Red Sox

Notes: Gonzalez ends HR drought with two

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Notes: Gonzalez ends HR drought with two

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Gonzalez had gone the entire month of August without a homer, and, in fact, had just one homer since July 7 before Tuesday, dating back 146 at-bats.

But in the span of three at-bats Tuesday, Gonzalez swatted two homers -- the first ending an 84 at-bat homerless streak -- in the Red Sox' 11-5 win over Texas.

"It didn't matter," insisted Gonzalez of his homer drought. "I was getting on base, hitting for average and the main thing is we're in a good position to be in the playoffs."

Gonzalez said he had some good at-bats in Kansas City and felt his swing was starting to come around.

"Kansas City is a big park," he said. "I hit some balls good to left field that were outs on the (warning) track. I've been feeling better lately."

The second homer Tuesday was to the opposite field, which Gonzalez termed "my swing. If I can stay with it, that's when I'm going well. Hopefully, I can continue that."

The two-homer game was Gonzalez's second this season and 12th of the season. The second homer gave him 20 for the season, marking the sixth consecutive year he's reached that milestone.

As nice as the two homers were, Gonzalez was just as pleased with a single he had against lefty Darren Oliver in the seventh inning.

"I haven't had an at-bat like that against a lefty in a while," said Gonzalez. "I've been getting hits, but not in an at-bat where I battle and I'm able to stay through a ball and come up with a base hit like that.

"Hopefully, I can continue that swing and I can get on a little bit of a hot streak."

John Lackey, who gave up four runs in 6 23 innings, notched his 12th win of the season -- second-best on the staff -- and improved to 7-1 in his last nine starts.

"I thought he really pitched well," said Francona of his starter. "(He's providing) consistency. When you know what you're going to get, (it's great). This is Lackey. It took us a while and his ERA's higher (5.98) and it's going to be that way (because of his poor start to the season). But it doesn't mean we don't have the pitcher we want."

"I felt pretty good," said Lackey. "My stuff's been good the last month or so and my arm's feeling good. This is a tough place to pitch. Just to get away with a win is nice."

Lackey was given a 6-0 jumpstart by his teammates through the top of the third, but gave back three of those runs in the bottom of the third on three hits, a bases-loaded walk and two sacrifice flies.

"Five or six runs is not a big lead in this joint," joked Lackey. "But I'm feeling pretty good. I'm winning some games and contributing. That's always nice."

Outfielder Josh Reddick, who had been hitting as high as .360 a few weeks ago, has slumped in recent weeks and went into Tuesday's game hitting .293.

On the current road trip, Reddick was just 2-for-14. Since Aug. 1, Reddick was hitting just .214 with an OPS of .606.

"I don't know that he was ready to be a .360 hitter," said Francona. "Guys play and get hot, then the league makes their adjustments. Now, it's his turn. I think some pitches that he hit earlier, he's been fouling back. And he's left the strike zone a little bit. But he's still swinging pretty aggressive.

"If he swings at strikes, he's going to be fine. He's going to do some damage. He might not hit .360, but he's going to be OK. I just think . . . when you're playing once or twice a week, you might not get that (hard to hit) breaking ball. But when you're out there every day and you're racking up at-bats, you see it more often."

Francona said the Sox have had some internal discussions about Sept. 1 call ups.

Rosters will expand from the current 25 to as many as 40 next Thursday.

The Sox' situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that Triple A Pawtucket will be in the post-season and the organization would like some of the players to get a feel for the playoff atmosphere before being summoned to Boston.

In addition to activating Bobby Jenks and J.D. Drew from current DL stints, the Sox will likely call up shortstop Jose Iglesias, pitcher Junichi Tazawa, utilityman Drew Sutton, catcher Luis Exposito, lefty Felix Doubront and right-hander Kyle Weiland.

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