Victor Martinez bails out Terry Francona

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What might get lost in the aftermath of a wild 9th inning rally for the Red Sox is a puzzling decision by Terry Francona. The Boston manager can thank Victor Martinez that he’s not getting hammered in the press today.

To recap, the Sox entered the top of the 9th trailing Texas 4-2. David Ortiz led off with a double and then Jason Varitek followed with an infield single up the middle. Now, watching Varitek run is pretty painful at this point, and had it been anyone else, the second baseman probably would’ve eaten the ball. But he hustled and beat the throw. First and third, no out, down two.
This is where Francona did something strange: he kept Varitek in the game, even though he represented the tying run. Sometimes you see managers wait until a slow runner gets to second base before pinch-running, but that’s in a tie game where the team isn’t staring a loss in the face. Varitek represented a run the Red Sox desperately needed.
Naturally, the next hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a ground ball single up the middle to score Ortiz. But Varitek had no chance of going first-to-third on the play. Would a faster runner have been able to make it to third on the hit? Not definitely, but most likely. After a strikeout, Francona finally pinch-ran for Varitek, but with pitcher Clay Buchholz, a guy who probably hasn’t run the bases since high school.
The next batter, Dustin Pedroia, hit a deep drive to left. Rangers left fielder David Murphy jumped against the wall but couldn’t make the catch. But he got to it quickly and fired it back in, and the relay throw actually nailed Buchholz at home. How is that possible, you ask? Watching Buchholz on the bases, he went halfway when the ball was in the air, then danced back and forth, waiting to see if the ball was caught. When he rounded third, he slipped, and inexplicably adjusted his helmet as it appeared to be falling off. A great throw got him at the plate, and the Sox still trailed by one with two and outs and runners on second and third.
Luckily for Boston, Martinez is an animal, as he ripped a two-strike double to give the Sox the lead. A hit for Jason Bay and a cherry-on-the-top homer from JD Drew put the game away and caused Rangers volatile closer Frank Francisco to tell reporters to “beat it” after the game. At least he didn’t fling a chair at them.
On one hand, the Red Sox won the game, so maybe Francona’s decision-making isn’t worth dissecting. And Pedroia’s hit was a tough play to read, so you can’t get on Buchholz too hard. But we’d love to hear an explanation for waiting to pinch-run for Varitek, and why there wasn’t a more experienced base runner used.

Max Scherzer still can’t throw fastballs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals works against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.

The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.

Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.

The Dodgers asked the Tigers about Justin Verlander this offseason

DETROIT, MI - MAY 18: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the first inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins on May 18, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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File this under “man, that would’ve been cool.” Or, if you’re a Tigers fan, file it under “man, that would’ve signaled several years of misery.” However you fall on the matter, however, know that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers inquired about trading for Justin Verlander over the winter.

It never went anywhere, but it’s not like it was silliness for the Dodgers to ask. As you may recall, the Tigers were reported to be willing to listen to offers on any and all players back in November, as GM Al Avila contemplated a tear-down. That never came to pass — the Tigers had a quiet offseason and are keeping the team together to make another run at the playoffs with the Verlander/Miguel Cabrera core — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Verlander, who is coming off a resurgent season which saw him return to form as one of baseball’s best pitchers, has 10-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade. He’s married to an actress/model, however, owns a home in L.A., and the Dodgers are a clear contender, so there’s a good chance he would’ve allowed such a trade to happen. Heck, dude even loves pitchers batting, so a chance to do it all the time would be right up his alley.

The bigger issue likely would’ve been Verlander’s $28 million salary. The Dodgers already pay the luxury tax so taking on that commitment would cost them more than the sticker price. And, of course, if the Tigers are going to ever give up one of the best players in franchise history, it would take the motherlode of prospects to do it.

So, no, a Verlander-to-L.A. trade wasn’t ever a strong possibility. But even the slight possibility seems exciting in hindsight. It was a boring as hell offseason.