Jonathan Papelbon’s exit from Boston was expected to clear the way for Daniel Bard to step in as the Red Sox’s closer, but the 26-year-old has made the move to the rotation instead and Papelbon, speaking from Phillies camp in Florida, thinks that might well be for the best:
I actually had a long talk with Daniel this offseason about that. I’m excited to see what he can do. I think Daniel has a phenomenal career ahead of him, and in my opinion, there’s no reason why he can’t start. I think Daniel can do whatever he wants to do. He’s that good. And he’s matured into a phenomenal pitcher and is only going to get better, and I think the sky’s the limit for him. It truly, really is.
Five years ago this spring, Papelbon was asked to make a similar move, though he later made it clear that he preferred the pen. Bard seems to be embracing the change, and while it’s doubtful he’ll come close to throwing 200 innings for the Red Sox this year, he could prove to be an excellent fourth starter behind Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz.
(Oh, and yes, that’s a picture of Papelbon and Bard practicing archery at Fenway Park. In between games of a doubleheader, no less.)
CC Sabathia‘s contract with the Yankees expires after the 2017 season but the lefty feels that he has enough left in the tank to pitch in 2018 and beyond, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports.
Sabathia said, “I just know myself. I know I feel like it’s not my time yet. Barring any crazy injuries I know I can pitch past next year. I feel like this is just the beginning of what I’m trying to do. I feel like there’s a lot more still to learn and a lot better to get. It’s exciting.”
The 36-year-old lefty currently holds a 4.02 ERA and a 144/63 K/BB ratio in 172 1/3 innings. It’s his best and healthiest season since 2012. He battled a knee injury last season and checked into rehab for alcohol addiction last October. Sabathia said that being treated for his addiction put him “in a good spot.”
Sabathia is owed $25 million through a vesting option for the 2017 season.
The Red Sox can thank the Orioles for not having to fight to clinch the division on Thursday or later. The Orioles came from behind to defeat the Blue Jays 3-2 on Wednesday evening, clinching the AL East for the Red Sox.
A few minutes after that game went final, the Red Sox squandered a 3-0 lead taken in the eighth inning, culminating in a walk-off grand slam by Mark Teixeira in the bottom of the ninth inning. Closer Craig Kimbrel started the ninth, but didn’t have control over any of his pitches. He allowed a leadoff single followed by three consecutive walks to force in a run. Joe Kelly relieved Kimbrel and seemed to be close to wriggling out of the jam, getting Starlin Castro to strike out looking and Didi Gregorius to pop up. But after starting Teixeira with a first-pitch curve ball for a strike, Teixera clobbered a 99 MPH fastball, sending it over the fence in right-center to end the game.
For the Yankees, the come-from-behind victory was crucial as it staved off Wild Card elimination for one more day.
This is the first time the Red Sox have clinched the AL East since 2013, also the last year they won the World Series.