Gonzalez homers in the midst of struggles

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Gonzalez homers in the midst of struggles

BOSTON With his three-run, go-ahead home run in the seventh inning, Adrian Gonzalez was destined to be the star of Sundays game.

That was until Sean Rodriguezs two-run, go-ahead home run off Alfredo Aceves in the ninth inning proved to be the game winner, as the Rays beat the Red Sox, 4-3, at Fenway Park.

The home run was Gonzalezs only hit in four at-bats in the game. While it gave him a seven-game hitting streak, a season high, Gonzalez has been mired in a slump for his standards.

Since going 2-for-4 against the Indians on May 13, Gonzalez has had more than one hit in a game just once, on May 20 in Philadelphia.

In 13 games since May 14, Gonzalez is 10-for-49 (.204) with three doubles, two home runs, seven RBI, two walks, and 14 strikeouts.

If I have a good game plan and Im able to execute it, with the swing Ive got I should be able to have success, Gonzalez said. Ive just got to game plan better.

As he did in the seventh. The home run just his fourth of the season and second at Fenway off Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson Sunday, into the first row of seats in the Monsters left field corner could be a sign that he is rebounding.

David Ortiz walked to lead off the seventh with Kevin Youkilis on with a single to set the stage for Gonzalezs home run on a 1-0 changeup.

"That was huge. That was huge, Ortiz said of Gonzalezs home run. Especially against Hellickson. He don't give you anything man. He tries to hit his spot always, otherwise, you've got to chase something out of the strike zone. That's what makes him so good."

Gonzalez entered the game just 2-for-14 (.143) with a home run and four RBI against the Rays starter. Hellickson knew almost immediately Gonzalezs ball was gone.

"I thought I made a pretty good pitch to Gonzalez, but he got it up, Hellickson said. I thought it was gone. He put a good swing on it."

"It was big, Valentine said. It put us ahead. If he gets on a roll, we could let him carry us for a little while. It would be good to see him do that."

Gonzalez started the last two games and six of the last eight games in right field. He entered this season with just three games in the outfield, all in right field. But had appeared in the outfield in an American League park just once prior to 2012 on Sept. 30, 2005, while with Texas against the Angels.

Before the game, Valentine said he had no reservations about putting Gonzalez in right field for an afternoon game.

On Saturday, though, in a bit of a head-scratching move, he took Gonzalez out for pinch-runner Che-Hsuan Lin in the sixth inning of a scoreless game for defensive reasons. In the eighth inning on Sunday, though, Valentine again subbed Lin for Gonzalez. This time, however, Valentine moved Gonzalez to first base, with Kevin Youkilis, who started at first, over to third, and Will Middlebrooks coming out of the game.

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Flashback to January 2016, it’s the first night of Red Sox Winter Weekend, where fans welcome Rick Porcello with a vanilla reception -- no different than that of any one of the coaches. The right-hander is coming off a disappointing 2015, where he’d been given a four-year extension before throwing a regular season pitch and didn’t exactly perform to the level he’d hoped.

Now flash foward to Friday night, same event, just a year later. Porcello is introduced at the Town Hall event at Foxwoods to kick off the weekend and receives a welcome truly rivaled only by the AL MVP runner-up, Mookie Betts.

“You know, they were both pretty similar,” Porcello joked with reporters when comparing his 2016 reception to Friday’s.

Makes sense. Winning a Cy Young Award can change public perception.

But after his dominant 22-4 regular season, Porcello -- along with the rest of the starting rotation -- couldn’t deliver in the postseason. While he was visibly upset during and after his lone 2016 postseason start, Porcello is taking the Bill Belichick approach and says he's moving on from the outing -- and his memorable regular season, too.

“Just like any other start, you’ve gotta find ways to get over that stuff,” Porcello said. “It doesn’t feel good to go out there and not win Game 1, but I’m on to 2017 now -- and really everything that’s happened in 2016 is behind me. The season that I had, the postseason I had and we’re on to this year and what we can accomplish this year.”

“Moving on” from struggling times and great successes tends to bode well for athletes and players in this town. Maybe that’s what made all the difference for Porcello in making the jump from 2015 to 2016.

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."