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Red Sox plug Christian Vázquez back at first, highlighting conundrum at corner

Franchy Cordero's defensive shortcomings at first base have been hard to miss.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Catcher Christian Vázquez got the start at first base Friday against the Blue Jays. He was arguably the offensive highlight, slugging two home runs in a 28-5 loss, but it further highlighting the Red Sox’ struggles at that position heading into a pivotal part of their season.

Franchy Cordero and Bobby Dalbec, the primary first basemen, haven’t produced. Dalbec struck out as a pinch hitter Friday, his 80th in 253 plate appearances, and is hitting .204 with a .627 OPS. Cordero, meanwhile, is hitting .225 with a .671 OPS after an 0 for 16 slump dating to July 11 in which he’s struck out 15 times.


“Franchy, he started off well, and he got cold and then he got hot again and now he’s going through a stretch. He’s not hitting. Bobby, it’s been up and down the whole time,” manager Alex Cora said before the blowout. “I just felt like with Kevin Plawecki catching and Nate Eovaldi on the mound, we got Christian at first who can do it. But we need to be better not only there, but I think all around.”

First base has been a grind defensively for Cordero. The Sox threw him into the mix this season, hoping he could learn the position on the fly. That hasn’t happened, Cordero still appearing out of sorts and uncomfortable.

“I think the biggest thing, especially when you have athletes, is they’re going to make some mistakes,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of Cordero. “But they’re also going to be able to make some great plays because of the things that they can do athletically and we shouldn’t look past that.”

It’s clear Cordero isn’t a first baseman, though. Bloom did admit the struggles of both Dalbec and Cordero, but with optimism.

“All the good things that each of them shows you, we haven’t always seen on a consistent basis. Especially with one of them being a lefthanded hitter, the other being righthanded.”


Bigger than the scoreboard

After Friday, the Red Sox have 10 games remaining before the Aug. 2 trade deadline. Bloom said regardless of the team’s production, he still will always look into ways he could make his current group better. The Sox entered the day two games back of a wild card spot.

“Obviously, where we are in the standings, these games matter a lot and you don’t want to be blind to the scoreboard,” Bloom said. “But you also don’t want to let the scoreboard completely overwhelm you from making good baseball moves.

“I think a lot of focus sometimes gets put on this buyer-or-seller question, and you end up just looking past what are good moves you can make to strengthen your group, to strengthen your core.”

J.D. Martinez scratched

J.D. Martinez, the All-Star designated hitter, was in the initial lineup but scratched due to what the team called back spasms. Martinez dealt with the same issue prior to the All-Star break, missing the July 12 matchup against the Rays.

Rob Refsnyder took his place at DH, batting second and slugging a solo home run in the seventh. Martinez had been slated to bat third.

Worth the trip

Cora couldn’t be at David Ortiz’s Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown this weekend. “I’m jealous,” said Cora, “but I got a job to do.” However, Jason Varitek, the team’s game planning coordinator and a nine-season teammate of Ortiz, did make the trip. “He fought it a little bit, but I was like ‘No, you gotta go,’ " Cora said. “I think obviously, [Varitek] is the captain. He means a lot to David and those teams that David played for here. So having Jason there, I’m good with that.” Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are also scheduled to attend. Manny Ramirez said he was going, however, that remains to be seen. “You never know with Manny,” Cora said with a smile . . . Rich Hill (left knee sprain) threw a three-inning simulated game Friday . . . Trevor Story (right hand bruise) tracked pitches in the batter’s box, but still isn’t swinging. The earliest Story could come off the IL is Sunday . . . Matt Barnes began a rehab assignment at Triple A Worcester . . . The Red Sox officially placed Chris Sale (left pinky fracture) on the 15-day injured list. Righthander Brayan Bello was recalled from Triple A Worcester and will likely make his third big-league start in Sunday’s series finale. The Sox top pitching prospect’s two previous starts came against the Rays, and he allowed nine earned runs in eight innings. Nick Pivetta, who would have pitched Sunday, will be pushed back and get an additional day of rest after making all his starts in the first half of the season. Catcher Connor Wong was optioned to Triple A. The Sox selected infielder Yolmer Sánchez to the active roster, and promptly used him to pitch the ninth inning.


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