Magadan: Gonzalez 'as good as it gets'


Magadan: Gonzalez 'as good as it gets'

By Sean McAdam

Dave Magadan was Adrian Gonzalez's first hitting coach in the big leagues. Now, five years later, they're about to be reunited and Magadan can't wait.

"He's as good as it gets," said Magadan, the Red Sox hitting instructor, from his Florida home Saturday. "He was very advanced when I had him in San Diego and that was his first full year in the big leagues. He was very smooth, very smart. Even then, he had a real good feel for how he was going to get pitched."

At the time, in the spring of 2006, Magadan took Gonzalez's confidence and self-awareness the wrong way.

"I didn't say anything at the time," Magadan recalled, "but I remember thinking to myself: 'This guy thinks he's really smart.' I thought, 'Wait until he faces big league pitching.' But you know what? He was really smart. He was very advanced for a guy his age."

At the time, Gonzalez was not yet 24 and was ticketed for Triple A. But when incumbent first baseman Ryan Klesko elected to undergo shoulder surgery, Gonzalez stepped in as San Diego's everyday first baseman.

"He had a real good sense of his own swing," said Magadan, who was fired midway through the 2006 season. "He knew what makes a good hitter. In that way, he was very coachable. He could sit on pitches, and he had the discipline to swing at the pitch he was looking for.

"He was very advanced for a guy his age. I liked him from the get-go. Maybe he didn't open as many eyes right away because he hit the ball the other way so much and at his position, people expected him to pull the ball more. But he had the power the other way; he wasn't just hitting singles (to left field) -- he could hit the ball out."

From afar, Magadan admired how Gonzalez adapted to Petco Park, perhaps the least inviting ballpark in the big leagues for hitters.

"It got to the point where I think he could keep his head above water at Petco and do most of his damage on the road," said Magadan.

Indeed, over his career, in a breakdown that includes 59 games played with Texas in 2004 and 2005, Gonzalez has hit 107 homers on the road, compared to 61 at home; slugged .568 on the road and .440 at home; and compiled an .943 OPS away and .800 at home.

And now with the trade sending him to Boston, Gonzalez will go from one of the toughest hitter's ballparks to Fenway, one of the best.

"I think Fenway just plays right into what his strengths are," said Magadan. "He's got great power the other way. He can drive a pitch away and hit it out. He's got very good pull power, too; he's not a guy who just inside-outs the ball."

Gonzalez will be making a transition of another sort, too, going from San Diego, which made the postseason just once in his five seasons and where crowds are often modest, to Fenway, where expectations and fan involvement are far greater.

"He's got a good, even personality," said Magadan. "It's going to be different for him, but different in a good way. I know some guys struggle in Boston, but he's got that personality where he's got a passion for the game. I don't see it being a problem.

"There was a lot of pressure on him in San Diego, but it was a different kind of pressure. He was the big go-to guy in that lineup. Here, he's part of a deeper lineup and he doesn't have to be The Guy all the time."

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Red Sox bullpen takes a blow: Smith to undergo Tommy John surgery


Red Sox bullpen takes a blow: Smith to undergo Tommy John surgery

The Boston Red Sox' worst fears with Carson Smith have been realized: The reliever needs Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

The Sox announced this morning that Smith will undergo the procedure today in New York.

Smith injured his elbow during spring training and was able to pitch in only three regular-season games after being activated on May 3. His loss will probably step up the team's efforts to acquire more bullpen help, as Smith was expected to reduce the workload on Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara as set-ups for closer Craig Kimbrel. In the short term, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree will probably help in that role.

Red Sox starters handled 'the big inning' differently in Indians series


Red Sox starters handled 'the big inning' differently in Indians series

BOSTON -- Avoiding the big inning isn’t just a major concern for Red Sox pitching, it is for all pitchers, at any level.

They can be used as benchmarks for a pitcher’s worth, given one’s ability to minimize the damage, and are in general big momentum shifters.

In each game of the Cleveland series Boston’s starting pitchers were presented with an inning that had potential on running awry.

And each handled it differently.

Joe Kelly took care of business. Rick Porcello minimized the damage and moved on. And, in typical fashion, Clay Buchholz didn’t do well -- even though he managed to log a quality start.

Kelly’s big inning came in his 30-pitch fifth inning, where he lost his perfect game bid -- and gave him no chance at completing the game -- with three walks.

But despite a lapse in control and pressure mounting with runners in scoring position, he held down the fort.

He was able to stay in them moment and work through his worst inning unscathed.

“[I] just got a little bit out of my mechanics and tempo from the stretch,” Kelly said on his fifth inning struggles following Saturday’s 9-1 win. “The pitches still felt good. The life on the fastball felt good [and] the breaking stuff felt sharp. It was just a matter not getting that timing down with my mechanics and just being a little bit to late on getting my arm extended.”

The following day Porcello took the mound and was off once again. John Farrell credited it to a lack of sink on Porcello’s go-to pitch, which is definitely a problem if that’s the case.

But there’s a lot to be said about a pitcher who doesn’t have his best pitch, yet still goes out and pitches a good game (even if it doesn’t get marked as a quality start).

And there’s even more value in the fact that on a bad day, Porcello can still get out of a jam.

“I was overthrowing and out of my game a little bit,” Porcello said on his rough second inning in Sunday’s 5-2 win. “In the third inning I just tried to get the ball down and get some quick outs.”

He also explained that he tries to simplify his approach in starts when he doesn’t have everything working.

“[You] just regroup mentally and battle through it,” Porcello said. “[I was] just trying to keep the balls in the ballpark and let the defense make the plays behind you like they did today.”

Kelly and Porcello set a positive tone to end the series with the Indians after Buchholz had proven that even the Quality Start statistic is misleading at times.

“The one pitch to [Jason] Kipnis is the difference in this one tonight,” John Farrell said following Buchholz’s start Friday. “What we’ve seen is when it’ been a home run, it’s probably been a walk that’s mixed in . . .The home runs are going to happen I think we all look at the base runners leading up to where he puts himself into a little bit of a corner where you don’t have much margin for error with men on base.

“And then there’s been a fastball that’s leaked back to the middle. And that was the case again tonight. He’s trying to crowd Kipnis and to keep the ball in on him and it ends up on the inner half. To me I don’t know if it’s focus, it’s a manner of falling behind in the count and the walks are factoring. We’re working to get him over that hump.”

The “one pitch” being the issue for Buchholz got him a pass for a few starts -- not to belittle the issue, it still is one -- but putting runners on in excess is the righty’s big problem.

He’s clearly still not comfortable throwing from the stretch (never mind bring the game to a screeching halt) and that needs to change. Fact is pitchers throw out of the stretch more often than not.

And going back to the “one pitch” being the problem. It seems more often than not that it’s Buchholz’s “front-door” two-seamer that is supposed to start at a lefty’s hip and scrape the inner edge of the plate.

But once again it wound up catching too much plate, even more barrel and parking itself in the outfield bleachers.

The question beckons, “When will he stop using that pitch so frequently?” It is absolutely a valuable weapon, but if Buchholz has to see that the risk-reward isn’t in his favor.

Regardless, Buchholz needs to take a page out of Kelly and Porcello’s book. Simplify to minimize the damage.

He might even get a standing ovation like Kelly and Porcello when they got pulled.