Red Sox notes from Chicago

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Red Sox notes from Chicago

CHICAGO -- Assorted pre-game tidbits from U.S. Cellular Field:

Bobby Valentine seems to be going to great lengths to head off any talk that Kelly Shoppach has become Josh Beckett's personal catcher.

Shoppach is in the lineup today despite the fact that the White Sox are pitching Gavin Floyd, a righthander. Shoppach has usually been restricted to playing against lefties.

Asked about Shoppach's presence in the lineup today, Valentine said: "Actually, it's his birthday. I like playing players on birthdays.''

Shoppach turns 32 Sunday.

Valentine was asked if he liked the "pairing'' of Shoppach and Beckett.

"I like all the pairings,'' he said. "The way it looks right now, it looks like our pitchers and catchers are working very well together.''

Shoppach has caught Beckett's last three starts, with a 2.35 ERA. In his only start with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Beckett was rocked
for seven runs in four innings.

"They have a little something going,'' said Valentine of Beckett and Shoppach. "I'm not writing home about it yet.

Oddly, Shoppach has been hitting better against righthanded pitching this year than lefties. He's .429 (6-for-14) against righties and just .167 (2-for-12) against lefties.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitched over the weekend for Double A Portland as part of his rehab scheduled, will make his next start for Pawtucket on Thursday.

The Pawsox will be in Toledo for a four-game series starting Monday.

With a win today, the Sox would sweep a road trip of at least seven games for only the second time in franchise history. The last one was 9-0 trip from July 29-Aug. 7, 1977 when the Sox won three games in Anaheim, two in Seattle and four in Oakland.

Valentine praised the defensive play of second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the road trip.

"I guess you guys are used to it,'' he said to reporters. "I haven't seen it. Every day he comes up with a great play. Or two or three, that are spectacular. Unbelievable. He's special.''

Valentine said Pedroia has exceeded even his own expectations.

"Even more than I thought,'' he marveled. "And I had great (expectations). Seeing it is believing it.''

Valentine wouldn't go so far as to say that Pedroia is the best defensive second baseman he's managed ("I had Robbie Alomar'').

"I don't love comparisons like that,'' said Valentine, "but Dustin's played great.''

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”