ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox have lost seven straight and need a series win against the Rays this weekend to avoid falling into last place in the American League East.
It’s easy to make comparisons to 2012. But that situation was hopeless and this one can be fixed. Here is a 10-point plan to immediately improve the Red Sox and return them to contention:
Step 1: Place Clay Buchholz on the disabled list: Buchholz says he’s physically fine. But he also has given up 29 hits in his last 15 innings and his 6.32 ERA is the second-worst in all of baseball among qualified starters. It’s time to invent a reason to take him off the roster. Buchholz needs 3-4 weeks away from a major league mound to get right.
Step 2: Call up Allen Webster and Brandon Workman. Meet your new No. 4 and No. 5 starters. The Red Sox should promote the two righthanders to replace Buchholz and Felix Doubront in the rotation. This should improve what has been a poor rotation in recent weeks.
Step 3: Designate Grady Sizemore for assignment. It was a good idea to give Sizemore a chance to make a comeback. But it didn’t work out. He is hitting .212 with a .293 on-base percentage. The speed and power that once made him an All-Star aren’t there any more. Sizemore will receive a $250,000 bonus once he spends 60 days one the roster and that date is drawing closer. The Sox are $1 million in the hole on this move and it doesn’t need to be a $1.25 million (or more) if he sticks around.
Step 4: Recall Daniel Nava. He was an important piece of a terrific team last season and can be again. Nava is hitting .263/.377/.439 against righthanders in Pawtucket and should be effective in a left field platoon with Jonny Gomes.
Step 5: Designate Jonathan Herrera for assignment. He has eight plate appearances since April 27 and has started twice this month. Once Stephen Drew is ready to play, Brock Holt should be the utility infielder. Once Will Middlebrooks is healthy (after spending a solid three weeks in Pawtucket on a rehab assignment), he could be considered for the bench if Holt isn’t producing. Roster depth was a strength of the team last season and it’s missing this season. Replacing Sizemore and Herrera would help that.
Step 6: Promote Mookie Betts to Pawtucket. The 21-year-old has been insanely good for Double A Portland (.371/.454/.589) and is ready for a new challenge. Betts is a second baseman who has played some center field. The Sox should get him ready for a super-utility role in Pawtucket with games at second, center, left and right. Perhaps he could make an impact on the major league team after the All-Star break.
Step 7: Bat Xander Bogaerts leadoff. He has a .355 OBP against righthanders and a .429 OBP against lefties. He’s not a base-stealer, but he runs the bases well.
Step 8: Set a lineup and stick with it. The Red Sox have used 38 lineups in 46 games. This could be an effective version most nights:
Once Drew is ready, he bats eighth to start and moves up if performance dictates.
Step 9: Tell Shane Victorino to start switch-hitting again. The Sox paid Victorino $39 million over three years, in part, because he was a switch hitter. He should be encouraged to return to that, at least in batting practice at first. If it batting lefty feels comfortable, that should make Victorino a more effective hitter against righthanders.
Step 10: Sign Jon Lester to a five-year, $115 million contract extension. This would be only a psychological benefit. But it’s something the Sox need to do anyway and now would be a good time to add some positive news to the mix.