Boston Red Sox

First Pitch: Tuesday, September 6

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First Pitch: Tuesday, September 6

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Monday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

AND THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING: The day started with the news that Erik Bedard's knee is still bothering him and he'll miss his next start and that Bobby Jenks is done for the season.

Then Josh Beckett sprained his ankle.

So by the time the Red Sox completed their 1-0, 11-inning defeat in Toronto -- a game in which Dan Wheeler, whom many have been clamoring to be given a more important bullpen role, surrendered the game-winning home run -- it was already a lost afternoon, made worse by the Yankees' victory over the Orioles (more on that in a moment). Boston now trails by 2 12 in the A.L. East and, oh, that's five losses in the last seven games for those keeping score at home.

(All stories csnne.com.)

But the big news, obviously, is Beckett, because the Sox are going nowhere -- and I mean nowhere -- in October without the two-headed monster of Beckett and Jon Lester at the top of the rotation (especially considering how wobbly the rest of the starting staff looks these days). Beckett didn't sound especially encouraging afterwards, talking about he's "never had such an injury . . . before" and the ankle is "definitely stiff" and having something happen to his power leg is "always concerning". ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes raised the disconcerting notion of possible ligament tears, which would be consistent with "the popping sound Beckett heard Monday" when he got hurt.

Beckett returned to Boston to be examined today, and we should get word at some point. Until then, nothing to do but wait.

And, as Sean McAdam has, contemplate the state of the Red Sox starting rotation sans Beckett.

Not pretty, is it?

YOU DON'T HAVE TO PAINT ME A PICTURE:Hideki Okajima's not getting a September call to Boston and no otherteam seems interested, so the veteran left-hander -- who actually did pretty well this year in Pawtucket (pawsox.com) -- is thinking about retirement. (Providence Journal)

TIME FOR A CHANGE: Joining their voices to speed-things-up-for-the-love-of-Mike chorus: The New York Daily News' Mike Lupica and our old pal The Tao of Stieb. Tao, however, is mostly focused on the Red Sox, thanks to Jonathan Papelbon's agonizing, 27-pitches-in-24-minutes, water-dripping-on-the-forehead outing yesterday. (According to an Edes Tweet, Dennis Eckersley called Pap's display "sickening to watch". Really, how great is Eck?)

OH, GOD: Almost from the day Jesus Montero signed with the Yankees, we've been anticipatingdreading John Sterling's call of his first home run. It finally arrived yesterday -- twice, as Montero hit two in the Yanks' 11-10 win over the Orioles (New York Daily News) -- and Sterling came out with . . .

"Jesus is loose!" (New York Times)

(He used the Hispanic pronunciation, so it came out as the rhyming "Hay-seuss is loose!")

Phew.

That left it to the New York Post ("Praise Jesus!") to pick up the Gauntlet of Tastelessness, and the headlinestype in both the Post and Daily News ("Jesus Saves", "What will Jesus do?") were about what you'd expect. But, hey, the kid hit two home runs. Can you really be surprised?

It all made for a fun day in the Bronx, and enabled the Yanks to overlook a less-than-stellar performance from Mariano Rivera. (New York Post) Also not joining in the party, presumably, is Jorge Posada -- whose already-paltry playing time figures to disappear with Montero's emergence -- but he's keeping a stiff upper lip about the whole thing. (New York Post)

SIX INTO FIVE: Joe Girardi says he's sticking with a six-man rotation for now. (New York Daily News)

AROUND THE A.L. EAST: Mark Reynolds isn't making anyone forget Brooks Robinson, at least defensively, in Baltimore (Baltimore Sun) . . . The St. Petersburg's Times' Marc Topkin tells us what the Rays have to play for the rest of the way.

NOTHING TO SEE HERE (OR IS THERE?): Foxsports.com's Tracy Ringolsby points out that the division races are all but settled, and the wild-card races aren't much closer, as baseball comes down the home stretch. But SI.com's Cliff Corcoran says "baseball history is littered with late-season collapses and comebacks."

THEY'RE WORTH SOMETHING . . . I GUESS: Joe Posnanski says he comes to praise pitchers' wins as a meaningful statistic, but then does nothing of the sort. (joeposnanski.si.com)

WOULD YOU BELIEVE . . . Adrian Beltre in the Hall of Fame? Rob Neyer really doesn't seem to think so, either, but he points out that you can make a case, and a pretty good one, for him. (sbnation.com)

OLD FRIENDS: J.C. Romero is back in the big leagues, this time with the Rockies (AP) . . . To no one's surprise, Hanley Ramirez' season is over (Miami Herald) . . . So is the Mets', but at least Jason Bay is finishing strong (AP) . . . Derek Lowe had a rough night against the Phillies, and Cliff Lee's masterpiece made it look even worse (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) . . . Victor Martinez can't catch these days, but he sure can hit (Rotoworld).

AND FINALLY . . . Who knew Bill Buckner could act? (tvfanatic.com) Personally, I think he was better than either Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez, and especially Rodriguez. (AP) "We're trying to win a ring here"? Even on TV, even when scriptwriters put words in his mouth, A-Rod comes off as a phony.

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.