Notes: Bard once again rock solid out of pen

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Notes: Bard once again rock solid out of pen

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY It starts to get old after a while.

Daniel Bard comes into a hairy baseball situation with no discernible escape, and manages to make it look easy while wriggling out of the mess. The flame-throwing Bard did it again on Sunday when he waltzed into a sticky situation in the seventh inning with the tying run on base and nobody out in a 3-1 ballgame against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Getting out of that jam was the biggest part of that game, said catcher Jason Varitek, who had an excellent view of Bards nuclear stuff from behind the plate.

Jon Lester couldnt put out the fire, and instead Bard came in to retire Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, and Melky Cabrera in a row to escape the jam and preserve what became a 6-1 victory for the Sox. Escobar looked like he was trying to sacrifice the two runners over, but laying down a bunt on a 100-mph fastball motoring through the strike zone is a lot easier said than done.

It was the 48th scoreless outing out of 57 total games pitched for Bostons top reliever this year, and another shred of evidence that Bard is as close to automatic as it gets out of the bullpen these days.

It was another day for a 100-mph hurler thats allowed only 3 of 29 inherited runners to score this season, and ranks third in the American League with the 10 percent inherited runners allowed this season.

Im able to pitch for strikeouts in that situation until I get that first out, said Bard. That was big. Youre saving the game even though youre not necessarily saving the game. My job is maintaining the lead and the easiest way to do that is to strike a guy out and then get a ground ball.

Bard is no longer in the middle of a 26 13 inning scoreless streak like he was during the month of July, but he leads the Sox with 57 outings this season and is second among AL relievers with a .115 batting average against for right-handed hitters.

Thats not easy. But at that point in the game Lester had pitched so well and we wanted to stay away from Alfredo Aceves, said Francona. We figure well go with Bard, and if he has to work hard enough then well go with somebody else. It just depended on how it went. But Id rather leave somebody else with a clean inning. Hes our best getting out of those innings.

Bard proved why hes the best once again when things got tight against the Royals.

Jason Varitek smacked an RBI triple to the right field gap in Sundays win over the Royals a hit that was made notable because it had been four years and 406 games since his last triple on June 24, 2007 against the San Diego Padres.

I like to space them out, joked Varitek after the game was over. Maybe the next inning I needed some oxygen. With two outs I need to make sure its something I can get to third on, and I felt like it was something I shouldnt have a problem getting to.

Its not like Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford . . . trust me.

Carl Crawford rocketed a home run in the seventh inning and has now hit safely in 20 of his last 32 games since returning from the 15-day disabled list on July 18. He is batting .287(58-for-202) in his last 53 games.

The Red Sox have hit 85 home runs on the road this season to lead the Major Leagues, and have a commanding lead over second-place St. Louis, who entered Sunday with 75 road homers this season.

Funny scene after the game with 24-year-old rookie Ryan Lavarnway readying for his first trip traveling with the Sox, and sporting a nice suit jacket that still had all of the tags on it as he walked around the visiting clubhouse.

Carl Crawford still found himself batting in the seventh spot over the weekend despite a plethora of injuries to many of Bostons best positional players, and some saw the situation as a reflection on Crawfords struggles this season.

While some of that may be true, it appears to be more about leaving the Sox left fielder in a lineup position thats become comfortable to him and getting the most out of Crawford. In 65 at bats this season in the top five spots in the Sox lineup, Crawford is hitting a scant .125 and has gathered up virtually no offensive momentum in whats been a lackluster season.

Sox Manager Terry Francona said that he had talked with bench coach DeMarlo Hale about moving Crawford up into the leadoff spot or the No. 2 hole given Jacoby Ellsburys absence in the lineup, but the big ticket free agent hasnt been a very good fit there all year.

Crawford has also stabilized at the plate a bit, and entered Sunday hitting .278 during the month of August. The last thing Francona wanted to do was change things around for his left fielder and potentially send him into another funk.

You just dont really want to bounce Crawford around too much, said Terry Francona of his outfielder that went into Sundays game hitting .251 on the season. "We just didnt think it made sense. But we did talk about it.

Some guys are creatures of habit, Francona explained. You get to like the four and five guys of your lineup, you can move other guys where youre keeping the essence of your batting order kind of the same, balance, things like that. But sometimes you cant. Just want to protect people.

Instead Marco Scutaro was given the leadoff spot over the last two games for the Sox a position where he filled in ably many times last season when Ellsbury was limited to 18 games due to fractured ribs.

Ellsbury was still sore on Sunday after getting drilled with an 88-mph fastball in the upper back on Friday night, and Francona indicated that the Sox centerfielder may miss the beginning of the Texas series as well.

David Ortiz hit for the second straight day in Kansas City, and was exuberantly running sprints through the Sox clubhouse in his flip-flops much to the amusement of Dustin Pedroia. Ortiz said that hes feeling good and was in high spirits watching the Little League World Series in the visiting clubhouse prior to Sundays series finale.

Ortiz is expected to be completely out of the protective boot on his right foot on Monday, but would still likely be a couple of days away from returning to the Sox lineup when they arrive in Texas.

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.''