Red Sox

Beckett, Sox fall flat, 6-1

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Beckett, Sox fall flat, 6-1

BOSTON Josh Beckett continued his first-inning struggles, giving up two runs against the Blue Jays Friday night at Fenway Park.

That was all Toronto would need on its way to a 6-1 victory.

Beckett went six innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. His record fell to 5-8 as his ERA rose from 4.44 to 4.53.

Beckett now has an ERA of 10.69 in the first inning this season, giving up a total of 19 earned runs in his 16 starts. He has also allowed an opponents batting average of .343 (23-for-67) in the first inning.

With one out in the first Colby Rasmus tripled to right field. Rasmus scored when Edwin Encarnacion, the next batter grounded to third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who attempted to throw out Rasmus at the plate. While replays appeared to show Rasmus missed the plate and catcher Kelly Shoppach tagged him, Rasmus was called safe with the Blue Jays first run. Adam Linds double to right put runners on the corners, with Encarnacion scoring on J.P. Arencibias single to left, giving Toronto a 2-0 lead.

Yunel Escobar led off the second with a double. With two-outs Anthony Gose walked and Rasmus double scored Escobar and Gose, giving Toronto a 4-0 lead.

Toronto added a run in the fifth when Encarnacion singled off Middlebrooks glove, advancing to second on Middlebrooks throwing error. Linds single drove in Encarnacion, putting Toronto ahead, 5-0.

Left-hander Aaron Laffey earned the win, improving to 2-1, with a 2.77 ERA. He went seven scoreless innings, giving up eight hits with no walks, and four strikeouts.

The Sox had runners on in every inning except the second against Laffey, but couldnt score. Their best chance came in the third when Mike Aviles led off with a single, taking second on Jacoby Ellsbury's one-out single, and advancing to third on Carl Crawfords fly out to right. But Aviles was stranded there when Dustin Pedroia flied out to right to end the inning.

The Sox squandered another opportunity in the seventh when Middlebrooks and Shoppach led off with singles. But, Mike Aviles was called out on strikes, Pedro Ciriaco grounded into a fielders choice, and Jacoby Ellsbury popped out in foul territory to end the threat.

Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless seventh. Mark Melancon pitched 1 13 innings, giving upa run on two hits and two walks with a strikeout, before Junichi Tazawa finished the ninth.

The Sox finally got on the scoreboard in the ninth. With runners on the corners and one out against Jays closer Casey Janssen Mike Aviles fielders choice scored Middlebrooks for the Sox lone run.

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press