Notes: Gonzalez driving in runs at record pace

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Notes: Gonzalez driving in runs at record pace

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
TORONTO -- The way he's going at the plate right now, Adrian Gonzalez seemingly could knock in runs in his sleep.

With a first-inning homer Sunday, Gonzalez extended his personal RBI streak to nine games. That ties him with San Diego's Jason Bartlett and White Sox' Paul Konerko for the longest such streak this season.

It's also the longest streak for a Red Sox player since Manny Ramirez knocked in at least one run in 10 straight games in 2002.

After that solo homer in the first, he added a groundout to the right side in the third when the Sox had runners at second and third with one out, giving him another RBI.

"He puts the bat on the ball,'' said Terry Francona of his first baseman. "He rolled over on that (groundout), but he got a knack. He understands what he's got to do (to deliver runs) -- if he's got to shorten up, or hit the ball out of the ballpark.''

For his part, Gonzalez pointed to the table-setters in the Boston batting order -- Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia -- for providing RBI opportunities.

''People keep asking about the RBIs,'' said Gonzalez, "but RBIs are all about the guys ahead of you and those guys are doing an incredible job of giving me multiple opportunities every day. They're the ones that get the team going.''

And after five seasons in the National League, Gonzalez has found the Rogers Centre to be a nice place to hit. In five games here with the Sox this year, Gonzalez has four homers.

Nearly lost in the Red Sox' offensive barrage was the work of starter Jon Lester, who was brilliant, allowing just one run on two hits over eight innings.

Of course, it helped that Lester had a 1-0 lead before even taking the mound, a 3-0 lead in the third and a 9-0 lead by the fifth.

"That was real nice,'' acknowledged Lester, who became the American League's first nine-game winner.

Sunday marked the first time in 14 starts this season that Lester didn't walk a single batter.

In fact, starting with his outing against the Yankees last week, Lester has walked just one batter over his last 14 innings.

That followed a stretch in which he walked 17 over five starts.

"There's been a couple of starts where I was a little erratic with my mechanics and just being able to repeat things,'' said Lester. "But the last couple of starts, I've been able to attack a little bit more. And it's easier to do when you have a lead like that.''

Lester faced just three hitters over the minimum and acknowledged that Sunday perhaps constituted his best outing of the season.

"I'd say my fastball command was pretty good today,'' he said, "and that was probably the best changeup I've had in a while.''

Tuesday will mark Carl Crawford's first return to Tropicana Field since leaving the Tampa Bay Rays to sign his seven-year, 142 million deal with the Red Sox last December.

"I've got to treat it like another road trip,'' said Crawford.

Crawford played against the Rays twice in spring training in Port Charlotte, but this will be his first time back at the Rays' major league facility.

"Port Charlotte is nothing like actually going to the stadium for a big-league game,'' he said. "That's going to be a little different. I'm looking forward to seeing how that's going to turn out.''

Crawford hopes that, after eight full seasons in a Rays uniform, fans will remember what he contributed to the franchise.

"I have no ill will toward those guys,'' he said. "You never know, though. You just have to see what's going to happen. It wasn't an option to stay there (because the Rays never made him an offer once he became a free agent). Hopefully, the fans will be smart enough to realize that.''

Following Sunday's win, utility man Drew Sutton was seen shaking hands with teammates and didn't leave with them on their charter flight to Tampa.

Instead, Sutton -- who hit .290 since being recalled -- will return to Pawtucket, likely making room for the return of outfielder Darnell McDonald, who was placed on the DL on the last road trip with a sore quad.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Flashback to January 2016, it’s the first night of Red Sox Winter Weekend, where fans welcome Rick Porcello with a vanilla reception -- no different than that of any one of the coaches. The right-hander is coming off a disappointing 2015, where he’d been given a four-year extension before throwing a regular season pitch and didn’t exactly perform to the level he’d hoped.

Now flash foward to Friday night, same event, just a year later. Porcello is introduced at the Town Hall event at Foxwoods to kick off the weekend and receives a welcome truly rivaled only by the AL MVP runner-up, Mookie Betts.

“You know, they were both pretty similar,” Porcello joked with reporters when comparing his 2016 reception to Friday’s.

Makes sense. Winning a Cy Young Award can change public perception.

But after his dominant 22-4 regular season, Porcello -- along with the rest of the starting rotation -- couldn’t deliver in the postseason. While he was visibly upset during and after his lone 2016 postseason start, Porcello is taking the Bill Belichick approach and says he's moving on from the outing -- and his memorable regular season, too.

“Just like any other start, you’ve gotta find ways to get over that stuff,” Porcello said. “It doesn’t feel good to go out there and not win Game 1, but I’m on to 2017 now -- and really everything that’s happened in 2016 is behind me. The season that I had, the postseason I had and we’re on to this year and what we can accomplish this year.”

“Moving on” from struggling times and great successes tends to bode well for athletes and players in this town. Maybe that’s what made all the difference for Porcello in making the jump from 2015 to 2016.

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."