Report: Terry Francona, Red Sox likely to part ways

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Stunning news tonight this morning out of Boston.

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, manager Terry Francona is expected to leave the Red Sox organization after a meeting Friday morning with upper management. Allow Rosenthal to explain:

While Francona’s departure is not certain, it is the likely outcome, in part because he is pressing for a resolution, sources say. He would not be fired; the Red Sox would simply decline their club options on him for 2012 and ’13.

Francona and Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein gave no indication that such a major move was coming during their season-wrapping press conference Thursday afternoon at Boston’s Fenway Park.

But something obviously sparked a change within the past several hours.

Perhaps Francona has his eyes on the White Sox’s vacancy. He did coach in their minor league system for five years, at one point serving as skipper to Michael Jordan during the NBA superstar’s short stint with the Birmingham Barons. Or maybe he’ll be swayed by the Nationals, who seem ready to spend big money.

Then again, maybe this wasn’t Francona’s call. “Red Sox Nation” has been seeking out a scapegoat since the club’s historic collapse went final Wednesday night in Baltimore. And the Boston media has egged that blame game on since the middle of this month. It seems insane to give up on a manager who has played a role in securing two World Series titles in the past eight years. And it’s especially insane for a franchise like the Red Sox, who hadn’t won anything since 1918 before Francona stepped aboard. But these are insane times.

The Red Sox’ sad and frustrating September collapse just shifted gears into the realm of tragedy.

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UPDATE, 12:57am: According to White Sox beat writer Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times, it’s Francona who wants out. “He has had his fill of the whole thing,’’ a source told the paper.

Steven Souza Jr. exits game after injuring his hand on a hit by pitch

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Rays’ right fielder Steven Souza Jr. left Saturday’s game after getting hit on the left hand by a pitch from Blue Jays’ right-hander Joe Biagini in the seventh inning. The pitch appeared to hit the top of Souza Jr.’s hand, causing the outfielder to crumple at the plate and requiring assistance from assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker as he exited the field. Postgame reports from the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin revealed that Souza Jr. sustained a left hand contusion and is scheduled to undergo further evaluation on Sunday.

While the diagnosis isn’t as bad as it could be, it’s still a tough break for the right fielder, who missed 40 days of the 2015 season after sustaining a fracture in his left hand on another hit by pitch. The team has yet to announce any concrete timetable for Souza Jr.’s return, though manager Kevin Cash indicated that they’ll be taking things day to day for the time being.

Souza Jr. is batting .326/.398/.543 with four home runs and 17 RBI through 104 PA in 2017. He went 1-for-2 with a base hit and a walk prior to his departure during Saturday’s 4-1 loss.

Video: Brett Gardner goes deep for his first and second home runs of 2017

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It’s been a slow start to the season for Yankees’ outfielder Brett Gardner, who entered Saturday’s matinee against the Orioles with a .188/.316/.234 batting line, three doubles and five stolen bases in his first 76 PA of the year. That all changed in the first inning of Saturday’s game, when Gardner skied a leadoff home run to right field:

Orioles’ right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t find his footing against the Yankees in the second inning, either. Gardner returned for his second home run of the season, a three-run shot to lift New York 5-0 over Baltimore:

Measured at 411 feet in the right field bullpen, the left fielder’s blast marked the seventh home run hit by a Yankee this series. According to the club’s PR department, it’s also the first multi-home run game Gardner has recorded since September 2015. The Yankees currently lead the Orioles 7-0 through four innings.