Morales exceeding expectations

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Morales exceeding expectations

BOSTON Watching Franklin Morales walk the second batter of the game, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine thought there might be something wrong. Entering the game, Morales had given up just eight walks, two intentional, in 28 23 innings this season, compared to 29 strikeouts. In his five-inning start on June 17 his first start since April 8, 2009 Morales didnt allow a walk while striking out a career-high nine.

On Saturday night, Morales allowed a single to Michael Bourn to open the game, walked Martin Prado, and, after a double steal, gave up an RBI single to Brian McCann.

But the left-hander quickly adjusted. He struck out Dan Uggla, looking at an 82-mph changeup, and Freddie Freeman, swinging at an 84-mph changeup, before getting Chipper Jones to line out to Mike Aviles at shortstop to end the inning.

After that Morales faced the minimum number of batters over the next three innings. He gave up a single to Bourn in the third, but the Braves lead-off hitter was erased when Prado grounded into a double play.

Morales went six innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on seven hits and a walk, with eight strikeouts. He threw 86 pitches, 62 strikes, for an impressive 72 percent strike rate. He earned the win, improving to 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA, as the Sox beat the Braves 8-4.

Morales comes out throwing strikes, Valentine said. The first inning when he walked Prado, I thought there was something drastically wrong when you see him walk a batter. Holy cow, is he alright? But actually he turned out to be fine in the first inning. Got us six innings this time instead of five. Throwing strikes aggressively and not afraid to use that changeup now. He mixed that in a lot more tonight. Changed the speed on his breaking ball a little. Hes making good adjustments.

Asked if Morales has given more than what might have been expected, Valentine replied:

Its hard to make expectations. But for him to maintain the velocity now, twice. Into the 80 pitches last time, 86 this time is very impressive and thats more than I expected.

In his two starts combined, Morales has gone 11 innings, giving up four runs (3.27 ERA) with 17 strikeouts and one walk. His eight- and nine-strikeout performances in the two starts are the highest strikeout totals of his career. Since 1985, the only other Red Sox pitchers to strikeout out at least eight batters in their first two starts of a season were Roger Clemens in 1988, and Pedro Martinez (1998 2000).

"I feel real confident in myself and I think it's good for me to be starting, Morales said.

"I feel very good.

Morales last two outings, his first starts in more than three years, were out of necessity. With Josh Beckett on the disabled list, Morales was pressed into service. Although Beckett is eligible to be activated on June 27, Valentine left little doubt to his thoughts on Morales getting another start.

Yes, most assuredly, Valentine said.

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.

Scott's taste of big-league life with Red Sox has him hungering for more

Scott's taste of big-league life with Red Sox has him hungering for more

CHESNUT HILL -- The Red Sox Rookie Development Program is designed to help young players prepare for what playing at the major-league level is like,. That can be valuable for a prospect like Rafael Devers, who hasn’t even made it to Double-A.

But of the eight-man cast at the workout this year, there’s one guy who actually has major-league experience.

Robby Scott joined the Red Sox as a September call-up last season and turned some heads, holding opponents scoreless over six innings of work.

Now the lefty is back working with younger guys to prepare himself for spring training -- something he’s itching to get started.

“It’s one thing that we always talk about,” the left-handed reliever told CSNNE.com “It’s a tough road to get there, but it’s an even tougher and harder road to stay there. And having that taste in September last year was incredible to be a part of it.”

That taste Scott had last fall has only made the desire to rejoin Boston greater.

“Yeah, because now you know what it’s like,” Scott said CSNNE.com. “You see it and you’re there and you’re a part of it. And it’s like, ‘Man, I wanna be there.’ You’re a little bit more hungry.”

And his hunger to pitch with the Red Sox only becomes greater at an event like this where he’s the only one with MLB time.

“They ask on a consistent basis,” Scott started, “ ‘What’s it like?’ ‘What was it like getting there the first day?’ ‘How did the guys react?’ ‘What was it like dealing with the media?’

“That’s what this program is here for, just to kind of gives these guys a little taste of what it is like and get familiar with the circumstances.

While the experience and constant discussion invites players to try to do more in the offseason or change their routine, the 27-year-old has stayed the course, trusting what’s gotten him there.

“The offseason training stays the same, nothing really changes on that side of things,” Scott said. “Nothing changes. Go about my business the way I have the last six, seven years.”