Peter Gammons begs to differ, based on some comments he made Thursday, but Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said Friday that all is well between him and manager Terry Francona.
“There is no disconnect between me and Tito,” Epstein was quoted as saying by the Boston Herald. “I think anyone who’s been around the club on a daily basis can see that. We talk several times a day. We spend a ton of time together. I was in (Francona’s office) today, laughing, joking, like I was yesterday, like I was the day before with him. Obviously, less laughing and joking this month than previously because of the way things are going. We’re on the same page. For eight years, I’ve respected and admired him. I believe the feeling’s mutual.”
Francona’s contract isn’t guaranteed beyond 2011 — there are options worth $4.25 million for 2012 and $4.5 million for 2013 — so there will be some speculation about his job status if the Red Sox complete their collapse and miss the playoffs.
Francona, for what it’s worth, seems to only have this year on his mind. Asked about 2012, he said:
I don’t feel any different than I ever have. The organization not only has the right, but it’s their obligation to get the right person, the person they think is the best. If at some point they think it needs to be somebody else — other than that, I think it’s disrespectful for me to spend one waking moment think about my situation. We need to win games, so that’s how I intend to do it.
No matter what happens in the next week, it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox bailing on the guy who won World Series in 2004 and ’07.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.