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The importance of Chris Sale is officially on display 04.27.17 at 10:22 am ET
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Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Chris Sale walked out of the Red Sox’ clubhouse at 10:45 p.m. Wednesday. That was his official entrance into what was the best example of why he is so important.

This is why you need an ace, and Sale fits the bill perfectly.

For context, let’s remember what former Miami general manager Dan Jennings once told WEEI.com when asking about the importance of an ace.

“They affect three games,” Jennings said. “Obviously the day they pitch. They affect the day before they pitch because the manager can empty the bullpen. And then the day after they pitch your bullpen should be fresh if they get you into the seventh or eighth inning, which is what you want an ace to do. I think you affect three days in a rotation, truly, if you are that guy. There are just so few of them out there. There’s a lot of guys who think they are and want to be paid like they are, but show me the production.”

Hence, the proclamation of Sale’s importance.

The Red Sox are down their eighth inning guy due to Matt Barnes’ suspension. One of the relievers who would be counted on in a late-inning role, Joe Kelly, might have limited availability due to his 1 1/3-inning, 22 pitch outing Wednesday night. Also, their lead lefty, Robby Scott, threw a season-high 21 pitches in the loss to New York.

Then there is the actual game Sale is to pitch, Thursday night at Fenway Park against the Yankees.

The Red Sox really could use this win. Not only have they lost three of their last four to the teams in front of them in the American League East (Baltimore, New York), but find themselves in the kind of offensive slump that promises to make things uncomfortable in the upcoming stretch against the Cubs and Orioles. They are just 5-for-42 (.119) with runners in scoring position over the last six games.

Fortunately for John Farrell’s team, there is literally nobody in baseball who is better suited to get the Red Sox a win Thursday night than Sale.

Sure, the lefty is the kind of role any pitcher would dream of. He has allowed three runs over 29 2/3 innings (0.91 ERA), striking out 42 and walking six. Sale is also coming off the best of the bunch in his historic 80-strike, eight-inning outing in Toronto.

But it is the team which he is facing that ties it all together.

No pitcher with more than four starts against the Yankees has ever had a lower ERA against New York than Sale, who has allowed just seven earned runs in 53 2/3 innings (1.17 ERA).

Sale’s most recent start against the Yankees came last May 13, when he allowed one run over nine innings, striking out six and not walking a batter.

“He’s been amazing,” said Red Sox outfielder Chris Young, who faced Sale as a member of the Yankees, and is 1-for-11 against the starter for his career. “It’s been fun to watch simply just as a fan of the game. I’ve had the opportunity to face him a few times and haven’t had much success off of him. You know what he’s bringing to the table every game. He’s just a bulldog on the game, and is a pleasure to watch.”

Dustin Pedroia explains why he’s not in the lineup against the Yankees 04.26.17 at 4:55 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia remains out of the lineup. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

Dustin Pedroia remains out of the lineup. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

It was the surprise of the day.

When John Farrell went on the Dale, Holley & Keefe Show and said Dustin Pedroia wouldn’t be in the starting lineup, it caught most by surprise. Farrell had just said the day before he would have put the second baseman in the batting order Tuesday if the game wasn’t postponed.

So what happened? Pedroia explained …

“I did some activities yesterday, kind of tested it out a little bit. Just a little sore,” the second baseman told WEEI.com regarding his surgically-repaired left knee, which was sprained when Baltimore’s Manny Machdo slid into it Friday night. “They’re just going to give me one more day and I’ll be in there.”

Considering the knee was the one Pedroia had to rehab all offseason, it seemed fair to consider that this might be a concern going forward. But the 33 year old downplayed any potential lasting effects.

“I didn’t tear any ligaments or anything,” Pedroia said. “I’m hoping to get out there tomorrow and be fine. I did a lot of stuff today to test it and be ready. I’ve played through a lot worse. I can’t hurt myself by being out there.”

“Well, when Dr. [Peter] Asnis examined him, felt like there was still some strong stability in the knee,” Farrell said. “Recognizing there was still some swelling in the ankle and somewhat around the knee area. Given the impact that took place, we didn’t think this was going to be completely gone in a matter of two or three days either.”

In Pedroia’s place in the lineup for the series opener is once again Marco Hernandez.

