Red Sox

Notes: Ellsbury continues on torrid stretch


Notes: Ellsbury continues on torrid stretch

By Joe Haggerty Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Its hard to believe that it took five seasons for Jacoby Ellsbury to collect his first walk-off hit as a member of the Boston Red Sox, but it seems awfully appropriate that it happened this season.

So much has been magical and blessed for the Sox center-fielder in a campaign thats gone from surprising to All-Star caliber to knocking on the MVP door in the span of five months. Ellsbury penned another chapter on Tuesday night by punching a single up the middle in the bottom of the ninth inning to score pinch-runner Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and lead the Sox to a rousing 3-2 victory at Fenway Park.

It was Ellsburys first walk-off win and the first time he was tackled at first base by his jubilant teammates after the rousing win was secured on a night that included a 1-hour, 35-minute rain delay.

Youre always looking for those opportunities to win a game especially when its late with the rain delay and everything else, said Ellsbury. I was just really happy I was able to square that ball up, and that we were able to get something going there in the ninth inning.

Ellsbury finished 1-for-5 on the evening and is hitting a robust .318 on the season for the Sox, but came alive along with the rest of the offense when it finally mattered against the Cleveland bullpen. The center-fielder has delivered all season long, and teammate Jason Varitek who singled to start the ninth inning rally before giving way to Saltalamacchia says whats been seen in flashes since 2007 has finally arrived in full force.

He was a good player when he first came up," Varitek said. "He was a huge reason we won that World Series in 2007. He was as hot as could be, and he had energy and speed. His swing has really developed. Hes always had backspin and good bat speed and athleticism, and now hes gone through some changes. He can top a ball and he can drive a ball. He can do both.

Ellsbury has enjoyed a series of big hits this season for the Sox with so much offensive damage coming from the leadoff man and No. 2 hitter Dustin Pedroia this season, and everyone involved is hoping the center-fielder will get a couple more walk-off knocks before the year is up.

Hes had a lot of big hits for us, said Francona. Hell have a lot more.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia served as a pinch-runner for Jason Varitek after the Sox captain singled in the bottom of the ninth inning to start Bostons game-winning rally, and believe it or not it wasnt the first pinch-running appearance for the younger Sox catcher. Saltalamacchia pinch-ran in a game for the Rangers on June 20, 2008 in a 14-inning loss to the Washington Nationals.

This stint was a lot more memorable for Saltalamacchia, somehow motoring all the way from second base and beating Ezequiel Carreras throw to home plate on a Jacoby Ellsbury smash up the middle. Saltalamacchia got the wave to score from third base coach Tim Bogar, the affable Sox catcher said it was time to turn on the burners.

The burst of speed combined with a nice slide around home plate away from the tag were both qualities not often seen in catchers stereotyped as base-clogging outs just waiting to happen on the basepaths.

Obviously it starts with Tek getting it all started, Josh Reddick getting one to drop in and then a clutch hit by Ellsbury; I let my speed do the rest, said Saltalamacchia. I was checking out the outfield playing at regular depth, so I knew on a line drive I was probably going to be scoring. Bogie didnt hold me up, and like I said before my speed just took over.

Josh Becketts 1.99 home ERA is the lowest for a Red Sox pitcher at Fenway with at least 9 starts since former Sox ace Pedro Martinezs 1.84 ERA with Boston during his prime in the 2000 baseball season.

Dustin Pedroia won the prize for most interesting props surrounding his locker on Tuesday. The Sox second baseman was surprised to find a red, autographed Nature Boy Ric Flair wrestling robe hanging high above his locker along with a WWE wrestling belt beside it. Pedroia has always been a big fan of the 21-time wrestling champion and celebrated the gift by donning his yellow Hulk Hogan Hulkamania tank top pregame in the Sox clubhouse.

Jed Lowrie went 0-for-2 on Monday night in first rehab game with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, and followed that up on Tuesday afternoon with a 1-for-3 performance in six innings of work for the PawSox. Positive progress reports followed both games and Terry Francona said the infielder had no complaints about the former shoulder injury. Lowrie will report to Boston on Wednesday to work out with the team at Fenway, and Francona said hell be ready for big league duty shortly after playing a full nine inning game in the minors.

The one thing we have to do before we can activate him is get him into a nine inning game, said Francona. It doesnt have to be Thursday. He wouldnt be playing every day because weve got Scutaro, but I still think its important to play nine innings in a drawn out game and make sure he doesnt have any repercussions the next day.

Tim Wakefield celebrated his 45th birthday on Tuesday, and is the oldest active player in the Major Leagues. Hes also the oldest to ever appear in a game for the Red Sox and is slated to start Wednesday night while going for his 200th career victory.

Marco Scutaro was available to play Tuesday night after coming out of Mondays loss with dizziness and a racing heart beat, and was cleared after a visit with doctors for a checkup. Scutaro said he was fine and attributed the symptoms to something he drank before the game started, and pointed to a clubhouse refrigerator filled with Gatorades and energy drinks as the culprit.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall


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

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement


MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.