Red Sox taken aback by Varitek retirement

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Red Sox taken aback by Varitek retirement

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- News that former teammate Jason Varitek has decided to officially retire Thursday couldn't have come as a great shock to Red Sox players.

Nevertheless, as players dressed Tuesday morning, some couldn't quite get over the fact that, for the first time since 1998, Varitek wouldn't be part of Red Sox.

"I was expecting Tek to play until he was 60,'' said Clay Buchholz only half-jokingly. "He awesome behind there and I still think he could be awesome behind the plate and have a job in baseball. But this is his decision.''

"Definitely,'' agreed David Ortiz. "We're used to seeing Tek walking around and doing his thing. Walking in this year and not seeing him was something unexpected. Man, we're going to miss him.''

Varitek affected different teammates in different ways. With pitchers, he preached preparation and took a firm hand with them on the mound. For fellow catchers, he unselfishly helped others, even if it meant he was helping to groom someone who would one day take his position.

"He meant a lot, obviously,'' said Jarrod Saltamaacchia, who supplanted Varitek as the No. 1 Red Sox catcher in 2011. "Last year, (he) was a huge, huge help in getting my career back on track.''

"He was a great teammate,'' said David Ortiz, who, with the retirement of Varitek and Tim Wakefield in recent weeks, is now the longest tenured Red Sox player. "It certainly was a good ride, being Tek's teammate. There's a lot of memories involved in that.''

Saltalamacchia could tell that there was something special about Varitek even before they were teammates.

Recalling his time in Texas, Saltalamacchia said: "The way he went about his business. I wasn't even in the clubhouse, but I could just see from across the field how people looked at him, how people respected him.''

"(He taught me) how to pitch,'' recalled Clay Buchholz, who joked that it took almost two seasons for him to not feel intimidated by Varitek's steely demeanor. "He helped slow the game down, how to pitch to certain guys, how to get out of certain situations. He was a (instrumental) part of my learning experience in baseball."

Saltalamacchia, who came to the Red Sox in August of 2010 when Varitek was recovering from a broken foot, remembers feeling unsure of himself in 2011 when he took over the top catcher's role.

"I was definitely a little hesitant,'' he said. "I didn't know how to act toward the pitchers. I always looked to him to get a meeting started, but he did an unbelievable job of letting those guys know where I stood and where he stood.

"I didn't expect him to be so helpful. It was like, 'Hey, man, this is your team. You're the captain.' But that's the kind of person he is. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable, always wanted to help me out. He stuck up for me a lot of times. I can't thank him enough for jump-starting my career again. I learned a lot from him. He kind of gave me the confidence back that I needed to be a player.''

Buchholz recalled his 2007 no-hitter against Baltimore and how Varitek helped calm his nerves.

"Early in the game, I shook him off a couple of times and had a couple of missiles hit,'' said Buchholz. "They were caught, but after that it was like, 'OK, I'm just going to throw whatever he puts down.' When the game started speeding up on me, a couple of times I remember him calling time out and running out (to the mound) and telling me to take a couple of deep breaths and to throw a pitch down-and-away to get a ground ball and get out of an inning.

"That's what I'll always remember about him, that he was a guy who could calm you down whenever things were starting to speed up.''

Varitek and the Red Sox have had some discussions about keeping Varitek in the organization to help with both pitchers and catchers.

"Now that he's going to retire,'' said Ortiz, "he's the kind of person this organization is going to need keep very close. This is a guy who did nothing but good things.''

"It'd be good for the pitchers,'' said Buchholz, "but it would be really good for the catchers, especially younger guys coming up because he's such an asset and resource for guys who want to learn about the game. Having a guy who's played for so many years, and played in Boston, would be a great asset.''

Price says he's 'back' after turning in encouraging effort in first 2017 start

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Price says he's 'back' after turning in encouraging effort in first 2017 start

CHICAGO — It’s a start, literally and figuratively.

David Price showed some great velocity in his 2017 Red Sox debut Monday afternoon, hitting 97 mph — heat he didn’t have last year. At times, the pitcher the Sox badly need to return to form flashed high-level effectiveness as well.

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What everyone expected would be off in Price's first start back, his command, was indeed shaky, considering he allowed more runs (three) than hits (two) in a no-decision as the White Sox won, 5-4. But Price wasn’t expected to be in tip-top form, and he did a decent job overall.

"It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Price said, accurately. “I felt good. Just command the baseball a little bit better with my fastball and I think things will take off for me."

The lefty’s five-inning performance against the White Sox came almost exactly three months after he first felt elbow soreness during spring training. He exited with the Red Sox ahead 4-3, and all of the runs he allowed came on a home run from Melky Cabrera in the third inning. 

Price lost the chance at a win when Chicago scored twice off Matt Barnes in the seventh. He might have been a little ahead of himself after the game when he declared himself back, but, in a literal sense, Price indeed has returned.

“After the fifth, I still felt strong. I felt strong in the fifth,” Price said. “After that inning, I still felt really good. I didn’t feel like my stuff changed all that much throughout the game. I’m back.”

After the game, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and manager John Farrell both came over to congratulate Price on his effort.

