PITTSBURGH -- Allard Baird, the Red Sox vice president of player personnel who played a leading role in the signing of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, interviewed Tuesday with Diamondbacks executive Tony La Russa for the vacant Arizona general manager's position, according to a published report.
Baird is the second of GM Ben Cherington's top lieutenants to interview for a general manager vacancy this summer. Earlier this year, Red Sox vice president and assistant general manager Mike Hazen interviewed for the San Diego Padres' GM job. The Padres hired former Rangers executive A.J. Preller.
La Russa also met Tuesday with former major league pitcher Dave Stewart, while Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine has taken his name out of the running for the Arizona job, the MLB.com report said.
Stewart has emerged as the favorite for the job given his history pitching for La Russa in Oakland during the A's dynamic run in the 1980's, as well as his multifaceted experience as a player agent, pitching coach and assistant general manager, the report said.
Baird, 52, was hired by former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein as a special assignment scout in July 2006, two months after he was fired as GM of the Kansas City Royals, a position he held for six years (2000-2006).
Baird was promoted to assistant GM by the Red Sox that November, ran the team's pro scouting operations and also served as a special assignment scout. He has remained a key voice in the Sox front office and played a prominent role in the acquisition of Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford, a signing that Cherington said he also championed while serving under Epstein.
PITTSBURGH -- The last place Koji Uehara wants to wind up this winter is on the discount rack at Uniqlo.
The Red Sox closer took a necessary step toward avoiding that fate in Boston’s 4-0 loss to Pittsburgh Tuesday night with an impressive eighth inning against the Pirates, striking out three consecutive Buccos after a leadoff double by Neil Walker.
Uehara, pitching for only the second time since he voluntarily relinquished the closer’s role on Sept. 4, struck out Russell Martin, Starling Marte and Gaby Sanchez in succession after Walker laced a double into the right-field corner to open the inning.
Manager John Farrell made no pledges when Uehara would return to the role in which he has thrived for the better part of two seasons with the Red Sox until hitting a wall in August. But he has said Uehara, who is eligible for free agency after the season, will definitely close between now and the end of the season.
Uehara could use a strong finish to boost his value on the open market after his late-season struggles may have planted doubts in the minds of potential suitors, who already are mindful that he turns 40 next April.
Outta here Anthony: Martin, with a man aboard, and Marte both took Sox rookie starter Anthony Ranaudo deep. Ranaudo allowed just four hits and three runs in his 5 2/3 innings of work, walking three and striking out three. But Pittsburgh scored all of its runs off Ranaudo on the long ball, which has been a staple of his six starts since his call-up. He has yielded 10 in 32 1/3 innings, after allowing just nine in 138 innings in Triple-A Pawtucket.
Blankety-blanks: The Sox were shut out for the 15th time this season, a total exceeded in the AL only by the Rays and Mariners. The Sox were held to two runs or fewer for the 54th time this season; they’re 7-47 in those games. The Sox were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Hits given, taken away: Catcher Christian Vazquez broke an 0-for-20 slump with a double. Jackie Bradley Jr. had two potential hits taken away by outstanding defensive plays by the Pirates’ infield and is now 1-for-23 since his return from Pawtucket.
Pirates hold serve: The Pirates, leading for the second wild-card spot and trying to catch the Cardinals in the NL Central, won for the fifth time in their last six games and for the ninth time in their last 11. Six Pirates pitchers combined to shut out the Sox on seven hits, with starter Carl Morton (6-12) going the first five. The shutout was preserved when lefty Tony Watson struck out Yoenis Cespedes to end the eighth after a single by Xander Bogaerts and double by Allen Craig. Former Sox reliever Mark Melancon finished off the Sox in the ninth.
Holt missed his 10th game Tuesday night with concussive symptoms and is scheduled to undergo more tests Thursday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for Sports Medicine, where Dr. Micky Collins last week first diagnosed the symptoms.
"While he's improving, he's still going through some vision exercises," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He has a re-examination and a battery of tests scheduled for Thursday with Dr. Collins. I think that will be a pivotal day -- a pivotal day in the sense of where he's at and the projection for him going forward.
"Until we get that information, I have no real date marked for when he can be on the field. He'll be on the field when he's ready, but Thursday is going to tell us a lot."
Holt’s condition has been traced back to a ninth-inning collision he had with second baseman Dustin Pedroia in Toronto on Aug. 25, when Holt took a shot in the head from Pedroia while both were in pursuit of a ground ball hit up the middle by Jose Reyes.
