Boston Red Sox

McAdam: Will Cherington roll dice with Alomar?

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McAdam: Will Cherington roll dice with Alomar?

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox front office first began assembling names to interview for their managerial vacancy last month, the name that seemed to elicit the most excitement was Sandy Alomar Jr.

In canvassing others around the game and doing their due diligence, the Red Sox consistently heard nothing but positive things about the former catcher.

"As we were doing research on candidates," said general manager Ben Cherington, "his name kept coming up. I was actually with Sandy (in 1998 with Cleveland) and saw him in the clubhouse and saw the leader he was back then, the respect he had in that clubhouse. I've been sort of following him since then.

"And the research we did more recently, his name just kept coming up as a guy who has a ton of respect in the baseball community. He's an incredible talent, has instincts for the game, awareness --- that family just knows baseball better than most other families do."

Alomar would seem to have it all: instincts, leadership qualities, bloodlines, the ability to converse with players in his native language, Spanish, and a long successful playing career as a catcher that should translate into being able to run a pitching staff.

What he doesn't have, however, is any managerial experience.

Of any kind.

Anywhere.

He hasn't managed in winter ball or the minor leagues. He hasn't managed in the Arizona Fall League, a good proving ground.

In fact, of the five candidates the Red Sox have brought or plan to bring to Fenway to discuss the job, Alomar is the only one to have never managed a game at any level.

Pete Mackanin had two partial-season stints as an interim manager in the big leagues. Dale Sveum managed Milwaukee for a dozen games and a playoff series, and also managed three seasons at Double A. Torey Lovullo, due in Friday, has managed at every level of the minor leagues, including, most recently, at Pawtucket in 2010.

Gene Lamont, who will interview Saturday, managed both the Chicago White Sox (where he earned A.L. Manager of the Year honors) and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Alomar is missing that key ingredient. Or so it would seem.

Going back through recent history, it's hard to find a Red Sox manager who came to the job without at least some managerial experience. Terry Francona had four years in Philadelphia. Grady Little managed in the minor leagues.

Jimy Williams had previously managed in Toronto, and before him, Kevin Kennedy had managed Texas. Butch Hobson had managed multiple seasons in the minors. Joe Morgan was a minor-league manager seemingly forever, and John McNamara, his predecessor, had big-league managerial experience with four different franchises.

The last manager of the Red Sox to have not previously managed anywhere, in fact, was Joe Kerrigan. Kerrigan's 43-game stint, as most Red Sox fans recall was, in a word, disastrous.

Cherington went out of way to note that Alomar performed superbly in the game simulation exercises the Red Sox put every candidate through.

"Despite not managing a game," Cherington noted, "he sees the game very much like a manager does."

This is a particularly tough time to hire someone without experience, given how the team imploded in the final month of 2011, bereft of discipline and professionalism.

And this market isn't the best to learn on the job. Expectations are always high and tolerance for mistakes is almost non-existent.

"Some people take different routes," acknowledged Alomar. "I chose this way. I've learned a tremendous amount. I feel like I'm prepared to manage a major-league team even though I didn't manage in the minor leagues."

Alomar passed his first test Wednesday and didn't do anything to take himself out of consideration.

"It was worth getting to know him better," confirmed Cherington. "He's going to be a major-league manager, whether it's 2012 or sometime after that, I'm very confident."

The question is: Does Cherington feel confident to make his first managerial hire an unproven one, one without any experience?

It would constitute an enormous risk on Cherington. Indeed, if he hires Alomar, regardless of how it turns out, it may tell us more about the new GM and his willingness to take risks and trust his own instincts, than it does about Alomar himself.

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in major league history to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this. … I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday.

In this case, the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. 

It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.

“We know what the final out of tonight represented, him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that, and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least, Sale should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could do reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? 

Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.

Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

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Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

BALTIMORE - Chris Sale struck out 13 to become the first AL pitcher in 18 years to reach the 300 mark, and the Boston Red Sox moved to the brink of clinching a playoff berth by beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-0 on Wednesday night.

Sale (17-7) reached the milestone on his last pitch, a called third strike against Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters in a season was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he set a club record with 313.

Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero homered for the Red Sox, who reduced their magic number for reaching the postseason to one. If the Angels lost to Cleveland later Wednesday night, Boston would be assured no worse than a wild-card spot in the AL playoffs.

The Red Sox, of course, would prefer to enter as AL East champions. They hold a three-game lead over the second-place Yankees with 10 games left.

After winning two straight 11-inning games over the skidding Orioles, Boston jumped to a 6-0 lead in the fifth and coasted to its 11th win in 14 games.