Mut, Bradford, and Tomase are talking about candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the way some voters have used their votes as a platform to reward or scold certain players by voting or not voting for them

Joe Kelly's new pitch helped him retire all 11 of the postseason batters he faced. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Joe Kelly’s new pitch helped him retire all 11 of the postseason batters he faced. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Getting classified as the best player for the losing team on the wrong end of a three-game sweep in a best-of-seven American League Division Series probably carries the same satisfaction as a participation trophy. But for Joe Kelly, the honor should mean something.

The three games he pitched in — retiring all 11 batters he faced — might represent a pretty good jumping off point for defining the reliever in 2017.

And, if nothing else, Kelly can say he managed the feat in large part to the last-minute invention of a new weapon he didn’t use once in the regular season.

Appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast, Kelly explained:

“In the playoffs, it was all sliders. I kind of tweaked the sliders with (assistant pitching coach) Brian Bannister I think the first day in Cleveland. We held the same grip, but did something with my wrist, the way I cocked it a little bit different and I played catch with them warming up before batting practice for about 10 minutes. I liked how it spun, and he liked how it spun and how it went straight down and disappeared, kind of like a Chris Archer-type slider. I got into the game and I shocked to it because I wanted to test it out and got a good swing and miss on it. So I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to keep throwing it.’ There was one point probably in my third appearance in the playoffs where 10 of my 13 pitches I threw were all sliders. I didn’t want to throw it that much but I kind of fell in love with it because it was generating so many swings and misses and so many foul balls and weak contact. It was something I learned probably 10 minutes before Game 1. I was like, ‘You know what, why not?’ That is kind of my personality. If I see something I see works, or I think will work, it’s something I’m going to try.

“It’s another game. It’s just baseball. It’s something where I know they were scouting me. The hitters were saying, ‘OK, high velocity fastball thrown in the top of the zone, and he’s bouncing curveballs. If I break out a third pitch they hadn’t seen, obviously on the video, it was something I thought I had the advantage on their hitters because I didn’t throw it prior to the playoffs. It ended up working and I saw some really bad swings and some really bad timing. Guys were baffled because they didn’t know I had that pitch. I kept throwing that pitch just because it probably wasn’t in the scouting report and it got more swings and misses than I thought it would.”




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So now Kelly is heading into spring training with a chance to join newly-acquired Tyler Thornburg, Matt Barnes, and, eventually, Carson Smith, as a candidate to set-up closer Craig Kimbrel.

The righty had already started to establish his identity as a high-leverage reliever, holding opposing hitters to .180 batting average, while striking out 20 and walking just three, in his 11 games after being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. During that span he was charged with just one run (the walk-off grand slam by Mark Teixeira on the night the Sox clinched the American League East in Yankee Stadium).

He had accomplished the month-long success thanks to better command of a 100 mph fastball, and a revamped curveball that came from the same arm slot as his heater. But now he has his new slider, which maxes out his repertoire heading into the new season.

“One hundred percent,” said Kelly when asked if those were the three pitches he would be leaning on from Day 1 in 2017. “That’s what my game-plan is, trying to simplify pitching for this season.”

TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE JOE KELLY INTERVIEW ON THE BRADFO SHO, CLICK HERE

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford
Rob Bradford is joined by Red Sox relief pitcher Joe Kelly to discuss middle of the night Pokemon chasing in Central Park on an electronic skateboard, a drastic change he made just moments before the first postseason game and how he views his new lot in life in the bullpen

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Word out of Arizona (courtesy the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro) is that former Red Sox general manager Mike

Blake Swihart is still valued by the Red Sox.  (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Blake Swihart is still valued by the Red Sox. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Word out of Arizona (courtesy the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro) is that former Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen, who currently holds the same title with the Diamondbacks, asked about the availability of catchers Christian Vazquez and/or Blake Swihart.

The answer back from the Red Sox, per the report, was that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was “unlikely to deal” either player.

That leads to this question: Why the Red Sox would be wanting to keep what might seem like a surplus of catchers if they could get legitimate value back?

The reasoning is not hard to decipher. Although there is some promise with Sandy Leon, Vazquez and Swihart, there are no certainties with any of the backstops.

