Celtics

Saltalamacchia feeling good after two-hit day

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Saltalamacchia feeling good after two-hit day

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia had been struggling this spring at the plate, hitting just .077 (1-for-13) with five strikeouts before Wednesday.

But in the span of a couple of at-bats, Saltalamacchia was feeling much better about his spring.

The Red Sox catcher belted an opposite-field double to lead off the second, then added a two-run homer to right, scoring Adrian Gonzalez ahead of him.

"I was lacking at-bats, so I've been trying to get some more here and there,'' said Saltalamacchia. "I felt good today. Me and (hitting coach Dave Magadan) have been working on certain things, trying to stay on the ball a little more and I was able to do it today at the plate.''

Saltalamacchia knew he had been struggling, the result of getting underneath the ball too much.

"The bat head was dragging,'' he said. "We've been working on trying to get the head (of the bat) out and stay on top. If I roll over, if I ground out, that's OK, at least it's not a pop-up. But when I get to two strikes, I've been trying to figure a way to keep the ball on the field instead of striking out.''

As it turned out, the double came with two strikes and the fact that Saltalamacchia was able to drive the ball the other way was another bonus.

"I stayed through a good fastball,'' he recounted. "My main goal was to work on my two-strike approach and make sure I put the ball in play.''

Celtics continue to look for ways to rest Morris' knee

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Celtics continue to look for ways to rest Morris' knee

BOSTON – Al Horford is back in the Boston Celtics’ lineup for tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz. But the news isn’t as encouraging for Marcus Morris.

Horford (rest) missed Boston’s 124-118 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, a decision the Celtics had decided on several weeks prior due to the way the Celtics’ schedule was breaking down.

Put it like this: the Celtics will be at game No. 41, the official halfway point of the season, on Jan. 3 when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And with the 31-year-old Horford being the oldest member on the team and leading them in minutes played, it made sense for the Celtics to have a strategic rest plan in place for the four-time All-Star.

As for Morris, the Celtics will continue to seek out ways to provide him enough downtime to help strengthen his left knee, while also getting him on the floor.

“We don’t have an update on a timeline for him,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s feeling better as the week has gone on.”

I asked Stevens what does Morris have to do at this point to get back on the floor.

“The biggest thing is, feeling better consistently, day to day and not having these setbacks,” Stevens said. “With the schedule we’re in the midst of now, playing every day would not be the answer. I think getting him to feel as good as he can … he’s had a couple different opinions, everybody has come up with the same result and that is strengthen it, work diligently on it, and it shouldn’t be a long-term thing. But let’s make sure that we rest over the next couple of weeks, appropriately.

Stevens added, “He’s had a little bit of a setback here, but it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be long-term.”

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Struggling Bjork may take a seat vs. Rangers

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Struggling Bjork may take a seat vs. Rangers

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s normally a sequence of peaks and valleys for rookies in their first foray through the NHL and Anders Bjork is definitely in one of those lower points right now. 

Bjork, 21, registered a season-low 6:47 of ice time in the Bruins 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at TD Garden and was benched for portions of the second and third period after looking pretty timid throughout the game.

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Bjork has just a single point and two shots on net in his past six games since returning from an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion. It's been an extremely quiet period for a player expected to make a top-six forward impact. It’s all trending toward a potential healthy scratch for Bjork on Saturday against the New York Rangers with a healthy Ryan Spooner potentially taking over for him on David Krejci’s left side.

“We’ll make the decision tomorrow, but [a Bjork scratch] is definitely a possibility and something we’ve discussed,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I just find that he’s not as strong on the puck as he was at the start of the year, or as quick to create turnovers. There are parts of his game that are always going to be worked on, like his play away from the puck.

“But the issue right now is being strong on pucks. The goal [Washington] they scored the other night is a good example. We make a play through the middle of the ice tape-to-tape, he’s in the crease and he’s not able to handle a puck. They’re coming back at us while we’re thinking we’re on offense. There were breakdowns after that clearly, but that’s an area [that needs improving]. Just before Charlie [McAvoy’s] penalty, we’re on a draw and [Bjork] gets pushed off a puck that comes back on us and we get beat up ice. Some of it is plays where he needs to be better, and some of it is where he’s at in his career where other guys are just stronger.”

Perhaps some of Bjork’s hesitancy is also an after-effect of getting tattooed in the middle of the ice by Tampa Bay's Matt Martin in a play that knocked him out of the lineup for a few weeks. Coping with the immediacy of those kinds of hits is part of life in pro hockey for a young player. It's a considerable adjustment when going straight from college hockey to the NHL.

Bjork knows that he hasn’t been a high-impact player since returning from injury and hasn’t really utilized his greatest offensive assets, speed and skill.  It may not matter much if Bjork watches Saturday from the ninth floor of the Garden as a healthy scratch, but he has a plan to get his game back on track when he does get his next opportunity for the Black and Gold.

“I think it’s mainly a confidence thing. I have to use [my speed] and it’s on me if I don’t,” said Bjork, who has four goals and 10 points in 22 games this season. “I think I just have to have that confidence every shift, so I can avoid the mistakes. There are bounces good and bad in hockey, but you create your own luck sometimes. You do that by playing the right way, and when things aren’t going your way you need to get back to basics of making things simple. That’s what I need to focus on: Making the simple plays and doing the details right.”

A healthy scratch was exactly the right thing to spark fellow rookie Jake DeBrusk when he was scuffling a bit last month, so perhaps the same plan of attack for Bjork to unlock his game while on a pace for 14 goals and 34 points this season. 

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