McAdam: Unhappy return coming for Wakefield

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McAdam: Unhappy return coming for Wakefield

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Two morning-after musings:

If, as it certainly seems, Andrew Miller is about to soon join the Red Sox starting rotation, Tim Wakefield is going to be displaced, one way or another.

While one report had the Red Sox planning to slot Miller into the current mix, and, at least for a while, go with six starters, Wakefield will eventually be the odd man out.

There's no rationale for removing Josh Beckett, who sports the lowest ERA of any American League starter, or Jon Lester, who leads in A.L. in wins.

Clay Buchholz (3.59 ERA) has earned a permanent spot in the rotation, and John Lackey gets to stay based on his paycheck. The Sox aren't about to have a long man making almost 17 million per season -- there's too much invested.

That leaves Wakefield, who has a habit of finding himself squeezed out of the picture.

Wakefield pitched brilliantly Tuesday night in defeat, allowing just one earned run over seven innings. He's sure to be unhappy with the idea of being passed over, or, at the very least, moved around.

Though he's not primarily motivated by personal gain, each start Wakefield doesn't get makes his twin goals of 200 career wins (he sits at 196) and becoming the all-time winningest Red Sox pitcher (he's currently 11 away from topping Cy Young and Roger Clemens) become more remote.

Wakefield's current deal expires at the end of the season and while he's been a valuable depth piece on the Red Sox' staff for the last few years, there's no guarantee of his return for 2012 and beyond.

It will take a strong sell job by Terry Francona to have Wakefield remain invested in the team should he again be shifted to the role of bullpen long man.

Tuesday night was one more example of how difficult an opponent the Rays are for the Red Sox.

Boston's run of mighty offensive outbursts was shut down by the Rays and James Shields, and, with it, the team's nine-game winning streak was snapped.

Perhaps that shouldn't be terribly surprising, given the recent history between the two clubs, especially here.

Overall, the Rays have won 10 of their last 13 since June 30 of last season. And since the beginning of 2008, the Rays are a torrid 20-8 -- which translates into a winning percentage of .714 -- against the Sox at Tropicana Field.

It's tough to put a finger on Tampa Bay's dominance. In the past, it could be argued that the Rays' athleticism was a bad matchup for the Red Sox, who couldn't slow the Rays' running game.

Except this: Carl Crawford, once their foremost athletic player and all-around catalyst, now plays for the Red Sox.

And the Rays are no longer nearly as athletic as they were with Crawford, but are still, somehow, 3-0 against the Sox this year.

It can't be Tampa Bay's home-field advantage, either, since the crowds at the Trop are modest, and often, about 30-40 percent full of Red Sox boosters.

Crawford himself provided an interesting tidbit following Tuesday's 4-0 loss to his former team.

"I know those guys over there,'' said Crawford. "Whenever it's the Red Sox in town, they take it up a notch.''

Perhaps the Rays are particularly motivated by the turnout of Red Sox fans in their home ballpark, making them all the more determined to beat their guests. And it's a fair bet to believe that Joe Maddon reminds his team of the huge payroll advantages both the Red Sox and Yankees hold.

Whatever is being said, it's working. And it's going to make it very difficult for the Red Sox to run away with the division if they can't beat the Rays head-to-head.

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.