Boston Red Sox

Notes: Sox bullpen decision not getting any easier

191542.jpg

Notes: Sox bullpen decision not getting any easier

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

LAKELAND, Fla. Terry Francona has his bullpen foundation set in stone, what with Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Jenks and Daniel Bard forming a power-armed trio around which everything else will be built.

But the Sox have other pieces within that relief corps, and the decision as to which ones to keep is being made more difficult by the way each of those candidates is performing this spring.

Milton native and former Cubs starter Rich Hill has performed well as a potential situational left-hander. Andrew Miller has impressed manager Terry Francona with his mature approach and lively arm. Scott Atchison, of course, earned the trust and respect of the coaching staff last year during the regular season. Matt Albers, with four strikeouts in 4 13 innings, is another player whos forced his way into consideration.

Well have an interesting last week, said Francona when asked about the bullpen. Thats for sure. Weve had some really interesting things happen. Well try to make good decisions not only for Opening Day, but also for our whole organization.

Hill hasnt been scored upon in four innings of work this spring. Atchison has allowed a pair of runs in five innings, which included a rough outing after Josh Beckett was knocked out against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. Miller has four strikeouts in four innings despite giving up five hits.

By the sheer numbers it would appear Hill has the inside edge but Miller is intriguing as a 6-foot-7 left-hander with a first-round pedigree and, at 25 years old, plenty of time to find his niche. His 5.84 career ERA as a starter in stints with the Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins isnt much to write home about, but, in this case, past may not be prologue.

I cant sit here and say theres a guy that doesnt deserve to be on the ballclub. Theyve all done pretty well. Rich Hill threw his best innings of the spring against the Yankees Monday night. Albers has been tremendous all spring, said Francona. Atchison just goes and gets em out. Miller is really exciting to us. No matter our decision is at the end, its still going to be good news.

Were probably going to have to tell a couple of guys things they dont want to hear, but I think it bodes well for the organization.

Jacoby Ellsbury continued his torrid spring with another home run, this one smacked off Tigers ace Justin Verlander, as he and Darnell McDonald (solo homer in the 10th inning) provided the offense for the Sox in a 2-1 win at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The only other hit for the Sox =- despite the presence of a handful of regulars who traveled 2 12 hours to Lakeland to take on the Tigers -- was a J.D. Drew single.

Francona was still raving Tuesday about the combined efforts of Bobby Jenks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to nail Curtis Granderson in a stolen-base attempt Monday night against the Yankees.

Jenks employed a slide step with the runner on base at the behest of the Boston coaching staff. The thinking is that Jenks will be in plenty of tight situations in the late innings with the Sox, and the ability to control the running game something Jenks was never able to do against the White Sox, when he was concentrating on simply closing down ballgames will be paramount to Bostons success.

Last night was probably the most excited Ive been all spring, said Francona. Bobby being the closer with the White Sox, they sometimes fall into that thing where you forget about base runners a little bit. Jonathan Papelbon is the same thing. When youre in for the seventh and eighth inning as Jenks is expected to be this year, those are situations where a team might be a little more apt to steal and Granderson was on first obviously wanting to run.

Jenks threw his pitches, he executed the slide step, he throw over to first and he gave Salty a chance to throw him out. He came off and I grilled him a little bit. He said Im fine. You guys do whatever you want. It was really encouraging because he handled everything. Threw every pitch out of the slide step and felt comfortable. That was good.

Jason Varitek was genuinely touched when apprised the complimentary things that Victor Martinez said about the Sox captain prior to Tuesdays game. Martinez said Varitek was a key figure in the younger backstop transitioning to Boston so quickly, and V-Mart said that Variteks help made him a better baseball player in the long run.

Varitek admitted the two chirped back and forth with each other when Martinez stepped to the plate in the second inning to face Daisuke Matsuzaka, but got serious when talking about Martinezs kind words.

That really does mean a lot to me, said Varitek. Those are the kinds of things that stay with you long after youre done playing.

Former ESPN anchor and MSNBC news host Keith Olbermann is a longtime friend of Francona, and was milling around the Joker Marchant Stadium area prior to the game. He walked over by the Sox dugout during the Sox skippers pregame media availability, and Francona perked up with: Theres my bench coach!

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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

pomeranz_redsox_082317.jpg

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.

MORE RED SOX:

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.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

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

boston-red-sox-tom-werner-81414.jpg

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.