Francona: Lineup tweak not permanent

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Francona: Lineup tweak not permanent

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

HOUSTON -- Matched against left-hander C.J. Wilson in Friday's season opener, the Red Sox starting lineup will feature Mike Cameron -- and not J.D. Drew -- in right field against the Texas Rangers.

Terry Francona made the announcement Thursday morning, revealing his batting order for Opening Day: Jacoby Ellsbury, CF; Dustin Pedroia, 2B; Carl Crawford, LF; Kevin Youkilis, 3B; Adrian Gonzalez 1B: David Ortiz, DH; Mike Cameron, RF; Jarrod Saltalamacchia C; and Marco Scutato, SS.

"I talked to J.D. about four or five days ago," said Francona, "and I kind of knew where I wanted to go there. I really didn't want J.D. to have to answer a bunch of questions. I talked to Cameron, also. He knew."

"We talked about it," said Drew. "We're in a good position in the outfield to have some guys like Cameron and Darnell McDonald to fill in against tough lefties. It's one of those situations for me, playing as long as I have, to kick back and watch those guys. It gives us an opportunity to win ballgames in those situations, so it will be good.''

"I'm very grateful for the opportunity," said Cameron. "I knew coming into this season, I was on a different perspective than I've been in throughout my career. When Tito called me into the office yesterday, I was kind of scared. I thought J.D. was hurt or something. I knew I was going to play some against lefties, but I wasn't expecting to play Opening Day, but the opportunity that I'm getting is very special. I'm looking forward to it.''
Francona emphasized this was not an indication that he intends to deploy a strict platoon throughout the season and that decisions on who plays right field against lefthanded would be on a case-by-case basis.

"This will not be a platoon," stated Francona. "J.D. knows that."

"This is a long grind throughout the year and it's one of those situations where he just wanted to get my feelings on it," said Drew. "Honestly, it's one of those things where I've been part of a lot of Opening Days and a chance to help this team win ballgames in whatever way it will be, it works out well.''

It's also likely that most nights, Gonzalez will be hitting fourth with Youkilis behind him at the No. 5 spots. But again, the presence of Wilson had Francona attempting to get more right-handed bats higher in the lineup.

"We'll try to keep as much balance as we can," said Francona. "If we swing it like we should, those types of decisions aren't that big. 'Common sense' is a phrase we hope we're using. It's not really that tactical . . . They're good hitters. They're going to be good hitters, whether they're hitting fourth or fifth."

Francona said he had this basic lineup in mind as soon as the Red Sox signed Crawford and traded for Gonzalez over the winter. The other decision came in evaluating Ellsbury's readiness for the leadoff spot after missing all but 18 games last season.

"He looked like he was ready," said Francona. "If it looked like he was scuffling a little bit, we could have moved him to the bottom of the order. When Jake is swinging the bat well, him leading off gives us a different look.

Francona also gave some thought to sitting David Ortiz in the opener, but thought that might send the wrong message given Ortiz's struggles against lefties this year and the attention the issue brought last April.

Wilson was dominant against left-handed hitters last season, limiting them to a .144 batting average against. Lefties slugged just .176 against him and he allowed just five extra-base hits -- all doubles -- in 153 at-bats.

"Wilson is so tough on lefties," said Francona. "He's tough on everybody. But he dominated lefties most of the time last year. We've got to make him throw a lot of strikes. If we swing early, he could have an easy time. We don't want to do that."

Drew, like his manager, warned not to read much into the moves.

"Opening Day is the excitement of the new season, a lot of fun to amp up andreally have an opportunity to reflect on what's coming up ahead of you," he said. "But for the most part, there's a lot of overmagnification for the fans, the media, even the players' standpoint. You tend to reflect on Opening Day and whether you've had a good day or a bad day, it can alter your thought process."

So he plans to take Friday in stride.

"It will be a lot of fun to watch.''
Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

MacPherson: No sense in shelving Sandoval unless you have to

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MacPherson: No sense in shelving Sandoval unless you have to

Brian MacPherson calls in to Toucher & Rich to speak on the shoulder surgery Pablo Sandoval underwent, which will keep him out of use for the season.

McAdam: Sandoval's surgery just a temporary solution to Sox problem

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McAdam: Sandoval's surgery just a temporary solution to Sox problem

CHICAGO -- His left shoulder surgically repaired, Pablo Sandoval is now out of sight and out of mind for the Red Sox.
     
Travis Shaw, who beat out Sandoval for the third base job in the spring, is showing that the Sox made the right move with his play at third and his strong start at the plate.
     
Shaw may not be a natural third baseman, or even an above-average one. But his range is superior to that of Sandoval and his offensive production strong.
     
The move was addition by subtraction. Disregard the salaries attached to both players: the Red Sox got better -- not worse -- when Shaw became the starter and Sandoval the stand-in.
    
But the notion that the Red Sox have arrived at some permanent solution here is a false one.
     
Yes, Sandoval will be gone from Fenway, exiled to Florida to rehab his shoulder, and perhaps, reshape his physique.
     
But he's not really disappearing. He'll just be in hiding for a few months. And when spring training begins next February, Sandoval will be a problem all over again for the Red Sox.
     
This surgery -- beyond repairing Sandoval's mysteriously injured shoulder - can be seen as kicking the can down the road. Sandoval's not really going away.
     
When 2017 begins, the Red Sox will still owe him $58 million over the next three seasons ($17 million in 2017, $18 million each in 2018 and 2019 and a $5 million option buyout for 2020).
     
For that, the Red Sox will get a player coming off major surgery who's performance has been in decline for several seasons, who can play only one position, and despite nominally being a switch-hitter, can actually only hit lefthanded.
     
What a treasure.
     
Trimming one year of salary off the $95 million mega deal signed by Sandoval helps some, but it's really only a small step. There's still a lot of money owed to a player who will soon turn 30.
     
In the unlikely event that a player with that profile could interest another team, Sandoval will start have to prove that he's healthy next spring. No team is going to take on even a portion of that contract without having it demonstrated that Sandoval's shoulder is in working condition.
     
Could Sandoval then be pawned off elsewhere? Perhaps. But it will require the Red Sox to subsidize a significant portion of that contract to faciliate a trade.
     
Whatever that price may be -- half of the reminaining money? - the Red Sox should pay it. It's clear that Sandoval won't ever be a contrbuting player in Boston.
     
The Red Sox have Shaw, just 25, as their third baseman of the present and future. They have Hanley Ramirez to either handle first base or slide into the DH vacancy to be created by David Ortiz's retirement.
     
If the Sox want Ramirez to remain at first, they could seek a veteran slugger like Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion to fill the DH job.
     
Or, they could have Ramirez move to DH and promote Sam Travis to be their first baseman.
     
Whatever plan they select, there's no role for Sandoval beyond "aging, overpaid, limited role player.''
     
That's not in anyone's best interest. So until the Red Sox find a more permanent solution, don't be fooled: Sandoval remains a burden - financially and otherwise -- who will, eventually, end up elsewhere.