Standing Room Only: A true Classic


Standing Room Only: A true Classic

We try to keep the spotlight on Boston in this space, but every once in a while you cant help but burst through the local bubble.

For instance, last night, while the Pats were packing for Pittsburgh, the Bruins were rolling over at the Garden, the Celtics eyes were on New York and the Sox were kicking back a cold one, the Cardinals and Rangers were playing one of the ugliest baseball games Ive ever seen.

Im serious. It was awful, and not just for a potential World Series clincher. This wouldnt have been acceptable for opening day of Spring Training. There were dropped pop-ups in the infield . . . flubbed fly balls in the outfield . . . two booted grounders . . . there were five errors through the first six innings! (And that doesnt count the comedy of errors spewing out of Tim McCarver). But thankfully, in the top of the seventh, with the score tied at four, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back homers to put the Cardinals (and the baseball world) out of their misery. Or so we thought . . .

Instead, right around 12, as night turned to morning and the Pats (dreaming of Terrible Towels), the Bruins (with Montreal nightmares), the NBA (starring David Stern in a night cap and footie pajamas) and the Sox (passed out in front of an empty box of DiGiornos) were all deep in sleep, the Rangers and Cardinals combined for what will go down as one of the most exciting and historic baseball games Ive ever seen. The most uplifting, heart-wrenching, unbelievable back-and-forth battle since . . . honestly, I dont know. From a personal standpoint, Id have to say Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS or (gulp) Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, but all bias aside neither could match this stage.

If you saw it, you know exactly what Im talking about. If not, Im sorry, but theres no way I can do it justice. There were so many different heroes, so many different goats. You felt for so many people Matt Holiday, Nelson Cruz, Nolan Ryan, Neftali Feliz, Scott Feldman, Josh Hamilton, Lance Berkman, David Freese, Ron Washington, Tony Larussa, Alexi Ogando, Mark Lowe, Mike Napoli, Joe Buck on so many levels.

The Cardinals were trailing by two runs and down to their last strike on TWO different occasions. Crazy, right? Well, how about the fact that the Rangers were one strike away from WINNING a World Series on two different occasions?

Its funny, because when you have a dog in the fight, you only deal with one side of those emotions, but as an innocent and unbiased spectator, you burn the candle at both ends. Every moments bittersweet, every big play's a simultaneous high five and gut punch. When David Freese, the same guy who hit the game-tying triple in the ninth, the same guy who GREW UP in St. Louis cheering for the Cardinals, hit a walk-off 11th inning homer to send his hometown team to the seventh game of the World Series, I stood up and cheered, yet at the same time, part of me died. The Rangers, man. One pitch away . . . twice! It was an absolute trip. Probably the purest, yet most emotionally-confusing sports viewing experiences Ive had in years.

And as Freese crossed home plate, while a large part of me was relieved to finally get to bed, another part was bummed that the game couldn't go on forever. It was history. We were living baseball history. And I didn't want it to end.

Although in many ways, it didnt. In reality, I guess Freeses homer marked more of an intermission. The real ending plays out tonight, and Boston team or not, Ill be along for the ride.

Rich Levine can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

Blake Swihart wasn't going to win a job. Monday merely made that official.

Swihart was optioned out as the Red Sox made further cuts, sending a player who could still be the Red Sox catcher of the future -- well, one of them anyway -- to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's expected to work on his receiving.

Swihart hit .325 in 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.

"Had a very strong camp and showed improvements defensively. Swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida.  "For the player that he is and the person that he is, you love him as a person. He's a hell of a talented player.

"He made some subtle adjustments with his setup [defensively]. That gave him a different look to pitchers on the mound. Pitchers talked positively about the look that they got from him behind the plate. I think it softened his hands somewhat to receive the ball better. And there were a number of occasions where he was able to get a pitchers' pitch called for a strike, so the presentation of the umpire was a little bit more subtle and consistent then maybe years' past."

Sandy Leon's hot hitting in 2016 earned him an automatic crack at the lead catching spot for this year. Combined with the fact that Christian Vazquez looks great defensively, went deep on Sunday and is out of options, Swihart was the obvious odd man out.

He had options, the others didn't.

Deven Marrero was also optioned to Pawtucket. Sam Travis -- who, like Swihart, could break camp with the 2018 team -- was reassigned to minor-league camp, as was catcher Dan Butler.

The Sox have 38 players left in camp, 32 from the 40-man roster.

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Righty Tyler Thornburg seems a guarantee to join David Price on the disabled list to start the season.

Thornburg, the biggest acquisition Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made for the bullpen this winter, was scratched Monday because of a spasm in his upper right trapezius — not a great sign for a pitcher who already had throwing shoulder issues this spring.

Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida the spasm was “not shoulder related.”  But the trap, a large muscle along the neck and back, does extend to the shoulder blade.

Dombrowski told reporters it is most likely that Thornburg starts the year on the disabled list. More is expected to be known Tuesday, possibly after an MRI.

Robby Scott could be a replacement for Thornburg. If so, the Sox would likely have three lefties in the bullpen, along with Fernando Abad and Robbie Ross Jr.

"Possibly. Possibly," Dombrowski said of Scott. “We still have to make those decisions. But possibly.”

Dombrowski didn’t indicate a desire to go outside the organization for now.

Thornburg had barely enough time to get ready for Opening Day prior to Monday’s setback. If he indeed starts the season on the DL, Joe Kelly would be the eighth-inning reliever for the Sox — a role Kelly was headed for anyway given Thornburg’s shaky spring.

Thornburg, 28, had a 2.15 ERA last season for the Brewers. The Sox picked him up at the winter meetings in a deal that sent Travis Shaw and prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers.