Ciriaco's impressive spring continues

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Ciriaco's impressive spring continues

FORT MYERS, Fla. Pedro Ciriaco entered Mondays game against the Marlins batting .556, going 5-for-9 in seven Grapefruit League games this spring. He only got one hit in the game, going 1-for-2, lowering his average to .545, but it was the hit that counted a two-run, walk-off home run in the 10th inning, as the Red Sox beat the Marlins, 5-3.

Ciriaco, who signed with the Sox as a free agent in December, was originally signed by the Diamondbacks as an amateur free agent from Puerto Rico in 2003. He made his big league debut in 2010 with the Pirates, and appeared in 31 major league games with Pittsburgh over the last two seasons.

This spring he has played second base, third base, and shortstop for the Sox.

While he may not be among the more heralded players in camp this spring, his play has not gone unnoticed.

Im very impressed, said manager Bobby Valentine. Hes stolen bases when hes been asked to steal. Hes made the plays defensively. Hes bunted extremely well for base hits. He had a hit and run. And today he hits a home run to win the game. So theres nothing else that he can do to impress people. He had like one bad at-bat since hes been here, where he swung at a slider with a 2-2 count that was a little outside. But hes pretty good.

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.