First Pitch: Friday, September 2

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First Pitch: Friday, September 2

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Thursday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

'IT'S NOT BASEBALL': You're on the Mark, Teixeira. (New York Times)

Let's give the Yankee first baseman the floor for just a little longer:

"If I was a fan, why would I want to come watch people sitting aroundand talking back and forth, going to the mound, 2-0 sliders in thedirt? Four-hour games cant be fun for a fan, either."

There's a Tex message that baseball really ought to listen to.

The Red Sox and the Yankees did it again last night, a coma-inducing 4-hour-and-26-minute torturefest that featured more than 300 pitches, an umpire who refused to call strikes on borderline deliveries (until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth Boston Herald), pitching changes, trips to the mound, you name it . . . everything except crisp, exciting baseball, the sort of thing that made us all fall in love with the game in the first place. To put it in perspective: The Patriots and Giants, playing a typical three-hour NFL game in Foxboro on the same night, started 20 minutes after the Sox and Yanks and finished an hour earlier.

And the final score was 4-2. It wasn't like there were tons of runs and loads of runners, the sorts of things that you'd expect (and accept) when a ballgame lasts that long. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal provides a great breakdown as to why it all went as long as it did . . . and very little had anything to do with things that make a baseball game exciting or suspenseful or dramatic.

David Schoenfield of ESPN -- while acknowledging that he's not looking forward to Sox-Yanks playoff games ending around 12:30 or 1 a.m. EDT -- thinks "the hand-wringing about baseball's pace is mostly a bunch of nonsense" and warns that if they meet in the postseason, the "baseball haters will no doubt come out in full force". Sorry, David. I love baseball as much as anybody, but Teixeira is right. This isn't baseball. No 4-2, nine-inning game should last 4 12 hours.

In the end, this can't be good for the sport. It can't be. Because no one except the most diehard of diehard fans is going to sit and watch "people sitting aroundand talking back and forth, going to the mound, 2-0 sliders in thedirt" on a consistent basis.

Believe me. I'm the most diehard of diehard fans. And I'm about at my limit.

AGREED: Old friend Craig Calcaterra is singing the same tune, even though he doesn't seem to be as fed up as me. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

HERE'S THE REAL PROBLEM: The strategies that drag out the game? They work. (New York Daily News) It was one of the reasons the Yankees beat the Sox last night. (si.com)

OH, YEAH, THE GAME: The Yankees prevailed, 4-2, on a night when Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard, two of the Red Sox' most consistent relievers, failed them. (Both stories csnne.com) The Yanks, who got a rare good outing from A.J. Burnett, were happy about the whole thing (New York Daily News), especially since it pulled them within a half-game of the Red Sox in the A.L. East.

WITH THE GOOD COMES THE BAD: The Yankees may be without Teixeira for a bit, after he took an Aceves pitch off the knee. (New York Daily News)

IS THERE ANY OTHER GAME HE PLAYS? J.D. Drew says his injured finger is forcing him to play "the waiting game". (csnne.com)

WAIT'S ALMOST OVER: Cbssports.com's Evan Brunell looks at some players for whom September could be their career swan songs, and Drew (not to mention Tim Wakefield) makes the list.

PUT ME IN, COACH: Yes, that was Phil Mickelson taking batting practice at Fenway. (csnne.com) And as you can see by the video, he's not too bad.

I GIVE UP: Big Bad Baseball's Don Malcolm can't decide between Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez and Curtis Granderson for American League MVP, so he suggests splitting the award three ways and being done with it.

PHEW! The Red Sox will miss C.J. Wilson this weekend. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE WEIRD TURN PRO: Just when you thought the saga of the Dodgers couldn't get any stranger, the Chinese government comes along and reportedly offers cash-strapped Frank McCourt 1.2 billion for the team. (Los Angeles Times)

MY BAD: And here I thought the ownership squabble in Los Angeles had already been settled. (hbo.com)

FAMILY AFFAIRS: Chris Johnson, son of Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson, is back with the Astros (Houston Chronicle) . . . Andrew Romine, son of ex-Red Sox outfielder Kevin Romine, has been called up by the Angels. (mlb.com)

OLD FRIENDS: Hanley Ramirez is considering shoulder surgery (Miami Herald) . . . Dustin Richardson (remember him?) has been outrighted to Triple-A by the Braves. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

AND FINALLY . . . Funny, but "Stop bullying me!" isn't one of the top five things I'd expect to come out of Keith Hernandez' mouth. (Yahoo!)

