Red Sox

Rick Porcello pitches Red Sox past Yankees, 6-3

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Rick Porcello pitches Red Sox past Yankees, 6-3

BOSTON -- Rick Porcello looks a lot more like the pitcher who won the 2016 AL Cy Young Award than the one who lost 17 games last year.

That is one welcome development for the Boston Red Sox.

Porcello pitched seven scoreless innings, Mookie Betts drove in two runs and the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 6-3 on Thursday night.

Porcello stayed in after a 45-minute rain delay and was working on a no-hitter before Aaron Judge's leadoff double in the seventh. He struck out six and walked none in his third straight win to begin the year.

"It seemed like he threw everything where he wanted to throw it," Boston first baseman Mitch Moreland said. "It's fun playing behind a guy when he's going like that. Rick's great. He was on display tonight."

The 29-year-old Porcello downplayed the significance of the delay before the between the fifth and sixth innings.

"I felt great," he said. "Honestly, it wasn't a big deal at all. I went back out there for the sixth and felt fine."

One night after the benches cleared twice and the longtime rivals brawled during New York's 10-7 win, there were no such incidents in the finale of the three-game set. Boston slugger Hanley Ramirez departed with a bruised wrist after he was hit by a pitch in the first, but everyone stayed in their respective dugouts.

The Red Sox won for the 10th time in 11 games, including a 14-1 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday. Moreland and Andrew Benintendi each had two hits and drove in a run.

It was more than enough offense for Porcello (3-0), who returned to the mound after the rain subsided and put the Yankees down in order in the sixth. Giancarlo Stanton followed Judge's double with an infield hit, but Porcello retired Didi Gregorius on a fly ball to right and struck out Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks to end the inning.

"This would have been nice after last night and getting beat up in Game 1, but we'll turn the page," New York manager Aaron Boone said. "I was frustrated in the first half of the game."

Sanchez got New York on the board with a three-run double to center off Marcus Walden in the ninth. Craig Kimbrel then came in and got three outs for his fourth save.

Boston manager Alex Cora said his relievers needed a break, so he had no problem bringing Porcello back out after the rain delay.

"We needed length tonight," Cora said, "he did it."

Yankees starter Sonny Gray (1-1) was pulled after a leadoff single by Moreland in the fourth. It was the seventh hit allowed by Gray, who also threw three wild pitches and hit a batter. He was charged with six runs and seven hits.

Gray threw a pair of wild pitches in the second and second baseman Tyler Wade made an error on a throw to home plate as the Red Sox sent nine batters to the plate.

"Kind of just one of those nights," Gray said. "Scuffling to find the zone, didn't execute very well and made it hard all the way around."

Eduardo Nunez led off the second with an infield single and Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a walk. Nunez advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored when Sandy Leon singled to right. Gray's troubles continued when he walked Brock Holt to load the bases with nobody out and Betts drove in Bradley with a sacrifice fly to center.

Benintendi hit a grounder right at Wade, whose throw to home got past Sanchez and allowed Leon to score. Moreland followed with a single to score Holt and put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Gray finally got out of the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Yankees: Hicks (right intercostal strain) was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list and started at designated hitter. OF Shane Robinson was designated for assignment.

Red Sox: Ramirez's X-rays did not show any fracture, the club said. ... Cora said LHP David Price, who left Wednesday's game in the first inning with tingling in his pitching hand, felt good playing catch Thursday and could start Monday against Baltimore. ... Boston placed LHP Bobby Poyner (strained hamstring) on the 10-day disabled list and recalled Walden from Triple-A Pawtucket.

RIVALRY REIGNITED

Major League Baseball suspended Boston reliever Joe Kelly for six games and New York's Tyler Austin for five games for their roles in the brawl Wednesday night. Each player appealed their punishments, and they are eligible to play while their appeals are considered. Kelly, Austin, Cora and Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin also were fined.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP Jordan Montgomery (0-0, 4.82 ERA) makes his third start of the season as New York opens a three-game series Friday night at Detroit against Tigers RHP Mike Fiers (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-0, 7.36 ERA) faces Baltimore RHP Chris Tillman (0-2, 8.68 ERA) in the opener of a four-game series against the Orioles.

