Boston Red Sox

Will Big Ben, Polamalu play Sunday vs. Ravens?

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Will Big Ben, Polamalu play Sunday vs. Ravens?

From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- Ben Roethlisberger took a break from changing his newborn son's diapers to throw a few passes with his sprained right shoulder on Monday.The Pittsburgh Steelers saw enough to ask their franchise quarterback to throw a few more over the next few days, hoping he can recover in time to salvage a season in danger of slipping through their fingers.Calling the session "a step in the right direction," coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday there's "a chance" Roethlisberger could play on Sunday in Baltimore."We'll leave the door open," Tomlin said.Or maybe just closed, but not locked.Roethlisberger hasn't played since getting slammed to the turf in the third quarter of a 16-13 overtime victory over Kansas City on Nov. 12, suffering a sprained right shoulder and dislocated rib. He's spent time welcoming his son Ben Jr. -- born last Wednesday -- and watching his team lose consecutive games for the first time in three years while managing two offensive touchdowns in 10 quarters of work.The nadir -- Pittsburgh hopes -- came in an eight-turnover, almost comically bad 20-14 loss to Cleveland last Sunday that left the Steelers at 6-5 and heading in the wrong direction as December begins."It's quite amazing that you only lose by six," Tomlin said, "when you provide that type of leg up to the opponent."One the Steelers hope to avoid even if backup Charlie Batch makes his second straight start. Though Roethlisberger appears to be a long shot at best, there's a chance a few familiar faces could be in uniform against the Ravens (9-2), who could wrap up the AFC North title with a win over the Steelers and a Cincinnati Bengals loss.Safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Antonio Brown could both play Sunday. Polamalu has been limited to just five quarters all season due to a right calf injury, though Tomlin said he's "encouraged" by Polamalu's progress.Brown hasn't played since injuring his ankle in a 24-20 win over the New York Giants on Nov. 4, and Pittsburgh's receivers have struggled in his absence. Mike Wallace, a Pro Bowler a year ago, had just one catch against the Browns and couldn't hold onto a pass that turned into one of Batch's three interceptions.Tomlin allowed Wallace is struggling and there's a possible demotion in the works. Wallace has started 41 of Pittsburgh's last 43 games, but the team listed as either Wallace or Emmanuel Sanders as the starter alongside Brown in the depth chart released Tuesday."Mike is frustrated and rightfully so," Tomlin said. "He's not producing like we'd like him to and he'd like to."Neither is the running game, though the Steelers have settled on Jonathan Dwyer as a starter after unsuccessfully rotating Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman the last two weeks.The trio managed just 32 yards on 15 carries -- and three fumbles -- in Cleveland, but the job is Dwyer's to lose based on his steady (by comparison) performance this season. Dwyer has two of Pittsburgh's three 100-yard games this year."We've been working under less than ideal circumstances shuffling those guys due to injury and lack of production," Tomlin said. "But he's healthy and most productive. He will get the bulk of the carries."Even if he'll have to do it behind an offensive line so decimated by injuries that rookie Kelvin Beachum will start at right tackle against the Ravens after Mike Adams went down with a sprained ankle and starter Marcus Gilbert was placed on injured reserve Monday after his bum ankle failed to "perk up" despite nearly two months of treatment.The Steelers activated first-round pick David DeCastro on Monday, but it's unlikely the rookie right guard will be ready to play after just a handful of practices.Not exactly the way the Steelers wanted to start December, though the players are hardly interested in excuses. They know they're not alone in shuffling lineups in search of healthy bodies."You can't count on guys who you don't know if they're going to be there or not," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "We have a good enough football team to win those types of games and we have to do it."Tomlin remains optimistic Batch can shake off his spotty play against the Browns to lead the Steelers to just their third win in Baltimore in their last 10 trips. There are no plans to go to recently signed Brian Hoyer."Charlie is our quarterback," Tomlin said.Just, the Steelers hope, for not much longer.

