Red Sox

Drellich: Sale's a success, no matter what happens Thursday

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Drellich: Sale's a success, no matter what happens Thursday

HOUSTON -- The weight on Chris Sale, the pressure on a bubble of insulation he maintains better than most, is immense.
 
There is the most basic element entering Thursday’s Division Series at Minute Maid Park, that he is pitching Game 1, on the road, opposite Astros ace Justin Verlander. A win feels close to a must.
 
“It's going to be a grind. It's kind of like the first person to blink,” Verlander said Wednesday. “As a starting pitcher, you love those battles.”
 
But Verlander has an otherworldly offense behind him. Sale does not. Sale is the closest thing to certainty the Red Sox have
 
A year ago, the Sox offense was baseball’s best, and was immediately silenced come the postseason. The starting pitching didn’t exactly help matters, but the bats were what carried the Sox in 2016, and they disappeared until it was too late. 
 
This year’s Sox team is about pitching. It’s about Sale more than any other individual.
 
Less than 12 months into his time in Boston, the lefty’s success in his first career playoff outing -- or lack thereof -- could have a disproportionate effect on his public standing. It should not, because he accomplished so much already. But it probably will.
 
"It's exciting. A lot of hard work goes into this," Sale said. "Ups and downs of the season, battling the travel and all this other stuff. So to be sitting here right now is pretty fulfilling."
 
Sale already quieted talks of the first-year jinx with the Sox. He had no trouble adjusting to the market that loves to consider itself the market. That’s a prime reason John Farrell believes Sale won’t look different in his first postseason outing.
 
“I think this somewhat compares to the way he came into Boston following the trade,” said the Sox manager. “He has handled it without distraction. He’s handled it with I think a consistency to his routine and being true to himself, who he is as a performer, as a pitcher. I would venture to say, knowing Chris the person, that the same approach will be applied tomorrow. 
 
“And I think the beauty inside of Chris Sale is that he focuses solely on the things that he can control, something as simple as command in the count. Strike one. Keeping it pretty much to the basics. He's done such an excellent job of that coming in with all the expectations and the highlight from the trade. He's handled it beautifully and I would suspect at this stage, this next set of games in which he's going to experience for the first time will be handled the same way.”
 
It’s easy to imagine the adulation for a win. It’s easy to hear the scorn that would follow a loss -- particularly if the Sox then dropped the Division Series . . . or, worse, were swept. 
 
Sale has said the right things since being traded from the White Sox. He’s performed as well as anyone, better than anyone, could hope. He wants the ball on short rest in Game 4, if need be.
 
“Three days' rest, I'm in,” Sale said. “This is what I live for. I'm throwing until my arm falls off.”
 
In Sale, the Sox have arguably the best pitcher in the majors, the reincarnation of Randy Johnson. He may win the American League Cy Young. 
 
But his 300 strikeouts will be so quickly forgotten if he doesn’t do well. It’s a battle David Price faced to an extent last year and into this year, albeit in a different scenario. 
 
Price’s overall effectiveness in 2016 was not fully recognized because of his poor postseason start and a higher-than-expected ERA in the regular season. Sale was a much better pitcher in 2017 than Price was in 2016, and Price was no slouch.
 
It’s almost sad, if you think about the potential for perception to be skewed based on one game. Sale should be regarded as excellent no matter what. His ability to pitch under pressure should not be judged on one outing. 
 
Yet, that does seem to be the nature of the beast when one is an ace for the Red Sox. You can start go through an offseason, make 35 starts, be king of the world as expected -- and then no one cares. Or too few care.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Ron Gardenhire to interview with Red Sox Wednesday

Ron Gardenhire to interview with Red Sox Wednesday

BOSTON — Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire's interview for Red Sox manager is scheduled for Wednesday, a baseball source told NBC Sports Boston. He'll be the third to interview for John Farrell's old job, following favorite Alex Cora on Sunday and Brad Ausmus on Monday — and may be the last to interview as well. 

The Sox could move quickly from here. Announcing hiring is tricky this time of year, because MLB doesn't want personnel moves to detract from the playoffs. 

But if Cora ends up the choice, as is most likely, his introduction is further complicated by the fact that his team, Houston, is still playing — and could be playing in the World Series.

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Cora, who would be a first-time manager unlike Ausmus and Gardenhire, is close with Red Sox second baseman and leader Dustin Pedroia and is drawing interest across the game.

Gardenhire would be something of a safe hiring, considering his 13 years as manager of the Minnesota Twins. A few days shy of his 60th birthday, Gardenhire would have to prove he could handle a vastly different market than Minnesota, and also connect with players despite being older than both Ausmus (48) and Cora (41). 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

E-Rod may be sidelined six months because of surgery; Ramirez has minor procedure

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E-Rod may be sidelined six months because of surgery; Ramirez has minor procedure

BOSTON — Maybe now there's more reason to think Hanley Ramirez can have a rebound season in 2018. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, will be recovering from knee surgery and is expected to miss the start of the season.

Ramirez and Rodriguez both went to the operating table Tuesday. Ramirez, the designated hitter and first baseman who turns 34 in December, had left shoulder surgery — an announcement he made on Twitter with a picture of himself at the hospital. 

Ramirez's surgery is considered relatively minor.

Rodriguez's right knee ligament reconstruction surgery, however, has a recovery time of six months, which means that's roughly when the Sox expect him back in the majors. But the timetable is imprecise, and either way, the Sox' starting pitching depth may have to be addressed in the offseason. 

Rodriguez, who turns 25 in April, has had been bothered by the right knee for most of the past two seasons. He missed about six weeks this season after dislocating his knee and missed the start of the 2016 season after injuring the knee in spring training.  Rodriguez was 6-7 with a 4.19 ERA last season and is 19-20, 4.23 in 25 career appearances, 24 starts in three seasons for Boston. 

Here's what the Red Sox said in a release about the two surgeries:

HANLEY RAMIREZ AND EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ UNDERGO SUCCESSFUL SURGERIES

BOSTON, MA – First baseman/designated hitter Hanley Ramirez and left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez underwent successful surgeries today.

Ramirez underwent a left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews at the Andrews Institute in Pensacola, FL. Ramirez is expected to be ready for the 2018 season.

Rodriguez underwent a right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction. The procedure was also performed by Dr. Andrews at the Andrews Institute in Pensacola. Rodriguez is expected to return to pitching in approximately six months.

 

Ramirez was bothered by both shoulders in 2017, limiting his performance at the plate and also his time at first base. He had a .750 OPS in the regular season after posting an .866 figure a year earlier. He was productive in the Sox' Division Series loss to the Astros, going 8-for-14.