Red Sox

Former Red Sox pitcher on Yu Darvish

624216.jpg

Former Red Sox pitcher on Yu Darvish

BOSTON -- The Texas Rangers make their first trip to Fenway Park for a quick, two-game stop, April 17 and 18, in the middle of the Red Sox first homestand of the season. Whether right-hander Yu Darvish is with them remains to be seen. The Rangers, who won the rights on Dec. 19 to negotiate with the 25-year-old Japanese sensation with a 51.7 million posting bid, have 30 days to work out a contract.

All those factors Japanese, right-handed, phenoms, close in age, posting fees in excess of 50 million, negotiation windows will draw inevitable comparisons to Daisuke Matsuzaka, whom the Sox signed in December 2006 after winning the posting with a 51.1 million bid. But that may be where the comparisons end.

I think overall Darvishs stuff might be a bit better now, said Mike Brown, a scout with the Diamondbacks who was Darvishs pitching coach for two seasons in Japan. You look at his size, hes 6-5, bigger body, maybe a different angle, really good repertoire. Everythings above average, the way his body and arm work, the way he uses his stuff.

Brown, the Sox second-round pick in 1980 out of Clemson, pitched parts of five seasons with the Sox before being sent to Seattle in 1986 as part of the trade that brought Dave Henderson and Spike Owen to Boston. Brown was Darvishs pitching coach for the right-handers first two professional seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, serving under manager Trey Hillman, now the Dodgers bench coach. All of which should help Darvishs transition to American baseball if and when he makes it.

Darvish is sort of the epitome of what we try to accomplish, the balance between the Japanese and the American way. And thats what he is, Brown said. Obviously, he is Japanese, but hes developed in a system thats presented him both the American and the Japanese way and hes been able to take the best of both worlds and to put it together.

Hes a special talent. Hes 25 years old and hes been on the big stage over there. The media in Japan is second to none. Hes been in the spotlight so theres nothing hes not going to be able to handle from that sense or that hes been through. And talent-wise, hes going to come in and be an immediate top-of-the-rotation starter.

The transition to pitching in the United States should be somewhat easier for Darvish, Brown believes, than for most Japanese players who have made the move before him. Darvish has been relatively Americanized already. His parents, an Iranian-born father and Japanese mother, met while studying in the U.S. before moving back to Japan. An American manager and pitching coach early in his career introduced him to the style of pitching and preparation in the U.S. Pitching in international tournaments, including the World Baseball Classic in 2009 when he pitched in Dodger Stadium and Petco Park, have given him a taste of pitching in the States.

I think hes going to do well, Brown said. I think he had the luxury of when he was young, his first few years he had an American staff. So I think from that sense, he was probably protected a little bit more than the traditional Japanese pitcher would have been as far as pitch counts and how much we let him go. So he was developed in that sense. I think we got a balance. We didnt allow him to do more than an American player would do. Their workload is more and they handle a little bit more, theyre used to it more coming out of high school. But it wasnt the crazy, out-of-control workload. So I think from that sense he understands that.

He grew up in the WBC and international competition and an American staff was there at one point. So he has an understanding of how things work a little bit from that standpoint. Hell have some expectations of whats going on over here. Right-hander Yoshinori Tateyama is a pitcher that we had in Nippon-Ham that was with Texas last year. So, theyll probably communicate and talk about the transition, what to expect. So I think for him its going to be a little easier adjustment than it is for a lot, just because he was developed that way at a younger age in his professional career, and he had the opportunity in the WBC, and can handle those type of things.

But I think from a personality standpoint hes a good kid, hes a really hard worker, hes very respectful but he does have some personality and energy and emotion that you dont see a lot of times from the traditional Japanese player or pitcher. So I dont think hell have any trouble fitting in. I think his teammates will like him. Hell enjoy being around his teammates and want to be part of that. I dont think hell be standoffish and have his own entourage and be single from the team.

As familiar as he is with Darvish, Brown, who is looking forward to seeing his former protg pitching in the U.S., was stumped when asked for a pitching comparison.

Oh, wow, geez, I dont know, he said. I havent really been around anyone thats been able to do what he can do with a baseball. Its really unique, just the way he can manipulate the ball. A lot of times guys can only pitch on one side of the plate or have a pitch to go to. This kid can really control his fastball, he can control a hitter with it. The one thing I can say about him, a lot of guys can throw strikes but this kid has the ability to control the hitter. He can really go to a hitters weaknesses. He has the repertoire to do that and there are just not a lot of guys who can do it. Hes a pitcher. Hes definitely a pitcher, hes not a thrower. Even when he was 19 years old he was advanced in the way that he can pitch. You just dont see it.

If the Rangers do reach an agreement with Darvish, Mike Maddux will be his pitching coach. Brown had few recommendations for Maddux.

Hes unique. Let him be himself, Brown said. The only advice with Yu is that, with a guy like Mariners righty Felix Hernandez, probably in that age group when they were about 18 or 19 and they were the two most talented guys in the world, and Felix has pitched against major league hitters, and Yu hasnt pitched at that level of competition game to game. My only advice would be to make sure you keep him emotionally and that he maintains a high level pitch to pitch against the best players in the world. He has the ability to do that. He has different gears he can go to. He can pitch at different levels than most guys.

Hes a pretty cool kid to be around, pretty unique.

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. 

MORE:

“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

cubs_javier_baez_101817.jpg

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE