Red Sox

Matt Barnes can be bullpen force Red Sox need

Matt Barnes can be bullpen force Red Sox need

BOSTON — Aside from actually winning Game 1, the good news for the Red Sox is that their bullpen probably can’t run into this much trouble every night.

What's also encouraging is that if the bullpen is to succeed beyond Friday, the pitcher the Sox need to step up in a huge way, Matt Barnes, seems up to the task.

Barnes made a little more work for himself than was necessary — a rite of passage for anyone leaving the Sox ‘pen, apparently — when he entered a jam in the seventh inning with the Sox ahead 5-2. He threw a wild pitch to his first batter, Brett Gardner, with two on and none out. Then he walked Gardner, which rendered the wild pitch irrelevant, but also brought up a fellow named Giancarlo Stanton.

“You’ve got to kind of slow it down and take it pitch by pitch,” Barnes said. “You can’t get caught up in what’s going on. That’s the hardest thing to do. With everything going on and how everything matters so much, is to be able to slow it down and do what you know how to do.”

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Now, Stanton didn’t have a good night. He struck out four times, in fact, including that match-up with Barnes, who allowed just one of his inherited runners to score in the inning. But Barnes was the man handed the mop, and he’s going to have to continue to be. The righty buried a nasty 1-2 curveball low and over the middle, too tantalizing for Stanton to take and too nasty for him to touch.

“I thought Barnes made a great pitch against him, and just seeing the replay, where he started a tough pitch — sometimes you know that goes with Giancarlo sometimes,” Yanks manager Aaron Boone said. “If you make pitches against him, his outs are a lot of times strikeouts.”

And a lot of Barnes’ outs are strikeouts, as well. He fanned 14 batters per nine innings in 2018, slightly better than Craig Kimbrel’s 13.9. Their walk rates were virtually identical as well at 4.5 per nine.

Barnes took a remarkable step forward in 2018, with his average fastball nearly a full 2 mph more than it was a year ago, from roughly 95 to 97.

Kimbrel, who allowed a home run, can’t go it alone. Maybe Brandon Workman, who threw a nasty curveball to Gleyber Torres in the sixth inning, can inject himself into the most dependable, high-leverage mix too. 

Pitching coach Dana LeVangie said he didn’t think he saw nerves from his guys with all the balls in the dirt, wild pitches and general inability to find the strike zone. (Sandy Leon was a saint behind the plate.) 

“If you asked him, he might tell you,” LeVangie said of Ryan Brasier, who allowed two inherited runners to score in the sixth. “But I expect him to be a lot better tomorrow than he was tonight.”

The Red Sox must hope that for all their relievers. With Steven Wright and his sub-2 ERA as a reliever this season now likely off the Sox roster due to a knee problem, one of their prime candidates to emerge out of the’ pen disappears.

Cora didn’t want to turn to Barnes so early on Friday. He didn't want to use scheduled Game 3 starter Rick Porcello in the eighth, either, but to Cora's credit, his moves worked with what amounted to a 24-man roster.

“In a perfect world it was going to be to be Barnes with two outs in the seventh,” Cora said. “That’s the game right there. We needed to shut it down and he did a good job.”

There will have to be more of the same.

“We’re all in, we’re all in to win this,” LeVangie said. “We expect our guys in the bullpen to be available every game this series. If we play five we expect them to be available five games. And our training room has become an emergency room, so we’re expecting — we’re asking a lot from these guys and it might be six outs. That’s the way it is.”

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Pedro Martinez pays tribute to David Ortiz on anniversary of his Red Sox signing

Pedro Martinez pays tribute to David Ortiz on anniversary of his Red Sox signing

The Boston Red Sox franchise changed forever on this day 17 years ago.

The Sox signed free agent slugger David Ortiz on Jan. 23, 2003. Ortiz had just finished his sixth season with the Minnesota Twins, during which he batted .272 with 20 home runs and 72 RBI. The Twins chose not to keep him, and this colossally foolish decision turned out to be a massive gain for Boston.

Ortiz would go on to lead the Red Sox to three World Series championships, with many clutch hits and memorable moments along the way.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez played a pivotal role in the team adding Ortiz in 2003, and he celebrated the anniversary of Big Papi's signing with a special tweet Thursday.

Ortiz will join Martinez in the Red Sox Hall of Fame later this year. When eligible, he deserves to join Martinez in the Baseball Hall of Fame as well.

Two Red Sox players made Baseball America's top 100 prospects ranking

Report: MLB gave players immunity in exchange for testimonies in sign-stealing scandal

Report: MLB gave players immunity in exchange for testimonies in sign-stealing scandal

While ex-Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were slapped with year-long suspensions and subsequently fired for their roles in the team's sign-stealing scandal, players involved were completely exonerated.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred explained his decision not to penalize the players by calling it “difficult and impractical." But according to The Wall Street Journal, the league and the MLB Players Association agreed to a deal that granted immunity to players in exchange for honest testimony.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

via WSJ:

But there is a simpler explanation for why no players were penalized: The league and the MLB Players Association struck an agreement early in the process that granted immunity in exchange for honest testimony, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The league was quick to make such an offer, these people said, in part because it did not believe it would win subsequent grievances with any players it attempted to discipline ...

The deal is a sign of MLB’s desire for a speedy and conflict-free investigation, the continuing power of the baseball players’ union and the fragile state of the sport’s labor relations. The promise of amnesty allowed the league to interview 23 current and former Astros players during the two-month investigation.

The investigation resulted in the aforementioned suspensions as well as the Astros being fined $5 million and losing their first and second-round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Manager Alex Cora mutually agreed to part ways with the Boston Red Sox shortly thereafter, and former Astros player Carlos Beltran stepped down from his new role as New York Mets manager. Cora had been the Astros bench coach and Beltran an Astros player in  2017 and both were mentioned prominently in MLB's report on the scheme.

MLB is in the middle of a separate sign-stealing investigation involving the 2018 Red Sox. Cora is expected to be handed a suspension as long -- if not longer -- than Hinch and Luhnow's once the investigation concludes.