Notes: Sox roll out possible Opening Day lineup

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Notes: Sox roll out possible Opening Day lineup

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. - As the Red Sox prepare for what should be their last home game ever at City of Palms Park, manager Terry Francona is starting a lineup of what could be an excellent representation of his Opening Day lineup Friday against the Rangers. But, Francona wasn't ready to call it that Tuesday morning.

"Nice try," he said when a reporter asked if that would be his Opening Day lineup.

The lineup is Jacoby Ellsbury CF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, Carl Crawford LF, Adrian Gonzalez 1B, Kevin Youkilis 3B, Davis Ortiz DH, J.D. Drew RP, Jason Varitek C, Marco Scutaro SS, Clay Buchholz P.

With left-hander C.J. Wilson expected to start Opening Day for the Rangers, Francona said his approach to a regular-season game might be different, saying if it was July he might consider resting some of his regulars.

In his career, Wilson has held left-handed hitters to a .181 average, .272 OBP, and .255 slugging. In 15 career games against the Red Sox to both right- and left-handed hitters, he has allowed just a .152 average (16-for-105) with 17 walks, no home runs, and four doubles for a .270 OBP and .190 slugging. "He's so tough on lefties, that gives me pause to think," Francona said.

Francona said his regulars would get two or three at-bats each Tuesday, with each of the bench players getting into the game rather than bringing up minor leaguers for the later innings.

Before the start of Tuesday's game just three players had reached triple digits for innings played this spring, with Nate Spears leading all players with 154 innings. He played six positions - second base (63 innings), first base (24), third base (23), left field (22), right field (12), and shortstop (10). Drew Sutton played 142 innings at all four infield positions and Ryan Kalish played 109 innings at all three outfield positions. Spears and Sutton will be traveling with the big league team to Houston. All three are expected to start the season with Triple-A Pawtucket. "Nate Spears had a great camp," Francona said. "There's no getting around it."

Spears is hitting .295 (18-for-61) with nine RBI.

"Every time I've seen him this spring, all he's done is hit the ball hard," said one scout of Spears.

Sutton is hitting .322 (19-for-59) with two home runs and nine RBI.

Along with Spears and Sutton, minor league pitchers Blake Maxwell and Jason Rice and catcher Daniel Butler will join the Sox on the trip to Houston.

Left-hander Felix Doubront is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game at the player development complex today.

Francona on Dan Wheeler, who has a 6.75 ERA and is scheduled to pitch today: "I think he's going to be a good pitcher for us...He's left some balls up that have been hit, but that won't happen all year."

Josh Beckett is scheduled to start the exhibition game Wednesday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. He will be followed by Jonathan Papelbon, Dennys Reyes, Bobby Jenks, and Daniel Bard. The Astros are expected to start Nelson Figueroa, followed by Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez, Enerio Del Rosario, Aneury Rodriguez, Henry Villar, and Jose Valdez. Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Thursday morning in Houston.

The Red Sox first lineup at City of Palms Park, March 6, 1993: Bob Zupcic CF, Scott Cooper 3B, Mike Greenwell LF, Andre Dawson RFDH, Ivan Calderon RFDH, Carlos Quintana 1B, Tim Naehring 2B, Bob Melvin C, Luis Rivera SS, Roger Clemens P.

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 mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. 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.”