Red Sox

Red Sox notes: Crawford collects first hit

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Red Sox notes: Crawford collects first hit

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In an effort to get newcomer Carl Crawford to relax some, Terry Francona dropped him from third to seventh in the Red Sox lineup Sunday.

Whether that was the key or not, Crawford, hitless in his first two games, broke out a little, with a single in the second and another in the seventh inning.

Crawford hit a cue shot down the third base line that landed just an inch or two inside the foul line, getting him going and snapping his hitless streak at eight at-bats.

"It was a relief to finally get the first hit,'' Crawford said after the Sox dropped a 5-1 decision to Texas. "That way, I can get that out of the way and focus on just trying to get better. I didn't know for sure if it was going to be fair or foul.

"Those are the kind of little things that kind of get you going sometimes, so hopefully, that's the start of something.''

Changing teams and signing a mega-contract (seven years, 142 million) was a new experience for Crawford and he acknowledged that, perhaps in an effort to justify his deal, he tried too hard.

"It's my first time doing this,'' Crawford said. "For me, I was probably pressing a little bit, wanting to do well so bad, you forget to just relax and play ball. I probably had a little case of that. Hopefully I can relax from here on out. Once you get that first hit out of the way, it feels like just doing what you normally do.''

Compared to Jon Lester Friday and John Lackey Saturday, Clay Buchholz didn't pitch terribly Sunday. But he didn't pitch well enough to get the Red Sox their first win, either.

Buchholz had the good sense to only allow home runs with the bases empty. Problem was, he did it four times -- David Murphy in the second, Ian Kinsler in the third, Mike Napoli in the fifth and Nelson Cruz in the seventh.

The only other hit Buchholz allowed was a single to Michael Young in the second. But the four homers were more than enough for the Rangers.

"I thought two of the homers were hit well and two of them weren't hit that well,'' recounted Buchholz. "That's the way it goes. I'd rather give them up with nobody on base than with a couple of guys on.

"Today didn't seem like a big struggle for me. Nobody on, behind in the count a couple of times, I'm not going to give in . . . I'd rather give up a hit than walk a guy, then have that guy score. All in all, I think I left four pitches up in the zone and I don't think they mishit one all series. You've got to tip your cap sometimes.''

The four homers off Buchholz were not a career high. He gave up five to Toronto on Sept. 29, 2009.

"He didn't have an inning over 18 pitches,'' said Terry Francona. "He didn't have to pitch out of jams, he didn't have long innings. He just gave up the four solos.''

Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a rough series. He was 0-for-3 Sunday, making him 0-for-10 in the opening series with five strikeouts.

"The one thing that Salty does so well is work the count and swing at strikes, and you can see how anxious he is right now, swinging at a lot of first-pitch strikes," said Francona. "He's just got to relax right now and do what he can do and not try to get it all back in one at-bat.

"He swung at a lot of first pitches this series. I think he was just overanxious.''

Francona absolved Saltalamacchia for any blame regarding the 26 runs the Rangers tallied in the series.

"Results aside, I think Salty does a very good job with the pitchers,'' said Francona. "If a ball is over the middle, that's the way the game is. And the Rangers are good enough where if you make a mistake, they hit it a long way. A tough three-game series isn't going to change our view of Salty.''

Jonathan Papelbon made his first appearance of the season, getting in an inning of work in the eighth with the Sox already trailing 4-1.

Papelbon yielded a leadoff double to Andres Blanco, hit Kinsler and gave up a run-scoring double to Michael Young. After intentionally walking Josh Hamilton to load the bases, Papelbon then struck out Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy in succession.

The Sox were outscored 26-11 in the three-game series despite effectively limiting the damage done by Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP.

Hamilton had three hits in the series, but two were singles. His only extra-base hit was a double when the Rangers were well ahead in the eighth inning of the opener. He added an RBI single in Saturday's win.

The Sox walked Hamilton intentionally twice, with mixed results. On Saturday, with first base open, they walked him in the fourth to bring up Adrian Beltre who foiled the strategy with a grand slam off John Lackey.

Sunday, they walked him in the eighth before Papelbon struck out the next three hitters.

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