Red Sox uncertain at second base going into 2020

ARLINGTON, Texas — With second base wide open, Marco Hernandez had a golden opportunity to prove himself ahead of the Red Sox offseason.

It didn't happen.

Hernandez struck out three more times in a 1-for-5 game Thursday as the Red Sox took a 7-5 loss to the Rangers. He's hitting .248 with a .616 OPS and has struck out 41 times in 145 at-bats this year while drawing just three walks.

* Three walks in 150 at-bats is not good enough,” manager Alex Cora said. * We have to figure this out because you see the at-bats. Against righties he is spinning off, pulling everything and swinging and missing and then he faces (Tampa Bay's) Blake Snell and he stays on the pitch and hits a line-drive the other way.”

But Cora said he's not disappointed.

* Not really,” he said. * It's not that easy. I've been in that situation. Sometimes you try and prove to people you belong and you get off what you're used to. I understand how it works. He's trying to prove to everybody he belongs here. He doesn't have to do that. The fact that he's playing is good enough because he was in a bad spot the last two years physically. I'm very proud of him but now it's kind of like, ‘OK, you're here, you're healthy, you're an important piece of our puzzle. Now this is what you need to do.' ”

Hernandez, 27, originally was acquired from the Cubs for Felix Doubront in 2015 and was growing into a favorite of former manager John Farrell. Cora liked Hernandez too, until a shoulder injury required surgery and made it difficult to come back until mid-season this year. Now the Sox want to see him play winter ball and work on his plate discipline and defense.

They have limited options at second base next year. Cora refused to close the door on Dustin Pedroia, who seems unlikely to suit up again, and Brock Holt is set to become a free agent. Michael Chavis is the only other viable option as the Sox look to find a second baseman for 2020.

* It starts with Pedey, obviously,” Cora said. * Hopefully whatever happens in the offseason he's healthy enough that he can come back and contribute. Brock has done an outstanding job. … Marco, he's been on and off. When he got called up the first time he's been really good and now he's been struggling, not only offensively but defensively. We'll see where it takes us.

* Even Chris Owings, when he makes contact he's a great player. We love the defense. We love the fact he can hit the ball out of the ballpark, but at the same time you have to make contact. That's very important, especially for him.

* We'll look at it in the offseason. We'll talk about it. Chavis, he played great at second so he's part of the mix,” Cora said. “I think we're in a good position going into the offseason with certain guys and whatever we decide to do, I'll be OK with it.”

Lakins wants to start

After firing two scoreless innings as the Sox' opener Thursday, rookie reliever Travis Lakins said he wants to come back as a starting pitcher in 2020.

* I'm going to lose 15 or 20 pounds,” he said. * I'm going to get in better shape. I'm going to prepare myself as maybe a starter next year and go from there. I've really enjoyed opening.”

The 25-year-old right-hander has impressed with a 3.86 ERA and 19 strikeouts with 10 walks in 23⅓ innings this year. A former sixth-round pick out of Ohio State, he had a 4.03 ERA in the minors, though he hasn't started regularly since 2017.

* He's made some progress,” Cora said. * He's a guy we like. The velocity, the action of his pitches. Like everybody, this is going to be a different offseason for all of us and we're going to attack it the right way. He's one of those guys, I think he can contribute next year.”

Betts to return once more

Mookie Betts is expected to return from his toe injury to play at least one game at Fenway Park this weekend against the Baltimore Orioles.

* I guarantee you he'll play this weekend,” Cora said.

The reigning American League MVP won't win the award again this year, but has hit a respectable .294 with 29 homers and a .916 OPS.

* I wish I could've had a grinding season like Mookie,” Cora said. * He dominates the game. That's something I keep talking to him the whole season about it. He wasn't pleased with his swing until actually Anaheim (at the end of August). I think he found a few things between Colorado and Anaheim that put him in a good spot. He started pulling the ball and hitting line drives behind the shortstop. Some of those line drives went out of the ballpark. There were a lot of fly balls to center, fly balls to right. Good contact, but empty.

* I think going into the offseason, he understands what he has to do. It's not that he didn't, but at the same time, I think now he's like, ‘OK, this is who I am.' He's a great player. He dominates the game defensively, running the bases. Obviously from the leadoff spot I love what he does up there. He'll be fine next year.”