Crawford heads to Portland, Ellsbury not far behind

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Crawford heads to Portland, Ellsbury not far behind

OAKLAND -- Carl Crawford will continue his rehab assignment closer to Boston Tuesday when he joins the Double A Portland Sea Dogs of the Eastern League.

And it may not be long before Jacoby Ellsbury joins him there.

Crawford traveled from Fort Myers to Boston to undergo a medical check-up Monday. He'll join Portland for Tuesday.

In the meantime, Ellsbury played center field for the team's Gulf Coast League affiliate Monday against the Orioles' affiliate in Sarasota. Ellsbury was 1-for-2 with a homer, groundout and walk.

The plan calls for Ellsbury to DH for the Gulf Coast League affiliate Tuesday, after which he, too, may go to Portland to continue his rehab.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza take their place among legends in Cooperstown

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Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza take their place among legends in Cooperstown

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Two players who began their careers at opposite ends of the spectrum nearly three decades ago ended up in the same place on Sunday — with their names etched on plaques at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, the culmination of their long journeys was tinged with tears all around.

"I stand up here humbled and overwhelmed," Griffey said, staring out at his family and tens of thousands of fans. "I can't describe how it feels."

The two became a piece of history on their special day. Griffey, the first pick of the 1987 amateur draft, became the highest pick ever inducted. Piazza, a 62nd-round pick the next year —No. 1,390 — is the lowest pick to enter the Hall of Fame.

Griffey played 22 big-league seasons with the Mariners, Reds and White Sox and was selected on a record 99.32 percent of ballots cast, an affirmation of sorts for his clean performance during baseball's so-called Steroids Era.

A 13-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field, Griffey hit 630 home runs, sixth all-time, and drove in 1,836 runs. He also was the American League MVP in 1997, drove in at least 100 runs in eight seasons, and won seven Silver Slugger Awards.

Griffey, who fell just three votes shy of being the first unanimous selection, hit 417 of his 630 homers and won all 10 of his Gold Gloves with the Seattle Mariners. He played the first 11 seasons of his career with the Mariners and led them to the playoffs for the first two times in franchise history.

"Thirteen years with the Seattle Mariners, from the day I got drafted, Seattle, Washington, has been a big part of my life," Griffey said, punctuating the end of his speech by putting a baseball cap on backward as he did throughout his career.

"I'm going to leave you with one thing. In 22 years I learned that one team will treat you the best, and that's your first team. I'm damn proud to be a Seattle Mariner."

Dubbed "The Natural" for his effortless excellence at the plate and in center field, Griffey avoided the Hall of Fame until his special weekend because he wanted his first walk through the front doors of the stately building on Main Street to be with his kids, whom he singled out one by one in his 20-minute speech.

"There are two misconceptions about me — I didn't work hard and everything I did I made look easy," Griffey said. "Just because I made it look easy doesn't mean that it was. You don't become a Hall of Famer by not working, but working day in and day out."

Griffey's mom, Birdie, and his father, former Cincinnati Reds star Ken Sr., both cancer survivors and integral to his rise to stardom, were front and center in the first row.

"To my dad, who taught me how to play this game and to my mom, the strongest woman I know," Junior said. "To have to be mom and dad, she was our biggest fan and our biggest critic. She's the only woman I know that lives in one house and runs five others."

Selected in the draft by the Dodgers after Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, a close friend of Piazza'a father, Vince, put in a good word, Piazza struggled.

He briefly quit the game while in the minor leagues, returned and persevered despite a heavy workload as he switched from first base to catcher and teammates criticized his erratic play.

Mom and dad were foremost on his mind, too.

"Dad always dreamed of playing in the major leagues," said Piazza, just the second Hall of Famer depicted on his plaque wearing a Mets cap, after Tom Seaver in 1992.

"He could not follow that dream because of the realities of life. My father's faith in me, often greater than my own, is the single most important factor of me being inducted into this Hall of Fame. Thank you dad. We made it, dad. The race is over. Now it's time to smell the roses."

Piazza played 16 years with the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres and Athletics and hit 427 home runs, including a major league record 396 as a catcher. A 12-time All-Star, Piazza won 10 Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top five of his league's MVP voting four times.

Perhaps even more impressive, Piazza, a .308 career hitter, posted six seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average (all other catchers in baseball history combined have posted nine such seasons).

Though the Dodgers gave him his start, Piazza found a home in New York when he was traded to the Mets in May 1998.

Three years later, he became a hero to the hometown fans with perhaps the most notable home run of his career. His two-run shot in the eighth inning at Shea Stadium lifted the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the first sporting event played in New York after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Piazza paid tribute to that moment.

"To witness the darkest evil of the human heart ... will be forever burned in my soul," Piazza said. "But from tragedy and sorrow came bravery, love, compassion, character and eventual healing.

"Many of you give me praise for the two-run home run in the first game back on Sept. 21st, but the true praise belongs to police, firefighters, first responders that knew that they were going to die, but went forward anyway. I pray that we never forget their sacrifice."

