Cook struggles with Red Sox while Matsuzaka rolls in Pawtucket

860207.jpg

Cook struggles with Red Sox while Matsuzaka rolls in Pawtucket

BOSTON Whats next for Aaron Cook?

The right-hander took the lost Tuesday, as the Red Sox fell to the Angels, 5-3, in first game of the three-game series at Fenway Park. Cook went five innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on a season-high 11 hits, including a two-run home run, and a walk, with a season-high four-strikeouts. His record fell to 3-7 while his ERA rose to 4.79.

His sinker appeared to be working early, as Cook induced four groundball outs in the first two innings. But the Angels soon got to Cook.

The Angels got a run in the third when Mike Trout hit a one-out single to center, taking second on right-hander Cooks errant pick-off attempt. With two outs, Trout scored on Albert Pujols single to center.

In the fourth, the Angels sent seven batters to the plate with five reaching base on consecutive hits, all singles. After Mike Trumbo struck out to open the inning, Howie Kendrick singled to right and Alberto Callaspo singled to left. Kendrick scored on Erick Aybars single to right, with Aybar thrown out trying to stretch a double. Chris Iannettas single to shortstop scored Callaspo. Trout singled before Hunter hit into a fielders choice.

The Angels added two runs in the fifth when Trumbos 30th home run of the season cleared the left field wall, scoring Kendrys Morales who had singled to center.

Cook threw 85 pitches, 55 for strikes.

Cookie had his groundball going again, Valentine said. We were hoping for one more there, instead it turned into a two-run homer. He had about, I dont know, counting the outs and the hits, probably 20 groundballs. Had his sinker working. It just wasnt placed well early in the game and the two-run homer kind of did him in.

I felt really good, said Cook. I felt like I was making pitches. They were just finding holes with those singles. Being a sinkerball pitcher, you kind of live off whether or not they hit the hole or hit it at your infielders. And they were able to string together a few of those in the holes. And then I left one pitch up on a 3-2 count to Trumbo and he hit it about as hard as you can hit a baseball.

They got a really tough lineup. The thing that I think we try to do is not worry about the whole lineup at one time, realizing that youre only going to face on person at a time and you got to attack that person, do everything you can to get them out and then worry about the next guy. Tonight I wish it would have turned out different but again I felt like I was making pitches and they were just finding some holes.

Cook was likely the closest pitcher on the Red Sox staff to Bob McClure, who was fired Monday. The two go back to their time together with the Rockies, who drafted Cook in the second round in 1997.

It was difficult, Cook said of McClures dismissal. Hes a guy that I have a reallong history with. Hes the one individual I probably give the most credit for helping me make it to the big leagues. So it was kind of tough but the organization made a decision. Were going to move on and come back and continue to work with new pitching coach Randy Niemann, who was promoted from assistant pitching coach. Nemo knows these pitchers just as well as Mac did. Its a new page.

Now, its up to Valentine and Niemann to determine Cooks role. The Red Sox are 4-7 in his starts this season. But in his last eight starts since July 4, Cook is just 1-6 with a 6.35 ERA.

Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has been on the disabled list since July 3 with a right trapezius strain, made his fifth rehab appearance Tuesday night for Triple-A Pawtucket. He went seven scoreless innings (plus two batters in the eighth), giving up just one hit and four walks with seven strikeouts. In his current rehab assignment, which began July 30 with Pawtucket, he is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA. Overall, he is 1-4 with a 3.32 ERA in 13 rehab starts this season, after beginning the year on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery. He has made five major league starts, going 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA.

Both Cook and Matsuzaka would be scheduled to pitch next on Sunday. Which of the right-handers will be starting at Fenway against the Royals remains to be seen.

Much too early to figure that one out, Valentine said. Well see, watch the film, see Dice tomorrow, see how he feels. and talk it over with everyone.

Cook said he is not concerned about that decision.

Nope, not one bit, he said. Its not my decision. Im just going to take the ball and throw when they tell me. Whatever happens happens.

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

The Red Sox need to let their lineup sort itself out a bit, and really, need to see how one core player in particular fares: Xander Bogaerts. 
 
