Red Sox

Sox notes: Middlebrooks, Pedroia out

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Sox notes: Middlebrooks, Pedroia out

BOSTON -- One day after going 2-for-4 with two RBI and a home run, Will Middlebrooks is getting the night off on Thursday against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park.
Adrian Gonzalez is at first, hitting third, and Kevin Youkilis is at third, hitting fifth.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said that his reasoning revolves around the upcoming trip to Toronto, and the days off he knows he's going to give Gonzalez and Youkilis on the astroturf.
"We're going to astroturf tomorrow" said Valentine. "There's going to be a limited number of days where I think Adrian should be out in that outfield on the astroturf."
So why not Middlebrooks at third instead of Youkilis?
"Because we're going to astroturf and Youk's not going to play all three games on astroturf," said Valentine. "So, he's going to get his day off there."
Dustin Pedroia (thumb) is out of the lineup for third straight game, and Valentine hinted beforehand that Middlebrooks could potentially play shortstop if Mike Aviles ever had to move over to second base in Pedroia's absence.
"Middlebrooks also was a good high school shortstop, so he can play another position," said Valentine. "If something happens, he's going to take a grounder at shortstop, because Mike Aviles has played second."
As for Pedroia's health, Valentine said it's "more of the same."
"The swelling is down more, and he's a little louder," said Valentine. "But he's better."
Valentine said that they asked Pedroia not to swing the bat. And as of Thursday afternoon, he hadn't seen Pedroia going against their wishes. Not at Fenway at least.
"I was on my bike today," said Valentine. "I saw three batting cages within three miles of here. But I had to go check and see where he was this morning. He hasn't hit here."
In Pedroia's absence, Nick Punto has taken over at second base, and will do so again on Thursday night against the Tigers, for the third-straight game.
Punto's gone 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in the last two games, and hits ninth on Thursday.
That's probably why Punto was taking early batting practice at Fenway before the game. But he was hitting against a batting machine, which Valentine said was probably done to get his timing back on breaking balls.
"What I see is a lack of timing, and, that's exactly what you should see," said Valentine. "The only way to really time this big-league stuff is by doing it. And obviously, he hasn't done it very much. I expect the more pitches he sees, the closer he's going to come to getting the timing he needs to make contact."
Valentine also said that the Red Sox don't have a plan to bring an extra infielder with them to Toronto after Thursday's game, but he "suspects" they will add another infielder before the weekend is over.

--Valentine gave several injury updates before Thursday's game ay Fenway Park against the Detroit Tigers:
Aaron Cook (knee laceration) threw in the bullpen on Thursday, and if he gets through that without any hiccups, then they'll place him on a pitching program to figure out when he'll begin pitching again. But they'll wait and see how the wound reacts to pitching off a mound.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbowneck) will pitch tonight for Triple-A Pawtucket and will then stay there to do his bullpen work.
Darnell McDonald (oblique) will play throughout the weekend in Triple-A "to make sure he's fit and sound," according to Valentine.
Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) is working out at Fenway, and according to Valentine, Ellsbury says he feels great.
Cody Ross (foot) has no pain in his fractured left foot, with or without the walking boot. He'll have another MRI soon, to determine the amount of healing.
Andrew Bailey (thumb) is now throwing up to 90 feet.
Chris Carpenter (elbow) is now throwing up to 120 feet.
Ryan Kalish (shoulder) is currently playing in Double-A Portland "with no ill effects of his medical woes," according to Valentine.

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