Boston Red Sox

Drellich: Sale should have been given chance to finish what he started

Drellich: Sale should have been given chance to finish what he started

The issue isn’t which pitcher gave the Red Sox a better team to win Thursday, Craig Kimbrel or Chris Sale. The chances were overwhelmingly in the Red Sox’ favor either way.

It’s about ownership.

RED SOX 4, BLUE JAYS 1

Thursday belonged to Chris Sale, who was an exhibit of efficiency and dominance at Rogers Centre. He deserved a chance to finish off one of the best outings of his career.

Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t give it to him.

Fortunately for Farrell -- and fortunately for Kimbrel, whose failure will be forgotten in this conversation -- the Sox still got a win over the Blue Jays, 4-1 in 10 innings, despite Kimbrel’s blown save.

Going to Kimbrel, an elite reliever who has looked otherworldly lately, is not a bad decision in itself. But on this day, Sale should have been afforded the chance to blow this game himself, rather than be told to watch while someone else screws it up for him.

"I'm going to want the ball in that situations 10 times out of nine," Sale told reporters in Toronto.

Sale said he told pitching coach Carl Willis he was available for the ninth.

Kimbrel served up a leadoff home run to Kendrys Morales in the ninth, a shot to straightaway center that tied the game at 1-1.

“After kind of a long inning (with a replay review in the top of the ninth)  . . . [I] felt like it was time to turn it over to a guy who was fresh and powerful,” Farrell told reporters in Toronto.

It’s hard to say that Sale at 102 pitches is actually a better pitcher than Kimbrel at 0. These are two of the absolute best at their jobs. If either pitcher gave up a run, the choice would be second guessed -- and you know it.

You can say the Blue Jays benefited from a new look with Kimbrel coming in. You can argue the opposite: just consider how well Kimbrel has pitched lately.

But then, when you consider the same with Sale; when you consider the 13 strikeouts he had amassed on just 102 pitches; when you consider his ERA is now 0.91 in four starts with the Sox; it comes down to a feeling that this was his game.

Sale’s pitch count wasn’t too high. And he was already brushing with some history, albeit obscure history.

Sale on Thursday became the first Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 2001 to strike out at least 12 in consecutive starts. (Pedro did it in four straight games that May.)

Thursday was the 28th time in major-league history a starter struck out 13 hitters while finishing with 102 pitches or fewer, per Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index. Teams are 21-7 in those kind of outings.

And Sale became the first starter in major-league history to strike out at least 13, finish with 102 pitches or fewer and have at least 80 of those pitches be strikes.

Farrell’s job is to put the best pitchers in position to win games. 

Between Sale and Kimbrel, there was no obvious answer Thursday as to who would position the Sox better -- not with the way both have been throwing. Who's better, Sale at 102 pitches or Kimbrel at 0? You could argue for hours.

What it should have come down to for Farrell, then, was a realization Thursday belonged to Sale, until Sale gave it away himself.

Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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

Still, 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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Pomeranz, 28, 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 changeup’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 Carl 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.