Notes: Red Sox rotation still in flux

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Notes: Red Sox rotation still in flux

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Jon Lester is scheduled to start Tuesday in Toronto, followed by John Lackey on Wednesday. Beyond that, the Red Sox rotation is not known at this point.

Not yet, said manager Terry Francona. Give us until tomorrow. Were going to try to get a couple of things back in a little bit different order.

With the pitching shuffled around over the last few games for various reasons ailments, and the infamous 13-inning game among them Francona will likely take advantage of the off-day Thursday before the start of a three-game series in New York to reset his rotation. One of the factors he will likely consider is separating Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett, who have started back-to-back days, Sunday and Monday.

Jason Varitek has been catching for both right-handers. Giving the 39-year-old catcher a day off between their starts would be preferable.

Lackey was in the bullpen Sunday. With long relievers Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves unavailable because of their outings on Friday, Lackey would have been called upon in a worst-case scenario.

We had Lack out there just in case something really went wrong ball off the
shin, something like that, Francona said. Aceves said he was available. We
werent real comfortable with that. He said he was fine. So we appreciate that
but we didn't want to do that.

Aceves and Wakefield are available today.

Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon have been stabilizers in the bullpen this season.

Its nice to know that theres an end in sight, Francona said. Some games dont go exactly the way you want. But then you get to Bard and Pap and it doesnt guarantee that you're going to win but youve gotten where you need to and then you dont have two guys throwing out in the bullpen and trying to match up and worrying about that. I dont think Bards had a lot of clean innings. Hes come in with runners on base a lot. And hes so good at it. Thats been very helpful.

Matt Albers has also been a blessing. This is a kid who was competing for a spot. And hes been going multiple innings for us, facing lefties and righties."

Although Papelbon didnt have his best showing in spring training, Francona is hesitant to attribute that to the "red light" effect when players wait for the season to start, saving their best performances for meaningful games.

I hate to say that because I think thats a scary way for us to go into the season, Francona said. Hey, the light's going to come on. Sometimes that helps guys, though, for sure. They seem to add a little bit of velocity and a bit more crispness to their pitches but he has been throwing the ball very well. Location, his splits been there, hes throwing an occasional breaking ball but hes not scattering his fastball. Last year there was a lot of nights where hed have to kind of bring it back in. Hed throw three or four or five in a row up, arm side. More often than not hed get the save but hed have to fight for it. Hes been pretty good so far.

The split comes out of the same arm slot as his fastball and if the fastballs down then the splits down with it. Thats a good combination.

Jose Iglesias is not in the starting lineup for the series finale with the Twins. Its an adjustment for young players, especially high-profile prospects, to get used to not starting.

It sure is, Francona said. Theyre used to a routine and their routine is showing up, taking their ground balls, hitting wherever theyll hit in the order and playing the game. We talked to Iggy about that yesterday. Just that exact same thing.

In his 17-game hitting streak, the best active streak among major leaguers, Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .378 (28-for-74) with 14 runs scored, 10 doubles, eight RBI, and seven stolen bases. Francona said he has not seen Ellsbury change his approach at the plate, just be more successful with it.

Sometimes you dont see the ball, sometimes you miss pitches, sometimes you get pitched to better, Francona said. Confidence grows. His mechanics havent changed. Hes just doing it better.

Hes using the entire field, driving the ball to left field, turning on the ball in, hitting the ball up the middle. Hes hitting the ball to all three fields and with speed like that if you do that -- we usually talk about things evening out. Im not sure theyre supposed to even out when you can run that fast and you use the entire field. I think youre going to get more hits than you're supposed to.

Carl Crawford has an eight-game hitting streak, in which he is 12-for-31 (.387), raising his average to .211.

It looks like things are starting to slow down a little bit, Francona said. Everything was so rushed. And its still at times like that but the balls not in the mitt. Hes seeing it a little better, seeing it a little quicker out of the hand, reacting better. Im sure it looks like its slowing down for him. He has that big open stance and when he would get back to square I think it was taking him a little longer than he realized, so hed get that foot down and the ball was already coming across the plate.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Sox' lack of homegrown starters an understandable problem to Yanks' Cashman

Sox' lack of homegrown starters an understandable problem to Yanks' Cashman

The dearth of homegrown starting pitching for the Red Sox is talked about almost as much as every Tom Brady post on Instagram.

Red Sox fans may take some solace in knowing their team isn’t the only one dealing with this problem.

In an interview with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn’t talk about his team’s pitching problems in context of the Red Sox. But the explanation the longtime Yanks boss offered should sound familiar. 

In the biggest of markets, time to develop properly is scarce.

“Yeah. It's a fact,” Cashman said when asked if criticism of their pitching development was fair. “I think part of the process has been certainly where we draft. Because we've had a lot of success, we've not been allowed to tank and go off the board and therefore get access to some of the high-end stuff that plays out to be impactful. Part of it is we can't get out of our own way because we don't have the patience to let guys finish off their development, because if you possess some unique ability that stands out above everybody else -- whether it was Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, now [Luis] Severino and before that [Bryan] Mitchell and Shane Greene -- we're pulling them up before their development is finished.

