McAdam: Sox looking for arms in depleted market

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McAdam: Sox looking for arms in depleted market

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
It says everything about the quality of available starting pitchers on the trade market that the two names most closely linked to the Red Sox in the last few days are Rich Harden and Erik Bedard.

As the Red Sox hunt for other options while their own Clay Buchholz (lower back) continues his rehab, they're left contemplating two starters who have had difficulty staying healthy.

The left-handed Bedard (knee) is coming off the disabled list Friday for a start against Tampa Bay which will be monitored by the Red Sox and other pitching-starved clubs. Of course, injuries are nothing new for Bedard, who hasn't pitched more than 90 innings in a single season since 2007 and has totalted just 45 starts over the last 3 12 seasons.

It's much the same with Harden, who has topped the 100-inning plateau only twice since 2005.

Both pitchers may be worth it for the short-term. The Red Sox aren't interested in either as long-term solutions, but rather, the final two months of the season and into the post-season.

The asking price on Bedard, however, is said to be prohibitive. One team calling on Bedard said Tuesday night that the Mariners were asking a "ton'' in return, which signals just how thin the pitching market is, or, at the very least, the Mariners' over-inflated sense of Bedard's worth.

Buchholz's mound session Monday was encouraging, and Wednesday's follow-up will be critical. If Buchholz can continue to make progress without feeling restricted, the Sox can reasonably expect to have him back in the rotation by the end of August.

If his comeback effort were to be slowed, however, the Red Sox desperation for pitching help might be intensified.

Andrew Miller's rough outing Tuesday (seven runs on nine hits in just 3 23 innings) was evidence that the lefty remains a work in progress.

Without Buchholz in the picture, the Sox would need to start both John Lackey and either Miller or Tim Wakefield in an ALCS, when four starters are required.

But upgrades, as they are finding, are not easy to come by. The Sox continue to check in with the Colorado Rockies on Ubaldo Jimenez, but they're behind the Yankees and at least one other National League suitor (Cincinnati?) for the righthander.

The Yankees could package catcher Jesus Montero and at least one other high-end prospect for Jimenez, while the Red Sox inventory of top-level prospects has been thinned by the Adrian Gonzalez deal last December.

(The Yankees' starting rotation need, it should be noted, is greater than that of the Red Sox).

Moreover, the Red Sox continue to ask -- as executives with other teams have wondered -- why Jimenez is on the market at all. At just 27, Jimenez is signed through the end of 2012 with two affordable team options (5.75 million in 2013 and 8 million in 2014), making his availability something of a red flag.

Said one executive recently: "If (the Rockies) are shopping him, that tells me he's either hurt or they think he'll get hurt.''

A Rockies scout was at Fenway Tuesday, indicating that the Red Sox are least somewhat involved on Jimenez. (The Red Sox have a passing interest in Colorado outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, but he would fetch only an average prospect, and not someone off Boston's 25-man roster.)

Meanwhile, the continued standout play of Josh Reddick (1.022 OPS) means the Red Sox' search for an outfielder has been placed on the back burner.

While the likes of Spilborghs and Reed Johnson are still somewhat in play, one baseball source said deals for secondary outfielders are likely to intensify only after trades involving Carlos Beltran and B.J. Upton are made.

The Sox have not inquired on Upton, knowing full well that the Rays won't deal him within the division, especially since he has a contract through the end of next season.

Texas, Atlanta and San Francisco are the teams most involved on Beltran, with the Red Sox lurking in the background -- interested, but only to a point, given the asking price.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Drellich: Don't let Sam Travis' lack of batting gloves fool you

Drellich: Don't let Sam Travis' lack of batting gloves fool you

Three players are tied for the Red Sox' lead in home runs in Florida. Only two of them will be with the team come Opening Day.

The other may be the starting first baseman a year from now.

Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Sam Travis have all gone deep three times this Grapefruit League season.

Coming back from surgery on his left ACL, Travis has yet to play in the majors. But he easily could later this year.

In a perfect world, though, the 23-year-old spends 2017 at Triple-A Pawtucket. He needs to prove he can consistently hit off-speed pitches.

A right-handed hitting first baseman who played college ball with Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs, Travis already crushes fastballs.

He carries himself like a stereotypical masher, too.

Travis rocks an unbuttoned jersey with no undershirt. No batting gloves. A grip-it-and-rip-it approach and Mike Napoli vibe.

But, don't get too caught up in the image.

"I mean, are you essentially asking like, do I still like have a plan?" Travis said when approached about his reputation.

No, because everyone has a plan. It's a question of how his is formulated, what matters to him. Because it can't always be as simple as see ball, hit ball. And it isn't.

