Red Sox

Mullen on the Minors: Couch adjust to changing role

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Mullen on the Minors: Couch adjust to changing role

In his July 25 outing for High-A Salem, Keith Couch made team history, throwing the franchises first-ever nine-inning complete game. That he allowed just one run on 10 hits with no walks and four strikeouts to earn the win over Myrtle Beach is just as impressive.

That was the first time I did nine since college, Couch said. So the fact that they let me do that and I was able to have a low pitch count to accomplish that was pretty cool. Its been about three years since my last nine inning game, so it was pretty cool to be out there for the start and end of the game.

Couch has served various roles for Salem this season, moving between the rotation and the bullpen. He has appeared in 23 games, making 17 starts, posting a record of 8-8 with a 3.76 ERA.

Hes a guy that I call a hybrid because hes a guy that can do everything for you, said Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker.

Hes a guy that just takes the ball. Hell go out and take the ball and give you some length and give you quality innings. He stays healthy, hes resilient and thats all you can ask for any type of manager or pitching coach. Thats the type of guy you love.

Couch, a 13th-round pick by the Red Sox out of Adelphi University in 2010, is in his third professional season. The righthander, who turns 23 in November, has advanced a level each season. He is in his first season in the High-A Carolina League.

For me, in the Carolina League the big adjustment and the one that I like the most is that its an eight-team league so youre only playing seven teams, Walker said. You face each team 20 times so they really get a good idea about you and get a good idea about them. So its really about making adjustments. The reason I love it so much here is because when these guys do make the major leagues theyre going to face teams 20 times a year in their division. So now they actually have to learn to see hitters and make adjustments when the hitters start to understand what they like to do. Theyve got to respond and make adjustments to the hitters. So it helps you become a better pitcher, a pitcher that is able to make adjustments.

The adjustments arent only on the field. Couch also had to learn to adjust with his changing roles. He began the season in the rotation, moved to the bullpen, and is now back to the rotation.

It wears on you emotionally a little bit, Couch said. But I just come to the conclusion that outs are outs and you still have to pitch and Im getting my innings. That was the biggest thing, just not letting it affect me mentally. A lot of people might look at it as a negative thing and really shut down and let it affect their season. But I just took it as another bump in the road and work with it. Im still pitching. Its not like I got sent home or released or anything.

Couch went through a difficult stretch in July, taking losses in four straight decisions before his complete-game win. In that stretch, he threw a combined 19 13 innings giving up 16 earned runs for a 7.45 ERA. Those kinds of stretches are all part of the learning process

The thing I like about Keith is hes very even-keeled, Walker said. He doesnt ride the high-low roller coaster that some guys do. He understands the game and he understands how hard it is to be a pitcher. When he has good games he doesnt get too excited and when he has some tough games he doesnt let it bury him. Hes able to ride that even keel, so I think having that mentality really helped him in that tough stretch.

Couch enters Thursday among the league leaders in wins, ERA, innings pitched, with 115, WHIP (1.32), and strikeouts (92). He offers this scouting report on himself:

I really consider myself more of a groundball guy. But strikeouts happen. My slider is my out pitch and Im able to use that effectively. So I guess I get a lot of swing and misses with it and a lot of strikeouts.

Id say I throw a lot of strikes, so a lot of guys swing early in the count. In that nine-inning game I gave up 10 hits but it was on first or second pitches and then the next guy Id get a groundball to get a double play on the first pitch also. So, I think thats the biggest thing is to try to get me early in the count.

While Salems season is winding down, there are still things Couch wants to work on this season that he can take into the offseason.

Me and Walker, weve been working on me staying on top of my fastball and driving through the zone and using my changeup more because my slider and curveball have been pretty effective this year and they got me a lot of strikeouts, he said. But these are the little things that will help me out at the next level.

In the offseason, Couch does some coaching at clinics and camps and helps his alma maters team. Its a role he says helps him with his own pitching.

Yeah, definitely, because things that I see on kids, mistakes that they make, I try to picture that on myself and my mechanics and try to relate that to my game, he said. So I think its a big help, definitely.

Couch has two former teammates also playing in the minor leagues. But left-handed reliever Joe Sambito may be the Adelphi alum most Red Sox fans know best.

He helped me out a lot in the draft process, Couch said of Sambito, who is now an agent. Because I was coming from college to not knowing the whole pro world, and no teams even talked to me coming out of high school. So, he was a big help.

Growing up in New York, Couch was, of course, a Yankees fan. He still goes to Yankee Stadium. Now, though, hes a fan of baseball in general, he said. That didnt stop his friends from ribbing him when the Sox picked him.

Yeah, they were all talking smack to me, he said. They were like, Were still not going to root for the Red Sox but well root for you. It was pretty cool.

But that will change if hes ever on the mound for the Sox in Yankee Stadium

ALCS: Judge, Sabathia lead Yankees past Astros, 8-1

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ALCS: Judge, Sabathia lead Yankees past Astros, 8-1

NEW YORK -- Back in the Bronx, the big guys delivered.

Greeted by an array of "All Rise" signs in a ballpark that fits their style, Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer and made a pair of sparkling catches, leading CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 8-1 Monday night and cutting their deficit to 2-1 in the AL Championship Series.

