Report: Red Sox will pursue Ryan Madson and Heath Bell

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We’ve already talked about the Phillies’ side of things already regarding the Jonathan Papelbon deal, but what about the fallout for the Red Sox?

It once looked like Daniel Bard was the natural heir apparent for the ninth inning role, but whether it had to do with his struggles in September or not, it appears the Red Sox aren’t necessarily convinced that he’s ready for the gig.

According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, the Red Sox will be in on both Heath Bell and Ryan Madson this winter.

Neither figure to get as much guaranteed money as Papelbon, but they should do very well, even in a deep market for closer-types. Madson was reportedly close to a four-year, $44 million deal with the Phillies earlier this week and considering that Scott Boras is his agent, you can bet he’ll look for a similar deal elsewhere. As for Bell, he told Jim Bowden earlier this week that he would prefer to stay on the West Coast with either the Padres, Angels or Dodgers, but would also be open to signing with the Phillies or Red Sox.

Losing Papelbon is no doubt a blow for Red Sox fans who are witnessing some big changes this offseason. He’s the best closer in team history, so this probably stings a little bit. But I have a feeling they’re also happy new GM Ben Cherington wasn’t the one willing to give him a four-year, $50 million contract.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.