MLB Standings Watch: Red Sox starting to shut down

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Aug 9, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa (36) in the dugout during the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With less than three weeks left in the season and a playoff spot hopelessly out of reach, you can’t blame the Boston Red Sox for being ready to shut down.

This isn’t to suggest that the players aren’t trying. These are paid professionals that are always expected to give it their all whenever they take the field. Some of them are still motivated to make a good impression in order to earn a role with next year’s team, while others won’t quit because they take too much pride in their work.

However, we are seeing the Red Sox begin to ease off some of their veterans in an effort preserve them for next season.

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Following Tuesday night’s extra-innings affair in Baltimore, Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo revealed that Junichi Tazawa was not called upon because the team has decided to shut him down for the rest of the season. Lovullo stressed that there are no injury concerns related to this decision, but Tazawa has endured a heavy workload over the past few years and his recent struggles may indicate that he is feeling the effects of the innings that have piled up on his arm. Tazawa will join closer Koji Uehara on the sidelines for the rest of the season, enabling him to get a head start on the offseason so that he can come back fresh in 2016.

Joe Kelly‘s early exit last night also raises concerns about his availability moving forward. He will be evaluated by the medical staff later today before the Red Sox make a decision regarding his next start, but there is the possibility of him being shut down for the season as well, according to the Boston Globes’s Nick Cafardo.

Dustin Pedroia has been on fire since his return from the disabled list, with 9 hits in 25 at-bats (.360), but he has yet to play in three consecutive games. Expect a similar trend to continue over the next few weeks, as the Red Sox don’t want to risk aggravating the hamstring that has pestered him this season.

We still don’t have a timetable on Hanley Ramirez‘s return. That may be in part due to the Red Sox being cautious with his ailing shoulder, but the team also needs to be confident that he is ready to transition to first base. He hasn’t been shut down yet because the team would like to get a look at him at his new position before the end of the season, but it may only be a brief glimpse.

The Red Sox are essentially playing out the string at this point, while looking ahead to next season. Anyone that is banged up or struggling with fatigue will likely get some additional rest down the stretch, while we may even see more players get shut down over the next couple of weeks.

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