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Dombrowski: Cora recommended Hanley DFA move

Dombrowski: Cora recommended Hanley DFA move

Dave Dombrowski said the Red Sox were prepared to make another move - and not designate Hanley Ramirez for assignment - before manager Alex Cora recommended parting ways with Ramirez.

Dombrowski, the Sox president of baseball operations, said Cora wanted to give first baseman Mitch Moreland more playing time and Ramirez wouldn't be able to handle coming off the bench. 

Dombrowski spoke to reporters at Fenway Park Friday afternoon after the Sox DFA’d Ramirez earlier in the day to make room for the return of second baseman Dustin Pedroia from the disabled list. 

More on the Ramirez move here and from NBC Sports Boston Red Sox Insider Evan Drellich.


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Drellich: Saying goodbye to Hanley a gamble for win-now Red Sox

Drellich: Saying goodbye to Hanley a gamble for win-now Red Sox

BOSTON — The win-now Red Sox just gambled on the present for certainty in the future. 

For all the reasons to be surprised about the end of Hanley Ramirez’s time in Boston, a tug of war between the future and the present unfolding in the middle of an excellent Red Sox season is most notable.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and his big-market team did not build their reputations on moves that could detract from a contender. They certainly do not advertise such possibilities in season-ticket brochures. 

But moving on from Ramirez, who was surprised to learn Friday morning he was designated for assignment to make room for the return of Dustin Pedroia, could indeed lessen the team’s chances in 2018. The gain: a likely $22 million savings in 2019, based on a vesting option that would have kicked in with a reasonable amount of playing time this season.

On the other hand, the Sox could be just fine without Ramirez, who is 34 and has six home runs, a .254 average, .313 on-base percentage and .395 slugging percentage. The Sox believe that increased playing time for Mitch Moreland (.311, seven homers, 1.001 OPS) will likely show a player that is more capable than Ramirez at present.

But the gamble nonetheless exists and it’s surprising the Sox are taking it as they sit neck-and-neck with the Yankees. A team with both Moreland and Ramirez is more potent, or at least deeper, than one carrying only Moreland. If Ramirez rebounds with another team and goes on a tear the rest of the way, well, the Sox have to hope they’re not lacking for hitting in a race against the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

As a player designated for assignment, Ramirez can be traded, claimed off waivers or released within seven days. But because of that vesting option, he’s very unlikely to be traded or claimed off waivers. No team wants that money looming over them. 

Instead, you can expect Ramirez to be released. At that point, he will likely sign a new contract with another team, and his vesting option will be a thing of the past. His new team will pay him the league minimum, the Sox will pay him the remainder of the $22.75 million salary they owed him (less the money his new team is paying him), and he'll become a free agent after this year.

The Red Sox did not approach Ramirez about voiding that 2019 vesting option to stay in a Sox uniform, a source with knowledge of the situation said. Voiding the option would have been exceptional, if not impossible, because the Players Association guards the value of contracts very closely. (The only way it might have been theoretically viable is if Ramirez were compensated for giving up the option.)

At the end of the day, the Sox made a simple (but complicated) calculation: Ramirez’s 2019 vesting option for $22 million that kicks in with 497 plate appearances this season did not make it worth seeing how much Ramirez could help the 2018 Sox. Ramirez needs 302 more plate appearances. 

Blake Swihart isn't playing, but if the Sox finally decide to use him, they have a player who has years of cost certainty. He was the easiest player to speculate would be on his way out the door when Pedroia returned. But, in the same way getting rid of Ramirez makes sense financially, so too does retaining Swihart.

It’s about roster flexibility, it’s about money, it’s about profit — they're all branches of the same tree. The Red Sox have baseball’s highest payroll at the moment. The Sox, relative to other teams, have not been cheap. Their costs are only going to rise as players receive arbitration raises and hit free agency. Craig Kimbrel is in the final year of his contract this season.

But this move nonetheless centers on money. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising when you consider the Sox avoided adding a slugger in 2017 for one reason only: payroll. They stayed under the luxury tax, passed on free-agent option Edwin Encarnacion heading into the season, and suffered for it.

The Sox are gambling they won't look back on Ramirez's 2018 season with any similar regrets.

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