Drellich: Forget Red Sox resiliency or luck, banked wins are what matter

Drellich: Forget Red Sox resiliency or luck, banked wins are what matter

BOSTON — The minutiae starts to fade now. Steal a few wins, rattle off a gorgeous run when people didn’t expect you to — what should or shouldn’t happen doesn’t matter.

Are the Sox really this good? At a certain point, it’s irrelevant how many wins were lucky (Friday’s, arguably), or against bad teams (the White Sox), or anything else. Those victories are cinderblocks in the standings that the Yankees are will find increasingly difficult to budge.

There’s simply no challenging the value of banked wins, no eliminating them.

Look, you didn’t need Friday night’s 9-6 Red Sox win over the Yankees to realize the Sox are resilient. All of August has been a coming out party: for a pitching staff that’s making due without David Price, for an offense liberated by a 20-year-old third baseman who homered again Saturday, Rafael Devers, as the team adapts smoothly to the absence of Dustin Pedroia.

“We miss them,” Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday night. “There’s no question we miss those two guys, and [are] really looking forward to their return. But it speaks volume to the team we have, the depth and talent that’s here. 

“What Raffy has done by coming up, and Eduardo [Nunez’s] arrival here at the time when Pedey goes down, they’ve been instrumental in the way we’ve played. I don’t know if you want to call it the next-man-up mentality, but we have not skipped a beat and guys are beginning to flourish and shouldering a greater burden.”

But what, beyond this sense of resiliency, have you learned since the trade deadline? What can you tell about the Sox’ future from watching them reach a season-high 19 games over .500? 

That discussion is more complicated. The Sox are of the best anywhere, just as they were projected to be entering the year — albeit with some different personnel fulfilling those predictions. They’re just the second AL team to reach 70 wins.

Yet, it’s fair to wonder how many times a reliever like Tommy Kahnle — one of the Yankees’ significant trade additions — will let Mitch Moreland come through with a go-ahead hit on an 0-2 count in the seventh inning. 

It’s fair to wonder how many times Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly can fall into trouble without swing-and-miss stuff and be bailed out. Or how many times Farrell can keep holding back guys like Addison Reed, as the skipper did on Friday, until he really has no other choice — and be let off the hook for those choices.

The Red Sox are homer-happy right now, with multiple long balls for the 9th time in 14 games. Those home runs could be long overdue, or it could be a cluster and an aberration.

Again, those questions start to diminish in importance. Because in the same way we talk about time running out for Price’s return from injury, time also starts to run out for other teams.

There’s a cushion of five games in the AL East going into Saturday’s middle game of three with the Yankees, one of just four remaining head-to-head match-ups between the Sox and Yanks this season. The last time the Sox and Yankees were playing each other as the top two teams in the division this late in the year was 2011, a reminder of how quickly leads can dissipate. 

This isn’t a suggestion the Sox should be foolhardy, or have anything wrapped up. It’s a reminder that whether you believe Eduardo Nunez will keep up his .361 average down the stretch, or whether you find anything dubious about some of these Sox wins — they’re still in the bank, appreciating in value from now until October.

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Jaguars pursue Jimmy Garoppolo?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Jaguars pursue Jimmy Garoppolo?

0:43 - Drew Pomeranz left Friday’s Yankees game with back spasms. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still waiting for David Price to come back. Evan Drellich checks in from Fenway Park to talk about this bullpen situation. 

08:03 - Rookie defensive end Derek Rivers is out for the season with a torn ACL. Tom Giles, Tom Curran, Michael Holley and Phil Perry decide if it’s time for the Patriots to look elsewhere for backup.

13:38 - Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone is not happy with the performance of his quarterbacks. Giles and Curran discuss whether Jimmy Garoppolo could end up in Jacksonville. 

18:15 - Holley and Curran take a look at the top free agents in the NBA right now and if the Celtics should be exploring any of them.