Notes: Matsuzaka to pitch again; Morales most likely done

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Notes: Matsuzaka to pitch again; Morales most likely done

BOSTON With just over three weeks remaining in the 2012 season, it appears as though Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch again this season and Frankin Morales won't.

Matsuzaka was shelled over the weekend for one of the worst starts of his career. But he threw a side session Tuesday and a small mechanical flaw might have been detected.

"He looked real good," said Bobby Valentine. "I talked to him today. I think we might have find something that (he feels good about) -- a little thing out of the stretch that he felt better about."

Asked if that fine-tuning could result in improved performance by Matsuzaka, Valentine chuckled: "Let's hope so. His command wasn't good out of the stretch the other day. Maybe his command will be better next time."

Meanwhile, the status of Morales officially remains uncertain, The lefty has been on the DL for the last few weeks with some left shoulder weakness, but Valentine hinted that he wouldn't take the mound again.

"I think, considering the whole situation, I don't think he needs to pitch anymore," Valentine said of Morales. "Maybe, but I don't think he needs to. If he really wants to and we see a reason for it, maybe. But I don't think that's going to be the program."

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who's been dealing with a sore back, was out of the lineup for the series opener.

"I'd like to give him another day,'' said Valentine. "He threw, he hit, he felt OK. The medical staff thought after hitting and throwing, if he feels good tomorrow, maybe he can play.''

Ryan Lavarnway was the starter Tuesday, with reserve Guillermo Quiroz available as the backup.

Of the remaining 21 games for the Sox, all but three are against teams still in playoff contention. Valentine was asked if he approaches the games against the Yankees, Rays and Orioles differently than the ones with a losing team like Toronto.

"In some years, I think that might have been the case," said Valentine. "When you have an awful lot of young guys who really shouldn't be in that battle. But I don't think we really have that situation. We're going to do our best every second that we're out there. No matter who we're playing, we're going to try to give our fans and the organization everything that we think they deserve. That's a lot more than we've given them so far."

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."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.