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Red Sox remain hopeful
NEW YORK — Ben Cherington knows the clock is ticking faster and faster on whether or not the Red Sox have any shot of being a contender.
Right now, the Red Sox general manager is more focused on fixing what currently ails his team over the future.
“Focused on 2014,” said Plainfield, N.H.’s Cherington before Saturday night’s 2-1 victory, which lifted the Sox to 37-44 — still their first sub-.500 record after 81 games since 1997. “We’re trying to look realistically and be honest with where we are — I’m not sugarcoating where we are. It’s not where we want to be. We’ve created a deficit for ourselves, but we still think the deficit is one we can overcome. We still believe in the talent. We believe we can be a good team this year.
“If at some point, the picture changes, then it changes. Then we’ll have to adjust at that point, but we’re not at that point yet.”
Knowing if and when to pull the plug on this year sounds more like an art than a science.
“It’s a combination of where you are, how many games you have left to play, what talent we have, what talent we think is potentially attainable — throw it all in a pot, mix it up and try to make the best decision,” said Cherington. “I think we’d be allowed to do whatever we think is in the best interest of the Red Sox. I understand we can put potential moves into one bucket or the other. We can put moves into the ‘seller’ bucket or the ‘buyer’ bucket, and I get it. But I’m not sure every move falls neatly into either of those buckets.
“We’re going to try to make the organization better and the team better. We think we can do it this year. We’ll see if we can.”
The move to bring up Mookie Betts Saturday after only 77 games in Double and Triple A combined falls into the “buyer” bucket. In those games, Betts hit .345 with 21 doubles, eight home runs, 48 RBIs and 29 stolen bases.
“When a guy is performing at the level and doing it the way he’s doing it, and controlling the strike zone and performing in all different areas of the game, that kind of guy deserves consideration,” said Cherington. “We happen to have a need for as many good players as we can get, particularly guys that can move around positions, cover different spots. We talked about it for probably two or three days and just decided it was the right time.”
Betts started Sunday night.
“I think I’m ready as I’m going to get,” said Betts, drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. “Only time will tell, getting out there and playing and learning more will tell if I was ready or not. But the front office felt I was ready, I have to feel like I’m ready as well.”
Drafted as a second baseman, Betts has played in 27 games in the outfield this season.
“Definitely a lot more comfortable, because experience is what’s going to teach you and get you comfortable, but now I feel like it’s my home,” said Betts, who added that “just learning routes, routes to balls, balls in gaps, hitting cutoffs” has been the toughest adjustment.
In Low-A Greenville just last year, Betts was worried about the move to Double A coming out of spring training. This was something else entirely.
“That’s said to be the big jump, that was really my main concern, that was going to be my focus,” said Betts. “It flew by. . . . It’s a blessing to be here now.”
Rubby takes the fall
To make room for Betts on the 25-man roster, the team optioned Rubby De La Rosa to Pawtucket, where he will start on Tuesday. De La Rosa shined in his five starts: 2-2, 2.51 ERA.
“It’s a positive for me that I made them make a decision like that,” he said. “It’s hard for them, too. But at some point I’m coming back.”
Betts’ presence means the team has five outfielders, and that’s without Shane Victorino, who is out indefinitely after receiving an injection in his balky back.
“He’s going to come back and play, it’s just, we don’t know when exactly,” said Cherington. “It’s a little bit harder to say than it would have been five or six days ago.”
Brock Holt, who has been playing right field, could stay there and/or see time at shortstop. Betts can play center or right field. Manager John Farrell said he will try to have the younger players — Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. — playing five or six times a week.
Ross has quite the night
Brett Gardner had only been caught on two of 17 stolen-base attempts this season entering Saturday night, but David Ross made it look easy in the sixth inning, getting the speedster trying to swipe second base in a tie game.
“That’s probably as good as I’ve felt all year getting rid of the ball. That’s how I used to throw when I was a young buck,” said Ross. “It was nice to feel that again.”
The Yankees followed Gardner’s leadoff single — the first hit Jon Lester allowed in the game — with singles by Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury, meaning Ross’ play likely saved a run.
Earlier, Ross opened the scoring with a third-inning solo homer off Tanaka — his fourth this season, first off a right-handed pitcher, and his second in back-to-back games.