AP Photo/Morry Gash

The Red Sox lowered Carlos Marmol’s release point

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Carlos Marmol was once one of baseball’s toughest closers to hit. He didn’t pitch in the majors at all last season and had to settle for a minor league contract with the Red Sox for the 2016 campaign. At this peak of his career, in 2010, Marmol saved 38 games with 138 strikeouts and 52 walks in 77 2/3 innings. What happened?

The Red Sox believe they’ve identified the culprit, WEEI’s John Tomase writes. Brian Bannister, the director of pitching analysis and development for the Red Sox, noticed that Marmol had been releasing the ball at a higher point in recent years, which limited the effectiveness of his slider.

The theory has some merit. Here are his vertical and horizontal release points, via Brooks Baseball:

Brooksbaseball-Chart (1) Brooksbaseball-Chart

Marmol will have to prove Bannister right with a strong spring performance if he wants to make the Opening Day roster.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.