First Pitch: The latest Sox newsrumorsspeculation

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First Pitch: The latest Sox newsrumorsspeculation

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. And most of it now concerns -- you guessed it -- Theo Epstein and Terry Francona.

SILENCE ISN'T GOLDEN: As bad as Red Sox ownership botched the P.R. aspects of the Terry Francona firing -- and don't let anyone kid you, that's what it was -- they're doing just as poorly with the Theo Epstein situation. Sean McAdam says the issue won't die because the Red Sox won't address it, and it will be impossible for the team to move forward until Esptein's future is decided, one way or the other.

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? Doesn't sound like Bill Chuck would shed any tears if Theo headed off to Chicago. (csnne.com)

IN THE CROSSHAIRS: All week, Comcast SportsNet is running "Crosshairs Of Sox Collapse," with McAdam and Jessica Moran analyzing the people who may or may not be responsible for the just-concluded September to Misremember. First up: Epstein himself.

IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY REAL NEWS . . . we present the latest rumorsspeculationmusings on the Red Sox situation:

Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com agrees with McAdam.

Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston quotes a "major league source close to Epstein" as saying the chances of Epstein staying with the Sox are "50-50".

But Jon Heyman of SI.com says not only isn't Theo going anywhere, but a "likely scenario" is John Henry "adding a couple years to Epstein's contract . . . and perhaps even giving him an upgraded job title".

Buster Olney of ESPN.com says Bobby Valentine "has support in at least one important cortner of the Boston front office" (twitter.com) -- that's known as the Henry Corner, incidentally -- and will probably be interviewed for the manager's job.

Olney also reports Francona wants to manage next year. (ESPN) At the moment, the only job open -- other than Boston's, of course -- is the White Sox'.

And one more from Olney: Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin will be one of several candidates interviewed by the Sox. (ESPN)

But Alex Speier of WEEI.com reports that, according to a source, the Sox haven't yet set a list of candidates.

Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe says if Epstein follows the same search criteria he used in 2003, one candidate fits the bill: Dodgers bench coach and former Royals manager Trey Hillman.

Baseballprospectus.com provides an analytical list of potential managers, including one current (DeMarlo Hale) and one former (Dave Sveum) Red Sox coach. Hard to believe any of these guys who end up replacing Terry Francona, but you never know.

THE RIGHT MOVE: Michael Felger thinks Francona deserved to go. (csnne.com)

YEAH, BUT I'LL MISS HIM: Adrian Gonzalez says Francona "is a great person and fun to be around" and his departure "caught me by surprise". (Boston Herald)

WHAT?? Kevin Youkilis has no idea why people think he has a problem with Jacoby Ellsbury. (csnne.com)

TROUBLE BREWING: A beer vendor who's been working at Yankee Stadium for 35 years was suspended for "harassing" Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves (New York Post) . . . even though it was all in fun and, truth be told, it sounds like the vendor was the harassee and not the harrassor.

AND FINALLY . . . The nauseating, choreographed pregame rituals at Yankee Stadium are all "a part of reminding you that we're the Yankees," according to Mark Teixeira (Wall Street Journal), but I guess the Tigers missed the memo. (Newark Star-Ledger)

Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

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Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia hit his fourth career grand slam to help Rick Porcello get his major league-leading 22nd win, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff berth by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 Saturday night for their 10th consecutive win.

Boston maintained a 5 1/2-game lead over Toronto for the division title and ensured no worse than the AL's second wild card. While the Red Sox technically have a magic number of one, the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles play each other three times in the season's final week - meaning only one of them can win match Boston's 91 wins.

Among the other wild-card contenders, only Detroit can reach 91 victories.

Pedroia stopped an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the sixth and gave Boston a 6-3 lead with a seventh-inning drive off Danny Farquhar.

Porcello (22-4) gave up three runs, eight hits and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings. He just missed getting his 12th consecutive start of seven or more innings and three runs or fewer, which would have moved him past Cy Young (1904) and Pedro Martinez (2000) for the longest stretch during the same season in franchise history.

Craig Kimbrel, the fifth Boston reliever, reached 30 saves for the sixth straight season despite allowing Logan Forsythe's solo homer in the ninth.

Brad Miller hit a two-run double in a three-run second that put Tampa Bay up 3-1 and gave him 80 RBIs.

Tampa Bay threatened in the second but failed to score due to two nice defensive plays. Pedroia made a throw from just in front of the outfield grass at second base on Mikie Mahtook's grounder to get Corey Dickerson at the plate. Third baseman Brock Holt made a solid play along the line on Alexei Ramirez's grounder and threw him out at first to end the inning.

Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

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Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

Thought to be lost for the season after shoulder surgery this past spring, Pablo Sandoval could possibly return to the Red Sox for the postseason, Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Saturday.

Sandoval joined the team in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox are playing the Tampa Bay Rays. Farrell said Sandoval had played in instructional league games in Florida and was "well ahead of schedule."

He could be an option to be activated if another player is injured. 

“One of the things I put in my mind that I have to work,” Sandoval told Boston Herald. “I learned a lot of things about this surgery so I had to work hard to be on the field as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of things I’ve been doing, working out, doing things so I can get better and better everyday.”

Sandoval, 30, is in the second year of a five-year, $95 contract. He lost his starting third base job to Travis Shaw in spring training and in April an MRI revealed he needed surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which was to have ended his season.

He appeared in only three games this season and hit .245 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 126 games in 2015.