Boston Red Sox

Ross excited to reunite with Red Sox

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Ross excited to reunite with Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This is not the first time that David Ross has been in a Red Sox uniform. That happened in 2008, when Ross was a late-season acquisition for a team searching for catching depth.

His time with the Sox was short. But it was just enough to whet his appetite. Ross was obtained from the Reds in mid-August and experienced a bit of culture shock.

"I was just trying to sit back and take it all in," he recalled Tuesday morning. "You come from a market like Cincinnati to a market like Boston and all the fans. I was just trying to take it all in and see how a big market works. It was the first time I had been in a market like Boston and the fan following was just awesome to me. It was definitely different.

"I was kind of the third catcher (behind Jason Varitek and Kevin Cash). I think I was there for defensive reasons if they pinch-hit. They put me on the roster in the playoffs, which was kind of cool and fun. I got a little bit of taste of Boston. That's probably the reason why I'm back, because of how much fun it was to see those guys in 2008, how much fun they had and how close they were, how people treated one another, the front office included, and how much respect they had for the players in their roles. That's probably one of the reasons I'm back."

Ross was the team's first signing off the off-season and came as something of a surprise, given the presence of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway, along with the team's developing interest in Mike Napoli.

But the Sox valued Ross's defensive skills, his leadership and his ability to work with a pitching staff and offered him a two-year, 6.2 million deal.

"The way they treated me was No. 1," Ross said. "You could tell I was a priority. They came early on, saying all the right things and really committed to me as the whole deal. The way they treated me was above and beyond. And knowing the talent level here (helped). As a catcher, it's not fun to catch a bad staff. It makes the games long and a lot of hard work. Knowing the talent level here they have on the staff, that was kind of a bonus.

"It was just nice to see how they pursued me, how aggressive they were early on. You want to feel wanted by the organization that brings you in. That was one of the key things for me. It was nerve-wracking when there are all these teams calling and you're trying to make the right decision for you and your family. But it was a lot of fun to be wanted, I know that."

At the time, the Sox were unsure of their catching situation. They had yet to sign Napoli -- whom they initially envisioned catching some, before a hip condition changed his contract and altered the Red Sox' plans for him as solely a first baseman -- and they already had Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway.

"I think they were still undecided on what they were going to do when they were talking to me,'' Ross said. "They asked, 'Do you care who you play alongside or back up or whatever your role is?' I said I was going to try to be the best teammate I can and work hard on the days I play. I'm going to do the best I can to win and support whoever my teammate is. That's kind of how I was raised. I feel like that's the right thing to do.

"At this point in my career, I'm not trying to put up any Hall of Fame numbers or anything. I just want to win. I feel like this place gave me the best chance."

More recently, both manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington have said Saltalamacchia will be the first-string catcher with Ross as the backup and Lavarnway probably ticketed for a return to Triple A.

In Atlanta, Ross was credited with helping a number of top young pitchers (Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen, Jonny Venters, Julio Teheran) and as the Red Sox look to integrate number of younger pitchers themselves, it's believed that Ross's work in that area will be beneficial.

"Sometimes you have to think outside the box,'' Ross said. "That's where experience comes in. Veteran catchers like myself that have been around a little bit can still play because the knowledge you have upstairs helps out a little bit at crucial times. I hope to bring any experience and knowledge I have to this team and any questions those guys ask."

Ross is looking forward to working with Saltalamacchia and, from a distance, is impressed by the progress his teammate has made.

"When you have a catcher hitting 20-plus homers a year," he said, "that's impressive. This game's hard in general but catching is really, really tough. When you can be an everyday catcher and put up some good offensive numbers, especially power numbers back there (that's great).

"It will be a blast. The guy hit 25 jacks last year. It's going to be a lot of fun. He's a good guy, hard worker. It's going to be a lot of fun just talking it out. He's got experience. I've been privileged enough to be around some good catchers. He's one of those. I'm excited to work with him and be his teammate and help him with whatever he needs done."

And though Saltamacchia is younger and doesn't have as much big league experience, he does have a background with these Red Sox pitchers. That's a resource Ross can utilize.

"He'll have a good idea about what a guy can do and what he can't do," Ross said, "what this guy should be working on or not. We'll talk about that after we get going. But we've been talking about a lot of everything, so it's going to be fun."

How Drew Pomeranz, 2nd best lefty in the American League, can be even better

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How Drew Pomeranz, 2nd best lefty in the American League, can be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not technically be the No. 2 for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Red Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Either way, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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The 28-year-old Pomeranz was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My change-up’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

BOSTON — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the the Yankees, MLB disciplinarian Joe Torre, and players who can’t take criticism from broadcasters.

In a spot Thursday with WEEI, Werner made clear David Price’s handling of Dennis Eckersley was unprofessional.

“Boston is a tough place to play,” Werner said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merlonia and Fauria. “Some players thrive here, and some players don’t. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.”

“I thought there was a way of handling that. It wasn’t handled appropriately. If I’ve got a problem with Lou [Merloni], and I hear something he says on the radio, I’ll say to Lou, ‘That wasn’t fair.’ ”

Werner also called the team’s relationship with the Yankees “frosty” following the public sign-stealing saga that resulted in fines for both clubs.

“The fact is, I do think this was a minor technical violation,” Werner said. “I start with the fact that this was unfortunately raised to a level it never should have been raised to.”

Werner also insinuated he did not approve of how MLB and Torre handled the disciplining of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who receieved a four-game suspension for his part in a fight against the Tigers (reduced on appeal to three games).

“Do you think Gary Sanchez got an appropriate punishment?” Werner asked.