Red Sox troubles all too familiar to Papelbon with Phillies

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Red Sox troubles all too familiar to Papelbon with Phillies

KANSAS CITY -- After reaching free agency, closer Jonathan Papelbon doubted he would return to the Red Sox last fall. Papelbon knew that he was looking for a multi-year deal and the Red Sox were philosophically opposed to giving a 30-something reliever that kind of deal.

But the team's decision, two days after the season ended, to not retain manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein's choice to leave weeks later, essentially sealed the deal and cleared the way for him to sign a four-year, 50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

"To go from having his manager in 2005 to 2011, (returning to Boston without Francona) wouldn't have been easy for me," said Papelbon. "I'd say (Francona leaving) pretty much closed the door. Not 100-percent, but I wasn't going to go there not knowing who I was going to be playing for. I think a manager has a lot to do with how a player can tick.

"Then, Theo bounces . . . Ding, ding, ding, a lightbulb goes off in my head. I said to myself, 'If Theo bounces . . . he created all of this. He wouldn't just leave this behind (if everything looked good). So the wheels started turning. It would have been a new experience and I don't think it would have been one I could handle too well."

Papelbon viewed Francona as a scapegoat and took issue with the theory that some veterans on the 2011 Red Sox took advantage of Francona last September.

"A manager's job is not to babysit," he said. "You're dealing with grown men and grown men should be able to prepare for baseball games in the way they know how to prepare. How they prepare is their own discretion."

In his new setting, Papelbon finds some remarkable similarities between Francona and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

"They're actually pretty similar," said Papelbon. "One is a little bit more laid back than the other. Charlie's a little bit more laid back and he lets the game come to him a little bit more. But they both let their players go out and do what the players know how to do.

"That says a lot because a lot of managers want to control so much. And when you try to do that, you don't let the player go out and be himself and that player isn't as successful. There really isn't much difference (between them)."

Papelbon believed he was going to a winner since the Phils had won the last five National League East titles and won two pennants in that span.

But like his former team, his present team has been decimated by injuries. The Phils lost second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard for almost the entire first half of the season and have been without ace Roy Halladay for the past seven weeks.

The parallel has not been lost on Papelbon.

"I'm sitting here looking at what they're going through (in Boston)," said Papelbon, "and what I could have gone through if I stayed, and it's like we're kind of going through that now in Philadelphia . . . We've kind of weathered the storm half-way decent. I think it's still too close to start dealing players. Now, if we lose 10 in a row after the break, that's a different story. If we come back and win 10-of-12 . . ."

He keeps close tabs on his former team and was asked if he felt the Sox could make a successful run at the post-season in the second half.

"I would hope they think that," said Papelbon. "You're a year removed from the situation Tampa Bay was in (to stage a second-half comeback). Do they need a little bit of luck and some teams beating each other up in the division? Yeah. We need the same thing over in Philadelphia. But it's definitely possible to make a run.

"Whether those guys think that in the clubhouse or not, I don't know."

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.