Sox ruin Ciriaco's Fenway moment

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Sox ruin Ciriaco's Fenway moment

BOSTON Not even the heroic, clutch-hitting power of feel-good story Pedro Ciriaco could help the Red Sox out this time around.

Ciriaco came up to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning in a tied 2-2 game and slashed his first Major League home run into the front row of the Green Monster seats. The solo blast gave the Red Sox a lead after the Boston bullpen had conspired to give back a slim one-run lead, and Boston tacked on an insurance run that appeared to give them all they would need.

It appeared that Ciriaco once again was the late innings knight in shining armor for a Sox team looking for a hero, and showed that at least one member of the 25-man roster had some of that old Fenway magic coursing through their veins.

After all this was a minor league free agent that had been stuck in Triple-A with the Arizona and Pittsburgh organizations before signing with the Sox, and has flourished since arriving in Boston. Hes a player that has stepped up when Dustin Pedroia and Mike Aviles have both missed time with injuries, and became the first player since Wally Joyner to knock in game-winning runs against the New York Yankees on successive nights.

Ciriaco has 11 RBI this season for the Sox, and four out of the 11 have given Boston the lead in absolute statistical proof of his clutchness. But this Red Sox team is so moribund that they can wipe away even the widest smile spurred on by a rags-to-riches baseball story like Ciriaco.

Were very mediocre. Were not playing good baseball. We have the talent to do it and were just not getting it done, said Sox infielder Nick Punto. We need to get on this run and the clock is ticking. We need to start playing good baseball.

Bobby Valentine, Ciriaco and the rest of the Sox players had wide smiles and songs in their hearts after the Dominican infielders derring-do in the eighth. But they probably knew better, and of course it was their fate to once again get their teeth kicked in one last time.

We had a two-run lead. Guy coming up cold and hitting a home run and then Cody Ross knocking a guy in after a walk and a stolen base, said Valentine. Those were just good baseball plays.

Sunday is a nice day game and were going to bounce backunless theyre going to call off the season. If they let us play then well be ready to go tomorrow.

Alfredo Aceves melted down in the top in the top of the ninth culminating in a three-run Joe Mauer mashed homer that relegated the Red Sox to Mudville, and a moment to remember forever for Ciriaco was sullied in defeat.

It was a good feeling. He gave me a good pitch to hit and I put a good swing on it. But the only thing that matters is winning the game. We didnt win tonight, said Ciriaco. We just have to move on and look forward for tomorrow.

Its a tough loss. Its hard. Today is over. Tomorrow is a new day and we have to move forward, have fun, play hard and keep going just like we did today.

Ciriaco will wake up on Sunday morning and hell still be hitting .338 on the season. The 26-year-old will still be the best story on a Sox team thats on the road to nowhere, and his first career major league homer will have gone for naught when it should have gone into the scrapbook of great Fenway moments.

In the end it will go down as one more thing to dislike about this unlovable bunch of baseball misfits that have taken residence along Yawkey.

Except for Ciriaco, of course, he might just be a keeper.

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.