“It felt good, just to be out there with my teammates, my brothers,” Price said. “That’s why you play the game — to have that feeling. There’s nothing else that gives you that, golf or whatever else you do to compete. You can’t replicate the feeling you have out there in a big-league game so I felt good.”

Cabrera’s shot to left put the White Sox ahead 3-1 at the time. Price walked only two batters on the day — but they happened to be the two hitters in front of Cabrera.

The walk started with the No. 9 hitter, Adam Engel. Tim Anderson, who had drawn just four walks in 181 plate appearances entering the day, got a free pass as well.

But besides the Cabrera homer on a first-pitch fastball that was middle-in, the only other hit Price allowed was a shallow bloop single to center field.

Price finished with four strikeouts, including the first batter he faced on the day, Anderson.

His command issues were nonetheless clear. Price hit two batters to begin his final frame, setting up a fine play for Deven Marrero to record a force out at second before Xander Bogaerts started an inning-ending double play with a fantastic dive, bailing Price out of the first-and-third jam with one out.

With 88 pitches and 58 strikes, Price was more efficient than he was in two rehab outings at Triple-A Pawtucket, and he didn’t get rocked. 

But he also wasn’t as efficient as the Red Sox will need him to be.

Price was pitching in a calm, pleasant environment (clear skies, temperatures in the 70s, low humidity) that might actually have been more comfortable than the colder clime Price faced in Pawtucket -- where both the fans and temperatures were chilly.

The Red Sox were aggressive bringing Price back so quickly, and set themselves up for a second guess if something went wrong. But Price preserved the second of two leads his offense gave him and didn’t let the game get out of hand.

“Health-wise, my two rehab outings, the amount of pitches I threw in a short amount of time,  you can’t do that and then bounce back in the way that I did after both rehab games and not be healthy,” Price said. “There’s no doubt in my mind where I stand right now health-wise. It was good to go out there and feel as good as I did.”

After the Cabrera homer put the White Sox up two, the Red Sox answered immediately in the top of the fourth to tie at 3-3.

The argument that Price did better than anyone else would have in his place is a fair one, considering John Farrell and co. slated Price to pitch Monday before they watched Brian Johnson’s complete-game shutout.

The bigger question was always about what was best for Price’s future, and Monday looks like something he can build on. He may have benefited from the adrenaline of being back in the majors.

“I don't think I throw a single pitch at 99 percent. Everything's 100 percent,” Price said. “I haven't gotten to that point in my career yet where I taper off of certain pitches. My health is not in my mind. I feel healthy. Just go out there and get better.”

Price was even diving for foul balls.

“I think if my elbow was completely blown I'd still dive for that ball,” Price said of a play he couldn't come up with as he lunged near the third-base line. “That's a play I've been dreaming about for a long time now. Me and [Chris] Sale were talking about it probably two weeks ago. It's a play you want to be able to have an opportunity to make. I think it hit the tip of my glove and rolled all the way down my body.”

UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

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UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

CHICAGO — Sure, Dustin Pedroia could have gotten an MRI in Chicago. But the Red Sox don’t want any doubt.

With an injured left wrist, Pedroia is heading back to Boston for an 8:30 a.m. appointment Tuesday with Red Sox medical staff, setting up a hold-your-breath morning as the Sox wait to learn if Pedroia’s going to land on the disabled list. No roster move was made immediately after the Red Sox lost to the White Sox, 5-4.

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For now, the Red Sox say Pedroia has a wrist sprain. X-Rays taken in Chicago were negative but the wrist was swollen.

Pedroia was hurt in the top of the first inning Monday on a weird play, when he was trying to leg out an infield hit and wound up tumbling over White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who slid into the bag feet first. 

Pedroia was hurt bracing himself as he went over Abreu.

“He feels he knows those guys, they know him well,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said of the decision to send Pedroia back to Boston. “We felt it would be more comfortable for him to do that. He wanted to do that, too. He knows those guys well. We could have gotten an MRI here and had people read it, but he just knows the people there so well. We figured he wanted to do that, so we said, 'Sure, we'll fly you there and get the MRI done there.”

Pedroia had season-ending surgery on the wrist in September 2014, addressing a tendon issue. Pedroia had surgery on his left knee this year, and missed time after Manny Machado's slide caught him in that leg in April.

Pedroia during the last homestand was pulled as a precaution because of concern for that leg.

“He's been dealing with the situation from the winter time, but he's played well,” Dombrowski said. “He's played almost every day. He's had to deal with a lot of things, which is very unfortunate, but he battles through it.”

On the play he was hurt, Pedroia hit a chopper to the right side, where Abreu fielded it and hesitated before moving to the bag — likely determining whether he was going to try to flip it to the pitcher. He kept it himself and went in feet first, putting him essentially on the bag as Pedroia arrived. Moving at full speed, Pedroia tumbled over Abreu, leading Pedroia to brace himself with his wrist.

“A real freakish play,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’ll hopefully have some mid-morning information.”

Josh Rutledge took over for Pedroia at second base.

Pedroia’s power has been down all year, with just a pair of home runs, but he still entered Monday hitting .294.