McAdam: Unhappy return coming for Wakefield

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McAdam: Unhappy return coming for Wakefield

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Two morning-after musings:

If, as it certainly seems, Andrew Miller is about to soon join the Red Sox starting rotation, Tim Wakefield is going to be displaced, one way or another.

While one report had the Red Sox planning to slot Miller into the current mix, and, at least for a while, go with six starters, Wakefield will eventually be the odd man out.

There's no rationale for removing Josh Beckett, who sports the lowest ERA of any American League starter, or Jon Lester, who leads in A.L. in wins.

Clay Buchholz (3.59 ERA) has earned a permanent spot in the rotation, and John Lackey gets to stay based on his paycheck. The Sox aren't about to have a long man making almost 17 million per season -- there's too much invested.

That leaves Wakefield, who has a habit of finding himself squeezed out of the picture.

Wakefield pitched brilliantly Tuesday night in defeat, allowing just one earned run over seven innings. He's sure to be unhappy with the idea of being passed over, or, at the very least, moved around.

Though he's not primarily motivated by personal gain, each start Wakefield doesn't get makes his twin goals of 200 career wins (he sits at 196) and becoming the all-time winningest Red Sox pitcher (he's currently 11 away from topping Cy Young and Roger Clemens) become more remote.

Wakefield's current deal expires at the end of the season and while he's been a valuable depth piece on the Red Sox' staff for the last few years, there's no guarantee of his return for 2012 and beyond.

It will take a strong sell job by Terry Francona to have Wakefield remain invested in the team should he again be shifted to the role of bullpen long man.

Tuesday night was one more example of how difficult an opponent the Rays are for the Red Sox.

Boston's run of mighty offensive outbursts was shut down by the Rays and James Shields, and, with it, the team's nine-game winning streak was snapped.

Perhaps that shouldn't be terribly surprising, given the recent history between the two clubs, especially here.

Overall, the Rays have won 10 of their last 13 since June 30 of last season. And since the beginning of 2008, the Rays are a torrid 20-8 -- which translates into a winning percentage of .714 -- against the Sox at Tropicana Field.

It's tough to put a finger on Tampa Bay's dominance. In the past, it could be argued that the Rays' athleticism was a bad matchup for the Red Sox, who couldn't slow the Rays' running game.

Except this: Carl Crawford, once their foremost athletic player and all-around catalyst, now plays for the Red Sox.

And the Rays are no longer nearly as athletic as they were with Crawford, but are still, somehow, 3-0 against the Sox this year.

It can't be Tampa Bay's home-field advantage, either, since the crowds at the Trop are modest, and often, about 30-40 percent full of Red Sox boosters.

Crawford himself provided an interesting tidbit following Tuesday's 4-0 loss to his former team.

"I know those guys over there,'' said Crawford. "Whenever it's the Red Sox in town, they take it up a notch.''

Perhaps the Rays are particularly motivated by the turnout of Red Sox fans in their home ballpark, making them all the more determined to beat their guests. And it's a fair bet to believe that Joe Maddon reminds his team of the huge payroll advantages both the Red Sox and Yankees hold.

Whatever is being said, it's working. And it's going to make it very difficult for the Red Sox to run away with the division if they can't beat the Rays head-to-head.

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.