Dombrowski has reiterated throughout the offseason that Leon is heading into spring training as the catcher slated to get the majority of the playing time. The Red Sox believe that what he did during his memorable run in 2016 (.310 batting average, .845 OPS) earned the right to see if that lightning remains in the bottle.

But there nobody can ignore the downturn Leon experienced at the tail-end of the regular season, notching four hits in his last 44 at-bats (.091).

Vazquez and Swihart should be able to position themselves in February to resurface as legitimate major league catchers, particularly with Leon off at the World Baseball Classic. Vazquez did enough to gain residence on the postseason roster, exhibiting his old throwing arm, and Swihart has been told there will be no more experimenting with other positions after recovering from ankle surgery.

Remember, Vazquez was the Red Sox’ legitimate defense weapon who all the pitchers desperately wanted to throw to before his Tommy John surgery. And Swihart had shown enough that most felt comfortable with him as the Opening Day catcher heading into 2016.

And, thanks to Swihart still possessing options, the Red Sox don’t have to panic regarding trying to get all three on the big league roster. That’s another reason why the team has little motivation to break up what could be a strength of their club.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Curt Schilling filled in on Kirk & Callahan Thursday morning with Christian Arcand and Andy Hart and a big topic of discussion was the Baseball Hall of Fame and who should get in, including Schilling himself.

Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling filled in on Kirk & Callahan Thursday morning with Christian Arcand and Andy Hart and a big topic of discussion was the Baseball Hall of Fame and who should get in, including Schilling himself.

On Twitter, @NotMrTibbs tracks Hall of Fame ballots that are posted online to get an idea of how the votes are going. As it stands now, Schilling has 53 percent of the vote, but many voters have publicly stated they will not vote for Schilling because of his outbursts on social media and political bias.

“I’m either going to be in the Hall of Fame or not based on the people who vote,” he said.

The former pitcher noted he hasn’t done anything wrong legally, so doesn’t believe it should impact how people vote, but also he doesn’t get offended when people disagree with him politically.

“I’ve never hit my wife. I’ve never driven drunk. I’ve never shot anyone. I’ve never shot myself. All the things that people are in the news for, I haven’t done those things,” Schilling said. “It doesn’t mean I haven’t made some major mistakes, but 99.9 percent of mine are my mouth because I am passionate about the things I believe in. I don’t get offended by people who don’t believe in my [views].”

Schilling also gave his thoughts on some players who are receiving votes:

Jeff Bagwell (93.2 percent): “Good. He should be [in].”

Sammy Sosa (10.6 percent): “Sammy Sosa hit 60-plus homers three years in a row. The writers are clearly telling you they think he is a fraud, but there are other guys that cheated, who are getting voted in.”

Ivan Rodriguez (84.8 percent): “I don’t know. He was a Canseco guy. Canseco is like WikiLeaks, never been wrong. I think he was a phenomenal player. I don’t know. That’s the tough one because it gets back to the point — where do you draw the, if you’re going to draw a line where do you draw it and how do you draw it? I don’t know. I love Pudge, which there is a personal piece to that, but I don’t know. I think he’s the best defensive catcher I ever saw.”

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling filled in on Kirk & Callahan Thursday morning with Christian Arcand and Andy Hart and a big topic of discussion was the Baseball Hall of Fame and who should get in, including Schilling himself.

On Twitter, @NotMrTibbs tracks Hall of Fame ballots that are posted online to get an idea of how the votes are going. As it stands now, Schilling has 53 percent of the vote, but many voters have publicly stated they will not vote for Schilling because of his outbursts on social media and political bias.

“I’m either going to be in the Hall of Fame or not based on the people who vote,” he said.

The former pitcher noted he hasn’t done anything wrong legally, so doesn’t believe it should impact how people vote, but also he doesn’t get offended when people disagree with him politically.

“I’ve never hit my wife. I’ve never driven drunk. I’ve never shot anyone. I’ve never shot myself. All the things that people are in the news for, I haven’t done those things,” Schilling said. “It doesn’t mean I haven’t made some major mistakes, but 99.9 percent of mine are my mouth because I am passionate about the things I believe in. I don’t get offended by people who don’t believe in my [views].”

