Adrian's in the Outfield


Adrian's in the Outfield

By Rich Levine

The Red Sox have six games remaining on their tour through the National League, which means that starting Tuesday in Philly, well only have SIX more days to discuss the most worn out debate in Boston! So, lets waste no time and get right into it:

Should the Sox play Adrian Gonzalez in their interleague outfield?

You know the deal by now. As they make their rounds of N.L. parks, the Sox are without their DH, a-k-a David Ortiz, a-k-a their second-most productive hitter. As a result, the only way to get Ortiz into the lineup is to play him at first base, a spot occupied by the teams most productive hitter Gonzalez. Thus, by the commutative property of baseball, the only way for the Sox to have their two most productive hitters in the same line-up is to shift Gonzalez to the outfield, and move Ortiz to first.

If only it were that easy.

For the first three games of the trip (two of which the Sox lost to Pittsburgh), Terry Francona resisted the temptation to switch up his superstars, instead opting to keep Papi in the holster as a pinch-hitter. The argument is that moving Gonzalez to the outfield puts him at a greater risk of injury. When you have a 150 million investment, you do everything you can to protect it. When you have a 150 million investment that just happens to be worth every penny? Youre going to be extra careful. And thats what Tito is doing. To this point, hes less interested in keeping David Ortiz in tune along on his most explosive first half since 2006 than he is preserving Gonzalez. He probably figures, Hey, lets just get through these nine games without any tragedy, seamlessly slip back into our regularly scheduled season and forget this interleague mess ever happened. After all, the next time the DH will be an issue is if the Sox make the World Series, and by then, any indecision will be a small price to pay for the fact that the Sox are in the World Series! Okay, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. For now lets just focus on the immediate future, the six games remaining on the Interleague schedule, and the question:

Should the Sox play Adrian Gonzalez in their interleague outfield?

Heres a six-pack of reasons why the answer is YES.

1. David Ortiz

Hes had an unreal resurgence. Still, this isnt the old lovable Big Papi. A lots changed since his glory years in Boston. Theres resentment towards the club for the lack of an extension, and theres a lot of animosity towards the media for the steroids stuff and what he perceives as unfair coverage during his slow starts the past few seasons. In both cases, hes probably justified, but still, this DH deal just feels like a recipe for the bad blood to spill over again. You know that if he cant get back on track after this break, hell blame the break. And once he starts underperforming, all those complications (from the contract and the public scrutiny) rise to the forefront. The pinch-hitting just messes with his head, and at this stage, his head might be just as important as his bat.

2. The line-up needs it

Listen, its not like the Sox were on fire before losing Ortiz. They lost two straight to the Padres prior to this trip, and in those two games, Ortiz went 0-for-8. So maybe he was due for a rest anyway. But now the rest is over. The Sox need their best lineup out there, or at least their best under the conditions. And, despite our previous assumptions that those days were over, theres no scenario where Ortiz doesnt give them the best chance to win. Is it just nine, or even now, six games? Sure, but in case you didnt notice, the Yankees are back in first. The Sox need their best bats, and Papis once again earned that status.

3. Liability, my Asdrubal Cabrerea
Over the last four seasons, the Red Sox are 21-6 in games that Ortiz starts at first. Talk all you want about how much of a liability he is, that doesnt stop the Sox from winning.

4. No J.D. Drew!

We are, at the very most, four months away from the end of the J.D. Drew era, and that knowledge, no matter how often (or under what circumstances) it crosses my mind, will always put a smile on my face.

But its not enough. Forget four months, I dont need to see another four innings of J.D. Drew in Boston. Any excuse to get him off the field is fine, the Sox will always be better off.

(What I find especially crazy is that Drew is still finding ways to get worse. He cant even get injured the right way anymore. He fouled a ball off his face in batting practice yesterday, but isnt supposed to miss ANY time? Who are you?! And what have you done with robot J.D.!?)

5. Gonzalez wants to play.

Maybe wants to is too much, but hes more than willing to make the switch if its what gives this team the best chance to win. So, its not like theyre forcing Gonzalez into a situation where hes uncomfortable. He doesnt even think its an issue. In his mind, hes only playing the outfield. Whats the big deal?

6. Hes only playing the outfield! What's the big deal?

I understand the need to protect your investments. With the way Gonzalez has played this season, I understand the desire to keep him in a routine. I also understand that Gonzalez isnt a great of an outfielder, and maybe a little bit of a liability himself. I get all that.

But, seriously, were all terrified that hes going to hurt himself playing the outfield? Is that really the extent to which were coddling these guys now? Believe me, this isnt a criticism of Gonzalez. Like I said, hes ready to roll. Im just wondering what everyone is so scared about. He wont have linebackers trying to behead him, a defenseman looking to tattoo him against the boards or a seven-foot monster looking to pile drive him into the hardwood.

Hes playing the outfield. And I know there are risks involved with that, but . . . come on! Not to go AI on you here, but we talkin bout outfield?!

Please. Hell be fine. Theyre paying this guy 150 million, youd think he be okay to run around in the outfield for a few days. He certainly thinks so.

And so should Francona. Forget the worrying and the over-coddling and just give A-Gon a crack in right field. Let Ortiz get back in the flow, before you lose him.