Thursday's lineups: Red Sox vs. White Sox

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Thursday's lineups: Red Sox vs. White Sox

Finally, the Boston Red Sox have released their lineup, less than an hour before Thursday's game against the White Sox.

They were waiting on Jackie Bradley Jr. to take batting practice before deciding on whether he can play after jamming his finger on Wednesday. He will be in the lineup and he's batting ninth.

The full lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Brock Holt LF
Ryan Hanigan C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Henry Owens LHP

WHITE SOX
Adam Eaton RF
Henry Rollins SS
Jose Abreu 1B
Todd Frazier 3B
Melky Cabrera LF
Brett Lawrie 2B
Avisail Garcia DH
Carlos Sanchez C
Austin Jackson CF

Erik Johnson RHP

Felger on Ortiz: ‘He keeps passing the tests’

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Felger on Ortiz: ‘He keeps passing the tests’

Major League Baseball is reportedly set to release more PED testing results, but Mike Felger is growing increasingly more confident in the fact that David Ortiz is clean. He's passing all the tests, isn't he?

McAdam: More firsts for Ortiz in what looks like stellar final season

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McAdam: More firsts for Ortiz in what looks like stellar final season

CHICAGO -- It could happen Thursday night, or perhaps sometime this weekend in New York, where he always hits well.
      
But sometime soon, David Ortiz is going to tie, then surpass, Carl Yastrzesmski as the second-greatest home run hitter in Red Sox history.
      
Ortiz hit his sixth of the season Wednesday night, giving him 451 for his Red Sox career, one behind Yastrzemski. Ted Williams is, of course, the Red Sox' all-time leader with 521, safely out of reach.
      
"Know what happens when that's happening?'' asked Ortiz, when told of the approaching milestone. "I'm getting old, man. Like I always say, whenever they mention your name right next to the legends, it's something that, humbly I can tell you, is an honor.''
      
What makes Ortiz's spot on the list all the more amazing is that he has reached these heights after being discarded by the Minnesota Twins some 14 years ago.
      
He arrived as a backup first baseman, initially stuck behind Jeremy Giambi on the Red Sox depth chart. He'll retire, later this year, as one of the handful of best hitters the franchise has ever known.
      
On nights like Wednesday, the context seemed to have Ortiz himself in awe.
      
"I was just a guy who was trying to have a good career,'' said Ortiz, “and put (my) family in a better situation. Now, all of a sudden, these things are happening. It's a blessing.''
      
It's a stretch to suggest that these things are happening "all of a sudden.'' To the contrary, they're the result of a remarkable stretch of 14 seasons in Boston.
     
Only now are the numbers coming into focus. And what numbers they are.
      
Beyond Ortiz's ascension on the all-time lists for the both Major League Baseball and the Red Sox in particular are the improbable feats of a 40-year-old who is performing this season at a level that would be impressive for a hitter a decade younger.
      
Consider:
      
* When Ortiz homered off Yankees reliever Dellin Betances last Friday, he did so on a first-pitch curveball. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated noted that Betances had thrown 355 first-pitch curveballs in his career; Ortiz was the first to hit a homer on one of those pitches.
      
In fact, only six of the first 355 had even been put in play.
      
Ortiz hit his well into the Monster Seats to snap a 2-2 tie and send the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory.
      
* On Wednesday night, Ortiz became the first lefthanded hitter to ever homer off White Sox lefty starter Carlos Rodon.
      
Since last July 2, Ortiz is third among all lefthanded hitters in hitting homers off lefthanded pitchers. That's quite an accomplishment for someone who was being benched as recently as last June against some lefty starters.
     
And what did Rodon learn about that particular showdown?
      
"Don't throw a fastball down the middle to Big Papi,'' said Rodon.
      
Sounds like a good strategy.
      
It's fairly amazing that a 40-year-old, in his final season, is enjoying all these firsts. But Ortiz has lasted this long, and played at such a high level, precisely because he works to get better all the time.
      
Manager John Farrell noted that Ortiz hadn't faced Rodon before Wednesday night and didn't look particularly good in his first two at-bats, grounding into a double play and hitting a flyout.
      
But Ortiz is forever making mental notes, getting ready to make adjustments and process what he's seen.
      
"His retention is great,'' marveled Farrell. "He understands what he's seeing after just one at-bat.''
      
There's still more than five months to go in the regular season and a lot can happen in that span. But after a month in 2016, it seems likely that we are in the midst of one of the greatest final seasons a player has ever enjoyed.