Boston Red Sox

Red Sox pitchers get in work versus minor leaguers

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Red Sox pitchers get in work versus minor leaguers

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. - As the available Grapefruit League innings dwindle down to a precious few, the Red Sox sent a passel of pitchers to the player development complex to throw in minor-league games against teams from the Twins organization.

While the big-league team was in Jupiter, losing 15-7 to the Marlins, Tim Wakefield, Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Rich Hill and Felix Doubront traveled to the end of Edison Avenue to get in their innings. Wakefield and Hill appeared in the Triple-A game, with Wakefield starting. Papelbon started the Double-A game, followed by Okajima, Bard, Doubront, and Atchison.

Wakefield went five innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on seven hits, a walk, and a hit batter. He also gave up a home run, throwing 78 pitches, 52 strikes.

When a passerby asked him how his outing went, Wakefield replied, "Good enough."

For Wakefield, the most important part of his outing was to get his work in, keeping him stretched out.

"I got up and down five times. Got up to my pitch count," he said.

"It's a different atmosphere. I take it seriously but there's not a whole lot of adrenaline down here. But you got to get your work in somewhere."

Papelbon has not appeared in a spring-training game since March 17, when he went two-thirds of an inning against the Mets and gave up four runs on two hits and two walks. In six Grapefruit League games he has given up seven earned runs on three hits, five walks, and two hit batters with three strikeouts, for a 12.60 ERA.

He started the Double-A game, going one inning, giving up two runs on one hit, a home run, with one strikeout.

"I got in exactly what I wanted to do, which is touch up my delivery a little bit, simple and on-line mechanics," Papelbon said. "That was really all I really wanted to worry about today. So, I accomplished that."

Despite a couple of difficult outings this spring, Papelbon is happy with the way he came into spring training, with better mechanics.

"I'm pleased with the way that I came into spring and my mechanics were pretty good," he said. "A couple outings, I kind of got off track there. But I was able to kind of go back to simplifying it a little more. For me, I was able to take that out there today. The delivery that I had out there today, just try to keep perfecting it and take it into Arlington against the Rangers on Opening Day. That's the most thing I'm pleased about. I'm also pleased about the way I'm throwing my slider, because it's going to be a big pitch for me this year."

Papelbon said he is excited about the potential depth of the Sox' bullpen.

"I do feel excited this year, but I feel excited about every other year, too," he said. "We got to still go out there and find our identity as a bullpen, our roles, our swagger, everything. And all that will hopefully start in Houston a March 30 exhibition game against the Astros and as we get into the season. On paper it looks great. I'm sure you guys have heard that before."

Doubront, slowed by tightness in his left elbow, appeared in a game for the first time this spring. He threw one inning, giving up two runs on three hits with one strikeout. He threw 19 pitches, 13 for strikes.

"Elbow's fine. My body's fine. That's all that matters to me," he said.

Okajima went one scoreless inning, with two strikeouts. He needed just nine pitches, six strikes.

"I felt good today, my conditioning is good," he said. "My first game this spring, I got hit pretty hard, but it was actually good for me. It was good that I could learn from my mistakes.

"I'm ready for the games. My control was poor, but I've been working on that. I am also working on my offspeed pitches, I need to control them or they are pointless.''

Okajima, who has been working on adding a cutter this spring, said he doesn't think he's guaranteed a spot in the Sox bullpen, despite re-signing as a free agent in January on a one-year, 1.75 million contract. Last season right-handed batters hit .340 (34-for-100) and slugged .540 with 4 home runs and 10 walks against him. Lefties hit .284 (25-for-88) and slugged .375 with 2 home runs and 10 walks. Over his four-season career, righties have hit .257 with a .404 slugging percentage, while lefties have hit .214, slugging .320.

"I was good against righties because I threw tough pitches on the inside," he said. "I have to be able to do that or they can target my changeup. I am also using a cutter.''

Bard went one scoreless inning, giving up one hit on seven pitches, six strikes. Atchison went three innings, allowing one run on six hits and walk with three strikeouts. He threw 46 pitches, 31 strikes. Hill pitched one scoreless inning, with one walk and one strikeout. He threw 20 pitches, nine strikes.

The Red Sox got drubbed by the Marlins, 15-7. Clay Buchholz (0-2) took the loss, going four innings, giving up 11 runs, six earned, on 11 hits and one walk with five strikeouts. He allowed four home runs, including two three-run homers to Mike Stanton. Michael Bowden also had a tough outing, going two-thirds of an inning, allowing three runs on five hits. Jacoby Ellsbury went 2-for-3, with a two-run homer. He is hitting .383 this spring. Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 3-for-3 with a home run and four RBI.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in major league history to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this. … I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday.

In this case, the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. 

It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.

“We know what the final out of tonight represented, him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that, and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least, Sale should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could do reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? 

Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.

Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

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Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

BALTIMORE - Chris Sale struck out 13 to become the first AL pitcher in 18 years to reach the 300 mark, and the Boston Red Sox moved to the brink of clinching a playoff berth by beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-0 on Wednesday night.

Sale (17-7) reached the milestone on his last pitch, a called third strike against Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters in a season was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he set a club record with 313.

Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero homered for the Red Sox, who reduced their magic number for reaching the postseason to one. If the Angels lost to Cleveland later Wednesday night, Boston would be assured no worse than a wild-card spot in the AL playoffs.

The Red Sox, of course, would prefer to enter as AL East champions. They hold a three-game lead over the second-place Yankees with 10 games left.

After winning two straight 11-inning games over the skidding Orioles, Boston jumped to a 6-0 lead in the fifth and coasted to its 11th win in 14 games.