Sox will leave winter meetings with pitching options

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Sox will leave winter meetings with pitching options

DALLAS -- It seems highly unlikely that the Red Sox will leave Dallas Thursday with a notable pitching acquisition. Any trades or free agent signings will take place later, based on conversations that began here.

But if nothing else, the Red Sox are coming to recognize that they have some internal options with the pitchers already in the organization, giving them flexibility as they consider outside alternatives.

No fewer than four Red Sox pitchers -- Daniel Bard, Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Miller -- could contribute either out of the bullpen or as part of the rotation.

That's a lot of moving pieces and a lot of choices made available to new manager Bobby Valentine.

"It really helps," said GM Ben Cherington of the staff's versatility. "I think that's part of the reason those guys prepare for spring training as starters, to give them every chance to do it and to give us the flexibility this off-season and in spring training to make decisions and kind of read and react to what's going to help the team best."

As it is, every potential trade or signing forces the Red Sox to evaluate how it would impact others. If they're weighing a closer, they must ask: would this pitcher be better in this role than, say, Bard? Likewise, when considering a starter, they have to evaluate whether the pitcher in question represents an upgrade over their internal candidates.

"There are multiple variables," said Cherington. "You're lining up what the acquisition cost is for a hundred different alternatives, all different flavors and then what that would do to your current mix and how to align that.

"It's an assortment of issues that we're balancing, but it's really beneficial to have guys like Bard, Aceves, Miller, Doubront that can do both. It gives us options."

Belichick: Patriots play to win in preseason...kind of

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Belichick: Patriots play to win in preseason...kind of

When you check out the Patriots-Panthers game notes on Patriots.com, the lead bullet point is one of the least interesting: "The New England Patriots are off to a 3-0 start in the preseason for the sixth time in team history . . . and for the second time under Bill Belichick."

Belichick and the Patriots went undefeated in preseason play back in 2003. One of the best teams in Patriots history, that group went on to win the franchise's second Super Bowl in three years. 

It's the preseason, though, so who cares about wins and losses? Well, Belichick does. During a conference call on Saturday he was asked if it was a big deal for him and his team to be winning these preseason games, and he responded by explaining his approach to exhibition football.

"I think what we tell our players and coaches is that we’re going to coach and play to win," he said. "We’re obviously not going to pull out all the stops in terms of every trick play we’ve ever used or things like that, but whatever the situation calls for, we’re going to play it as competitively as we can play it given the limitations that we have and based on the amount of experience our players have in the game at that certain point and what we’ve been able to cover."

It makes sense. Obviously teams don't want to reveal any surprise sets they may have saved for the regular season. And coaches aren't going to get exotic with their defensive calls or their offensive formations at this time of year. What basic plays they do run, however, they would like to execute successfully.

"We haven’t covered every single thing that we would want to cover or hope to cover to start the season, especially situational football, but as far as competing and playing, we’re doing everything we can to win," Belichick added. "But within the context of doing what we’re capable of doing right now. We’re trying to win, we’re trying to do everything as well as we can do it, but not pulling out all the stops in terms of playing time, strategizing and so forth that we would do in the regular season."