08/16/2002 7:45 pm ET
Tired offense looks to break slump
Wakefield to stay in the starting rotation
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Red Sox staggered into Minnesota in the wee hours of Friday morning, coming off yet another devastating one-run loss -- this one 5-4 to the Mariners. Again, just one bit hit in the late innings could have turned it into a victory.
For whatever reason, the clutch hits haven't been there lately for the Red Sox, and their record in one-run games is 11-19.
However, hitting coach Dwight Evans doesn't see any reason why his group of veteran bats can't break out soon.
"We got in here at 5:30 this morning," said Evans, "they won't use that as an excuse. I'm tired, I can't imagine these guys are playing. The one thing they do is they work hard, they work on the right things. Good pitching is going to beat good hitting. You can have the best hitters in the game and the best pitcher is going to win. Last night we outhit (Seattle). It's frustrating because I hate to lose and these guys hate to lose. "
Entering Friday night's game against the Twins, the Red Sox trail the Yankees by a season-high six games in the AL East, and were 2 1/2 games behind the Angels in the wild-card hunt. A veteran of 20 Major League seasons, Evans knows better than most that it isn't time to panic.
"We have a long ways to go. We just have to think about tonight's game one at bat at a time. They're doing their work," said Evans. "If they weren't doing their work, I'd be concerned. From day one of Spring Training until now, they all do their work, they all take batting practice the right way. I just try and encourage and not discourage."
Manager Grady Little is similarly encouraged by the mentality of his hitters. In fact, his only fault is that they are trying too hard.
"The common ailment there, when that happens, is that hitters get overanxious," said Little, "and they start jumping at pitches that they don't really want to hit instead of being more patient and getting a pitch to hit."
One sign that the Red Sox could be ready to go on an offensive explosion is that cleanup man Manny Ramirez has found his stroke. In Seattle, the star slugger went 8-for-13 with a double, two homers and four RBIs.
Wakefield figures to stay put: At this time last week, Little was at least examining the possibility of moving knuckleballer Tim Wakefield back to the bullpen when Dustin Hermanson is activated, most likely next week. However, after Wakefield pitched a gem against the Twins last Sunday at Fenway, Little is no longer thinking along those lines. Wakefield takes the ball Saturday night, again against Minnesota.
"It's going to be hard for us to make a change to take him out of the rotation. Right now, I'm leaning toward leaving him in the rotation and putting Hermanson in the bullpen. "
Little explained why that alignment seems to make more sense.
"We feel like Wake is capable of going out there and giving us seven or eight innings any night he goes out there and giving us a good chance to win. That might be kind of hard to ask of a guy who hasn't pitched all season."
Hermanson -- recovering from a staph infection on his left elbow -- makes what should be his final rehab start for Pawtucket on Sunday.
Floyd banged up: Already nagged by a sore right Achilles and a right hip flexor, Cliff Floyd tweaked his groin taking a swing late in Thursday night's game.
However, he gutted it out and was in Friday's lineup, hitting fifth and DH-ing.
Castillo out of rut? It was easy to find a bright spot from Thursday night's loss. Embattled veteran Frank Castillo, who was bounced from the rotation and continued to struggle in the bullpen, gave the Red Sox two clutch shutout innings out of the pen. It was his first appearance since losing last Friday's game in relief to Minnesota.
"It was big," said Little. "The kid went out and used his fastball more and you could see a difference in his pitching style. Tony Cloninger has been working on him with that, and I saw a good outing from that guy last night."
Fantasy edge: Despite all of his nagging ailments, Floyd continues to swing a hot bat with the Red Sox. He is hitting .395 (15-for-39) with seven doubles and two homers in the 11 games since he was acquired from the Expos.
Ian Browne covers the Red Sox for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.