ATLANTA -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington acknowledged that his team’s inability to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot (although he never mentioned Ellsbury by name) has been an ongoing issue.
“In a perfect world, we’d go in with a lock-in leadoff hitter," Cherington told reporters in a pregame meeting with reporters. “That’s in a perfect world. Given everything in front of us this winter, we felt we could have a very good team using one of our available options in the leadoff spot. We haven’t fully figured that out."
The Sox, who entered Monday having dropped their past 10 games, had identified Daniel Nava, with his .385 on-base percentage, and Shane Victorino as leadoff candidates before the season, but Victorino strained a hamstring in the team’s last exhibition game and missed 22 games, while Nava got off to a dreadful start and was sent down to the minors. He returned on Saturday when Victorino went back on the DL. In the interim, Farrell has cycled five players in the leadoff spot, with Dustin Pedroia seeing the most extended time there (26 games), before recently settling on third baseman Brock Holt.
“I’m not sure looking back that realistically there was an obvious alternative based on the decisions we made at every point," Cherington said. “Sure, we’re a better team if we can settle on someone or settle on a solution, even if it’s a couple of people, and allow guys to walk into a spot in the order.
“I know that’s what John’s trying to do. I still think we can do that. I still think we can get there. Getting healthy will help. So I think the answer is yes, we’d certainly be a better offense if we had more consistent production throughout, including the leadoff spot. Looking back at the offseason and spring training, we believed we could figure that out from within, we still think we can figure it out."
Cherington also expressed confidence in rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (“He’s our center fielder”) and outfielder Grady Sizemore (.220), who is attempting to come back after missing two full seasons and most of four seasons because of myriad injuries.
“We talked about [Bradley] this morning with the staff," he said. “You have to go on track record, and what you’re seeing there is a very strong track record there. This guy has been a very good offensive player wherever he has been.
“We are seeing things in his at-bats that are showing us he’s making progress. No one wants to succeed more than he does, obviously, and he knows that’s going to happen at some point. He can help the team every day with his defense as long as the arrow is pointing in the right direction, and we believe it is.
“He’s our center fielder. We still support him. We know this guy is going to be a good player in the major leagues for a long time. He’s not the first guy who struggled in the transition early in his career."
As for Sizemore, Cherington said the outfielder is past the stage of demonstrating he can compete physically, but noted he is still making adjustments after not seeing big league pitching for such a long time.
He also said that struggling pitcher Clay Buchholz, who started Monday’s game, is “adamant” that he is healthy and believes he has identified some mechanical flaws that will help him improve.