Notes: Varitek does it all to beat Tribe

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Notes: Varitek does it all to beat Tribe

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

CLEVELAND -- When Jason Varitek was asked to discuss his best game of the season, like any good catcher, he preferred to talk about his pitchers.

But reporters pushed. Varitek had just hit his first home run of the year, and he threw out two would-be base stealers in a 4-2 win over the Indians. The media wasn't going to let him get away that easily.

He relented.

"I dont know how long its been since last hitting a home run, Varitek said. It was nice . . . the timing of it. I've had good quality at-bats; whether I hit a home run or not, I don't know. I've been having some good at-bats. I couldn't have started any worse. I was 1-for-40 and after that I started having competitive at-bats and not necessarily the results.

The timing of his two-run home run his first in 117 at-bats since May 30, 2010 could not have been better, providing the difference in the Red Sox 4-2 win over the Indians.

Throwing out two attempted base stealers for the first time since catching Seattles Chone Figgins twice on Sept. 14, 2010 proved valuable, too. In the third inning he cut down Shin-Soo Choo trying to steal second, to end the inning. In the fourth inning, Varitek caught Travis Buck attempting to steal second.

Huge, said Josh Beckett, the beneficiary of Variteks performance. Its my pitch count. I put myself in some bad situations, and I think I had three 1-2-3 innings, and two of them were because of him. Saves me pitches.

Varitek and Beckett have been paired since Becketts second start of the season. Since then, Beckett has not lost. Its satisfying for him to see Varitek succeed.

Its great, he said. Hes always helping me, but whenever you're able to throw somebody out and help me on a night where my breaking stuffs not the best, it just keeps me from throwing more pitches because Im a little stubborn sometimes and I continue to work on things.

I think hes been putting together some pretty good at-bats. I think hes been hitting some balls hard. I know he lined out in his last start catching me, sometimes the balls just dont fall. But I really feel hes seeing the ball a lot better.

Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is growing more comfortable in his role as the Sox primary catcher, have solidified the Sox catching.

Well, both guys have complemented each other I think really well, said manager Terry Francona. Weve been talking about it the last week or so but, 'Tek made some good throws tonight. Bangs the ball out of the ballpark. We were talking about it before the game. They do that every once in a while, just sitting down there in the nine hole, or tonight in the seven. But its come together a lot better.

The catching had been a concern for Francona.

I think when were 2-10, that were probably worried about everything, he said. I think we have confidence in guys and certainly need to be patient and I think thats paying off. But we werent playing very well. But because its our job, I think we do worry about things like that.

Varitek is happy with the way he and Saltalamacchia have complemented each other.

"I think we're the same that we were, he said. I think with our entire team -- you
cant judge our entire team in one week for an entire season. Once things
settled down we won some games. Everybody contributes."

The Sox are an American League-best 15-7 in May.

The win snaps the Sox five-game losing streak at Progressive Field, going back to last season.

David Ortiz went 2-for-4, extending his hit streak to six games. He is batting .370 (10-for-27) in that stretch. Since May 2 he has 10 multihit games in his last 20, batting .341 (28-for-82) with 7 home runs and 9 RBI.

Adrian Gonzalez went 1-for-4, with a five-game hit streak, batting .521 (12-for-23). He extended his league lead in RBI to 42.

Rich Hill has not allowed a run in his seven appearances, spanning seven innings, with 10 strikeouts.

Dustin Pedroia was not in the lineup Tuesday, with Drew Sutton taking his place. Pedroia stumbled rounding second base in the eighth inning Monday night, tweaking his surgically repaired left foot. Francona said he talked with Pedroia Tuesday morning and the second baseman reported that he was fine. But Francona thought it would be a good chance to give him a day off.

Francona is pleased with the way Pedroia and his foot, with a screw embedded in it, have been holding up.

Like a champ, Francona said. Thats what he does. Hes in the training room every day and hes not a training-room guy. Hes in there doing his stuff with the trainers, and keeping himself where hes able to be out on the field every day.

With Pedroia out, Jed Lowrie moved into the second spot in the lineup, rather than Carl Crawford, who has spent most of his career batting second.

We did consider that, but I dont want to be bouncing Crawford around, because Pedey will be back in there tomorrow, Francona said. And we would have had lefties Jacoby Ellsbury, Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. hitting 1-2-3. Cleveland lefty reliever Tony Sipps been getting every lefty out in the world. So just dont want to invite that.

Sipp held lefties to a .040 average (1-for-25) this season, with eight strikeouts and no extra base hits before Tuesday night's game.

Daniel Bard was not available Tuesday. He threw 11 pitches Monday, being charged with a blown save and the loss. He also threw 22 on Sunday.

He could pitch, but we wont, Francona said before the game. He said he feels good but we wouldnt do that. Hes a tough one. Hes so good. Hes so durable. Hes also so young and hes got a terrific career ahead of him. We sat down with him yesterday just to talk to him about that. He gives you such good answers that its easy to talk to him.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

POLITICO sees Epstein as potential savior for Democrats

POLITICO sees Epstein as potential savior for Democrats

A piece that ran on POLITICO Wednesday morning explored an interesting possibility: A potential political career for longtime baseball executive Theo Epstein. 

The piece, titled “Could Theo Epstein Perform a Miracle for the Democrats?” comes a month after Fortune magazine ranked the Cubs president of baseball operations No. 1 on its annual ranking of the world’s greatest leaders. In the POLITICO article, Ben Strauss, in addition to noting the 43-year-old’s accomplishments with the Red Sox and Cubs, hits on several instances in which Epstein’s leadership has been mentioned in relation to politics. 

Strauss then goes on to interview CNN senior political commentator (and Cubs fan) David Axelrod about whether Epstein could be a saving grace with “Democrats on the lookout for a new generation of talent.”

The interview sees both POLITICO and Axelrod compare Epstein to Barack Obama. Says Axelrod: 

They both have two kinds of intelligence: emotional intelligence and a more linear intelligence. They both have the self-confidence to surround themselves with very smart people. Theo’s had a core group around him (general manager Jed Hoyer and head of amateur scouting Jason McLeod) since the beginning in Boston. It’s striking how much he relishes smart people around him and has the confidence to be challenged...Obama had it, too. I would add that Epstein has learned on the job. In Boston he was a pioneer [in using statistical analysis]...He’s told me that he used to be dismissive of the touchy-feely stuff [in evaluating baseball players], but now his scouts write five-page essays about the guys they’re going to draft. In the same way, Obama would tell you he was a better president at the end of eight years than at the beginning. He was smart enough to learn on the job, too.

Asked whether Epstein could win a statewide race for governor or Senate in Illinois, Axelrod replied, “Yeah, he could,” but questions whether Epstein has “the desire to hold public office.”

“I think Theo would be frustrated in public office because of the situation he’s in now,” Axelrod said. “He basically has free rein to do what he needs to do for the success of the organization. That is not the case in politics—you’re seeing that with the governor in Illinois (Bruce Rauner) right now. You have to deal with legislatures and all kinds of public stakeholders. And if you’re used to making things happen, I’m not sure the Senate would be a particularly satisfying job for you. When I talked to him on my podcast...about what he might want to do next...he allowed that he might want to own a team sometime and use that team or use that platform to try to impact on a community. He clearly cares about the larger world and wants to make an impact...But there are many, many reasons I think Cubs fans can relax and enjoy the benefits of his leadership for many years to come.”

Drellich: Sox circle wagon around Pedroia's words in weird fashion

Drellich: Sox circle wagon around Pedroia's words in weird fashion

A rained-out Tuesday was pretty action packed, and a little head-scratching.

The Red Sox circled the wagons well, arriving at a unified message about the Dustin Pedroia and Manny Machado situation: this is behind us, and we’re all good. But it was a weird string of events that brought the Sox to that bottom line.

Happy Hanley Ramirez decided he was going to be Matt Barnes’ public relations representative, running bubbly interference when reporters approached Barnes in the clubhouse.

Ramirez then said there was no team meeting to discuss the fallout from that pitch Barnes threw too close to Machado’s head.

Interesting.

At first, Sox manager John Farrell said nothing about the fallout. He then later referred to a hypothetical meeting that took place.

But it wasn't hypothetical. Diplomatic Dustin acknowledged the discussion that touched on his words to Machado: “It’s not me, it’s them.”

Defiant David Price, meanwhile, was off tweeting something passive aggressive about another matter entirely.

But whether or not you believe the Sox, Tuesday’s rain-out scene was simply weird. A strange mishmash of approaches and attitudes.

