Valentine clarifies 'weakest roster' comments

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Valentine clarifies 'weakest roster' comments

TORONTO -- Two days after labeling the current Red Sox "the weakest roster we've ever had in September in the history of baseball," manager Bobby Valentine walked the comments back,
issuing a clarification Sunday morning.

"The other day, when I made a comment about the September roster,'' said Valentine, "that wasn't meant to be a criticism of any players or anyone in the organization. It was just a statement of fact because of the injuries and our Triple A team being in the playoffs.

"This is different. We have less people than most September rosters. We have less positions filled than any September roster I've ever seen. If anybody thought that to be anything other than a statement than what it was...I stand corrected on that.

"Usually, a September roster has some starting pitcher who is waiting in the wings. Ours doesn't. Usually a September roster has a couple of lefthanded pinch-hitter types or pinch runners. Five or six outfielders. (We have) four outfielders. It's not like a September roster.''

Betts not afraid of slumping in sophomore season

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Betts not afraid of slumping in sophomore season

Rookie seasons are no small task for players -- regardless if it’s a pitcher or hitter. It’s the major adjustment of facing guys who have better control with multiple pitches, or hitters who’ve seen just about everything.

However, if you ask some players, the real adjustment comes in the second full season, when organizations have developed extensive scouting reports on players.

The “sophomore slump” is something hitters deal with during that stretch. Numbers tend to drop because scouting reports expose flaws, something that minor league pitchers don’t often have access to.

Mookie Betts, however, doesn’t entirely agree with the notion that it calls for a major slump.

“I mean I don’t know if it’s necessarily a thing,” the sophomore right fielder said. “You hear about it and whatnot, but I think it’s just an adjustment period guys go through. Everybody’s done it. Some people just get out of it faster.”

Early on it appeared Betts was falling into the stages of a “sophomore slump,” going through a 1-for-19 rut after opening day, then 2-for-21 stretch through mid-April.

Since that last slump ended on April 20th, Betts has boasted a .321 clip with two home runs, two triples and three doubles. He’s knocked in eight runs in the process, scoring 14 times himself.

So -- needless to say -- he doesn’t think it was the aforementioned slump

“No, I think it was just adjustments,” Betts explained. “I pretty much think it was just more adjustments that I had to make. Fortunately I was able to make a couple of them. That’s all it is. They make a move and we’ve got to make a move back.”

The adjustments weren’t a mechanical issue either -- it was more related to his approach at the plate.

“It’s important for me to go be aggressive,” Betts said. “They’re not trying to walk me, they aren’t trying to walk anybody -- except David Ortiz.”

One thing Betts has done a better job of since his last slump was shoot pitches to right field. He has to do that if he hopes to hit well because most, if not all, pitchers know he’ll clear out any inside pitch to the Monster seats faster than they can blink.

“They still make mistakes, too,” he said on pitchers working away from him. “I think the part is being aggressive and being ready for those mistakes.”

Like most hitters, Betts doesn’t expect to go though a major slump in 2016, but he knows there are more factors in play than the contact he makes.

“It just depends,” Betts said. “A lot goes into balls falling. I think I’ve hit the ball well this year and haven’t gotten a lot to fall. But then again, I have gotten some to fall. I think I’ve done pretty well, even through the time I was struggling I thought I did all right. [It’s] just [about] trying to get out of those little slumps quickly.”

After dominant April, Porcello only cares about what's next

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After dominant April, Porcello only cares about what's next

Sinkerball pitchers are typically low-walk and low-strikeout pitchers. They want hitters to swing and pound that sinking fastball into the dirt.

Rick Porcello’s been a little different than most contact pitchers since he arrived last season.

In 2015 Porcello had his highest strikeout average in his career, nearly logging eight per nine innings pitched. That was in part because his fastball had bumped up from 2014 with Detroit, occasionally hitting 95 mph.

However, he’d gotten away from his bread and butter -- his movement. It wasn’t until his 15-day stint on the DL last August that he realized he needed to make an adjustment.

“I was really focused when I came off the DL last year on getting my sinker going again, be under control, locate. Get back to doing the things that I was doing the previous year that was working for me.”

After realizing he’d strayed from the pitcher he was, Porcello identified he needed to change the tempo of his delivery. It’s clear that taking a little off his delivery has been the pivotal adjustment since he came back from his late-season injury.

“I was making a conscious effort to slow things down, and locate the fastball, and go from there,” Porcello said.

However, Porcello’s back to striking hitters out again, almost averaging 10 K’s every nine innings.

But that hasn’t been a bad thing this time around. And he claims it isn’t completely deliberate -- and that he’s still trying to force contact.

“That’s really been my approach my entire career,” Porcello said. “I’ve never been a strikeout pitcher. When we get to two strikes then we’ll take our shots. It’s really more mixing speeds, changing eye levels and just trying to induce contact to get quick outs. That’s always been our focus and all we’re trying to do.”

While he’s enjoyed punching hitters out better than he ever as -- coupled with positive results -- he doesn’t expect the strikeout rate to maintain.

“Right now we’re happy to generate more strikeouts,” he explained. “But it’s not always going to be like that – that’s just the way it’s gone so far. So I try not to get caught up in that and focus on locating pitches. Whatever happens when I let go of the ball is out of my control. It’s kind of a product of what we’ve been doing thus far, but it hasn’t been our focus.”

John Farrell’s also made mention that the righty is in a good place mentally, and that focusing on the moment -- one pitch at a time -- has been huge.

Porcello explained that he’s always had that mental approach. He also noted that his mentality towards this season has been positive since the start -- and he plans to keep it that way.

“I’m confident and I felt like coming to the season I was in a good place,” Porcello said. “I was trying to ride that out and continue to do so. April’s behind us and there’s a lot of baseball to be played. I need to continue to get better and I need to continue to keep giving us a chance to win and throw the ball the way I’ve been throwing it.”