Boston Red Sox

Spring training notes: Napoli taking it easy

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Spring training notes: Napoli taking it easy

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Other than Clay Buchholzs right hamstring strain, Red Sox manager John Farrell was pleased with the first official workout for his pitchers and catchers.

We got our work in, Farrell said. The guys that threw off the mound today did what we anticipated. Thats just to begin to develop some rhythm, repeat their delivery. No ones certainly going to make the team today, but I thought overall a good work day.

The new manager, who was the Sox pitching coach from 2007-10 before leaving to manage the Blue Jays, believes his pitching staff has a lot of upside for 2013.

The potential of the staff when you look at the ability thats here, the talent that is here, the track record that many have had in recent years, to me this has got the ability to be a well-above-average pitching staff, he staff. Now we also know that there are individual needs along the way here that weve got to get guys back to what they've done well in the past, the consistency to which they execute. But this is a staff that I think is very talented. To start to put numbers on it, were not in that position to do that. But at the same time this is a staff thats got a lot of veterans on it that have had very successful careers to date.

First baseman Mike Napoli, who was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both hips this offseason, will be limited in his initial spring training workouts.

Hes still restricted from any kind of impact or pounding, Farrell said. So right now its a matter of him taking batting practice, keeping his arm in shape. Hell go through another MRI later this week for an update and a re-check. Provided everything goes as we anticipate at this point then well start to introduce more baseball activities including the defensive side. Just talking to him hes looking forward to the reps there to gain comfort at the position but everythings pointed toward later in the weekend or early next week that hed be at that position.

Asked how much calling of pitches he planned to do from the dugout, Farrell replied:

Hopefully none. We have the full trust of the guys that are going to be back behind the plate. Were confident that the system that well use as far as preparing a game plan will be carried out. But its very common to have constant conversation between innings whether thats with pitching coach Juan Nieves and Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Juan and David Ross or Ryan Lavarnway. Thats normal in-game dialogue that will be used. But if we prepare the right way that game plan will be starting point that well be able to adjust off of consistently. But the most imp thing is the work we do leading up to the beginning of that game.

Rangers' Darvish has Red Sox on no-trade list

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Rangers' Darvish has Red Sox on no-trade list

Not that they need him -- they have other, far more pressing needs than starting pitching -- but the Red Sox couldn't get Yu Darvish, the subject of trade rumors with the deadline approaching, even if they wanted to.

Per Ken Rosenthal:

Interesting that last year's two World Series participants, the Cubs and Indians, are with the Red Sox on Darvish's no-trade list, which indicates he made these decisions based on factors other than chasing a ring.

The Sox' biggest worry, of course, is that the Rangers will trade Darvish to the Yankees, who are short of starting pitching. But the talk more and more is that Texas -- light years behind Houston in the A.L. West race but only 4 1/2 games back of Kansas City for the second wild-card spot -- will hold onto its ace right-hander at least until the end of the season.

Drellich: Strikeout records or rest for Chris Sale?

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Drellich: Strikeout records or rest for Chris Sale?

BOSTON -- Savor Sale. And maybe save him, too.

Down the stretch, the Red Sox could have some tough choices to make with Chris Sale, who’s on his way to having a great all-time season, particularly for a starting pitcher this century. 

Should the Red Sox let the lefty loose on Pedro Martinez’s club record of 313 strikeouts and 13.20 Ks per nine innings, both set in 1999? Or, if at all possible, should the Sox hold Sale back some nights, with an eye on preservation and the postseason?

If Sale keeps up his present pace, he’s taking down Pedro in total Ks.

After Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Mariners, Sale is 21 starts into the year and has 211 strikeouts. He leads the majors in strikeouts per nine innings, at 12.80, and is averaging seven innings per start. A projected schedule for the rest of his season, one that’s just a guess and works in several turns on five days rest, has a dozen starts remaining for Sale. That would give him 33 on the season. 

If each one lasts seven innings, he’d finish with about 232 1/3 innings in the regular season and 330 strikeouts (based on his performance so far).

Those whiffs come at a cost, though. Sale is averaging a major league-high 110 pitches per game after 115 tosses Wednesday. Justin Verlander is the next closest, at 107 1/3 pitches per outing.

If the American League East stays tightly packed, there may be no way the Sox can reasonably afford Sale breaks. They’re already making an effort to get him five days rest rather than the normal four. 

But if there are nights when the Sox can comfortably keep Sale’s pitch count closer to 100, or pull him after six innings rather than seven, should they?

Most players and teams would say the postseason is what everyone plays for. Sale all year has avoided talking about the Ks.

“I have a job to do,” Sale told reporters in Seattle on Wednesday after fanning 11. “I’m not here for strikeouts. I’m here to get wins. That’s all that really matters at the end of the day, honestly.”

It’s not all that matters, though. People want to see history made. Red Sox fans might even tune in for it. (Secretly, Sale might even like the idea.)

Sale, the modern-day Randy Johnson, has not allowed a run in 20 2/3 scoreless innings since the All-Star Break, a span of three starts. He has a 1.04 ERA in July with 56 strikeouts. Every one of his road outings this year has included at least nine strikeouts, and 14 of his 21 starts overall have featured 10 or more.

Unsurprisingly, the only Sox pitcher with more double-digit strikeout games in a season is Martinez, who had 19 in 1999 and 15 the next year. The last time any pitcher had 14 double-digit K games was 2002, when Curt Schilling had 14 and the Big Unit had 15.

Records may fall, but there's a balancing act waiting to unfold.