First Pitch: Friday, September 23

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First Pitch: Friday, September 23

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome toFirst 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).

YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN: With the Yankees having clinched and the Rangers about to, the Red Sox' best weapon in September -- opponents who'll beat your wild-card competitors for you -- is about to disappear.

Sean McAdam makes the excellent point that both the Yankees (who have three games left with the Rays) and Rangers (three left with the Angels) will probably spend the final week resting their regulars and getting their pitching set up for the playoffs. (csnne.com) So the Sox really can't count on any help from the outside; if they're going to make the playoffs, they're going to have to do it themselves.

The players think they can. (csnne.com)

Don't know that the rest of us share that optimis, though.

AND IF THEY DON'T . . . it's possible David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon have played their last games at Fenway Park as members of the Red Sox. (csnne.com)

THEY MAY NOT BE THE ONLY ONES: In something of a shock, Peter Gammons -- who should know -- says Terry Francona could managing for his job in this last week. (csnne.com)

NOT SO FAST: The Sox did get some help last night, from the Blue Jays. They knocked off the Angels, pushing LA of A three games back in the loss column in the wild-card race. (ESPN Los Angeles)

None in New York, though, as the Rays -- getting a frighteningly good start from Matt Moore (St. Petersburg Times) -- crushed the Yankees (Tampa Tribune) and remain two back in the loss column.

STAT OF THE DAY? TRY STAT OF ALL TIME: With all due respect to my friends Tony Massarotti and Damon Amendolara, here's a number that sums up the Red Sox' September predictament better than anything I've seen:

Since Sept. 1, the Sox are 1-16 when scoring 11 runs or less. (csnne.com)

BEHIND THE NUMBERS: And Peter Abraham examines the pitching that made such a mind-bending statistic possible. (Boston Globe)

HOLD ON, THERE'S MORE TO IT THAN THAT: John Tomase agrees the pitching's been atrocious, but says other areas of the team have collapsed, as well. (Boston Herald)

THINGS ARE SO BAD . . . that we're even turning on Sweet Caroline. (csnne.com)

EVEN SO . . . Baseball Prospectus says the Sox have a 91.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. (csnne.com)

SAVE US! But Dan Shaughnessy is urging Bud Selig to ban the Red Sox from the postseason. (Boston Globe)

THE BEST DEALS ARE THE ONES YOU DON'T MAKE: The Red Sox tried to get Chris Capuano from the Mets to bolster their shattered starting staff (csnne.com), but couldn't come to an agreement with New York. If how he pitched Thursday is any indication, be thankful. (New York Post)

Of course, that's what we say now. Let's see how we feel when Andrew Miller or Kyle Weiland or (gasp) John Lackey goes up against the Yankees on Sunday.

AT LEAST THERE'S THAT: No matter what happens the rest of the way, you'll be happy to know Tom Werner says things are going well in Liverpool. (epltalk.com)

SO THAT'S HOW IT FEELS: Johnny Damon says the Rays watched the Red Sox' "angst" when they won three out of four up in Boston last weekend, then experienced it themselves when they came to New York and lost three out of four. (New York Post)

WE'RE NOT CRAZY ABOUT YOU EITHER, PAL: Out of nowhere, Russell Martin -- who, as Matthew Pouliot points out, would be in Boston if Theo Epstein had offered him an extra million last winter -- declares that he "hates the Red Sox" and "anything to get the Red Sox of the playoffs would be awesome with me." (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

VOTE FOR ME!! You don't hear his name mentioned in the discussions -- nor should you -- but Robinson Cano is pushing himself for American League MVP. (ESPN New York)

ISSUES OF THEIR OWN: George King lists 10 things concerning the Yankees heading into the postseason. (New York Post)

AND FINALLY . . . 'Moneyball' hits the theatres today, and gets a thumb's up from both Joe Posnanski (si.com) and Roger Ebert. (rogerebert.com)

Kelly ready for his new role as a Red Sox reliever

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Kelly ready for his new role as a Red Sox reliever

BOSTON -- He had to make a longer trip than the rest of his team to Fenway Park for Sunday’s game, but Joe Kelly was more than happy when he got the call at midnight that he was leaving Columbus before his Pawtucket teammates so he could pitch in Boston again.

The righty rejoins the Red Sox for the first time as a reliever since Boston acquired him from St. Louis in the John Lackey trade in 2014. Kelly is expected to not only fill the vacancy left by Heath Hembree -- who was demoted to Triple-A after the game Saturday -- but to lighten the workload on Matt Barnes, Brad Ziegler and other relievers since key pieces of the bullpen went on the disabled list.

And the righty said he’s ready for his new role.

