Boston Red Sox

Crawford settles into the Red Sox spotlight

191542.jpg

Crawford settles into the Red Sox spotlight

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The first reminder, probably one of many on this day, came about 20 minutes before gametime.

Carl Crawford was out doing some short sprints in the outfield and stretching, getting ready for his first Grapefruit League game as a member of the Red Sox, when fans seated in the left-field stands spotted him and began applauding and cheering wildly.

This was Crawford's introduction to life as a Red Sox and surely, there weren't many instances in his time with the Tampa Bay Rays that a simple warmup routine led to such a response.

"I was just trying to take it all in,'' said a smiling Crawford later, after the Red Sox edged the Minnesota Twins, 7-6. "I'm still thinking that I'm actually in a Red Sox uniform. You're thinking about all that stuff and trying to take it all in and try to focus on the game at the same time.''

Crawford had three at-bats in the win, but went hitless. Monday, however, wasn't about results; it was about taking the first step, of experiencing the moment.

"It felt good,'' said Crawford, "just to put the uniform, finally get on the field and play a game. I was a little nervous at first, but I was happy to get that out of the way.''

Like new teammate Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford is undergoing quite a transformation this season. He's gone from a team with small payroll and modest fan support to a city where the baseball team has tradition and a huge, insatiable fan base.

The transition, to date, has been seamless.

"It hasn't been really hard,'' he said. "The guys have made it easy for me. Pretty much everything you need, they take care of it here. It hasn't been bad.''

With interview requests, promotional shoots, photo sessions and other off-field responsibilities behind him, Crawford felt good to be in uniform and on the field.

"It was just playing baseball again,'' said Crawford.

For the time being anyway, Crawford found himself hitting third in the Boston batting order, though Terry Francona took pains to emphasize that not much should be read into the lineup for the second game of the spring.

Crawford hit behind Jacoby Ellsbury (leadoff) and Dustin Pedroia (second), and in front of cleanup hitter David Ortiz.

"That would be fine with me,'' he said of the prospect of being the Red Sox' No. 3 hitter once the regular season starts. "I've got no problem with it. I'm still gonna play the way I play, no matter where he puts me. I'd have a chance to drive in runs and when I get on base, I'd have the big guys behind me Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez so I could still steal and get pitches for those guys to hit.

"So, either way we go, I'm still going to play the way I play.''

No matter what Francona decides, Crawford pointed out, the Red Sox have a powerful offense, capable of scoring plenty of runs and the exact order is almost academic.

"The sky's the limit in my mind,'' he said of the Red Sox lineup's potential. "You've got all these guys who can hit really well and know what they're doing at the plate. Once we all get clicking at the same time, it's going to make it very tough on opposing pitches.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Rangers' Darvish has Red Sox on no-trade list

rangers-darvish-072717x.jpg

Rangers' Darvish has Red Sox on no-trade list

Not that they need him -- they have other, far more pressing needs than starting pitching -- but the Red Sox couldn't get Yu Darvish, the subject of trade rumors with the deadline approaching, even if they wanted to.

Per Ken Rosenthal:

Interesting that last year's two World Series participants, the Cubs and Indians, are with the Red Sox on Darvish's no-trade list, which indicates he made these decisions based on factors other than chasing a ring.

The Sox' biggest worry, of course, is that the Rangers will trade Darvish to the Yankees, who are short of starting pitching. But the talk more and more is that Texas -- light years behind Houston in the A.L. West race but only 4 1/2 games back of Kansas City for the second wild-card spot -- will hold onto its ace right-hander at least until the end of the season.

Drellich: Strikeout records or rest for Chris Sale?

red_sox_chris_sale_2_072517.jpg

Drellich: Strikeout records or rest for Chris Sale?

BOSTON -- Savor Sale. And maybe save him, too.

Down the stretch, the Red Sox could have some tough choices to make with Chris Sale, who’s on his way to having a great all-time season, particularly for a starting pitcher this century. 

Should the Red Sox let the lefty loose on Pedro Martinez’s club record of 313 strikeouts and 13.20 Ks per nine innings, both set in 1999? Or, if at all possible, should the Sox hold Sale back some nights, with an eye on preservation and the postseason?

If Sale keeps up his present pace, he’s taking down Pedro in total Ks.

After Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Mariners, Sale is 21 starts into the year and has 211 strikeouts. He leads the majors in strikeouts per nine innings, at 12.80, and is averaging seven innings per start. A projected schedule for the rest of his season, one that’s just a guess and works in several turns on five days rest, has a dozen starts remaining for Sale. That would give him 33 on the season. 

If each one lasts seven innings, he’d finish with about 232 1/3 innings in the regular season and 330 strikeouts (based on his performance so far).

Those whiffs come at a cost, though. Sale is averaging a major league-high 110 pitches per game after 115 tosses Wednesday. Justin Verlander is the next closest, at 107 1/3 pitches per outing.

If the American League East stays tightly packed, there may be no way the Sox can reasonably afford Sale breaks. They’re already making an effort to get him five days rest rather than the normal four. 

But if there are nights when the Sox can comfortably keep Sale’s pitch count closer to 100, or pull him after six innings rather than seven, should they?

Most players and teams would say the postseason is what everyone plays for. Sale all year has avoided talking about the Ks.

“I have a job to do,” Sale told reporters in Seattle on Wednesday after fanning 11. “I’m not here for strikeouts. I’m here to get wins. That’s all that really matters at the end of the day, honestly.”

It’s not all that matters, though. People want to see history made. Red Sox fans might even tune in for it. (Secretly, Sale might even like the idea.)

Sale, the modern-day Randy Johnson, has not allowed a run in 20 2/3 scoreless innings since the All-Star Break, a span of three starts. He has a 1.04 ERA in July with 56 strikeouts. Every one of his road outings this year has included at least nine strikeouts, and 14 of his 21 starts overall have featured 10 or more.

Unsurprisingly, the only Sox pitcher with more double-digit strikeout games in a season is Martinez, who had 19 in 1999 and 15 the next year. The last time any pitcher had 14 double-digit K games was 2002, when Curt Schilling had 14 and the Big Unit had 15.

Records may fall, but there's a balancing act waiting to unfold.