McClure heeds Mom's advice, takes Sox job

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McClure heeds Mom's advice, takes Sox job

BOSTON -- Bob McClure joined the Red Sox earlier this offseason as a special assignment scoutinstructor. But, when he was approached about the pitching coach job he was admonished by an irrefutable source to strongly consider the job.

"When the opportunity came up I really had to give it some thought," McClure said on a Friday afternoon conference call with manager Bobby Valentine.

"This is an opportunity to be with one of the best organizations in baseball. Its a very good club, plan on going to the playoffsthose kind of thingsand to cap it all off, my mom, who is 86, 87, is from the area and she said if I did not consider it then she was actually going to kill me. So I felt I better."

For Valentine, communicationwas key.

"I need someone who could communicate up and down, communicate with me what the needs of the pitchers were and able to communicate with the pitchers what their daily needs might be," he said. "I was looking for someone who had experience obviously at the major league level but also someone who understood both starting and relieving as a pitcher. Bob understood not only the mechanics of pitching but also the mechanics of working a long season. So he filled the bill on all of those things and he also has a -- as Robin Yount would say -- a real true grit to him. He can be very sociable and jovial but he also can be stern when he needs to be and I think thats a good prerequisite for this job."

McClure, 59, spent the last six seasons as the pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals, before being let go at the end of the season. Prior to joining the Royals, he was a minor league pitching coach in the Rockies system for seven seasons. He began his coaching career with the Marlins in 1994 and also served as a scout with the Marlins in 1996. A left-handed pitcher, he played 19 seasons with the Royals, Brewers, Expos, Mets, Angels, Cardinals, and Marlins (1993), compiling a 68-57 record with 52 saves and a 3.81 ERA in 698 career games (73 starts).

This will be the first time Valentine and McClure will be working together.

"I knew Bob from afar," Valentine said. "He pitched in a couple of decades and I had been around in a couple of those decades. I watched his competitiveness and his love for the game. He was one of those guys who seemed to always be on the field and always wanting to get better. What went into the decision was namely an interview, a couple of interviews actually, a few recommendations that were made from within the organization and then I went outside the organization and I talked to people in Colorado where Bob worked and in Kansas City, who I trust and I believe in their baseball acumen and they gave him very high grades in all the skill sets that I was looking for.

"The process has taken a while mainly because Ive been in the game for a long time and there are a lot of friends and acquaintances and even competitors that I owed the respect to them when they would recommend someone to try to reach out to whoever it was that was recommended to me or even anybody that I had on my list. So we did a real extensive search and I felt as I told Bob right from the first interview that he was right out in front of everyone else and after all the other interviews came in he remained at the top."

For McClure, getting to know his pitchers will be his main priority.

"My first order of business would be to get with Bobby and discuss what he wants as we're getting ready for spring training," McClure said. "and once Bobby and I have sat down and hes discussed his issues and his needs, then what Ill do is, of course, is contact the other staff members, get to know them, and also contact the pitchers this winter and just talk to them on the phone, and maybe see some of them. But as far as the pitchers go is really just getting to know them first because the approaches are different depending on personalities and what guys needs are and things like that."

While McClure is, of course, aware of the Sox' collapse in September, he deferred addressing it at this time.

"That's not something really that Im ready to discuss at this point as far as that goes," he said. "I need to talk to them, get their feelings on it and kind of go from there."

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

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

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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.