Francona on the state of the Red Sox


Francona on the state of the Red Sox

By SeanMcAdam

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Earlier in the week, general manager Theo Epstein addressed a number of topics on the eve of spring training. Sunday, it was manager Terry Francona's turn.

Some highlights on a variety of issues:

On the team's potential: "I think our expectations are high. They should be. Our front office and ownership did a terrific job this winter...I think we've had high expectations for the last eight or nine years. But I don't think we'll be consumed by the pressure of our expectations.''

On JD Drew's balky hamstring: "It's something that he has voiced some concern about. He went and saw Dr. (James) Andrews and came up to Boston. I don't think he's real concerned about it. It's been there. I don't think we want it to be a concern. We'll certainly monitor it.''

On the timetable for Adrian Gonzalez to see game action: "I know he feels like he's ahead of the projections. But until he sees (the doctor who performed the shoulder surgery), it would be kind of silly for me to guess. We'll go completely by what that checkup says so there's no reason to really guess on that one.''

On Dustin Pedroia's workload this spring: "We'd rather not beat up guys for no reason. We'll keep an eye on him. He's pretty honest with me about stuff. We realize what's happened to him; we'll keep an eye on him.''

On the catching situation: ""We've got (Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamachia) and I think we're pretty comfortable with that, maybe more than people realize. Salty's had a tremendous winter. This guy's potentially a power-hitting switch-hitting catcher, but if that doesnt' come to fruition right away, that's not the end of the world. But we love the way that he wants to run the game. And Tek's in a good spot.''

On Jonathan Papelbon's motivation to bounce back: "There's maybe various reasons why he wants to bounce back. I'm not sure I care (what they are), whether it's financial or whatever. I just want him to get a bunch of saves.''

On Jacoby Ellsbury: "He missed a lot of time. Does that, early on, sort of slow him down? We'll see. I hope not. If it does though, we have ways to take the pressure off him. We can hit him lower in the lineup. If he's feeling good, we'd love for him to lead off. If he's not, we can protect him (by hitting him lower).''

On Daniel Bard: "Bard is probably the ultimate weapon in the bullpen. Like maybe no other reliever in the league, he has that ability to come in, finish an inning and go back out. We'll use that to our advantage; he actually thrives on it.''

On players arriving late: "The only two potential hangups are (Alfredo) Aceves and (Dennys) Reyes. Aceves will be here, then he will have to leave to go get his visa. Dennys got permission to get it; he may be a couple of days.''

On the batting order: "We didn't spend a lot of time talking about that (in meetings). We'll get to that. I know that's the fun stuff in Boston, but it will work itself out.''

On the leadoff spot: "Whoever leads off, you want a couple of things. Speed's good, but you want him to score runs. On-base (ability is important) is more important than stolen bases. In factr, sometimes the guys who run are better off at the bottom of the order. They can run a little bit more free without making outs with your better hitters off. We'll use good judgement.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl


Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

SAN FRANCISCO  — As an irate Bryce Harper charged toward the mound, Buster Posey just stood and watched from behind home plate.

And when the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants cleared their benches Monday and punches flew both ways, the All-Star catcher did his best to remain just outside the fray.

Not where some expected to find the Giants team leader with his pitcher, Hunter Strickland, exchanging head shots with Harper.

“Posey did NOTHING to stop Harper from getting to his pitcher,” former major league pitcher Dontrelle Willis wrote on Twitter. “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

Posey declined to enter the fracas, instead remaining around its edges and watching as the players scuffled in “a pretty good pile,” as Giants manager Bruce Bochy called it.

Posey dealt with a concussion in April after being struck in the head by a pitch, but did not say he held back because of concerns related to that. He did say he was wary about the risk of injury.

“There were some big guys tumbling around out there,” Posey said. “You see Mike Morse and Jeff Samardzija are about as big as they come and he was getting knocked around like a pinball. So it was a little dangerous to get in there.”

Still, social media was abuzz at the sight of Posey not sticking up for his teammate.

“Strickland must have told @BusterPosey he was hitting him and let him come cause he didn’t even give a soft jog,” Willis wrote.

“Says all you need to know that Buster Posey didn’t bother to hold back Harper,” tweeted Fox broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt . “Let him go get his pitcher.”

Also absent from the fight: hard-nosed Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. As his teammates flew over the dugout railing, Bumgarner stayed put, perhaps because the left-hander is still recovering after injuring his pitching shoulder and ribs in a dirt biking accident in April.


Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong


Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.