Red Sox notes: Gonzalez hits unusual homer


Red Sox notes: Gonzalez hits unusual homer

By Sean McAdam

NEW YORK -- It wasn't a called shot. More like a called approach that resulted in a shot.

Adrian Gonzalez had had three rough at-bats against CC Sabathia Saturday night. He chased a pitch out of the zone for strike three in the first, then broke his bat grounding out weakly to first, then hit into a double-play.

Something had to change.

"He said 'I'm going to give it a little Ichiro and leak a little bit,'" recounted Terry Francona. "He said, 'Do you have a problem with that?' I said, 'Not if you get a hit.'"

"I was just trying to get ready early and clear the inside part of the plate,'' said Gonzalez. "I didn't predict anything. All I said I was going to hit like Ichiro. He had struck me out with a fastball in and broke two bats with two-seamers in, so I was trying to clear my hips a little bit and cover the inside pitch.''

Sure enough, Gonzalez cleared his hips out and swung as though he was wielding a tennis racket. The result? The ball landed in the right field seats for his fifth homer in the last four games and eighth in his last 11 games.

"He amazes me,'' gushed Francona. "When you say you're going to do it, and then you do it... that's pretty impressive. He's really good and he's intelligent.''

This stretch marks the fourth time in his career that Gonzalez has homered in at least four straight games. He did it twice in 2009 and once in 2010.

In addtion to handling Josh Beckett's superb start, Jason Varitek had two big at-bats at the plate.

In the fifth, with runners and first and second and one out, he drew a walk in a long at-bat. The walk pushed the baserunners over to second and third, from where they scored on Jacoby Ellsbury's double to left.

"That's why you grind them out,'' said Francona. "You never know what's going to happen.''

Then, in the seventh, with the Sox still clinging to a 2-0 lead, Varitek lashed a line single to right, scoring Mike Cameron from second.

"I'm just trying to go about my work and have good at-bats every day,'' said Varitek.

It was just his third RBI of the season, but it was huge.

And it got bigger when Gonzalez later added his three-run homer in the same inning.

"He had some real quality at-bats against CC,'' said Gonzalez. "They were huge for us. That base hit was really big. It opened it up to 3-0 and gave us a little breathing room.''

Kevin Youkilis came out of the game in the bottom of the ninth, with his hip stiff. The hip has been plaguing Youkilis some for the last two weeks and when he dove in the Friday night series opener, it became sore.

Throughout the course of the night Saturday, it got tighter.

"If we get him out of there, I don't think it's anything that will keep him out tomorrow,'' said Francona.

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

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Joe Kelly’s ascent to the eighth inning has been pretty darn rapid.

Tyler Thornburg’s questionable right shoulder and the loss of other relievers elsewhere -- remember Koji Uehera, now of the World Champion Cubs? -- have thrown him into the spotlight.

That doesn’t make Kelly anything close to a certainty, though.

Entering spring training, even Craig Kimbrel, one of the very best closers around, faced some doubt after control flare-ups a year ago.

In Kelly, the Sox have an overpowering righty who couldn’t harness his stuff in the past. Someone who conspired with Clay Buchholz in making the Red Sox rotation look dismal midseason.

Kelly’s ineffectiveness last year, in fact, was one of the reasons they traded for Drew Pomeranz on July 14. And, logically, one of the reasons the Red Sox did not want to subsequently rescind the trade for Pomeranz.

The last start Kelly made with the Red Sox (and possibly in his big-league career) was on June 1 against the Orioles. He allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings and was immediately demoted.

He didn’t make it back to Boston until late July.

The best reasons to believe in Kelly now, in Thornburg’s absence, are straightforward: he was awesome at the end of last year, and he is overpowering.

In an eye-opening September, he held hitters to a .180 average in 14 innings. He gave up one earned run, carrying a 0.64 ERA, struck out 20 and walked just three.

That’s awesome potential.

He’s always had that, if nothing else, though: potential. What’s to say Kelly lives up to it? He might. There’s just not a lot to hang your hat on.

In eight innings this spring, Kelly has as many walks, seven, as he does strikeouts.

“The point we’re trying to stress to him, no one in this game is perfect,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Monday, including the Boston Herald. “He doesn’t have to be perfect with every pitch located. He has premium stuff. Trust it, and get ahead in the count a little bit more frequently.”

Early in spring training, Kelly talked about how he was still learning on the job, as you’d expect. That’s going to continue to be the case, and he'll continue to have to prove he's at last arrived.

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

Blake Swihart wasn't going to win a job. Monday merely made that official.

Swihart was optioned out as the Red Sox made further cuts, sending a player who could still be the Red Sox catcher of the future -- well, one of them anyway -- to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's expected to work on his receiving.

Swihart hit .325 in 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.

"Had a very strong camp and showed improvements defensively. Swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida.  "For the player that he is and the person that he is, you love him as a person. He's a hell of a talented player.

"He made some subtle adjustments with his setup [defensively]. That gave him a different look to pitchers on the mound. Pitchers talked positively about the look that they got from him behind the plate. I think it softened his hands somewhat to receive the ball better. And there were a number of occasions where he was able to get a pitchers' pitch called for a strike, so the presentation of the umpire was a little bit more subtle and consistent then maybe years' past."

Sandy Leon's hot hitting in 2016 earned him an automatic crack at the lead catching spot for this year. Combined with the fact that Christian Vazquez looks great defensively, went deep on Sunday and is out of options, Swihart was the obvious odd man out.

He had options, the others didn't.

Deven Marrero was also optioned to Pawtucket. Sam Travis -- who, like Swihart, could break camp with the 2018 team -- was reassigned to minor-league camp, as was catcher Dan Butler.

The Sox have 38 players left in camp, 32 from the 40-man roster.