Cook struggles with Red Sox while Matsuzaka rolls in Pawtucket

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Cook struggles with Red Sox while Matsuzaka rolls in Pawtucket

BOSTON Whats next for Aaron Cook?

The right-hander took the lost Tuesday, as the Red Sox fell to the Angels, 5-3, in first game of the three-game series at Fenway Park. Cook went five innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on a season-high 11 hits, including a two-run home run, and a walk, with a season-high four-strikeouts. His record fell to 3-7 while his ERA rose to 4.79.

His sinker appeared to be working early, as Cook induced four groundball outs in the first two innings. But the Angels soon got to Cook.

The Angels got a run in the third when Mike Trout hit a one-out single to center, taking second on right-hander Cooks errant pick-off attempt. With two outs, Trout scored on Albert Pujols single to center.

In the fourth, the Angels sent seven batters to the plate with five reaching base on consecutive hits, all singles. After Mike Trumbo struck out to open the inning, Howie Kendrick singled to right and Alberto Callaspo singled to left. Kendrick scored on Erick Aybars single to right, with Aybar thrown out trying to stretch a double. Chris Iannettas single to shortstop scored Callaspo. Trout singled before Hunter hit into a fielders choice.

The Angels added two runs in the fifth when Trumbos 30th home run of the season cleared the left field wall, scoring Kendrys Morales who had singled to center.

Cook threw 85 pitches, 55 for strikes.

Cookie had his groundball going again, Valentine said. We were hoping for one more there, instead it turned into a two-run homer. He had about, I dont know, counting the outs and the hits, probably 20 groundballs. Had his sinker working. It just wasnt placed well early in the game and the two-run homer kind of did him in.

I felt really good, said Cook. I felt like I was making pitches. They were just finding holes with those singles. Being a sinkerball pitcher, you kind of live off whether or not they hit the hole or hit it at your infielders. And they were able to string together a few of those in the holes. And then I left one pitch up on a 3-2 count to Trumbo and he hit it about as hard as you can hit a baseball.

They got a really tough lineup. The thing that I think we try to do is not worry about the whole lineup at one time, realizing that youre only going to face on person at a time and you got to attack that person, do everything you can to get them out and then worry about the next guy. Tonight I wish it would have turned out different but again I felt like I was making pitches and they were just finding some holes.

Cook was likely the closest pitcher on the Red Sox staff to Bob McClure, who was fired Monday. The two go back to their time together with the Rockies, who drafted Cook in the second round in 1997.

It was difficult, Cook said of McClures dismissal. Hes a guy that I have a reallong history with. Hes the one individual I probably give the most credit for helping me make it to the big leagues. So it was kind of tough but the organization made a decision. Were going to move on and come back and continue to work with new pitching coach Randy Niemann, who was promoted from assistant pitching coach. Nemo knows these pitchers just as well as Mac did. Its a new page.

Now, its up to Valentine and Niemann to determine Cooks role. The Red Sox are 4-7 in his starts this season. But in his last eight starts since July 4, Cook is just 1-6 with a 6.35 ERA.

Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has been on the disabled list since July 3 with a right trapezius strain, made his fifth rehab appearance Tuesday night for Triple-A Pawtucket. He went seven scoreless innings (plus two batters in the eighth), giving up just one hit and four walks with seven strikeouts. In his current rehab assignment, which began July 30 with Pawtucket, he is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA. Overall, he is 1-4 with a 3.32 ERA in 13 rehab starts this season, after beginning the year on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery. He has made five major league starts, going 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA.

Both Cook and Matsuzaka would be scheduled to pitch next on Sunday. Which of the right-handers will be starting at Fenway against the Royals remains to be seen.

Much too early to figure that one out, Valentine said. Well see, watch the film, see Dice tomorrow, see how he feels. and talk it over with everyone.

Cook said he is not concerned about that decision.

Nope, not one bit, he said. Its not my decision. Im just going to take the ball and throw when they tell me. Whatever happens happens.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.