Red Sox

Drellich: Red Sox bullpen must be ready to empty tank in Game 2

Drellich: Red Sox bullpen must be ready to empty tank in Game 2

HOUSTON — Let David Price loose. And Addison Reed and Craig Kimbrel.

The monster was built late in the season. It's operational. Now, to employ its full destructive force.

The silver lining for the Red Sox after the Jose Altuve show lies in what we have not yet seen.

Chris Sale flopped and the Red Sox floundered in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, 8-2. The score got out of hand, and manager John Farrell was wise in at least one way: he did not touch the prime pieces of a bullpen envisioned as a newly improved difference maker, a group of relievers who make for perhaps the team’s only clear advantage against Houston.

If Game 1 was about Sale — the perceived constant on a team of many question marks — Game 2 is about the bullpen. It has to be. Farrell needs to empty the tank to keep the score close all afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

Price is fresh for maybe 40 pitches and a couple innings, you figure. Reed and Kimbrel can get more than three outs, maybe as many as six.

Of course, the Sox need Pomeranz to keep the game close early. Two home runs in the first inning, a la Sale, would be a problem. But his start should be short no matter what, unless he’s really carving up the Astros. 

Then, whether Pomeranz leaves with a lead or not, the bullpen has to give an offense without much power a chance.

It’s not like Sale or Verlander carried it deep into the night in Game 1. Verlander made it six innings, and even that wasn’t guaranteed. Pomeranz isn't known for consistently long starts generally.

“The early part of the game showed us how difficult it is to conserve your pitches in a playoff atmosphere and against two playoff teams that are good because both guys had to exert a lot of energy and a lot of pitches in the first third of the game,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Sale and Justin Verlander. “I was proud of Verlander getting through the 6th inning because as the game was unfolding early, I didn't think either guy was going to last as deep as what we all anticipated. But our guy lasted a little longer.”

Enter the Sox bullpen, the meat of it. It’s a weapon that was assembled at the last minute and has had a couple test runs in the regular season, including Saturday when the Sox at last clinched the American League East. Now, for the real thing. 

There’s an off-day between Games 2 and 3, when any and all relievers used Friday can recuperate. At this point, there’d be only one time in this series Price could pitch on back-to-back days, if he throws in Games 3 and 4. That’s better for his arm. 

The Sox have to now ensure they get to a Game 4, and the best way to do that is arrive at Fenway Park with a split in Houston.

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Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

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Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

He was dubbed "Closer B" by Red Sox manager John Farrell when acquired at the trade deadline last summer, now Addison Reed is "Closer B Gone"...to the Twins.

The right-handed reliever, 29, has agreed to a two-year, $16.75 million free-agent deal with Minnesota, pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and TheAthletic.com reports. 

Reed began last season with the Mets and had 19 saves and a 2.57 ERA before being traded to the Red Sox, where he had a 3.33 ERA in 29 games (27 innings) without a save as a setup man for Craig Kimbrell.  
 

Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

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Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

The Red Sox and star right fielder Mookie Betts intend to go to an arbitration hearing in February, and there were signs this was coming even a year ago.

Betts was the only arbitration-eligible player on the Red Sox who did not settle on a contract with the team on Friday, when a deadline arrived for all teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange 2018 salary figures. Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Drew Pomeranz were the biggest names to avoid hearings.

Betts filed for a $10.5 million salary and the Red Sox filed at $7.5 million.  Betts and the Red Sox agreed previously that if no figure could be settled on by the Friday deadline, they would proceed to a hearing, assistant general manager Brian O'Halloran said. 

A three-person panel of arbitrators therefore is set to determine what Betts makes in 2018: either the $7.5 million figure the Sox filed or the $10.5 million figure Betts' camp submitted. The arbitrators won't settle on a midpoint for the parties. 

O'Halloran noted to the Globe there are no hard feelings involved.

Nonetheless, such a large gap would seem to provide incentive to settle. The parties technically could still decide to do so, but that would take a change of course from the present plan. The idea was to settle any time before Friday, and they did not. 

Betts is asking for near-record money for a first-year arbitration eligible player. Kris Bryant set the record Friday with a $10.85 million settlement.

The hearings can be difficult for player-team relations because teams have to make the case in front of the player that he is worth less money than he wants.

Betts, 25, hit .264, with 24 homers, 102 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .803 OPS in 2017, numbers that fell from his American League MVP runner-up performance in 2016, but were nonetheless very strong and coupled with first-rate defense.

This offseason is Betts' first of arbitration eligibility. In the first three years of service time in a players' career, there's no recourse if you don't like the salary a team is offering. Teams can pay players anything at league minimum or above. 

The only option a player has in those first three years is to make a stand on principle: you can force the team to technically "renew" your salary, which notes to everyone that you did not agree to the salary. Betts and his agents did that in 2017 when the Sox paid him $950,000, a very high amount relative to most contract renewals.

Some of the standard thinking behind forcing a team to renew a contract is that if an arbitration case comes up down the road — and one now looms for Betts — it's supposed to show the arbitrators that the player felt even in seasons past, he was underpaid.

Still, the Sox may have effectively combatted that perception by paying Betts almost $1 million on a renewal. Per USA Today, that $950,000 agreement in 2017 was "the second-highest one-year deal ever for a non-arbitration-eligible player with two-plus years of big league service." Mike Trout got $1 million in 2014.