Todd Frazier hit a go-ahead, three-run homer into the short porch in right field in the second inning against Charlie Morton.

The 6-foot-7 Judge entered in a 4-for-31 (.129) postseason slump that included one home run, four RBIs and 19 strikeouts. The slugger capped a five-run fourth with a laser of a drive to left field off Will Harris and robbed Yuli Gurrieland Cameron Maybin of extra-base hits.

"You see a guy put his head basically through the wall and then dive," Frazier said. "The ground is going to shake when he hits the ground."

Sabathia, almost as big at 6-foot-6, allowed three hits over six scoreless innings for his first postseason win in five years. The Yankees stopped a seven-game ALCS losing streak dating to Sabathia's victory over Texas in 2010 - when Judge had just started his freshman year at Fresno State.

After a pair of 2-1 losses in Houston, the Yankees led 8-0 after four innings.

"Just the energy, the fans," Sabathia said. "We can kind of feed off their energy."

New York improved to 4-0 at home this postseason. The Yankees were an AL-best 51-30 at home this season.

"We're somewhat built for this ballpark," manager Joe Girardi said.

Houston scored on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth before postseason star Jose Altuve grounded into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.

Sonny Gray starts Game 4 for New York in the best-of-seven series on 11 days' rest Wednesday against Lance McCullers Jr.

Frazier got the Yankees rolling, taking an awkward hack at a low, outside fastball and slicing an opposite-field drive over the right-field scoreboard.

"You don't think it's going, just because how unorthodox the swing was," Frazier said.

Judge used his height and long left arm to make a leaping catch with his left shoulder slamming into the right-field wall against Gurriel starting the fourth.

Being a rookie, he politely waited outside the dugout for all the veterans to descend the steps after the third out - as he always does - then capped a five-run bottom half with a laser of a line drive that just cleared the left-field wall.

Then in the fifth, he sprinted into short right for a diving backhand catch on Maybin.

On the first chilly night of the autumn with a game-time temperature of 57, Sabathia relied on the sharp, slow slider that has helped revive the former flamethrower's career.

Pitching with caution to Houston's dangerous lineup, he walked four, struck out five and pitched shutout ball for the first time in 21 career postseason starts. During the regular season, he was 9-0 in 10 starts following Yankees' losses.

"It's weird, me being 37, smoke and mirrors, getting a shutout," Sabathia said.

Adam Warren followed with two hitless innings, Dellin Betances walked his only two batters and Tommy Kahnle finished. Houston had four hits, leaving it with just 15 over the first three games, and is batting .169 in the matchup.

Morton was chased after 3 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs and six hits: three infield singles, a bloop single to center, a double that Maybin allowed to fall in left and Frazier's homer.

'"'If you were to show me a video of the swing, show the pitch speed and the location, I would have never thought that," Morton said. "That was unbelievable."

A New Jersey native who grew up a Yankees fan, Frazier entered 7 for 18 against Morton with two home runs. With Frank Sinatra's version of "Fly Me to the Moon" as his walk-up music, Frazier hit not-quite a moonshot, driving a pitch just 18 1/2 inches above the dirt 365 feet with pretty much just his left arm. That gave the Yankees their first lead of the series.

Frazier motioned to his family in the stands and looked at his left wrist.

"I'm pointing to them and saying: What time is it? It's my time," he said.

He remembers sitting in the seats at old Yankee Stadium watching Jim Leyritz's 15th-inning home beat Seattle in the 1995 playoffs.

"It's such a cool feeling," Frazier said. "I wish everybody could feel basically what I'm going through."

Houston loaded the bases with two outs in the third on a pair of two-out walks around Alex Bregman's single. But Carlos Correa popped out on a fastball in on his fists.

"I know he likes to get his hands extended," Sabathia said.

Sabathia raised both arms and pointed toward Judge after his catch in the fourth.

"I don't know what got hurt worse, the wall or him," plate umpire Gary Cederstrom was heard to say by one of Fox's microphones.

New York broke open the game in the bottom half. Chase Headley hit a run-scoring infield single - ending an 0-for-28 slide by New York designated hitters in the postseason. Brett Gardner was hit on a leg by a pitch, loading the bases, and Harris came in and threw a wild pitch that allowed Frazier to come home from third.

"Judge did what Judge has done 50-plus times, which is hit the ball out of the ballpark when he gets a pitch to hit," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

ALTUVE'S WEB GEMS

Altuve made two fine stops on Did Gregorius, first a backhand stop on his third-inning grounder and then a shuffle pass to Harris covering first for the final out of the fourth after a hard grounder off first baseman Marwin Gonzalez's glove.

APPLAUSE

Girardi, booed by fans after failing to call for a replay in Game 2 of the Division Series, was cheered when introduced.

"It's a reminder of how quickly things can change in your life," he said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Yankees: RHP Luis Severino is on track to pitch a Game 6. He was removed after four innings and 62 pitches in Game 2 because Girardi felt he was "underneath" the ball. Girardi said Severino did not need any tests and is OK.

Asked whether Severino was understanding, Girardi said: "I think two days later, yes, a little bit more."

"I asked him if he still hated me, and he said, `no,'" Girardi added.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know who they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

MORE:

The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE