Patriots

Red Sox early notes: Sox shuffle rotation

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Red Sox early notes: Sox shuffle rotation

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - Because of the 13-inning game that took almost eight hours to complete over Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Red Sox manager Terry Francona is shuffling his starting rotation. Tim Wakefield starts today against the Twins on what would have been Daisuke Matsuzaka's regular day, Clay Buchholz starts Saturday, with Matsuzaka starting Sunday, and Josh Beckett pitching the finale of the four-game set. Jon Lester and John Lackey will start the two games in Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The Sox have an off-day on May 12, their first since April 25. The rotation tweaking allows Francona to give his starters some rest before then.

"We have a chance to maybe give Lester an extra day or two and also align the rotation going forward. So it kind of kills all the birds with one stone," Francona said. "It was just a chance to give us a couple of days."

Lester's last start was May 3, giving him two extra days of rest.

"Not really that he needs a break. I think it's good for him," Francona said. "I think we do try to listen to him and talk to him and find out how we can help or when we can help because I think sometimes we think we're helping and we get in the way. We don't want to do that. When we talked to him about this I think he was on board with it so it seems like it makes sense."

Matsuzaka's regular day would have been today. But after pitching an inning of relief in the marathon game, and taking the loss, Francona decided to push him back. Matsuzaka left after facing one batter in the fifth inning of his last start, on April 29, said he expects to be 100 percent by Sunday.

"My elbow is getting better, gradually getting better," he said through a team interpreter. "So, as the game is scheduled, I will be ready for the game."

Matsuzaka was not surprised that he was pressed into duty on Thursday morning. He said he expected at some point in his career he would have to make a relief appearance. But it was a somewhat difficult experience for him.

"It's actually difficult to get ready as a relief pitcher, and I knew that they wouldn't have enough time, I wouldn't have enough time to get ready," he said. "So that was difficult. But all I did was just try to get focused on getting ready and throw just like regular outings.

"At the same time," he said through another team interpreter, "just because there was no extra room to think about it which is why he could at least a little bit focus to do things he needed to do to get ready for the game."

Right-hander Alfredo Aceves arrived in the clubhouse at about 4:15. He was called up to replace Scott Atchison, who pitched 3 23innigs Thursday. Aceves will work out of the bullpen while he is here.

Francona said he would be a fan of weekly doubleheaders, with a roster change.

"Add a pitcher for that day," he said. "You could still play the same amount of games. You could shorten the season. You could create a little bit of extra jobs for guys. The big deal for doubleheaders is mainly the pitching. Just bring a pitcher. Bring a starter. I think it would be great.

"Bud Selig, if you're listening, I'm talking to you now."

Jarrod Saltalamacchia will catch for Wakefield tonight, as he did in Wakefield's start on May 1.

"Both of Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek have done pretty well catching Wakefield," Francona said." I know my first three or four years here that was always the panic. We had to fly Doug Mirabelli in and get him the car service and all this. Now guys have really done a pretty good job. Even in spring training, the guys that caught him, they've all seemed to do well. Maybe having bullpen coach Gary Tuck around had something to do with that. It hasn't been as much of an issue."

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

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