Fluke injury dooms Cook's first outing

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Fluke injury dooms Cook's first outing

BOSTON After beginning his season in Triple A, and negotiating a call-up, this was not the way Aaron Cook wanted to begin his Red Sox career.

Facing the Orioles at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon, Cook cruised through the first inning. He needed just nine pitches to induce three groundballs to shortstop Mike Aviles.

But, his fortunes turned in the second. With two outs, he gave up consecutive hits, putting runners at first and third. On a passed ball by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Chris Davis broke from third, Cook rushing to cover the plate. While Davis scored, the bigger damage was to Cooks left knee, which landed on Davis spike opening a gash that would eventually require 11 stitches.

Cook left the field and went to the dugout, appearing to be done Clayton Mortense ran in from the dugout to take the mound. But after a short delay, Cook returned to the mound. He got out of the inning, with another groundball out, but was mostly ineffective from that point. After retiring Robert Andino to lead off the third, he allowed the next seven batters to reach base. Of the final 11 batters he faced, nine reached base with seven scoring.

When I slid into the plate I came down on top of his back spike and at first I didnt think it was that bad and Salty was like, Hey, you might want to take a look at it. I see blood coming down your pants. When I looked at it, it was just kind of fileted open a little bit. So went back in the dugout and had the trainers just wrap it up real tight and try to put as much pressure on it as possible. My leg started getting numb after that. But it was my decision. I wanted to go out there and try to eat up some more innings. The bullpens been kind of taxed. But at the end of the day I dont know if it was the best decision, but it was what I was wanting to do."

Cook lasted just 2 23 innings, giving up seven runs, six earned on eight hits and a walk with a home run and a wild pitch. He was charged with the loss, his ERA at 20.25, as the Sox fell, 8-2.

I was feeling really good the first two innings then all of a sudden my pitches were up in the zone in the third inning, he said. So to be honest , my knee and the front of my leg was kind of numb. So I was really just out there throwing all arm and thats when you start to see the ball get flat and it was just up in the zone. So I just made bad pitches after that. I probably could have thrown a little bit slower and got down in the zone. But it was just one of those days.

I think it affected him a lot, Saltalamacchia said of Cooks injury. You got to change your motions a little bit Just a lot of stuff goes on when you got a hole in your knee. But he got back in there. I was surprised he even came back and pitched.

It was not the way Cook wanted to start.

Its frustrating, Cook said. But theres things you can control. Things you cant control. Like I said I was trying to stop in front of the plate and he made a perfect slide into the plate. My momentum took me into the plate. I knew I cant control things that happen like that. So Im going to try to keep a smile on my face. Try to encourage the guys, and come out tomorrow and see how it feels.

Its uncertain what is next for Cook, or if this injury will set him back.

The medical staff thought he was OK to pitch and they said he should be OK to pitch next time, said manager Bobby Valentine. Im not sure.

Cook was delayed in spring training, a cautionary move because of past shoulder injuries. This is one of several odd injuries hes incurred, in addition to a broken leg and broken finger.

Thats just the way life is, he said. We were out there, I was trying to make a good baseball play, I was trying to stop in front of the plate, thats why I slid. And its just one of those things that happens. Its part of baseball.

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''