Notes: Gonzalez driving in runs at record pace

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Notes: Gonzalez driving in runs at record pace

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
TORONTO -- The way he's going at the plate right now, Adrian Gonzalez seemingly could knock in runs in his sleep.

With a first-inning homer Sunday, Gonzalez extended his personal RBI streak to nine games. That ties him with San Diego's Jason Bartlett and White Sox' Paul Konerko for the longest such streak this season.

It's also the longest streak for a Red Sox player since Manny Ramirez knocked in at least one run in 10 straight games in 2002.

After that solo homer in the first, he added a groundout to the right side in the third when the Sox had runners at second and third with one out, giving him another RBI.

"He puts the bat on the ball,'' said Terry Francona of his first baseman. "He rolled over on that (groundout), but he got a knack. He understands what he's got to do (to deliver runs) -- if he's got to shorten up, or hit the ball out of the ballpark.''

For his part, Gonzalez pointed to the table-setters in the Boston batting order -- Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia -- for providing RBI opportunities.

''People keep asking about the RBIs,'' said Gonzalez, "but RBIs are all about the guys ahead of you and those guys are doing an incredible job of giving me multiple opportunities every day. They're the ones that get the team going.''

And after five seasons in the National League, Gonzalez has found the Rogers Centre to be a nice place to hit. In five games here with the Sox this year, Gonzalez has four homers.

Nearly lost in the Red Sox' offensive barrage was the work of starter Jon Lester, who was brilliant, allowing just one run on two hits over eight innings.

Of course, it helped that Lester had a 1-0 lead before even taking the mound, a 3-0 lead in the third and a 9-0 lead by the fifth.

"That was real nice,'' acknowledged Lester, who became the American League's first nine-game winner.

Sunday marked the first time in 14 starts this season that Lester didn't walk a single batter.

In fact, starting with his outing against the Yankees last week, Lester has walked just one batter over his last 14 innings.

That followed a stretch in which he walked 17 over five starts.

"There's been a couple of starts where I was a little erratic with my mechanics and just being able to repeat things,'' said Lester. "But the last couple of starts, I've been able to attack a little bit more. And it's easier to do when you have a lead like that.''

Lester faced just three hitters over the minimum and acknowledged that Sunday perhaps constituted his best outing of the season.

"I'd say my fastball command was pretty good today,'' he said, "and that was probably the best changeup I've had in a while.''

Tuesday will mark Carl Crawford's first return to Tropicana Field since leaving the Tampa Bay Rays to sign his seven-year, 142 million deal with the Red Sox last December.

"I've got to treat it like another road trip,'' said Crawford.

Crawford played against the Rays twice in spring training in Port Charlotte, but this will be his first time back at the Rays' major league facility.

"Port Charlotte is nothing like actually going to the stadium for a big-league game,'' he said. "That's going to be a little different. I'm looking forward to seeing how that's going to turn out.''

Crawford hopes that, after eight full seasons in a Rays uniform, fans will remember what he contributed to the franchise.

"I have no ill will toward those guys,'' he said. "You never know, though. You just have to see what's going to happen. It wasn't an option to stay there (because the Rays never made him an offer once he became a free agent). Hopefully, the fans will be smart enough to realize that.''

Following Sunday's win, utility man Drew Sutton was seen shaking hands with teammates and didn't leave with them on their charter flight to Tampa.

Instead, Sutton -- who hit .290 since being recalled -- will return to Pawtucket, likely making room for the return of outfielder Darnell McDonald, who was placed on the DL on the last road trip with a sore quad.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Rick Porcello starts, Drew Pomeranz relieves in Red Sox' 5-3 loss to Twins

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Rick Porcello starts, Drew Pomeranz relieves in Red Sox' 5-3 loss to Twins

Rick Porcello and Drew Pomeranz combined to allow all five of the Red Sox' runs in Boston's 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

Porcello finished his start by fanning four, allowing four hits and earning two runs over four innings. Pomeranz followed in the next four innings with four strikeouts, five hits allowed and three earned runs. Pomeranz allowed ByungHo Park's eighth-inning, two-run homer, which ended up being the game-winner.

