The Red Sox front office will have a ton of moving parts this offseason, but Sox special advisor to baseball operations Tony La Russa isn’t going anywhere. La Russa’s title fell under former Sox head of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, but after Dombrowski was fired two weeks ago, La Russa’s position could have been in jeopardy. The fact that he’s staying on board is something that excites manager Alex Cora.
“He’s a very important part of the organization,” Cora said before the Sox’ 5-4 loss to the Rays in 11 innings Friday. “I’m glad that he’s always available. He sees the game in a different way that’s positive for everybody. In this game, everybody thinks the game has to be this way numbers-wise. But, no, there’s more than that. He’s been through everything. He’s a very successful person.”
As a first-year manager last season, Cora said having a former manager to lean on was helpful, which was what the Sox wanted out of La Russa.
“He would give me a check-up like every 15 days,” Cora said. “He would write like a letter or some [of the] things he saw that were positive and the not so positive. In every season there are different things that go on.”
However, with Cora going into his third season, the Sox see La Russa taking on a different role, keying in more on staff development.
The Sox are now officially out of postseason contention, meaning Cora won’t have to go to his high-leverage relievers as much, something the Sox relied on a ton this summer. One of the relievers you can expect to see shut down is 22-year-old Darwinzon Hernandez. The Sox are being careful with Hernandez. He hadn’t pitched since Sept. 12 after being a southpaw the club depended on for most of their summer run.
Cora said he’ll make two appearances this weekend and then he will shut him down for the remainder of the year.
“This is the first time he’s gone through this as far as relieving,” Cora said. “He never went back-to-back days in the minor leagues. He never pitched three days in a row in the minor leagues.”
In Friday’s relief appearance, you saw some of what Cora’s alluded to. Hernandez looked gassed. With one out in the seventh and the Sox clinging to a 2-0 lead, Hernandez allowed a single then two walks to load the bases. The velocity was there, but the command wasn’t. He threw 16 pitches that inning, just seven of them were strikes.
Hernandez came up as a starter, but has made his mark in the Sox’ bullpen, where he put together an impressive showing this year.
Before Friday’s blunder, Hernandez posted a 3.68 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 29⅓ innings. He’s pitched on back-to-back days three times since July 30. His most recent back-to-back outings came in early September against the Minnesota Twins.
“We’ve seen enough,” Cora said. “We know he’s a guy we can count on. Just a [couple] more [outings] and that will be good for him. Get ready for next year.”
The Sox plan on using him in a relief role moving forward.
There’s just over a week left in the season, but Heath Hembree wants to finish it on the mound. He threw a simulated game Friday and said it was positive.
“It feels good,” Hembree said. “I worked hard these last few weeks just to kind of get back.”
Hembree was scheduled to throw the simulated game last Saturday. Then the team postponed it to Tuesday. That didn’t happen after Hembree felt soreness in his elbow, putting his season in jeopardy. If Hembree’s elbow responds in the coming days, Cora said most likely they’ll activate him for their upcoming Texas series.
“It’s a personal thing,” Hembree said. “I want to see the season out to the end. I take a lot of pride in being on the field.”
Chavis done for now
The Sox will shut down Michael Chavis (oblique) for the season. He’ll play winter ball for Criollos de Caguas in the Puerto Rico Winter League. He will see some time in left field. Chris Sale (elbow) is here with the team in Tampa but there are no updates on when he’ll see Dr. James Andrews again.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at email@example.com.