Red Sox

Drellich: Here's how Kimbrel could greatly help Cora

Drellich: Here's how Kimbrel could greatly help Cora

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- An amenable Craig Kimbrel can be quite an amenity.

On the day he was introduced at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said he sometimes will want to use his closer outside of the ninth inning. More and more, it's accepted around the game that the most crucial situations for a bullpen may come in the eighth inning or even the seventh, not the ninth.

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Kimbrel was asked at Winter Weekend in January how he felt about the idea. His answer was open-minded. At the same time, he made clear he would need communication on the matter and that it was to be talked about. In other words, Kimbrel was saying he wanted to maintain some say in his usage. He didn't cede all control over the situation to the new manager.

The topic has again arisen this spring, and here's guessing they reach an understanding. It's important they do. The situation can have reverberations beyond just the bullpen. We know what Cora wants. Seeing Kimbrel embrace Cora's objective will do wonders for a first-year manager who needs respect in the room. Conversely, if Kimbrel is obstinate, Cora can look undermined.

There may be an adjustment to Kimbrel's routine, if he's pitching in the eighth more often. But there really doesn't need to be additional wear and tear. He can be used in the eighth instead of the ninth -- three outs, just like any other day. He'd do more for his team, just without recording a statistical save.

"We'll sit down with him throughout spring training," Cora said Saturday of Kimbrel. "People think it's a big adjustment. If you start looking at the numbers, you don't lose too many saves if it's the way you want to use him. We're not talking about the lower third of the lineup. We're talking the middle of the lineup, eighth inning, certain situations. What I feel is the game on the line . . . We'll sit down and talk about it and he'll understand where we're coming from. And as long as he's healthy he'll do it."

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That's how it sounds from Kimbrel's end now as well. And out-of-the-gate cooperation from a dominant player, the leader in the bullpen, will go a long way. Managers generally face a near constant stream of fleeting unhappiness from pitchers. Every day, someone gets pulled when they don't think they should be. A tacit vote of confidence from Kimbrel in how Cora wants to use the ‘pen is a valuable tool for not only winning games, but establishing Cora's presence.

Saves have for so long defined closers.

"It's a pretty stat but at the end of the day it's about winning and losing games," Kimbrel said Saturday.

Kimbrel is entering his walk year and turns 30 in May. He's racked up a huge amount of saves, 291, early in his career. Mariano Rivera, who had a relatively late start to his career, had just 129 saves through his age-29 season. Trevor Hoffman had just 135. Kimbrel's strength lies in his tremendous velocity, so he may not be set up to perform as well later into his career as Hoffman and Rivera did, but he also could adjust when, eventually, his velocity drops.

All put together, it's not impossible that Kimbrel could make a run at the all-time saves record. But if he's going to be truly the best reliever possible, he'll embrace the idea that some of his saves will not be credited as such.

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Porcello helps Red Sox salvage series finale against Twins

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AP Photo

Porcello helps Red Sox salvage series finale against Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rick Porcello allowed one hit in seven innings, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi homered, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 9-2 Thursday to avoid a series sweep.

Xander Bogaerts had two RBI for the Red Sox, who had a season-high 16 hits, and finished 6-4 on a road trip through Baltimore, Seattle and Minnesota.

After a first-inning single by Logan Morrison, ending a 0-for-30 stretch against Boston, Porcello (9-3) retired 19 of 20 Twins hitters, including the last 16. Throwing 97 pitches, he struck out five and walked one.

Porcello finished seven innings for the first time in 10 starts since April 29. His best previous start of the season was April 12 against the Yankees, when he allowed two hits and struck out six in seven innings.

Kyle Gibson (2-5) allowed seven hits and two earned runs in six innings for Minnesota, striking out five for his ninth quality start this season. He had only 10 in 2017 and eight in 2016.

Betts hit the first pitch of the fifth inning into the front row of seats in right-center for a 2-0 lead. He finished with three hits and has reached base eight times in his last three games.

The Red Sox were 5 for 14 with runners in scoring position, finishing the three-game series 7 for 36.

Bogaerts' two-run double keyed a three-run seventh against Ryan Pressly. Benintendi hit a two-run shot in the eighth.

OUCH

Twins 3B Eduardo Escobar was hit near the right elbow by Porcello in the first. The major league leader with 32 doubles, Escobar immediately dropped to the ground in pain as a trainer rushed out. After a couple of minutes of consultation, Escobar trotted to first base. Diagnosed with a right elbow contusion, he was removed from the game after striking out in the third and is day to day.

