Red Sox notes: Gonzalez produces in Fenway debut

Red Sox notes: Gonzalez produces in Fenway debut

By Maureen Mullen and Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Adrian Gonzalez finally got his chance to play at Fenway Park after 864 Major League games without one at bat on Yawkey Way. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the only active player with more career games without appearing at Fenway is Aramis Ramirez (1,540).

The new Red Sox slugging first baseman got a warm reception during Opening Day introductions, and then went ahead with a 2-for-5 performance at the plate with a run and a pair of RBI including a seventh inning bunt that stunned plenty in the sellout crowd and leads the team with four multi-hit games.

Other offensive players in the Sox lineup like Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia carried more noticeable roles in the 9-6 win over the Yankees at the Fens, but Gonzalez loomed as the big bopper in the No. 3 hole around which the rest of the lineup orbited.

Hes a good hitter, man. Hes not just a home run hitter, Hes a good baseball player, said Pedroia, who was among a chorus of voices in the Sox clubhouse that have voiced all kinds of admiration for the home run hitting stud. I didnt get a chance to see him in the National League, but thats what he does, man. He hits and takes what the pitchers give him. Thats why hes so good.

After seven games Gonzalez is hitting .321 in the middle of Bostons lineup with a home run and 6 RBI, but the short cross section of spring training and a handful of regular season games has shown just as Pedroia is illustrating that hes much more than a simple home run hitter.

And hes not a bad bunter, either, as the five bunts for hits in his career would attest to when hes facing the left-handed hitter shift employed by many teams against Gonzalez and David Ortiz.

That guy can hit, bro, said Ortiz. He knows what hes doing out there.

With his first home run of the season, a solo shot into the first row of the Monster seats in the first inning off Phil Hughes, Pedroia has now homered in the Fenway Park opener for three straight seasons. The only other Red Sox player to do so is Fred Lynn, who accomplished the feat in 1978-1980. Lynn was on hand to witness Pedroias homer, watching from a suite on the first-base side.

The Red Sox have now won seven straight home openers at Fenway Park dating back to the 2005 season the longest stretch of home success on the opening day at the Fens since two six-year runs from 1938-43 and 1907-12.

This was the 28th time the Red Sox hosted the Yankees at Fenway Park on Opening Day and the second year in a row theyve hosted the Yankees. Hall of Fame left fielder Carl Yastrzemski walked out from behind the giant US flag draped over the Green Monster to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day, and bragged to Sox skipper Terry Francona that hes undefeated when he gets the honor.

I told Francona that I'm undefeated throwing out the first pitch, said Yastrzemski in a meeting with reporters. "Both games of the World Series, they won. So they'll win today. He wants me to come back tomorrow if they win."

Anytime a starting pitcher for the Red Sox is linked to Matt Clement its not really a good thing, and so John Lackeys Friday afternoon start was the first time a Sox pitcher won a game with at least five innings pitched and six runs allowed since Clement did it against the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 4, 2005.

Lackey saw his ERA drop to 15.58 while his opponents batting average now sits at a robust .395 after a second straight concerning outing after getting knocked around against the Rangers in Texas. At the end of the day Lackey got the victory, but he needs to be much better following Jon Lester in the starting rotation.

My command was fine. Every ball they hit was down the line for extra base hits. If I can keep the ball in the middle a lot of those turn into singles and no runs, said Lackey. It was one game. It worked out, but Ive got to keep working. It wasnt pretty, but it was closer than it looked.

Before the game, left-hander Dennys Reyes was designated for assignment. His 900,000 contract is guaranteed.

Also before the game, right-hander Matt Albers was placed on the disabled list with a strained right lat muscle and right-hander Alfredo Aceves was called up from Pawtucket. Left-hander Felix Doubront was also activated from the DL.

Aceves pitched out of the Sox bullpen during Fridays win and is the third Mexican-born pitcher to appear in a game for the Sox. He joined Vicente Romo (1969-70) and Dennys Reyes (2011).

Jonathan Papelbon has earned a save in each of the Sox last three home openers and pitched a scoreless inning in all four home openers in which he has appeared, including 2006.

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

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.