Red Sox

Ex-Red Sox coach Lovullo named N.L. Manager of Year

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Ex-Red Sox coach Lovullo named N.L. Manager of Year

Paul Molitor and Torey Lovullo both presided over turnaround seasons, guided their teams into the playoffs and won Manager of the Year awards by wide margins.

The paths they took, those were totally different.

Molitor needed a clubhouse talk to calm down the Minnesota Twins, his players angered by moves the front office at the July 31 trade deadline.

"I still believed," Molitor said Tuesday, recalling how he helped his team overcome "that speed bump."

No such distractions in the desert.

In his first full season as a skipper, Lovullo built a culture of communication with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He often referred to the "love" teammates had for each other - and Lovullo certainly loved the midseason deal that brought big-hitting J.D. Martinez to the D-backs.

"We are going to be one year better," he said, adding his club would be even "more united" in 2018.

Molitor won the American League Manager of the Year award after the Twins became the first team to make the playoffs following a 100-loss season.

Molitor drew 18 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Cleveland's Terry Francona was second and A.J. Hinch of the World Series champion Houston Astros finished third. Voting was completed before the start of the playoffs.

Lovullo got 18 first-place votes, too, in earning the National League prize. Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers was second and Colorado's Bud Black was third.

Roberts, Black, Milwaukee's Craig Counsell and Dusty Baker, since let go by Washington, also had first-place votes.

Molitor joined Frank Robinson as the only Hall of Fame players to win a manager of the year award, which was first presented in 1983.

"I was aware of some of the history," Molitor said.

The Twins went 85-77 this season and captured their first playoff spot since 2010 before losing to the Yankees in the AL wild-card game. Last year, the Twins led the majors with 103 losses.

Brian DozierJoe Mauer and their Minnesota teammates were in the midst of a 5-13 slide when the Twins traded closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington for a minor leaguer less than a month after he made the All-Star team. They also dealt away Jaime Garcia after he won his only start since they got him from Atlanta.

"A little bit of a wrinkle," Molitor said.

Molitor's message to the Twins at that point was "not magical," he said. Instead, it was fairly simple and straightforward: Believe in yourselves.

"I still had a lot of optimism," he said.

The 61-year-old Molitor was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, and got the last of his 3,319 career hits with the Twins in 1998.

Shortly after the playoff loss, Molitor got a new three-year contract to continue managing the Twins.

The 52-year-old Lovullo guided the Diamondbacks to a 93-69 record and their first playoff spot since 2011, a year after they went 69-93.

Lovullo was Boston's bench coach when he ran the Red Sox for 48 games in 2015 while manager John Farrell underwent cancer treatment.

Powered by Paul GoldschmidtJake Lamb and Martinez, and led by pitchers Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, the Diamondbacks made the playoffs this year. They beat Colorado in the NL wild-card game before getting swept by the Dodgers in the Division Series.

The Diamondbacks were swept in a three-game series at Minnesota in mid-August, outscored 27-8 at Target Field. Less than a week later, Arizona began a franchise-record 13-game winning streak.

Going into a new season, Lovullo's team has a new target.

"It didn't end the way we wanted. The Dodgers walked through us," he said.

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Red Sox fans won't like Alex Rodriguez's latest Aaron Judge comments

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USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox fans won't like Alex Rodriguez's latest Aaron Judge comments

Major League Baseball needs a face, and two of the best candidates play for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

With all due respect to Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, the top two players to be the marquee superstar in baseball are Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.

Betts is the reigning American League MVP, a three-time Gold Glove winner and a World Series champion. Judge is a towering figure at 6-foot-7 who hits massive home runs and has helped lead the league's most historic franchise to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

So, who's the biggest superstar in baseball? Former Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez recently gave his answer to WFAN's Mike Francesca, and Red Sox fans aren't going to like it.

If the competition for the league's biggest star was based on stats and winning, Betts probably would take the crown. The case for Judge improves if you include personality and other intangibles. Rodriguez is right about Judge being a "transcendant athlete." Judge's immense size and the power he brings to the plate play into that, and baseball would be wise to market those exciting attritubes he brings to the field.

Both Betts and Judge admitted recently they have a lot of respect for each other, and their emergence as premier stars has helped bring back the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry after it died down a bit following an intense 2004 season.

Betts deserves to be the leader for the title of MLB's biggest star entering 2019 after he won almost every individual award and the World Series last year. But you can bet Judge will be highly motivated to knock his rival off that perch, especially after the Red Sox sent the Yankees home for the winter in the American League Division Series last October.

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Projecting Red Sox's bullpen roles with relief pitchers finalized

Projecting Red Sox's bullpen roles with relief pitchers finalized

The Boston Red Sox's bullpen undoubtedly is the club's biggest question mark entering the 2019 season.

But at least we know who's part of the unit.

The Red Sox made five roster cuts Saturday, in the process finalizing the eight relief pitchers they'll carry into Opening Day. Here's the list in alphabetical order:

RHP Matt Barnes
RHP Ryan Brasier
RHP Colten Brewer
RHP Heath Hembree
LHP Brian Johnson
RHP Tyler Thornburg
RHP Hector Velázquez
RHP Brandon Workman

While it's not a particularly inspiring group on paper -- only Brasier had an ERA under 3.00 last season -- and it doesn't include All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, manager Alex Cora doesn't seem concerned.

"People outside our world think we're short on pitching. We're not. We're fine," Cora said Saturday, via The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham.

But who will pitch in which roles with Kimbrel and setup man Joe Kelly both gone? Cora continues to play coy, so here's our best guess for each role:

Closer: Matt Barnes

Barnes hasn't always been effective, but he's put in the time, throwing at least 60 innings in each of the past three seasons for Boston. The 28-year-old has made steady improvements each year, too, dropping his ERA to a career-low 3.65 in 2018 with a 3.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His leash will be short, but Barnes at least should get first crack at the closer job in 2019.

Setup man: Ryan Brasier

You could make a case for Brasier as the closer after his stellar 2018 campaign (six earned runs allowed over 33.2 innings). But he still has fewer than 50 career innings under his belt, and an infected pinky toe halted his progress in spring training. The 31-year-old thrived in the seventh and eighth innings last year, so why not keep him there?

Bridge/situational relievers: Tyler Thornburg, Colten Brewer, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman

The Red Sox have been waiting three years for Thornburg. If he somehow stays on the field and returns to his 2016 form (2.15 ERA over 67 innings with the Brewers), he could get bumped up to the setup man role. For now, we expect Thornburg, Brewer, Hembree and Workman to operate primarily in the sixth and seventh innings based on matchups to bridge the gap to Brasier and Barnes.

Long relievers: Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez

Johnson is the only current left-hander in the 'pen, so he could be used situationally, too. Both he and Velazquez have starting experience, though, and should get the call if a starter gets into trouble early.

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