McAdam: Pinch-hit move yet another strange one by Valentine

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McAdam: Pinch-hit move yet another strange one by Valentine

TORONTO - At a time of year when the games should be routine and otherwise unremarkable, just one more day crossed off a most forgettable Red Sox calendar, Sunday's 5-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays managed to somehow stand out.

The Sox and Jays were scoreless in the seventh when Pedro Ciriaco singled with two outs.

Shortstop Jose Iglesias, scheduled to hit next, took his place in the batter's box. With the count 1-and-2, Ciriaco broke for second, giving the Sox a runner in scoring position.

Then, much to just about everyone's surprise, Iglesias was called back from the batter's box and replaced by pinch-hitter Daniel Nava.

Nava then hit the first pitch back to pitcher Brandon Lyon, who threw Nava out and ended the inning.

"Just trying to get a run for Jon (Lester), obviously," explained Bobby Valentine when asked about the logic behind the move. "I told Daniel if he steals second, 'You got it.' Otherwise, I was all set to play defense. Nothing-nothing. Guy gets to second base, you want to take a shot at a base hit."

In May or June, sure. For a team fighting for a playoff spot, of course. But for a team that went into Sunday tied for fourth place, 14 games under .500?

And that doesn't begin to address the issue of Iglesias's confidence. If the Sox still view Iglesias as their shortstop of the future -- maybe even their shortstop of the near future - that seemed like a curious move.

Why damage Iglesias's confidence? More to the point, why not see how he handles such an opportunity?

"I was pinch-hit with the bases loaded and a 3-and-2 count on me," said Valentine. "It didn't ruin my confidence. I think he'll get over it. I talked to him. He said, 'whatever's best for the team.'"

Valentine continually cited the attempt to get a win for Lester, who has pitched better than his record would indicate. But remember, Valentine wasn't quite so solicitous of Lester's feelings when he left him in for 11 runs in four innings against this same Toronto lineup in July.

"It's tough," said Valentine of the balance that must be navigated between trying to win and trying to evaluate. "Jon's pitching such a good game. You get him a run there, he wins the ballgame. He's battling, too. It's not about one guy; it's about the whole group of guys.

"There's a good balance there. Guy's just pitched 100 pitches, trying to win a baseball game. There'll be plenty of time to evaluate. I don't think that's a make-or-break situation. He's got one hit so far. There will be a lot of opportunities to get some hits. It's not kindergarten here.

"You don't think it was the right decision? So what. I think it was the right thing to do to try to win a game for a guy (Lester) who's busting his butt out there."

For his part, Iglesias was diplomatic and deferential.

"The manager made a decision," he said. "He's trying to do the best for the team and I respect the decision. I was ready to hit. I put some good ABs together today. That's all I can do and whatever decision he made, I respect him."

Nava said he was told "to be ready" if Ciriaco reached scoring position.

"I think anyone who comes off the bench, you know you've got to be ready," he said. "I didn't know the exact details of when I could be going in, because you never know if you are. But for a guy who comes off the bench, it doesn't matter if it's a fresh count or in the middle of the at-bat -- you have to be ready."

Nava acknowledged he felt badly for Iglesias, pulled off the field in the middle of an at-bat ("Oh yeah, totally").

When the season is over, it's highly unlikely being lifted for a pinch-hitter mid at-bat will scar Iglesias for the rest of his career.

But when the season is over, would it have mattered if the Sox finish with 71 wins instead of 72? Or with 72 instead of 73?

Instead, it's likely to be remembered for what it was: a strange move made during a lousy year, one that didn't make much sense in the big picture.

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.