Brock Holt continues to get nod over Rusney Castillo
BALTIMORE — Brock Holt started his sixth consecutive game for the Red Sox, playing right field against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night. For the third time in the last five games, Rusney Castillo was out of the lineup.
Manager John Farrell offered a blunt reason.
“Right now we’re looking to put the best alignment on the field,” he said. “What Brock is doing in the two-hole, he’s got the priority right now.”
It’s also what Castillo is not doing. Called up from Triple A Pawtucket May 22 ostensibly to give the team a spark, Castillo was 12 of 53 (.226) through Wednesday with four RBIs and one stolen base. He had struck out 12 times and walked once.
“I think he’s probably seeing some righthanded sinkerballers a little bit more competent at this level than any time in the past,” Farrell said. “When he stays with the strike zone — at times he’ll expand – but when he stays in the strike zone he’s got the ability to put a charge into a ball. Right now he’s offered at some pitches on the fringe at times.”
Castillo was signed to a $72.5 million deal last August after leaving Cuba. He has yet to be able to claim a starting spot.
Holt, who turned 27 Thursday, is 10 for 25 with three doubles and four walks in his last seven games.
Embracing his role
Lefthander Tommy Layne, who was signed as a minor league free agent before the 2014 season, has become a crucial piece in the bullpen.
The 30-year-old had a 2.41 earned run average and 1.13 WHIP through 22 appearances while averaging 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
Lefthanders were hitting .132 against Layne. He also had retired the first batter he faced 18 times in a row and stranded 12 of 13 inherited runners.
Layne has come into games in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.
“I’m pretty much ready whenever,” he said. “I’ve gotten better at being able to get ready fast. The weather is the bigger thing. It’s much easier when it’s hot.”
Layne, a starter earlier in his career, has embraced his role.
“I love it. This is what I should be doing,” he said. “My fastball is better in shorter stints and that makes my other stuff better. This has been good for me.”
Layne said his focus this season has been to improve against righthanded hitters, working his fastball inside. Righthanders have hit .259 against him with only two extra-base hits in 27 at-bats.
Layne has pitched at least a full inning 12 times, a sign that Farrell trusts him against righthanded hitters.
“We’ll look to continue to match up. But with each passing appearance he gains confidence and more trust,” Farrell said.
Not going that far
David Ortiz was out of the lineup the last two times the Red Sox faced a lefthanded starter. But Farrell said he was unlikely to pinch hit for Ortiz against a lefthanded reliever.
“No. As far as pinch hitting for him? No,” Farrell said. “Not talked to him about that at all. At this point we would not do that.”
Through Wednesday, Ortiz was hitless in 13 at-bats against lefthanded relievers this season. Facing righthanders, Ortiz was 1 for 4. He homered in the eighth inning off righty Chaz Roe. It was the 473rd homer of his career, matching Carlos Delgado for 31st place all time. Ortiz has 1,555 RBIs, tying Willie McCovey for 42nd in history.
Bench coach Torey Lovullo did not know until right before it happened on Wednesday that the Red Sox would draft his son, Nick. Assistant general manager Mike Hazen called just before the pick was made.
“A great moment,” Lovullo said.
Nick Lovullo, a shortstop at Holy Cross, was taken in the 34th round. The junior was first-team All-Patriot League and could well return to school to finish his degree.
“He’s got a choice to make,” Torey Lovullo said. “We’ll talk it over.”
Not much help
When Dustin Pedroia scored from first on a double by Holt on Wednesday, on-deck hitter Hanley Ramirez was not in position to direct him which way to slide. Pedroia looked askance at Ramirez. Farrell said a “conversation was held” about the matter.
As part of a league-wide initiative, the Red Sox will host a baseball and softball equipment collection during this weekend’s series against Toronto. From Friday to Sunday, fans are invited to bring new and used baseball and softball equipment for collection at the gates by representatives of Kids Gear for Baseball, a Massachusetts nonprofit organization. Fans who donate equipment will have the opportunity to win autographed memorabilia and other valuable prizes . . . The Sox will offer free skin cancer screenings to fans attending Saturday’s game. The screenings will take place in the Champions Club from 12:05 p.m. through the seventh inning. Dermatologists will be on site.
Hanigan on mend
Catcher Ryan Hanigan, out since May 2 after surgery to repair a broken finger, hopes to take batting practice on the field this weekend. He is eligible to return early next month . . . Joe Kelly, who was selected to stay in the rotation instead of Steven Wright, faces the Blue Jays at Fenway on Friday. Kelly has started twice against the Jays this season, allowing 11 earned runs on nine hits and 10 walks over 11⅔ innings. Toronto has won eight straight, averaging 7.1 runs in those games . . . Mike Boddicker, who played nine seasons with the Orioles and three with the Red Sox, threw out the first pitch. The righthander, who won 134 games in his 14-year-career, had plenty of zip at age 57 . . . When Pedroia scored from first on a double by Holt on Wednesday, on-deck hitter Hanley Ramirez was not in position to direct him which way to slide. Pedroia looked askance at Ramirez. Farrell said a “conversation was held” about the matter . . . Xander Bogaerts has hit in seven straight and is 17 of 40 (.425). Bogaerts has been hitting fifth against lefties and Farrell indicated that could soon happen against righthanders, too . . . Top Red Sox draft pick Andrew Benintendi, the Arkansas outfielder taken seventh overall, was named college Player of the Year by Baseball America.