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Peter Gammons on M&M: Some red flags with Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano

04.06.11 at 2:56 pm ET
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Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday afternoon to talk about the slow-starting Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

“They just haven’t had anybody get off to a particularly good start,” Gammons said. “Again, it’s only four games. It is amazing, that statistic that nobody’s ever won the World Series starting 0-4.”

Gammons said the Red Sox didn’t seem as energized when he saw them in Florida, but they were not alone in lacking intensity coming out of spring training.

“Except for the teams that had a lot of competition for positions, it just seemed as if everybody was bored by the 10th or 15th of March this year,” Gammons said. “The Red Sox basically had no jobs open for positions players. It just seemed like spring training mode. What have they won, like two games since March 13 or something? It just seemed a little muted. It didn’t upset me that [Jon] Lester and [Daniel] Bard both seemed a little out of whack, but I think sometimes that does happen to teams, where they have trouble getting going.”

Added Gammons: “It’s not the end of the world, but at the same time, you kind of go: All right, it can’t go too long because they play the Yankees, the Rays and the Jays in the first week-and-a-half of the season at home.”

Gammons said the Sox hitters deviated from the team’s strategy of showing patience and instead started consistently swinging at the first strike Tuesday night in Cleveland. And new outfielder Carl Crawford “is pressing dramatically. I’m not really sure why it’s happening.”

As for Crawford being moved around in the batting order, Gammons predicts he’ll eventually settle into third. “I think Terry [Francona] first and foremost is trying to get Carl comfortable,” Gammons said. “Just, ‘Please, you’re not here to carry the team. You’re here to just be what you’ve been in your major league career, which is a great player. He was out jumping at everything in Texas, and that sort of carried over last night.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia has caught all four games for the Sox this season. Gammons said that might have to do with Jason Varitek not being at full strength.

“It was my understanding that the last week of spring training that Jason was uncomfortable in his shoulder,” Gammons said. “I think they wanted to give him like a week off. I think at this point, Salty has put so much effort into it and so forth, he could use a night off. I’m guessing, as a matter of fact I was told that Varitek was going to catch tonight, catch [Daisuke] Matsuzaka.

“I was a little surprised when it got around to last night. I thought maybe they would have [Varitek] catch [Josh] Beckett. Because even though Saltalamacchia is much better over his career against right-handers and Varitek is much better against left-handers, I was told that essentially the catching duties are going to be split up by who catches who. So, it’s not going to be necessary a platoon ‘€” right-handers, left-handers. It’s going to be more which guy catches ‘€” Saltalamacchia certainly will catch [Clay] Buchholz almost all the time. And I’m guessing once he’s settled in, that Varitek will catch Beckett most of the time.”

John Lackey lost his opener in Texas, but Gammons said he thought the right-hander looked better than he had all of last year, minus the one bad inning. Lackey is scheduled to pitch Friday’s home opener vs. the Yankees.

Said Gammons: “It’s going to be fascinating Friday afternoon when they come back and you’ve got Lackey and [Phil] Hughes, with Lackey struggling in Texas and Hughes’ velocity way down ‘€” I mean way down ‘€” from last year, and there’s serious concerns about his delivery and his stuff. It will be kind of a fascinating game. There are a lot of sidebars to that opener at home Friday.”

New Yankees setup man Rafael Soriano left the clubhouse without talking to the media after contributing to his team’s demise in the eighth inning of a 5-4 loss to the Twins. The former Rays closer was acquired by the Yankees in the offseason as a free agent.

“Obviously, [Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman did not want Rafael Soriano. We know that. He said it,” Gammons said. “There were a lot of flags [last fall] in the final game of the division series with Texas. They were behind and [Rays manager] Joe Maddon wanted to put him in the eighth inning and he said, ‘No, I don’t pitch down.’ So, there are some flags here with Rafael Soriano.

“It will be very interesting. I have to believe in the end, just one stare from Mariano Rivera and that will be the end of that problem. But you never know. ‘€¦ Plus, his stuff was not very good last night. We don’t really know why.”

Read More: carl crawford, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek, john lackey
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