Chris Sale a valuable asset even when he’s not pitching
Chris Sale and Matt Barnes were among the last players to leave the Red Sox clubhouse after Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Tampa Bay. Sale allowed one run over seven innings before Barnes worked a scoreless eighth inning.
As they rehashed the game, Barnes mentioned that he walked two batters because he was unable to get a good grip on the ball in the windy conditions.
Sale empathized with Barnes and the two sat together for several minutes discussing the game.
It was just a small thing, two pitchers discussing their craft. But it was an example of how a pitcher like Sale can be valuable even when he’s not on the mound.
“He was in the bullpen before he became a starter,” said Barnes. “He gets it. There’s a lot to learn from somebody like that. His mentality is something you want to emulate.”
Sale’s attitude is similar to the way Jon Lester went about his business, and it’s something the Red Sox have been missing since the ill-fated trade of Lester in 2014.
Like Lester, Sale makes no excuses and accepts only winning. He shows up at the park to work.
Run support, for instance, is a topic he’s not interested in. The Sox have scored only six runs in the games Sale has started — three when he has been on the mound. But it’s not his concern.
“If they all got to be like that, so be it,” said Sale. “I look forward to the challenge.”
Manager John Farrell believes young lefty Eduardo Rodriguez has been influenced by Sale, something the coaches have encouraged. They point to Sale’s quick pace on the mound as something Rodriguez should strive to emulate.
“You couldn’t ask for a better example,” Farrell said. “Having him around has been a great thing for a number of our guys.”
A few other notes and observations on the Sox:
■ Dustin Pedroia is 52 of 76 (68 percent) stealing bases since the start of the 2012 season, 7 of 12 (58 percent) the last two seasons. He has been a good leadoff hitter since being moved to that spot last August, but stolen bases won’t be part of the mix.
The Sox will green-light a player with a 75 percent success rate. With Pedroia, attempts may have to be managed.
■ The Red Sox do not play an interleague road series until May 9 in Milwaukee. That could be the first time we see Hanley Ramirez at first base this season. Until they have to, why mess with what is working?
■ Something to file away: Jason Varitek and his family will soon be moving to Massachusetts from the Atlanta area.
Varitek has been a special assistant in the front office for the last 4½ years. His loosely defined duties have included everything from minor league coaching to amateur scouting and spending time with the major league team. That portfolio figures to expand with the move.
Varitek was hired by Ben Cherington but has a significant voice in Dave Dombrowski’s administration. He has attended the Winter Meetings for several years and has a seat in the room when moves are discussed.
The assumption for years is that Varitek will become a manager. But the experience he has been gaining also could set him up for an executive position.
■ Triple A manager Kevin Boles has one of the toughest jobs in baseball.
His roster includes 32-year-old Allen Craig and 29-year-old Rusney Castillo, two highly paid players with little hope of being called to the majors no matter what they accomplish with the PawSox.
The Red Sox took Craig and Castillo off the 40-man roster to keep their salaries from counting against Major League Baseball’s salary cap. If either were to return to the roster, the Red Sox would exceed the $195 million threshold — or get closer than they would be comfortable with.
There are two kinds of minor leaguers: those on the way up and those on the way out. Boles has a delicate line to walk making sure the discarded veterans don’t interrupt the progress of players like Sam Travis and Blake Swihart.
■ At what point are somewhat interesting statistics actually somewhat useless?
Mookie Betts has gone 128 plate appearances without a strikeout in the regular season, which sounds pretty good.
But Betts did have a strikeout in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 6. With runners on first and third in the first inning, he went down swinging against Trevor Bauer.
The streak also goes over two seasons, and Betts didn’t even realize it existed until a few days ago. It’s not something he intentionally is trying to do.
“It’s pretty irrelevant,” Betts said Tuesday. “An out’s an out, so I don’t care about that at all.”
■ Yoenis Cespedes has hit .284 with an .883 OPS in 304 games since the Red Sox traded him to Detroit before the 2015 season. He has 72 home runs, more than all but 10 other players in the majors.
You could probably win a bar bet on whether or not Cespedes ever played for the Sox; that’s how uneventful his time in Boston was. He was traded for Lester, then had a .719 OPS over 51 games. He also declined the team’s request to play right field.
“When he came to us, he was an RBI machine,” Farrell said. “I enjoyed the time he was here.”
Farrell said the Sox attempted to sign Cespedes to a long-term deal but he turned them down. He hit .260 with one home run in September and a few months later was traded for Rick Porcello.
■ Yoan Moncada is striking out 29.4 percent of the time for Triple A Charlotte in the White Sox organization this season, roughly the same rate he did for Double A Portland in 2016.
Moncada does have a .957 OPS through 11 games and there is little doubt he’ll be with the White Sox at some point this season. But that high strikeout rate suggests the Red Sox may not have paid an outrageous price for Sale.
■ The Sox are 4-1 when Christian Vazquez catches, and he has yet to catch Sale.
■ Kyle Kendrick was the talk of spring training. The 32-year-old righthander was 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA in eight games.
But reality has hit hard with Triple A Pawtucket. Kendrick has started twice and allowed 15 earned runs on 17 hits — five of them home runs — in 13 innings.
What happened? A Triple A lineup is quite often deeper in talent than a spring training lineup, that’s part of it. Kendrick also may have had an emotional letdown after pitching so well and still failing to make the team. Going back to the minors couldn’t have been easy.
■ That Drew Pomeranz has 16 strikeouts in 10⅓ innings is a hopeful sign for the Red Sox that his left elbow is sound. He also has hit 95 m.p.h. with his fastball on several occasions.
■ Farrell recently passed Eddie Kasko on the franchise’s all-time win list. He has 347, good for eighth in team history. He should catch Don Zimmer (411) and Jimy Williams (415) this season.
Farrell is in his fifth season. Only five Red Sox managers have ever had more than that.