BOSTON — This time a year ago, most of the players in the home clubhouse at Fenway Park were insulated from trade deadline rumors. As a World Series contender, whatever moves the Red Sox made were expected to be additions, not subtractions.
This year, the room is a bit more tense.
Lagging 9 1/2 games back in the American League East and eight games out of the second AL wild-card spot, the Red Sox could be sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline. Plenty of players who were vital to last season’s championship run have seen their names tossed about in trade rumors, if they pay attention to that sort of thing.
For manager John Farrell, allaying the players’ concerns is as much a part of his job as filling out the lineup card.
“I think it’s very much part of it,” Farrell said. “There’s a number of people that are involved, and the players are typically going to pay attention to some of the websites that carry some of the rumors, and you try to put their concerns or their wonderment at ease a little bit, so they can just focus on what’s at hand, and that’s the game tonight.
“It’s human nature to be distracted at times, because your name is potentially involved in something, but we work and do what we can to be as candid and up-front as we can with relevant information at the time.”
From Farrell to Clay Buchholz to Xander Bogaerts, everyone who spoke at Thursday’s optional workout echoed general manager Ben Cherington’s refusal to concede this season prematurely. The players didn’t sound eager to be traded, either, despite what would be a long road to get back into the race. Losing stinks, but so does moving.
While the Red Sox still consider Will Middlebrooks a third baseman, there have been discussions about him moving to left field, Farrell said. The transition might still be some ways away, though, as Middlebrooks works his way back from a broken right index finger and a jammed wrist.
“We haven’t talked a whole lot about it,” Middlebrooks said. “My first priority has been getting healthy, and then third base. (Left field) was kind of something that would come down the road once I got healthy. … Hearing that, that’s fine with me. I’m a third baseman, but if they need me (to move), it’s something I can do.”
Middlebrooks was briefly brought up for Thursday’s workout and will be sent back to Triple-A Pawtucket to continue his rehab, according to Farrell.
Shane Victorino was scheduled to bat second and start in right field for the PawSox on Thursday. The goal is for Victorino to show he can play in back-to-back games before he re-joins the big club. The Red Sox would prefer Victorino goes all nine innings in consecutive games, but Farrell said they will start with any back-to-back appearances. … Christian Vazquez could play his way into more playing time behind the plate, but that will depend on Vazquez’s ability to handle a veteran pitching staff and to absorb the guidance of David Ross, Farrell said. … Pitching prospect Anthony Ranaudo, who is 10-4 with a 2.62 ERA in Pawtucket, would be “in the discussion” if a starter is needed on the big-league club, Farrell said. … Bogaerts, an unabashed Derek Jeter fan, was not surprised by Jeter’s leadoff hit in the All-Star game and diving stop of an Andrew McCutchen ground ball, which almost turned into a highlight-reel out. “That’s him. I wouldn’t expect nothing other than that,” Bogaerts said.