Tito: 'No significance' to Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford lineup

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Tito: 'No significance' to Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford lineup

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Those seeking to read the tea leaves regarding Terry Francona's ideas for a regular-season batting order had some fresh fodder awaiting on the clubhouse bulletin board Monday morning.

For the second game of the Grapefruit League season, the Sox' lineup featured Jacoby Ellsbury leading off, Dustin Pedroia hitting second and Carl Crawford, making his Red Sox debut, hitting third.

So what was the significance of that?

Not much, according to Francona.

"That's today's lineup,'' said Francona. "We're just trying to win the Mayor's Cup. We front-loaded it today for obvious reason -- panic is setting in after a loss to Minnesota Sunday night.

"It's an obvious possibility to use that same combination at the start of the regular season, but who knows? We're just trying to get ready for the season.''

It's tough to read too much into a lineup that was not featuring projected starters Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Marco Scutaro and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

No matter what Francona does with his batting order, it seems unavoidable that there will be back-to-back lefties in the lineup somewhere. Presumably, if Francona uses the Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford troika at the top, Adrian Gonzalez would hit cleanup with Kevin Youkilis fifth, David Ortiz sixth and J.D. Drew seventh.

That would present two stretches of the order with consecutive lefties: Crawford and Gonzalez hitting third and fourth and Ortiz-Drew hitting next to one another at Nos. 6 and 7. But with five of their seven best hitters left-handed (Ellsbury, Crawford, Gonzalez, Ortiz and Drew), that's unavoidable at some point.

The key may well be leadoff, where Ellsbury is the manager's clear preference -- as long as he can handle the role.

"He was really starting to grow into it in 2009,'' said Francona, noting that the outfielder missed all but about 2 12 weeks with broken ribs last season. "At times, we would hit him down in the order to kind of protect him a little bit. But I think we've always said that when he's leading off and hitting well, that's our best lineup.

Francona seems to be holding off on naming Ellsbury as his leadoff man until he can judge the outfielder's readiness following his lost 2010 season.

"He came into camp swinging the bat way ahead of where I expected him to be," said Francona. "But he missed maybe 500 at-bats. So if it looks like that one fewer at-bat per game would help him, hitting him ninth to start the season is what we would do. We'll watch his at-bats."

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

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First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

BOSTON -- First impressions of the Red Sox' 8-7 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Fenway Park:
 
Rick Porcello did all he needed to do.

Although he’s still undefeated thus far at home (10-0), Porcello’s start could have easily gone better for him -- especially if Brock Holt catches a few fly balls hit his way.

Regardless, he's 13-2 with a 3.57 ERA and still maintained the title of Boston’s “most reliable pitcher.”

Yes, he gave up five runs -- but four were earned. And Juan Centeno’s “double” that was lost in the sun by Holt should’ve been caught -- accounting for at least one more run.

Porcello had another start where the bullpen was overworked the previous day in a tough loss. Furthermore, his teammates were expected to perform a little more than 12 hours after a rough four-hour contest.

This is a game where the numbers don’t do his performance justice -- but at the same time, Porcello left the bullpen to hold a three-run lead in the final 2 1/3 innings.
 
The Red Sox need Mookie Betts back in right.

If that wasn’t made evident with Michael Martinez’s play Saturday night, Holt made it clear when he couldn’t corral Max Kepler’s deep fly to right in the fourth.

Although the sun could’ve played a factor, Holt got there in time. So the ball has to be caught. Instead, he was too worried about the hip-height wall that he was heading toward at full steam.

Not too mention the fly ball he dropped looking into the sun in the seventh -- which was somehow ruled a hit. As much as the Green Monster is a difficult beast to master, right field at Fenway can be just as difficult.
 
Hanley Ramirez continues to take advantage of pitcher’s mistakes.

The best part about Ramirez’s third-inning, three-run blast was it came on a first pitch changeup -- not exactly something hitters are sitting on out the gate.

Additionally, Tommy Millone’s changeup ran in on Ramirez, instead of away from him -- given Millone is a lefty and Ramirez a right-handed hitter.

If Ramirez gets that pitch a month ago, he rips in foul or rolls over the top of it. Instead, he keeps displaying that he can still pull the ball with power.

Kelly ready for his new role as a Red Sox reliever

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Kelly ready for his new role as a Red Sox reliever

BOSTON -- He had to make a longer trip than the rest of his team to Fenway Park for Sunday’s game, but Joe Kelly was more than happy when he got the call at midnight that he was leaving Columbus before his Pawtucket teammates so he could pitch in Boston again.

The righty rejoins the Red Sox for the first time as a reliever since Boston acquired him from St. Louis in the John Lackey trade in 2014. Kelly is expected to not only fill the vacancy left by Heath Hembree -- who was demoted to Triple-A after the game Saturday -- but to lighten the workload on Matt Barnes, Brad Ziegler and other relievers since key pieces of the bullpen went on the disabled list.

And the righty said he’s ready for his new role.

“My body and arm got ready a lot quicker than it would of if I was starting,” Kelly said. “It’s weird to see how your body feels on different days when you still have to get in the game. As a starter, you only have to prepare for that fifth day and if your body doesn’t feel that great in between those days it’s all right.”

Kelly’s apprehensions about pitching on consecutive days might sound like a cause for concern, but he also explained that he’s put himself through the ringer in to be in a position to succeed. He's also had good results at Pawtucket (no runs allowed in five relief innings with one walk and nine strikeouts) after compiling an 8.46 ERA in six starts this season in Boston.

“Out of the bullpen it was good to see different situations,” Kelly said. “[Sometimes I would] get a workout in before the game and go out and pitch that game just to see how I would respond. Pretty much did all the different type of scenarios to see where my arm and body was at.”

That preparation not only addresses the physical toll relieving can take, but also the mental toll.

So, now Kelly should be able to hop into any situation if he’s has worse command than he expects -- of which he noted an improvement.

“Yeah the command feels good right now for the most part with my secondary pitches,” Kelly said. “There hasn’t been a game yet where I’ve had a chance to throw more than two or three of them. For the most part, I’m getting one or two of the off-speed pitches over for a strike.

“And location of the fastball has been pretty good. Not exactly where I maybe where I want it to be, but for the most part it’s been if I want to miss it to a side of the plate, it’s been on that site.”

And now with the move to the bullpen, Kelly really only needs one good off-speed pitch to pair with his five-alarm fastball.

Given he has three to turn to -- including his curve that he said has reached 86 mph -- Kelly should be able to find more success in his shortened appearances.

“I’ve been using slider and curveball for the most part,” Kelly said. “Curveballs to lefties, but recently I’ve been getting some success on curveballs to righties because the velocity has been a little bit higher. Whatever pitch is working the best for me that day -- curveball, slider, changeup -- that’s what I’m probably going to use out there in the game.”

With that advantage Kelly is hunting for strikeouts now more than ever.

He went as far to say he’ll either strike a guy out or walk the batter if he enters the game with a runner on third in order to save the run.
 
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to strike everyone out as a reliever now,” Kelly said.

The Red Sox hope he won’t work to many 3-and-2 counts in that scenario.

White Sox suspend Sale for five days for uniform incident

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White Sox suspend Sale for five days for uniform incident

The Chicago White Sox have suspended ace left-hander Chris Sale for five days "for violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment" after Sale reportedly cut up his and his teammates jerseys before his scheduled start on Saturday.

Sale, the subject of trade rumors with several teams, including the Red Sox, was sent home Saturday after he reportedly objected to the throwback uniforms the team was set to wear and cut his and others in the White Sox clubhouse. 

The team said the suspension began Saturday and will continue through Wednesday. He was also fined an undisclosed amount and placed on Major League Baseball's suspended list.

"While we all appreciate Chris' talent and passion, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to express concerns about team rules and organization expectations," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a team statement announcing the suspension.

Sale, the All-Star Game starter for the American League, is 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA.