Red Sox

How are the Red Sox going to conserve Chris Sale?

How are the Red Sox going to conserve Chris Sale?

NEW YORK — Chris Sale got plenty of extra rest last year. The Red Sox seem keen to give it to him again.

The lefty entered Tuesday leading the majors in average pitches per game, 108.3. Last year, he was second in the majors at 107.2, so this isn’t some crazy figure.

But on Saturday vs. the Tigers, the lefty ace is scheduled to be on five days rest for the fourth time in six starts. Last year, Sale had a 2.87 ERA when he pitched with extra rest — and that was often. It always has been.

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2012, Sale has never had a season where he’s thrown more games on regular rest than extra rest.

“Well, we want to give him an extra day, we’re trying to manage so we can give him an extra day this time just because the last two starts (were) high pitch counts, and five, six innings,” pitching coach Carl Willis said Tuesday. “Anytime we can make that happen and feel like it’s necessary, we’re going to try to do it.”

Sale threw on more than four days’ of rest, the standard amount, 17 times last year (excluding his first start of the season and his first start of the second half). That tied him for the second-most outings on extra rest in the majors. 

Sixteen times, he was on five days’ rest. In 2015, he made 15 starts on five days rest and 12 on four.

There might be a winning formula here.

Seventeen is the same number of extra-rest starts made last year by Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, members of the world champion Cubs. The highest mark in 2016 belonged to Kyle Hendricks, also of the Cubs, at 19.

For comparison: David Price threw on a regular four days’ rest last year 25 times. He went beyond that nine times.

If he’s well-rested, will the Sox continue to let Sale throw among the most pitches in the league? Manager John Farrell was panned by fans and the media on April 20, when Sale was overwhelming the Toronto Blue Jays and pulled after eight innings at just 102 pitches. 

That might not have been the most important day to save Sale some tosses. But, the general idea of conservation is important.

In seven starts since, Sale has gone at least 110 pitches five times.

“We’ve talked about the fact that we want to keep him strong for the entire course of the season,” Willis said. “Obviously, he pitched so well early on that him getting in deep in games, it just kind of (was a) natural happening. But it’s something we’ll continue to monitor and look at as we go forward.”

In his career, Sale has been worse in the second half (3.31 ERA) than the first (2.76). But last year, those figures were nearly even, with a 3.38 ERA in the first half and a 3.28 ERA in the second half. He had a higher strikeout rate after the All-Star break than before it last year, and that holds true for his career as well.

It’s worth noting that Sale said he was purposely reducing velocity last season to be more efficient. He’s back in full force with his fastball this year, sitting at 95.45 mph after averaging 93.64 mph in 2016, per He was at 95.64 two years ago.

Worth noting as well: the Sox aren’t scared to lean on their best arms. Rick Porcello was fourth on the list of average pitches per game among qualified pitches entering Tuesday, at 106.2. Porcello was sixth last year at 103.3.

Also qualifying in 2016: David Price, ninth, at 102.7.

Porcello’s had a rocky start, and Price was hurt to begin the year, but the latter looks like he could be back in full force.

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge are about to go global.

Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy on Monday confirmed the Sox are interested to play the Yankees in London during next year's regular season. Bloomberg reported the clubs are nearing an agreement to play two games there in June 2019. Discussions are indeed taking place, but a deal is not done.

MORE - Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

“We would love to participate in a series in London against the Yankees but this is a decision that MLB and the MLBPA will make," Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said.

Bloomberg reported the games would be played at London Stadium, which was the main facility for the 2012 summer Olympics.

MLB has not played any games in Europe before. The Red Sox have made trips before, including to Japan before the 2008 season.


Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Blake Swihart’s strong spring seems to have the Red Sox more inclined to deal one of their natural utility infielders, such as Brock Holt or Deven Marrero, rather than Swihart, a converted catcher with high upside who's getting a look in other roles.
"Sounds like they’re holding Swihart to open," a rival executive said. "More likely to move a utility guy."
A true utility guy, that is.


The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported Sunday that Marrero has been drawing interest from other teams.

"We do have depth with our middle infielders," Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday. "However, [I] would not get into potential trade discussions."
Swihart, who turns 26 on April 3, is most valuable as a catcher. But he could still be useful in a bench role for the 2018 Red Sox, and a win-now mentality may be the driving force here. (It is possible, as well, that there is nothing available via trade for Swihart that has piqued the Sox’ interest. Marrero or Holt wouldn’t require as much in return.)
The potential drawback is that Swihart won’t grow much if he’s not playing every day -- and in particular, if he's not catching every day. But the Sox may be be at a juncture where they feel his bat is a worthwhile experiment off the bench, at least for this season. They can figure out his future -- and their future at backstop -- later.
"He’s a great athlete," Cora told reporters on Sunday. "We’ve seen it in the batter’s box. It’s not only the results, but the way he’s driving the ball to left field as a left-hander, the quality of at-bats as a right-hander. [On Saturday], as a pinch-hitter, that kid was throwing 99 and he throws a breaking ball and squares a ball up."
Swihart entered Monday with a .283 average in Grapefruit League play, with a .905 OPS and a pair of home runs. But he does not have the infield experience that Marrero or Holt has, and the Red Sox essentially have to carry one of those two to start the year. 
Eduardo Nunez, the temporary replacement for Dustin Pedroia, is coming off a knee injury, and a sure-handed infielder -- Marrero’s glove is particularly good -- is a must. Rafael Devers is still coming into his own at third base. 
Tzu-Wei Lin is available in the minors too, and the Sox could see some redundancy with him, Holt and Marrero. Lin, unlike Marrero, has minor league options remaining. Lin also has some limited outfield experience.
The way the Sox roster looks now, they have two spots available for the three guys: Marrero, Holt and Swihart. Health can change that. Holt, despite being the most veteran of the group, has minor league options remaining, so he theoretically could go to Triple-A to start the season. But if the Sox don't see a role for him on this year's team any way, they'd be wiser trading him, considering he's due to make $2.225 million. It also would be kindest choice for Holt, to let him have an opportunity elsewhere, if one exists.


Swihart has played first base, third base and left field in addition to catching this spring. Perhaps, in time, there will be a way to work Swihart in behind the plate for the Sox. At the least, retaining him would be insurance if Christian Vazquez or Sandy Leon do not perform well offensively.
There was a clear personal-catcher system for the Red Sox in 2017. Leon was Chris Sale’s guy, for example. Manager Alex Cora said he is not taking that approach. As an auxiliary effect, moving away from a personal-catcher system might make it easier for Swihart to receive more time behind the plate, if called on.
"Whoever I feel comfortable with that day behind the plate, he'll catch," Cora told reporters in Florida. "Christian already caught him. Sandy's going to catch him today. And then the next turn, Christian's going to catch him. Everybody's going to work with everybody."