Notes: Being skipped over angered Lackey


Notes: Being skipped over angered Lackey

By SeanMcAdam

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It's been two weeks since John Lackey's start was sacrificed after a rainout in order to get the Red Sox rotation back in order.

Apparently, however, Lackey hasn't forgotten what he interpreted as a slight.

Tuesday night in Oakland, he noted after his start that he "wasn't happy'' with being skipped.

Sunday, after his second strong outing (eight shutout innings in a 7-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), Lackey ratcheted up his displeasure.

"I was pissed off,'' he said looking back on being skipped.

When asked if the move had served to motivate him in his last starts (14 innings pitched, one run allowed), an agitated Lackey responded: "What do you think? What's it look like?''

Terry Francona insists the Sox weren't intending to send a message to Lackey.

"We didn't skip him because he was pitching bad,'' he said. ''We skipped him so we didn't screw up the staff. And I think he was mad. I think all competitors get like that. He wanted to come out and show what kind of pitcher he is.''

If this is what it takes to get Lackey back on track, maybe the Red Sox should have tried it earlier.

On Sunday, he consistently got ahead of hitters, threw his breaking ball for strikes on the few occasions when he fell behind, and generally cruised through the Angels lineup.

From the second through the sixth, he allowed just one base hit past the infield.

"I think he's more comfortable hitting his spots,'' volunteered catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "He's not missing over the middle. He's missing more off the plate. He's got to make that first pitch count. You can't just throw it over the middle. And he didn't do that.''

Lackey is now 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four starts against his former team.

''I think the familiarity helps a little bit, for sure,'' said Lackey. "They know what I like to do and I guess I kind of know what they might be expecting. It's a cat-and-mouse thing that's going to be ongoing.''

Carl Crawford is hitting just .171, but over the last few games, there have been encouraging signs.

For a change, Crawford isn't looking overmatched.

"He looked in between on every single swing,'' said a scout who watched him earlier this season. "Too slow on fastballs and too quick on the breaking stuff.''

That's no longer the case. He homered -- his first as a member of the Sox -- in the sixth and added a single in the eighth. Sunday represented his second straight multihit game.

"I feel good,'' said Crawford. "I hit the ball hard. When you leave the yard, it feels good. You just want to get a big hit. I've been feeling a little better. I'm not out of the woods yet; I'm still in grind mode. But the good thing is, things are starting to feel a little bit better.''

When Francona decided to sit Jed Lowrie, the Red Sox' hottest hitter, it seemed like a curious move.

But Marco Scutaro, who played shortstop over Lowrie, made his manager look smart with a walk, two hits and two runs scored.

"It's good,'' said Scutaro of his afternoon. "I'm just battling myself right now. I keep working and try to do my job when I'm in the lineup. I've got to keep fighting, but there's a long way to go.

"It's hard enough to keep your hitting stroke going even when you play every day. When I was playing every day at the start of the season, my timing was all messed up. But I just have to keep working on my hitting and be ready for everything.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at 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.''