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Red Sox pregame notes: Tony Gwynn, Curt Schilling underscore ‘price to be paid’ for tobacco; Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks out

08.20.14 at 6:20 pm ET
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Smokeless tobacco use been a widely discussed topic throughout Major League Baseball this summer.

It started with Tony Gwynn, who died in June of cancer of a salivary gland, which the Hall of Famer blamed on his regular use of smokeless tobacco. On Wednesday, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling told Dennis & Callahan that smokeless tobacco use is to blame for his cancer diagnosis as well.

Red Sox manager John Farrell talked about Schilling’s comments before Wednesday’s game against the Angels, and said that MLB has been advocating for players to stop using smokeless tobacco.

“It’s banned throughout the minor leagues and it has been for a number of years,” Farrell said. “MLB is taking steps to dissuade players from using it through educational programs that are administered to every team. It’s even gotten to the point now where players can be fined if smokeless tobacco is in view of the general public and there have been some of those warnings or penalties levied on some of our guys.”

Farrell didn’t have an exact count of Red Sox players who chew, but said he knows of a number of players who “gradually use it.”

Farrell said the only way to dissuade players from using smokeless tobacco is to educate people about its dangers. However, he said it’s completely up to the players on whether or not they choose to use it.

“They can’t mandate that players don’t use it at the major league level,” he said. “That’s something that’s bargained between the Player’s Association and teams. I think we all recognize that it’s addictive, it causes cancer. That’s proven. And at some point, at this time, it’s upon the player to make the conscious decision for himself if he is to use it or not.

“We always continue to educate guys on what the ramifications might be.”

He added: “It’s one of the things that’s kind of, I don’t want to say a tradition, but it’s been part of baseball culture. On the heels of the unfortunate passing of Tony Gwynn and now what Curt is going through, you would think that this would be a current beacon for guys to take note and know that there’s a price to be paid if you’re one of the unfortunate ones to be stricken by cancer.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

– Mike Napoli is out of the lineup Wednesday with back spasms, according to Farrell.

 Will Middlebrooks is still day-to-day after exiting Tuesday’s game with tightness in his right hamstring. Farrell said he doesn’t expect to injury to keep the third baseman out for an extended period of time.

“We don’t feel like this is a longterm thing. We’d be putting him in jeopardy if we started him tonight.”

– The Red Sox optioned pitcher Steven Wright and catcher Dan Butler to Triple-A Pawtucket. They activated catcher David Ross, who will play for the first time since Aug. 1, and recalled Alex Hassan, the latter of whom offers an extra right-handed bat on a day when Middlebrooks won’t play.

Farrell said Ross’ playing time in the short term will be determined by how he feels physically during Wednesday’s game.

Hassan is hitting .282/.373/.431 with Pawtucket this season. This will be his second stint with the Red Sox after being called up for a pair of games in June.

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