Walk this wayConspiracies don't bother Bill Do Pats fans deserve an explanation?

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Walk this wayConspiracies don't bother Bill Do Pats fans deserve an explanation?

This just in: The Red Sox have a discipline problem.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. But I'm not talking about in the clubhouse, on the team plane, on the golf course or with the media. I'm talking in the batter's box here. I'm talking walks and on base percentage. The kind of stuff that makes Bill James feel all naughty and tingly inside.

Discipline at the plate.

At various points this season, Bobby Valentine, Ben Cherington and Dave Magadan have all occasionally voiced their displeasure with the Sox impatience in the box.

"Hughes pitched up in the strike zone, and we couldn't lay off of it," Valentine said after a loss to the Yankees last week. "We made a lot of quick outs, swinging at some of those pitches. And, maybe a little immature in our approach at times."

"There's a lot of inconsistency," Magadan said last month. "A lot of it -- and I know I've harped on this a lot this year -- is the approach at the plate. You're not going to bang out 15 hits every night. You've got to find ways to get on base, work a count, get a guy's pitch count up."

In an interview with WEEI after the Adrian Gonzalez trade, Cherington touched on the same issues: "Our best teams have been disciplined teams," he said. "We've grinded at-bats, we've made pitchers work, we've thrown strikes, we've played good fundamental baseball"

Speaking of grinding, the 2012 season is thankfully and finally grinding to halt, and with that the Sox historic impatience is now more clear than ever.

First of all, David Ortiz is pretty much guaranteed to end the season as Boston's team leader in walks with 56. This, despite having only played 90 games and sitting out the last two months of the season.

The last time a Sox player led the team with fewer than 56 walks? That would be 1930, when infielder Bobby Reeves was the leader with 50. (They had a player with more than 56 walks in the both the strike shortened seasons of 1981 and 1994).

But maybe that stat is a little skewed. After all, Boston did suffer an astounding number of injuries this season. They have a ton of guys who have missed a ton of games, which might explain why the individual totals are so sad. But that being said, their team total is just as horrendous.

As of today, the Sox have drawn a total of 400 walks through 149 games. That puts them on pace for 435 walks on the season. And that would be their lowest total since 1931 back in the days little Bobby Reeves was king.

So, there you have it. That's not to say that finding guys who are willing and able to grind out at-bats and get on base is the No. 1 priority for the Sox this offseason, but you can be damn sure it's on the list.

Here's hoping Ben come through, and Bill James can once again watch the Sox with that same naughty tingle.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

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First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

BOSTON -- First impressions of the Red Sox' 8-7 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Fenway Park:
 
Rick Porcello did all he needed to do.

Although he’s still undefeated thus far at home (10-0), Porcello’s start could have easily gone better for him -- especially if Brock Holt catches a few fly balls hit his way.

Regardless, he's 13-2 with a 3.57 ERA and still maintained the title of Boston’s “most reliable pitcher.”

Yes, he gave up five runs -- but four were earned. And Juan Centeno’s “double” that was lost in the sun by Holt should’ve been caught -- accounting for at least one more run.

Porcello had another start where the bullpen was overworked the previous day in a tough loss. Furthermore, his teammates were expected to perform a little more than 12 hours after a rough four-hour contest.

This is a game where the numbers don’t do his performance justice -- but at the same time, Porcello left the bullpen to hold a three-run lead in the final 2 1/3 innings.
 
The Red Sox need Mookie Betts back in right.

If that wasn’t made evident with Michael Martinez’s play Saturday night, Holt made it clear when he couldn’t corral Max Kepler’s deep fly to right in the fourth.

Although the sun could’ve played a factor, Holt got there in time. So the ball has to be caught. Instead, he was too worried about the hip-height wall that he was heading toward at full steam.

Not too mention the fly ball he dropped looking into the sun in the seventh -- which was somehow ruled a hit. As much as the Green Monster is a difficult beast to master, right field at Fenway can be just as difficult.
 
Hanley Ramirez continues to take advantage of pitcher’s mistakes.

The best part about Ramirez’s third-inning, three-run blast was it came on a first pitch changeup -- not exactly something hitters are sitting on out the gate.

