Sox bullpen finding its identity

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Sox bullpen finding its identity

BOSTON With three perfect innings in Saturdays 4-1 win over the Indians, the Red Sox bullpen continues to be impressive.

Andrew Miller, Vicente Padilla and Alfredo Aceves each pitched one inning after Felix Doubront held the Indians to one run on three hits. Aceves picked up his seventh save.

Since May 1, Sox relievers have posted a 1.66 ERA, giving up 10 earned runs over 54 13 innings in 11 games. Even more impressive, three of those runs belong to outfielder Darnell McDonald, who pitched the final inning of the 17-inning May 7 marathon loss to the Orioles.

Miller was the first reliever out of the pen on Saturday. In five outings spanning five scoreless innings since being activated from the disabled list May 6, Miller has given up just two hits with no walks five strikeouts. Saturday was his career-high third straight day of pitching. He has earned holds in consecutive outings for the first time in his career. He needed just 10 pitches (seven strikes) to get through the seventh.

You still wonder when you go to the bullpen, but Andrew Miller has been fabulous, Bobby Valentine said. He continued his streak of throwing strikes with quality pitches.

I'm enjoying it," Miller said. "It's easy to say that when you're having success. Right now I'm liking it. It's fun to come in in these situationsThe expectation to pitch is fun, and so far it's been great."

Padilla and Aceves still have hefty ERAs of 5.40 and 6.14, respectively. Much of Padillas numbers can be attributed to his one-third of an inning April 21 against the Yankees, when he gave up five earned runs. In his five outings in May, spanning six innings, he has a 1.50 ERA. Since that April 21 outing, he has allowed just one earned run in 7 23 innings over eight appearances for a 1.17 ERA.

Aceves, likewise, has settled into his role. He has pitched three consecutive days, picking up saves in the last two. Since being charged with a blown save and loss to the Yankees in that April 21 game when he gave up five runs without recording an out, Aceves has appeared in nine games, giving up two earned runs over 11 23 innings for a 1.54 ERA. In that span, he has recorded five of his seven saves.

Its really fun out there, Aceves said of the Sox bullpen. I like it.

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''