Boston Red Sox

Ortiz in elite company as he approaches No. 400

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Ortiz in elite company as he approaches No. 400

He provided half of the Red Sox offense Monday night, which seems about right when you think of it, since that seems to have been the case most nights this season.

On a team ravaged by injuries, he's been the one constant. There's been no Manny Ramirez to protect him, or, for that matter, no Adrian Gonzalez, or at least, not the Adrian Gonzalez (.722 OPS) he or anyone else expected.

Still, the numbers pile up for David Ortiz. On Monday, he belted two homers and three RBI in a 9-6 loss to Toronto.

The homers were the lone bit of excitement for the Sox, and if they didn't help the Red Sox win on this particular night, they did help Ortiz climb the historical ladder some.

The first one, rocketed into the bleachers in right, moved him out of a tie with Joe Carter, giving him 397 for his career. The second, a booming shot into the bleachers in straightaway center, was No. 398, placing him in a tie with Dale Murphy for 51st place on the all-time list.

For the season, the second homer was No. 20, making it 10 straight years in which Ortiz has reached that number since coming to the Red Sox, trailing only Dwight Evans and Jim Rice (11 each) and Ted Williams (16).

Since 2003, only one player has had more multi-homer games in all of baseball: Albert Pujols, who has 40.

The two-homer game was the 39th of his career and 37th in a Red Sox uniform, tying him with Williams for the frachise record.

Nearing four hundred homers, catching up to Rice and Pujols, and being linked with the game's all-time greatest hitter -- this is the kind of rarefied air that Ortiz is breathing these days.

"I must be,'' said Ortiz, breaking into a huge smile, "a bad mother-(expletive).''

Indeed he must.

This year, Ortiz is hitting homers at his fastest rate since 2006, when he snapped Jimmy Foxx's franchise record for most homers by a Red Sox in a season.

Before the season is at its halfway point, Ortiz is on pace to hit 40, something no Red Sox player his age (36) or older has ever accomplished.

And, no Red Sox player age 36 or older has ever hit 40 home runs in a season. Williams, naturally, holds the Red Sox record of 38 in 1957 when he was 38.

"When you attach your name to a legend like that . . .,'' said Ortiz. "It's just something that you never think about it. I never thought about anything like that. I came here to play baseball. Ted Williams is a legend. I never thought about (matching what he did).''

Sometime relatively soon -- perhaps before the Red Sox leave for their West Coast trip Wednesday night, given that he's homered five times in his last seven games -- Ortiz will become the 50th player to hit 400 homers in his career.

Even as the steroid era has devalued some milestones, the 400-homer plateau is an impressive one, and Ortiz confesses that he's taken a look at those who've joined that club, while noting some who didn't gain entrance.

"I was looking at a lot of big names,'' he said, ''and man, I mean, there were a lot of big power hitters who never hit four hundred. So I guess it's pretty good company.''

Ortiz would like to play another two years, and should he continue to pile up homers at the rate in which he's hit them the last few seasons, he might muster a run at No. 500.

Those numbers seem abstract for now, and because he's not finished, he chooses not to give much thought to his own standing, his own legacy.

That perspective will come later.

"Right now, I look at (No. 400) as just another number,'' he said. "But I'm pretty sure that when I stop playing and start focusing on different people's numbers and look at myself and where I stand with some great players, it's going to be pretty nice.''

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.