Red Sox' Ortiz, Hawks' Horford a couple of pals

742878.jpg

Red Sox' Ortiz, Hawks' Horford a couple of pals

Four years ago during the first round of the 2008 playoffs, a Boston Celtics fan sitting courtside yelled over to the Atlanta Hawks bench.

He was trying to get the attention of Al Horford, then a 21-year-old rookie who was dominating the paint in his first postseason run.

The Celtics fan didnt care that Horford was playing for the Hawks, the squad that would push the Cs to seven games in the series, or that the big man was averaging a double-double against his favorite team.

Horford was a professional athlete from the Dominican Republic. So was the fan.

His name was David Ortiz.

The Boston Red Sox designated hitter had found out Horford admired him growing up. Being a fan of the NBA himself, Ortiz attended several playoff games that season. It was the perfect opportunity for an introduction.

He was sitting by the bench so he said hello. He sent his information with one of our guys. We talked to each other and got together and weve been hanging out since, Horford told CSNNE.com following the Celtics Game 4 win over the Hawks. I was proud because hes won a couple World Series and is a Dominican hero back home. It was exciting for him to even know me and then come out here and watch us play. I know he obviously had to pull for the home team, but I know that he was happy for me and the way that I was playing, so it was an exciting time.

Horford and Ortiz have developed a close bond since that initial exchange. Now 25, Horford is a two-time All-Star and ranked in the top ten among all players in rebounds during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

He was sidelined in January with a torn left pectoral muscle and returned on Sunday for Game 4 of the Celtics-Hawks first round series. Injuries are one of the many aspects of being a professional athlete he discusses with Ortiz.

I think hes realized that he has to take care of his body a lot more, especially now that hes getting older, said Horford. So one of the things that he always emphasizes and talks to me about is taking care of your body and trying to eat well and things like that. I try to listen to him and I try to follow.

The two friends try to see one another when they travel to Atlanta and Boston for road games. When the schedule permits, Ortiz invites Horford over for a home-cooked meal. Over the years, Horford has had dinner with former Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon and Julio Lugo.

Its real laid back, usually Dominican food which we both like, Horford said. He doesnt cook it (laughs), but we both enjoy it. Usually we just hang out and watch another basketball game if its on TV.

On Saturday, Ortiz gave Horford tickets to the Red Sox game against the Baltimore Orioles. Horford attended with his wife. Fenway is such a fun ballpark, he smiled. It is a trip he looks forward to making whenever he gets the opportunity.

Davids like a big brother to me as far as just kind of making sure that Im doing good, he said. He always encourages me to work, stay focused, and thats the kind of relationship we have. Hes just a basketball fan. Thats really what it comes down to. He loves basketball and any chance I get, I like to watch him and the Red Sox play.

As for another testament to their friendship, what does Ortiz, who earned the moniker Big Papi for calling people Papi because he has trouble remembering names, call Horford?

Al, Horford said, pausing. I think he calls me Al. Im pretty sure.

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

The newest lefty ace can succeed where David Price did not.

Chris Sale might be the most electrifying pitcher the Red Sox have had since Pedro Martinez.

Josh Beckett had his moments. Jon Lester was steadily excellent.

But the stuff Sale brings is a step above.

A spaghetti-limbed motion and a fast pace. The ability to throw any pitch in any count, something said of many pitchers, but noted here without exaggeration. A delivery that disguises each pitch as another until there’s no time to react.

MORE ON CHRIS SALE

There's been a lot of talk about how competitive Sale is. That's great.

Let's acknowledge how filthy he is before going crazy about the intangibles. He carves hitters better than he does jerseys.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made some questionable moves, but he deserves some optimism here. Some early praise, even -- no matter how well Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, the best prospects he gave the White Sox for Sale, are faring this spring.

Where Dombrowski failed with Price thus far, he may succeed immediately with Sale.

Yes, Sale's 10-strikeout performance against the Yankees on Tuesday night was just a spring training game. But he was dominant to the point that a Grapefruit League game was actually made interesting.

Must-watch, even.

“You guys saw,” Sale told reporters in Florida. “Just felt good.”

All three pitches were working for Sale, the fastball, slider and changeup, and the variants thereof.

“I've been working on my changeup a little bit more the last couple of outings,” Sale said. “My last time out it wasn't great, but just working on it in between starts, just throwing it on the flat ground, it's a pitch that doesn't take a whole lot of stress on your arm. So even when you're just playing catch, you can flip it around, work on grips, things like that.

"As far as my slider, I feel good about it. . . . Obviously when I'm throwing harder, I think it's a little bit flatter. When I take some off of it, not only do I have a little bit more control, but I think it has a little bit more depth. Plus, it kind of creates another pitch in there. It's like an in-between fastball-changeup type of thing. Anything to give them a different look or try to throw them off. That’s kind of the name of pitching."

American League Rookie of the Year runner-up Gary Sanchez was miles in front of the 2-and-2 changeup he swung over in the first inning. Matt Holliday was frozen by a slider at the belt on the inner half.

Chris Carter, he of 40-home run power, was beat by a 2-and-2 fastball an inning later, clearly thinking off speed and unable to decipher just what was coming in time.

Aaron Hicks tried to golf an 0-and-2 slider by flinging his bat into the stands, somewhere behind the third-base dugout.

That’s just the first two innings.

"He added his third pitch more this evening than five days ago, when it was more fastball-changeup," manager John Farrell said. "He had his breaking ball to both sides of the plate, and got underneath to some right-handed swings. And any time he needs to, he's got such good feel for the changeup to get him back in counts to give him a different look. He was impressive."

Opening Day at Fenway Park will be exciting. But Game No. 2, when Sale is to make his Sox debut, should bring the most intrigue.

Chris Sale dominant again in Red Sox' win vs. Yankees

Chris Sale dominant again in Red Sox' win vs. Yankees

By Pat Bradley, CSN Staff

Chris Sale was treating this like a regular season game, and delivered an excellent, midseason performance.

The Boston Red Sox got a taste Tuesday of the star pitcher they acquired last offseason, when Sale dominated the New York Yankees in a 4-2 spring training road win in Tampa, Florida.

Sale, who entered the game having thrown 63 of his 68 spring pitches for strikes (92%), continued to show off his incredible command, throwing 58 of his 86 pitches for strikes (67%) in the victory.

The 27-year-old struck out five of the first six Yankees he faced, and finished with an even 10 strikeouts on the night. He’s now struck out 20 batters to just one walk this spring.

"Obviously, anybody who knows anything about sports knows about Boston and New York," Sale said, via The Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. "Coming in here, playing against the Yankees, playing at their park in a night game, it gives it more of a regular-season feel. That's what we're here for. Anytime you can get that much closer to a regular-season game, the better off we're going to be."

His single blemish came on a 2-2 pitch to Yankees designated hitter and noted masher Matt Holliday, who sent the ball sailing to the opposite field for a two-run home run that at the time tied the score at 2.

Sale quickly regrouped, lining out Chris Carter to left field on his very next pitch to end his outing. His final line: two runs on four hits with 10 strikeouts and a hit batsman in six innings on 86 pitches.

That’s quite a debut to the rivalry, and something the Red Sox are well aware could become a regular thing.

“I don't want to say tonight is the norm,” began Red Sox manager John Farrell, via The Providence Journal, “but certainly he is very capable of doing that every time he walks to the mound.”

Sale wasn’t the only one strutting his stuff on Tuesday, though. Youngsters Marco Hernandez and Sam Travis continued to hit and were pivotal parts of a Red Sox offense that pounded out 13 hits.

After Mike Miller opened the scoring with a solo homer for Boston in the third inning, Travis kept things rolling a few batters later when his base hit scored Hernandez.

Travis was back at it again in the seventh inning, when his groundout scored Heiker Meneses for what proved to be the game-winning run.

Hernandez and Travis each finished 2-for-4, with Hernandez tripling (his fifth of the spring) and scoring a run and Travis driving in two runs of his own. They raised their spring averages to .422 and .351, respectively.

Every member of the starting lineup -- which did not feature regulars Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval or Xander Bogaerts -- recorded at least one hit, save for Jackie Bradley Jr., who went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts out of the cleanup spot.

Boston is back in action Thursday with a 1:05 p.m. start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.