Additionally, Tommy Millone’s changeup ran in on Ramirez, instead of away from him -- given Millone is a lefty and Ramirez a right-handed hitter.

If Ramirez gets that pitch a month ago, he rips in foul or rolls over the top of it. Instead, he keeps displaying that he can still pull the ball with power.

Kelly ready for his new role as a Red Sox reliever

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Kelly ready for his new role as a Red Sox reliever

BOSTON -- He had to make a longer trip than the rest of his team to Fenway Park for Sunday’s game, but Joe Kelly was more than happy when he got the call at midnight that he was leaving Columbus before his Pawtucket teammates so he could pitch in Boston again.

The righty rejoins the Red Sox for the first time as a reliever since Boston acquired him from St. Louis in the John Lackey trade in 2014. Kelly is expected to not only fill the vacancy left by Heath Hembree -- who was demoted to Triple-A after the game Saturday -- but to lighten the workload on Matt Barnes, Brad Ziegler and other relievers since key pieces of the bullpen went on the disabled list.

And the righty said he’s ready for his new role.

“My body and arm got ready a lot quicker than it would of if I was starting,” Kelly said. “It’s weird to see how your body feels on different days when you still have to get in the game. As a starter, you only have to prepare for that fifth day and if your body doesn’t feel that great in between those days it’s all right.”

Kelly’s apprehensions about pitching on consecutive days might sound like a cause for concern, but he also explained that he’s put himself through the ringer in to be in a position to succeed. He's also had good results at Pawtucket (no runs allowed in five relief innings with one walk and nine strikeouts) after compiling an 8.46 ERA in six starts this season in Boston.

“Out of the bullpen it was good to see different situations,” Kelly said. “[Sometimes I would] get a workout in before the game and go out and pitch that game just to see how I would respond. Pretty much did all the different type of scenarios to see where my arm and body was at.”

That preparation not only addresses the physical toll relieving can take, but also the mental toll.

So, now Kelly should be able to hop into any situation if he’s has worse command than he expects -- of which he noted an improvement.

“Yeah the command feels good right now for the most part with my secondary pitches,” Kelly said. “There hasn’t been a game yet where I’ve had a chance to throw more than two or three of them. For the most part, I’m getting one or two of the off-speed pitches over for a strike.

“And location of the fastball has been pretty good. Not exactly where I maybe where I want it to be, but for the most part it’s been if I want to miss it to a side of the plate, it’s been on that site.”

And now with the move to the bullpen, Kelly really only needs one good off-speed pitch to pair with his five-alarm fastball.

Given he has three to turn to -- including his curve that he said has reached 86 mph -- Kelly should be able to find more success in his shortened appearances.

“I’ve been using slider and curveball for the most part,” Kelly said. “Curveballs to lefties, but recently I’ve been getting some success on curveballs to righties because the velocity has been a little bit higher. Whatever pitch is working the best for me that day -- curveball, slider, changeup -- that’s what I’m probably going to use out there in the game.”

With that advantage Kelly is hunting for strikeouts now more than ever.

He went as far to say he’ll either strike a guy out or walk the batter if he enters the game with a runner on third in order to save the run.
 
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to strike everyone out as a reliever now,” Kelly said.

The Red Sox hope he won’t work to many 3-and-2 counts in that scenario.

White Sox suspend Sale for five days for uniform incident

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White Sox suspend Sale for five days for uniform incident

The Chicago White Sox have suspended ace left-hander Chris Sale for five days "for violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment" after Sale reportedly cut up his and his teammates jerseys before his scheduled start on Saturday.

Sale, the subject of trade rumors with several teams, including the Red Sox, was sent home Saturday after he reportedly objected to the throwback uniforms the team was set to wear and cut his and others in the White Sox clubhouse. 

The team said the suspension began Saturday and will continue through Wednesday. He was also fined an undisclosed amount and placed on Major League Baseball's suspended list.

"While we all appreciate Chris' talent and passion, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to express concerns about team rules and organization expectations," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a team statement announcing the suspension.

Sale, the All-Star Game starter for the American League, is 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA.