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.

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.