“Teams like Tampa Bay, for instance, they're going to wait until they have their four pitches down and their innings limits are all exceeded at the minor-league level; they're very disciplined in that approach as they finish off their starters. For us, if I'm looking at my owner and he says, ‘What's our best team we can take north?’ 

“Well, ‘We could take this guy; he's not necessarily 100 percent finished off, but we can stick him in our 'pen. He can be in the back end of our rotation, because he's better than some of the guys we already have,’ and then you cut corners, so I think that probably plays a role in it.”

Not everything is circumstantial, though -- or a deflection. 

“And sometimes we don't make the right decisions, either, when we're making draft selections and signings and stuff like that,” Cashman continued. “On top of it all, playing in New York is a lot different than playing anywhere else.”

We’ve heard that last part about Boston too, here and there.

Cashman was complimentary of his current Sox counterpart, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, whose team Cashman has compared to the Golden State Warriors.

On his feelings when he first heard the Sox were getting Chris Sale:

“When that trade was consummated, that was the first thing I thought about, which was, 'Wow, look at what they've done,' ” Cashman said. “I know how it's going to play out for them. Listen, Steve Kerr does a great job managing that team -- oh, I mean John Farrell. It's a lot of talent and with talent comes pressure to perform. I think Dave Dombrowski has done everything he possibly can to provide that city with a world championship team. They've got 162 games to show it.”
 

Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

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Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

The Adam Jones-Yadier Molina verbal skirmish is as predictable as it is annoying.

Was every cultural nuance for the 16 World Baseball Classic teams explained in a booklet the players had to memorize before the tournament?

No? Then it’s amazing there weren’t more moments like this.

Jones, the Orioles outfielder, said Team USA's championship game win over Puerto Rico was motivated by Puerto Rico's choice to plan a post-tournament parade for the team before the final game.

As Jones was raised, parades in pro sports are for championship teams. Red Sox fans are likely aware of this.

As Jones was raised, discussing a parade before a title is secured suggests overconfidence. Rex Ryan fans are likely aware of this.

After an 8-0 win for the U.S., Jones revealed the parade was used as bulletin-board material.

"Before the game, we got a note that there was some championship shirts made -- we didn't make 'em -- and a flight [arranged],” Jones said. “That didn't sit well with us. And a parade -- it didn't sit well with us."

But apparently, Jones didn't know the full context of the parade. It was reportedly planned regardless of whether Puerto Rico won.

One Team USA teammate of Jones whom CSNNE spoke with didn't believe that, however.

"It was called a champions parade that got turned into a celebration parade once they lost," the player said. "I think they just don't like getting called out by Jones, but all Jones did was tell exactly what happened."

Jones’ comments weren’t received well.

Puerto Rico's going through a trying time, a recession, and the entire island rallied behind the team.

“Adam Jones . . . is talking about things he doesn't know about," Molina told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. "He really has to get informed because he shouldn't have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made.”

No one should be upset Jones explained what he was thinking.

Jones actually asked MLB Network host Greg Amsinger, “Should I tell the truth?”

Yes. It’s better than lying.

Look at the reactions across the WBC: the bat flips, the raw emotion. Honesty conveyed via body language.

People in the U.S. are starting to accept and crave those reactions. The WBC helped promote a basic idea: let people be themselves.

Jones said what was on his mind. We can’t celebrate bat flips and then say Jones should keep his mouth shut.

But there's an unreasonable expectation being placed on Jones here.

He heard about a parade -- which is to say, a subject he wouldn't normally think twice about or investigate before a championship baseball game.

Plus, it gave him motivation.

Why is Jones, or anyone with Team USA, more responsible for gaining an advance understanding of Puerto Rico’s parade-planning conventions -- we're talking about parade planning! -- than Puerto Rico is responsible for keeping U.S. norms in mind when making and/or talking about those plans?

No one involved here was thinking about the other’s perception or expectation. It's impossible to always do so.

But that’s how these moments develop: what’s obvious to one party is outlandish to the other.

Now Molina, Puerto Rico's catcher, wants an apology.

"He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people," Molina told ESPN. "Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn't know what this means to [our] people."

Jones can clear the air with an apology, but he doesn't owe one. And he definitely doesn't owe one after Molina took it a step further.

"I'm sending a message to [Jones], saying, 'Look at this, right now you're in spring training working out, and we're with our people, with our silver medals,' " Molina said. "You're in spring training and you're working . . . you have no idea how to celebrate your honors, you don't know what it means.”

Team USA had no parade. Manager Jim Leyland made clear how the U.S. was celebrating, by recognizing those serving the country.

The silver lining here is how much attention the WBC has drawn, and how much conversation it can drive. People care, a great sign for the sport -- and its potential to foster better understanding across cultures.

Internationally, the sport is on parade.