Red Sox

Cherington heads to Dallas with to-do list

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Cherington heads to Dallas with to-do list

BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has plenty of items on his to-do list at the winter meetings, which begin Monday in Dallas.

Im sure well accomplish something, Cherington said. I dont know what its going to be. I can't guarantee when player moves will happen, but weve got a pretty good idea of the landscape and idea of our needs.

"I mentioned this earlier, and it sounds like a little bit of a clich at this point, but I really do believe that the biggest work we have to do, the biggest job we have to do is really internally. Hiring a manager is a huge part of that. There are other parts of the operation weve been restructuring. Were going to make player moves, but weve got a lot of good players and weve made some big moves last offseason. I think the work we do this offseason is going to be a little bit different in nature, but certainly therell be player moves and we have been working on that. Theyll start happening soon.

Weve been working on both the trade and free agent fronts. Theres been things we could have done and chose not to. Its like any other offseason. You're trying to find the right opportunity, the ones that make sense for us.

So, Bobby Valentines trip to the Dominican Republic the day after the new manager was introduced at Fenway Park -- certainly cant hurt the teams efforts to keep free agent designated hitter David Ortiz in a Sox uniform. Whether Valentines lobbying actually helps, though, remains to be seen.

Ortiz is hosting his charitable golf tournament in the Dominican this weekend.

"I've been involved with this activity," Ortiz told Comcast SportsNet on Friday. "My agent knows I've been so busy with putting this together here, I told him, 'Only let me know if we are getting close to what we want. Other than that, you talk to them. You deal with everything, and at one point we catch up'. "

Ortiz will be one of the top priorities. The Sox offered arbitration to the free agent DH, who has until Wednesday to accept.

"I haven't thought about it," Ortiz said. "I haven't been in this situation before. So it's something you talk to your agents about, and then decide what's better for you and the team."

Cherington plans to meet with Ortiz agent, Fern Cuza, in Dallas.

We offered arbitration and thats significant because he has a decision to make on Wednesday, if we dont reach an agreement before then, Cherington said. Weve had continued good dialogue. And well get together with Fern and his other agents in Dallas.

The Sox also need to address:

Starting pitching
Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz will return to the rotation. Beyond those three, it is uncertain. Cherington is reported to have a meeting in Dallas arranged with Bob Garber, the agent for left-hander C.J. Wilson and righty Roy Oswalt, both free agents. The Sox have internal options in Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard, both of whom Cherington has said could start. Aceves appeared in 55 games in 2011, making four starts. Bard has not started since 2007, his first professional season, making a combined 22 starts for Single-A Greenville and High-A Lancaster.

Bullpen
The loss of Jonathan Papelbon, to the Phillies in free agency, has created a major void and questions in the bullpen. If Bard is not the closer, who is? If Bard is the closer, who takes the set-up role? Will Bobby Jenks be able to perform in either role? Along with Papelbon, Joe Nathan and Heath Bell are already out of the free-agent pool. Any potential replacement is likely to be a poor substitute for Papelbon. Right-hander Dan Wheeler is the only other player the Sox offered arbitration. A potential move into the rotation of Aceves, who played a vital role in the bullpen, would also leave a void.

Right field
J. D. Drews five-year, 70 million contract is off the payroll and into the history books. A right-handed hitting right fielder to complement the left-handed hitting Car Crawford in left field and Jacoby Ellsbury in center would be ideal. Michael Cuddyer is a possibility, as is the switch-hitting Carlos Beltran, both free agents. If the Sox are not able to bring in someone by free agency or trade, the spring training competition for the spot would likely be between Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish, both left-handed hitters. Kalish lost all but 24 games, all in the minors, because of injury, while Reddick had surgery on his left wrist last month.

Coaches
After the departure of Terry Francona, the coaching staff was given permission to seek other opportunities. Pitching coach Curt Young returned to the As. It could be difficult to lure pitchers to Boston until they know who their pitching coach will be. The contracts of first-base coach Ron Johnson and staff assistant Rob Leary were up and were not renewed.

"As I've said all along, we've got four coaches under contract, and we think highly of all of them," Cherington said. "It needs to be the right fit for them. It needs to be the right fit for Valentine. Bobby will get a chance to talk to all of them very soon, I would think."

Hitting coach Dave Magadan was contacted by Valentine Friday, the day after the new managers introductory press conference, and asked to return. The Yankees were reportedly denied permission to speak with bullpen coach Gary Tuck, who also will likely return. Leaving the status of bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who is also a candidate for the Orioles third base coach job, and third base coach Tim Bogar uncertain.

Valentine was asked if he would consider bringing in Bill Buckner, with whom he has a long friendship.

"Bill Buckner was my college roommate," Valentine said. "He's been a friend for years, we played together with the Dodgers. We played together in the Dominican Republic. I've watched his kids grow up and I respect his every opinion in baseball and in worldly matters. Whether or not Bill Buckner would be on this staff is a decision that Ben and I will talk about. Or if anyone else is going to be on this staff, Ben and I will talk about it to find out the right composition of a staff."

"It's not about friendship and it's not about who is here in the past. It's about who it is that can do the specific jobs that need to be done, who it is that will communicate the information that I need communicated to me, and who it is that can communicate to the players and their respective fields best."

Compensation for Theo Epstein
The Sox and Cubs have yet to work out compensation for allowing Epstein out of the final year on his contract to become president of baseball operations in Chicago.

We haven't made any further progress on that, Cherington said. Im sure well get together in Dallas.

Cherington is hopeful or working out an agreement by the end of the meetings on Thursday, but . . .

I said that before.

And in the meantime, he will have plenty to keep him busy.

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.
 

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez sensed he was ready to bust out of his slump and give the Chicago Cubs the lift they needed.

As breakthroughs go, this was a big one. Just in time to keep the season going for the defending champs.

Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

"We have to be much more offensive," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

Baez finally got going with a pair of solo drives .

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to help the Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

"They're the world champs, and you know they're going to fight to the end," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "So today, they did. We got beat today."

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. He had been watching videos and felt his timing was starting to come back in recent trips to the plate.

"I just need to take a step back and see what's going on," he said.

Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley , who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

"Great to have this win, because if not we were going home tomorrow," Baez said. "But I feel like we're still not on track as a team. But I think if we get back on track, everybody as a team, we're going to be the best again."

Contreras' 491-foot homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez sent a towering drive out to left.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

"Hopefully, it's not a goodbye, it's a thank you, obviously," Arrieta said. "I still intend to have another start in this ballpark. If that's where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there."

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

"The only frustrating thing is we fell a run short," Turner said. "We played a great game, they played a great game. They just hit one more ball over the fence than we did."

FINISHING UP

Maddon said Davis would not be available on Thursday.

"So other guys got to do it," Maddon said. "We have to be much more offensive. It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

QUOTABLE

Chicago's Kyle Schwarber on all the Cubs' runs coming on homers in the series: "That's fine. A run's a run, anyway you can get them in. Obviously, we want to manufacture some runs, but we won a ballgame 3-2 hitting homers; I'll take that, too."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: The Dodgers turn to Kershaw to try to wrap up the series. The three-time NL Cy Young winner went five innings in Game 1, allowing two runs, and has a 4.76 ERA in two postseason starts this year.

Cubs: Quintana pitched five innings of two-hit ball in Game 1, one day after his wife, Michel, was taken off the team plane in Albuquerque with a medical ailment.

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