Notes: Lackey has no answers for struggles

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Notes: Lackey has no answers for struggles

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON -- While there was much to be happy about with the Sox offense in the 18-9 win over the hapless Orioles Monday night, the starting pitching is still mostly in shambles this month.

John Lackey went just 4 13 innings, giving up eight runs on 11 hits and two walks with three strikeouts and a wild pitch. He threw 105 pitches, 75 for strikes. Despite a six-run lead after three innings, Lackey did not stay in the game long enough to qualify for a win.

With the outing, his ERA went from 6.19 to 6.49, while the ERA of Sox starting pitchers in September went from 6.38 to 6.87. It was the 13th time in 19 games this month a Sox starting pitcher has gone just five innings or less.

I thought he actually had pretty good stuff, said manager Terry Francona. I thought he threw a lot of strikes. Had trouble putting hitters away. Pitch count was very high and just got to the point where it was hard to leave him in. We needed to stop the runs now. At that point we were up by 11-8 . . . its hard to leave him in. And I wanted to because I didnt want to get into our bullpen that early.

Contrary to what his manager said, Lackey did not think he had pretty good stuff. After the game, Lackey seemed as frustrated and confused as anyone by his performance.

I cant explain it, Lackey said. Thats the best Ive felt warming up in the bullpen all year. I dont know what the hell happened.

First inning allowing the first three batters to score, I definitely was missing some locations. Probably overthrowing a little bit because I felt pretty good. After that, I mean, youre going to have to go back and look at some of those pitches and look at what happened, just look at the line score.

On this night, his offense was able to pick him up. Lackey, though, has not earned a win in five consecutive starts since Aug. 23, going 0-3 in that span.

Im glad we won, for sure, obviously, but Im pretty frustrated, he said. I dont know what to tell you.

With the team struggling 5-14 this month and after the bullpen had been heavily used in the first game, Lackey wanted to get deeper into his start.

Its like that all the time, he said. You want to try to get deep in a game to keep those guys in line. But especially in a doubleheader you like to go deeper, for sure. But it didnt happen.

Lackeys late-season outing did little to induce confidence in himself or others.

I pitched pretty good my last time out, felt pretty good about it, he said. And tonight, like I said, physically, arm strenghth wise, I felt about as good as I have all year. Had the inning where I got two guys out and the runner got on with a strikeout, giving up two runs. Then had a bases-loaded ball that falls in on me for another two runs. I dont know, man.

Asked if his frustration had been building or was a product of his latest outing, Lackey replied:

Yeah, all of the above.

The seventh inning was the first time the Sox have ever had an inside-the-park home run (Jacoby Ellsbury) and a conventional grand slam (Conor Jackson) in the same inning.

Adrian Gonzalez was lifted for pinch-runner Lars Anderson after his seventh-inning single. Gonzalez appeared to be favoring his left calf, which has been bothering him, going to first base.

Hes a little tender, Francona said. That calfs grabbing at him a little bit. Fortunately speeds not a big part of his game. I think he can manage it. If he cant we wont play him, but I think he can handle it.

Francona expects Gonzalez to play Tuesday.

Gonzalez combined to go 5-for-7 in the doubleheader and how has 203 hits this season. Mo Vaughn is the only other Sox first baseman to ever hit at least 200 hits, with 207 in 1996 and 205 in 1998.

With a double and an inside-the-park home run, Ellsbury has 78 extra-base hits this season, behind only Fred Lynns 82 in 1979 by a Sox center fielder.

Marco Scutaro went 3-for-5 with two RBI. He is hitting .422 (27-for-64) with 18 RBI in 18 games this month. Going 3-for-3 in the first game, he has consecutive 3-hit games for the fifth time in his career and second this season (also Aug. 7 and 8).

Carl Crawford was a late scratch from the starting lineup for Game 1 of the doubleheader because of a stiff neck. He also missed Game 2. Darnell McDonald took his place in left field for Game 1. Conor Jackson played left field for Game 2 and batted 7th.

Manager Terry Francona said J.D. Drew might see a doctor today to have his broken right middle finger looked reevaluated.

Right-hander Dan Wheeler has been dealing with forearm stiffness. Wheeler said he felt something on his last pitch in Toronto on Sept. 7. Hes been playing catch the last few days. There is no structural damage but there is also no timetable for a return to the mound, either.

With the doubleheader in the middle of a long homestand and no off day until Thursday, managing the bullpen can be a challenge.

If youre winning the first game, you go for it, Francona said.

Right-hander Junichi Tazawa has been stretched out, and could go multiple innings, if needed. But he had Tommy John surgery in March 2010 and there has to be some recognition of what hes gone through, Francona said.

Left-hander Erik Bedard, who is scheduled to start Tuesdays game, has not pitched since Sept. 3, sidelined by back and knee ailments. In his last start he went six innings, throwing 101 pitches. Hes not likely to get to that pitch count Tuesday, Francona said.

Triple-A Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur has joined the Sox staff and will be with them through the homestand.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

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.