Another backup infielder who might be filling in if not for his own ailment is Brock Holt, who reported that his vertigo had improved dramatically and was expecting to go on a rehab assignment in the coming days.

Curt Schilling says he meant to hit almost all the hitters he did hit 04.25.17 at 11:04 am ET
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Curt Schilling hit 52 batters in his major league career. Evidently, few were by accident.

Talking with Rob Bradford and Lou Merloni on the Bradfo Sho podcast, Schilling went into great detail how revenge should be enacted when a pitcher hits a batter. It is a scenario that brought into the news over the weekend because of Matt Barnes’ misplaced fastball near Manny Machado’s head, and one that Schilling explained he was well versed in.

“I hit very few guys I didn’t try to hit,” Schilling said. “I didn’t have enough of Pedro in me, but I had a little. There are some guys I did that to. But I never went above the shoulder. Ask anybody, getting hit by a baseball underneath the arm, in the armpit to the side of the ribs is something nobody forgets.”

Upon identifying the preferred location of any purpose pitch, Merloni immediately concurred.

“The ribs suck,” he said.

Schilling offered the example of Andres Galarraga’s lack of success against the pitcher in their 50 showdowns, with the former first baseman hitting just .120 against the righty, while striking out 22 times. As Schilling pointed out, the “Big Cat” was also the all-time leader in getting hit by pitches from the Red Sox righty (4).

Schilling even had an example of protecting the player in the middle of the current controversy.

“The first time I ever met Dustin Pedroia I was rehabbing in Triple-A,” he recalled. “I was starting the game and in the top of the first somebody for the Indianapolis team drilled Dustin. He came back to the bench and I asked him, ‘Who do you want me to get?’ He’s like, ‘What do you mean?’ I’m like, ‘I’m going to hit somebody so you need to tell me who it needs to be.’ He’s like, ‘Really?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s how this is supposed to work. I don’t give a [expletive] if I’m on rehab.’ So he gave me a guy and I drilled him.”

You wanted updates on David Price, Dustin Pedroia, Pablo Sandoval? Here they are 04.24.17 at 3:24 pm ET
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It’s an off day for almost everybody with the Red Sox, unless you’re injured.

The Red Sox sent out updates on three players who are dealing with a variety of ailments:

– David Price (left elbow strain) threw a 45-pitch bullpen session today at Fenway Park. The bullpen consisted of three up-and-down’s at 15 pitches apiece. Price will be evaluated further tomorrow.

– Dustin Pedroia (left knee and ankle soreness) was examined today at Massachusetts General Hospital and his status is day to day.

– Pablo Sandoval (right knee sprain) will undergo an MRI at Massachusetts General Hospital this afternoon. He will be evaluated further tomorrow.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 2: Well executed game, poorly executed revenge 04.23.17 at 5:35 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts celebrates Mookie Betts' first-inning home run. (Mitch Stringer/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts celebrates Mookie Betts’ first-inning home run. (Mitch Stringer/USA Today Sports)

If you’re talking about coming out and getting things going in the right direction, this 6-2 win over the Orioles was well played by the Red Sox. (For a complete recap, click here.)

Three home runs. Really good starting pitching. Timely hitting.

When it came to enacting revenge for Manny Machado’s slide into Dustin Pedroia, however, the Red Sox’ execution was terrible.

With Machado up in the eighth inning and the Sox winning by six runs, Matt Barnes sailed a 90 mph fastball in back of the head of the hitter. The ball didn’t hit Machado, but did strike his bat. But it the perceived intent was enough to get Barnes thrown out from the game.

While hitting Machado after he sidelined Pedroia was a foregone conclusion — with it appearing as though Eduardo Rodriguez attempted to execute the act in the sixth inning — the pitch from Barnes was out of line. No matter what the circumstance, you don’t throw near a hitter’s head.

“No, absolutely not. I would never ever intentionally throw at somebody’s head,” Barnes told reporters. “That’s kind of a line you don’t cross. Um, I’m sorry that it kind of ended up that high and fortunately it didn’t not hit him but I think he’s got every right to be mad that that one got loose.”

