Notes: Rough start forgotten, Sox in first


Notes: Rough start forgotten, Sox in first

By Maureen Mullen

DETROIT The Red Sox started off the season with records of 0-6 and 2-10, mired in the basement of the American League East.

After Fridays win over the Tigers, they have won 12 of their last 14 games with a season-long seven-game win streak. They now lead the A.L. East by 1 12 games after the Yankees' second straight loss in Seattle on Saturday night.

How to explain such vagaries?

I always say that guys usually get to their level, said manager Terry Francona. Sometimes its not the most consistent way, but usually sometimes guys with track records get to their level. Sometimes its the damnedest way. Some guys start out hitting .500. Some guys start out hitting no-hundred. But they usually get there. If you can figure it out, bottle it, well make a lot of money.

Its sort of the same with teams. We started out doing nothing right. Sometimes that happens. Its not a good feeling. Sometimes all the things that go wrong go right, and normally its somewhere in the middle. I do think human emotions play a part. You feel confident about yourself, because the last thing you want to feel, any time doubt is created it doesnt help. The games played by human beings. So theres always going to be that element.

But he has noticed a different vibe around his team recently.

Yeah, and there should be, he said. The thing Ive kind of liked, we have a good enough team where were going to go through some things where we hit that ball . . . Sometimes it goes away and it comes back. But theyve been trying to play the game right: score early and keep after them. I like that.

"When we were 0-6 or 2-10, I was like, 'Okay, this isnt the end of the world.' Its the same thing on the other side, too. We dont want to get too carried away.

Sometimes it takes a while for a team to jell and show its collective personality.

Ive seen this team have a few personalities, myself included, he said. It grows over the course of a season. I dont know if you really know until its over. It doesnt happen on the first day of a season. I can guarantee that.

Bobby Jenks is expected to throw another inning Sunday for Pawtucket as he makes his way back from a biceps strain.

Ryan Kalish (left shoulder labrum) is close to returning to Pawtucket. Francona said Kalish has been out to 120 feet throwing.

In spring training, Jarrod Saltalamacchia worked on a Tony Pena-style squat behind the plate. At 6-feet-4, hes tall for a catcher and the stance helps him to get lower behind the plate, giving the pitchers a lower target. He hasnt completely scrapped that stance, but hasnt used it since early in the season.

Some guys felt more comfortable throwing to the normal stance . . . so I stopped it, he said. Alfredo Aceves likes it, so if I catch him I might do it. But its just a target thing. Thats all I did it for. I wasnt doing it for anything other than giving a low target. Its hard for me to give a low target. But me and bullpen coach Gary Tuck have worked on different things I can do to give a lower target in the stance.

I did it in 08 for the first time and it felt pretty comfortable. It wasnt anything. When guys are on base you obviously dont do it. So, its pretty comfortable.

Asked if he would use it again, Saltalamacchia replied:

I will if I have to have to. Whatever works."

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
Now, he can finally move forward.
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”