Red Sox vs. Rays: Lineup, pregame notes

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Red Sox vs. Rays: Lineup, pregame notes

BOSTON -- Today's lineup, and pregame notes courtesy of the Red Sox' P.R. department:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Mike Aviles 3B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Conor Jackson LF
Darnell McDonald RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Marco Scutaro SS

Tim Wakefield P

MR. 3,000
Todays starter, Tim Wakefield, owns a club-record 2,997.0 innings pitched with the Red Sox, three innings shy of becoming the first Boston hurler to reach the 3,000-inning plateau . . . Of the original 16 teams, Boston and Cincinnati are the only ones that have not had a pitcher work at least 3,000 innings.

LEADING SINCE JULY
Since July 1, Jacoby Ellsbury leads the majors with 44 extra-base hits and 181 total bases . . . In that time, his 18 homers are tied for third in the A.L. . . He is the only major-leaguer with 50 runs, 50 RBI and 35 extra-base hits since the start of July.
MIKE ON A ROLL
Mike Aviles went 3-for-4 yesterday and has hit safely his last eight starts since Aug. 18, batting .438 (14-for-32) . . . He is batting .361 (26-for-72) since joining the Red Sox on July 30, third-best clip in the A.L. in that time (min. 75 PA) . . . Aviles .361 batting average is the best by a player in his first 25 games with an at-bat to begin a Red Sox career since Sean Casey hit .378 (31-for-82) from March 26-June 6, 2008.

SAVINGS ACCOUNT
Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 30th save of the season Friday night . . . He became the first pitcher ever to record 30 or more saves in each of his first six full major-league seasons (2006-11) . . . He has not allowed a run in 22.0 innings over his last 21 games since July 17, with 28 strikeouts in that stretch . . . It is the longest active scoreless streak in the majors and matches the longest single-season scoreless run of his career, also 22.0 innings from May 4-June 26, 2006 . . . He has converted his last 25 save opportunities since May 13, the longest stretch of his career and the second-longest save streak in the A.L. this year.

HOLD ON
Daniel Bard recorded his 32nd hold of the season on Friday night, second most in the A.L. to New Yorks David Robertson (33) . . . The 32 holds match Bards single-season club record, set last year . . . Bard is the only major-league pitcher with 30 or more holds in each of the past two seasons.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.