Greenville's LeBlanc shoulders big responsibility

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Greenville's LeBlanc shoulders big responsibility

Lucas LeBlanc is an atypical minor league baseball player. Picture Tim Robbins' character from the movie Bull Durham, Nuke LaLoosh -- a brash, bar-hopping kid, concerned first and foremost about making the big leagues. Now picture his direct opposite.

LeBlanc, a 22-year-old outfielder with the Greenville Drive, a Single-A affiliate of the Red Sox, has much more on his mind than baseball, beer and girls. He has a family in the stands: two kids and his wife, Ashlie. He has a rent bill to pay on his own, unlike his teammates who shack up together to split costs. He has responsibility.

"Very, very rare to see at such a low level of baseball to have a family, two kids, a wife," said Drive manager Billy McMillon. "He's a real adult with real responsibilities. Any 22-year-old with two kids, that's one thing. Then you've gotta come out every day and play baseball? I don't know how he doesn't pull his hair out every day."

It's not easy for the kid from Lockport, Louisiana. Instead of playing for college baseball powerhouse Louisiana State University, where he had a scholarship waiting for him, LeBlanc is living with the ups and downs of minor league ball, trying to stand out.

The website SoxProspects.com says LeBlanc has "slightly above-average all-around tools, but none are stellar." His 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame and his athleticism give him hope to stick around and maybe eventually move up the organizational ladder.

LeBlanc's climb recently hit a snag, though. He had to have surgery to repair a broken thumb, something that will keep him out of action for 3-4 weeks and undoubtedly leave him frustrated as his dream of making the big leagues -- and providing a better life for his young family -- stalls.

"If I have a bad game, they don't deserve me coming home in a bad mood," LeBlanc said. "I don't want to come home and be the mean dad. That's challenging."

His family tries to make it as easy on him as possible. Ashlie, who watches Drive games in a team jersey with the family surname on the back, is an unwavering supporter of her husband's dream. It's her's, too.

"No regrets," she said. "We don't want to not do something just because it might be hard. It's worth it because you live once and you want to be able to say I did what I wanted to do."

LeBlanc is doing what he wants, even if his way is different than that of his teammates.

On the field, baseball is baseball. But when LeBlanc is going home to put two kids to bed, it doesn't leave a whole lot of room for socializing away from the diamond.

"Me and all the guys have diff priorities, obviously," LeBlanc said. "I don't get to spend as much time with teammates as other guys do. They know that , but they know my situation and I get along with everyone. At the end of the day it's just family. Family's what you got, and I just try to look out for them as much as I can."

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.''