Read the latest: Red Sox fire Chaim Bloom after disappointing tenure
Alex Cora took a series of questions during his afternoon press conference on Wednesday. Only this time he didn’t preface his answers by saying the Red Sox were still competing for a playoff spot.
There won’t be any late charge, not with the Sox seven games out in the wild card race and the season down to its final 2½ weeks.
The only realistic goals are finishing with a winning record and avoiding last place in the American League East for the third time in four years.
It’s time to turn the focus toward 2024. Some thoughts on how that could work over the next few weeks:
Clarify Chaim Bloom’s status: There is widespread speculation within the industry that the Sox will move on from their chief baseball officer.
If that’s the case, get it done. If not, squash the chatter.
Whatever happens the rest of the season shouldn’t change that decision. At this point, either the Sox feel like Bloom deserves another chance to build a contending team or they don’t.
Ben Cherington was replaced during a game in 2015 and Dave Dombrowski was fired during a game in 2019. Maybe this time ownership can find a more dignified way to conduct business if that’s the direction they take.
The Mets, Nationals and White Sox have already made decisions about their leadership. Waiting until after the season serves no purpose. If a change is to be made, get started on finding a replacement.
More Ceddanne Rafaela: The 22-year-old rookie, who was signed during the Dombrowski administration, has been in the lineup for four consecutive games. He should remain there, whether it’s at shortstop or center field.
The Sox also plan to give him at least one game at second base.
“He’ll play second at one point. But not yet,” Cora said. “We’ll make sure before the season’s over he’ll play second.”
The Sox would benefit by giving Rafaela as much playing time as he can handle as preparation for next year.
It would be good to see more of rookie outfielder Wilyer Abreu, too.
Tough calls: The Padres placed Rich Hill on waivers a few days ago to see if any team would claim him. The Sox should consider taking the same route with Adam Duvall, who is likely to lose playing time if Rafaela plays more.
There is nothing to be gained except saving a small amount of payroll. But it seems unlikely Duvall will be retained for next season given the young outfielders in the organization. Why not give him a chance to hook on with a contender even if he would be ineligible for the postseason?
Injury issues: Cora discussed the status of several players on the injured list, Cory Kluber, Kaleb Ort, and Joely Rodriguez among them. All three are making progress with their respective injuries.
Kluber hasn’t been in a major league game since June 20 because of shoulder inflammation. The 37-year-old righthander had a 7.04 ERA in 15 games, getting hit hard as both a starter and reliever.
Ort has been out since early July with a fracture in his elbow. He has a 6.27 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 47 games since he was chosen in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.
Rodriguez hasn’t pitched since July 25 because of a sore right hip. He has been on the IL three times this season and pitched poorly when he was on the roster.
Obviously, the Sox should treat their injured players. But what would be the point of having any of them play again this season?
“We have to talk about it with the front office and see how we play it out,” Cora said.
The Sox have an unusual fascination with Ort, but there seems to be little chance of Kluber or Rodriguez being back next season.
Zack Kelly is part of this conversation. But the 28-year-old righthander, who is coming back from elbow surgery, is a good candidate to remain with the team into next season.
Push the starters: Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta should stay in the rotation and add innings. The only way starting pitchers can learn to work deep in games is to actually do it.
Bello has completed seven innings six times this season. Houck and Pivetta have done it once and Crawford has yet to get beyond 6⅓. Every step for them counts.