And turn this thing back around.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Older, wiser Gronk: 'When the journey is over... you need to get down'


Older, wiser Gronk: 'When the journey is over... you need to get down'

FOXBORO -- The move did not require Olympic-caliber speed or other-worldly quickness. There was a subtle head fake, a foot in the ground, a shoulder turn. All of a sudden, Rob Gronkowski was wide open in the middle of the field and reeling in a Tom Brady pass for 37 yards in the fourth quarter of last weekend's win over the Steelers. 

Bill Belichick raved about the play on days after the fact. What Gronkowski did to safety Robert Golden was a thing of beauty in the eyes of the coach.

"This really is a good look at Rob’s route-running ability," Belichick said. "Rob comes in on Golden and takes it down the middle, like he’s going to run a crossing pattern or over route, and gives him a good move here and bends it back out. The receivers clear out the corners. That’s a lot of space there."

Gronkowski's move, combined with the steady diet of crossing routes teams have seen from the Patriots in recent weeks, helped set up the play that led to LeGarrette Blount's second touchdown of the day. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end was like a power pitcher who had been throwing fastballs for six innings and then pulled the string with a change-up in the seventh. Golden was helpless. 

"The number of times we’ve run Rob on over routes, and to come back and counter it -- it looks like Golden is trying to guess on the route and undercut it a little bit. Rob comes back away from it and turns it into a big play and sets up our last touchdown. Really a well-executed play by Rob.

“Sometimes you think it’s all size and strength, but as a technique route runner, he’s very good, too."

A quick mid-route shimmy. A look in one direction before heading in another. A nudge -- sometimes picking up a flag, sometimes not. They're all elements of route-running that Gronkowski has added to his tool belt over the course of his seven years with the Patriots. Considered the team's resident frat boy, it's sometimes hard to remember that he's one of the longest-tenured players on the team, a captain, and that he's picked up his share veteran tricks along the way.  

"I’ve definitely had to work it out plenty since I’ve been here," Gronkowski said of his route-running. "To be successful in this organization and this offense you just got to be working on it big time. It’s not just you just come in and you have it. From day one I remember I could barely even get open but just learning from Tom, from all my coaches here, it definitely helps out going out and focusing on your route detail. 

"Sometimes, necessarily, you don’t have to be the best skilled player out on the field to get open. It’s just learning the game of football, how to get open, what move to make is definitely all part of it."

Getting open is only part of it.

What he does with the football in his hands to run away from defenders is something that comes naturally. What hasn't always clicked for Gronkowski is how to finish. He has a tendency to want to impose his will on opponents at the ends of plays, running them over and leaving them behind, or embarrassing them and their loved ones by dragging them for inordinate amounts of time as he churns forward for extra yards. 

But in recent years, he's accepted that not every play needs to end with an exclamation point. He has come to understand that oftentimes a simple period will do.

Take his 37-yard catch against the Steelers, for example. When he got near the sideline and faced down a Pittsburgh defensive back, instead of trying to trample him to get to the goal line, he lowered his pads, shielded his legs, and went down.

"You always got to protect yourself whenever you can," he said. "You know, when the journey is done, if you’re running the ball, just get down and don’t take that extra shot. You can always show your toughness, you can have five guys take you down, but really that’s sometimes not the case. 

"You really want to show that you just want to get down, you want to preserve your body for the next play when the journey is done and you’re not going to get any more yards."

More often than not, it's the prudent choice. Mature, even. 

"It started coming in the last few years," Gronkowski said. "I remember a couple times my rookie year I'd just try and ‘Boom!' I remember I’d be like, ‘Oh, that one hurt.’ It hurt to go one more inch. 

"Definitely, when the journey is over and you know you gave it all -- you’re not going to be able to carry five guys, sometimes not even two guys -- whenever you just feel like you need to get down, you need to get down. It’s a physical game. Every play is going to be physical so save it for the next one."

Spoken like a savvy veteran. 

Stevens, Celtics expect to use similar rotation vs. Bulls


Stevens, Celtics expect to use similar rotation vs. Bulls

The Boston Celtics’ bench was unable to close out Wednesday’s 122-117 win over Brooklyn, but don’t look for head coach Brad Stevens to make any significant changes tonight.

“I felt pretty good about those rotations last night,” Stevens told reporters prior to tonight’sgame against Chicago. “For forty minutes, we rotated well.”

After a relatively close first quarter, it was Boston’s second unit that gave Boston its first double-digit lead of the night and led by as many as 13 points.

But it wasn’t their scoring that jumped out to Stevens.

“The second unit came in and provided probably our best defensive sequence of the game, start of the second quarter and played really well until the end,” Stevens said.

Stevens played a total of 10 players against the Nets – all playing in the first half - and will likely have a similar number of Celtics on the floor tonight against the Bulls.

It will be interesting to see what the Celtics do rotation-wise when Marcus Smart (left ankle sprain) and Kelly Olynk (right shoulder) are back on the active roster.

Smart recently confirmed an earlier report that the left ankle injury he suffered in the Celtics’ final preseason game against the New York Knicks, would keep him out for a couple of weeks.

In addition to missing the season opener against Brooklyn, Smart is likely to miss another three games.

Olynyk, who had offseason surgery in May, has been cleared for contact but is not expected to be back on the floor until the middle of next month.

“Until our other guys get back,” Stevens said. “There will be similar rotations.”