We’ll take it chronologically, and begin our day with a tweet from Price.

1. Perhaps someone’s story or commentary recently irked Price. Or maybe he was just in a bad mood. 

Why else would Price announce that he's holding his media session about Monday’s bullpen session on Twitter, and that he won't answer no questions?

Raul Martinez of NBC Boston said on Twitter: “Went to his ice cream (charity) event yesterday, said we're going to ask about health & got up & left.”

Maybe that’s it.

So you’ve got the rehabbing $30 million pitcher off in one corner doing his thing, still having trouble with the attention he's receiving.

2. Around lunchtime, Farrell made his first remarks of the day, in a weekly spot on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio. He was asked a couple questions about the Pedroia-Machado-Barnes brouhaha, and wanted nothing of it. 

Farrell told hosts Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin that he did not mean to be short. Except he did. His answer may as well have been, “We’re on to Cincinnati.”

3. Move forward a couple hours. The Yankees-Sox game gets rained out and the Sox clubhouse opens for 30 minutes. Reporters approach Barnes, who’s appealing his four-game suspension for throwing at Machado.

But Barnes had to take care of something first before talking to reporters. Ramirez, who wasn't far from Barnes’ locker when reporters approached, tried to be some sort of shield. A goofy shield.

Remember that Ramirez has spiritually taken over for David Ortiz, or just really wants to. And Ramirez, clearly in a good mood, wanted the media to talk to him instead of Barnes.

(Ramirez, of course, doesn’t control who talks when. The media talked to both players.)

“No more talking about what happened in Baltimore,” Ramirez said at the end of his chat. “It’s over. … Let’s go Sox nation!”

Ramirez was being playful. But let’s go Sox nation? What? Who says that? 

4. Pedroia could have dodged the media for the 30 allotted minutes in the clubhouse, but he seemed to know there was an issue to quell.

“We all talked about that. We’re going to keep that in house,” Pedroia said, not nearly as jovial as Ramirez. “We feel good about each other. We all have each others’ backs. Everybody knows how everybody feels about each other. We’re pretty excited about the group we have."

Pedroia said he clarified what he meant by that “it’s not me, it’s them” comment — privately.

“I think guys that should know, know how we feel about each other and things like that,” Pedroia said. “It’s unfortunate that the outside has an opinion, but they’re going to have an opinion about everything. We all know how we feel. We’re moving on. We’re getting ready for this series, then the Cubs, then the Orioles. We’ve got a tough stretch. We’re focusing on baseball and turning the page.”

Pedroia was more testy when responding to a reporter’s question about his own words than he was a question about Orioles closer Zach Britton’s allegation that Pedroia can’t control his clubhouse.

Britton was way off-base when he suggested to BaltimoreBaseball.com that Pedroia didn’t have control of his group because Barnes threw at Machado. As though Pedroia was supposed to throw himself in front of the pitch.

But Pedroia, now 33, didn’t show off his fiery side.

He still can get riled up, but you have to wonder if his new position as the de facto team leader and his age have mellowed him. In the absence of Ortiz, is Pedroia now a diplomat?

“Everybody has their opinion. I don’t know Zach,” Pedroia said. “I haven’t played with him. I’m sure if I had played with him, his opinion of what he said would be different. I just know him as one of the best closers in the game. That’s it. His comments were said after an emotional game. Obviously he was upset at the situation. I don’t think negatively of him. I try to look at both sides before I jump to conclusions on anything.”

How pragmatic.

5. Then it was Barnes’ turn.

The Sox reliever who could have been offended by Pedroia said nothing at all, which was really his only choice. But Barnes wasn’t exactly loose, free and easy while giving non-answers. This was a tense situation, and Barnes didn’t disguise that. You can understand why.

6. Seemingly in a better mood a few hours after his satellite radio talk, Farrell had a little more to say about the the whole thing when he met with reporters at Fenway Park.

“I didn't feel any rift that was in the clubhouse because of what transpired,” Farrell said. “Any conversation that might have been needed was had and we're on to this series upcoming. What's done is done. 

“The one thing that I will say is, whether we are challenged by performance, injuries, things that take place between the lines, (I feel) very confident and strong that this is a team that's got one another's back and we handle it as a team.”

Maybe the Sox just need to work on their public relations a little bit, unify their approach. They all seem to know the bottom line.