Red Sox

Drellich: Now to see a different Chris Sale, the student

Drellich: Now to see a different Chris Sale, the student

CLEVELAND — Let’s see what the Indians make Chris Sale do. 

If the Red Sox ace rebounds well from this bad month — if he dominates a postseason outing against the same club that rocked him Thursday night — his repair could become his most impressive act in a potential Cy Young year.

Up until now, the story of Sale’s first season in Boston has been one of superiority. It’s been a tale of three unhittable pitches and flabbergasted opponents. Sale never shakes his catcher, you’ll recall, because he’s just that good. You’ve been watching an overwhelming, practically incomparable talent.

In the wake of his three-inning performance Thursday, the Sale that Red Sox fans will have a chance to better see going forward is the worker. 

He appears vulnerable now. He is, in fact, vulnerable.

“I just sucked, quite honestly,” Sale said after matching a career-low for innings pitched in a start.

Now to better understand Sale the scientist, Sale the student. We know about the notes Rick Porcello takes. What about Sale?

“We have to go back and look, not only at the two starts this year [against the Indians] but over the course of a bigger time period where there might be some other starts where we really comb through some video and see if there is any common thread throughout these,” manager John Farrell said. “We know there are some guys in that lineup that have had success against him. We may have to look a little bit more explicitly about how we devise a game plan against them.”

Sale is meticulous in his pre-start preparation, but a lot of what we know has to do with preparing his body to pitch. He empties his mind, purposely, once he’s on the hill.  But leading into his next starts, and again leading into a presumed October appearance, what will be tested is how well Sale can make repairs.

Surely, Sale has made corrections throughout the year. Maintenance is routine, but you rarely hear about it unless something goes noticeably wrong. This ship never really sputtered previously.

Was Sale tipping pitches? Were his mechanics simply off? Did he and catcher Sandy Leon fall into a pattern that the Indians have picked up on?

“It was basically everything,” Sale said. “You saw the pitches that they hit. Not down, not over the zone. They were center-cut. Everything was just right there.”

The answers, in some way, are less interesting than how quickly they’re found and who finds them and how and after how much time — assuming they are in fact found.

“Just get back to the drawing board tomorrow,” Sale said. “Obviously I'm going to look at what happened tonight and try to figure something out. Because my last handful of starts, that's just not it. Not good enough. Just need to be better. There's no way around it, and this one's kind of the cherry on top. Something's got to give, and we're going to figure it out.”

Farrell pointed to fastball command.

“Both Cleveland and Minnesota are two very good fastball-hitting teams,” Farrell said. “They’re the two who have swung the bat the best against him. It’s a matter of being able to throw your fastball to both sides of the plate for strikes and slow them down in certain counts.”

Historically, Sale has had lesser performances in the second half. Last year, however, he seemed to eliminate that issue.

This year is shaping up to be the first in Sale’s career that he makes more starts on regular rest than on extra rest. But there’s no indication right now fatigue is the problem.

“We’re in a stretch where we don’t have the luxury of building in an off-day,” Farrell said. “We have to get back to executing pitches.”

The pitcher who soared above the normal cat-and-mouse game is staring at a drawing board for the first time in his Red Sox career.


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


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" 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 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


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.