Valentine focuses on keeping opposing runners at first

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Valentine focuses on keeping opposing runners at first

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jon Lester spent a good chunk of time Sunday morning working to perfect his pickoff move to first and it would surprise no one is the rest of the Red Sox pitching staff was instructed to do the same over the next few weeks.

Manager Bobby Valentine believes the Sox' pitchers need to do a better job controlling the running game.

Asked, based on video and reports, how well the Sox did in that regard last seasons, Valentine didn't mince words: "Not very well," he said without hesitation.

"Statistically, it would be fair to say, we were the worst in our division, 14th in baseball and eighth in the American League. It depends on how you determine that."

Valentine singled out lefty reliever Franklin Morales (four pickoffs) and Lester (four) as two Boston pitchers who did well. Others, such as Josh Beckett, against whom opposing base stealers were 31-for-34 despite 83 throws over to first.

Speaking about the team's success rate as a whole, Valentine concluded: "I would say it could be worked on. It's part of this program, spring training."

Valentine said improvement is essential, since two division opponents -- Tampa Bay and Toronto -- ran with abandon last season and aren't likely to be any less aggressive this season.

"There are a couple of other teams in the Central who can advance 90 (feet)," he said. "I'm all with guys (who say), 'Hey, you don't get any points for getting to second -- I'm getting the hitter out.' I get that."

Indeed, former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell was just such an advocate, arguing that it was more important to focus on the batter rather than be distracted by being pre-occupied with the runner. Farrell advised against using the slide step for some pitchers, worrying that the quality of the pitches suffered as a result.

"I don't like anything," Valentine said, "including a divided concentration, that would limit or minimize in any way the pitchers' ability to get the hitter out. Most bio-mechanical studies say that if you pitch out of the stretch quickly and correctly, your stuff will not be diminished.

"Part of the whole program is that you will vary your look to the plate, but never diminish your stuff."

Price turns in encouraging effort in first 2017 start

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Price turns in encouraging effort in first 2017 start

CHICAGO — It’s a start, literally and figuratively.

David Price showed some great velocity in his 2017 Red Sox debut Monday afternoon, hitting 97 mph -- heat he didn’t have last year. At times, the pitcher the Sox badly need to return to form flashed high-level effectiveness as well.

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What everyone expected would be off in Price's first start back, his command, was indeed shaky, considering he allowed more runs (three) than hits (two). But he wasn’t expected to be in tip-top form, and he did a decent job overall.

Price's five-inning, three-run performance against the White Sox came almost exactly three months after he first felt elbow soreness during spring training. The lefty exited with the Red Sox ahead 4-3, though he lost the chance at his first 2017 victory when Chicago scored in the seventh.

All three runs off Price scored on a Melky Cabrera homer in the third inning, which put the White Sox ahead 3-1 at the time. Price walked only two batters on the day, but they happened to be the two hitters in front of Cabrera.

The walk started with the No. 9 hitter, Adam Engel. Tim Anderson, who had drawn just four walks in 181 plate appearances entering the day, got a free pass as well.

But besides the Cabrera homer on a first-pitch fastball that was middle-in, the only other hit Price allowed was a shallow bloop single to center field.

Price finished with four strikeouts, including the first batter he faced on the day, Anderson.

His command issues were nonetheless clear. Price hit two batters to begin his final frame, setting up a fine play for Deven Marrero to record a force out at second before Xander Bogaerts started a inning-ending double play with a fantastic dive, bailing Price out of the first-and-third jam with one out.

With 88 pitches and 58 strikes, Price was more efficient than he was in two rehab outings at Triple-A Pawtucket, and he didn’t get rocked. But he also wasn’t as efficient as the Red Sox will need him to be.

Price was pitching in a calm, pleasant environment (clear skies, temperatures in the 70s, low humidity) that might actually have been more comfortable than the colder clime Price faced in Pawtucket -- where both the fans and temperatures were chilly.

The Red Sox were aggressive bringing Price back so quickly, and set themselves up for a second guess if something went wrong. But Price preserved the second of two leads his offense gave him and didn’t let the game get out of hand. After the Cabrera homer put the White Sox up two, the Red Sox answered immediately in the top of the fourth to tie at 3-3.

The argument that Price did better than anyone else would have in his place is a fair one, considering John Farrell and Co. slated Price to pitch Monday before they watched Brian Johnson’s complete-game shutout.

The bigger question was always about what was best for Price’s future, and Monday looks like something he can build on. He may have benefited from the adrenaline of being back in the majors.

Pedroia lifted in second inning after hurting wrist in collision

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Pedroia lifted in second inning after hurting wrist in collision

CHICAGO -- Injury scares are finding Dustin Pedroia in all the wrong places.

The Red Sox second baseman was pulled in the second inning Monday afternoon against the White Sox because of a left wrist sprain, an injury he seemed to suffer on a collision running to first base in the top of the first inning.

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He and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu converged on the bag at the same time on a grounder to Abreu, and Pedroia tumbled over Abreu

Pedroia had season-ending surgery on the wrist in September 2014, addressing a tendon issue. Pedroia had surgery on his left knee this year, and missed time after Manny Machado's slide caught him in that leg in April.

Pedroia during the last homestand was pulled as a precaution because of concern for that leg.

Josh Rutledge took over for Pedroia at second base.