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 open spring training with wins over Northeastern and Boston College

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Red Sox open spring training with wins over Northeastern and Boston College

The Red Sox started off spring training with a doubleheader on Thursday, beating both Northeastern and Boston College.

Boston beat Northeastern 15-2 in the opener, scoring seven runs in the first inning. Highlights included a grand slam from minor league outfielder Kyri Washington, an RBI triple from Blake Swihart, and RBI doubles from Brock Holt and minor league catcher Austin Rei.

In game two, the Red Sox beat Boston College by a score of 4-2. Sam Travis contributed with an RBI double.

Boston takes on the Minnesota Twins on Friday at JetBlue Park.

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Blake Swihart would benefit from a trade, and his trade value may never be higher

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Blake Swihart would benefit from a trade, and his trade value may never be higher

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Blake Swihart would be better off in another organization. The best time to trade him could be now, as well.

He might have a lowered chance of a World Series ring in the immediate future if he's sent away. But for Swihart's personal development, the Red Sox are not his ideal base. 

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Naturally, the Sox have to prioritize their needs. To do that with Swihart, they need to examine the future.

A switch-hitter staring at a bench role with the Sox, Swihart's value remains high because other teams see his potential as a catcher. He turns 26 years old on April 3. A year in a utility role in the majors would not kill him, but it would not help him blossom as a catcher — and therefore, would not help his trade value in the future. He's not old, but he's getting older.

If Christian Vazquez is the Sox’ catcher of the present and the future, Swihart today might well be more valuable to another team than he is to the Sox. It would be up to a potential trade partner to prove as much.

Swihart has said he wants to catch, and has also said he’ll do whatever the team wants. He’s doing catching drills every day in Florida. He also does one of either outfield work or infield work daily, on top of the backstop drills. So far, he hasn't ventured beyond first base on the infield.

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Alex Cora and several members of the coaching staff coordinate on Swihart’s plan. 

“They’re in touch [about] what they have planned for me, so they don’t kill me out there catching a ton of bullpens,” Swihart said Thursday. “I think everyone is kind of involved.”

But the Sox must realize they run the risk of creating a jack of all trades and a master of none. Maybe in the short term, that's what they want. But if so, there is a potential cost in the future: slowed development. Super utility players are nice, but catchers with Swihart's skillset are probably nicer.

Someone, somewhere, is going to carry Swihart on a major league roster this year.

If the Sox have one position-player injury in spring, they can carry all three of Swihart, Brock Holt and Deven Marrero on their opening day roster. Without an injury, the Sox would appear to have three players for just two spots. Swihart and Marrero are both out of minor league options.

“Yeah. I’m not really thinking about that, but yeah,” Swihart said when asked if being out of options is a good thing. “I’ve got to prove myself, still. I’ve got a job to do.”

Swihart’s upside is tantalizing and hard to part with. He tripled and walked twice Thursday in a 15-2, seven-inning win over Northeastern, the Sox’ first game of the spring

Whether it was intentional or not, Holt batted behind Swihart and Marrero directly followed Holt. Swihart’s triple was immediately followed by one of Swihart’s two hits, a double. Marrero, whose value lies in an extraordinary glove, went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts.

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Results are virtually meaningless now, but after injuries held Swihart back the last two years, he seems rejuvenated. 

"Especially when I’m healthy, I love playing," Swihart said Thursday. "If I can go out there and get as many reps as I can, it’s almost like a tryout for me. I want to go out there and treat it like that, just go out there and do everything I know I can do.”

Other teams know what he can do, too — behind the plate particularly.

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