Red Sox

Cook struggles with Red Sox while Matsuzaka rolls in Pawtucket

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Cook struggles with Red Sox while Matsuzaka rolls in Pawtucket

BOSTON Whats next for Aaron Cook?

The right-hander took the lost Tuesday, as the Red Sox fell to the Angels, 5-3, in first game of the three-game series at Fenway Park. Cook went five innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on a season-high 11 hits, including a two-run home run, and a walk, with a season-high four-strikeouts. His record fell to 3-7 while his ERA rose to 4.79.

His sinker appeared to be working early, as Cook induced four groundball outs in the first two innings. But the Angels soon got to Cook.

The Angels got a run in the third when Mike Trout hit a one-out single to center, taking second on right-hander Cooks errant pick-off attempt. With two outs, Trout scored on Albert Pujols single to center.

In the fourth, the Angels sent seven batters to the plate with five reaching base on consecutive hits, all singles. After Mike Trumbo struck out to open the inning, Howie Kendrick singled to right and Alberto Callaspo singled to left. Kendrick scored on Erick Aybars single to right, with Aybar thrown out trying to stretch a double. Chris Iannettas single to shortstop scored Callaspo. Trout singled before Hunter hit into a fielders choice.

The Angels added two runs in the fifth when Trumbos 30th home run of the season cleared the left field wall, scoring Kendrys Morales who had singled to center.

Cook threw 85 pitches, 55 for strikes.

Cookie had his groundball going again, Valentine said. We were hoping for one more there, instead it turned into a two-run homer. He had about, I dont know, counting the outs and the hits, probably 20 groundballs. Had his sinker working. It just wasnt placed well early in the game and the two-run homer kind of did him in.

I felt really good, said Cook. I felt like I was making pitches. They were just finding holes with those singles. Being a sinkerball pitcher, you kind of live off whether or not they hit the hole or hit it at your infielders. And they were able to string together a few of those in the holes. And then I left one pitch up on a 3-2 count to Trumbo and he hit it about as hard as you can hit a baseball.

They got a really tough lineup. The thing that I think we try to do is not worry about the whole lineup at one time, realizing that youre only going to face on person at a time and you got to attack that person, do everything you can to get them out and then worry about the next guy. Tonight I wish it would have turned out different but again I felt like I was making pitches and they were just finding some holes.

Cook was likely the closest pitcher on the Red Sox staff to Bob McClure, who was fired Monday. The two go back to their time together with the Rockies, who drafted Cook in the second round in 1997.

It was difficult, Cook said of McClures dismissal. Hes a guy that I have a reallong history with. Hes the one individual I probably give the most credit for helping me make it to the big leagues. So it was kind of tough but the organization made a decision. Were going to move on and come back and continue to work with new pitching coach Randy Niemann, who was promoted from assistant pitching coach. Nemo knows these pitchers just as well as Mac did. Its a new page.

Now, its up to Valentine and Niemann to determine Cooks role. The Red Sox are 4-7 in his starts this season. But in his last eight starts since July 4, Cook is just 1-6 with a 6.35 ERA.

Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has been on the disabled list since July 3 with a right trapezius strain, made his fifth rehab appearance Tuesday night for Triple-A Pawtucket. He went seven scoreless innings (plus two batters in the eighth), giving up just one hit and four walks with seven strikeouts. In his current rehab assignment, which began July 30 with Pawtucket, he is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA. Overall, he is 1-4 with a 3.32 ERA in 13 rehab starts this season, after beginning the year on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery. He has made five major league starts, going 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA.

Both Cook and Matsuzaka would be scheduled to pitch next on Sunday. Which of the right-handers will be starting at Fenway against the Royals remains to be seen.

Much too early to figure that one out, Valentine said. Well see, watch the film, see Dice tomorrow, see how he feels. and talk it over with everyone.

Cook said he is not concerned about that decision.

Nope, not one bit, he said. Its not my decision. Im just going to take the ball and throw when they tell me. Whatever happens happens.

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