Red Sox

Pregame notes: Francona believes in Crawford

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Pregame notes: Francona believes in Crawford

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Terry Francona gave the struggling Carl Crawford a day off on Saturday, with the hope that a day of just hitting balls in the cage would get his game in order.

On Sunday, against the Toronto Blue Jays and right-hander Jesse Litsch, Crawford returns to the Red Sox lineup, and will hit in the lead-off spot.

"We talked for a little while," said Francona during his pregame press conference. "I just wanted to kind of do a couple things. Reassure him of how we feel, which I think is pretty obvious. But just to find out, okay, if I can help, well how do I help? I haven't been around him forever.

"He actually was really good. He said he feels good. If work has anything to do with it . . . he almost beat us to the ballpark today. He didn't, but he almost did. I just thought, a day yesterday of being in the cage, and then not having to take it right into the game, sometimes can help."

Francona remains confident that the offense will put it all together on a consistent basis, before it's too late. He's even more confident that Crawford will begin to tear it up even sooner.

"Once he gets going, I think we all know it, I know I do, he's going to get real hot," said Francona. "I just hope it starts today. This is certainly not a guy that, when he doesn't hit, you run from. He's going to be a huge part of our offense."

With Crawford back in the leadoff spot, Jed Lowrie moves to sixth in the Red Sox lineup on Sunday, hitting behind David Ortiz. He's starting at shortstop.

Lowrie has at least a hit in his last five appearances, and is coming off a 3-for-5 game on Saturday, which included a home run, two RBI, and two runs scored. It marked his second three-hit game of the season.

"Jed's so hot right now, I don't know how you keep him out of the lineup," said Francona.

"If we had one or two lineups, that meant everything was going right," he said. "I just don't know if that makes sense right now. I've talked a lot about trying to be consistent. We're trying to do whatever we can to play as well as well as we can, and put guys in the best positions.

"I do know that as you get into the season, things normally settle down . . . We don't just feel like we have nine players. We've got a ball club full of guys that can help us win, so I would be wrong to not use them."

Having recorded his second save of the season on Saturday, Francona was encouraged to see Jonathan Papelbon begin the year with some success. Papelbon has a 1.80 ERA in only five appearances this season, and pitched in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.

When he's been in, he's been dominant. Francona credits that to his fastball and splitter coming out of the same arm slot, along with a much improved slider.

"It's been limited because we haven't had a lot of save situations, but I think he's been very good," said Francona. "Last year, there were times when that fastball would wander a little bit, where he'd get himself into a situation where he had to work so hard to get through an inning.

"He's mixing in his breaking ball, but when his fastballs split, he's locating, he's good."

When Papelbon came up to the big leagues, Francona admitted on Sunday, that he saw nothing more than a "two-pitch pitcher" and because of that, saw a guy that would have to work too hard to get through five innings, if they made him a starter.

With the improvement in his slider, Francona admitted on Sunday that had that pitch been there when he first came up, the argument to put him into the rotation may have been a little different.

"I remember when he first broke it out, I was like, 'Pap, don't ever get beat with that pitch. Just put it in your back pocket, and go fastball, split,'" said Francona. "There's certain hitters that we would prefer him throw it to, as with every pitcher. But now, it's become a viable pitch."

"I always felt like he could impact us better in the bullpen."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

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Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

He was dubbed "Closer B" by Red Sox manager John Farrell when acquired at the trade deadline last summer, now Addison Reed is "Closer B Gone"...to the Twins.

The right-handed reliever, 29, has agreed to a two-year, $16.75 million free-agent deal with Minnesota, pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and TheAthletic.com reports. 

Reed began last season with the Mets and had 19 saves and a 2.57 ERA before being traded to the Red Sox, where he had a 3.33 ERA in 29 games (27 innings) without a save as a setup man for Craig Kimbrell.  
 

Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

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Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

The Red Sox and star right fielder Mookie Betts intend to go to an arbitration hearing in February, and there were signs this was coming even a year ago.

Betts was the only arbitration-eligible player on the Red Sox who did not settle on a contract with the team on Friday, when a deadline arrived for all teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange 2018 salary figures. Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Drew Pomeranz were the biggest names to avoid hearings.

Betts filed for a $10.5 million salary and the Red Sox filed at $7.5 million.  Betts and the Red Sox agreed previously that if no figure could be settled on by the Friday deadline, they would proceed to a hearing, assistant general manager Brian O'Halloran said. 

A three-person panel of arbitrators therefore is set to determine what Betts makes in 2018: either the $7.5 million figure the Sox filed or the $10.5 million figure Betts' camp submitted. The arbitrators won't settle on a midpoint for the parties. 

O'Halloran noted to the Globe there are no hard feelings involved.

Nonetheless, such a large gap would seem to provide incentive to settle. The parties technically could still decide to do so, but that would take a change of course from the present plan. The idea was to settle any time before Friday, and they did not. 

Betts is asking for near-record money for a first-year arbitration eligible player. Kris Bryant set the record Friday with a $10.85 million settlement.

The hearings can be difficult for player-team relations because teams have to make the case in front of the player that he is worth less money than he wants.

Betts, 25, hit .264, with 24 homers, 102 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .803 OPS in 2017, numbers that fell from his American League MVP runner-up performance in 2016, but were nonetheless very strong and coupled with first-rate defense.

This offseason is Betts' first of arbitration eligibility. In the first three years of service time in a players' career, there's no recourse if you don't like the salary a team is offering. Teams can pay players anything at league minimum or above. 

The only option a player has in those first three years is to make a stand on principle: you can force the team to technically "renew" your salary, which notes to everyone that you did not agree to the salary. Betts and his agents did that in 2017 when the Sox paid him $950,000, a very high amount relative to most contract renewals.

Some of the standard thinking behind forcing a team to renew a contract is that if an arbitration case comes up down the road — and one now looms for Betts — it's supposed to show the arbitrators that the player felt even in seasons past, he was underpaid.

Still, the Sox may have effectively combatted that perception by paying Betts almost $1 million on a renewal. Per USA Today, that $950,000 agreement in 2017 was "the second-highest one-year deal ever for a non-arbitration-eligible player with two-plus years of big league service." Mike Trout got $1 million in 2014.