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Red Sox Notebook: A ‘Horrible’ Start Offensively to 2022; Roster Shrinks

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The Boston Red Sox just wrapped up a 9-13 month of April, and the team opened the month of May with a 9-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. Boston scored eight runs through 27 innings in Baltimore, less than three runs a game.

The early-season struggles offensively include ranking (as a team) 25th in homers (13), tied for 24th in OPS (.622), 21st in batting average (.229), 23rd in runs (81), and on the advanced side of things, the team ranks 28th in wRC+ with 78. Manager Alex Cora is well aware of it the glaring issues offensively.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to swing the bats,” Cora said Saturday. “We had a horrible month in April. We didn’t do our job. We can talk about, ‘It’s early’ and all that stuff but we have to put better at-bats. That’s the bottom line. It seems like we get going and we stop and all of the sudden you look up, it’s the seventh or eighth inning and it’s a close game. We know we’re capable of doing it.”

In the recent 10-game road trip, the Sox posted a 3-7 record against the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Rays. Only three out of the 10 affairs saw the team score five runs or more, and in five of those contests the team tallied less than three runs.

The Sox have been hit hard by hard outs, not to mention the number of foul home runs that haven’t helped out either. As a team, they rank 11th in hard hit rate — but they also have the worst chase rate in baseball (32.7) and the second-lowest number of walks.

“We’ve got to finish at-bats. Obviously, everybody knows we’re swinging a lot and we’re swinging at a lot of bad pitches — we’re chasing,” said Cora. “We have to do better. We have to be better. Everybody knows the tendencies of the teams and they’re going to make adjustments… If we want to compete and be the team we envisioned, we have to hit. That’s something that, obviously we will believe we will but we have to start being a little bit better in the batter’s box.”

Cora hopes to look back on the early-season woes highlighted by the 10-game trip as a learning trip in the future.

“It’s a tough road trip,” the manager said Sunday. “You have to be genuine and transparent with them. They know it. There’s no rah-rah speeches here. Everybody knows our record. Everybody knows what we went through… Hopefully, it’s a good learning road trip, in a sense. In a few months, we’ll look back and we’re like, ‘We were in this spot and now we’re in this one.’ Nothing changes. We’re still a good team but we have to work hard for what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Davis, Valdez optioned to make space

Boston’s roster was cut down to 26 on May 1, yesterday, as the team sent outfielder Jaylin Davis and right-handed hurler Phillips Valdez down to Triple-A Worcester. The MLB put a rule in place prior to the season where the roster has to be shrunk down from 28 to 26 when May hits.

However, the rule was tweaked where each team doesn’t have to have a max of 13 pitchers on the roster until May 30, in which Boston kept 14 on the roster and chose only to option Valdez. The original rule stated each team had to have 13 pitchers on the roster by May 1, compared to the unlimited amount a team could have at the beginning of the year.

Davis was likely a much easier decision than Valdez was. The recent waiver claim started Sunday for Boston picking up two hits, though was optioned after spending just two days on the team.

Valdez took a recent turn to his season after starting out scoreless in six relief outings (eight innings). The righty allowed seven runs over the span of two outings during the recent road trip against the Rays and on Sunday against the Orioles, blasting his ERA up to 6.10 on the season after riding a 0.00 before the road trip.

Shaw elects FA, Holland opts out

The Red Sox recently designated Travis Shaw for assignment after going hitless through 19 at-bats for Boston. The right-handed hitter who signed a minor-league deal this offseason and made the major-league roster elected free agency following the DFA.

Derek Holland, 35, chose to stay with Boston in Worcester despite not making Boston’s Opening Day roster, though the 13-year major-league vet decided to opt-out of his deal with Boston after originally choosing not to. The righty, in 10 relief appearances (11.1 innings), has yielded nine runs (eight earned; 6.35 ERA) on eight hits and seven walks.

Whitlock remains in rotation; Houck in bullpen

Garrett Whitlock has remained in the starting rotation for the Sox after what seemed to be a temporary shuffling of things. After his second start with the club Thursday in Toronto, he’ll start again for the Sox Wednesday against the Angels.

“Let’s see how it goes,” Cora said. “We’ve got the off day on Monday. Obviously, we’ve got another off day a week from Monday. He’ll start on Wednesday and then we’ll keep making decisions.”

The righty took Tanner Houck’s spot in the rotation after he was sidelined for four days on the restricted list when the team went to Toronto, and his first start was due to Rich Hill being on the bereavement list.

Chris Cotillo of MassLive recently wrote why Whitlock should give back his rotation spot to Houck and remain in the bullpen though in his recent column. The main point he brought up was Saturday’s implosion.

Vax a ‘non-topic’ in clubhouse

Cora said the vaccination status of Houck and Kutter Crawford, along with the vax statuses of Chris Sale and Josh Taylor who are currently on the injured list isn’t currently a topic in Boston’s clubhouse.

“It’s something that is a non-topic in the clubhouse… Nothing is going to change. Obviously, the topic will come up again whenever we go to up there to Canada,” Cora said. “We’ll see where we’re at and we’ll make adjustments if we have to make adjustments.

Houck and Crawford were forced to sideline themselves and take a trip to the restricted list after the team traveled to Toronto, in which Canada requires you to be fully vaccinated in order to go. It’s no debate that it’s been a hot topic, and it’ll be a bigger issue when Sale and Taylor are both back, and the team travels to Toronto again in late June for a two-game tilt.

More notes

  • Taylor suffered a setback in rehab and has been shut down for the next couple of days; it’s the lefty’s second setback — he was a close contact and was forced to follow COVID protocols due to his unvaccinated status
  • Christian Arroyo aggravated something after seven days on the turf, Cora said over the weekend, but is sticking it out

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Red Sox Notebook: A ‘Horrible’ Start Offensively to 2022; Roster Shrinks