Boston Celtics

Boychuk 'really wanted to stay' in Boston

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Boychuk 'really wanted to stay' in Boston

BOSTON -- Johnny Boychuk will be in Boston for a long time to come as the Bruins continue to lock up the defense corps that led to the Stanley Cup championship.

Boychuk, an impending free agent, signed a three-year deal with the Bruins that will take him through the 2014-15 season and earn him an average annual value of 3.36 million in salary. That slots him behind only Zdeno Chara in terms of contract value and pays him the going rate for a top-four defenseman in todays NHL.

Boychuk will make 3.1, 3.4 and 3.6 million over the three years of the deal and will provide him with partial no-trade clause protection over the early portion of the contract. The no-trade takes the form of NHL cities where Boychuk would prefer to land if a trade did arise. The deal came about largely because Boychuk loves playing in Boston, and wanted to remain with the Bruins.

Its the exact same thing that played out the last time Boychuk was an unrestricted free agent two years ago. Talks between the two sides began roughly a month ago and developed rapidly once both sides realize they had a common goal.

Johnny really wanted to stay here. I think thats the overriding theme. Hes obviously been a good performer for us, said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli while announcing the signing. Hes a big, strong physical D. Ive had discussions with all our potential free agents and this is the deal thats come out of it so far.

Hes a Bruin-type of player: punishing and physical but he can also score with his shot. He chose not to test the market which is nice for us.

Chiarelli fairly projects a few things in his defensemans favor when discussing the new deal: Boychuks age (hes 28 years old) and the deliberate improvement in his game at a defenseman position where many late bloomers truly develop in the NHL as they enter their thirty something years. Above and beyond all that Boychuk would have commanded more money had he dipped his toes into unrestricted free agency.

The grass isnt always greener. He probably could have got more as a free agent. But hes also still young, said Chiarelli. In the old days youd have his rights until he was a 31 or 32-year-old player before he could go to market, so hes still a young player. Hes still learning. Hes an enthusiastic player.

Niklas Kronwall is a player that Boychuk could aspire to develop into as he continues improving in his own game and banks more power play time, but hell be getting paid in the neighborhood of former Bs defenseman Brad Stuart. Thats a fair comparable to Boychuk, and somebody that provides more toughness and defensive grit than Stuart does in Motown. Boychuk also stands in the NHLs top 10 in plusminus with a plus-23 and is pacing to match or surpass his career highs in goals scored and points.

Hes done all that while riding shotgun with Zdeno Chara and facing down the best forwards the rest of the NHL can thrown at them.

Johnny hasnt been on the power play much this year so his numbers are down. But he plays a solid 20 minutes, a heavy 20 minutes in high match-up roles, said Chiarelli. Im not really worried about what his numbers are. Hell score some timely goals for us.

When a team like the Bruins has some difficulty developing their own defenseman within the organization, its incumbent upon them to lock up the blueliners they do have. Thats exactly what the Bs have done with Boychuk, who will be running the music in the Bs dressing room for a long time to come.

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in major league history to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this. … I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday.

In this case, the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. 

It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.

“We know what the final out of tonight represented, him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that, and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least, Sale should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could do reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? 

Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.