“He’s trying to take a four-seamer in above his hands and the pitch got away from him,” Red Sox manager John Farrell explained to reporters. “I think anytime you see a pitch up around the head, it’s a dangerous pitch. No one likes to see it. But I think if you look at the attack plan at our right-handed pitchers, there’s an area in above the hands that you’re trying to go to. Unfortunately it gets away from him in that spot.”

It was why Pedroia went out of his way during the pitching change to make it clear that the marching orders didn’t come from him.

Pedroia: “If that was me, we would have hit you the first day. Now, that’s not me.”

“I just told him I didn’t have anything to do with that. That’s not how you do that, man,” Pedroia told reporters after the game. “I’m sorry to him and his team. If you’re going to protect guys, you do it right away. He knows that. We both know that. It’s definitely a mishandled situation. There was zero intention of him trying to hurt me. He just made a bad slide. He did hurt me. It’s baseball, man. I’m not mad at him. I love Manny Machado. I love playing against him. I love watching him. If I slid into third base and got Manny’s knee, I know I’m going to get drilled. That’s baseball. I get drilled, and I go to first base. That’s it.”

Before the drama, the Red Sox got back to their blueprint heading into the season.

With all the starters not named Chris Sale entering the game with a combined ERA of 5.97, Eduardo Rodriguez supplied some optimism for the group. The lefty allowed just one hit (along with five walks) over six scoreless innings.

And then there were the bats.

Mookie Betts helped the Red Sox jump out to a 3-0 lead with his three-run homer in the first inning. He was immediately followed by Hanley Ramirez’s first home run of the season. Mitch Moreland capped off the visitors’ scoring with another round-tripper.

The offensive star, however, had to be Andrew Benintendi, who finished the day going 5-for-5.

It was a solid all-around performance … except for one very ill-advised pitch.

Shattering Perceptions Game Note Image

Pablo Sandoval was forced from the game in the seventh inning after spraining his right knee.

Orioles 4, Red Sox 2: This blueprint isn’t really working out 04.22.17 at 11:01 pm ET
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Steven Wright (Patrick McDermott/USA Today Sports)

Steven Wright (Patrick McDermott/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz emerged Saturday night at a fundraiser for the Charmed Foundation at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. He talked about Chis Sale, and he talked about his former team.

“Unbelievable man, unbelievable,” Ortiz said when asked about Sale. “Unbelievable. But I know it was coming. I knew it was coming. That’s why I got so excited when we got him. He’s an unbelievable pitcher, he’s going to help us out a lot. 

“You know, [David] Price, whenever he gets back. It’s just the beginning of the season. … Everybody’s going to be fine, we’re going to start winning ball games. Sale’s going to continue striking out 20 per game. It’s fun to watch man.”

But right now, it’s not that much fun for Red Sox fans to watch.

It’s just 18 games into the season, and John Farrell’s team is still two games above .500, but this has been far from how they drew it up. And the Red Sox’ 4-2 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards during Ortiz’s appearance was the latest example of the unexpected uneasiness. (For a complete recap, click here.)

Steven Wright was supposed to be good. Maybe not as good as he was when earning his All-Star berth, but not that far off. For the first three innings Saturday, he was. Then came the fourth inning, which Wright couldn’t even finish, ultimately giving up four runs on six hits in the frame before being replaced by Heath Hembree.

Wright has now pitched in four games and has an ERA of 8.66. The Red Sox starters not named Chris Sale now have a combined ERA of 5.97. That, my friends, was not part of the plan.

“Yeah they’re pretty large totals,” Farrell told reporters after the loss in reference to Wright’s outings. “I will say this, I thought tonight, the way the game got underway, he’s in pretty good shape. I thought he executed a number of quality pitches. But they bunched them together and it happened quick tonight. Coming off an outing where I thought he was solid against Tampa, not the case here tonight, particularly in the fourth inning.”

“It’s just not really moving,” Wright told reporters. “It’s just moving down. It’s been a consistent movement, going down and in to guys, and that’s pretty much it. It’s not as unpredictable as it was last year before I got hurt. It’s something I definitely have been aware of. I’ve been trying to work on it and get the violence back to the pitch.”

Then there is the offense.

After Jackie Bradley Jr. supplied the visitors with their only extra-base hit of the night with a mammoth home run onto Eutaw St., the Red Sox now have a total of three extra-base hits in their last four games.

Perhaps the most concerning piece of the lineup at this moment is Hanley Ramirez.

