Patriots

Red Sox' end of rotation still a cloudy situation

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Red Sox' end of rotation still a cloudy situation

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox announced Monday that Jon Lester would pitch their season opener, to be followed by Josh Beckett, and, one would think, Clay Buchholz. They know, too, that Andrew Bailey will close games.

But the other eight spots on the pitching staff remain something of a mystery, one Bobby Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure hope to solve in the coming days.

The expectation is that Dainel Bard will fill the fourth spot in the rotation, with a number of candidates -- including Andrew Miller, Vicente Padilla, Alfredo Aceves, Aaron Cook and Monday's starter, Felix Doubront -- battling for the fifth spot.

Valentine declined to identify Doubront -- who blanked the Yankees for four innings last week and limited damage by yielding two runs on eight hits in 4 23 innings to the Twins Monday -- as the "favorite" for the battle for the fifth spot.

"I don't know if he is the favorite, no," said Valentine. "I see him as a guy who's going to pitch for our team sometime this year. I don't know if that's at the beginning of the season or not . . . I think there's still a step (he has to make)."

Another complicating factor: both Doubront and Miller are out of options and must make the 25-man roster or risk being exposed to waivers before they can be re-assigned to Pawtucket.

That's just one more variable as Valentine assembles his staff.

"It's about time to figure (things) out," said Valentine on the makeup of the staff. "I'm a bit confused about the whole bullpen situation only because we haven't been able to fit any pieces together. I think that confusion is filtering (down). Everyone is something other than settled. That's where we have to go from here.

"I think all the (bullpen) pieces are there, but some of them are contingent on the starters. (We have) to start making it look like something other than pitchers getting their work in."

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that as many as six pitchers -- Bard, Doubront, Cook, Padilla, Miller, Aceves -- are competing for two starter spots. At least two of those candidates will likely earn spots as relievers should they fail to the rotation.

QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

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QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

Jerod Mayo talks with Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry about the Patriots AFC Championship matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(2:00) Jerod Mayo gives his X’s and O’s breakdown of the Jaguars defensive schemes and traits.

(5:00) Jerod gives his opinion on how the Patriots offense should attack the Jaguars defense.

(8:30) Could Gronkowski be the key to the Patriots offense? What would be the best way to use him?

(15:00) Does the Jaguars defense have a weakness against vertical routes?

(17:00) Jerod Mayo explains why James White could be a key once again for the Patriots. 

(21:00) Will Jaguars change their defensive scheme after allowing 42 to the Steeler?

(23:00) Will much will the Jaguars having the ‘nothing to lose’ mindset impact the game?

Sounds like some Bruins players suffering from Claude fatigue

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Sounds like some Bruins players suffering from Claude fatigue

BRIGHTON, Mass – The resume for Claude Julien speaks for itself in terms of greatness in Boston, so he certainly will get a warm ovation from the TD Garden crowd in his first visit back to Boston since getting fired last February. Julien coached the Boston Bruins for 10 years, won a franchise record 419 games over that time span, made it to the Cup Finals twice and of course hoisted the Cup in 2011.

It won’t matter that he’s now the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens when Julien gets his video tribute, and basks a long ovation similar to the one he received when he was recognized for passing Art Ross on the B’s all-time wins list a couple of season ago. The warmth will be a little weird in the middle of a Bruins/Canadiens rivalry game, but it’s clear that Bruins fans appreciate the job done by Julien for such a long period of time.

The mutual respect was also clear when players like Patrice Bergeron spoke warmly of their coach ahead of last weekend’s showdown in Montreal, which the Bruins eventually pulled out in a shootout at the Bell Centre.

But it would seem the Bruins are starting to get a little tired of tossing verbal bouquets at the guy that’s now behind the Habs bench. It all started with Tuukka Rask’s postgame reaction on Saturday when asked if there was any extra emotion going up against his old coach for the first time.

“He was not playing a shift on the ice, so it doesn’t really matter. He was coaching, so it was nothing special,” said Rask, matter-of-factly.

So there wasn’t any added emotion for Rask going up against Julien’s new team for the first time?

“Nope,” said Rask.   

That line of questioning continued again after Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with Julien coming back to the Garden for the first time.

“Well, I can tell you what’s going to happen,” said Rask. “We’re going to start the game, at some point there’s going to be a video montage, we’re going to tap our sticks and the crowd is going to clap their hands and give him a warm welcome. Then the game is going to continue.”

Does Rask expect either he or some of his longtime teammates will get emotional if they see Julien showing some emotion during his ovation?

“No,” said Rask.

Is it really that cut-and-dry, the Bruins goaltender was asked?  

“It’s just another game,” said Rask, who improved to 8-15-3 lifetime against the Montreal Canadiens after last weekend’s shootout win. “It’s probably special for him to come back and be on the other side, but for us it’s just another game.”

Similarly, Marchand was much more understated speaking about Julien on Tuesday after speaking enthusiastically last weekend about the many discussions player and coach had about “becoming a better a pro” early in his career. But the Bruins winger wasn’t about to get all warm and fuzzy when asked about any greeting that his former coach is expected to get while the legendary Bruins/Habs rivalry plays out on the ice.

“I’m not really looking forward to it, but I’m sure he is,” said Marchand, when asked about the fan reception from Bruins fans awaiting Julien on Wednesday night. “It doesn’t really have anything to do with me, but I’m sure he’s excited to come back. He’s deserved that video and I’m sure a lot of people will be excited to see him again. I’m sure it will be a memorable game.”

Marchand went on to say he "learned a lot" from Julien during their time together, and clearly still has a high level of respect for his former coach. 

 Maybe it’s the very nature of the Bruins/Habs rivalry, or maybe the Bruins players are suffering from a little Claude Julien question fatigue with the two teams playing three times in a span of eight days. Maybe we're even finally seeing some of the Bruins players that had tired of the longtime coach's methods by the end of his long-running tenure in Boston. 

But it sure sounds like some longtime Bruins players might be over it when it comes to the “Claude Bowl” aspect of the ongoing rivalry week between the two storied rivals.  

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