All-Star notes: Beckett good to go if called upon

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All-Star notes: Beckett good to go if called upon

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
PHOENIX -- Two Red Sox pitchers who entered the All-Star break with physical question marks were confident Monday they would be ready to contribute quickly when the second half gets underway Friday.

Josh Beckett, who saw his last start cut short because of a hyperextended knee, is scheduled to start Sunday, the final game of the team's series in Tampa Bay and told A.L. manager Ron Washington that he'd be available for an inning or two Tuesday night in the All-Star Game.

"If he needs me, I think I can pitch, said Beckett. "I don't think it's what everybody back in Boston probably wants. But if he needs me, I can definitely pitch.

Beckett added that he's not worried about the knee. I went all through all my long toss and everything Sunday. I don't think it's an issue.

Having made the trip here, Beckett said he'd like to get into the game.

"Yeah, it's fun, he said. "The whole time is fun. I think that maybe you can enjoy your off-the-field stuff more if you know you weren't pitching, but I'm going into thinking I'll probably get an inning or two.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starter Jered Weaver was chosen by Washington as the starting pitcher and Beckett had no issue with that decision.

"I think Weaver has the credentials to start, said Beckett. "He should start.

Lester, meanwhile, is on disabled list with a pulled lat muscle and won't be eligible to return until after the Red Sox return from their six-game road trip.

But Lester said he's feeling improvement with the lat every day and plans to do some throwing Thursday when the Sox hold a workout at Tropicana Field.

The Red Sox announced their rotation for the Tampa series, with Andrew Miller set to pitch Friday in the opener, followed by John Lackey Saturday and Beckett Sunday.

Presumably, that would leave Tim Wakefield for next Monday in Baltimore. The Sox would then need someone to pitch Tuesday in Lester's spot and could chose from among reliever Alfredo Aceves or another call-up from Pawtucket.

Of the six Red Sox players on hand here, David Ortiz is the only one not under their control for 2012.

Kevin Youkilis said it would be hard to imagine the Sox without Ortiz.

"You don't envision that because he's kind of the face of the franchise right now, he said. "When you see the highlight reels with all the stuff like Boston vs. so-and-so, no matter what channel you watch, David Ortiz is one of the guys they flash up there.

"It's definitely a possibility that David might not be back. It's tough. Guys come and go all the time. It would be tough not to have David because of his presence in the lineup and his overall personality. It would be a sad day and I think the fans would be pretty sad, too, because he's been the Red Sox guy.

If Ortiz leaves after this year, Youkilis who has a guaranteed year for 2012 and an option for 2013, could see some at-bats at DH.

"If it's the best thing for the team, said Youkilis, "I would do what I have to do for the organization. My first choice would be playing the field. But if you sign with a team, you have your personal stuff and then you have the team stuff and you can't have your personal stuff outweigh the team.

"It's different. It gives your body a little bit of a breather. But it's not easy.

Jacoby Ellsbury is making his All-Star debut and said the experience hasn't quite sunk in yet.

"I know it's a huge honor, said Ellsbury, "to be an All-Star at any level. Just looking around at these names, these players . . . some of them I watched going through the minor leagues, that I admired, watched game film on. To be among them and playing on the same team for one game is an honor.

"I think when we get into the clubhouse, it will be interesting to see who I'm lockering next to, who's next to me, putting on the same uniform.

After a half-season as his teammate, Ortiz is still in awe of Adrian Gonzalez.

"He's ridiculous, said Ortiz. "He makes the game look too easy. You don't see him worried about going 0-for-4 because he knows he can come back and go 4-for-4.

"He never talks about being in a slump. He never talks about a pitcher being nasty. He's always positive. It's fun to watch. But talking hitting with him . . . he's on a whole different level.

With all the injuries that have hit the Red Sox starting staff this season, the Sox have had to call on some spot starters for 20 games and are 13-7 in those 20 games.

"In spring training, you always hear, 'They have a spare pitcher,' said Beckett chuckling. "There's no such thing. We see it every year, don't we? Every year, we come to spring training and we hear 'Oh, we have an extra pitcher.' (Expletive), we have an extra pitcher. I want to meet a GM who thinks he's got an extra pitcher.

"It speaks to our minor leagues and the development people. They've got something pretty good going on at that Double A and Triple A thing. Every year, we have a guy like Kyle Weiland either really close to being ready for the big leagues or doing really good at Triple A.

Youkilis wasn't added to the A.L. team until Friday night, but Lester had to wait until Sunday to get invited, even though, because he's on the DL, he won't pitch.

The last-minute notification created some havoc for the pitcher and his family.

"It's been crazy, said Lester. "It really wasn't too bad for me. I just have to throw a couple of shirts in the suitcase and pack my baseball stuff up and I'm good to go. But getting my wife and our son packed up is pretty tough. You know how women are -- they have to have 14 different dresses for just two days.

"It was a tough day Sunday, trying to find a way to get out here and try to find a way to get back. But it's been fun. I think in our profession, you wouldn't have it another way. You find out about stuff last-minute all the time. It's been kind of a whirlwind, but we've enjoyed it.

"I think it was a little hectic for him and his family Sunday, said Beckett. "He had no heads up. It was like, 'By the way, you have to get a flight to Pheonix.'

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''