Red Sox

Picard: Masterson now Cleveland's 'main guy'

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Picard: Masterson now Cleveland's 'main guy'

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Follow @dannypicard

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; a:link, span.MsoHyperlink color: blue; text-decoration: underline; a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed color: purple; text-decoration: underline; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; The Red Sox got to see the debut of their newest startingpitcher in Erik Bedard on Thursday night at Fenway Park. On the other side wasa familiar face, old friend Justin Masterson.

While the Red Sox acquired Bedard from Seattle in a deadlinetrade over the weekend, Masterson knows what its like to be on the other endof that type of trade. He was one of the young players sent to Cleveland at thetrade deadline in 2009, which in return, sent All-Star catcher Victor Martinezto Boston.

Two years later, Masterson faced his old organization forthe fourth time on Thursday night. And he didnt disappoint, picking up hisninth win of the season while allowing three runs on five hits and one walk,and striking out nine batters in six innings of work.

Hes now 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA in four starts against the RedSox, since being traded for a player thats not even in Boston anymore.

According to Indians manager Manny Acta, Masterson is theirhorse.

Right now, our main guy has been Justin Masterson, saidActa after Clevelands 7-3 win over Boston to split the four-game series. Hesa guy that from now on, and for a while now, we have to try to keep him on thefive days routine, because hes the guy that we want to see out there everyfive days.

Having Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin back-to-back every week,it gives us an opportunity not to get in many lengthy types of slumps.

Masterson has been on anything but a slump in recentoutings. He just wasnt getting the offense to hold up their end of thebargain.

Prior to Thursday nights win, Masterson was 0-1 in his lastthree starts. But in those 22.2 innings, he only allowed three earned runstotal. And not even one win to show for it.

The offense Masterson needed showed up on Thursday night against ateam that the Indians may very well face in the postseason. And after giving uptwo early runs in the first inning, Masterson did his job and shut the doorwhile throwing 118 pitches, with his final pitch of the night being a 94-mphheater that blew by his former catcher Jason Varitek to get out of a jam andend the sixth inning.

He even recorded four strikeouts in the second inning,thanks to Josh Reddick running out a wild pitch after a swing-and-miss strikethree. Being able to tie the Major League record for strikeouts in a singleinning pretty much signified the type of roll Masterson is on as of late.

He was overpowering most of the time, said Acta. Thepitch count kind of hurt him a little bit because of all the strike outs. With thatbeing said, he really stepped it up for us out there.

Hes been very consistent. His velocitys up from pitch oneuntil the last one. And hes pretty confident right now. He doesnt go throughthat many breaking pitches a game, and everybody knows it. Hes tough to hitwhen hes sinking that ball, and elevating that four-seam fastball at 96, 97.

Masterson is clearly a different pitcher now, than when hewas trying to establish his role in Boston as a minor-league call-up. Even RedSox manager Terry Francona can see the glaring differences.

Hes good, said Francona. And we see his best. Im surehe enjoys pitching against us. Hes really good. The things he needed to workon when he was a young pitcher, getting into lefties and everything, he can dothat now. Hes not timid throwing it in. He can elevate when he wants to. Hesimpressive.

Masterson believes his recent dominance is a result ofsomething as simple as not trying to do too much, or as he calls it, dont tryto be overly nasty.

Just the ability to really get ahead, and to understandmyself as a pitcher, said Masterson. Its just going out there and makingquality pitches, and thats OK. You dont have to be overly nasty, but you haveto make quality pitches in the zone, get ahead, and make guys swing at pitchesthat theyre not usually apt to swing at, and it helps you out a lot.

Whatever it is, its working. And not just because it wasagainst the organization that traded him away.

Theyre a great team, they have a great offense, saidMasterson. Its always nice to get a quality win against them. Its great togo out there and put together a decent outing, and really be able to set up ourteam for a chance to win.

Hes loved over there, said Acta. Hes loved over here,and well respected. Theres no resentment whatsoever. I think he goes out everyfive days and tries to beat everybody. They love him over there too.

Not as much as if he were pitching like that for the Red Sox.

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

For the glass-is-half-full folks, there are those back-to-back Eastern Division titles. For the glass-is-half-empty folks, well, there are those two first-round playoff ousters (though both their conquerers made it to the World Series, and one of them won it). But, here on Thanksgiving night, there's plenty for Red Sox Nation to be thankful for, starting with . . . 


YOUR GOOD HEALTH

We know you don’t need the Red Sox to know you how important the most basic elements of life are. But sometimes, the typical fantasy land of baseball can grab our attention. The death of 17-year-old Sox prospect Daniel Flores (above) this month from complications because of cancer didn’t take away only a potentially great baseball career. It took away a beloved, hard-working young person from the people who loved him. He had just made millions of dollars in July for his talent on the field, but what does such a windfall matter compared to one’s health? His cancer was both rare and fast-moving, per the Boston Globe.

MOOKIE, JACKIE, XANDER, BENINTENDI, DEVERS

The kids deserve some love. They probably won’t be together on the Red Sox forever. Heck, the group could get broken up this winter. But while any of the Killer B’s (plus a D) remain on the Sox, there should be a sense of optimism. Two straight 93-win seasons may have resulted in a first-round exit, and 2017 didn’t meet expectations for some individual performances. But you know what? The youths are still damn good, and there’s time for them to show us they can be even better.

INSANELY GOOD PITCHERS IN CHRIS SALE AND CRAIG KIMBREL

Neither hogs the spotlight once the game ends or says too much. Sale doesn’t even have Twitter. But the righty closer and lefty starter both do two things exceedingly well: make batters swing and miss, and prevent runs. When both pitch, your seat at the park may well be worth the price of admission. (But we won’t ask what you paid for those seats.) Sale didn’t take down Pedro Martinez’s Sox single-season strikeout record this year, finishing with five fewer than Martinez’s 313 in 1999. But he could have done it. And with a little more rest next year, one can envision him plowing his way through playoff opponents too.

ALEX CORA'S NEW DIRECTION

A first-time manager’s not a sure thing, but as Sox owner John Henry noted, there was a feeling it was time for a change. It’s a little early to be thinking ahead to a New Year’s resolution, but a manager who better connects with his players and brings a different vibe to the day-to-day scene is reason to feel the Sox are following the right road map. Plus, if nothing else, Cora took that awesome picture walking toward Fenway.

A CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SPREE MAY BE AROUND THE CORNER

We don’t want to be too materialistic. But Uncle Dave Dombrowski couldn’t let you buy everything you wanted last year. The credit card companies needed him to step back for a year. Now he’s ready to spend. He might not close down Bloomingdale’s for the day for you to do your private shopping, but if you need a couple great jackets to complete your look, it sounds like he’s ready to get you some designer threads. He probably feels there won’t be too many chances to have a moment like this with you, at this stage of your life, and he wants to make the most of it.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

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.