The designated hitter doesn’t have any home runs, and just three doubles. After going 0-for-4 in the latest loss, his batting average stands at .211 with an OPS of .537. The only full-time designated hitter with worst production is Detroit’s Victor Martinez.

After the initial two-run surge by the Red Sox against rookie Jayson Aquino, the whole night fell into the abyss Farrell’s club has seemingly been digging themselves out of too many times. In the last four games, the Sox are just 3-for-26 with runners in scoring position.

Ironically, the thing that has been helping making things interesting (besides Sale) has been the one piece of this team folks were most concerned about. This time, Hembree was stellar in his 3 1/3 innings after coming in for Wright, allowing just one hit. Robbie Ross Jr. added a scoreless inning (while executing a very anti-climatic possible retaliatory hit-by-pitch when facing Jonathan Schoop).

There have been injuries, sickness and slow starts. It happens. But with a bunch of games coming up against the first-place Orioles and second-place Yankees, it would behoove the Red Sox to start sticking to the script.

Shattering Perceptions Game Note Image

After his hot start, Sandy Leon has cooled off in a big way. The catcher went 0-for-4 and is now 2-for-28 over his last four games, dropping his batting average to .205 with a .540 OPS.

Dustin Pedroia downplays sliding controversy: ‘This isn’t 7th grade’ 04.22.17 at 6:41 pm ET
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PedroiaargueThe day after leaving the Red Sox’ game with the Orioles in the eighth inning after a hard slide by Baltimore’s Manny Machado, Dustin Pedroia was downplaying the play … along with everything else.

Pedroia told reporters at Camden Yards that his knee was sore, as was his ankle, but didn’t think he would need to go on the 10-day disabled list.

When asked about the text sent by Machado after the game, Pedroia told the assembled media, “He reached out to me. Do you want me to add you to the text? This isn’t a group chat, man.”

Asked to elaborate, Pedroia added, “He said he hopes I’m OK. … You want me to add you to the text now? This isn’t a group chat. I just said thanks for reaching out. That’s it.”

Regarding the slide itself, the second baseman said, “We’re trying to get one out. I just put my foot on the back part of the base to try to get that out. If he just slid into the part of the base that I gave him, he would’ve been safe. Luckily he didn’t, we got the out.”

And when asked about any controversy surrounding the incident, Pedroia passed this along to the reporters, “I don’t have an issue with anything. My job is to play baseball and win. This isn’t seventh-grade man. I just play baseball. That’s it. I care about our guys. I don’t care about anybody else. We just play the game.”

Pedroia is not in the starting lineup for the second game of the three-game set at Camden Yards, with Red Sox manager John Farrell noting that he would be available only in an emergency situation.

Red Sox lineup: No Dustin Pedroia day after spiking incident 04.22.17 at 3:42 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia

It isn’t a surprise, but it is noteworthy.

A day after leaving the game in the eighth inning after injuring his knee on a slide by Baltimore’s Manny Machado, Dustin Pedroia is out of the Red Sox’ starting lineup Saturday.

Pedroia, who was getting treatment on his surgically-repaired knee after the Red Sox’ 2-0 loss to the Orioles, is replaced in the batting order by Marco Hernandez. Xander Bogaerts replaces the second baseman in the leadoff spot against Baltimore lefty Jason Aquino.

Here is the Red Sox lineup with Steven Wright on the mound for the visitors:

Xander Bogaerts SS, Jackie Bradley Jr. CF, Mookie Betts RF, Hanley Ramirez DH, Mitch Moreland 1B, Chris Young LF, Sandy Leon C, Pablo Sandoval 3B, Marco Hernandez 2B.

For all the Red Sox news, go to the team page by click here.

Orioles 2, Red Sox 0: The loss that defined Dustin Pedroia, and perhaps his team 04.22.17 at 12:27 am ET
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Dustin Pedroia winces in pain after being taken out by Manny Machado Friday night. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

Dustin Pedroia winces in pain after being taken out by Manny Machado Friday night. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

Dustin Pedroia wasn’t a mystery before Friday night. But what the Red Sox’ 2-0 loss to the Orioles did was offer a pretty powerful reminder of the second baseman’s reality. (For a complete recap of the game, click here.)

