McAdam: Relentless style shows up on Opening Day

McAdam: Relentless style shows up on Opening Day
April 2, 2013, 11:30 am
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NEW YORK -- On the day he was hired to manage the Red Sox, John Farrell used the word.
     
He repeated it often in spring training, both in addressing the team in its first full-squad meeting, and offered it up freely, without prompting, in interviews.
     
The Red Sox, he vowed, would be "relentless."
     
Apparently he wasn't kidding.
     
On Monday, in defeating the New York Yankees 8-2 in the regular season opener for both team, the Red Sox were atypically aggressive on the bases.
     
On one occasion, the aggressiveness might have gotten the best of them. In the sixth inning, with Jacoby Ellsbury on third after a leadoff triple, Ellsbury unwisely broke for the plate when Dustin Pedroia topped a grounder to third baseman Jayson Nix.
     
Ellsbury was easily cut down at the plate as Nix fired home.
     
The ninth inning, however, was more of what Farrell had in mind.
     
With the bases loaded and two out and the Red Sox piling on insurance runs against Joba Chamberlain, Ellsbury hit a sharp grounder to the right side of the infield.
     
Robinson Cano bobbled the ball for an instant on the transfer, and Gomes, breaking from second as soon as the ball was hit with two outs, kept motoring around third and scored all the way from second on a ball that never left the infield.
     
As Gomes slid in safely, then went into a pop-up slide at home, the Red Sox dugout exploded in celebration of Gomes's heads-up, opportunistic baserunning.
     
"It all starts with the jump," recounted Gomes later, "right there with the bases loaded, you've got to go with the ball on the ground. I was probably at third when it got to his hand, and when he bobbled it, I didn't hesitate or stop. I just kept it going."
     
It was the seventh run in an 8-2 romp, but for Gomes, there was more significance to it beyond an additional insurance run.
     
"When you break it all down," said Gomes, "that's an extra run for the team and it's an extra RBI for my teammate. When we have each other's backs like that, when we got the extra 90 feet for our teammates, that type of stuff becomes contagious. We're putting pressure on the defense.
     
"Granted, it was one run, one RBI, but a lot more goes into that."
     
When it was suggested that playing with that style of play on Opening Day could help set a tone for the Sox, Gomes was already a step ahead in the conversation.
     
"I think we established that in spring training, to tell you the truth," he said, "from our first meeting with John. We're just carrying it into the season."
     
"Jonny read that play all the way and hustled for a key run late in the game," said Farrell, with the pride of a manager who saw that his players had gotten the message.
     
A year ago, Farrell's team in Toronto seemed to go beyond relentless and play a reckless style, with infielder Brett Lawrie regularly being thrown out trying to take the extra base.
     
The Sox have more speed than normal this year, with the inclusion of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jose Iglesias in the lineup, plus the arrival of Shane Victorino.
     
But as Farrell pointed out, an aggressive style of play is often less about athleticism than it is mindset.
     
"You can take foot speed sometime and put it aside," said Farrell. "I thought (Jarrod Saltalamacchia) staying out of a double play on Bradley's ball (in the sixth) off (Boone) Logan was another key moment. But the baserunning was very good. I think we were opportunistic. We took some chances with an attempted double steal even after a foul ball."
     
It may have been only one win, but for Farrell, watching the afternoon unfold, it was an affirmation that what he had been preaching was being absorbed.
     
"The one word we continually talk about here is to be relentless," said Farrell, "and I thought we demonstrated that up and down the lineup today. We want to put pressure on the opposition and that's not strictly with attempted steals, but how we look to run the bases first-to-third, and the attitude with which we go about our work."
     
Farrell has always liked that style of play, but the acquisition of Victorino and Gomes -- two outsized personalities -- helps foster that sort of attitude team-wide.
     
"I think that's consistent with the makeup of the group in the clubhouse," said Farrell. "These guys, their priority is the game. They have a strong passion for it. They love to work. That was evident through an entire spring training. Today's Day One. But I think that showed in the intensity and mentality of that group."