Red Sox

Cook finds rhythm, consistency a winning recipe

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Cook finds rhythm, consistency a winning recipe

SEATTLE -- On Thursday night, Felix Hernandez manhandled the Red Sox, limiting them to five hits -- all singles -- while striking out 13, trying a career high.

Friday night, Aaron Cook recorded just two strikeouts and didn't have a single swing-and-miss all night. Yet, at the end of the night, he had the exact same result as Hernandez: a complete-game shutout.

Different strokes for different folks.

Cook wasn't overpowering, but he got the Seattle Mariners to continually hit balls into the ground, recording 15 of the 27 outs on the ground, thanks to a highly effective sinker.

He needed just 81 pitches to record his 27 outs, an average of exactly three pitches per out, a ratio that most pitchers would be highly envious of. And of the 81 pitches he threw, 73 were sinkers.

Why mess with success?

"I got in a really good rhythm early,'' said Cook, 2-1. "I was commanding the ball down in the zone and I knew they were being aggressive, so I was really just trying to command the ball in the bottom of the zone and guys were playing great defense behind me.''

Cook didn't throw more than six pitches in a single at-bat all night as he recorded his third career shutout. He continually got ahead early and claimed an advantage of a Seattle lineup that was shutout for the 10th time this season.

"When you're throwing strikes early and getting them early,'' said Cook, "it definitely makes a world of difference. They're not getting comfortable at-bats and I was able to really pound the zone early and keep them swinging at the pitches I wanted them to swing at.''

The 81 pitches represents the fewest number of pitches thrown by a Red Sox starter since at least 1988.

He retired the side in order in the first, second, third, fifth, seventh and ninth innings, while getting double plays in the fourth and eighth. Only in the sixth inning, when Mike Aviles bobbled the transfer on a grounder behind second to open the inning, did Cook face more than three Seattle hitters.

"I'm the type of pitcher where I know I'm not going to have a bunch of strikeouts,'' said Cook, "and I just really want to pound the zone early (in the count) and not let them get comfortable. Usually, that's a good recipe for a low-pitch game.''

The start was the 209th of his career, and Cook, upon reflection, judged it to be his best to date.

"I think so,'' said Cook. "Looking back (at two other shutouts), this was quickest I've worked and I was definitely more efficient, so, it's probably one of the top ones.''

"He had his sinker going from the first pitch of the game,'' said Bobby Valentine, "and he was throwing it over the heart of the plate and they were swinging at it and putting the ball in play and the defense was doing everything he needed behind him. It was a great performance.''

In the first two games of this West Coast trip, the Red Sox have gotten 16 scoreless innings from two starters who weren't part of their rotation only two weeks ago.

"We've got some competition going on around here,'' said Valentine. "You never have enough good pitching and I think we're building some competition and a staff where we can give the ball to any one of many guys and think we have a chance to win.''

Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

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Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

He was dubbed "Closer B" by Red Sox manager John Farrell when acquired at the trade deadline last summer, now Addison Reed is "Closer B Gone"...to the Twins.

The right-handed reliever, 29, has agreed to a two-year, $16.75 million free-agent deal with Minnesota, pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and TheAthletic.com reports. 

Reed began last season with the Mets and had 19 saves and a 2.57 ERA before being traded to the Red Sox, where he had a 3.33 ERA in 29 games (27 innings) without a save as a setup man for Craig Kimbrell.  
 

Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

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Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

The Red Sox and star right fielder Mookie Betts intend to go to an arbitration hearing in February, and there were signs this was coming even a year ago.

Betts was the only arbitration-eligible player on the Red Sox who did not settle on a contract with the team on Friday, when a deadline arrived for all teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange 2018 salary figures. Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Drew Pomeranz were the biggest names to avoid hearings.

Betts filed for a $10.5 million salary and the Red Sox filed at $7.5 million.  Betts and the Red Sox agreed previously that if no figure could be settled on by the Friday deadline, they would proceed to a hearing, assistant general manager Brian O'Halloran said. 

A three-person panel of arbitrators therefore is set to determine what Betts makes in 2018: either the $7.5 million figure the Sox filed or the $10.5 million figure Betts' camp submitted. The arbitrators won't settle on a midpoint for the parties. 

O'Halloran noted to the Globe there are no hard feelings involved.

Nonetheless, such a large gap would seem to provide incentive to settle. The parties technically could still decide to do so, but that would take a change of course from the present plan. The idea was to settle any time before Friday, and they did not. 

Betts is asking for near-record money for a first-year arbitration eligible player. Kris Bryant set the record Friday with a $10.85 million settlement.

The hearings can be difficult for player-team relations because teams have to make the case in front of the player that he is worth less money than he wants.

Betts, 25, hit .264, with 24 homers, 102 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .803 OPS in 2017, numbers that fell from his American League MVP runner-up performance in 2016, but were nonetheless very strong and coupled with first-rate defense.

This offseason is Betts' first of arbitration eligibility. In the first three years of service time in a players' career, there's no recourse if you don't like the salary a team is offering. Teams can pay players anything at league minimum or above. 

The only option a player has in those first three years is to make a stand on principle: you can force the team to technically "renew" your salary, which notes to everyone that you did not agree to the salary. Betts and his agents did that in 2017 when the Sox paid him $950,000, a very high amount relative to most contract renewals.

Some of the standard thinking behind forcing a team to renew a contract is that if an arbitration case comes up down the road — and one now looms for Betts — it's supposed to show the arbitrators that the player felt even in seasons past, he was underpaid.

Still, the Sox may have effectively combatted that perception by paying Betts almost $1 million on a renewal. Per USA Today, that $950,000 agreement in 2017 was "the second-highest one-year deal ever for a non-arbitration-eligible player with two-plus years of big league service." Mike Trout got $1 million in 2014.