Valentine defends slow hook with Morales


Valentine defends slow hook with Morales

BOSTON -- In the second series of the year, Bobby Valentine regretted staying with a lefty reliever for a critical at-bat and blamed himself for a Red Sox loss to Toronto.

On Wednesday night, history repeated itself, leading to another Red Sox loss.

This time, however, Valentine wasn't second-guessing himself as much.

In the top of the eighth inning with Texas leading the Red Sox 4-2 and the bases loaded, Valentine elected to stay with left-hander Franklin Morales even though the right-handed Mike Napoli was due at the plate.

The move backfired when Napoli blasted a two-run double to deep center, scoring two runs and blowing the game open in a 6-3 victory for the Rangers.

"Morales is a guy I want to pitch against both sides of the plate,'' said Valentine. "I wanted to keep confidence in him. I wasn't going to pull plug too soon. He's had four good outings for us. I was hoping to salvage that one. It didn't work.''

Valentine had two right-handers -- Vicente Padilla and Matt Albers -- warming in the bullpen at the time, which theoretically would have created a better matchup with Napoli, who has a lifetime OPS of .949 against lefties, compared to .843 against righties.

Additonally, Morales has, predictably, been more successful against lefties over his career, with a career .648 OPS against lefty hitters and a .782 OPS when facing righties.

Padilla sat down at one point, leaving Alberts as Valentine's other option.

"I like Matty,'' said Valentine. "Matt's throwing the ball real well now. It's almost like it's six of one and a half-dozen of the other. That's a good thing. Again, I was keeping Franklin in for Franklin, not because of who was up or who wasn't up in the bullpen.''

It's clear that, with Mark Melancon being an early-season disappointment who was sent to the minors to get straightened out, Valentine regards Morales as perhaps his best eighth-inning set-up option.

When the move didn't work out, Valentine was showered with boos when he finally lifted Morales. But he said he understood the fan reaction.

"Sure,'' he said. "I was booing myself. It didn't work out.''

Thursday's Patriots-Steelers practice report: Garoppolo off the list


Thursday's Patriots-Steelers practice report: Garoppolo off the list

FOXBORO -- The Patriots injury report shrunk again on Thursday. 

One day after Rob Gronkowski was removed from the injury report, the Patriots were able to take backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo off. 

Garoppolo injured his shoulder in a Week 2 win over the Dolphins and then missed the following two games, giving way to rookie third-rounder Jacoby Brissett. He has been limited in practice ever since being driven into the ground by Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Here is Thursday's full practice participation/injury report for the Patriots and Steelers:


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Jamie Collins (hip)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder)
LB Shea McClellin (concussion)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
DL Vincent Valentine (back)


T Marcus Gilbert (ankle)
DE Cameron Heyward (hamstring)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (left knee)
S Shamarko Thomas (groin)
C Cody Wallace (knee)
WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder)
RB DeAngelo Williams (knee)

S Robert Golden (foot)
S Michael Mitchell (knee)
LB Ryan Shazier (knee)

Bruins looking to avoid anxious moments on home ice

Bruins looking to avoid anxious moments on home ice

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins will have plenty of proud history on display for tonight’s home opener when Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt drop the ceremonial first puck at TD Garden prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils.

Orr is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first NHL game, and the amazing Schmidt is there for the 80th anniversary of his rookie NHL season, and it will be up to the current crop of B’s players afterward to play up to the standards of those two Hall of Fame legends. That was a difficult challenge for the Black and Gold last season as they struggled to a 17-18-6 record on home ice and experienced some of their worst regular-season efforts in front of the paying home customers.

When placed side-by-side with a road record (25-13-3), where only the Sharks and Capitals had more victories on the road last season, it was clear the B’s had some strange motivational issues at the Garden. Whether it was leadership, maturity or the coach to blame for their home malaise, the Bruins are looking to reverse that trend this season after an encouraging 2-1 start on the first three-game road trip of the season.

In fact, Brad Marchand didn’t even want to entertain thoughts about last year’s home ice funk.

“Last year has nothing to do with this year. We’ve got a lot of new guys and a lot of new faces, and we’re looking to have a big start at home and have a big year. We want to try and start that tonight,” said Brad Marchand. “We don’t have to get anxious and too excited. We play a good road game and if we play the same way at home as we do on the road then hopefully we’ll be okay.”

The home ice anxiousness was clear on many occasions for the Bruins whether it was getting blown out at the Winter Classic, getting smoked in Milan Lucic’s return to the Garden with the LA Kings or epically blowing the final game of the season vs. Ottawa with the playoffs on the line. It will be interesting to see what a big personality and hardened, vocal leader David Backes can bring to combat some of the home ice skittishness of last season. 

One other thing the Bruins will be looking to change: allowing the other team to score the first goal, as they’ve done in all three games to start this season. It could perhaps be excused with the B’s playing the polite visitor at the emotional home openers for  the Blue Jackets and the Maple Leafs last week, but now it’s their turn to jack up the emotional level and make TD Garden a much more difficult place to play than it was for the majority of last season.