Boston Herald

With C’s bounced, more focus on the team

- By Gabrielle Starr gstarr@bostonhera­

With the Celtics getting eliminated from the playoffs in lackluster fashion on Monday night, all eyes are on the Red Sox.

For the next few months, they’re the only show in town.

Is Boston’s baseball team feeling some added pressure now?

“They had some great seasons,” Alex Cora said of the Bruins and Celtics. “And obviously, at the end, you know, it didn’t work out for their organizati­ons, for the city, but at one point, we knew that it was us, and we just gotta keep playing good baseball.”

The manager didn’t exactly offer a ringing endorsemen­t of his team’s current state.

“When you look back, we had some, four horrible series the whole season, and they put us in a spot that, you lose all those games, right?” But the overall thing, it’s been, it’s been OK.

“Of course, we can get better, but I don’t think it’s that bad, or it’s that great. It’s kind of like, right in the middle,” the manager assessed, noting, “We play in the toughest division in baseball.”

The Red Sox entered a three-game series with Cincinnati with a 28-25 record, which puts them fourth in a division in which every team is above .500. In any other division, they’d be no lower than third place.

However, Cora also pointed out that the Red Sox have been defying preseason projection­s and expectatio­ns.

“We’re deeper than what everybody thought we would be,” he said.

New challenge for No. 1

Shortstop Marcelo Mayer made his Double-A Portland debut on Tuesday evening. The organizati­on’s No. 1 prospect found out he was being promoted on Sunday, less than two years after the Red Sox selected him as the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft.

“He’s a good player, man, he’s a good player, good kid,” Cora said Tuesday afternoon. “He understand­s who he is. Tools-wise, he’s really good.”

In their limited time together, the manager had high praise for the organizati­on’s top prospect.

“Everybody has seen the offensive part of it, but the defense is solid, you know? We had him a few times in spring training, in the dugout, and he’s a good baseball player. He understand­s, he communicat­es, he’s a leader, too,” the Sox skipper noted.

“He earned this next step,” Chaim Bloom told the Herald ahead of Mayer’s debut. “Ideally we can have every player at the level that’s going to help them grow the most. Double-A will be a good challenge for him, and

I’m sure there will be ups and downs, but he’s shown us that he’s ready for it.”

“He’s impressive,” Cora said, adding that it’s not a far drive from Portland to Boston. “We’ve seen guys making that jump. I’m not saying that’s where we’re at, but you know, it’s the reality of the business.

“He keeps pushing, and we’re gonna keep challengin­g him.”

Progress, not perfect

After getting off to a few rough starts, Chris Sale has been on a comeback tour of epic proportion­s. Dating back to April 18, he has a 2.91 ERA over his last seven starts, with 46 strikeouts, seven walks, and just three home runs allowed over his last 43.1 innings (he gave up three homers in his season debut).

“Little by little, we keep adding stuff to his process, and he’s getting better,” Cora lauded. “Velocity went up, location-wise, he’s been solid lately. The changeup is not there, which is kind of like, OK … he’s in a good spot.”

After handling Sale with immense care in spring training, his manager says no restrictio­ns remain.

“With him, (we were) kind of like, taking care of him. He’s out of the window, now we just let him go, and hopefully, he can go on one of those runs like in ’17 and ’18, and carry this pitching staff all the way through,” he said.

Roster moves

Corey Kluber went on the Paternity List on Tuesday, opening a roster spot for the Red Sox to recall lefthanded reliever Ryan Sherriff from Triple-A.

Sherriff has made two appearance­s for the big-league team this year, totaling two scoreless innings.

In addition to moving Mayer up, the Red Sox have promoted infielder Christian Koss and reliever Theo Denlinger to Triple-A Worcester. After getting off to a cold start (he hit .188 with a .570 OPS in April), Koss had a strong May; over 20 games, he collected 18 hits, including four doubles and a home run. He’s also 11-for-12 in stolen base attempts.

The Red Sox acquired Denlinger from the Chicago White Sox in February, in exchange for Franklin German. The 26-yearold right-handed reliever posted a 2.29 ERA across 14 appearance­s with Portland, with 20 strikeouts and seven walks across 19.2 innings.

Injury updates

Adam Duvall begins a rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester this week.

“He’s the DH today, playing the outfield tomorrow,” Cora said. “We’ll keep building him up, and it’s about feel with him, too. Obviously, coming from this one and what happened last year.”

Duvall suffered a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist last July, which required season-ending surgery.

The veteran outfielder has been on the injured list since April 10. He fractured the same wrist on a diving catch during the Red Sox series in Detroit, bringing his hot start to a screeching halt. In his first eight games of the season, he went 15for-33 with five doubles, a triple, four home runs, and 14 RBI.

“Hopefully, it’s the same as early in the season, but we’ll take it day by day with him,” Cora said, adding, “He feels really good.”

Fittingly, the WooSox have a road series at the Louisville Bats this week in Duvall’s home state of Kentucky. Louisville is also the former home of Boston’s Triple-A affiliate, the Colonels. Carlton Fisk and Dwight Evans are among the Red Sox legends who had to prove themselves in Kentucky before making it to the majors.

Christian Arroyo will continue his rehab assignment Wednesday, also with the WooSox. The Red Sox want him to play second base, shortstop, and DH. “And then we reassess the situation towards the end of the week,” Cora said. … Richard Bleier played catch Tuesday for the first time since going on the injured list last week.

 ?? JOHN BAZEMORE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? With the Celtics being eliminated from the NBA playoffs Monday, and the Bruins long ago bounced from the NHL playoffs, more eyes are going to be on the Red Sox and manager Alex Cora.
JOHN BAZEMORE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS With the Celtics being eliminated from the NBA playoffs Monday, and the Bruins long ago bounced from the NHL playoffs, more eyes are going to be on the Red Sox and manager Alex Cora.

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