Red Sox

Sandy Leon's firsthand look at Astros could benefit Chris Sale

Sandy Leon's firsthand look at Astros could benefit Chris Sale

HOUSTON — Chris Sale’s not into scouting reports. He prefers an empty mind over a head full of data and tendencies, and that’s not changing for Game 1 of the American League Division Series, his first career postseason start.

"I don't want to put any more emphasis on this than there already is," Sale said Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. "This is obviously playoff baseball, so it comes with a lot more attention. But for me I'm going to pitch the same game, I'm going to go out there and do the same things I've always done. I'm not going to reach for another avenue that I haven't reached for in my entire career. So I don't think now would be the time to start doing that."

Catcher Sandy Leon, who’s been with Sale for all but one start this year, on Thursday will handle the pre-game planning meeting with pitching coach Carl Willis and bullpen coach Dana LeVangie. Just like always.

This is where having some recent history with the Astros — but keeping Sale himself away from their view — can benefit the Sox.

"Sandy had the opportunity to catch against these guys this past weekend, so I think a lot of people talk about you know the awkwardness of us playing them right after we just played them and now it’s the playoffs," pitching coach Carl Willis said. "But I think it can allow us, and them to for that matter, to see each other. A lot of times seeing, experiencing it in person is a lot better than you know watching video. 

"Our advance scouts do a tremendous job, but there’s nothing like seeing it on your own. We’ll sit down with Sandy as we always do. And I think that you know, the only thing that will be any different, we’ll be able to get a little more feedback from him as to what he saw and how Chris’ stuff will play against certain hitters, certain swings."

Both Sale and Willis think the extra rest in between starts — Sale had eight days off — should be a help.

"In September, you know, it’s been brought to our attention, it’s kind of like an every-other-start-type of thing, I do feel like," Willis said, referring to Sale’s inconsistent month. "He was prepared to pitch Sunday. But I feel like you know, not having to, and being able to get on the mound on Monday, fine tune things a little bit, you can’t help but to think that’s going to be a good thing."

Sox manager John Farrell did not announce a starter for Game 3, or any further roster choices.

  • Dustin Pedroia said the time off has helped. Eduardo Nunez’s usage hasn’t been determined yet. Both players were on the field going through what appeared a normal routine for Wednesday’s workout.  
     
  • Astros manager A.J. Hinch expects his bullpen will have an Andrew Miller-like figure as well. Lance McCullers may be that guy. "It happens for every team that gets there. So who is our guy going to be, is it going to be Lance, does it become [Chris] Devenski, [Joe] Musgrove, [Brad] Peacock, [Charlie] Morton, I have no idea," Hinch said. "I don't care who it is. I care that somebody steps up and outperforms expectations in a role that they're not used to. Lance has every bit the weapon to get as many outs as he can. He's pitched in a playoff game before. Where we deem that the most important and what outs we think are going to be the most important is going to be discussed over the next couple days — or next day, communicated to him, and then I'll put him in there."

 

Red Sox want JD Martinez to be big bat addition

Red Sox want JD Martinez to be big bat addition

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Red Sox need a big bat. Dave Dombrowski is the president of baseball operations.

Naturally, they’re going to focus on the best and likely most expensive hitter in free agency.

The Red Sox are 90-10 in their pursuit of J.D. Martinez compared to other(s), a baseball source said Tuesday. That doesn’t mean a deal is 90 percent done, or that a deal is 90 percent likely to happen — it's a matter of whom they're pursuing.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported Tuesday that the Red Sox were set to meet with Martinez face to face at the winter meetings. Dombrowski declined comment when asked whether Sox would meet with Martinez.

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Dombrowski said generally Tuesday that he knows who he wants at this point.

“Sure we know,” Dombrowski said. “I mean, there’s at least a pool of players that we want. I mean, I have the list in my pocket.”

“And there’s a variety of guys that would fit that description. But yeah, we know who we want. But you’re in touch with two things, the trade market and also the free agency market. You don’t control those by yourself. … There’s a lot of conversations that are taking place right now around the industry.”

The Sox boss also said he’s in a situation where the team wants to move faster than the (non-specific) player and agent.

“For sure. I mean, I’d rather be done right now,” Dombrowski said. “I’d be sitting here making a couple of announcements or an announcement or whatever it may be, and you know that you don’t unilaterally control that. And it’s not the first time nor will it be the last time in my career that that ends up taking place. Would much rather get things done quicker. But sometimes doesn’t happen.”

Martinez is represented by Scott Boras, who can wait out top-dollar deals with the best of them.

Overall, the market was slowed by Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton.

“I'm not sure [deals are] going to be closed as much here because I think some clubs are still weighing a lot of different options on what they're doing,” Dombrowski said. “Maybe they'll speed it up, because they know we're all together here for another day and a half. So maybe that will change. But right now there's a lot of exploration.”