"I definitely watch video. Everyone watches video," Travis said. "You kind of need to watch video when you get to this stage . . . You're in the box, you don't really want to think at all. That's what practice is for. But yeah, I'm definitely working on stuff.

"Just because I don't wear batting gloves doesn't mean I'm just going out there -- I definitely still got an idea what I'm trying to do."

Travis said he tried batting gloves once in high school and they just didn't feel right. So he takes hacks with a 34-inch bat with no frills..

But even when hitters say they don't think at the plate, they do.

If you're up 2-and-0, the thought has to cross your mind: fastball?

"I mean, yeah, you definitely are talking to yourself," Travis said. "But you don't want to get too far into your own thoughts because then that's when you get in trouble."

Slugging involves calculating.

Travis will look at scouting reports, but they're not his end-all be-all. The written ones, anyway. He keeps others in his head.

"I like to know what pitches [an opponent] has, which way pitches are going to move," Travis said. "But you know, you find that out from other players, and of course scouting reports and video. But the best experience is when you're actually in there, when you actually see it first hand.

"I remember everybody."

Video can be used to break down one's own swing, too. But that's not Travis. Tinkering's not his bag.

In part, that's because he's always had a simple approach mechanically.

"I don't really take much of a stride or anything. I kind of just pick it up and put it down," Travis said. "I've always been the guy that can make an adjustment pitch to pitch and at-bat to at-bat depending on what the pitcher is, it just goes with like timing and stuff."

Usually, somewhere along the way -- in the professional or amateur chain -- a coach will try to change a player's swing. Travis said that wasn't the case for him, though.

"No. Not really," Travis said. "Everyone's still gonna have minor adjustments, it's just how the game works. You know, you're going to put a bad swing on the ball. But as long as you recognize it and get right back to where you are . . .

"I've always been a guy who believes less movement, the better it is. That's my own personal opinion. Whatever works for people, that's what they're going to do."

Sometimes, that means loosening a few buttons and just letting it rip.

After watching a little video before the game.

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

The newest lefty ace can succeed where David Price did not.

Chris Sale might be the most electrifying pitcher the Red Sox have had since Pedro Martinez.

Josh Beckett had his moments. Jon Lester was steadily excellent.

But the stuff Sale brings is a step above.

A spaghetti-limbed motion and a fast pace. The ability to throw any pitch in any count, something said of many pitchers, but noted here without exaggeration. A delivery that disguises each pitch as another until there’s no time to react.

MORE ON CHRIS SALE

There's been a lot of talk about how competitive Sale is. That's great.

Let's acknowledge how filthy he is before going crazy about the intangibles. He carves hitters better than he does jerseys.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made some questionable moves, but he deserves some optimism here. Some early praise, even -- no matter how well Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, the best prospects he gave the White Sox for Sale, are faring this spring.

Where Dombrowski failed with Price thus far, he may succeed immediately with Sale.

Yes, Sale's 10-strikeout performance against the Yankees on Tuesday night was just a spring training game. But he was dominant to the point that a Grapefruit League game was actually made interesting.

Must-watch, even.

“You guys saw,” Sale told reporters in Florida. “Just felt good.”

All three pitches were working for Sale, the fastball, slider and changeup, and the variants thereof.

“I've been working on my changeup a little bit more the last couple of outings,” Sale said. “My last time out it wasn't great, but just working on it in between starts, just throwing it on the flat ground, it's a pitch that doesn't take a whole lot of stress on your arm. So even when you're just playing catch, you can flip it around, work on grips, things like that.

"As far as my slider, I feel good about it. . . . Obviously when I'm throwing harder, I think it's a little bit flatter. When I take some off of it, not only do I have a little bit more control, but I think it has a little bit more depth. Plus, it kind of creates another pitch in there. It's like an in-between fastball-changeup type of thing. Anything to give them a different look or try to throw them off. That’s kind of the name of pitching."

American League Rookie of the Year runner-up Gary Sanchez was miles in front of the 2-and-2 changeup he swung over in the first inning. Matt Holliday was frozen by a slider at the belt on the inner half.

Chris Carter, he of 40-home run power, was beat by a 2-and-2 fastball an inning later, clearly thinking off speed and unable to decipher just what was coming in time.

Aaron Hicks tried to golf an 0-and-2 slider by flinging his bat into the stands, somewhere behind the third-base dugout.

That’s just the first two innings.

"He added his third pitch more this evening than five days ago, when it was more fastball-changeup," manager John Farrell said. "He had his breaking ball to both sides of the plate, and got underneath to some right-handed swings. And any time he needs to, he's got such good feel for the changeup to get him back in counts to give him a different look. He was impressive."

Opening Day at Fenway Park will be exciting. But Game No. 2, when Sale is to make his Sox debut, should bring the most intrigue.