Gomez, fellow Sox rookies make most of down year

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Gomez, fellow Sox rookies make most of down year

BOSTON There havent been many silver linings to be salvaged from this lost Red Sox season of 2012. From an inordinate number of injuries, to a record number of players used, to poor performances on the field, to off-field dysfunction and distractions, the bright moments in this season have been hard to find.

No question, said David Ortiz. Its another year were not in the pennant race. A disappointing year. Hopefully, it gets better the following year.

Because of all the issues swamping the team, though, younger players and those who werent expected to have a role at the beginning of the season were given a chance to prove themselves. Players like Pedro Ciriaco and Mauro Gomez, virtual unknowns in spring training, to Junichi Tazawa and Will Middlebrooks, who in the course of the season went from prospects to players who have been relied on to contribute.

I saw a lot from Pedro Ciriaco in spring training and now once hes been here, hes been amazing, Ortiz said. Hes got a lot of talent. And Tazawas been unbelievable. Hes been tough and very impressive. I could mention a whole bunch of them who are doing a really good job and Im sure the front office next year is going to keep a really close eye on them.

Ciriaco began to open eyes in spring training when he hit .419 playing shortstop, second base, third base, and center field. In 70 games this season, he is hitting .289 with two home runs and 19 RBI, playing third base, second base, short, and all three outfield positions. He has 15 stolen bases, getting caught twice. He began the season with 15 consecutive steals before being caught for the first time Saturday. It was the second-most successful steals this season without being caught by any major league player, behind 19 by Detroits Quentin Berry.

Middlebrooks was in the American League Rookie of the Year conversation before being shut down by a fractured wrist on Aug. 11.

Hes legit, said Ortiz. Thats my boy, man. He got injured. He came in a couple of months after the season started and he showed everybody he belonged here. So hopefully his hand gets better and he comes back next year and does what he was doing. Hes a young guy who Ive tried to teach everything I know, and he listens and thats what we need around here, guys like him.

In his last 12 outings since Aug. 31, spanning 11 innings, Tazawa has allowed just one run on three hits with a walk and 16 strikeouts although he has allowed 10 of 26 inherited runners to score, a 39-percent rate, above the team rate of 30 percent. Tazawa, who began the season continuing to recover from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in March 2010, is second in the AL among pitchers with at least 40.0 innings pitched with a 1.54 ERA, behind only the Rays Fernando Rodney (0.63). Since 1916, only two other Sox pitchers (Jonathan Papelbon, 0.92 in 2006 and Calvin Schiraldi, 1.41 in 1986) have posted a lower single-season mark, with a minimum of 40 innings. Tazawas 8.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio is best in the majors this season among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched.

Hes been near perfect, said manager Bobby Valentine. Hes been as good a pitcher as Ive seen in this league. Hes continued to get better. His split-finger now is devastating, throwing it 90, 91 mph. His control is impeccable. He has nerve. Throws strikes. Hes everything you want in a pitcher.

Gomez has been among the more intriguing players this season. As close to a complete unknown as a player could be in spring training, he was named the International League MVP with Triple-A Pawtucket, while also being named an IL All-Star. In 34 games with the Sox he is hitting .290 with two home runs and 17 RBI. He also has two triples, tied with Ciriaco, one behind team leader Dustin Pedroia. The right-handed hitter is batting .340 with two home runs against righties (just .233 against lefties), playing first base, third base, and serving as the designated hitter.

Gomez, who turned 28 on Sept. 7, made his big league debut this season. After signing as an amateur free agent with the Rangers in 2003, spending eight seasons in the Texas organization and two in Atlantas, a big league call-up was never a given.

Always I worked hard to get to the big leagues, Gomez said. That was my goal. I was so excited when they called me up here. I called my family in the Dominican. They were so happy. I just wanted a chance to play. Every time they put me in the lineup I tried to do my best to help my team to win.

At the beginning of the season I started hitting the ball good. I was playing winter ball in the Dominican. So when I came to spring training I was ready. And when the season started I was ready. It was a good year.