The minute that play — where Manny Machado slid into Pedroia in the eighth inning, leaving the second baseman on the ground in agony — was over, the importance of the player to the team came into light.

The pitcher, Joe Kelly, started yelling towards Machado. The player who threw the ball to Pedroia not quick enough to avoid Machado’s questionable slide, Xander Bogaerts, raced over, immediately showing his concern. The manager, John Farrell, sought retribution via some sort of umpire ruling. The infield coach, Brian Butterfield, continued his displeasure with the umpiring crew to the point of being ejected before the next half inning could get going.

And then there was the team, the Red Sox.

The Red Sox and Orioles don’t like each other. The managers don’t like each other. Machado is an ultra-talented, occasionally misguided player who, while seemingly sorry after his cleats had embedded themselves in the side of Pedroia’s surgically-repaired knee, was clearly the identified villain.

This happens in baseball. But this was Pedroia, and the visitors knew why that made it different. That’s why when the final out was made you had almost an entire Red Sox team (including manager and coaches) not immediately adjourn to their clubhouse, but instead stay parked in their positions, staring daggers out at the Orioles.

The symbolism of the really good player who is sometimes all that is wrong with baseball (Machado, thanks to some of his previous transgressions, including incident in the video below) damaging the guy who is mostly all that is right is baseball (Pedroia) was not lost at this moment, or immediately after.

There was the fired up manager.

“He’s sore right now,” Farrell told reporters. “Had a chance to talk to him briefly after we came in. We’ll certainly re-evaluate him tomorrow for his availability but that probably could have been a whole lot worse from what we’re seeing right now in the training room. So extremely late slide and the argument at the time was that if the rule is in place to protect the middle infielder, then it didn’t work tonight. I know there’s a component to the rule that says he’s got to deliberately and willfully attempt a double play. When you’re cleaned out, beyond second base, and the runner never held second base completely, to me the rule failed tonight. … It was a late slide.”

There was the admiring young shortstop.

“It’s probably the main play I regret in my life right now,” an emotional Bogaerts told reporters. “Should have probably gone to first base right there or charged the ball. I probably had to do something different than I did so that had never happened.”

And, finally, came Pedroia.

You want a blueprint of how you might want the player to react to such a situation, you got it with what the hobbled second baseman offered the assembled media.

“Listen, man, I’ve turned double plays in the big leagues for 11 years. That’s my job. That’s not the first time I’ve been hit. It won’t be the last. It’s baseball, man.”

“I can’t speak for them. I just know what my job is. I signed up for that. That’s the way I look at it.”

I don’t even know what the rule is. I’ve turned the best double play in the major leagues for 11 years. I don’t need the [expletive] rule, let’s be honest. The rule is irrelevant. The rule is for people with bad footwork, and that’s it.”

“I’m pissed we lost the game. My job is to get taken out and hang in there and turn double plays. That’s how you win games. I’m not mad. I’m mad we lost the game. We didn’t score any runs. That’s what I’m mad about.”

This story is hardly finished. Machado will most likely ultimately be retaliated against, and the the teams will continue their bad blood. But Chapter 1 was pretty important.

If anybody was looking for the face of this franchise, it could be found on the trainers table immediately after his team stared down the club that put him there.

“It was a hard slide. I saw he passed the base, if you’re asking me,” Bogaerts said. “He injured the leader on our team. It was tough seeing him walk off the field right there and obviously it was because of me.”

Brock Holt heads to disabled list with vertigo 04.21.17 at 4:01 pm ET
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There was some question as to what the Red Sox might do to make room on the 25-man roster with Jackie Bradley Jr. back in the lineup. Options included sending Marco Hernandez back to the minor leagues, or demote Steve Selsky.

But, instead, the move involved Brock Holt.

The Red Sox announced the utilityman was headed to the 10-day disabled list due to a bout with vertigo.

Holt is just 2-for-15 this season, drawing four walks in five games. He has started one game each at third base and left field, getting the nod in left for the Sox’ series finale in Toronto Thursday afternoon.

Bradley Jr., who is in the lineup for the series opener against the Orioles, went 1-for-5 with a home run in two rehab appearances for Triple-A Pawtucket. He had been placed on the 10-day DL on April 11, retroactive to April 9, after suffering a knee sprain in Detroit.

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