Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington looked exhausted last Thursday while speaking with reporters at Fenway Park shortly after the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline. Sleep hadn’t been an option with Boston’s future hanging in the balance.
Cherington appeared fresher while chatting with the media Wednesday in St. Louis. But it’s not because the GM is resting on his laurels. Cherington fully recognizes that the Red Sox’s road to success is complicated, and the front office remains hard at work with an eye toward building a contender for 2015.
Cherington addressed several issues Wednesday. Let’s go over some of the most pertinent topics.
— Allen Craig’s tenure with the Red Sox is off to an underwhelming start. The outfielder/first baseman landed on the disabled list after just one game with Boston because of an ankle injury.
Considering that Craig battled an injury to the same foot in 2013 and currently is having his worst season to date, it begs the question: Did the Red Sox obtain damaged goods from the St. Louis Cardinals?
Cherington doesn’t think so.
“No red flags in the long-term,” Cherington said. “We had access to everything, and obviously he’s had stuff, as you guys know. We didn’t have any concern about whether this was a long-term risk, and he had obviously played through October and then played a lot this year on it.
“He hit the bag awkwardly (in his first game with Boston on Friday), felt soreness. Unfortunately, it happened the way it happened. It was the first game he played for us. And because of what he’s been through, we just want to be sure that we’ve got this thing taken care of in the right way so he can move forward. Whenever he starts playing again, we can all be sure that he’s in good shape.”
Craig, who was acquired from the Cardinals along with pitcher Joe Kelly in exchange for pitcher John Lackey and minor league hurler Corey Littrell, was placed on the DL on Tuesday. The Red Sox have no plans to shut Craig down for the season at this point, though the club intends to be “methodical” in its handling of the situation.
— Shane Victorino, who underwent successful back surgery Tuesday, is expected to be ready for spring training next season. It’s unclear where he’ll fit into Boston’s outfield plans if both Craig and Yoenis Cespedes remain in the picture.
— Jackie Bradley Jr., who currently is in an 0-for-24 slump, sat for a second consecutive game Wednesday. It’s obvious the Red Sox expect more from Bradley offensively.
“He’s certainly learning still at the big league level,” Cherington said. “His defense has been elite, as you said, and we know at some point there is going to have to be more offense. He knows that, too.”
— The Red Sox have several young players who need consistent playing time to aid their development. According to Cherington, this is a strong consideration in Boston’s everyday decision-making.
“We’ll see how that goes,” Cherington said of allocating playing time. “We certainly don’t want to get to the end of the year and look back and say, ‘Boy, I wish we had gotten 60 more at-bats for this guy.’ That would be inconsistent with what we need to do. We’ll figure it out.”
— The Red Sox’s starting rotation remains an area of uncertainty. Cherington reiterated that the Red Sox will use the remainder of this season to assess their in-house options before exploring alternatives — either in free agency or on the trade market — this offseason.
“We think we have eight or 10 young starting pitchers — some of them are here now, others are Triple-A and Double-A — that at some point can be good major league starters,” Cherington said. “That doesn’t mean they all will be (and) that doesn’t mean they will be next year.”
Cherington expressed confidence that Clay Buchholz will rebound from his rough season and be a key member of Boston’s 2015 rotation.
— Cherington isn’t sold on the idea of needing an “ace” to win.
“We just want to be good,” Cherington said. “We need to build a good team; we need to win games. There’s different ways to do that. It’s nice to have an ace at the top of the rotation, but you can be good in different ways. We’ve had really good teams without that.”
— Henry Owens has dominated at every level of the minors. The 22-year-old left-hander dazzled Monday in his debut at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Will Owens earn a major league call-up this season?
“I think he’s in a good spot. He obviously just got to Triple-A. There’s some things that he’ll get out of pitching at Triple-A first,” Cherington said. “They’re making a playoff push themselves, so I think we’d like to see him finish out the year there and try to help them get into the playoffs. He’s obviously a guy who’s important to us in the long-term, but part of finding out as much as we can about young pitching is making sure there’s a real role for as many of those guys as possible. We have to balance that out.”
— The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has passed, but the Red Sox still could make moves in August.
“Wouldn’t rule it out. We’ll certainly stay active in August,” Cherington said regarding waiver-wire deals. “Obviously, it’s a little different being in this position, but we’ll stay active and see what’s out there. There could be, but nothing on the front burner right now.”