Red Sox notes: Crawford collects first hit

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Red Sox notes: Crawford collects first hit

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In an effort to get newcomer Carl Crawford to relax some, Terry Francona dropped him from third to seventh in the Red Sox lineup Sunday.

Whether that was the key or not, Crawford, hitless in his first two games, broke out a little, with a single in the second and another in the seventh inning.

Crawford hit a cue shot down the third base line that landed just an inch or two inside the foul line, getting him going and snapping his hitless streak at eight at-bats.

"It was a relief to finally get the first hit,'' Crawford said after the Sox dropped a 5-1 decision to Texas. "That way, I can get that out of the way and focus on just trying to get better. I didn't know for sure if it was going to be fair or foul.

"Those are the kind of little things that kind of get you going sometimes, so hopefully, that's the start of something.''

Changing teams and signing a mega-contract (seven years, 142 million) was a new experience for Crawford and he acknowledged that, perhaps in an effort to justify his deal, he tried too hard.

"It's my first time doing this,'' Crawford said. "For me, I was probably pressing a little bit, wanting to do well so bad, you forget to just relax and play ball. I probably had a little case of that. Hopefully I can relax from here on out. Once you get that first hit out of the way, it feels like just doing what you normally do.''

Compared to Jon Lester Friday and John Lackey Saturday, Clay Buchholz didn't pitch terribly Sunday. But he didn't pitch well enough to get the Red Sox their first win, either.

Buchholz had the good sense to only allow home runs with the bases empty. Problem was, he did it four times -- David Murphy in the second, Ian Kinsler in the third, Mike Napoli in the fifth and Nelson Cruz in the seventh.

The only other hit Buchholz allowed was a single to Michael Young in the second. But the four homers were more than enough for the Rangers.

"I thought two of the homers were hit well and two of them weren't hit that well,'' recounted Buchholz. "That's the way it goes. I'd rather give them up with nobody on base than with a couple of guys on.

"Today didn't seem like a big struggle for me. Nobody on, behind in the count a couple of times, I'm not going to give in . . . I'd rather give up a hit than walk a guy, then have that guy score. All in all, I think I left four pitches up in the zone and I don't think they mishit one all series. You've got to tip your cap sometimes.''

The four homers off Buchholz were not a career high. He gave up five to Toronto on Sept. 29, 2009.

"He didn't have an inning over 18 pitches,'' said Terry Francona. "He didn't have to pitch out of jams, he didn't have long innings. He just gave up the four solos.''

Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a rough series. He was 0-for-3 Sunday, making him 0-for-10 in the opening series with five strikeouts.

"The one thing that Salty does so well is work the count and swing at strikes, and you can see how anxious he is right now, swinging at a lot of first-pitch strikes," said Francona. "He's just got to relax right now and do what he can do and not try to get it all back in one at-bat.

"He swung at a lot of first pitches this series. I think he was just overanxious.''

Francona absolved Saltalamacchia for any blame regarding the 26 runs the Rangers tallied in the series.

"Results aside, I think Salty does a very good job with the pitchers,'' said Francona. "If a ball is over the middle, that's the way the game is. And the Rangers are good enough where if you make a mistake, they hit it a long way. A tough three-game series isn't going to change our view of Salty.''

Jonathan Papelbon made his first appearance of the season, getting in an inning of work in the eighth with the Sox already trailing 4-1.

Papelbon yielded a leadoff double to Andres Blanco, hit Kinsler and gave up a run-scoring double to Michael Young. After intentionally walking Josh Hamilton to load the bases, Papelbon then struck out Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy in succession.

The Sox were outscored 26-11 in the three-game series despite effectively limiting the damage done by Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP.

Hamilton had three hits in the series, but two were singles. His only extra-base hit was a double when the Rangers were well ahead in the eighth inning of the opener. He added an RBI single in Saturday's win.

The Sox walked Hamilton intentionally twice, with mixed results. On Saturday, with first base open, they walked him in the fourth to bring up Adrian Beltre who foiled the strategy with a grand slam off John Lackey.

Sunday, they walked him in the eighth before Papelbon struck out the next three hitters.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies a week

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies a week

This isn’t your average young and hungry player on the brink of the big leagues.