Attendance was estimated at around 50,000 by the Hall of Fame, tying 1999 when George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Young were inducted, for second-most all time behind 2007 (Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn).

Copyright The Associated Press

 

First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

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First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

BOSTON -- First impressions of the Red Sox' 8-7 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Fenway Park:
 
Rick Porcello did all he needed to do.

Although he’s still undefeated thus far at home (10-0), Porcello’s start could have easily gone better for him -- especially if Brock Holt catches a few fly balls hit his way.

Regardless, he's 13-2 with a 3.57 ERA and still maintained the title of Boston’s “most reliable pitcher.”

Yes, he gave up five runs -- but four were earned. And Juan Centeno’s “double” that was lost in the sun by Holt should’ve been caught -- accounting for at least one more run.

Porcello had another start where the bullpen was overworked the previous day in a tough loss. Furthermore, his teammates were expected to perform a little more than 12 hours after a rough four-hour contest.

This is a game where the numbers don’t do his performance justice -- but at the same time, Porcello left the bullpen to hold a three-run lead in the final 2 1/3 innings.
 
The Red Sox need Mookie Betts back in right.

If that wasn’t made evident with Michael Martinez’s play Saturday night, Holt made it clear when he couldn’t corral Max Kepler’s deep fly to right in the fourth.

Although the sun could’ve played a factor, Holt got there in time. So the ball has to be caught. Instead, he was too worried about the hip-height wall that he was heading toward at full steam.

Not too mention the fly ball he dropped looking into the sun in the seventh -- which was somehow ruled a hit. As much as the Green Monster is a difficult beast to master, right field at Fenway can be just as difficult.
 
Hanley Ramirez continues to take advantage of pitcher’s mistakes.

The best part about Ramirez’s third-inning, three-run blast was it came on a first pitch changeup -- not exactly something hitters are sitting on out the gate.

Additionally, Tommy Millone’s changeup ran in on Ramirez, instead of away from him -- given Millone is a lefty and Ramirez a right-handed hitter.

If Ramirez gets that pitch a month ago, he rips in foul or rolls over the top of it. Instead, he keeps displaying that he can still pull the ball with power.

Kelly ready for his new role as a Red Sox reliever

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Kelly ready for his new role as a Red Sox reliever

BOSTON -- He had to make a longer trip than the rest of his team to Fenway Park for Sunday’s game, but Joe Kelly was more than happy when he got the call at midnight that he was leaving Columbus before his Pawtucket teammates so he could pitch in Boston again.

The righty rejoins the Red Sox for the first time as a reliever since Boston acquired him from St. Louis in the John Lackey trade in 2014. Kelly is expected to not only fill the vacancy left by Heath Hembree -- who was demoted to Triple-A after the game Saturday -- but to lighten the workload on Matt Barnes, Brad Ziegler and other relievers since key pieces of the bullpen went on the disabled list.

And the righty said he’s ready for his new role.

“My body and arm got ready a lot quicker than it would of if I was starting,” Kelly said. “It’s weird to see how your body feels on different days when you still have to get in the game. As a starter, you only have to prepare for that fifth day and if your body doesn’t feel that great in between those days it’s all right.”

Kelly’s apprehensions about pitching on consecutive days might sound like a cause for concern, but he also explained that he’s put himself through the ringer in to be in a position to succeed. He's also had good results at Pawtucket (no runs allowed in five relief innings with one walk and nine strikeouts) after compiling an 8.46 ERA in six starts this season in Boston.

“Out of the bullpen it was good to see different situations,” Kelly said. “[Sometimes I would] get a workout in before the game and go out and pitch that game just to see how I would respond. Pretty much did all the different type of scenarios to see where my arm and body was at.”

That preparation not only addresses the physical toll relieving can take, but also the mental toll.

So, now Kelly should be able to hop into any situation if he’s has worse command than he expects -- of which he noted an improvement.

“Yeah the command feels good right now for the most part with my secondary pitches,” Kelly said. “There hasn’t been a game yet where I’ve had a chance to throw more than two or three of them. For the most part, I’m getting one or two of the off-speed pitches over for a strike.

“And location of the fastball has been pretty good. Not exactly where I maybe where I want it to be, but for the most part it’s been if I want to miss it to a side of the plate, it’s been on that site.”

And now with the move to the bullpen, Kelly really only needs one good off-speed pitch to pair with his five-alarm fastball.

Given he has three to turn to -- including his curve that he said has reached 86 mph -- Kelly should be able to find more success in his shortened appearances.

“I’ve been using slider and curveball for the most part,” Kelly said. “Curveballs to lefties, but recently I’ve been getting some success on curveballs to righties because the velocity has been a little bit higher. Whatever pitch is working the best for me that day -- curveball, slider, changeup -- that’s what I’m probably going to use out there in the game.”

With that advantage Kelly is hunting for strikeouts now more than ever.

He went as far to say he’ll either strike a guy out or walk the batter if he enters the game with a runner on third in order to save the run.
 
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to strike everyone out as a reliever now,” Kelly said.

The Red Sox hope he won’t work to many 3-and-2 counts in that scenario.