Will Middlebrooks hits three homers as Red Sox crush Blue Jays 13-0

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Third baseman Will Middlebrooks hit three homers and doubled Sunday in Boston’s 13-0 rout in Toronto.

The 24-year-old Middlebrooks became the first player to hit three homers in a game this year, and he’s the youngest player to accomplish the feat since the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen on Aug. 1, 2009.  He was the first member of the Red Sox to pull it off since Dustin Pedroia did it on June 24, 2010 against the Rockies.

Given a chance to go for a fourth homer in the eighth, Middlebrooks flew out to the warning track in left field.

The Red Sox hit six homers in all. Middlebrooks and Daniel Nava went back-to-back in the seventh, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli added bombs in the eighth.

Boston got to 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey for eight runs — seven earned — in 4 2/3 innings today. Only two of the homers were hit off Dickey, though. The remaining four came off journeyman Dave Bush, who was just added to the roster this weekend.

The game featured an odd moment in the top of the fifth, when Edwin Encarnacion opted to play behind Jackie Bradley Jr. on first base with the Jays down 8-0. Bradley took off for second, only to see a foul ball return him to first base. Encarnacion immediately resumed holding him on afterwards, and there were no repercussions when Bradley came to the plate in the seventh. One imagines there would have been had Bradley been running in the seventh or eighth inning instead.

But while not holding runners on in blowouts is a somewhat common occurrence, there’s no way a team should be doing it in the first half of an 8-0 game. More than just about any other team in baseball, the Jays are capable of scoring eight runs in five innings. In Boston’s September 2011 collapse, the Jays once scored six runs in the seventh and eighth innings to beat the Red Sox 11-10.

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.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.