McAdam: Sox continue to beat up on Sabathia

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McAdam: Sox continue to beat up on Sabathia

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

BOSTON -- In four games against CC Sabathia this season, the Red Sox are 4-0 and have scored six or more runs in three of the four games.

But ask them to explain their success against the big lefty and the Red Sox suddenly seemed more overmatched by the question that Sabathia himself.

It's a mystery to them, too, why Sabathia is 16-2 with a 2.11 ERA against everyone else in baseball, but 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against the Sox.

Perhaps they were just being polite, but the Sox had far fewer answers than they had runs scored.

"Believe me,'' said manager Terry Francona, "it's not like we see him and think, 'Oh, we're going to lunch up on this guy.' He's good. He's really good.''

Against lineups other than the Red Sox, yes. He had allowed seven runs in his last eight starts combined; Saturday night, he gave up seven to the Red Sox by the end of the sixth inning.

Sabathia found himself in a 2-2 game in the bottom of the fourth after his teammates had negated a two-run third with two runs of their own off Red Sox starter John Lackey in the top of the fourth.

But just as quickly, the Sox exploded for five runs in the bottom of the fourth to blow the game open, with the big hit coming on Jacoby Ellsbury's three-run blast into the seats in right.

Asked to explain the Red Sox' almost inexplicable success against Sabathia, Dustin Pedroia offered: "I don't know -- luck, I guess. He's got great stuff. We know what CC's about. He's a competitor. He's their horse.

"But we've been able to get big hits at the right time. We did that today.''

Pedroia said the Sox haven't necessarily taken the same approach against Sabathia in each of the four starts. Against an experienced ace like Sabathia, the methodology has to change because Sabathia won't fall into predictable patterns.

"You're only going to get one pitch to hit -- if that -- each at-bat,'' said Pedroia. "You've got to make sure you hit it (when you get the chance).''

Surely, the Red Sox' habit of grinding out at-bats serves them well against Sabathia. For the most part, Red Sox hitters don't often get themselves out by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.

Instead, they work pitchers and grind, getting themselves in hitter's counts, then taking full advantage.

It helps, too, that the Sox know what to expect from Sabathia. The more teams see a pitcher, the more familiar they get.

Finally, this Red Sox team has a habit of rising to a challenge. Last year, they were able to beat perennial Cy Young Award candidates like Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum, while chasing Ubaldo Jiminez.

"You want to rise to the occasion against good pitchers,'' said hitting coach Dave Magadan.

"We grind out at-bats, get on base and try to wear him down,'' shrugged Adrian Gonzalez.

"Good pitchers like that,'' offered David Ortiz, "it's just the one inning where they make a few mistakes and things like that happen. It happened to (Jon Lester) the other day. Today, he had that one inning when he made the mistake to Ellsbury.''

To put into historical perspective, the last time the Red Sox beat a Yankee starter four times in the same season was 1975, when they did so to Pat Dobson.

Sabathia, meanwhile, had never lost to the same team four times in the same year until he was saddled with another defeat to the Sox on Saturday.

"We've made him work and we've gotten some big hits in two-out situations,'' said Magadan, reflecting back on the four wins against Sabathia. "But there's no secret. You need to make him work. When you have at-bats against CC or Felix (Hernandez), you don't want to have those one-pitch at-bats where it makes their job easier.''

"I'm glad (we've had success against him),'' said Francona, ''because at some point, you have to beat pitchers like that. He's had his way with a lot of teams, (but) we've given him a good battle. I'm sure we'll face him a few times.''

Unlike other teams, they'll do so with some confidence.

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

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.