Red Sox

Notes: Ellsbury hitting his stride at the plate

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Notes: Ellsbury hitting his stride at the plate

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

BALTIMORE -- The season is almost a month old, but Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be just now hitting his stride.

Ellsbury began the year poorly and found himself dropped in the batting order as manager Terry Francona tried desperately to find a lineup which worked.

Returned to the top of the order last week on the West Coast, Ellsbury has responded as the Red Sox hoped he would.

Thursday night, he had his second three-hit game in as many nights. Since moving to the top of the order in Anaheim, Ellsbury is 12-for-25 (.480) with six doubles, six runs scored and three RBI.

"I'm just trying to have a quality at-bat each time I go out there,'' said Ellsbury. "That's the biggest thing.''

Ellsbury said returning to the top spot in the lineup didn't change his approach.

"Not really,'' he said. "I come to play and prepare exactly the same every single day, no matter where I'm hitting in the lineup. It just happened that I've been swinging the bat well at the top of the lineup. I just try to stick to my game and use my tools.''

In the sixth inning, the Red Sox had runners at second and third and with first base open and two outs. With J.D. Drew due, the Orioles elected to walk him to load the bases and pitch to Saltalamacchia.

The move made sense from a strategic standpoint. Saltalamacchia came into the game hitting just .186 and was 0-for-2 before that at-bat.

But the move hurt Saltalamacchia's pride.

"It kind of ticked me off a little bit,'' acknowledged the catcher.

He couldn't get his revenge immediately, though Saltalamacchia had a nice at-bat which ended in him hitting the ball to the warning track in left-center for the final out.

"The way the ball's been traveling here at night,'' said the catcher, "I knew I hit it good, but I didn't hit it that good (for it to go out).''

But in the eighth, two innings later, Saltalamacchia got a second chance and didn't miss, drilling a single to center with the bases loaded, scoring Jed Lowrie.

"That's the way the game goes,'' said Saltalamacchia. "I was looking to put good wood on it and I did. I felt good at the plate. I fouled some pitches off and then (reliever Mike Gonzalez) threw a real good pitch up and in, and I was able to get on top of it.''

Kevin Youkilis felt some stiffness in his left hip after a first-inning takeout slide at second base. He remained in the game until the bottom of the eighth inning when he was lifted for Jed Lowrie at third base.

"As the game went on, it locked up a little more,'' said Youkilis. "But I should be good to play (Friday night). It was more of a precaution that Tito took me out. I'll play through a lot of stuff, but Tito said it was best to give it a rest so I can play (Friday).''

Fracona gave Marco Scutaro a start at shortstop.

"I want to keep him productive,'' said Francona.

Though there's been no official declaration from Francona, it's clear that Lowrie is the starting shortstop.

"He's pretty professional,'' said Francona of how Scutaro has been handling the reduced playing time. "I don't think he's real happy. I don't think I would be. Again, my responsibility is to put the best team out there and you hope that the players will handle it professionally, which he does.

"I'm not sure I'd want him to be completely happy. I mean, guys want to play. They're competitive.''

Scutaro was 0-for-4 in Thursday's win.

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