Red Sox

Sandy Leon's firsthand look at Astros could benefit Chris Sale

Sandy Leon's firsthand look at Astros could benefit Chris Sale

HOUSTON — Chris Sale’s not into scouting reports. He prefers an empty mind over a head full of data and tendencies, and that’s not changing for Game 1 of the American League Division Series, his first career postseason start.

"I don't want to put any more emphasis on this than there already is," Sale said Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. "This is obviously playoff baseball, so it comes with a lot more attention. But for me I'm going to pitch the same game, I'm going to go out there and do the same things I've always done. I'm not going to reach for another avenue that I haven't reached for in my entire career. So I don't think now would be the time to start doing that."

Catcher Sandy Leon, who’s been with Sale for all but one start this year, on Thursday will handle the pre-game planning meeting with pitching coach Carl Willis and bullpen coach Dana LeVangie. Just like always.

This is where having some recent history with the Astros — but keeping Sale himself away from their view — can benefit the Sox.

"Sandy had the opportunity to catch against these guys this past weekend, so I think a lot of people talk about you know the awkwardness of us playing them right after we just played them and now it’s the playoffs," pitching coach Carl Willis said. "But I think it can allow us, and them to for that matter, to see each other. A lot of times seeing, experiencing it in person is a lot better than you know watching video. 

"Our advance scouts do a tremendous job, but there’s nothing like seeing it on your own. We’ll sit down with Sandy as we always do. And I think that you know, the only thing that will be any different, we’ll be able to get a little more feedback from him as to what he saw and how Chris’ stuff will play against certain hitters, certain swings."

Both Sale and Willis think the extra rest in between starts — Sale had eight days off — should be a help.

"In September, you know, it’s been brought to our attention, it’s kind of like an every-other-start-type of thing, I do feel like," Willis said, referring to Sale’s inconsistent month. "He was prepared to pitch Sunday. But I feel like you know, not having to, and being able to get on the mound on Monday, fine tune things a little bit, you can’t help but to think that’s going to be a good thing."

Sox manager John Farrell did not announce a starter for Game 3, or any further roster choices.

  • Dustin Pedroia said the time off has helped. Eduardo Nunez’s usage hasn’t been determined yet. Both players were on the field going through what appeared a normal routine for Wednesday’s workout.  
  • Astros manager A.J. Hinch expects his bullpen will have an Andrew Miller-like figure as well. Lance McCullers may be that guy. "It happens for every team that gets there. So who is our guy going to be, is it going to be Lance, does it become [Chris] Devenski, [Joe] Musgrove, [Brad] Peacock, [Charlie] Morton, I have no idea," Hinch said. "I don't care who it is. I care that somebody steps up and outperforms expectations in a role that they're not used to. Lance has every bit the weapon to get as many outs as he can. He's pitched in a playoff game before. Where we deem that the most important and what outs we think are going to be the most important is going to be discussed over the next couple days — or next day, communicated to him, and then I'll put him in there."


How Martinez rose from ashes of Astros release to Red Sox stardom

How Martinez rose from ashes of Astros release to Red Sox stardom

Good things come to those who wait. And while it’s hard to knock the results of the Houston Astros’ “process,” a new piece from Sports Illustrated details how J.D. Martinez has them wishing they waited a little longer.

Coming off an age-25 season that saw him hit just .250 with a .650 OPS, Martinez was desperate to change in 2013. After all, with limited speed and a below-average glove, Martinez’s bat was his livelihood.

“J.D., you’re not even a career .700 OPS hitter,” said then-Astros hitting coach John Mallee. “You don’t steal bags. You’re not a Gold Glover. You have to hit… You can make enough money to live off of, at least until you become too expensive to keep around. But that’s it. Unless you change something.”

After studying perennial All-Stars like Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Braun, Martinez realized his entire swing needed an overhaul, and turned to Astros teammate Jason Castro for advice. Martinez’s journey with Castro is a long one, taking him from Houston to California to Venezuela and, finally, to Kissimmee, Florida, home of the Astros’ Spring Training complex.  


With a new swing in his toolbox, a revamped enthusiasm and energy, and a desperation to prove himself, all Martinez needed was an opportunity. But the Astros didn't oblige. Houston -- coming off a 111-loss season -- released Martinez after just 18 exhibition at-bats, not even seeking anything in return. Martinez couldn't make the worst team in the league.

Instead of sulking, however, Martinez was motivated -- driven to make the Astros' lack of confidence in his adjustments haunt them.

"You guys are going to see me," Martinez told Houston teammates José Altuve and Dallas Keuchel after being released. "Don't worry about it. I'll be good. I promise you."

Martinez caught on with the Detroit Tigers and the rest, as they say, is history. He used his new swing to slug his way to the top of a myriad of offensive categories and now, four years after being released, there is perhaps no more feared slugger in baseball than Martinez, who has two more home runs (37) than his team has losses (35).

Martinez’s road to the top has been long, but serves as a reminder that in a sport increasingly driven by data, the game is played by humans, and not even the most thorough algorithms can compute a human’s drive to succeed.