 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. Farrell called it a “hunch” for Game 6 and it proved a smart choice. Gomes produced with a leadoff double in the Sox’s four-run seventh inning.

“We haven’t made out Wednesday’s lineup, but can’t go away from a little bit of momentum that a certain lineup provided for us,” Farrell said. “Daniel Nava is certainly not forgotten, nor is any guy.”

As far as Lester’s batterymate for Game 1, Farrell normally has David Ross behind the plate but the manager said he hasn’t decided.

If the Red Sox stick to the same rotation as the ALCS, Clay Buchholz would start Game 2, with John Lackey in Game 3 and Jake Peavy in Game 4.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny announced Adam Wainwright, a 19-game winner who was injured in 2011, and rookie Michael Wacha as the starting pitchers for Games 1 and 2, but didn’t go further. Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn are likely to go in Games 3 and 4, given St. Louis general manager Mozeliak anticipates rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller will stay in the bullpen for emergency long relief duty.

Farrell surprised by Leyland retirement…

Leyland exits

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland’s retirement took Red Sox manager John Farrell by surprise Monday morning.

“Very surprised,” Farrell said. “I had sent him a text yesterday morning just to congratulate he and the organization on not only a great team, but a great year. I expressed the respect that we have for him, and certainly I have personally for him for all the success he’s had in his career.

The Red Sox defeated the Tigers in Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday night at Fenway Park to clinch a World Series berth.

“To see the announcement today, and to listen and know early September this was very clear on his mind, that’s surprising.

“But my gosh, when you take a step back and you’ve seen someone who has managed for 22 years, it’s a hell of a career and one I’m sure he’s extremely proud of.”

Between the likes of Terry Francona (whose shoes he’s already filling fantastically) and a Jim Leyland, I’d say Farrell has some great mentors to take his cues from.

Erin AndrewsYou don’t think Leyland packed up his rocking chair and called it a day because Erin Andrews ratted him out on live National television (during the 30 minute power outage delay in the Sox-Tigers series) for smoking in the dugout do you?  Nah.

Walking Wounded…

Ellsbury should return

Ells hustleRed Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has a compression fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot, but manager John Farrell insisted Sunday that Ellsbury likely will return to playing before the end of the regular season.

The fracture is nondisplaced, Farrell said, and Ellsbury will be in a boot for a minimum of five days. Ellsbury was examined in Denver on Sunday by Dr. Tom Clanton of the Steadman Clinic, and will return to Boston.

Dustin Pedroia had a nondisplaced fracture of the same bone in 2010, wound up returning for just two games, and had offseason surgery, limiting him to 75 games that season. In 2012, Cody Ross fractrured the same bone in his left foot and missed 27 games.

All three players — Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ross — were injured the same way, fouling a ball off their foot.

Ellsbury, who leads the majors with 52 stolen bases, was batting .299 with a .355 on-base percentage. The speedster was batting .320 (24 for 75) in his last 17 games, with eight stolen bases in that span.

Ellsbury Buchholz

Buchholz set to return Tuesday

Clay Buchholz has been penciled in for a start against the Rays in Tropicana Field Tuesday, when the Sox open a three-game series against Tampa Bay, manager John Farrell said. Buchholz threw a bullpen here Sunday after making three rehab starts.

If Buchholz does indeed start Tuesday night in the Trop, it will be 94 days sinceBuch watches he made his last start, June 8 against the Angels, in which he was a 7-2 winner and ran his record to 9-0, his ERA at a major-league best 1.71.

Farrell said he expects to announce who is being dropped from the rotation after Sunday’s game. He  offered a hint at his thinking when he said a “priority is who’s the most effective starter right now.’’

If that is the determinant, left-hander Felix Doubront may be bound for the pen, at least temporarily. Doubront has a 6.58 ERA over his last five starts, and has not made it out of the fourth inning in the last two, going just 3 2/3 innings in Boston’s 12-8 win over the Yankees Friday night, walking 6 while giving up 6 runs.

The Revolving Door

Jarrod Saltalamacchia was back behind the plate Sunday, after missing the last four games with a sore back.

Salty road

Neither Mike Napoli nor Shane Victorino were in Sunday’s Sox starting lineup. The days off were planned, Farrell said; with Monday’s off-day, that will give both players two days. Mike Carp was at first base, and the outfield had Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, flanked by Daniel Nava in right and Jonny Gomes in left.