Yoan Moncada, the ex-Red Sox prospect who was one of the principal pieces in the trade for Chris Sale, ate 85 Twinkies in a week, his agent told ESPN The Magazine

David Hastings, Moncada's agent, clarified to CSNNE that this was a one-time thing when Moncada first arrived in the U.S. Moncada had never had Twinkies before, Hastings said, so he was like "a kid in a candy store."

He's still in great shape. Moncada had a huge spring training with the White Sox after a disappointing major-league debut with Boston in September. 

The 21-year-old third baseman has been optioned out of big-league camp, so he’s slated to start the year in Triple-A. But he hit .317 with a .391 on-base percentage and .683 slugging percentage and 3 home runs in 41 at-bats — some of the best numbers anywhere.

Moncada took a $31.5 million signing bonus from the Red Sox, money that the Sox turned into Sale. Moncada, meanwhile, didn’t exactly invest every cent.

Twinkies weren’t his only indulgence. 

More from the story: 

Moncada had money to spend on drones, video games, toys and clothes. He sometimes spent $1,500 or more during nights out, David says. After he purchased the second $200,000 car, Josefa [Hastings, David’s wife] tried to talk some sense into him.

Hastings reinforced to CSNNE that the message to Moncada was to invest in things that appreciate in value.

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

The Red Sox need to let their lineup sort itself out a bit, and really, need to see how one core player in particular fares: Xander Bogaerts. 
 
Until then, Red Sox manager John Farrell should try to alternate right- and left-handed hitters as much as possible against right-handed pitching
 
If Thursday’s Grapefruit League lineup indeed winds up as a preview for the regular season, Farrell’s on the right track.
 
1. Dustin Pedroia 2B
2. Andrew Benintendi LF
3. Mookie Betts RF
4. Hanley Ramirez DH
5. Mitch Moreland 1B
6. Xander Bogaerts SS
7. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
8. Pablo Sandoval 3B
9. Blake Swihart C
 
Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez should be at catcher normally, rather than Swihart. (If Leon shows he can in fact hit again, the Sox could also decide to put Jackie Bradley Jr. in the nine-hole.)
 
"Maybe a first look at our lineup," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida. "I'm not saying this is Opening Day, but this is potential for one on Opening Day. And just to get everybody back in the rhythm. We've kind of fragmented because of the WBC and because of travel and bouncing around the state. To get our camp finally together, I think we're all looking forward to these last remaining games."
 
Betts is the best all-around producer the Red Sox have. He should be in the three-hole, despite chatter than Andrew Benintendi might be a fit.
 
But Bogaerts’ success will determine a lot of the flexibility available to Farrell. (Yes, everybody has to be healthy for the above statement to be true. And remember, lineups are important, but probably not as important as we’ve all been raised to believe). 

If Bogaerts plays like he did in the first half, when he batted .329 en route to an All-Star appearance, he could easily slide into the three-hole, and push Betts into the second or fourth spot. Or even leadoff.
 
If Bogaerts is the .253 hitter he was after the All-Star break, well, the second half of the lineup is where he belongs. 
 
Bogaerts is, ultimately, better than he showed as both he and the season wore down. But let him establish himself in a groove before you start loading up the top of the lineup with right-handed hitters, thereby giving opposing managers a clear path for righty relievers.
 
(The Red Sox could pinch hit Chris Young at any time, but you’re usually not taking out one of your best players just for a platoon advantage.)
 
And from another perspective, you almost need Bogaerts in the second half of the lineup. Because what else is there?
 
Say the Sox load all four right-handed hitters at the top.
 
1. Pedroia
2. Bogaerts
3. Betts
4. Ramirez 
 
That’s awesome. Then what? Benintendi and cross your fingers? Benintendi seems as sure a thing as any sophomore — well, technically a rookie — can be. But still.
 
This is where Moreland and Sandoval represent other X-factors. All spring, there’s been talk of how Fenway Park and a use-all-fields approach will benefit Moreland. That may be so — but to what extent? How much better can he reasonably be? The Sox are internally encouraged.
 
As it stands now, however, there’s no obvious choice to protect Ramirez, considering Moreland is coming off a season where he had a .293 on-base percentage against righties.
 
And with Sandoval, whether he’s anything more than a wet napkin vs. left-handed pitching is to be seen. There’s reason to believe he can handle right-handed pitchers at least adequately, so he'll get the start — but he could be the first guy pinch hit for nightly.