First pitch: Here and now

811894.jpg

First pitch: Here and now

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- He is not, all initial appearances to the contrary, the second coming of Joe Morgan or Robbie Alomar.

In fact, there's nothing to suggest he's even an everyday major leaguer.

He's not a "kid'' as some insist on labeling him -- he'll be 27 in September, in fact -- and he's not the future, someone around whom a team can build.

Pedro Ciriaco is the present. He's right now, this week, which, with Dustin Pedroia sidelined, is all the Red Sox really need.

Ciriaco made his presence felt again Friday night as the second half the season began, looking, at least as far as Ciriaco's concerned, very much like the end of the first half.

Ciriaco had three hits, and OK, two of them were bloopers, perfectly placed rather than solidly hit. But another was driven up the middle with the bases loaded and scored two runs, enough to provide the margin of victory in the Red Sox' 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Last weekend, making his debut for the Red Sox, Ciriaco introduced himself loudly, collecting seven hits in his first three games. In the second game of a day-night doubleheader against the Yankees, Ciriaco carried the Sox to their only win in the four-game set with four hits,
four RBI, two runs scored and one stolen base.

When he followed that with another three-hit night in the final game of the first half, he went into the break on a high, and, to some, the newest cult hero.

"Where's this guy been?'' wondered Red Sox fans.

All over the place, is the answer. Signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of the Domincan Republic in 2003, he spent seven years in their system before being included in a deal to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010.

He appeared in 31 games with the Pirates in 2010 and 2011, accumulating 13 hits in those games, or three more than he's had with the Red Sox in his first four games.

A minor league free agent last winter, he enjoyed a fabulous spring training, but failed to make the roster as the Red Sox went with veteran utility man Nick Punto as the lone utility man.

He was flown to Kansas City in early May when it appeared that rookie Will Middlebrooks might need time on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, but was never activated.

He returned to the Sox last week when Dustin Pedroia finally accepted the inevitable and went on the DL. And he's made people notice.

"I feel pretty good,'' said Ciriaco after his heroics Friday. "We got the win tonight. (On the two-run single), I wasn't trying to do too much, just trying to go up the middle. It'a good feeling and I feel happy to be able to help the team.

"(Getting the opportunity to play more) is huge for me. Every time I get a chance to wear the uniform and be a part of the Red Sox team is huge.''

Ciriaco is humble and hungry, appreciative and accepting. He understands he's not about to become a fixture with the Sox and there's every chance that when Pedroia returns in a week or so, Ciriaco will likely return to Pawtucket, where he'll stay until another injury befalls the Sox, or, failing that, rosters expand on Sept. 1.

But for now, he's enjoying the ride.

Bobby Valentine, who was a big Ciriaco booster in the spring, isn't under any illusions.

Asked Thursday whether Ciriaco's play was a case of a late-bloomer who suddenly had it all figured out, or just a hot streak, Valentine smiled.

"I think it's more of a good stretch, a good opportunity,'' said Valentine evenly, "taking the best of the opportunity. But there are some things he does and does pretty well.''

For now, which is all the Red Sox care about.

Sunday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: JBJ sits, Vazquez catches

red_sox_jackie_bradley_060816.jpg

Sunday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: JBJ sits, Vazquez catches

Jackie Bradley Jr. gets the day off and Christian Vazquez get the start at catcher as the Red Sox look to extend their winning streak to 11 games today against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. 

Andrew Benintendi replaces Bradley in center, Chris Young is in left and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.84 ERA) is on the mound as the Red Sox close in on the A.L. East title. Their magic number to clinch the division is three with seven games left. 

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.73) is on the mound for the Rays.

The lineups:  

RED SOX 
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez LF
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Andrew Benintendi CF
Christian Vazquez C
---
Eduardo Rodriguez LHP 

RAYS
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SS
Mikey Mahtook RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Curt Casali DH
Luke Maile C
Richie Shaffer 1B
---
Jake Odorizzi RHP 
 

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

miami-marlins-jose-fernandez.jpg

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

MIAMI  — Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.

Authorities said Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

"Hands down one of my favorite guys to watch pitch! He brought nothing but intensity and passion," Red Sox pitcher David Price said on Twitter early Sunday.

Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said FWC's Lorenzo Veloz.

"We are stunned and devastated," Major League Baseball said in a statement.

City of Miami Fire-Rescue workers were seen carrying bodies, draped and on stretchers, at the Coast Guard station after sunrise Sunday. The names of the other two individuals are being withheld pending notification of relatives, the Coast Guard said.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year and was enormously popular in Miami.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times — landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries — before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.

"I'm still in shock," former Marlins player Gaby Sanchez said on Twitter. "The world has lost a remarkable person. You will be missed and my heart goes out to the Fernandez family."

© 2016 Associated Press.