Michael Chavis turned 24 on Sunday. He did not have a celebration to remember at Fenway Park.
After going 0 for 2 with a walk and a strikeout on Sunday, Chavis closed the homestand by going hitless over his final four games, going 0 for 12 with six punchouts. He is hitting .156/.206/.250 with two walks and 12 strikeouts in 34 August plate appearances.
Opposing pitchers have attacked him mercilessly with fastballs at the top of the zone since that became a glaring vulnerability. Over time, Chavis has become so focused on addressing that hole that he’s created another, not only failing to do damage to pitches in his wheelhouse at the bottom of the zone but also chasing breaking balls that are below it.
“He’s chasing up and chasing down. We talk about controlling the strike zone and he’s not controlling right now,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “When he makes contact good things happen, even when he goes the other way. Right now, there’s a lot of swings and misses.”
While the bigger picture of his rookie season suggests a positive contributor — particularly given the boost that Chavis provided for a team in need of a jump-start when he was called up in mid-April — he’s amidst growing pains that are typical for a player of his age and experience level.
The Red Sox have tried to help him navigate through them by giving him an increasing number of days off to take a step back and engage in behind-the-scenes work to tighten his approach, but as a player makes the transition to life as a big league regular, it’s almost impossible to accelerate through early-career turbulence.
“Overall, if you look at his season, we’ll take this,” said Cora. “We’ll take it and we know he’s going to get better. As long as he keeps working with [hitting coaches Tim Hyers and Andy Barkett] and he understands his swing, his area where he can do damage and not expand, he’ll be in a good place.”
Change may in the offing for the Red Sox rotation. Asked whether Rick Porcello would make his next scheduled start, Cora did not offer a definitive course.
“We’re going to talk about it [Monday],” said Cora. “We’re going to map the [rotation] plan over the week.”
On multiple occasions, Cora has noted that a coming cluster of days off — one this Thursday and another next Monday, the first of five off-days in a 19-day span — will allow the Red Sox to be “creative” in how they approach their rotation, whether skipping pitchers in the rotation or having them piggyback with multi-inning outings. The non-answer about Porcello suggests that veteran righthander could be subject to a realignment, though Andrew Cashner’s ongoing struggles suggest that his spot likewise could be subject to adjustment.
Cora also said that the team had yet to decide if lefthander Brian Johnson would stay on turn to start the finale of the forthcoming three-game series in Cleveland on Wednesday.
Bannister is back
Red Sox VP of pitching development and assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister, who’d been spending much of the second half with the team’s minor league affiliates, rejoined the big league team for the end of the homestand against the Angels. He is expected to remain with the big league club through the end of the season . . . In order to create a big league roster spot for Chris Owings, the Red Sox optioned righthander Hector Velazquez to Triple-A Pawtucket. The team moved first baseman Steve Pearce to the 60-day injured list in order to create a spot on the 40-man roster for Owings.
Lefthander Josh Taylor achieved career highs in strikeouts (5) and innings pitched (2⅓ ) while retiring all seven batters he faced. Since being recalled to the big leagues in mid-June, he has a 1.98 ERA with 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings . . . Righthander Marcus Walden logged a scoreless, hitless inning, and has not allowed a hit to any of the last 30 batters he’s faced dating to July 28. Opponents are hitting .194 against him for the season . . . As much as the Red Sox’ struggles have fallen heavily on the rotation, the offense has faded significantly this month. During the team’s 3-8 slide, the club has scored four runs or fewer in 9 of 11 games (not counting the 4-4 game against the Royals that was suspended in the 10th inning).
Alex Speier can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter at @alexspeier.