Porcello, however, was optimistic after the loss.

"The buildup was good," Porcello told reporters, via RedSox.com. "Today I felt as good as I've felt all spring. At this point, I'm ready to go. I'm looking forward to the start of the season."

While the Sox offense was able to get three runs off Ervin Santana in his 4 2/3 innings, they struggled against the Twins' next five pitchers. Xander Bogaerts (2 of 3) and Pablo Sandoval (1 of 3) managed homers. Hanley (3 of 3) Ramirez had a double, and Dustin Pedroia (2 of 3) had two singles.

Kyle Kendrick will start Thursday in the Sox' final Spring Training series against the Washington Nationals. First pitch is at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Who's on first for Red Sox? It may be not someone you'd expect

Who's on first for Red Sox? It may be not someone you'd expect

Who’s on first? A middle infielder, maybe.

Hanley Ramirez, Josh Rutledge and Mitch Moreland aren't fully healthy. So the 25th man on the Red Sox has become a matter of corner-infield triage.

Rutledge was gearing up to play some first base with Ramirez restricted to DH because of his throwing shoulder. But Rutledge is hurt now too, likely headed to the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday morning in Florida.

Here’s the easiest way to think about who takes Rutledge's place: Who would the Red Sox like to see less against left handed pitching, third baseman Pablo Sandoval or first baseman Mitch Moreland? 

If it’s Sandoval, then you carry Marco Hernandez, who can play third base.

“He’s a very strong candidate,” manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida on Wednesday. “He’s one of a few that are being considered strongly right now.” 

If it’s Moreland, than you carry Steve Selsky, who has a history playing first base.

“He’s a guy we’re having discussions on,” Farrell said. “Any guy in our camp that we feel is going to make us a more complete or balanced roster, Deven Marrero, they’re all in consideration.”

The additional wrench here is that Moreland has the flu. If he's not available at all for a few days to begin the season, then the Sox probably have to carry Hernandez.

Why? Because Brock Holt can play some first base if Moreland is out. But then, you’d need another back-up middle infielder, and Hernandez gives you that. 

Hernandez is also hitting .379 in 58 at-bats this spring entering Wednesday.

Moreland isn’t the only one who has the flu.

"It’s running through our clubhouse," Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida on Wednesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. "Probably be held out for three days for a quarantine.” (LINK:http://www.providencejournal.com/sports/20170329/with-josh-rutledge-and-mitch-moreland-ailing-first-base-depth-compromised-for-red-sox)

That means the Red Sox won't have Moreland for their exhibitions against the Nationals on Friday and Saturday in Washington D.C. and Annapolis, Md. Moreland could still be ready for the regular season, but would likely be at less than full strength.

Having Ramirez available would sure make things a lot simpler for the Sox.

Both Sandoval at third base and Moreland could use right-handed bats to complement them. Or more specifically, they could use people who can hit left-handed pitching to complement them.

Hernandez is a left-handed hitter who might actually be able to hit lefties. But the Sox haven't used him at first base, and there's no indication they will.

“As we look at the upcoming games, there is the potential for two left-handed starters in Detroit,” Farrell said. “So there’s a number of things being factored right now.”

Early in spring training, Farrell was asked what player had started to catch his eye.

The guy he mentioned was Selsky, an outfielder and first baseman the Red Sox feel fortunate to have picked up off waivers because he still has minor league options remaining.

Now Selsky, who has already technically been cut from major league spring training, has a chance at making the opening day roster. He's 27 and hit .356 in 45 Grapefruit League at-bats.

Chris Young isn't going to have an easy time finding at-bats as it stands now, but the Sox aren't considering moving him to first base.