TORONTO — Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine Sunday tried to clear up the “weakest roster we’ve ever had in September in the history of baseball” comment he made Friday, saying that he meant “weakest” in terms of quantity, not quality.
“The other day when I made a comment about the September roster, that wasn’t meant to be a criticism of any players or anyone within the organization,’’ Valentine said before a 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
“It was merely a statement of fact because of injuries and our Triple A team being in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s just different because we have less people than most September rosters, and less positions filled than any September roster I’ve ever seen.”
“If anyone thought it was anything other than a statement of what it was, stand corrected on that.”
Valentine also said Friday, “If there are people who could be brought up, we should bring ’em up, but I don’t know that there’s a lot of guys left.’’
The comments, misconstrued or not, give general manager Ben Cherington more ammunition if he recommends to ownership that the manager be changed. Despite statements Cherington’s bosses made back in December that the decision to hire Valentine was Cherington’s, the GM hasn’t rushed to defend the manager much, including recently when Alfredo Aceves showed up Valentine on the mound and there were no consequences.
The Sox do not have a starting pitcher they can plug into the rotation and therefore continue to use Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Cook. This is the time of the year when a team often gives a youngster a shot, but the Sox have no such person at Pawtucket, which will be vying for the Triple A crown Tuesday in Durham, N.C.
Valentine complimented his players for their effort and good play of late. Despite Sunday’s loss, the Sox seemed excited about going to Tampa in hopes they can make it difficult for the Rays to make the playoffs.
Boston will start Cook, Felix Doubront, Matsuzaka, and Clay Buchholz against Alex Cobb, Jeremy Hellickson, David Price, and James Shields. Not exactly the best matchups for Boston.
Valentine was asked whether the pitchers might finally be comfortable with pitching coach Randy Niemann after the team fired Bob McClure.
“I don’t think there’s any difference philosophically,” Valentine said. “I know Randy worked with the pitchers in terms of preparation so they feel comfortable with him since he took over.”
Daniel Bard entered the game in the eighth in relief of Jon Lester and allowed a pair of runs on two hits and a walk. Since his Aug. 30 recall from Pawtucket, Bard has allowed six runs in four games (3 IP). His relief appearance came in the very place where his experiment as a starter ended in failure June 3 when he gave up five runs on one hit, six walks, and two hit batters in 1⅓ innings in a 5-1 loss. Two days later, Bard was optioned to Triple A. Asked if it was difficult to block out his last appearance in Toronto, Bard said, “Until you said something, I never even thought of it. I’ve had a lot of good outings here, too, some of my best outings in the past few years.’’
The Pirates scouted the Sox over the weekend and will follow them to St. Petersburg. They would love to deal for one of Boston’s relievers for the last few weeks of the season. The Sox have a bunch of bullpen pieces, some of whom, such as Rich Hill and Vicente Padilla, could become free agents. It’s unknown who the Pirates, who are still holding out hope of capturing a wild-card berth, are targeting . . . Bench coach Tim Bogar likely will get an interview with the Astros for their managerial job. Bogar has been on the verge of earning such a job the last two years. The Astros are interviewing a bunch of younger bench coaches, such as Dave Martinez, Bo Porter, Bogar, etc. They’ve also interviewed experienced managers who have strong track records with younger players such as Larry Bowa. They also plan on talking to former Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, who is also considered an excellent teacher . . . The sentiment among some members of the Blue Jays staff is they don’t seem to think the Sox can get Toronto manager John Farrell to be their skipper. The Jays don’t appear to want to let Farrell go unless significant compensation is involved. According to one Jays official, the communication between GM Alex Anthopoulos and Farrell hasn’t been the best. Anthopoulos has not been able to replenish the roster after the Jays suffered major injuries. Sounds a lot like the Cherington/Valentine situation.
James Loney has enjoyed his time in Boston and wouldn’t be against signing here in the future. Loney, who was obtained in the salary dump deal with the Dodgers , will be a free agent and the Sox have some interest in keeping him. So far, Loney has proven to be a superb defensive first baseman. The feeling is he may excel offensively in a full season at Fenway Park, where he can utilize the Wall. Those will be calculations senior advisor/baseball operations Bill James likely will make for Cherington.
Thrown for loop
According to a few scouts, the Sox have earned the reputation of having the poorest throwing outfielders and catchers. The Jays actually paid for that when Cody Ross made a pinpoint throw to nail Adam Lind at the plate Saturday.
Teams are taking liberties with Sox catchers. “The feeling is,” said one National League scout, “they’re just easy to run against. You keep running until they stop you. And they don’t stop you very often.”
Valentine would love to have more practices, but players universally rebel against having to do more work. Daniel Nava may have the Sox’ best outfield arm, and Ross is fairly accurate. But the outfielders spend little time throwing before games, and it shows during the games.