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ON BASEBALL

Problems abound for sluggish Red Sox

The Red Sox looked downcast as they finished up a loss to the Yankees Sunday night.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY

The Red Sox looked downcast as they finished up a loss to the Yankees Sunday night.

NEW YORK — It’s an awful 13-game start for the 5-8 Red Sox. There’s no other way to put it.

They lost three of four to the Yankees in New York. They are in last place in the American League East.

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While there’s distress throughout the division with injuries and poor play, the Red Sox have experienced more than their fair share so far.

Sunday night’s game was terrific in that it was exciting. There were great plays made in the outfield by both teams. There was the ejection of John Farrell, the first manager to be heaved for arguing a review decision.

But it was a 3-2 loss for the Red Sox.

And more importantly, Dustin Pedroia — the Derek Jeter of the Sox — went back to Boston Sunday for tests on his left wrist, which has been sore since he hurt it in the Milwaukee series.

For Pedroia to bring this to Farrell’s attention, you know it’s not good. After all, Pedroia played all of last season with a torn ligament in his thumb.

Now it appears he has another hand/wrist injury that could curtail his production, much like the thumb injury decreased his power all last season.

“Not only what’s taken place on the field, but things that we’ve sustained internally — and I realize [the Yankees are] going through injuries over there as well — we’ve played tough ballgames,” said Farrell, whose team took 13 of 19 games against New York last season.

“The big hit has been elusive. It’s tough when you lose three out of four at home or on the road.”

Closer Koji Uehara’s continued right shoulder stiffness has been a concern, although some of that was alleviated Sunday when he threw well on the side. Yet he’s still going back to Boston Monday to have a medical workup to make sure there’s nothing unusual going on in his shoulder.

Farrell said that, based on Uehara’s throwing session, he should be able to rejoin the team Tuesday in Chicago.

According to a major league source, Uehara’s shoulder always has been a mess, which is why some teams have passed on him. The medicals teams share through an MLB system always have shown shoulder distress, but Uehara, to his credit, has been able to pitch through it — with the exception of two years ago in Texas when he missed from June 9 through Aug. 26 with similar tightness, though he had a setback while coming back from the injury that extended the time missed.

Uehara didn’t take over as Boston’s closer until late June last season, so it would stand to reason the Red Sox could survive for two weeks while he recovers.

One now understands the caution last spring training, when Farrell quite frequently said that the Sox had to be careful in the handling of Uehara, reducing back-to-back outings, appearances, and innings. But once Uehara was into it, all of those worries subsided and he was pitching a lot, and so effectively, the concern was lessened. He pitched back-to-back 15 times and three times in a row twice. That he threw so few pitches contributed to easing the concern.

The Red Sox brought him along really slowly this spring, and Uehara looked like he did last season. In his early regular-season appearances, he looked the same as well.

Another Sox issue: The major gap in the contract the Red Sox want to give Jon Lester and what Lester wants after a Ken Rosenthal report indicated the team offered a four-year, $70 million deal. Could this wind up being a distraction?

There’s obviously a new reality for the Red Sox. They will not allow any player to set the market for their services. Players will sign deals on the Red Sox’ terms, or not at all.

Stephen Drew found that out. Once the shortstop declined the $14.1 million qualifying offer, any long-term discussion was off the table.

Once Jacoby Ellsbury hit the market, there was no chance of the Red Sox committing to him for more than five years.

Mike Napoli accepted one fewer year from Boston than he could have received in Seattle or Texas. David Ortiz had to agree to a deal with plate-appearance clauses to get longer than a one-year extension.

The four years, $70 million the Red Sox offered Lester is not too shabby. They are thinking, “Why pay a pitcher who may be on the downside in three or four years?” So, at this point, they won’t do it. If the deal extends beyond four years, it will be tied in to starts or innings.

As Lester said Saturday, in his mind this doesn’t mean his career in Boston is over. And now the pressure is squarely on him to produce at a high level and make sure he doesn’t get seriously injured in this contract year. So far, he’s been terrific and doesn’t seem to be bothered by a lack of a deal.

The Red Sox think very highly of their pitching prospects and are willing to roll the dice of not having Lester. But for that to happen, pitchers such as Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront have to take that No. 1 or No. 2 starter role. So far this season, neither has pitched to that level.

The Red Sox have become more Patriots-like in this regard. They set a value on a player and won’t extend too far over it. From a management perspective, it’s prudent.

As long as it works.

It seems fans like this approach as well. It worked famously last season, as the team won a championship in a much different way than the previous two.

If it doesn’t work beyond this season, then a major-market team such as the Red Sox won’t come off so well. But right now that’s the least of their concerns.

This is a team that has to get its mojo back. It’s woefully lacking. The mood, the confidence they once had, isn’t there yet. Maybe it’s the injuries, maybe it’s the old year-after syndrome, in which the hunger isn’t quite there.

It’s really early and the whole division is bunched up. The Red Sox have missed Ellsbury, and they’ve missed the energy that the injured Shane Victorino brings. Victorino should be ready for activation soon, as he’s heading out for a rehab assignment in Portland Tuesday if his medical checkup Monday goes well.

There’s no real leadoff hitter. There’s no game-changing speed. The Red Sox have won games with home runs, which is fine. Their starting rotation has been good, bad, and ugly, but mostly good.

For the moment, they will lean on Edward Mujica to close and hope the rest of the bullpen lines up.

It’s best to go through this adversity early.

But the Red Sox know they can’t let it linger too long.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.
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