When they give me the MVP award, when they told me, I was excited. Thats good because I work hard every day and try to get better and better. Thats an accomplishment. I was happy.

Gomez is a good hitter, Valentine said. Can hit right-handers, left-handers. I think the more at-bats he gets, the more power factor he can have. If he plays winter ball, Id like him to play some left field for value.

I havent seen him at an extended period at first base. I hear he catches everything that gets to him, thats around him. At third base I can see it being a bit of an issue because he hasnt had a lot of reps.

Gomez, along with Ciriaco, is among several Sox players planning to play winter ball. Gomez will return to Leones del Escogido, where he played last season. This year, he will focus on playing third base and left field, along with some first base, working on his defense. The Sox havent given him any information for next season, beyond being ready for spring training.

They told me, in Dominican winter ball, they want me to play third and left, be ready for spring training, and we never know, he said. Just be ready for spring training.

With just six games left in this lost season, thats all any Red Sox players can do. Given full health Middlebrooks will be the starting third baseman. Tazawa should have a spot on the staff. Less known is the role players like Ciriaco and Gomez will have. They werent expected to play in as many games as they did. So, just be ready for spring training.

Thats all that can be salvaged from this season.

Cardinals pull away late for 7-2 victory over Red Sox

Cardinals pull away late for 7-2 victory over Red Sox

The Cardinals broke open a close game with four runs in the last two innings against Red Sox relief prospect Chandler Shepherd and went on to a 7-2 exhibition victory over Boston yesterday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

Red Sox-Cardinals box score

The loss dropped the Sox to 1-3 for the exhibition season.

Boston had jumped on top, 1-0, on an RBI single by Mitch Moreland in the bottom of the first, but St. Louis countered with two runs in the second and one in the third, all against starter Brian Johnson. It remained 3-1 until the Cards touched Shepherd for two runs in the eighth and two in the ninth. The Red Sox added their final run in the bottom of the ninth when catcher Jordan Procyshen, who spent last season at Single-A Salem, hit a sacrifice fly.

Moreland, Xander Bogaerts and Chris Young each had two hits for the Red Sox. who also got scoreless relief from Teddy Stankiewicz, Noe Ramirez, Robby Scott, Kyle Martin and Brandon Workman. It was Bogaerts' last game before leaving to compete for The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

The Sox host the Yankees on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m.

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia is no stranger to injuries. That's a big reason why he's no longer a stranger to the sometimes peculiar practices of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

In an interview on WEEI's "Bradfo Show," Pedroia told Rob Bradford that he's been taking cues from the five-time Super Bowl-winning QB to help extend his playing career and make his body healthier and more durable.

“I understand what he does and know what he does. I think it’s awesome,” Pedroia told Bradford. “There’s a reason why he’s successful at his age (39), and he looks better now than he did when he first came to the league. You have to be smarter as you get older and learn different styles -- the way to train and the way you take care of your body to be able to perform and stay on the field. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. He’s definitely got that figured out.”

Pedroia, of course, played the entire 2013 World Series-winning season with a torn ligament in his thumb. He's battled through various other lower body and hand injuries over the past few seasons, as well. But in 2016, he had his best season in recent memory, posting his highest OPS since 2011, as WEEI notes.

Part of that is with his own take on the Brady approach -- which focuses more on pliability and resistance training than extensive, heavy weight lifting -- and a healthier overall lifestyle, something Brady is notoriously infamous for having.

"There’s tons of ways to take care of your body. It’s not just get in the weight room and throw weights around,” Pedroia explained. “As you get older, the human body can’t take the pounding if you’re going in there and power lifting. When you’re younger, you can handle some of that. But as you get older, you got to be smarter. Sometimes less is more -- whether that’s weight or reps or whatever. You’ve just got to be smart. And eating wise, that’s a big part of recovery. If you put the right foods in your body, you’ll heal faster if you’re injured or recover faster. It’s like a car, man. Put bad gas in, bro. It’s not going to be the same as good gas.”

He hopes the approach can, at the very least, keep him moving for quite some time.

“I plan on living until I’m 100," he said. "So we’re not even halfway home."