Bullpen deserves credit for Sox' first win

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Bullpen deserves credit for Sox' first win

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON It may have taken seven games, and it wasnt always pretty, but the Red Sox finally got their first win of the season Friday in their Fenway Park opener, beating the Yankees, 9-6.

While John Lackey (1-1) was credited with the win, the bullpen deserves most of the credit for it.

Lackey went five innings, giving up six runs. After that Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon combined to pitch four scoreless innings, giving up one hit and two walks with five strikeouts, facing two batters over the minimum.

It was hard, said manager Terry Francona. We didnt keep them off the board first five innings. Thats a hard way to win. Our bullpen came in and put up four zeroes. Thats tough to do.

Entering the game, the bullpen combined for an ERA of 8.04, allowing 14 runs with nine walks and 16 strikeouts in 15 23 innings over the previous six games. Even with the jettisoning of left-hander Dennys Reyes (16.20), who was designated for assignment before the game, the bullpens cumulative ERA was still 7.07. After going through last season with one of the worst bullpens in the American League only Baltimore and Kansas City had worse ERAs that was not the result the Sox expected after nearly completely revamping the bullpen, including the additions of Jenks and Daniel Wheeler.

But, in this game, the results were finallywhat they have been looking for.

Papelbon earned the save, throwing a perfect ninth, including striking out Brett Gardner (looking) and Derek Jeter (swinging) before getting Mark Teixeira to fly out.

Well, I think thats what they planned to do, Papelbon said. I think thats the reason why they brought Jenks here. I think as a bullpen unit down there we feel like if you can get the ball to us in the late innings of a game with a lead, we should be able to hold it.

Bard, who had been the only consistently reliable member of the bullpen last season, entered the game with a record of 0-2 and 16.88 ERA in three appearances this season. He pitched a perfect eighth inning to set up Papelbons save.

I felt good, he said. Ive felt good all my outings. They just havent gone that well.

Ive been working on getting some more downward plane on the ball. I was on the side of it my first couple, and just letting the ball be really flat, which makes it easy to see and easy to hit. They werent necessarily hitting the balls hard. But they were consistently getting the barrel to it. So I knew something wasnt right. Normally, if Im throwing my fastball right, its got downhill plane. Even when I miss down the middle theyre pounding balls into the ground, just mis-hits. So, good to see that again.

Jenks came into the game in the seventh inning and issued a lead-off walk to Mark Teixeira, then went to 2-0 on Alex Rodriguez. At that point, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia paid a visit to the mound.

Its just its his first game here, Saltalamacchia said. I can definitely attest to that. You get amped up a little bit and you start trying to overdo some things. He got back to where he needed to be.

I was out there, I think a little over-amped, new everything, new uniform, new home fans and all that, Jenks said. Once I slowed the game down and started pitching again -- I dont want to say it came easier -- but just knowing how to get out of those situations, it made it easier to pitch.

Once I got 2-0, Salty came out and just triggered one of my keys that I use as far as mechanically-wise, Jenks said. Once he did that and he started walking back, I took a second for myself and said, What are you doing? Youve done this thousands of times? And I just stopped worrying about the guy on first base and I just needed to execute a pitch, and I know how to do that. Throw the ball down the middle, get one and rom there you try to get back ahead on the next hitter.

Jenks struck out Rodriguez and retired the next two batters.

With Aceves in the sixth, the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings went exactly how the Red Sox had planned and hoped.

Its awesome, Bard said. Bobby got the heart of the lineup and worked around that lead-off walk, did everything we asked of them. And Pap, thats as good as Ive seen him in two years probably. He looked really good. Its a good thing.

And not a moment too soon.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”