McAdam: One of those days for Red Sox

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McAdam: One of those days for Red Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas --- Their best starter gave up five runs, thanks to a career-worst three homers allowed. Their most dependable reliever allowed four runs in the eighth after his teammates had come from behind to forge a tie.

It was that kind of day for the Red Sox.

Nine runs off their two best pitchers? If that happens often, or even more than occasionally, the Red Sox are in a load of trouble.

For this one day, Opening Day, it meant a loss.

"I think everyone is pretty much feeling the same way,'' said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "It happened. Now we need to get over it . . . It happens. It's part of baseball. It happens every day. We're out there to perform and some days we do and sometimes we don't. We got beat today.''

Prior to the opener, the focus had been on getting to Texas starter C.J. Wilson, who was 3-0 with an 0.86 ERA against Boston last year. After all the debates about the lineup, the Sox fared well against Wilson, getting four runs off him and running his pitch count up to the point where he was done after 5 23 innings.

But trouble came from their own pitchers.

Lester has been the Red Sox' best starter for much of the last three seasons, compiling 50 wins since the start of 2008. But Friday at The Ballpark in Arlington, he twice, uncharacteristically, spit up two-run leads.

After a two-run first for the Boston, Lester yielded a solo homer on his second pitch of the game to Ian Kinsler, then a game-tying home run to Nelson Cruz in the second. Then, after the Sox went up 4-2 in the third, Lester gave that back and more when he yielded a three-run homer to Mike Napoli in the fourth.

"I don't think it was a bad pitch,'' said Terry Francona of Lester's pitch to Napoli. "I think it was down and probably borderline out of the strike zone. But he's a big strong kid and he's hurt us before.''

Summing up Lester's afternoon, Francona concluded: "He just missed over the middle too much.''

"Things didn't go the way I wanted, obviously,'' said Lester.

He failed to strike out a single batter for the first time since 2008.

"I had a pretty good two-seamer today,'' said Lester. "But for whatever reason, we couldn't get many swings-and-misses.''

Indeed, 12 of the 16 outs Lester recorded were on the ground, including the first nine in a row. But over his final 2 13 innings, he began elevating the ball more and, with Napoli in particular, paid for it.

As spotty as Lester was, the Sox clawed back and tied the game on a David Ortiz solo homer in the top of the eighth. When the Sox brought Bard in, they were only tied, but the Sox are ordinarily so confident with Bard in the game, that seemed insignificant.

"We were thrilled to get to Bard,'' said Francona. "I thought he got under a few pitches and didn't locate. That probably happens a lot of times, but you somehow get them out. His command just wasn't what it normally is.''

Bard got the first out, then threw an ill-advised slider on a 3-and-2 pitch to Napoli. When it missed for ball four, the Rangers had the go-ahead runner on base.

"That's the one I'd take back,'' lamented Bard. "It was kind of an unaggressive pitch and kind of set the tone and got the ball rolling for them.''

A single to Yorvit Torrealba pushed Napoli into scoring position, bringing David Murphy to the plate, pinch-hitting for Julio Borbon.

"I made exactly the pitch I wanted to make,'' insisted Bard. "We were going sinker, down-and-away. It was at the knees, outer black and he just barely got the bat to it. Three inches to the left, it's a foul ball and we're having a different conversation.''

Instead, the looper that the left-handed Murphy clunked down the left-field line hit the chalk -- a fair ball -- and two runs scored.

It was that kind of day for the Red Sox.

"You have to ignore the result sometimes,'' said Bard, offering context and perspective, two qualities not always found in Opening Day losses.

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.''