Dustin Pedroia insisted during spring training that he was the healthiest he’s been in years and that he expected his power to bounce back in 2015.
So far, so good.
Pedroia was a big part of the Red Sox’ 8-0, blowout win over the Phillies on Monday, slugging a pair of solo home runs while also adding a single. The two home runs match the second baseman’s total from the first 58 games last season and it was also his first multi-homer contest since 2011. New left fielder Hanley Ramirez also went deep twice himself (including a grand slam), while budding star Mookie Betts had a solo shot.
Pedroia failed to reach double-digits in home runs each of the last two seasons after averaging 16 dingers across the previous five campaigns. A thumb injury in 2013 and a wrist injury in 2014 could have been big causes for the decline, and Pedroia says he feels better than ever following surgery last September.
“I'm back to being who I am,'' Pedroia told CSNNE.com.
It’s just one game, of course, so it’s way too early to say definitively that Pedroia has regained his pop. But, what happened Monday was certainly encouraging.
There was some other big news for the Red Sox on Monday, but it happened off the field. Rick Porcello, who had been slated to hit free agency next offseason, agreed to a four-year, $82.5 million extension.
The number might seem a tad high for a guy with a career 4.30 ERA, but there’s reason to believe Porcello’s best days could be ahead of him. The right-hander is coming off a season where he posted career bests in ERA (3.43), ERA+ (116), WHIP (1.23), innings (204 2/3) and BB/9 (1.8). Porcello also has a solid 3.70 FIP over his last three seasons, has been extremely durable (he’s averaged 30 starts during his six seasons) and turned just 26 over the winter.
"We think Rick's a really good pitcher and we think he's a very talented pitcher who's driven to succeed and driven to be as good as he can possibly be," general manager Ben Cherington told MLB.com. "As I said before, in any negotiation, there's all sorts of variables. Performance is one of them, talent is one of them, age is one of them, team need is one. There's all sorts of variables you have to consider, and that was no different in this case. We're extremely happy that he's going to be a Red Sox for a long time."
Porcello will make his Red Sox debut on Wednesday in Philadelphia.
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Fantasy owners realize that closers are a volatile bunch. If they’re realistic, they should expect some turnover with their ninth-inning men during the season, whether due to poor performance and/or injury.
Typically, though, you don’t expect that turnover to happen before your closer throws a pitch.
Jenrry Mejia was warming up in the bullpen during Monday’s win over the Nationals but was never able to get loose due to tightness in his right elbow. Mejia will fly back to New York on Tuesday to undergo an MRI.
As Collins alluded to, elbow problems are nothing new with Mejia, as he had Tommy John surgery in 2011 and surgery to remove bone chips in 2013. Obviously, the worst-case scenario would be another ulnar collateral ligament tear, but we’ll just have to wait and see what the exam reveals.
Buddy Carlyle recorded his first career save Monday, retiring the final two batters of the game after Jerry Blevins got the first out of the ninth. However, Collins was forced to go with that combo rather than Jeurys Familia because Familia had already appeared in the game, striking out a pair in a perfect eighth inning. Collins said after the game that Familia would likely be his closer while Mejia is out. Former closer Bobby Parnell (who tore his UCL on Opening Day last season) is due back later this month and could eventually challenge for his old gig, but it’s hard to see that happening soon.
There was some closer news on the other side of the coast, as well, as Chris Hatcher notched his first career save in the Dodgers’ 6-3 win over the Padres. Hatcher started off the ninth inning by hitting Jedd Gyorko with a pitch, but he then induced a double-play ball before getting a strikeout to end it.
Manager Don Mattingly hasn’t named an interim closer while Kenley Jansen (foot) is sidelined, and it should be noted that Hatcher began warming up while the game was tied. However, after a pretty stress-free save on Monday, it stands to reason that Hatcher will likely get the ball again the next time the Dodgers have a save opportunity.
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The injury worry with Ryan Braun was supposed to concern his thumb, but it’s a different malady that he suffered on Opening Day that could force him to the disabled list.
Braun injured his right rib cage while making a play on a flyout in the fourth inning of Monday’s loss to the Rockies and eventually was removed in the sixth. The slugger didn’t want to speculate how serious the ailment was after the game.
"Nothing's set in stone. We'll just see where it's at [Tuesday]," Braun told MLB.com when asked whether he’ll undergo an MRI. "We'll address it in the morning, and then if it doesn't feel great, then it's probably something we would do."
Braun, who went on the disabled list with a strained right oblique last April, allayed some concerns about his thumb injury this spring by batting .395/.489/.763 with three home runs. He’s said that he doesn’t think the thumb is an issue anymore, possibly putting him in line for a big bounce-back campaign. This obviously isn’t the start to the season that he envisioned.
National League Quick Hits: Matt Cain underwent an MRI on Monday due to tightness in his right forearm ... Jake Peavy was scratched from Tuesday’s start due to a back injury, but he hopes to start on Sunday ... Johnny Cueto struck out 10 batters over seven shutout innings versus the Pirates on Monday ... The Pirates and Gregory Polanco have agreed to table contract extension negotiations until the offseason ... Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base, and a three-run home run in his Dodgers’ debut Monday ... Max Scherzer struck out eight and allowed three runs -- zero earned -- over 7 2/3 innings versus the Mets in his Nationals’ debut ... Nolan Arenado went 3-for-4 with a home run, four RBI, and three runs scored in Monday's Opening Day win over the Brewers ... Jorge De La Rosa (groin) is set to make a minor league rehab start Thursday at Triple-A Albuquerque ... Jaime Garcia (shoulder) has restarted his throwing program at the Cardinals' spring training complex ... Bartolo Colon struck out eight batters while spinning six frames of one-run ball in Monday's victory over the Nationals ... Kyle Kendrick fired seven scoreless innings Monday in a win over the Brewers ...
American League Quick Hits: Sonny Gray took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Monday against the Rangers, eventually settling for eight frames of shutout ball with one hit allowed ... David Price delivered 8 2/3 shutout innings Monday versus the Twins before giving way to Joe Nathan, who converted the one-out save ... Dallas Keuchel blanked the Indians over seven innings in an Opening Day win on Monday ... The Rangers signed Wandy Rodriguez to a minor league contract ... Felix Hernandez fanned 10 while holding the Angels to one run and two hits in seven innings Monday ... Alex Rios went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer and a steal in his Royals’ debut Monday ... Chris Tillman yielded one run in 6 2/3 innings in Monday's win over the Rays ... Yordano Ventura had to leave Monday's start against the White Sox due to a right thumb cramp, but he’ll be fine and he gave up just one run over six innings of work before exiting ... Drew Hutchison spun six innings of one-run ball in the Blue Jays' victory over the Yankees on Monday ... Devon Travis homered in his major league debut Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium ... Yoenis Cespedes finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored in his Tigers’ debut Monday ... Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Monday that Michael Saunders (knee) will miss a couple of more weeks ... Rajai Davis started in center field over Anthony Gose Monday versus righty Phil Hughes ...