Notes: Pedroia's HR extends hit streak in final AB

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Notes: Pedroia's HR extends hit streak in final AB

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON Things didnt look good for Dustin Pedroia in his final at bat of the day.

It looked like the Sox second basemans hitting streak might be over when he ambled up to the plate already 0-for-2 with a walk in the eighth inning of Thursdays 4-3 loss to the Royals.

But it should have been a harbinger of good things to come when the Fenway Faithful interrupted the traditional singing of Sweet Caroline between halves of the eighth inning to support their little infield general. While the excitement was tempered because the Sox had dropped the game, Terry Francona still recognized the special moment that took place between his diminutive franchise player and the crowd thats adored him so thoroughly during his career in Boston.

I do think our fans are pretty special," Francona said. "They react to things like Dustin Pedroias hit streak. Thats what makes them so great. We dont need President races or mustard racing ketchup. Our fans love baseball and I think thats pretty cool . . . nothing against mustard.

The cheering and ovations began before Pedroia was even announced as the first batter of the inning, and he followed with a dramatic at bat. Pedroia fouled off a couple of nasty outside fastballs from Greg Holland before working the count full.

Then Pedroia found a fastball right around the letters and crushed the 96-mph offering into the Green Monster seats for a solo home run to extend the hitting streak to a career-high 25 games.

I was just trying to get on base," Perdria said. "Holland has great stuff and Im already at a disadvantage there. I just wanted to put together a good at bat. With a 3-2 count I was looking for a fastball and I was just lucky to get the barrel of the bat on it.

Were down two runs. Were trying to win the game. Thats the most important thing we were trying to do there.

The 25-game hitting streak is the longest hitting tear in the American League this season and the third longest in the big leagues. Its also tied for the third-longest by an American League second basemen since 1919, and the longest since Joe Gordons 29-game hitting streak in 1942.

Outfielder Carl Crawford has been playing through a strained left elbow since coming off the 15-day disabled list this month, and was out of the starting lineup over the last two days due to a cortisone shot administered to the elbow on Tuesday.

Crawford said he originally hurt the elbow while continuing rehab from the hamstring injury that landed him on the DL, and it finally got to the point where he needed some medical attention.

The Sox left fielder said hes never had a cortisone shot in his elbow before, and was hoping hed never need another one.

During rehab when I was throwing it got kind of sore when I was doing long toss, said Crawford. I was hoping it would go away at some point and it didnt. So thats why we got the shot."

Crawford pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth inning of Thursdays loss to the Kansas City Royals, and said he should be ready to return to full-time duty this weekend against the Chicago White Sox. His at bat in the ninth inning nearly became the game-winner when he lifted a Joakim Soria breaking ball deep to the right field warning track, but somehow the ball died with the wind blowing despite the cheers and coaxing from the entire Sox bench.

A Crawford home run would have given the Sox a walk-off win against the Royals, but instead Jeff Francouer tracked the ball back in the sun and somehow made a basket catch of the ball.

In that situation you just try to put everything in the past and focus on getting a hit, said Crawford. Normally when I hit it like I thought it was good enough for a home run. I dont know if it died or if I didnt hit it as well as I thought I did . . . I dont know what happened out there.

There is no update yet on right-hander Clay Buchholz, who has been on the disabled list since June 17 with a lower back strain. He is expected to see a specialist within the next few days.

The best way I think I can answer that is that its not been the simplest muscle strain, said manager Terry Francona. I think thats pretty obvious. I meant what I said yesterday: he threw great. He really did. It looked like he was in midseason form but its not been the simplest muscle strain Ive ever seen. Were serious, we want to have everything answered before we turn him loose because if we turn him loose, we dont want to turn back. At the same time we want to take care of him. Thats kind of how I felt yesterday and still feel that way and I think our medical people do too.

Francona is not concerned, for the time being, that Buchholz would not pitch again this season.

Hes a really good pitcher, Francona said. Its hard to answer questions like that. If you asked me when Carl was outCarl is one of our best playersbut the way Josh Reddick played. The guys hitting .430 in his absence. So you never know. Dont want to ever have anybody out.

Shortstop Marco Scutaro was also out of the starting lineup for the finale. He was the only member of the starting lineup who did not get a hit in Wednesdays 16-hit win over the Royals.

I think it'll be good for him, Francona said. Some of the guys have gotten a day. Carls got a couple now, Jacoby a half. Youk. Think well go into Chicago feeling a little bit better.

With the July 31 trade deadline approaching, Francona said he has not noticed the anxiety level in the clubhouse to be as high as it has in past years.

The guys know if they've been around here how things work, Francona said. That were always going to try to get better, which I think players probably appreciate. Theres probably a certain level of excitementin those things.

It used to be on the flip side when I was with the Phillies, knowing that we were kind of on the outside looking in, a little bit envious. I think the guys that there is some anxiety is when theyre reading their name and its probably not every guy, but certain guys I can understand that. Its affecting your livelihood, where you're going to work, things like that. I think its nice when it settles down. This yearit hasnt seemed like its been front and center.

Several reports have linked the Red Sox to Seattle Mariners lefty Erik Bedard (4-6, 3.00 ERA) in trade talks, and a source confirmed to CSNNE.com that indeed there have been discussions between the two teams about the oft-injured Canadian southpaw. Seattle sent scouts this week to Pawtucket and Portland to evaluate younger players potentially available for the southpaw starter, and the demand may become much greater for a starting pitcher in Boston if Clay Buchholzs back condition doesnt improve considerably.

The Sox have also been linked to Hiroki Kuroda, Rich Harden and Ubaldo Jimenez in trade talks over the last weeks, but dont appear willing to spend top dollar to acquire any of them. With Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield both struggling and John Lackey unreliable against elite offensive lineups, the Sox may be forced to do something with Buchholzs continued status as a health question mark.

Sox reliever Matt Albers pitched an inning of scoreless relief in Thursdays loss to the Kansas City Royals and extended his season-high scoreless streak to 13 13 innings pitched with 16 strikeouts over a career-high 10 straight scoreless appearances dating back to July 1. Albers has basically stepped into the bullpen role originally designated for Bobby Jenks before the season began, and never looked back with a 2.09 ERA this season.

The two-run single for Jacoby Ellsbury in the third inning gave the center fielder a career-high in RBI with 62 RBI on the season, and more than two months of games left to go. Ellsburys previous career-high for a season was 60 RBI in the 2009 baseball season.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen
Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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.