Boston's J.D Martinez hit the dirt to avoid a high inside pitch from Gibson in the top of the inning. Sandy Leon was hit by Gibson in the sixth.

TRAINERS ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz, out since June 5 with left biceps tendinitis, is expected to get on a mound this weekend and throw a bullpen session, according to manager Alex Cora.

Twins: OF Eddie Rosario missed the game with a sore throwing shoulder. He is considered day to day. Since May 1, Rosario is hitting .364 with a league-best 68 hits in that span, including 16 doubles and 13 home runs.

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Red Sox: Open a six-game homestand Friday with RHP Steven Wright (2-1, 1.23) scheduled to start against Seattle's LHP Wade LeBlanc (3-0, 2.63).

Twins: Welcome Texas on Friday for a three-game weekend series with RHP Fernando Romero (3-2, 4.17) to face the Rangers' LHP Mike Minor (4-4. 5.35).

Red Sox offense quiet again in 4-1 loss to Twins

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Red Sox offense quiet again in 4-1 loss to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Facing a run of starting pitching that included two-time Cy Young winner Corey KluberCarlos CarrascoChris Sale and David Price, the Minnesota Twins could have seen their fledgling playoff hopes fade toward another long summer.

Instead, Minnesota's been rejuvenated by beating some of the best pitching in the American League.

Robbie Grossman and Max Kepler homered to back an effective start by Lance Lynn as the Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Grossman led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run and Kepler added a two-run shot off Boston starter David Price (8-5). Brian Dozier added a pair of doubles to help Minnesota win for the fourth time in five games.

The Twins beat Kluber and Carrasco in taking two of three games at Cleveland before returning home and winning the first two games against the Red Sox with Sale and Price starting.

"Yeah, after the game when you acknowledge who's on the mound," Kepler said when asked if Minnesota can take something away from beating the recent competition. "I feel like we go into games and we're kind of blind to who's on the mound and we grind together, which is awesome about this team."

Lynn (5-5) again struggled with command, issuing five walks, but he surrendered just one unearned run and three hits in five innings.

Four relievers combined for four scoreless innings, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters, with Fernando Rodney securing his 16th save in 19 chances.

"If you can find a way to battle every at-bat, wait for something to break, try to build pitch-count when you can, and if you're holding them down as our starting pitching has been doing, you know you've got a chance late," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.

The Red Sox were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and are 2 for 22 in the first two games of the series. They've stranded 18 baserunners in the two games and lost for the fourth time in five games.

"Pitching-wise, we've been great," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "I'll take that. If we keep throwing the ball the way we've been throwing we're going to win a lot of ballgames. We know the offense, you know how it is."

Lynn has had an uncharacteristic wild season in his first year with the Twins. He walked at least five batters for the fifth time in 14 starts. But the veteran right-hander has limited the damage and allowed less than three runs in five of his last six starts.

"Command was really not there," Lynn said. "But I was able to make pitches with runners in scoring position and not give up a bunch of runs. With this offense we have, you keep them to one run, we're going to win the games more times than not."

Boston's lone run scored in the second as Lynn couldn't catch first baseman Logan Morrison's high throw to first for the final out of the inning, allowing Mitch Moreland to score from second base on an error charged to Morrison.

"We've been through stuff like this in the past, even this year early on," Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said of the offense. "The pitching has been doing great. It's up to us now to come through."

PAYING THE PRICE

Price was hurt by the home run but allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk. He had given up just one home run in his previous five starts and seven total in 14 starts this season coming into Wednesday.

"Not so much that he could hit it like he did, but to keep it fair, that's pretty impressive," Price said of Kepler's home run.

SHOWING SIGNS

Dozier had just one extra-base hit in his previous 13 games while hitting .068. His double off the left-field wall in the eighth plated Eddie Rosario.

Kepler hit his first home run in 22 games and the fifth of his eight this season against left-handed pitching. Kepler was hitting .158 over his previous 21 games with just four RBIs.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz is getting closer to having his first throwing session since he went on the 10-day disabled list on June 5 for left biceps tendonitis. Cora said Pomeranz was dealing with soreness in his neck but has recovered.

Twins: Molitor said OF Byron Buxton's first rehab game in Triple-A on Tuesday went well and that his left foot with the broken toe is "in a good place and we haven't said that for about seven weeks or so." There is no timetable for Buxton's return.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (8-3, 3.70 ERA) will start the series and road trip finale on Thursday afternoon. Porcello pitched six innings and gave up four runs in a no-decision at Seattle in his last start.

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (2-4, 3.27) counters for Minnesota. Gibson has allowed five total runs over his last four starts, spanning 26 2/3 innings.

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