Red Sox

Which pitchers are left for Sox?

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Which pitchers are left for Sox?

Last week, the Red Sox kicked off the Winter Meetings with two big signings Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino before going silent for the rest of their time in Nashville, and remaining silent for the nearly seven days since.

Now, normally this wouldn't be a problem. After all, at this stage in the offseason, the Sox picture is typically a little more clear, with their line-up and rotation essentially set in stone. However, this year is not normal. Or maybe, this is the new normal. Either way, here on December 10, the Sox still have a lot of work to do if they have any aspirations of end their three year playoff drought. And as usual, as was the case in September 2011 and for most of 2012, the major issue is starting pitching.

It was their biggest problem heading into the offseason, and it's the one problem they've yet to address. As it stands now, their rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, John Lackey and Franklin Morales doesn't stand up to the competition, and there's no depth behind them. Nothing there to help cope with the assortment bumps, bruises and missed starts that every staff faces over the course of 162 games.

And guess what? Thanks to the Sox lack of involvement in the arms race (combined with a weak class, in general), there's not much talent left. In fact, unless they revisit or ultimately pull the trigger on a Jacoby Ellsbury trade, the Sox will have a hard time improving their rotation at all.

So, who's still out there?

There's 34-year-old Kyle Lohse and 28-year-old Anibal Sanchez, both of whom are asking for much more than the Sox will or should give them. There's 29-year-old Edwin Jackson who's been serviceable but far from consistent over the past few seasons, a major factor in him playing for six teams in the last five years. There's 35-year-old Ryan Dempster, who still seems better suited for the NL. There's 30-year-old Shawn Marcum, who I like but who also might be asking too much. After that, I don't know? Do the Sox and Rich Harden finally come together after years of close calls and rumors? Do they bring Bronson Arroyo back for a one-year deal? Do they roll the dice on Francisco Liriano?

At the end of the day, they might have to roll the dice on a few guys and just hold their breathe that one or two of them works out. Sort of the same thing they did with position players back in 2003.

Is that ideal? Of course not. But when it comes to the current state of the Sox, "ideal" no longer exists.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know whom they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

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The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

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NLCS: Turner's 3-run shot in 9th gives Dodgers 4-1 win over Cubs

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NLCS: Turner's 3-run shot in 9th gives Dodgers 4-1 win over Cubs

LOS ANGELES -- Justin Turner savored every last stride as he followed in Kirk Gibson's famous footsteps at Dodger Stadium.

The red-bearded slugger from Southern California knew all about the history attached to this home run trot.

On the 29th anniversary of Gibson's celebrated pinch-hit homer that shocked Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener, Turner added another landmark shot to Los Angeles Dodgers postseason lore.

Turner hit a three-run drive with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

"One of my earliest baseball memories was being at my grandma's house and watching that game in '88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer," said Turner, who wasn't quite 4 years old at the time. "So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist-pump around the bases, but we'll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully."

The dominant Dodgers are two wins away after Turner drove in all four runs in Game 2 to keep Los Angeles unbeaten in the postseason.

He delivered a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey took a few steps onto a walkway and gracefully caught the ball in his glove on the fly.

"It's very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. "Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it."

Another generation of Dodgers fans now has its own historic homer, and these Dodgers are growing increasingly confident they can earn their first trip to the World Series since 1988.

Turner got swallowed up at home plate by another pack of ecstatic Dodgers, just as Gibson did. Unlike Gibson, Turner spiked his batting helmet after rounding third, allowing his unruly red hair to go as wild as the crowd.

"What's not to enjoy about it?" Turner asked. "We have an opportunity to bring a championship back to LA. It's been a long time."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.

Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.

Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches. Maddon said he wanted to save Davis for a potential save on the road, and Lackey would have pitched the 10th inning as well if the Cubs did not have a lead.

"Nobody is a really great matchup against Turner, so it just did not work out," Maddon said.

Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. After taking a slight free-agent discount to stay with the Dodgers last winter, he had another solid season before excelling again in October.

The All-Star third baseman is batting .377 with 22 RBIs in his postseason career. He is 13 for 18 with runners in scoring position (.722), including 6 for 8 this year.

And after a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers' five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.

Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games after splitting the first two.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the win with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen's impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.

Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs' star left-hander.

Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.

Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.

Turner tied it moments later by poking a two-out single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers' improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.

The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.

Lester was the co-MVP of last season's NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers' revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger's double to the left-center gap.

Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season's NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out, but also was stranded.

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Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago's playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team's wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.

Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired from Texas precisely for these moments, and he starts on seven days of rest.

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