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Must Read: Sean Casey’s anecdote about facing Clayton Kershaw

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At The Players’ Tribune, former major leaguers Mark DeRosa and Sean Casey discuss the Home Run Derby, the Cubs, and pick their first-half award winners.

It should come as no surprise that for the Cy Young Award, both were in agreement that Clayton Kershaw has been baseball’s best pitcher thus far. The Dodgers’ lefty has a league-best 1.79 ERA, 0.727 WHIP, and has averaged better than 16 strikeouts for each walk.

In describing just how difficult it is to face Kershaw, Casey shared an anecdote, likely from 2008, his final year and Kershaw’s first in the majors.

Casey

I only faced him one time. Actually, I was the first guy he ever faced in a spring training game. I turned to Terry Francona and was like, “Who’s this guy?” And he shrugged and said, “He’s some minor leaguer off the back fields.” First pitch comes in at 97 on the outside black. I don’t even see it, I just hear a big thunk as it hits the catcher’s mitt. I look over at Joe Torre and he’s cracking up in the dugout. And I’m thinking, Who the hell is this guy?

DeRosa

Oh no.

Casey

Next pitch was a nasty knee-buckling hook for strike 2. I now look at the bench and Larry Bowa and Joe Torre are both laughing at me, and I’m thinking to myself, They must know something I don’t know. The next pitch was strike 3, but the ump called it a ball. Next pitch, Kershaw throws a ridiculous hook on the outside corner, and that was called strike 3. I never pulled the trigger on any pitch. It was the first time I had felt like a little kid in the big leagues in a long time.

It’s safe to say Casey isn’t alone in having made to feel that way by Kershaw.

Also interesting in the Players’ Tribune article is Casey’s counter-argument for putting Madison Bumgarner in the Home Run Derby. DeRosa expresses concern that a pitcher could suffer a common hitting injury like an oblique strain. Casey simply counters, “Yes, but on the other hand, it’s Bumgarner.”

Ron Roenicke fired by Red Sox after one season

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BOSTON — Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke will not return in 2021, the team said before its final game on Sunday, ending his tenure as a one-year, shotgun stopgap for a pandemic-shortened season with a last-place finish in the AL East.

Hired on the eve of spring training after Alex Cora was caught cheating during his time in Houston, Roenicke took over a roster that would soon shed 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price, who were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ace Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) and Eduardo Rodriguez (COVID-19) never threw a pitch for the team this year.

Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom also commended Roenicke for navigating the coronavirus shutdown and for holding the team together when racial protests interrupted the season.

“He did a tremendous job under really challenging and basically unprecedented circumstances,” said Bloom, who met with Roenicke in Atlanta on Sunday morning to give him the news.

“As you would expect, he handled it really well. Probably better than I did,” Bloom said on a Zoom call. “I think he is just an incredible human being.”

Sure to get attention as a possible successor: Cora, who led the Red Sox to a World Series championship in 2018, his first season as a major league manager. The team split with him less than a month before spring training after he was identified as the ringleader in the Houston sign-stealing scandal; Cora’s one-year suspension for that scandal ends after the World Series.

With Cora gone, the Red Sox promoted Roenicke from bench coach to interim manager. They removed the temporary tag in April, during the coronavirus shutdown, when Roenicke was cleared in the commissioner’s investigation into sign-stealing by the Red Sox during their championship season.

He was not given an extension on the one year he had remaining on the contract he had signed as a bench coach — fueling speculation that Cora could be welcomed back after serving his penalty.

The Red Sox dismissed such suggestions dismissed such suggestions at the time, but on Sunday Bloom refused to rule a return either in or out.

“I thought Ron deserved to be evaluated without anyone looking over his shoulder,” Bloom said, declining to comment further because “I don’t want to say anything about Alex that I haven’t said to Alex.”

Roenicke, 64, spent five years as the Brewers manager from 2010-15, winning 96 games and the NL Central title in his first season and finishing as runner-up for NL manager of the year. In all, he led Milwaukee to a 342-331 record in five seasons.

He was 23-36 with the Red Sox entering Sunday’s games. Bloom said he wanted to break the news to Roenicke before the end of the season.

“If Ron wanted the chance to look his players in the eye before we part ways … I didn’t want to take that from him,” Bloom said.

An infielder on Boston’s 2007 champions, Cora was mentioned 11 times in Commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision on the Astros, which said Cora developed the cheating system. Cora left Houston to become Boston’s manager after the 2017 season and led the Red Sox to a franchise-record 108 regular-season wins and the World Series title.

But fallout from the Astros investigation caused Cora and newly hired New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran to lose their jobs.