Red Sox

Healthy Scutaro looks forward to 2011

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Healthy Scutaro looks forward to 2011

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- To his right, Marco Scutaro watched Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis go down with injuries. To his left, he saw Mike Lowell struggle with ongoing hip issues that eventually sent him into premature retirement.

In the outfield, prospects and journeymen filled the void after first Jacoby Ellsbury, then Mike Cameron landed on the DL with season-ending surgeries.

Scutaro could have easily joined them. He dealt with a nerve issue in his neck, resulting in weakness in his left forearm. Later, inflammation in his right rotator cuff dogged him.

Still, Scutaro played on. Limited, restricted, and in pain. But recognizing the manpower shortage the 2010 Red Sox were already faced with, Scutaro bravely remained on the field and in the lineup.

"He played the whole last two months despite the injuries," said manager Terry Francona. "He could have shut it down any time he wanted to and nobody would have said a word. And his numbers probably suffered because of it; he probably walked less because of it."

The pinched nerve in his neck in the first half was bad enough.

"It was like pretty much swinging with one arm," he recounted.

But in the second half, with his shoulder throbbing, Scutaro dealt with pain almost every day.

"I showed up one day and I swung and felt it," he said. "In the beginning, it wasn't as bad to throw. But it got worse. The first half was one arm, and then when it looked like I was getting my strength back, I had a problem with the other shoulder. All year, I had something. Hopefully, this year, I'll stay healthy."

By the final weeks of the season, with Pedroia out and Jed Lowrie available, the Sox shifted Scutaro to second base, to cut down on the strain resulting from throws on the other side of the diamond.

His offensive numbers were, on the surface, unaffected -- his .275.333.388 line was consistent with his career numbers of .267.336.385 -- but, in fact, they were down from his .282.379.409 stats from 2009, when he was in Toronto. In addition, his defensive statistics at shortstop took a dive; his errors rose from 10 to 18, and his range factor dropped from 4.39 plays per nine innings to 3.83.

Doctors told Scutaro wouldn't require surgery and instead gave him a rehab program to strengthen the shoulder with weight work and other exercises.

"It's pretty much back to normal," said Scutaro. "I just have to keep doing my routine two or three times a week."

It's Scutaro's hope that in this, his second season with the Red Sox, he can finally be the player he's capable of being.

"It's nice to feel the way you normally feel," he said. "Even if the results aren't there, at least when you show up at the ballpark, you feel like you have a chance to compete. But last year was kind of tough. There was some days when I would wake up and it was like, 'Oh my God -- I have to do so much stuff just to get loose.'

"In the end, I pretty much couldn't throw the ball more than 10 feet. I couldn't do too much stuff during BP, I had to just get my body ready for the game."

When Lowrie -- himself struck by injuries last year and the season before -- began to drive the ball in the second half, there was some speculation that a competition could be held this spring to determin the starting shortstop job.

After all, Lowrie compiled a .907 OPS after returning to action in late July, and offers more extra-base capability than Scutaro. But at the annual Boston Baseball Writers Dinner in January, Terry Francona cut off the shortstop debate by declaring: "Scutaro's our shortstop."

Word of the announcement reached Scutaro at his off-season home in Miami.

"That's good to hear," said Scutaro. "When the manager says that, that gives you a lot of confidence. That makes you feel good. I was in Miami, watching TV and I heard the news?"

Scutaro was asked for his reaction the news, and tongue planted firmly in cheek, said: "We had a barbeque at night and celebrated like crazy."

Francona's decision may have been influenced in part by the respect Scutaro earned in the clubhouse last year by continuing to play hurt.

"We wanted to make sure he understood we didn't forget his sacrifice," he said. "He took at-bats because he cared and wanted to be a good teammate."

"If you see a guy going out there every day and doing stuff (while injured)," said Scutaro, "I do gain respect for him . . . For me, it was tough. But it made me feel better to stay in the lineup pretty much all year."

"He kind of ran himself into the ground last year," said Francona. "I don't know that we had a choice. But we do appreciate it.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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