Pedroia sparks Sox, powers them to victory


Pedroia sparks Sox, powers them to victory

TORONTO -- It should come as absolutely no surprise that when the Red Sox most needed a spark, Dustin Pedroia was the one to provide it.

Pedroia is the team's de-facto leader. In past seasons, he's been the one to call out the team when its play doesn't match expectations, as he did in each of the last two Aprils.

But Monday night, Pedroia let his bat do the talking for him.

He smacked a solo homer in the sixth inning off Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez to give the Sox their first run of the night. Then, with the team down a run and three outs away from losing its fourth straight to open the season, Pedroia kick-started the rally, doubling to left to open the ninth off closer Sergio Santos.

Before long, Pedroia took third on a passed ball, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Adrian Gonzalez to tie the game. The Sox then added two more runs to seal their first win, 4-2.

"Hopefully, it sparked us," said Pedroia. "I was just trying to put good at-bats together. This early in the season, everyone's got nerves going and it's hard to settle down and find your rhythm. I was just trying to have good at-bats."

"I don't have enough words to talk about Pedroia," said manager Bobby Valentine. "I came here at 12 o'clock and figured that no one would be here. He was already here pacing. He said we had to get the monkey off our back and let's go."

Hours later, Pedroia led by example.

He hammered a high slider from Alvarez to left-center for his first homer of the season, then smacked a fastball up from Santos into the left field corner, legging out the rally-setting double in the ninth.

"He's just a great player," marveled Valentine.

"We're going to come out every day and play hard and try to win," said Pedroia. "We had a couple of tough ones in Detroit. But we're going to bounce back and play as hard as we can every single night.

"We've had some tough times here at the end of last year and the first couple of games, so you just have to stay with it and grind it out. There's a 162 games and if you stay with it and think positively, we're going to be alright."

Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener


Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener

BOSTON – Marcus Smart’s sprained left ankle injury continues to heal, but the Celtics remain in wait-and-see mode when it comes to his availability for the season opener on Wednesday against Brooklyn.
Smart sprained the ankle in the second quarter of a 121-96 preseason loss to the New York Knicks when he stepped on the foot of Knicks guard Justin Holliday.
He was helped off the floor by teammates Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas along with head trainer Ed Lacerte.
Since the injury, the Celtics have been pleased with the healing progress of the ankle, the same ankle he sprained as a rookie which kept him out for several weeks.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Smart is no longer in a walking boot and continues to be day-to-day as he receives a steady diet of treatments to help speed up the healing process.
Smart will undergo a series of tests to determine the ankle’s strength, prior to getting any kind of clearance to play.
That’s why Stevens isn’t worried about Smart returning to the floor too soon.
“I trust our staff. Our staff and Marcus will make that decision well,” Stevens said. “Then I play guys, if they are available.”
Smart has established himself as one of the Celtics’ top reserves, with the ability to play both guard positions and some small forward depending on the lineup on the floor. The Celtics have to prepare for the possibility that he will not be able to play in the opener (or the first few games considering Boston opens with three games in four nights.

His absence would create more playing time for Terry Rozier in addition to likely resulting in extended minutes for starters such as Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.
As eager as Smart is to get back on the floor, he and the Celtics are mindful of the big picture.
This team wants to make a deep playoff run and they’ll everyone – Smart included – to do so.
That’s why as much as Smart wants to get on the floor immediately, he has to remember – or be reminded of – that this is an 82-game season and his long-term value to this team and its goals can’t be taken for granted.

Olynyk cleared for full contact at Celtics' practice


Olynyk cleared for full contact at Celtics' practice

BOSTON - The Celtics got a bit of good news on the injury front with Kelly Olynyk being cleared for full contact.
The 7-foot center participated in most of the Celtics’ drills on Saturday, some of which included contact.
Olynyk said he had been doing some contact work prior to practice Saturday, but in a more controlled setting.
“I’m just trying to ramp it up a little bit more, every day,” Olynyk said. “Just trying to take a step in the right direction every day.”
Olynyk had surgery on his right shoulder in May with him expected to be out for at least five months.
Danny Ainge, C's president of basketball operations, recently said that he anticipated Olynyk returning sometime in the middle of November.
That would put his return about six months out from the time of surgery.

“He did a lot more than he has done,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We’ll see how he feels and progress at the appropriate rate after that.”
One of the strengths that Olynyk brought to the floor when he played was the ability to help space the floor because of his 3-point shooting.
Olynyk was not just a good 3-point shooter for a center, but one of the better 3-point shooters in the NBA last season when he connected on 40.5 percent of his 3s last season.  And it’s clear that last season was not a fluke, evident by him shooting 37.3 percent on 3s for his career.
However, the addition of Al Horford not only solidified the Celtics’ interior defense but also provides them with another stretch center.
Horford, who spent the past nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, shot 34 percent on 3s last season which at the very least, makes him a player that defenses have to respect when he’s outside of the 3-point line.