Holt said he felt discomfort, but continued to play until his condition worsened. The Sox finally shut him down after the game of Sept. 5, and last week he was sent to Pittsburgh, where Collins made his diagnosis.
Holt, who was batting .300 as late at Aug. 18, batted just .200 (9-for-45) in the 10 games after he collided with Pedroia. He still has posted an impressive slash line of .281/.331/.381/.711, with a WAR of 2.2, on the season.
PITTSBURGH -- For the Boston Red Sox, there has never been a debut quite like it. Rusney Castillo is not the first player to come to the Sox from a foreign land accompanied by some mystery and intrigue -- Daisuke Matsuzaka comes to mind.
But unlike Castillo, Matsuzaka was not a year and a half removed from competition when he arrived in 2007. Matsuzaka did not play in a place where the eyes of major league scouts were not welcome, as Castillo did in Cuba. And the Japanese pitcher did not parachute into a season in progress, the way Castillo is about to, then undergo his American-style baptism into baseball by playing on three different levels of the Red Sox minor league system.
And Wednesday night, according to manager John Farrell, Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract last month, will make his major league debut in Pittsburgh's PNC Park, a jewel of a ballpark with a spectacular bridge-bedecked backdrop far removed from the dusty fields of Ciego de Avila, the city of his birth and the place where he cut his baseball teeth in the Series Nacionale, Cuba's national league.
"He's an electric player with a lot of skills -- he's explosive, quick-twitch," Farrell said here Tuesday. "We're looking forward to seeing him in this park."
Castillo had one last obligation to fulfill before heading to Pittsburgh. On Tuesday night, he was in Charlotte, North Carolina with the Pawtucket Red Sox, winners of the International League, who were playing the Omaha Storm Chasers, champions of the Pacific Coast League, in the Triple-A title game.
PITTSBURGH -- Outfielder Rusney Castillo, who signed the biggest contract ever for a Cuban player, will make his major-league debut Wednesday night against the Pirates, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Tuesday.
"He's an electric player with a lot of skills -- he's explosive, quick-twitch," Farrell said. "We're looking forward to seeing him in this park."
Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox on Aug. 23 and progressed through three levels of the Red Sox minor-league system after making his pro debut six days later.
On Tuesday night, he was in Charlotte, N.C., with the Pawtucket Red Sox, winners of the International League, who played the Omaha Storm Chasers, champions of the Pacific Coast League, in the Triple-A title game.
Castillo, who was playing center field and batting first for the PawSox, led off the game with a home run, his first as a U.S. professional. Farrell said Castillo will play center field Wednesday night, but said his spot in the lineup was yet to be determined.
Castillo is not expected to play in all 11 of the games that will be left on the Red Sox schedule after he arrives. Farrell noted he has other center fielders on the roster who will rotate into the lineup.
"I think the goal going in right now, for the games he's on the field, is for him to just experience this," Farrell said. "We've got a little read on him right now, on where his strengths and limitations might be, but that's just an initial view. We're still in the getting familiar stage of all of this. Any judgment on my part is reserved until we get a chance to see him more."
Here are a few reasons, beyond force of habit, to stick with the Sox to the bitter end:
• On deck, Rusney: Has any Cuban player had a more unusual introduction to the life of a pro ballplayer on the other side of the Straits of Florida than Rusney Castillo? In the span of just the last three months, he has been personally welcomed to the U.S. by Jay Z and Beyonce, signed for more money than any Cuban player ever ($72 million) and celebrated championships in the last two weeks with two minor-league teams, the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, during a dress rehearsal for his big-league debut, which could come as soon as Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Oh, and he turned 27 on Sept. 7.
It will be striking to have three center fielders -- Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts and Castillo -- on the team at the same time. Feel free to compare and contrast.
• Spoiler, anyone?: The Sox were a major aggravation last weekend for the Royals, taking three out of four in Kansas City to drop them behind the Tigers in the AL Central. Now they have a chance to hurt the postseason prospects of another team -- the Pirates of all people. The Pirates are in the weird position of playing stretch-drive games against a team they have played in this century only 13 times, the last time in 2011, when they took two out of three from the Sox. The Pirates begin their series against the Sox trailing the Cardinals in the NL Central by 3 ½ games, while holding a 1 ½ game lead over the Brewers for the final wild-card spot.
• Koji, redux: Red Sox closer Koji Uehara has pitched just three times since Aug. 25, only once since his epic meltdown Sept. 4 in New York City, when he gave up ninth-inning home runs to Mark Teixeira (tied the score) and Chase Headley (walk-off). Uehara pitched a scoreless eighth inning Friday night with the Sox ahead by two against the Royals, and manager John Farrell has pledged that he will restore Uehara to the closer’s role before it’s all over. Uehera’s bargaining power on the free-agent market this winter may depend on it.
