McDonald finds his groove vs. Royals

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McDonald finds his groove vs. Royals

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

McDonald collected a season-high three hits, smacked an important home run that helped chase Kansas Citys lefty out after the sixth inning, and was in the middle of an eighth-inning rally that pushed the game out of reach in a 6-1 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

McDonald actually credited a bunt single in Saturday nights loss as the little thing that helped spark the athletic outfielder, and get him into an offensive flow thats seemingly eluded him all season.

Hey, whatever works.

Its funny how this game works. The littlest things will get you going, said McDonald. The bunt yesterday and just getting on base were little things that just got me going.

I was able to put some good swings on the ball. This team has been throwing a lot of fastballs with two strikes, so I was looking for it and was able to put a good swing on it. Its no secret that the more at bats you get, the easier it is to get your timing down. The main focus for me is to just try and swing at good pitches. Just put quality swings on the baseball . . . Im feeling good at the plate right now.

The three hits pushed McDonalds batting average up to .196 on the season after it had been below his playing weight for far too much of the year. The performance also had Terry Francona stressing exactly how important McDonald could be if he can punish left-handed pitching down the stretch and into the playoffs just as he did during the summer of 2010.

With nary a whisper of the Sox moving on any waiver deadline deals, it appears that Theo Epstein and Co. are evaluating exactly what they have already on the roster before heading out with the shopping cart to the trade market.

McDonald made a nice little statement on Sunday.

We need that," Francona said. "That right-handed bat playing that position is big for us. He hit up in the lineup and he did some things. That was a big part of us winning. Hes been in and out, I guess. Hes been a little inconsistent. One thing we do know is that if he gets a pitch he can hit it out of the ballpark. Today he got some hits also, but hes that threat and if he can hit homers that would be huge.

McDonald finished 2-for-3 against lefty Danny Duffy with a home run on Sunday and upped his season average against left-handed pitching to .229 (17-for-70) with five home runs. His numbers need to continue climbing over the seasons final six weeks if he wants to fend off all comers for a potential playoff roster spot, and thats foremost on his mind at this point.

Its important for me to hit and to contribute, said McDonald. Thats my job; to hit lefties. So to be able to go out and have a day like I did definitely feels good.

Theres no doubting that Sundays three-hit performance was a good start for McDonald.

But it has to be just that if the good-natured fourth outfielder wants to hold on to the nice little niche hes carved out for himself in Boston over the last two years.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

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.''