BALTIMORE — General manager Ben Cherington said Tuesday he has the financial resources and prospect inventory to make a significant trade to improve the Red Sox. But the team has to first prove worthy of such an investment.
For the second time in 16 days, Cherington felt compelled to join his struggling team on the road and issue words of encouragement. Monday night’s lifeless 4-0 loss against the Orioles dropped the Red Sox to 28-35.
“We’re obviously not happy with where we are. That’s not up to our standards,” he said. “It’s up to me to find a way to make it better. We still believe it’s going to be better. We believe we’ve got a very good team ahead of us this year.
“Most of that has to come from within. Guys here performing, getting back to a level they’re accustomed to. If we do that and start playing a little better, win some games and hang in there, we’ll try to find any way we can to make improvements to the team as the summer goes on.”
Making a significant trade now would be difficult. As of Monday, 24 of the 30 teams were within five games of a wild-card berth.
“This early in the season, typically you’re sort of talking other teams into doing things and doesn’t always leave you in the best position to make deals,” Cherington said
The idea of the team being sellers at the July 31 trade deadline is not something under consideration.
“Every year in Boston is precious. We’ve got to give ourselves every chance to win,” Cherington said.
If the Red Sox do make a trade — even after spending $10 million to bring back shortstop Stephen Drew — there is room in the budget for other deals, according to Cherington.
“We’re fortunate that we have a lot of [financial] support from ownership and our fans and I feel like that if there’s a deal that makes sense, that makes us better, we’ll be able to explore it and that’s not a limitation,” he said.
But first the current roster has to earn it. Cherington doesn’t have a specific benchmark in mind. But clearly the Sox aren’t going to deal for the sake of dealing.
“We’ve got to stay in it and I think we will. I think we have to stay close enough. I think we will do that and, if we do that, I’m betting on the core group of players in there. That would motivate us to try to make improvements to areas if we could, if it made sense,” he said.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game. The 24-year-old rookie center fielder is hitting .203 with a .580 OPS. Of the 165 qualified players in the majors, only shortstop Zack Cozart of the Reds (.565) and second baseman Jedd Gyorko of the Padres (.482) have a lower OPS.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said his plan was to have Bradley start Wednesday. But there are indications he could be optioned to Triple A Pawtucket if the Red Sox feel comfortable with another player defensively in center field.
Grady Sizemore, who was hitting .218 with a .614 OPS, started in center again Tuesday.
“You’re talking about two very different players,” Cherington said. “In Jackie’s case, he’s played really good defense, he’s grinding, he’s making offensive adjustments, he’s here every day working to get better. He’s a very important guy for us and we feel he’s the right guy, our center fielder.
“We expected Jackie to be our center fielder of the future back in the winter. We just didn’t know what date that was going to start on. I don’t think anything’s really changed there.”
Carrying Bradley would be easier if the Sox were getting production from the corner outfield spots. But they aren’t.
“There’s been a combination of underperformance from some of those guys and injuries to others that has kind of tapped into that [depth] a little bit,” Cherington said.
Waiting to talk
Cherington had no update on contract negotiations with Jon Lester other than to reiterate that the team would like to retain the lefthander and is open to further talks.
“It would be a more productive conversation if both sides wanted to have it,” he said. “We don’t have any plans. There’s not a date we expect to do it. There’s a time that makes sense for both parties and we just haven’t gotten to that.”
Because he missed the 2012 season recovering from elbow surgery, the Red Sox have a team option at the major league minimum of $500,000 they can exercise on John Lackey for the 2015 season.
Lackey is 7-4 with a 3.18 earned run average in 13 starts. Fox Sports reported that Lackey could elect to retire rather than play for short money. In spring training, Lackey said he would deal with the situation once it arose and suggested the sides could reach a compromise.
Cherington doesn’t believe Lackey would retire.
“It’s the first I’ve heard of it,’’ he said. “I know that the way he’s pitching right now and what I know of him as a competitor and how much he loves being in the clubhouse and how important it is for him to compete I would certainly expect him to want to keep playing and he certainly looks like a guy who is going to keep pitching for quite some time,” he said.
“Obviously our expectation is that he’s going to be here.”
NESN announced that Jerry Remy would miss seven games on the team’s upcoming trip to Oakland, Seattle, and New York. Dennis Eckersley will fill in for him.
Play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo will miss the three games at Houston before the All-Star break and two games against Kansas City afterward. Jon Rish , formerly of WEEI, will substitute for Orsillo.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was suspended five games and received an undisclosed fine for throwing his bat during Sunday’s game against Oakland. Machado, who apologized Monday, appealed and was in the starting lineup . . . Lefthander Felix Doubront made his second injury rehabilitation start, going 4⅔ innings for Triple A Pawtucket. He allowed two runs on six hits with one walk and three strikeouts against Louisville. Doubront is scheduled to start Sunday for Pawtucket . . . Drew (right oblique) was out of the lineup again and Farrell said it was unlikely he would play Wednesday for reasons related to the injury and the Orioles starting lefthander Bruce Chen . . . The Red Sox have come to terms with supplemental first-round draft pick Michael Kopech, a righthander from Mount Pleasant, Texas . . . Hitting coach Greg Colbrunn, who suffered a brain hemorrhage June 4, remains hospitalized in Cleveland but is improving, according to team officials.