Boston Red Sox

Drellich: Aggressive Red Sox run into a win, and some validation

Drellich: Aggressive Red Sox run into a win, and some validation

BOSTON — Mookie Betts pulled into second base as Jackie Bradley Jr. made a swim move across home plate, a smooth maneuver that wound up unnecessary. One of the best anywhere, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, didn’t come up with the throw. 

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Bradley would have been out if he had. Instead, an aggressive attempt to score the winning run from first base on a double off the Monster worked and the Red Sox walked off the Cards, 5-4. 

Afterward, third-base coach Brian Butterfield and some coaches happened to hear Betts describe his view of Bradley’s sprint.

“It seems like everybody is saying we’re too aggressive and guys are getting thrown out but the risk-reward,” Betts said. “You’re going to run into some outs, but you’re going to run into something like today. It just shows you that there’s a means to an end, and we’re just going to be an aggressive base-running team.”

Music to Butterfield’s ears.

“We noticed that Mookie said, ‘There’s the means to the end,’” Butterfield said. “We kind of went ‘Oh, play that one back’ — because that’s what we say all the time.”

Butterfield and the Red Sox aren’t changing their overall approach.  They’ve run into more outs than anyone. Privately, conversations have indeed been held to address individual mistakes.

Within the clubhouse, perhaps the Sox do not need outside validation. But Wednesday night’s win, another moment of resiliency overall, showed everyone the other side of the running coin: the good that can come out of stretching a defense.

“I don’t know the inner workings of the Patriots — I want to know,” Butterfield said. “But I trust that they hit on things [that go wrong] and I know that they do. They’re the benchmark for us. They are. They should be for everybody.

“You can bet your bottom dollar that when a kid gets too aggressive, then we say OK, here’s the time that you slow down.”

Before Betts’ winning double, Bradley told Butterfield that he wanted to try for home on a ball off the Monster. 

Well, Bradley didn’t exactly tell Butterfield that. Standing across the diamond at first base, Bradley signaled over to his third-base coach.

“We talk about being engaged on the bases,” Butterfield said. “We have hand signals to remind [them]. Part of our job is reminding the guy before the pitcher steps on the rubber. But, we love it when players are getting Ruben [first-base coach Ruben Amaro] and I engaged by looking at us.”

Bradley was the trail runner with Betts at the plate, the Sox down 4-3 and two out. Chris Young was on second base when Betts roped a hanging breaking ball off the Monster.

“[Bradley is] over at first base and he’s looking at me and I was looking at my lead runner, and I look over at Jackie and he's going — ‘Watch the wall,’” Butterfield said, motioning with his arms the way Bradley did. “He goes, ‘Ball off the wall, you score me.’ Love that. ‘Cause you know he’s going to fight for everything that he’s got on a secondary lead. He’s gonna anticipate and he’s gonna give a great bolt.”

Bradley Jr., was probably getting waved in even without that pre-pitch conversation, Butterfield said. Because the Sox are sticking to their guns, which have at times appeared reckless.

“It’s OK,” Butterfield said of the criticism. “If you have a plan you got to stay with it, you got to do it with conviction.”

Are the Sox trying to be more aggressive compared to last year? Butterfield didn’t give a firm answer. But the way the Sox have played lately, with wins in 12 of 14, they do look like a team with fresh legs. 

“There was a point last year at the midway point where I thought it was electric the way these guys were pushing it, and the way they were giving great effort and they made a lot of stuff happen with their legs,” Butterfield said. “We’re in the middle of August, the dog days of August. 

"We’re in a pennant race and we’ve told the guys that we feel like we’re going that way as far as effort," Butterfield continued, pointing upward. "And we’re noticing some other people that we’re playing, it doesn’t seem like — this is when you get tired mentally. This is when you get tired physically, worn out, banged up. But you got to keep pushing it, and they’re doing a good job at doing that.”

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How Drew Pomeranz, 2nd best lefty in the American League, can be even better

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How Drew Pomeranz, 2nd best lefty in the American League, can be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not technically be the No. 2 for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Red Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Either way, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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The 28-year-old Pomeranz was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My change-up’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

BOSTON — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the the Yankees, MLB disciplinarian Joe Torre, and players who can’t take criticism from broadcasters.

In a spot Thursday with WEEI, Werner made clear David Price’s handling of Dennis Eckersley was unprofessional.

“Boston is a tough place to play,” Werner said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merlonia and Fauria. “Some players thrive here, and some players don’t. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.”

“I thought there was a way of handling that. It wasn’t handled appropriately. If I’ve got a problem with Lou [Merloni], and I hear something he says on the radio, I’ll say to Lou, ‘That wasn’t fair.’ ”

Werner also called the team’s relationship with the Yankees “frosty” following the public sign-stealing saga that resulted in fines for both clubs.

“The fact is, I do think this was a minor technical violation,” Werner said. “I start with the fact that this was unfortunately raised to a level it never should have been raised to.”

Werner also insinuated he did not approve of how MLB and Torre handled the disciplining of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who receieved a four-game suspension for his part in a fight against the Tigers (reduced on appeal to three games).

“Do you think Gary Sanchez got an appropriate punishment?” Werner asked.