Martinez, an outfielder, could theoretically move to DH. Dombrowski said he has “not really” gotten the sense that potential pursuits are opposed to going to DH.

One scenario if the Red Sox signed Martinez: play Martinez in left field, trade Jackie Bradley Jr., and put Rafael Devers at first base. That opens up third base for Michael Chavis down the line. 

Dombrowski said any trade where the Sox subtract from the major league roster likely would not be done for the benefit of only the farm system.

“I don't think we would, but I wouldn't rule it out,” Dombrowski said. “We’re not planning on doing that because we're trying to win."

There’s added value in pursuing Martinez because he was traded midseason in 2017. That means it was impossible for his last team, the Diamondbacks, to give him a qualifying offer, so the Sox wouldn’t have to forfeit a draft pick to sign him.

It’s important to note that although Martinez will be expensive where ever he goes, there’s no way he gets a deal as large as Giancarlo Stanton’s.

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From the meetings: Relief may not be around the corner for Red Sox

red_sox_dave_dombrowski_071717.jpg

From the meetings: Relief may not be around the corner for Red Sox

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There could be some team groupthink going on with a relatively slow-moving market. And it just may work to teams’ advantage, and to the players’ chagrin.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday that the Giancarlo Stanton trade and Shohei Ohtani’s decision to go to the Angels had opened up the landscape “tremendously.” A lot more calls were coming in.

But when it comes to the Red Sox' pursuit of a relief pitcher, for example, Dombrowski alluded to the possibility it could take a while to land someone.

“There are a lot of guys out there still. There's not as many left-handed relievers,” Dombrowski said. “There are more right-handed relievers. You see movement when it takes place. But I would not say getting a right-handed reliever today is our driving force, and there are not that many left-handed relievers out there. I would not be surprised if that lasted a while, too.”

One agent Tuesday surmised the teams might well win if they just wait out players more than they have in the past -- and that's what people anticipate will happen.

Guys will start to get nervous, start to crumble. Not everyone, but some. This is one reason the union might want to fight to shorten free agency.

One trickle-down effect? Minor-league free agency has been a crawl as well.

There is risk involved for teams too, though. If most everyone waits, demand doesn’t simply disappear.

NO RIGHTY?

On the matter of that righty reliever Dombrowski referred to, the Sox run the risk of overestimating their right-handed relief corps. 

Craig Kimbrel is a given. Carson Smith, if healthy, is a great asset, but there should be a little sense of discomfort given the Sox haven’t seen him really healthy in their uniform.

But Addison Reed is gone, and even if a strong lefty setup man is brought in -- think Jake McGee or Tony Watson among free agents -- the Red Sox might be tricking themselves into thinking they have enough depth.

The Red Sox were approached by Pat Neshek’s camp before the reliever signed a two-year deal worth about $16 million with the Phillies, and declined to get involved, a baseball source with knowledge of the negotiations said.

Why? 

Depth is the key word here, and reliable depth. Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly all have upside and were significant contributors to the 2017 Red Sox. But what about creating a fearsome bullpen for the postseason? Injuries do happen, as the Red Sox know as well as anyone when it comes to setup men. 

You can argue too that the Sox need some different looks now with the Yankees carrying Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Barnes, Hembree and Kelly are all primarily fastball pitchers.

"Well, Carson Smith's not like that,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a main guy. He's not like that. He's a different motion, a lot of sliders, sinkers. So we do have somebody that is like that too that's really effective versus right-handed hitters.”

Okay. That’s one. What if he's hurt? What if he's not pitching well?

Compared to other free agents, relievers are still relatively inexpensive. Better to sign an “extra” piece now than make a trade midseason. They should do everything possible to hold on to their prospects. Some remarks at this year’s winter meetings about the state of the Sox farm system, the talent that remains, have not been kind.

DISCIPLINED DAVE

There is an element of discipline at play when the Red Sox don’t go all in for a guy like Stanton and his mega contract. Even if you thought Stanton was totally worth it, you have to appreciate that Dealer Dave and the Sox are showing discipline. Eventually, they were going to need it. And they'll continue to need it to make up for past contracts (including those given by the previous administration).

PRICE ON PACE

David Price is on a regular offseason throwing program, and has no restrictions thus far. 

Price hurt his elbow in spring training last year.

“His offseason program was good, his throwing program was good, he just got hurt when he was throwing,” Dombrowski said. “The doctors haven't asked us to change anything about that, about his preparation, our training people have not.”

The Sox don’t yet have a sense of how they’ll handle Price’s workload going forward. 

Also, Eduardo Rodriguez is doing well in his recovery from knee surgery and the Red Sox are optimistic he can return in April. 

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