Cook uses right ingredients in second start for Sox

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Cook uses right ingredients in second start for Sox

BOSTON Barring a total calamity, Aaron Cooks second start with the Red Sox this season was virtually ensured of going better than his first.

In his first outing, May 5 facing the Orioles, Cook lasted just 2 23 innings, giving up seven runs, six earned, on eight hits and a walk with one home run. He was hurt covering home plate on a passed ball in the second inning, when his left shin was spiked opening a gash that required 11 stitches. Despite the injury, Cook stayed in the game.

But he was placed on the disabled list the next day with a record of 0-1 and a bloated 20.25 ERA.He had been working his way back since then. He was scheduled to make his second rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Pawtucket but was pulled just before game time.

In both major league starts Cook was pressed into service because of health concerns with other starters.In his first outing, he was taking the place of Josh Beckett, who was sidelined with a lat strain. On Sunday, the Sox needed him to fill in for Clay Buchholz, who has been hospitalized with gastrointestinal issues and placed on the 15-day DL (retroactive to June 20).

Against the Braves Sunday Cook went five innings, giving up three runs, two earned, on six hits, with no walks and no strikeouts, as the Sox won, 9-4. He earned the win, improving to 1-1, lowering his ERA to 9.39. Working at a brisk tempo, Cook threw 79 pitches, 48 strikes.

Cook kept the Braves off the scoreboard through the first four innings, giving up just three this, on 55 pitches, 34 strikes.

He faltered in the fifth, though, allowing the first four batters to reach base. Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons opened the inning with singles, scoring on Eric Hinskes triple to the deepest part of center field. Juan Francisco reached on Cooks error, with Hinske scoring. But Cook got out of the inning with no further damage, turning the game over to the bullpen.

It was his first win since Aug. 11, 2011, with the Rockies against the Marlins.

Aaron Cook was, I think, even a little more than I was hoping for, said manager Bobby Valentine. Got up close to 80 pitches and really only had that one ball to center field that was hit hard. The guys on before that, a groundball and a broken bat. But he worked quickly. His sinker looked good. He elevated some balls, threw inside to left-handers a little better than I had seen him in spring training or the last time out. It was a good job.

Although he had had just one rehab start with Pawtucket -- going four innings Monday night at Syracuse, giving up three runs on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts, throwing 66 pitches -- Cook said that was enough.

Ive been doing it a long time. So its kind of like riding a bike, he said. Once you get your pitch count up to a certain level its just a matter of going out there and executing and letting the mechanics take care of everything and thats what I was able to do today.

Im really close to 100-percent, probably 85-, 90-percent of where I was. The biggest thing would be get my pitch count back up. I was at 66 pitches in my last Triple-A start. Sunday I was at 79 pitches. So I felt really good. It was nice to get out there and pitch some quality innings and get a win today.

Cook got nine of 15 outs on groundballs, a good sign that his signature sinker is working.

Actually, I felt a lot sharper than I did my last outing down in Pawtucket, he said. So actually kind of surprised. But my sinker was working, my cutter was working, and me and catcher Kelly Shoppach got into a great rhythm early and just keep going.

With Beckett on the DL, eligible to be activated Wednesday, and Buchholz, eligible to be activated July 5 although the severity of his health concerns is not known Cook is likely to stay in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Barring an unforeseen calamity.

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.