Boston Red Sox

Nava trying his hand at first base for Red Sox

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Nava trying his hand at first base for Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. With the Red Sox still looking for a back-up first basemanoutfielder, Daniel Nava is one of a handful of players who have been working out at first base in the last few days.

I havent played there in pro ball, Nava said. I played there back in college. Theres a lot to learn. So I got some good guys throwing me some stuff. But you cant fake live reps. So that's the next thing hopefully that goes well too. But the same thing, its new. So Im just trying to go one day at a time.

From what Ive been told its just something that the Sox are interested inThey said you got a shot and it can help the team out.

Nava, who arrived in camp in early February, has been working at first with Lyle Overbay, Mitch Maier, and Mauro Gomez as the Sox search for an in-house back-up for Mike Napoli, who was diagnosed with avasucalar necrosis in both hips this offseason. Overbay, who is a veteran of 12 big league seasons and 1,222 games at first base, played outfield early in his minor league career before moving to first.

I talked to him about his transition from the outfield to the infield, Nava said. That helped me a lot. And certain things that you cant replicate until you get game experience, which is good to know because its different compared to playing first base in college, as you would obviously assume with playing first base in the big league and the quality of hitters. So it helped me out a lot, set me in a little more peace. But still its new and that first experience is always going to be hopefully better than it could be for the worst.

In his two big leagues, 2010 and 2012, Nava has appeared in 130 games (110 starts) in left and four games (two starts) in right. In six minor league seasons, he has appeared in 204 games in right, 192 in left, four in center and even pitching in one game (giving up three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning for a 40.50 ERA with a home run and three walks). He knows pitching is not in his future, just as he also knows that his big league career is still sufficiently new that he cant put any kind of a label utility player, back-up first baseman, bench guy -- on it.

I cant consider myself in that regard because this is still new, said Nava, who turns 29 on Feb. 22. Its not like Ive played three years at first and three years in the outfield. Its just something were trying out. But if thats what it takes, thats what it takes. It doesnt really matter to me. If thats what they need me to do, its fine.

As far as I know its just, We want you to take some stuff at first and we kind of want to see how you look first. The Sox had no clue. So I understand that they cant really say too much when they dont really know what Im going to do or if Im going to be stumbling all over myself. So it hasnt been too much communication in that regard.

But having been in the organization since signing with the Sox as a minor league free agent in 2008 out of independent baseball gives Nava a certain comfort level with the process.

Yeah, I think it does, he said. Because at least they know compared to where I came in 2010 to last year defensively, theyre like, Hey, theres hope that he actually can maybe block a ball or keep a ball in front of him. And obviously that helps when youre in the organization, if I was new coming here, I think it would probably be less likely if that happened, I guess.

Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

BOSTON — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the the Yankees, MLB disciplinarian Joe Torre, and players who can’t take criticism from broadcasters.

In a spot Thursday with WEEI, Werner made clear David Price’s handling of Dennis Eckersley was unprofessional.

“Boston is a tough place to play,” Werner said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merlonia and Fauria. “Some players thrive here, and some players don’t. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.”

“I thought there was a way of handling that. It wasn’t handled appropriately. If I’ve got a problem with Lou [Merloni], and I hear something he says on the radio, I’ll say to Lou, ‘That wasn’t fair.’ ”

Werner also called the team’s relationship with the Yankees “frosty” following the public sign-stealing saga that resulted in fines for both clubs.

“The fact is, I do think this was a minor technical violation,” Werner said. “I start with the fact that this was unfortunately raised to a level it never should have been raised to.”

Werner also insinuated he did not approve of how MLB and Torre handled the disciplining of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who receieved a four-game suspension for his part in a fight against the Tigers (reduced on appeal to three games).

“Do you think Gary Sanchez got an appropriate punishment?” Werner asked.