Pregame notes: Francona believes in Crawford

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Pregame notes: Francona believes in Crawford

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Terry Francona gave the struggling Carl Crawford a day off on Saturday, with the hope that a day of just hitting balls in the cage would get his game in order.

On Sunday, against the Toronto Blue Jays and right-hander Jesse Litsch, Crawford returns to the Red Sox lineup, and will hit in the lead-off spot.

"We talked for a little while," said Francona during his pregame press conference. "I just wanted to kind of do a couple things. Reassure him of how we feel, which I think is pretty obvious. But just to find out, okay, if I can help, well how do I help? I haven't been around him forever.

"He actually was really good. He said he feels good. If work has anything to do with it . . . he almost beat us to the ballpark today. He didn't, but he almost did. I just thought, a day yesterday of being in the cage, and then not having to take it right into the game, sometimes can help."

Francona remains confident that the offense will put it all together on a consistent basis, before it's too late. He's even more confident that Crawford will begin to tear it up even sooner.

"Once he gets going, I think we all know it, I know I do, he's going to get real hot," said Francona. "I just hope it starts today. This is certainly not a guy that, when he doesn't hit, you run from. He's going to be a huge part of our offense."

With Crawford back in the leadoff spot, Jed Lowrie moves to sixth in the Red Sox lineup on Sunday, hitting behind David Ortiz. He's starting at shortstop.

Lowrie has at least a hit in his last five appearances, and is coming off a 3-for-5 game on Saturday, which included a home run, two RBI, and two runs scored. It marked his second three-hit game of the season.

"Jed's so hot right now, I don't know how you keep him out of the lineup," said Francona.

"If we had one or two lineups, that meant everything was going right," he said. "I just don't know if that makes sense right now. I've talked a lot about trying to be consistent. We're trying to do whatever we can to play as well as well as we can, and put guys in the best positions.

"I do know that as you get into the season, things normally settle down . . . We don't just feel like we have nine players. We've got a ball club full of guys that can help us win, so I would be wrong to not use them."

Having recorded his second save of the season on Saturday, Francona was encouraged to see Jonathan Papelbon begin the year with some success. Papelbon has a 1.80 ERA in only five appearances this season, and pitched in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.

When he's been in, he's been dominant. Francona credits that to his fastball and splitter coming out of the same arm slot, along with a much improved slider.

"It's been limited because we haven't had a lot of save situations, but I think he's been very good," said Francona. "Last year, there were times when that fastball would wander a little bit, where he'd get himself into a situation where he had to work so hard to get through an inning.

"He's mixing in his breaking ball, but when his fastballs split, he's locating, he's good."

When Papelbon came up to the big leagues, Francona admitted on Sunday, that he saw nothing more than a "two-pitch pitcher" and because of that, saw a guy that would have to work too hard to get through five innings, if they made him a starter.

With the improvement in his slider, Francona admitted on Sunday that had that pitch been there when he first came up, the argument to put him into the rotation may have been a little different.

"I remember when he first broke it out, I was like, 'Pap, don't ever get beat with that pitch. Just put it in your back pocket, and go fastball, split,'" said Francona. "There's certain hitters that we would prefer him throw it to, as with every pitcher. But now, it's become a viable pitch."

"I always felt like he could impact us better in the bullpen."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Benintendi, Red Sox hang on to beat Cubs, 5-4

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Benintendi, Red Sox hang on to beat Cubs, 5-4

BOSTON - Andrew Benintendi hit a solo homer off Jake Arrieta during a five-run first inning and the Boston Red Sox held on to beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4 Friday night.

Every Boston starter had at least one hit, and Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vazquez also drove in a run each.

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz (2-1) got the win with six innings of two-run ball, surrendering solo homers to Kris Bryant and Albert Almora Jr. in the early innings before settling in. He allowed six hits and two walks while striking out seven.

Boston has won its last nine interleague games at Fenway Park.

Arrieta (3-1) logged his shortest start since Aug. 28, 2014, lasting only 4 1/3 innings and giving up 10 hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

Broadcasting role unlikely for Ortiz, who met with Red Sox this week

Broadcasting role unlikely for Ortiz, who met with Red Sox this week

BOSTON - It's a tad ironic the Red Sox met with David Ortiz on Tuesday about his post-playing career, and then the offense went out and did nothing and Xander Bogaerts was publicly lamenting Ortiz's absence two days later.

John Henry, Tom Werner, Ortiz and his agent, Fern Cuza, met at Fenway Park on Tuesday to discuss the retired slugger’s future role with the organization, team president Sam Kennedy said. 

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Nothing's imminent, but there's one thing Ortiz is unlikely to do with the Sox in the near future: broadcasting. He could still do some of that in the postseason for say, FOX, but it appears an arrangement with NESN isn't in the cards for now, per Kennedy.

Ortiz's role with the Red Sox is still expected to be wide-ranging, something bigger than the standard alumnus agreement. He seems set on taking his time, enjoying his retired life, saying over the weekend he wants to be able to give the job the time it deserves. 

Kennedy in April was unsure if anything would get done this year. 

As for the team's play without Ortiz, and Bogaerts' comments?

"This is an incredibly talented ballclub," Werner said Friday at a luncheon benefitting the Red Sox Foundation and the Foundation To Be Named Later. "I’m really not terribly concerned. Like all fans, I’m a bit frustrated when we don’t give great pitching run support.

"We struggled the last couple of nights. It’s frustrating to think that Chris Sale, who I think is the best pitcher in the American League, doesn’t have much run support. But it’s April. I've been taught to not really look at the standings 'til July. Frustrated by the past two days, but look at the standings, and we’re only one win behind the Cubs. So you know, I mean I wish we were playing a little bit better,  but the team is going to bounce back."

Werner reiterated the Sox have room in their budget to add players ahead of the trade deadline.