Boston Red Sox

Ortiz, Gonzalez back in Red Sox lineup

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Ortiz, Gonzalez back in Red Sox lineup

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who left Wednesdays game with a tight left calf, and designated hitter David Ortiz, who missed the last two games because of back spasms, are back in the starting lineup for the opener of the four-game series against the Rays at Fenway Park.

I dont think youre going to see Gonzalez steal a base, probably wont see him steal a base when hes 100 percent, said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. He feels good enough to play, which is great. Davids still sore, but hes good enough to play. Think this time of year, think they understand their responsibilities. Well keep an eye on them.

Both of them wouldnt play if they didnt think they could be productive. Or we wouldnt let them play. Well watch them during BP.

This will be a crucial series against the Rays, who trail the Sox by four games in the wild card race, with 14 games to play. Asked if the two would be playing if his team had a more comfortable lead, perhaps 10 games, Francona replied:

Probably not. Probably not, to be real honest. For me, these are important games.

Clay Buchholz threw again before Thursday's game and is expected to have a full bullpen session on Saturday.

Everythings been terrific, actually, Francona said. If theres a point where we need to slow him down, we will. A couple of things were trying to accomplish. One is, we havent closed the door on the fact that he might be able to pitch, which is certainly important.

The other thing is we want him to go home feeling good about himself. This kid is an important part of not only our present but also our future. I think its come together well. Hes done a good job.

I think we have an obligation to map some things out but its going to all go on how he feels. How he throws. I mean, we dont know, youre talking about a guy that hasnt thrown very much. He gets on the mound and his back feels great, he still needs to pitch, so we need to take that all into consideration.

Kevin Youkilis was asked if the Sox are treating this like a playoff series.

I think you just go out and play, he said. You play every pitch. Not me personally, i just go out and play the game as hard as i can. Then tomorrow willl be tomorrow. You dont look at the series. You look at the game in front of you.

Asked how he was feeling after playing the last few games, he replied:

Nothings changed. So just going out and playing.

I go out every day and wake up and if i can play, Ill try to play. Thats the decisions that are made from the top. Im here every day and Im going to try my best to play in every game possible.

I dont think there's one that stands out thats like harder to do. I think when youre injured and stuff like that, things are not easy to do. Theres restrictions and i cant play the elite level i want to play at at times. But there are things you can do. Get on base. Get hits. You can drive the ball, you can do stuff to win, but Im not going to be stealing bases and going first to home probably on a lot of balls.

"The running is probably not going to be 100 percent till next year. Luckily Im not the slowest guy on the team, which maybe at 80 percent i can still stay not the slowest guy on the team.

Francona addressed the recent issues with Daniel Bard, stemming from another blown hold yesterday.

I think wed be kidding ourselves, he said. I dont think we can win without Bard being Bard. I remember, last year at this time everybody wanted bard to be the closer. We stuck with Pap and hes done OK. I think there are certain players where we better figure it out as opposed to running from guys. Certainly, you know with Matt Albers, weve adjusted his role. Sometimes if they havent pitched, maybe youll use a guy in a different role because you want to get them work, if theyve been struggling.

I think we believe in Daniel so much that wed like to, I hope he gets that situation again.

Mike Cather, currently a Sox advance scout and previously the pitching coach for Double-A Portland, is with the team. Bard said after Wednesdays game he would talk with those who are familiar with his mechanics.

Well, hes our advanced scout, he was scheduled to be here, Francona said. I called him last night and said get with Curt Young, the pitching coach with the video. There are some things they would like to get a little more consistent with his arm swing, which I think will be helpful.

The hard thing to do is doing that in the course of a stretch where you want him to pitch. Theyll go out there and work on it today. Its just getting a little more consistent feel with his arm swing to where hes a little more consistent with his release point.

Saying that, if you go back and look at his good streak, he can vary it then too. So, you want to keep it in perspective as well.

Part of Bards problems have been in 0-and-2 counts.

Inconsistency, especially his fastball command, Francona said. Again, you look back to the Tampa game, I thought that was a really good pitch. He threw a neck-high fastball 98. We were in a bind and I thought he made a good pitch to a good hitter. Sometimes you can go through a bad stretch and make it look worse.

Yesterday, he got to two strikes, kind of held onto it little bit, it cut over the middle, ends up being a single up the middle.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

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.