Hill (elbow) to DL, Melancon back with Sox

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Hill (elbow) to DL, Melancon back with Sox

BOSTON It was not an easy start for Mark Melancons Red Sox tenure. After just four games, he was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket, lugging an ERA of 49.50 with him.

Now he's back. Melancon was in the Red Sox clubhouse and on the roster Sunday morning, after left-hander Rich Hill was moved to the disabled list with tightness in his surgically repaired left elbow.

Melancon has not been on a major league mound since April 17 against the Rangers when he faced six batters without recording an out. He gave six runs on four hits, including three home runs, and two walks. He had never given up more than one home run in an outing before that.

He was sent to Pawtucket with the mission of working on being more aggressive and pitching inside. He also knew that to get back to Boston, he had to take the demotion with the right attitude.

Well, after five or six times doing it, you realize that it doesnt help to go down there and get mad, Melancon said . So, no its tough to go down there after youve had a couple bad outings but you got to make the best of it, and thats what I was trying to do.

Its kind of like, I dont know, I guess if you go to a different school and then you come back, you kind of just see all your old friends, he said of being back. Just a good feeling, yeah.

Obviously, you dont wish for an injury, you dont want anybody to do bad. So when the Sox bullpen set the bar as high as they were, its pretty obvious why I was down there and kind of hanging out.

In 21 games with the PawSox, Melancon posted an ERA of 0.83 with 11 saves. in 21 23 innings, he gave up just two runs on 15 hits and three walks, with 27 strikeouts and no home runs.

A lot more aggressive and just throwing strikes, Melancon said. That was the main focus, continuing to throw all the pitches and work on that. More or less, it was the approach and the aggressiveness.

I didn't focus on mechanics too much. I didnt think that was an issue. Just my cutter, my changeup. But obviously Im always working on my fastball, always my curveball. The biggest thing was the aggressiveness and approach.

The results were almost immediate for Melancon, who never lost confidence, he said.

It was nice to get out of an inning, he said with a laugh. A lot of people asked me, Was it confidence? No, it wasnt confidence. I really didnt think it was, and I still dont think thats what it was. Simply aggressiveness and an approach.

Manager Bobby Valentine is pleased with the adjustments Melancon was able to make in Pawtucket, as well as the results.

Every report was excellent from about the third day that he got there, Valentine said. He regained command of his fastball, his curve ballIm not sure if it got sharper but it became a much more functional pitch and he started throwing his changeup, also. He threw to both sides of the plate, maintained his velocity, pitched more than two innings. He would have been back sooner if our bullpen wasnt doing as well as its been.

Melancon was acquired in a trade with the Astros in December for shortstop Jed Lowrie and right-hander Kyle Weiland. Originally, it was planned for him to be the closer, until the acquisition of Andrew Bailey from the As. At that point, Melancon was going to be a set-up manmiddle reliever. Hes not sure what his role will be now.

Valentine was asked if he has the confidence to use Melancon in big situations.

As good as hes throwing Id like to put him in situations that will help us win a game, if its needed, Valentine said.

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.''