Notes: Crawford bounces back up the order

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Notes: Crawford bounces back up the order

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

CLEVELAND -- For the third time in four games, Carl Crawford is in a different spot in the lineup.

Crawford hit third in the first two games in Texas before being dropped to seventh in the series finale Sunday, responding with a two-hit game.

For Tuesday's opener here at Progressive Field, Crawford is hitting second with Dustin Pedroia third.

"In the big picture, I don't think it matters," said Terry Francona. "I just thought hitting him third the first couple of days, coupled with being new, I thought he was trying to do too much. Maybe this will get him and Jacoby Ellsbury back-to-back, get them on base and let them cause some havoc.

"We may drop him down in the order, at least for while, at least against lefties just to kind of make our batting order look a little better. We'll see. But again, when guys are hitting and kind of get into a groove, that won't matter much. I just think he was trying too hard the first couple of days."

Francona hinted that he might flip-flop Crawford and Pedroia from the second or third spots from time-to-time.

"I don't think it matters," said Francona. "Our batting order might change a little bit early on, depending on who's pitching for them, who we have available, how we're swinging it. I don't think it's as big a deal as people are making it out to be."

Jarrod Saltalamacchia was in the lineup for the fourth straight game. There had been some speculation that Jason Varitek might be in the lineup Tuesday to catch Josh Beckett, with whom he's worked well in the past.

Saltalamacchia is hitless in 10 at-bats through the first three games, but Francona said he wanted to get the young catcher going at the plate.

"I'd like Tek to catch Wednesday night or Thursday afternoon," explained Francona, "one or the other, so if we did it tonight, it wouldn't match up right. He's going to catch one of the two and I'd really like to get Salty going here. He was so over-anxious and swinging it everything. I'd like to get him settled in."

Francona spoke to Saltalamacchia Tuesday and advised him to try to relax.

"It's a long year," he said. "It's human nature. This game can humble you in a minute."

It's possible that Saltalamacchia allowed the poor performance of the starting pitchers in Texas to carry over to his at-bats.

"I think he had a lot on his plate," said Francona. "A lot of balls we were throwing weren't going where we wanted them to. That was a tough couple of days. Any good catcher, I think they take the performance of the pithing staff personally."

Dennys Reyes pitched in each of the first three games of the season, the first Red Sox pitcher to do so since Jeff Gray (April 8-11, 1991).

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.