• Skipping a party: The Sox may get lucky on this one. After three games with the Pirates, they will be spending the weekend in Baltimore, where the Orioles are about to win their first division title since 1997. The Sox may avoid having to watch the Orioles party, however, as the Orioles reduced their magic number to one by beating the Blue Jays Monday night and play Toronto on each of the next two nights in Camden Yards.
• Avoiding an embarrassment: The Sox helped their cause by beating up on the Royals, and now have to go just 4-8 to finish ahead of the 2012 Sox, who went 69-93. The Sox are currently 66-84.
• Vazquez, unleashed: How often does a team introduce two players of such uncommon defensive gifts as Bradley in the outfield and Christian Vazquez behind the plate? Bradley should win the Gold Glove, despite his late-August demotion, and Vazquez has deserved accolades as a budding Yadier Molina, who is merely the best catcher in the game. Vazquez has cut down 11 of 25 would-be base stealers, a 44 percent success rate, and has picked off four runners. That’s the most pickoffs by a Sox catcher since Rich Gedman had four in 1985.
• Another history lesson from Papi: With one more RBI, David Ortiz will have his eighth season of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, which will be the most in Sox history. He’ll pass Ted Williams, who has seven. Ortiz left the club Sunday for what Farrell called a “family emergency” but is expected back in Pittsburgh.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Boston slugger David Ortiz left the ballpark early due to what Red Sox manager John Farrell called a family emergency.
"He got called away from this game," Farrell said. "There was a family emergency that he had to attend to and he jumped on a flight late this afternoon. He should catch up with us in Pittsburgh."
The loss continued the Royals' slide. When asked if his club could afford to lose three of four to a last-place club, Kansas City manager Ned Yost succinctly replied, "No, no, no."
Yost also abruptly ended his postgame media session with that answer.
The Royals, who blew a four-game lead, fell 1½ games behind Detroit, which beat Cleveland, in the AL Central. Kansas City is in the thick of the wild-card race.
Nava hit Crow's next pitch into the Red Sox bullpen for his second career grand slam and a 7-4 lead.
"Do I think this is going to cause us to fade? No," Vargas said. "But we need to play better ball, that's for sure, because we're running out of games."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Daniel Nava came down with a case of food poisoning shortly after the Boston Red Sox hit town Wednesday night.
Now he's made Kansas City sick.
Batting left-handed against Aaron Crow in the sixth inning, Nava drove the right-hander's first offering to him into the visitors bullpen behind right field. His second career grand slam and Boston's fifth of the season put the Red Sox up 7-4. They went on to win 8-4, taking three out of four from the frustrated AL Central-contending Royals.
Nava declined to say what exactly made him sick earlier in the series. It was something he ate at a Kansas City hotel.
"Food poisoning is no fun, that's for sure," he said. "But to come out with the win overall in the series is big for us. I wasn't feeling well, but we had a lot of guys who either weren't feeling well or were banged up. We're just trying to get out there and be competitive, and we certainly were a little more than that."
Kansas City fans are not feeling well either. The Royals started this series with a one-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central and ended it with a deficit of a game and a half.
But Red Sox manager John Farrell was blunt when asked if he felt sorry for the long-suffering franchise that's trying to snap a 28-year playoff drought.
Several Sox players were competitive in this one.
The Red Sox were trailing 4-0 in the third when red-hot rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts lined a three-run shot off Jason Vargas to make it 4-3.
Then in the sixth, Nava, known for taking a cautious approach at the plate, wasted no time going after Crow. In fact, the switch-hitter was happy to see Royals manager Ned Yost not replace his righty reliever with a lefty. Nava's average from the left side of the plate is about 130 points higher than from the right.
"I looked up in the bullpen and if they were going to a lefty, they would have had him up, and they didn't have him up, so I knew I was going to be facing a righty," Nava said. "It was just a matter of whether I was going to get a pitch to hit or not, and fortunately I did."
Farrell does all he can to keep Nava facing right-handers.
"We were fortunate. We got him on the left side of the plate in that situation, having him sandwiched between two right-handers," Farrell said. "They make a move to the bullpen, you get Vargas out of the game, and it kind of set up good for us. In certain situations, he has such a reputation as a patient hitter. He has a willingness to go first pitch and that was the case today."
Farrell did not question his Kansas City counterpart's thinking.
