Red Sox

Notes: Weiland improves in second MLB start

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Notes: Weiland improves in second MLB start

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BALTIMORE -- In all likelihood, Kyle Weiland's start Tuesday night was his last for the Red Sox in a while. With Jon Lester set to come off the disabled list and start Monday, Weiland's spot in the rotation will soon disappear.

But though he lost in his second major league start, Weiland showed improvement over his major league debut which came in the final game of the first half.

He went six innings Tuesday and allowed three runs on six hits, finishing with exactly 100 pitches.

"I thought he represented himself very well," said manager Terry Francona after the 6-2 loss by the Red Sox. "I thought this was a (better) look than the last outing . . . I think (the experience he's had) is valuable. It's not an easy thing to do to come up and pitch in the big leagues first of all, and then (to do it) in a pennant race.

"He has poise, he likes to compete. I think it's exciting what he can do."

Weiland gave up two runs in the second and another run in the third but then blanked the Orioles over his final three innings.

"I did a better job of controlling the emotions and adrenaline than last time," said Weiland.

One thing that bothered Weiland was issuing three walks, which he attributed to a mix of command issues and perhaps not yet trusting his stuff enough against big league hitters.

"The same pitch that got hitters out at Pawtucket can get big league hitters out," he said. "You just have to make your pitch. There's better discipline (up here) and when you fall behind, it's a lot easier to get beat."

Clay Buchholz, who threw from a distance of 120 feet Monday and is scheduled to do so again Wednesday, with an eye toward a mound session Friday.

Buchholz has been on the DL for just over a month with lower back spasms and recently had a period of two weeks in which he didn't throw at all, hoping to rest the back.

Monday, the signs were encouraging, though Buchholz won't know how much improvement he's made until he throws off a mound.

"When he gets to the mound, that's been the sticking point," said Terry Francona. "We've taken pretty significant time off and (Monday) was such a good day that I think everybody was really pleased.

"I know we have some hurdles to get through, but still, everything went well. The guys who were with him said you would never know (he had been sore). It looked like a guy doing his normal long toss."

"I think it's still going to take a little bit of time," cautioned Buchholz. "But at the same time (Monday) was a good step in the right direction."

Buchholz's described his long layoff as "pretty stressful. Obviously, we've got real good things going on right now and not being a part of that when you want to be is the hardest thing. I'm trying to keep in the right frame of mind. If I'm back and able to pitch in August and September and into October, that's what I want."

Buchholz has talked to Josh Beckett, who went through problems with his back last season, for some perspective.

"It's getting better," said Buchholz. "Certain stretches that I wasn't able to do, I can do now. But when I throw off the mound, that will (determine) everything."

His arm strength has been maintained, but Buchholz believes he'll probably need "a couple" of rehab starts before rejoining the rotation.

Jarrod Saltalamachia smoked a two-run homer in the fifth, lining a 94 mph fastball over the scoreboard in right for his eighth homer of the season and second in as many nights.

This was the second time this season that Saltalamacchia has homered in consecutive starts. The last time was May 20 and May 22.

"I feel good," said Saltalamacchia. "I've been feeling good. The three days off for the All-Star break kind of gets your timing off a little bit and it takes a few games to get back into it, but I feel good at the plate."

Saltalamacchia didn't hit a homer through May 14; since then, he's hit eight.

With the DH spot vacant due for a second straight game as David Ortiz serves his three-game suspension, Francona had Carl Crawford in the DH spot Tuesday night.

On Monday, he used Jacoby Ellsbury as the DH. By using Crawford Tuesday, Francona thought it was possible to come back and have Crawford in the outfield for Wednesday's matinee.

The plan is to have Kevin Youkilis DH Wednesday, with Yamaico Navarro taking over at third.

Bobby Jenks, who was examined by the Red Sox medical staff Monday, received an injection in his back.

An MRI confirmed that the problems are muscular in nature.

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