Red Sox hope to finish spring training injury-free


Red Sox hope to finish spring training injury-free

By SeanMcAdam

SARASOTA, Fla. -- There are still two games remaining in Florida and another in Houston before the 2011 Red Sox play a game of consequence. But with less than a week to go, it seems as though the team will accomplish what every club hopes for each February and March: an injury-free spring training.

It's likely that the only member of the organization to start the season on the disabled list will be pitcher Junichi Tazawa, who is less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery.

None of the players expected to make the Opening Day roster is hurt, quite a change from last year in which the Sox endured a seemingly endless litany of injuries. Four regulars missed most of the second half of the season -- Dustin Pedroia (foot), Kevin Youkilis (thumb), Jacoby Ellsbury (ribs) and Mike Cameron (abdominal strain) -- and the Sox lost a total of 1,018 games with 19 different players spending time on the disabled list.

All four of the aforementioned players are completely healthy, with no residual issues. Just as critically, the Sox suffered no injuries during spring workouts or games.

Manager Terry Francona said the team's good health isn't an accident.

"We try to be really careful especially with pitchers,'' said Francona. "I know you can't help some things from happening. I think our medical staff really deserves a lot of credit.''

Francona said head trainer Mike Reinold and two staff assistants visited every member of the pitching staff over the offseason to make sure that winter programs were being followed.

"It's not just a phone call,'' said Francona. "Every guy got visited and we made sure their workouts were where they were supposed to be, so there were no surprises coming into camp.''

That means, when it comes to the final two roster decisions, the Red Sox can make their evaluations and personnel moves without regard to health.

"That's nice,'' Francona said. "Guys aren't limping and we haven't been thinking about it. Except for Felix Doubront, who felt some elbow soreness in February and fell behind, it's been basically guys competing and not, 'Well, we've got to back him up and his arm is sore.' "

Other clubs around the game haven't been nearly as fortunate.

The San Diego Padres lost projected Opening Day starter Mat Latos. Several other N.L. teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) Cincinnati Reds (Johnny Cueto) and Milwaukee Brewers (Zack Greinke), have all lost starting pitchers to spring injuries.

Closer (competitively and geographically) to home, the Yankees will start the season without outfielder Curtis Granderson and projected backup catcher Francisco Cervelli.

The Chicago White Sox will be without front-line starter Jake Peavy for at least the first month and Texas, the Red Sox' first opponent of the season, just learned that Tommy Hunter will open the season on the DL with a groin injury.

Not so with the Sox, for whom an injury-free spring could be attirbuted to good planning and, perhaps, after last year, some good karma.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1


Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON - The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.

Red Sox do not need Sonny Gray, and they know it

Red Sox do not need Sonny Gray, and they know it

BOSTON — Sonny Gray is not what the Red Sox need.

As of Monday, the power rankings of their trade targets should go as such: 1. Third baseman 2. Reliever 3. Back-end starter.

When he was addressing the addition of Doug Fister three days ago, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski noted that a premier starter is not what he lacks.

“Unlike maybe some other clubs, I don't believe that we need to add a top-of-the-rotation-type starter,” Dombrowski said. “We have [Chris] Sale. I think David Price continues to make strides to come back. His stuff is good he's just got to get back. [Drew] Pomeranz has thrown well for us. [Eduardo] Rodriguez has thrown well. We know Rick Porcello is a good pitcher.

“So we're not, maybe other clubs are looking for that No. 1, No. 2 type starter. That's not really important for us. I think it's more important to be in a position where we add depth for us, somebody that can help us win major league games if needed.”

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan on Monday reported that the Red Sox “have quietly sent some of their most respected evaluators to his last two starts. This could fall under standard due diligence, but one source familiar with their intentions said the Red Sox are keen for Gray – and when president Dave Dombrowski targets a player, the price for other teams jumps accordingly.” 

Due diligence is indeed all the Red Sox are up to, a baseball source with knowledge of the team’s thinking told on Monday.

The Red Sox’ trade chips are limited, if they don’t want to drastically diminish their farm system. Gray is very close with David Price, but Gray's 4.45 ERA isn’t inspiring. He has a 3.60 FIP — fielding independent pitching — and has great talent. But again, he doesn’t play the hot corner.

Offense on a whole is a greater need. The Sox entered Monday with the third lowest slugging percentage in the AL. Hanley Ramirez is now battling some left knee pain as well as his shoulder issue, after he took a pitch off the knee Sunday.

It’s warmed up, but the Sox power bats have not also warmed up.

“I wouldn’t hinge this all on just temperature,” manager John Farrell said Monday. “And I don’t know that we use that as an excuse prior. . . Over the last three or four weeks, it’s kind of stagnated a little bit. I think the biggest thing for us as a group is to still maintain a consistent approach at the plate. When we think about getting too much muscle in a swing, eventually the strike zone expands, you don’t get the pitch that you’re looking for. We can’t afford to maybe go away from that approach for the sake of maybe trying to drive the ball with greater consistency.”

Tzu-Wei Lin was starting for the Sox on Monday, yet another in the third-base carousel. Jhonny Peralta and Pablo Sandoval (rehab assignment) are going to alternate time at third base starting Tuesday with Triple-A Pawtucket. 

That’s where they need help.

The bullpen can’t be overlooked either. Carson Smith started a throwing program again Monday, but it’s unclear when he’ll be able to return, or at what effectiveness.