"I don't know what goes into their decisions. But we put him between right-handers to keep him on the left side of the plate, and it worked out," he said.
Bogaerts also had a sacrifice fly for a career-high four RBIs while writing his name into the Kansas City record book, although it is admittedly a very small entry. At 21 years and 348 days, he's now the youngest Red Sox player ever to homer off the Royals in Kansas City.
Bogaerts had three hits in four at-bats while his 21-year-old rookie partner at second base, Mookie Betts, was 2-for-4.
Betts has multiple hits in nine of his last 17 games.
"What he and Mookie are doing at the top of the order has been impressive," Farrell said. "For the age that they are, the stage of the career that they are, it's very impressive to see two young guys of that age performing like they are, as consistently as they are. Mookie with some excellent base running. But those two guys are doing an excellent job."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If Kansas City's dreary playoff drought stretches to a 29th consecutive year, Boston take warning: Long-suffering Royals fans may vow vengeance against you above everybody else.
First, immediately after the All-Star break, the Red Sox sweep KC in three at Fenway. Now, with the Royals locked in a desperate fight with Detroit in the AL Central, the Bostonians limp into town on a four-game losing streak and 20 games under .500, and proceed to whack the Royals around and take three out of four.
Sunday's 8-4 comeback win gave the Red Sox a 6-1 advantage in the season series over the hapless franchise that hasn't sniffed the postseason since winning the World Series waaaaay back in 1985. The Royals started this series leading the Tigers by one game and, thanks mainly to Boston, ended it trailing by a game and a half.
Kelly was tough: Joe Kelly had a most unusual day while picking up his second win in four decisions. He gave up five straight hits starting in the second inning, including Eric Hosmer's three-run homer, and dropped into a 4-0 hole. But he did not allow another hit in the six innings he worked. He got 11 outs on ground balls.
Nava's the man: Right fielder Daniel Nava, who went through a career-long stretch of 245 homerless at-bats, belted his second grand slam to give the Red Sox a 7-4 lead in the sixth, hitting the first pitch Aaron Crow offered him into the visitors' bullpen in right. It was grand slam No. five for Boston this year.
Big day for Bogaerts: Xander Bogaerts matched Nava's four RBIs with a three-run shot off starter Jason Vargas in the third and a sacrifice fly in the seventh. He was 3-for-5 with two singles and now has three home runs in his last six games. Back-to-back homer games earlier in the week against Baltimore made him the first Red Sox player to hit double-digit home runs at age 21 or younger since Dwight Evans in 1973. With Kelly throwing grounder after grounder, Bogaerts also had eight assists and two putouts.
Up next: The Red Sox are not exactly picking on patsies on this final road trip of the year. Following a day off, they head east for three games in Pittsburgh, which is fighting for a National League wildcard bid, then they're on to Baltimore where the Orioles are about to wrap up the AL East.
Did he or didn't he?: For a fraction of a second, Jackie Bradley Jr. appeared to have caught Hosmer's towering smash in dead center as he jumped at the wall. The runners held up. The crowd was hushed. Then the crowd erupted, the runners began their homeward jog and the Royals were off to their biggest inning since scoring six against the Twins on Aug. 27.
No fewer than five Boston affiliates made the playoffs this season, a jarring contrast to a big league club that tumbled all the way from World Series champs to the AL East basement, 19 games under .500 going into the finale of a four-game set with Kansas City on Sunday.
But Double-A Portland, High-A Salem, rookie-level Gulf Coast and Dominican Summer leagues all played in their postseason, a terrific year for anyone's farm system. Topping it all was Triple-A Pawtucket, which won the 2014 Governors' Cup on Saturday night with a 4-1 victory over Durham in the fifth and deciding game.
Cuban defector Rusney Castillo had two doubles, an RBI and a run scored in the title game, and must think American baseball is easy. In 10 minor league games since signing a $72.5 million contract, Castillo helped two affiliates win championships, Pawtucket and the Gulf Coast League Red Sox.
Named MVP of the series was PawSox catcher Ryan Lavarnway. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, who won the NCAA batting title with a .467 average at Yale, was 10 for 22 with a home run as Pawtucket won their second Governors' Cup in three years.
"Very encouraging," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Castillo, in his 10 minor league games, has collected 11 hits in 37 at-bats with four doubles, three RBIs, four walks and two stolen bases. He also scored four runs.
Castillo will join the Red Sox when they're in Pittsburgh this week and probably make his major league debut. In the meantime, the front office is trying to decide winter ball assignments for what appears to be a stable full of prospects.
