Morales tacks on another solid spot-start outing

836163.jpg

Morales tacks on another solid spot-start outing

BOSTON -- First the win. Now, the Whats next?

Of course, a win is easy to take as Franklin Morales gave the Red Sox and manager Bobby Valentine Sunday afternoon against the Twins at Fenway Park.

Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, Morales was able to do what no other starter or any pitcher, for that matter could do in the four-game series against the Twins this weekend. Win. Morales also stopped the Sox four-game losing streak.

Starting in place of the ailing Josh Beckett, Morales earned the win, improving to 3-2. He went six innings, giving up one run on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts. He threw 106 pitches, 63 for strikes, lowering his overall ERA from 3.32 to 3.14.

In six starts this season, Morales is 3-1, while the Sox are 4-2 in those games. Spanning 32 13 innings in those starts, he has allowed 11 earned runs for a 3.06 ERA, giving up 25 hits and 11 walks with 35 strikeouts.

The win by Morales was also the first by a starting pitcher since Clay Buchholz beat the Tigers on July 30.

He pitched six great innings, Valentine said. When you need some zeroes and lengthIm impressed with way he and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia used all of his pitches. A lot of changeups, strikes and he threw his curveball. He didnt get many strikes but he threw it effectively. Very impressive.

But now Valentine may have to make a decision.

I like him as a starter. We know that, Valentine said. Right now, I dont think we have to do anything with Franklin or make total determination. I have a tough Texas team coming in and our bullpen is a little wobbly and were a guy short out there and all that good stuff. Well play it by ear.

Deciding whether to return Morales to the bullpen or keep him in the rotation is not difficult, Valentine said. And, an immediate decision is not imperative.

But, its everything else that goes along with that kind of decision that Valentine must take into consideration.

Its an easy decision, Valentine said. We just have to figure out all the other parts. He wants to start and I want him to start and we have to figure out. We cant always count on a guy getting injured so he can get a start. Hes been lights out out there.

Morales has shuttled between the bullpen and rotation this season. He has made 34 appearances in all, getting called to start when needed. The back-and-forth does not bother him, he said.

You know what, I dont thinking too much about that, he said. I thinking inning by inning, hitter by hitter, throw strikes and take the hitter out.

Thats not my decision. I am here for the team, to help the team in any situation the manager needs me and try to take the hitter out.

Morales said he is confident in his ability and his role, whatever that maybe, on the staff.

My confidence is very good, he said. I feel very concentrated with my pitches, with my split finger, with my curveball and my fastball. Its my best pitch and what I do is attack the hitter.

Morales and Saltalamacchia worked comfortably together on Sunday. Although they allowed the first batter to reach base in the first, third, and fifth innings, just one scored. The Twins got their lone run off Morales in the fifth when Alexi Casilla walked to lead off, stole second, went to third on Jamey Carrolls ground out, and scored on Ben Reveres sacrifice fly.

Other than that, there was little the Twins could do with the Sox left-hander.

Same thing hes done all year long, Saltalamacchia said. Came in there, threw strikes, mixing his off-speed pitches for strikes, which is huge. It gets hitters off-balance. They dont know really what to swing at and what not to swing at. He just pitched great.

The 106 pitches were the second-highest pitch count of the season for Morales, behind only 109 in seven innings on June 28, nine appearances and three starts prior to Sunday.

Its real impressive considering that he went from bullpen to starter back to the bullpen again, Saltalamacchia said. Hes been up and down every night. Even Saturday night he knew he was starting today but he still had his cleats on just in case. The guy, to have a mentality like that, to be able to turn a switch and pitch a gem like today is awesome.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.