Panic comes early to Red Sox Nation

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Actually, it may not be panic in Red Sox Nation, but it’s starting in the press already, so you have to figure that it’s either a reflection of or a precursor to some amount of overreaction in the fan base. Rob Bradford: three games in, already asking if the Sox should blow up the rotation and the bullpen by moving Daniel Bard into the closer’s role:

It sounds stupid, I know. One game in such a huge batch affecting the future of a pitcher and an organization? But one of the key elements in building a successful foundation is understanding when there is a crossroads and then taking the right path.

Terry Francona identified the moment two games into the 2006 season, sending Jonathan Papelbon down his six-year run as Red Sox closer while kicking Keith Foulke to the eigth-inning curb. Now it might be Bobby Valentine’s turn.

Three games, folks. Three games against one of the best teams in the game. You don’t throw an entire winter’s planning and an entire’s spring training’s worth of preparation over the side based on Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hitting some home runs off you.

Steven Matz to skip next spring training start with elbow issues

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Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.

Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.

Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.