Until then, Red Sox manager John Farrell should try to alternate right- and left-handed hitters as much as possible against right-handed pitching
 
If Thursday’s Grapefruit League lineup indeed winds up as a preview for the regular season, Farrell’s on the right track.
 
1. Dustin Pedroia 2B
2. Andrew Benintendi LF
3. Mookie Betts RF
4. Hanley Ramirez DH
5. Mitch Moreland 1B
6. Xander Bogaerts SS
7. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
8. Pablo Sandoval 3B
9. Blake Swihart C
 
Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez should be at catcher normally, rather than Swihart. (If Leon shows he can in fact hit again, the Sox could also decide to put Jackie Bradley Jr. in the nine-hole.)
 
"Maybe a first look at our lineup," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida. "I'm not saying this is Opening Day, but this is potential for one on Opening Day. And just to get everybody back in the rhythm. We've kind of fragmented because of the WBC and because of travel and bouncing around the state. To get our camp finally together, I think we're all looking forward to these last remaining games."
 
Betts is the best all-around producer the Red Sox have. He should be in the three-hole, despite chatter than Andrew Benintendi might be a fit.
 
But Bogaerts’ success will determine a lot of the flexibility available to Farrell. (Yes, everybody has to be healthy for the above statement to be true. And remember, lineups are important, but probably not as important as we’ve all been raised to believe). 

If Bogaerts plays like he did in the first half, when he batted .329 en route to an All-Star appearance, he could easily slide into the three-hole, and push Betts into the second or fourth spot. Or even leadoff.
 
If Bogaerts is the .253 hitter he was after the All-Star break, well, the second half of the lineup is where he belongs. 
 
Bogaerts is, ultimately, better than he showed as both he and the season wore down. But let him establish himself in a groove before you start loading up the top of the lineup with right-handed hitters, thereby giving opposing managers a clear path for righty relievers.
 
(The Red Sox could pinch hit Chris Young at any time, but you’re usually not taking out one of your best players just for a platoon advantage.)
 
And from another perspective, you almost need Bogaerts in the second half of the lineup. Because what else is there?
 
Say the Sox load all four right-handed hitters at the top.
 
1. Pedroia
2. Bogaerts
3. Betts
4. Ramirez 
 
That’s awesome. Then what? Benintendi and cross your fingers? Benintendi seems as sure a thing as any sophomore — well, technically a rookie — can be. But still.
 
This is where Moreland and Sandoval represent other X-factors. All spring, there’s been talk of how Fenway Park and a use-all-fields approach will benefit Moreland. That may be so — but to what extent? How much better can he reasonably be? The Sox are internally encouraged.
 
As it stands now, however, there’s no obvious choice to protect Ramirez, considering Moreland is coming off a season where he had a .293 on-base percentage against righties.
 
And with Sandoval, whether he’s anything more than a wet napkin vs. left-handed pitching is to be seen. There’s reason to believe he can handle right-handed pitchers at least adequately, so he'll get the start — but he could be the first guy pinch hit for nightly.
 

According to Fortune, Theo's the greatest . . . in the world, not just baseball

According to Fortune, Theo's the greatest . . . in the world, not just baseball

Apparently, the Red Sox couldn’t hold onto the best leader in the world. And the best leader in the world has no idea how to housebreak his puppy.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was given the top spot on a list of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders," published by Fortune on Thursday morning.

The potential for silly takeaways from Epstein’s placement on the list -- and his response to it in a text to ESPN’s Buster Olney -- are amusing, if not astounding.

Wait, Epstein doesn’t think baseball is the most important thing in the world?

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house," Epstein told Olney. "That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball -- a pastime involving a lot of chance. If [Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Zobrist, of course, had the go-ahead hit in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Indians.

As Fortune described it, the list of leaders is meant to include those “transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same” across business, government, philanthropy and the arts.

Epstein certainly did help transform the baseball world.

“In the fall of 2016, as partisan distrust and division reached abysmal depths, fascination with the Chicago Cubs became that all-too-rare phenomenon that united America,” his blurb on the list begins.

That’s fair. But, if you scroll down the list: Pope Francis is No. 3. Angela Merkel is No. 10 and LeBron James is No. 11.