Schilling also gave his thoughts on some players who are receiving votes:

Jeff Bagwell (93.2 percent): “Good. He should be [in].”

Sammy Sosa (10.6 percent): “Sammy Sosa hit 60-plus homers three years in a row. The writers are clearly telling you they think he is a fraud, but there are other guys that cheated, who are getting voted in.”

Ivan Rodriguez (84.8 percent): “I don’t know. He was a Canseco guy. Canseco is like WikiLeaks, never been wrong. I think he was a phenomenal player. I don’t know. That’s the tough one because it gets back to the point — where do you draw the, if you’re going to draw a line where do you draw it and how do you draw it? I don’t know. I love Pudge, which there is a personal piece to that, but I don’t know. I think he’s the best defensive catcher I ever saw.”

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Brock Holt figures to be more pivotal than ever to the Red Sox plans. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Brock Holt figures to be more pivotal than ever to the Red Sox plans. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

OK, they didn’t take the three-year, $60 million plunge with Edwin Encarnacion. Instead the Red Sox are building this team around pitching, defense, and the hope that specific skill-sets and assumed evolution will make up for David Ortiz.

It could work.

Right-handed starter? You’ve got the new version of Pablo Sandoval, a Gold Glove first baseman in Mitch Moreland who is just one season removed from an .812 OPS (.876 vs. righties), and Hanley Ramirez as your designated hitter.

Against lefties it figures to be Hanley at first, with southpaw destroying Chris Young at DH. And even if Sandoval can’t revive himself as a righty hitter, Josh Rutledge may be a sleeper of an option after posting an .859 in his 19 plate appearances against left-handers.

As for the outfielders, the Sox are betting on Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts all being able to hit whatever pitcher is thrown their way.

Fair enough. But if Plan A hits a few snags, this could get uncomfortable.

As we sit here, this is most uncertain the Red Sox’ depth has been in some time. A combination of a dearth of high-level minor-leaguers, and potential replacements if something happens to their chief run producers, is making things a bit uncomfortable.

Their initial answer will be Brock Holt. That’s fine. But that’s one player who is at his best when spotted here and there. (In three seasons with the Red Sox, the utilityman still only has a combined .716 OPS.)

But after Holt, where are the answers.

Outfielder gets injured. Young will be pulled away from that DH spot, perhaps exposing Moreland. In this scenario, Bryce Brentz might be the big winner, getting one more chance at the majors. (After Brentz, the Red Sox top outfield prospect may be 2015 fourth-rounder Tate Matheny, who finished last season with a .712 OPS in Single-A Greenville.)

Third base hits a snag, especially against lefties, and you are left hoping Matt Dominguez, who isn’t on the 40-man roster, or Deven Marrero live up to their potential as former first-round picks.

The Red Sox do seem to like Marco Hernandez a bunch, with Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski consistently mentioning the infielder when identifying the top prospects the organization still possesses. Maybe the 24-year-old lefty hitter can solve some of this problem, having hit .309 with Triple-A Pawtucket and .294 in 56 big league games in ’16. But Hernandez can’t be considered a full-time option at this point, and that’s exactly what the Red Sox could ultimately end up needing at some point.

Perhaps the best legitimate hope that the Red Sox might be able to uncover any semblance of offensive punch from within is in the form of Sam Travis. The first baseman should be ready to compete when spring training rolls around after missing the majority of 2016 with a torn ACL. (For Travis’ take on things, click here.)

It is at the point where two players who we thought would never see the light of day at Fenway Park again, Rusney Castillo and/or Allen Craig, have to at least enter the conversation. Neither is on the 40-man roster, but that doesn’t mean can’t be. Desperate times may lead to desperate measures.

There are still options out there to spruce things up a bit.

This story might not be complete, with the Red Sox still putting their ears to the free agent train tracks looking for possible short-term bargains, such as former Padre Adam Rosales or Twin Trevor Plouffe. But there aren’t going to be any difference-maker swooping in, or jumping levels. (Sorry, Rafael Devers won’t be ready.)

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Tim Raines was a force in his prime, but is he a Hall of Famer? (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)Let's just get this out of the way: I'm not voting for Tim Raines.