"The one guy we've talked about extensively has been Castillo," said Farrell. "He's even yet to get here. But we definitely want to get additional at-bats for him in the offseason."
Also encouraging was pitcher Keith Couch. Making his first Triple-A start, the right-hander allowed only one hit and two walks in 6 2-3 innings in the title game.
Tasting success bodes well for young, developing players, Farrell said.
"Regardless of the level, when you're the last team standing I think there's significance to it," he said. "To walk away after a long season, a lot of work done, congratulations to them.
While the effect varies from player to player, Farrell says the experience of winning is critical in a young player's development.
"Even at that level there's a sense of teamwork for sure, and a sense of accomplishment by that group. You're going to get a different feel, with a greater sense of urgency because you're playing for something specific. All those things have a benefit. The attitude and the focus that players will bring to the field hopefully when they advance to the next level."
He also figures that playing for minor league championships helps youngsters get a focus on the big picture.
"There's so much debate, depending on who you talk to, that individual development is the priority," he said. "But I think it's important to develop players in a winning environment. And when you're able to strike that balance, hopefully you produce a player that comes to the major leagues that is understanding of the sense of urgency and understanding that it isn't just about them and what they might get out of becoming a major league player."
If he sticks in the big leagues, he can always say he ended his brief minor league career with a bang. In leading Pawtucket past Durham 4-1 in the finals of the Governors' Cup on Saturday night, the highly touted Cuban was 2-for-4 with two doubles.
He also had a walk, a stolen base and a run scored as the PawSox came out on top in the winner-take-all Game 5 to seize the Triple-A International League championship.
The 5-foot-9, 205-pound outfielder signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract, the richest ever for a Cuban defector. Red Sox manager John Farrell has said once Castillo joins the Red Sox, he is definitely going into the lineup.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- So much for that two-game winning streak over contending Kansas City that put buoyant smiles on Boston faces.
On this cool evening in Western Missouri, a 7-1 loss reminded everyone why the Red Sox hit town on Thursday 20 games under .500.
After David Ortiz singled with one out in the third, K.C.'s Jeremy Guthrie retired the final 17 batters he faced. Rookie Brandon Finnegan then made it 19 in a row when he struck out the first two batters in the ninth before Allen Craig snapped an 0-for-13 skid with a pinch single.
Guthrie had been 3-9 against Boston in 20 career starts. But the Red Sox managed just four hits and their only run came in the third when Yoenis Cespedes' sacrifice fly scored Mookie Betts, who had reached leading off on third baseman Mike Moustakas' third error in three games.
The seven runs were the most for the frequently punchless Royals in 22 games.
LEAST ABLE TO SMILE
A bad night was most terrible for starter Rubby De La Rosa (4-7), who failed to get a win for the sixth straight start. In fact, the right-hander has only one victory to show for his past 10 starts and only two since June 16. The Royals, who managed only one run off De La Rosa in seven innings in a Boston victory on July 19, got to him for five runs on six hits in just four innings. The first three batters in the fourth inning reached on a double, a single and another double, and all three scored.
"Bad night," said De La Rosa. "I was not pitching like I want to be. So it was not a good night."
The right-hander has now pitched 96 big league innings and another 60 in Triple-A Pawtucket. Nevertheless, with the season winding down, he insists he feels fine physically.
"I feel good. I feel healthy," he said.
Manager John Farrell sensed some good and bad from De La Rosa.
"I saw good stuff, inconsistent location. A couple of times when he had some advantage counts with two strikes, some inability to put some guys away with any kind of breaking ball or changeup that had any kind of depth to it," Farrell said. "But more than anything, inconsistent location, particularly when he was up in the zone."
As if his night wasn't already bad enough, De La Rosa was called for a balk in the three-run fourth. He was ready to go into his windup when, it appeared, the ball slipped out of his hand. He grabbed it around knee level. But first-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth immediately signaled balk, sending Salvador Perez home from third for K.C.'s fifth run. Farrell argued to no avail.
"It was more the time," said Farrell. "You can't argue a balk. Rubby dropped the ball as he was coming to a set position. But when the home plate umpire doesn't call the balk but had time out, I was just trying to get some clarification on the timing of the whole play."
A GOOD BET AT SECOND
Betts acquitted himself well in his first start in the majors at second base. He flawlessly handled both balls that came toward him. A regular second baseman in the minor leagues, Betts had been playing strictly in the outfield for the Red Sox but made the switch on Saturday.
WRIGHT WAS NOT WRONG
The Red Sox did get three scoreless innings from reliever Steven Wright. He struck out two and did not walk a batter after relieving De La Rosa to start the fifth.