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No movement on a contract between Welker, Patriots

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No movement on a contract between Welker, Patriots

There's been no movement toward a new contract between the Patriots and franchised wide receiver Wes Welker.

Welker will be on NFL Network Thursday night, ostensibly to talk about the Patriots' 2011 season and the team's offseason moves.

One of those moves was applying the tag to Welker on March 6, just days before his five-year deal with the team expired.
The 9.5 million tag has kept Welker off the free-agent market. Welker hasn't yet signed the tendered offer, hence, he is not under contract.

That last point is important as voluntary offseason workouts and minicamps approach.

If Welker doesn't sign the tender, he can't participate because he isn't under contract. If he does sign the tender, the Patriots have no urgency to provide him with the long-term deal he wants.

If he doesn't attend, he is not "holding out." He simply is refusing to agree to the franchise tag. And, even though there's a ton of attention devoted to offseason workouts these days because of interest in all things NFL, the early part of voluntary workouts is mostly weight training.

Welker, who works out in Florida, shouldn't be seen as "sending a message" to the team until there are full-squad workouts going on and he's not part of them.

Not that that should be ruled out, either.

Welker's expressed an interest in staying in New England long-term. The team's been candid about wanting to keep him.

When the Patriots announced they were putting the tag on Welker, they stated that, "Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal.Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come.At this point, though, no talks and no progress.

And there likely won't be any until after the NFL Draft, which will be held April 26-28.

After that, Welker's contractual satisfaction (and perhaps extensions for Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) may also come to the fore.

The Patriots have until July 15 to work out a new deal with Welker and lift the franchise tag from him for the 2012 season.

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.