Branch embracing limited role with bigger goal in mind

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Branch embracing limited role with bigger goal in mind

FOXBORO -- Deion Branch could be somewhere else. He didn't necessarily have to be standing behind a podium at Gillette Stadium.

But he was. Because he chose to.

Branch was "released" twice. Once before the regular season began, and again in November. Both times, the personal belongings in his locker and the nameplate above it remained untouched.

Both times, he knew he'd be back.

But he had other options. Had he taken those options and not accepted his limited role to be part of a contender, he wouldn't be answering questions about Sunday's AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens, on Friday.

As a veteran who wants another championship, Branch is now the poster boy for unselfishness.

"That's the thing about this team," said Branch on Friday. "We've got a bunch of guys who are unselfish. And that's what's important. I think we put the team first, in everything that we do. And that's just something that creates success upon a team. We've got a bunch of guys who probably can leave here and start elsewhere. But I think most of all, this is where guys want to be. They enjoy it. They enjoy playing here. They enjoy being in the locker room. We take the coaching that coach Belichick gives us, and we put it out on the football field. I think the way that this team prepares before each and every game, is what separates us from every team."

Separating Branch from other players in the league is his willingness to be cut twice in a season, and remain patient. Not just with waiting to get the call back, but also with his limited role on the field.

Branch has only three catches since Week 16, and he hasn't seen the end zone once all season. But he's learning something new about himself every day.

"I didn't think I was this patient," said Branch. "Being a starter in the NFL for so long, and now, the role that I have, I didn't know if I could do it. And I see that I can because the goal is bigger than just me just wanting to be out on the field, starting every game and contributing. I want to do all those things. But at the same time, if coach needs me to go in on third down, then I just have to do my job. That's just one of the things that I've accepted. And I'm going to roll with whatever coach needs me to do."

Belichick needs him to be a leader. Because Branch has been there before. And he's trying to get back. A message that was evident on Friday, regardless of his role.

"It means a lot," said Branch. "This isn't our biggest goal though. Trust me. It's a blessing to be a part of this game, to have an opportunity to play in the AFC Championship. But the goal is bigger for this team."

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

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David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."

Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels

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Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels

BOSTON - JC Ramirez rebounded from his shortest career start with six solid innings, Cameron Maybin doubled home a run and scored another and the Los Angeles Angels held off the Boston Red Sox 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Angels look for their fifth series win in their last six on Sunday.

Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the Red Sox, who lost for only the third time in their last 13 home games.

Ramirez (7-5) allowed one run and four hits with five strikeouts after lasting just three innings and giving up five runs in his previous start.

Blake Parker struck out pinch-hitter Chris Young with the bases loaded for the final out for his first save of the season after Boston scored twice in the ninth.

Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected by third-base umpire and crew chief Bill Miller after Fernando Abad was called for a balk, scoring a run that made it 5-1 in the seventh.