Do the Sox still rate?

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Do the Sox still rate?

By Michael Felger

Three thoughts for you as we exit the black hole of the sporting universe . . .

1. After going "all in" this offseason, Red Sox ownership is about to see whether their investments were enough to recapture the sporting buzz in Boston. And by that I don't mean simply garnering attention. The Sox will certainly do that. I'm talking about making a mark the way they used to -- where the Sox were Page One news and everything else (including NBA and NHL playoffs) took a back seat.

The first glimpse will come with the television ratings. If they aren't through the roof starting in Texas on Friday and carrying through the Yankees series in two weeks, then that will be an early indication that Boston has become more like everywhere else, where football-type ratings are actually reserved for football.

On the field, the Red Sox will unquestionably be more interesting than their predecessors the last few years. They'll entertain with a combination of power, speed and depth. The pitching has some question marks, but while Josh Beckett, Diasuke Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon, John Lackey and Bobby Jenks could all have their problems, roller coasters are fun, aren't they? From a pure baseball standpoint, I don't see how the Sox won't be compelling this season -- even (or especially) if they struggle.

Off the field, however, it looks like this Red Sox team is no more entertaining than the button-down outfits of the last three years. This is no band of idiots. And even players who would normally fit that description (Papelbon, Beckett, Jenks, etc.) have been muted. In that way, the Sox remain built in Theo Epstein's image. Adrian Gonzalez is no Mo Vaughn, which is a great thing in terms of baseball but still not the ticket if Tom Werner is more concerned with his reality show than his starting nine.

Then again, maybe those days are simply gone for good. Even if the Sox had compelling personalities, even if they had a Pedro or a Mo Vaughn or even a Johnny Damon, would they be able to achieve that hold over us they used to? Not sure. Something tells me that ship has sailed. We tracked Matsuzaka's plane across the continent on our computers four years ago. We have no idea how Carl Crawford arrived for his presser. Times have changed.

Or have they? We'll begin to find out this weekend.

2. One question that remains from the on-going Max Pacioretty story is how the Canadiens players themselves have been affected by it. Some of them expressed disappointment in Mark Recchi's comments last week in Boston, but if they were truly outraged by them, then they sure haven't used it as fuel on the ice.

The Habs are in a free fall. They've been shut out in three straight games for the first time since 1949. They quit in Boston last Thursday and then followed that up with an 18-shot dud against the Caps on Saturday.

Not exactly rallying for the cause, is it?

It seems like just the opposite, which is why I wonder if there are players in the Montreal locker room who have actually been turned off by the hysteria that resulted from the Pacioretty hit. After all, if Zdeno Chara is going to be arrested for his check on Pacioretty, what is defenseman Hal Gill thinking? He sent the Islanders Jon Sim into the turnbuckle last December with nearly the same kind of hit. Is it safe to say Gill probably believes the police investigation is a bit much?

Or what about the players there who know what a "severe" concussion really means? Canadiens players are well aware that just 24 hours after the hit Pacioretty didn't even have a headache.

Is it possible that they've been as soured by the actions of their organization, fans and media as the rest of the hockey world?

Just asking.

3. I know I've done this many, many times before, but it is at times like these that I just can't help myself.

It's hard to tell who the bigger frauds are -- the Montreal media or the Green Teamers around here.

If you had asked Tanguay, Dickerson, Holley, Maxwell, et all, over the summer if the Celtics should swap out Kendrick Perkins for Shaquille O'Neal (which is essentially what the Perk-Jeff Green trade has boiled down to, largely because the pieces the C's added have done nothing to improve the offense) you would be laughed out of the room. To a man, they would tell you Perkins' role was underappreciated and essential to what the Celtics do as a team. They would tell you Shaq is too old, too out of shape, too selfish to fit with the C's.

Now, of course, they have resorted to exaggerating the other side's argument, which is all they have. No one ever said Perkins was Bill Russell. We only said he was an important part of what the C's were as a team. That's T-E-A-M. Ubuntu. All that. And here's the kicker:

We believed that because the Green Teamers told us! We got it from them.

But as soon as the team did an about-face, they reversed course as well. Embarrassing.

Here's all I know: The Celtics have not been better since the trade. They've lost home-court to Chicago and are on the verge of losing it to Miami, too. They were the odds-on favorite to win the title at the deadline, and now we wonder if they can get out of the East. Maybe Shaq will return and they'll get their act together -- just like they did last year. But if that doesn't happen, I wonder what the spin will be. Right now, it's Rondo's fault. Soon it will be Pierce's.

But here's one thing you can take to the bank: It will never be Danny's.

I await the next round of talking points.

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Infielder Marco Hernandez may make the Red Sox roster after all.

Fellow infielder Josh Rutledge, the presumptive 25th man on the Red Sox, suffered a left hamstring strain on Tuesday against the Pirates, according to reporters in Florida, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald.

If Rutledge isn’t ready for opening day, Hernandez, a left-handed hitter, may have his crack. 

The question is whether the Sox would be comfortable without a right-handed bat to complement both Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland on the corners. Rutledge was going to give the Sox that right-handed look they sought. (When Hanley Ramirez's shoulder will be healthy enough to play first base is unclear, but isn't expected to be too long.)

Neither Rutledge nor Hernandez has played first base in the majors or minors.

A big-league rookie last year, Hernandez has done decently against lefties at the upper levels of the minors, hitting .328 vs. them at Triple-A Pawtucket last season in 67 at-bats. He hit .315 in 54 at-bats at Pawtucket, with a .318 average against them that season in 88 at-bats for Double-A Portland.

Rutledge is a Rule 5 draft pick who has to remain on the major league 25-man roster the whole season or the Sox risk losing him. Placement on the disabled list doesn’t affect his status unless he’s on the disabled list for a very lengthy time.

An alternative option is Steve Selsky, who has first-base experience, but he's already been optioned.

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t scream “fake news" on Tuesday,  but he might as well have.

The only problem is he seems to be forgetting his own words, and his reliever’s.

Righty Tyler Thornburg is starting his Red Sox career on the disabled list because of a shoulder impingement. 

Another Dave Dombrowski pitching acquisition, another trip to the disabled list. Ho hum.

But the reason Thornburg is hurt, Farrell said, has nothing to do with the Red Sox’ shoulder program -- the same program Farrell referenced when talking about Thornburg earlier this month.

“There’s been a lot written targeting our shoulder program here,” Farrell told reporters on Tuesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “I would discount that completely. He came into camp, he was throwing the ball extremely well, makes two appearances. They were two lengthy innings in which inflammation flared up to the point of shutting him down. But in the early work in spring training, he was throwing the ball outstanding. So to suggest that his situation or his symptoms are now the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”

Let’s go back to March 10, when Farrell was asked in his usual pregame session with reporters about Thornburg’s status.

"He is throwing long-toss out to 120 feet today," Farrell said that day. “He’s also been going through a strength and conditioning phase, arm-wise. What we encounter with guys coming from other organizations, and whether it's Rick [Porcello], David [Price], guys that come in, and they go through our shoulder maintenance program, there's a period of adaptation they go through, and Tyler’s going through that right now. We're also going to get him on the mound and get some fundamental work with his delivery and just timing, and that's soon to come in the coming days. Right now it's long toss out to 120 feet.”

So Farrell volunteered, after Thornburg was taken out of game action, that the shoulder program appeared involved. 

Maybe that turned out not to be the case. But Farrell's the one who put this idea out there.

On March 11, Farrell was asked to elaborate about other pitchers who needed adjusting to how the Red Sox do their shoulder program.

“Rick Porcello is an example of that. Joe Kelly,” Farrell said. “And that's not to say that our program is the end-all, be-all, or the model for which everyone should be compared. That's just to say that what we do here might be a little more in-depth based on a conversation with the pitchers, that what they've experienced and what we ask them to do here. And large in part, it's with manual resistance movements on the training table. These are things that are not maybe administered elsewhere, so the body goes through some adaptation to get to that point. 

“So, in other words, a pitcher that might come in here previously, he pitched, he’s got recovery time and he goes and pitches again. There's a lot of work and exercise in between the outings that they may feel a little fatigued early on. But once they get those patterns, and that consistent work, the body adapts to it and their recovery times become much shorter. And it's one of the reasons we've had so much success keeping pitchers healthy and on the field.”

Except that Kelly has had a shoulder impingement in his time with the Red Sox, last April, and so too now does Thornburg.

In quotes that appeared in a March 12 story, Thornburg himself told the Herald’s Michael Silverman that he didn’t understand the Red Sox throwing program.

Thornburg said that after the December trade, he was sent a list of exercises from the training staff. The message he did not receive was that all of the exercises were to be performed daily.

“I kind of figured that this is a list of the exercises they incorporated, I didn’t think this is what they do all in one day,” said Thornburg. “I thought, ‘here’s a list of exercises, learn them, pick five or six of them,’ because that was pretty much what we did in Milwaukee.”

But according to Farrell, Thornburg’s current state has nothing to do with the program -- the same one Farrell himself cited when directly asked about Thornburg before.

Maybe the program was the wrong thing to point to originally. But Farrell did point to it.

"This is all still in line with the shoulder fatigue, the shoudler impingement and the subsequent inflammation that he's dealing with. That’s the best I can tell you at this point," Farrell said Tuesday. "Anytime a player, and we've had a number of players come in, when you come into a new organization, there's a period where guys adapt. Could it have been different from what he's done in the past? Sure. But to say it's the root cause, that’s a little false. That’s a lot false, and very short-sighted."

Hey, he started it.

Thornburg is not to throw for a week before a re-evaluation.