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5 scenarios to follow as the Red Sox open the second half of the season

Red Sox

“Ranking is ranking, and we’re going to be judged on what we do.”

Alex Cora watches from the canoe. John Bazemore/AP Photo

As the second half of the Major League season begins, there’s a lot of talk about whether the Red Sox should be buyers or sellers before the August 2 trade deadline.

They end up at 48-45, which doesn’t seem particularly remarkable on its own. When presented with context, however, it induces a lot of headaches.

The Red Sox started the season 14-22, and many thought they were done before they really started in earnest. They then won 19 of their next 23 games to move to 42-31, but lost six of seven, 10 of 13 and 14 of 20. It’s dizzying, but it gets weirder.

Boston is 0-10-1 in 11 series against American League Eastern opponents, compared to 12-3-3 in 18 series against all other teams. Thirty-eight of the club’s remaining 69 matches (55.1%) are against divisional foes, and 52 of those 69 matches (75.4%) are against clubs with at least a .500 record.

Manager Alex Cora, speaking before the Red Sox host the Blue Jays on Friday, made it clear that the next few months – not the last – will define this season.

“Obviously we didn’t play baseball well towards the end of the first half of the season, but at the same time we’re in a position to make the playoffs,” Cora said. “Do we have to be better? Of course we have to be better.

Cora isn’t caught up in the conversation.

Cora doesn’t care too much about buzz or rumours. However, he understands why they are there.

“I understand the conversations,” he said. “As an organization there is a lot of talk to improve the team and improve the future of the organization.”

He said every game since a mid-May series in Atlanta has been “crucial” because of the Red Sox’ poor start. Although they are in a worse position now than they were a few weeks ago, they are in a much better position than they were then.

Cora thinks this is a big stretch, with playoffs against the Blue Jays, Guardians, Brewers and Astros — four teams they could possibly see in the playoffs. They are scheduled to play 17 consecutive days, so this could be a particularly telling and significant crossroads.

“At the end of the day what we do as an organization is try to improve this season and in the future,” Cora said. “We have been very vocal about it. Ranking is ranking, and we are going to be judged on what we do.

Chris Sale’s status remains unclear.

Red Sox fans shouldn’t expect to see left-handed ace Chris Sale anytime soon, but Cora hasn’t ruled out a possible return this season.

Cora said he had “no idea” how long Sale – who underwent successful surgery on Monday after fracturing the pinky finger of his throwing hand – will be sidelined. Since Friday, Sale has been officially on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to July 19.

“Hopefully he can come back with us, dominate and help us achieve what we’re trying to achieve,” Cora said.

Cora referenced the 2018 season, when Christian Vázquez broke his little finger and missed around six weeks. He said this situation could end up playing out the same way, but of course every injury is different and Sale is a pitcher, so everything is amplified.

The rest of the rotation also has question marks.

Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 3.34 ERA) is on the mound Friday, Kutter Crawford will pitch Saturday, and Cora said there’s a “good chance” rookie Brayan Bello will start Sunday in the series finale .

Bello, widely regarded as the organization’s best pitcher, struggled in his two Major League starts. He allowed four earned runs in four innings in his debut and five more in four innings five days later.

He has a great opportunity to make a major contribution in the coming weeks and solidify his place in a rotation that needs a boost.

Michael Wacha (right shoulder inflammation), meanwhile, will kick off a bullpen session on Saturday and a mock game on Monday.

The Red Sox could also benefit from a boost from southpaw Rich Hill, whose return seems imminent after spraining his left knee in early July. Hill pitched a mock three-inning game on Friday and looked “really good,” according to Cora.

“It hit 90 (miles per hour),” Cora said with a smile. “Maybe the splint helps.”

Trevor Story should be back on Sunday.

Second baseman Trevor Story, who came out with a bruised right hand, looks set to return on Sunday.

He followed the pitches Friday afternoon and looked comfortable in the box but didn’t swing.

Cora said Kiké Hernández, out since early June with right hip flexor strain, “feels better” and is working out in the weight room. Hernández, who was instrumental in the club’s playoffs last year, has played just 51 games and could provide much-needed versatility.

JD Martinez was knocked out late Friday due to back spasms, and his status going forward is uncertain.

They will have David Ortiz in mind this weekend.

Cora will be working when David Ortiz is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, but “the big man” is on his mind.

“I just hope he likes it, and everybody likes him,” Cora said. “Besides the baseball game and the Hall of Fame, everyone appreciates David as a person. It should be a fun weekend.

Cora said Jason Varitek, currently the team’s game planning coordinator, will attend the ceremony in Cooperstown. He also thinks Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Johnny Damon will be in attendance, to name a few. As for Manny Ramirez…

“We never know.”


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