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red sox notebook

Early results are encouraging but Red Sox still have a long way to go

Garrett Richards, as well as the rest of the Sox starting rotation, have struggled recently.John Tlumacki

As the Red Sox inch toward the halfway point of the season, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom likes where his team is in the standings. The Sox (45-31) remain just a half-game back in the American League East after Friday night’s 5-3 win over the Yankees at Fenway Park. But there’s still work to do.

“It’s been great that we’ve managed to win a number of games,” Bloom said. “There’s obviously some things that we know we need to clean up, if we want to get where we want to go. But the desire of the group, the way that they battle, that’s been the coolest part of this to watch for me.”

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In 23 games prior to Friday, Sox starters had a 5.85 ERA. Their opponents’ batting average was .296. while slugging .514. Garrett Richards has intimated that Major League Baseball’s recent ruling on the usage of foreign substances — Richards said he used just sunscreen — has impacted his results. In his last six starts (27⅔ innings), Richards owns a 6.51 ERA. He’s allowed 20 earned runs in that span and has walked 17. In his last start against the Rays, Richards lasted just 1⅔, allowing four earned runs ion 54 pitches.

“This change is going to be an adjustment for some guys, and different guys are going to adjust in different ways,” Richards said. “But I have confidence that everybody’s going to find their way through this, and it’s going to look different for different players, and that’s part of the business right now.”

Houck on road back

If Richards continues to struggle, the Sox could turn to prospect Tanner Houck. Houck, who was sidelined for much of the season with a right flexor strain, recently pitched his second rehab game for the Worcester Red Sox. Bloom said he’s not certain what Houck’s role would be with the club, but having Houck at some point will be a significant boost.

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“It’s great that he’s back out there healthy and looking good,” Bloom said. “You know, that’s not a given when somebody comes back. He’s come right back out like he hasn’t missed a beat and we want to make sure he’s got a good base under him. That we’re not rushing him back into a really stressful situation without feeling like he’s in a good rhythm. But absolutely, I would. I would foresee and impacting us the rest of the way as long as it’s helpful.”

Tough division

The Yankees entered Friday having won seven of their last 10 games. When Sox manager Alex Cora was asked for his thoughts on the AL East, he noted how difficult it is.

“It’s a tough division,” Cora said. “I said it from the get-go. Like there are four teams that are really good baseball teams, but we all have red flags or question marks. And throughout the season, some of those question marks have been answered and others have come up. You know, we’re still in the middle of it.”

Brasier in town

Reliever Ryan Brasier was with the team Friday. Cora said Brasier wasn’t doing any baseball activities but was getting checked on by doctors. Brasier, who was initially on the injured list with a calf strain, took a line drive off the side of his head at the beginning of the month while pitching in Fort Myers. “The fact that he’s here means a lot,” Cora said … Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) will throw a 20-pitch live batting practice Saturday and one more next week … Yankees manager Aaron Boone said starting pitcher Corey Kluber (right shoulder strain) has been out to 75 feet playing catch but has not been stretched further … Righthander Luis Severino (Tommy John surgery), who strained his groin during a recent rehab assignment, has been running and throwing and could potentially get back on the mound in 7-10 days.

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Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.