Sox have outfield options despite Crawford surgery

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Sox have outfield options despite Crawford surgery

With the news that Carl Crawford underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left wrist Tuesday and may not be ready for Opening Day, the Red Sox, who were already challenged by their outfield depth, face an even bigger challenge.

The Sox currently have outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Kalish, Che-Hsuan Lin, Darnell McDonald, Ryan Sweeney and Mike Aviles, in addition to Crawford,on their 40-man roster. Kalish missed most of last season because of injuries, underwent surgery on his neck and shoulder this offseason, and is not expected to be available until June. Lin was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket last season and added to the 40-man in November. Aviles appeared in five games in the outfield for the Sox last season for the first time in his professional career, but has played in Puerto Rico this offseason to game some more experience there.

We expect Carl to be back and recovered from this hopefully early in the season, Sox general manager Ben Cherington said on a conference call Tuesday. So we dont think it changes much with regard to the outfield mix. Well certainly keep our eyes open if theres way to sort of protect ourselves. Well look for that between now and spring training. But right now we feel like we have some options even if Carls not ready quite on Opening Day.

Certainly Ellsbury will be in center. Sweeney will be a big part of our outfield mix. We still have Darnell on the roster, whos done a very good job. We sent Aviles to Puerto Rico to play some outfield. So hell, Im sure, see some time out there during spring training. And, again, if theres ways to build depth and add to that mix between now and spring training or during spring training, well certainly keep our eyes open for that. But dont think this changes much in terms of the outfield mix, the overall outfield mix for the 2012 season.

Whether Aviles will see more time in the outfield or infield this season remains to be seen. The same day the Sox lost infielder Jed Lowrie in a trade with the Astros in December for right-hander Mark Melancon, they signed infielder Nick Punto as a free agent.

I think time will tell, Cherington said. But we have Punto and Puntos done a really good job as a utility infielder and good defender at a bunch of different spots. We know Aviles can play the infield. Outfield is newer to him. He got exposed, as you guys know, a little bit last year. But then he played more this winter in Puerto Rico and I expect hell get some work out there in spring training and well just have to keep watching.
"But hes a guy that we want to try to get on the field because we think he can hit, we think he can help us. So perhaps thats an opportunity for him to do that. But thats something that manager Bobby Valentine and the staff will work out during spring training.

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.