Germano silver lining during Saturday loss

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Germano silver lining during Saturday loss

It wasn't easy to find a bright spot in the Red Sox' 6-1 loss to the New York Yankees, the team's fifth straight defeat.

The Sox were punchless offensively, being held to two runs or fewer for the seventh time in the last nine games and starter Franklin Morales was pounded for four homers and six runs in just 3 13 innings.

There was a silver lining. His name was Justin Germano.

Germano took over for Morales with one out in the fourth and pitched shutout ball the rest of the way, allowing five hits over the final 5 23 innings while striking out seven and walking just two.

It was his first appearance for the Red Sox, and it resulted in Germano getting a standing ovation as he came off the mound after the top of the ninth.

"He did exactly what he was doing at Triple A,'' said Bobby Valentine, "and I'm glad that it translated here. They said that he had used all of his pitches, thrown strikes and gotten outs
and give you a chance to win. In today's game, he was very valuable in that he was the second pitcher and the last pitcher.''

Indeed, Germano's outing -- excellent as it was -- was also noteworthy since it meant the Sox didn't have to burn the bullpen. On a day in which they were playing a doubleheader, and coming just after a night in which starter Josh Beckett lasted only five innings, there's no telling how important that was.

"I was just trying to go out there and eat as many innings as I could,'' said Germano. "I'm glad I was able to finish it and save the bullpen. It's tough, because you don't want things to
get out of control. You want to just go out there and try to make your pitches and try to keep the score as close as you can and keep your team in there.''

Ordinarily, in a long-relief, mopup stint, pitchers would focus on throwing strikes and making them hit the ball. But against a lineup as fearsome as New York's, such a basic approach has its own dangers, since the Yankees are capable of piling on.

"You want to attack the zone,'' said Germano, "but you have to throw qualilty strikes. You really have to try to keep them off balance and mix it up the best you can.''

The appearance ended a whirlwind week for Germano, who was pitching at Pawtucket but ready to utilize a July 1 opt-out clause in his contract to go elsewhere if the Sox didn't add him to the major league roster.

He flew cross-country Tuesday afternoon, then returned home from Oakland to Boston the very next afternoon before making his Boston debut Saturday.

"I knew it was going to be tough for them to make room for me (on the roster),'' he said. "I honestly didn't think they were going to, but I'm glad they did. It's a great organization to be
a part of and I'm glad I got the chance to come up here and show them what I can do.''

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.''