“My body and arm got ready a lot quicker than it would of if I was starting,” Kelly said. “It’s weird to see how your body feels on different days when you still have to get in the game. As a starter, you only have to prepare for that fifth day and if your body doesn’t feel that great in between those days it’s all right.”

Kelly’s apprehensions about pitching on consecutive days might sound like a cause for concern, but he also explained that he’s put himself through the ringer in to be in a position to succeed. He's also had good results at Pawtucket (no runs allowed in five relief innings with one walk and nine strikeouts) after compiling an 8.46 ERA in six starts this season in Boston.

“Out of the bullpen it was good to see different situations,” Kelly said. “[Sometimes I would] get a workout in before the game and go out and pitch that game just to see how I would respond. Pretty much did all the different type of scenarios to see where my arm and body was at.”

That preparation not only addresses the physical toll relieving can take, but also the mental toll.

So, now Kelly should be able to hop into any situation if he’s has worse command than he expects -- of which he noted an improvement.

“Yeah the command feels good right now for the most part with my secondary pitches,” Kelly said. “There hasn’t been a game yet where I’ve had a chance to throw more than two or three of them. For the most part, I’m getting one or two of the off-speed pitches over for a strike.

“And location of the fastball has been pretty good. Not exactly where I maybe where I want it to be, but for the most part it’s been if I want to miss it to a side of the plate, it’s been on that site.”

And now with the move to the bullpen, Kelly really only needs one good off-speed pitch to pair with his five-alarm fastball.

Given he has three to turn to -- including his curve that he said has reached 86 mph -- Kelly should be able to find more success in his shortened appearances.

“I’ve been using slider and curveball for the most part,” Kelly said. “Curveballs to lefties, but recently I’ve been getting some success on curveballs to righties because the velocity has been a little bit higher. Whatever pitch is working the best for me that day -- curveball, slider, changeup -- that’s what I’m probably going to use out there in the game.”

With that advantage Kelly is hunting for strikeouts now more than ever.

He went as far to say he’ll either strike a guy out or walk the batter if he enters the game with a runner on third in order to save the run.
 
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to strike everyone out as a reliever now,” Kelly said.

The Red Sox hope he won’t work to many 3-and-2 counts in that scenario.

White Sox suspend Sale for five days for uniform incident

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White Sox suspend Sale for five days for uniform incident

The Chicago White Sox have suspended ace left-hander Chris Sale for five days "for violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment" after Sale reportedly cut up his and his teammates jerseys before his scheduled start on Saturday.

Sale, the subject of trade rumors with several teams, including the Red Sox, was sent home Saturday after he reportedly objected to the throwback uniforms the team was set to wear and cut his and others in the White Sox clubhouse. 

The team said the suspension began Saturday and will continue through Wednesday. He was also fined an undisclosed amount and placed on Major League Baseball's suspended list.

"While we all appreciate Chris' talent and passion, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to express concerns about team rules and organization expectations," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a team statement announcing the suspension.

Sale, the All-Star Game starter for the American League, is 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA. 

Price says fans shouldn’t expect results he’s produced this season

Price says fans shouldn’t expect results he’s produced this season

BOSTON -- David Price made it clear following the Red Sox' 11-9 loss that he wasn’t just upset with his five-run, 11-hit, 5 2/3-inning outing Saturday night, he’s upset with his whole season, calling his performance “terrible” and “just awful.”

Furthermore, when he was asked if his problems were more mental or physical, he tried to explain how it was neither.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said. “It’s me going out there and making pitches.”

That’s a phrase he’s leaning on quite a bit this year -- going out there and making pitches.

And a day after the rough start, he’s still sticking with that story.

“That’s what it is,” Price said. “What does my velocity say up there? Velocity’s just fine, right? Okay. Then that’s just what it is, I gotta go out there and make pitches. I’m not doing that -- that’s the bottom line.”

Price (9-7, 4.51 ERA) addressed that physically he feels good by noting that his velocity is back to normal, topping out at 95 mph Saturday.

So then his mental game comes into question -- but he’s taken steps to block out anything that might inhibit that.

“I don’t even remember the last time I’ve been on Twitter,” Price said.

Well, his last tweet was three days ago, but he hasn’t tweeted about his pitching in nine days.

So, he’s made adjustments to what he does on and off the field.

But in the end, Price said social media doesn’t even cross his mind when he toes up the rubber.

“Yeah, it’s completely different, but I don’t think about that whenever I’m out there,” Price said. “[I’m thinking about] making that next pitch and getting that next out.”

So, there could be a gray area Price is in right now where he can’t find consistent success. It may not boil down to just mental or physical.

Regardless if that’s the case or not, Price still wants Red Sox fans to know this is not what to expect from him.

“What I have been. That’s what they should expect,” he said.