Gonzalez's life much different in Boston

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Gonzalez's life much different in Boston

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- Some three months into his first regular season with the Red Sox, Adrian Gonzalez has adjusted to life in Boston and in the American League.

"I would say the games are longer,'' he said, "and there's a lot more runs scored here at Fenway (comapred to cavernous Petco Park).''

Of course, Gonzalez has had something to do with the longer games and the additional runs. After Monday night's 3-for-5 performance in the Red Sox' 14-5 thrashing of his former team, the Padres, he leads the major leagues in batting average (.353), RBI (67), total bases (180), extra-base hits (43) and doubles (25).

Strategy is different between the leagues, with more "small ball'' and bunts utilized in the National League.

"The game itself is different between the leagues,'' he said. "In the National League, you've got the pitcher, the bunt situations . . . there's a lot of different aspects.''

Off the field, of course, there are huge differences.

"The atmposhere at Fenway, it's always a packed crowd,'' he said. "I think off the field, walking around town, it's pretty similar between San Diego and here. The fans are great in both places. The biggest difference is that here, it's sold-out every night and Red Sox Nation is a lot greater on the road as well.''

Gonzalez said he tries not to "focus on the stuff outside the lines. That's something that has definitely helped me. I've always said I just answer the questions that are asked and go about it. I don't look into other things.''

"I think he has enjoyed the intensity of playing here,'' said manager Terry Francona. "I think that's what we certainly hope when we get players. Quite honestly, that's not always the case. This is a little bit different place to play.''

In the field, Gonzalez finds some of his talents wasted since the A.L. has far fewer bunt situations. Gonzalez always took pride in being an "aggressive first baseman,'' who could field bunts and throw to cut down the lead runner. In the A.L., he gets few opportunties to do that.

At the plate, he's found Fenway to his liking -- his wall-ball, RBI double in the seventh Monday night, which increased Boston's lead at the time to 5-3, would have been a routine fly to left in Petco -- though he insists he hasn't varied his approach.

"This is a definitely a way better place to hit than Petco,'' he acknowledged. "That helps a lot with confidence when you go to the plate . . . But I don't focus on the stadium; I just focus on having a good at-bat. When I go up to the plate here, I'm not looking to hit The Wall. I just have my approach and that's something when I came into the league that I didn't have.

"But I learned over my five years in San Diego that you don't set your mentality to the stadium, you set it to the pitcher. Now that I'm here, I just stay with that.''

On Monday, Gonzalez had a chance to see some old friends with the Padres. He had lunch with a few ex-teammates -- Chase Headley, Will Venable and Nick Hundley -- and walked to the ballpark.

"Now,'' he said, "it's about playing the game.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''