AL East Beat – March 11th
Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale finally made his Grapefruit League debut on Friday but rain Saturday wiped out what would have been fellow left-hander David Price’s first outing of the spring against major league hitters.
The first-year duo of manager Alex Cora and pitching coach Dana LeVangie are taking it slowly with the veterans this spring in hopes it will keep them both stronger later in the season.
Price was scheduled to face the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers. However, afternoon rain forced the first cancellation of a spring training game in the major leagues this year.
Knowing rain was in the forecast, the Red Sox opted to have Price pitch a four-inning simulated game in the morning in the bullpen of one of their complex’s backfields. Price threw 60 pitches in front of just a handful of spectators.
“We got to keep him healthy,” Cora told reporters. “Obviously, we wanted him to be there and just start feeling the flow of the games, but it’s going to be the next one.”
“Today was my best day for everything,” Price said. “Strength all the way through, executing pitches. It was good.”
Christian Vazquez caught Price while LeVangie watched and occasionally stepped into the batter’s box to get a better look at the pitches.
“He was happy the way he felt throwing his changeup, throwing his cutter, two-seamer to both sides I thought it was a great day for him,” LeVangie said.
Sale allowed one run on two hits in four innings against the Miami Marlins. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
Sale reaches the upper 90s in the first inning with his fastball but Cora and LeVangie asked him to dial it down for fear he would overdo it in his first outing.
“Had to change it up after that,” Sale said. “I’m still working on that build up. You get out there the first time in front of a crowd and you want to go out there and compete. But you have to understand the end goal. We kind of came to that together. It’s not easy to dial it back and trust the process but I have 100 percent trust in our coaching staff, medical staff, strength staff.”
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
New York Yankees
Owner Hal Steinbrenner said the Yankees were so impressed with Aaron Boone when they talked to him about their manager’s job in November that they decided not to conduct second interviews with any of the candidates.
With a little more than two weeks remaining in spring training, Steinbrenner is even surer the Yankees did the right thing with the unconventional hire of Boone, who spent eight years as a broadcaster for ESPN since his playing career ended in 2009.
“Calm, cool, collected, got a good sense of humor,” Steinbrenner told reporters. “Has a really good rapport in a group setting or individual setting with the players. He’s a knowledgeable guy. He’s had a lot of help along the way from grandfathers, fathers and his own experience. I think he’s going to be great.”
Boone’s family become the first to produce three generations of big-league players. Grandfather Ray Boone, father Bob Boone and brother Bret Boone preceded Aaron. Bob also managed in the major leagues for six seasons with the Kansas City Royals (1995-97) and Cincinnati Reds (2001-03)
Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia was teammates with Boone with the Cleveland Indians in 2005-06 and is not surprised the former third baseman has become a manager.
“He was serious with it,” Sabathia said. “He was really good at it. I’m just happy people are going to get to know his personality like I do. I think we just hit it off right away.”
The Yankees play in the nation’s largest media market and controversies can erupt in an instant. However, it has been a quiet first spring training for Boone.
“I haven’t been blindsided yet by anything. I know it’s coming,” Boone said. “I’m not naive enough to think that. But you don’t really know until you’re in it.”
Tampa Bay Rays
After finishing under .500 for four straight seasons and cutting their payroll, the Rays plan to get creative with a modified four-man starting rotation.
The Rays plan to use four starters on a regular basis. Every fifth day, manager Kevin Cash will deploy a combination of multi-inning relievers while attempting to take advantage of matchups against that day’s opponent.
“We’re going to schedule in a bullpen day as our fifth starter,” Cash told reporters.
Cash said the Rays will likely re-evaluate the situations six weeks into the season.
The projected rotation is right-handers Chris Archer, Nathan Eovaldi and Jake Faria and left-hander Blake Snell.
Archer has pitched at least 201 innings in each of the last three seasons for the Rays while Snell worked a combined 173 1/3 innings between the major leagues and minor leagues last season and Faria’s professional high is 151 innings in the minors in 2016. However, Eovaldi sat out last season while recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.
Among the relievers who could be used for multiple innings are left-hander Anthony Banda and right-handers Matt Andriese and Yonny Chirinos.
“It’s a reflection of who we have available,” Cash said. “We feel like we have a lot of good pitchers.”
Toronto Blue Jays
One of the most intriguing players in the Blue Jays’ spring training camp is rookie infielder Gift Ngoepe, who was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the offseason.
Ngeope became the first African-born player to appear in the major leagues last April 26 when he entered a game against the Chicago Cubs in the fourth inning as a part of a double switch. The native of Pietersburg, South Africa singled off ace left-hander Jon Lester in his first at-bat.
In 28 games with the Pirates, Ngeope hit just .222. His batting average of .231 in nine minor league seasons isn’t much better.
Though unlikely to beat out Yangervis Solarte for a bench job, the slick-fielding 28-year-old Ngoepe has made a good first impression on Blue Jays manager John Gibbons.
“He can handle the glove with anybody, a great defensive fielder out there,” Gibbons told reporters. “You can put him at any spot, a great kid. He’s working on some adjustments with the bat. If he gets the bat going, he can be a really good major league player. He brings energy, he’s a tremendous kid and I’ve been impressed with his defense. It’s hard to find guys who can field like he does.”
John Perrotto has been a professional sports writer since 1982 and has covered a multitude of sports, including MLB, NFL and college football and basketball. He has been a member of the Baseball Writers' Association since 1988, a Hall of Fame voter since 1997 and has covered 21 World Series and two Super Bowls. He is a graduate of Geneva College, the birthplace of college basketball, and lives in Beaver Falls, Pa., the hometown of Joe Willie Namath.
He also writes The Perrotto Report (theperrottoreport.com), newsletters that concentrate on Major League Baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates.