Saltalamacchia gives Red Sox offense extra cushion


Saltalamacchia gives Red Sox offense extra cushion

By Danny Picard

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; With runners on the corners and two outs, combined with JonLesters presence on the mound and No. 9 hitter Jayson Nix at the plate, allsigns pointed towards letting the Blue Jays have second base if they wanted it.

Not to say that the Red Sox should have completely ignoredJuan Rivera at first base while second was open, but with Lester on the moundwith two outs in the second inning of a scoreless game, you would thinkBostons major focus would be on Torontos No. 9 hitter.

Instead, Rivera got a bad jump, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia decidedto make the throw to second. The throw was off target, but still had enough onit to get Rivera caught in a rundown for the third out. Problem was, the throwto second gave Aaron Hill plenty of time to score from third and give the BlueJays an early 1-0 lead.

Well take the chance of allowing a run to score to come off the field,said Red Sox manager Terry Francona after the game. That throw, we didntexecute exactly like we wanted, but well come off the field at any time.

Francona took full responsibility for making the decision tothrow to second on the play, taking any heat that could have been put onSaltalamacchia for essentially giving Toronto a run.

It was one of those things where Ive got to peek at therunner at third, and I didnt, said Saltalamacchia after the game. I justkind of saw Rivera get a bad jump, kind of came up throwing it. I knew whatthey were going to do in this situation. Luckily it didnt kill us today.

It didnt kill the Red Sox because that was the only runthey allowed on the afternoon. And they went on to score eight runs of theirown. Saltalamacchia drove in three of those -- his most RBI in a game since driving in four runs in May of 2009 with the Texas Rangers -- which included his second-inning RBI single that got the party started for Boston's offense, in the half inning after the BlueJays scored on his poor throw to second.

With runners on first and third and one out in the bottom ofthe second, Saltalamacchia hit a ground ball to the right side of the infieldthat just got past Hills lunging attempt and rolled into the outfield.

Jed Lowrie was able to score easily on the play, tying thegame at 1-1.

In the very next at-bat, Jacoby Ellsbury drove in J.D. Drewand Saltalamacchia with a three-run home run that gave the Red Sox a 4-1 lead.But even at that point, no three-run lead was safe, seeing that on Fridaynight, Boston blew an early 3-0 lead to Toronto and lost, 7-6.

That wasnt something anyone wanted to deal with on Sundayafternoon. So Saltalamacchia's two-run single with bases loaded and two outs in the bottomof the sixth gave the Red Sox a 6-1 cushion that they were dreaming of, inorder to not have to use Jonathan Papelbon for three straight days.

Saltalamacchia ripped a 2-and-2 slider to right field off ofToronto starter Jesse Litsch, driving home David Ortiz and Lowrie. It was aperfect example of what Saltalamacchia and Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadantalked about on Saturday, while Saltalamacchia had the day off.

Just trying to slow it down a little bit, not jumping toomuch, not trying to crush the ball every time, said the Red Sox catcher after Sundays 8-1 win overToronto. Just stay within myself, like I was in spring training.

He seemed to stay within himself with two strikes on him inthe bottom of the sixth, sat back on an 83 mph pitch that tailed back over theplate at the last second, and ripped it to right, ending Litschs afternoon.

I think the more anybody relaxes, the better theyre goingto be, said Francona. I mean, the game sometimes can look a little bitquick.

In the past, Ive felt comfortable with two strikes, saidSaltalamacchia. I dont know if I just kind of bare down a little bit more anddont try and over-due it. But in that situation, I was just looking for a ballup that I could put good wood on.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on

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.