FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Although it has yet to be officially announced, according to multiple reports, the Red Sox and ace Chris Sale have agreed to a contract extension.
Sale, acquired in December 2016 from the White Sox, is entering the final year of his current deal. In 2013 Chicago signed him to a five-year, $32.5-million contract with two option years at $12.5 million and $13.5 million, respectively.
“I actually haven’t checked my social media,” Alex Cora said Friday afternoon before the team traveled west on Daniels Parkway for a night game against the Twins.
“Somebody mentioned that Twitter was going off and all that. So, I hear that, (but) can’t comment on it.”
There has been some concern about Sale’s durability, however. He appeared in just seven second-half games last season, compared to 20 in the first half. He is 1-2 with a 5.76 ERA in seven postseason games (four starts), spanning 25 innings the last two years. After pitching a major league-high 214 1⁄3 innings in 32 starts 2017, he threw just 158 last season.
Sale will be a healthy scratch from tonight's game.
But Sale’s strikeout of Manny Machado in Game 5 locked up the World Series for the Red Sox.
The prospect of keeping Sale -- who is 29-12 with a 2.56 ERA in 59 starts for the Red Sox and has been the American League starting pitcher in the All-Star Game the last two seasons -- would appeal to any manager.
“We saw it last year,” Cora said. “He (started) Opening Day and he started every series after that, and he’s our Opening Day starter (this season). Everybody knows how good he is, what he brings to the table, not only on the field but off the field. But he’s one of the best.”
Not typically a vocal leader, Sale gave his teammates a motivational speech in the dugout when the Red Sox were down 4-0 to the Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series. Some may call it a pep talk; others might call it a verbal whupping. Either way, it caught his teammates’ attention.
“I think he said it best,” Cora said. “It was out of character, he’s never done it. I’ve seen it twice in two World Series. Hopefully, I see it a third time this year. Justin (Verlander in 2017) did it in Houston, Chris did it here with us.
“He felt that he needed to say something that day, but he’s not that way. I was so locked in in my corner I didn't even notice it until somebody asked me about it. But the reactions of the players afterwards, pretty funny. They were scared and surprised and all that. He’ll do anything that he has to do to help his team win.”
Mookie Betts, Brock Holt and Marco Hernandez appeared in minor league games Friday on the back fields of Fenway South today. Betts went 1-for-3 with a walk and a single. Holt went 1-for-5 with two walks, a single and a run scored. Hernandez went 2-for-3 with a single, double and a run scored.
Steve Pearce also got some at-bats, without running, on the back fields on Friday and is scheduled to appear in minor league games on Saturday. If all goes well, he is scheduled to play Monday and Tuesday against the Cubs in Arizona.
Catch me in Arizona
Cora said he expects all three catchers -- Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart -- to make the trip to Arizona. He is also on the record saying only two will be on the major league roster for Opening Day. For now, Cora is not concerned about any awkwardness among the trio.
“No,” he said. “You got to ask them but, it’s just that’s the nature of the business. We’ve all been there. The only difference is you’re going to Arizona, but it’s part of that. It sounds hard, but we're not here to accommodate guys; we're here to make decisions based on the team. And if you got to go to Arizona, you understand that. I know it sounds bad, but it’s actually not bad.”
JBJ spring swing tweaks
Jackie Bradley Jr. implemented a tweak to his swing in the second half last season and continues to work on it in spring training. Bradley hit .210 with a .642 OPS in 86 first-half games in 2018, .269 and .827 in 55 second-half games.
In 15 Grapefruit League games entering Friday, he was hitting .286 with two homers and four RBI.
“He started off well and then he started (to swing and miss),” Cora said. “The last few days he's hit the ball to left-center, which is money for him. We’re very pleased where he’s at, his work.
“He understands his swing, so this is kind of like progression. When you’re working on a swing, it goes from dry swings to flips, from flips to BP in the cage, to BP on the field, to games. Like Maury Wills used to say, ‘Next week you got 85 percent that you bring and then the 15 percent comes into play with 45,000 people and the lights, and that’s another step that you have to take.’
“But I think he’s in a good place. He understands what he wants to do and looking forward to put consistency in his season. He did a good job In the second half last year and I think he’s going to continue doing that.”
Bogaerts shaken up: Xander Bogaerts collided with Twins center fielder Byron Buxton during a rundown ending the second inning. Bogaerts dropped his glove and jogged off the field, flexing his left arm, appearing to exit the game but stayed in for two more at-bats.
After he came out of the game, Bogaerts, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, said the brim of Buxton's helmet hit his left collarbone.
"It's getting stiff now," Bogaerts said. "I'm happy it wasn't worse. We'll see if I wake up and feel a little different (Saturday). But I'm happy it wasn't worse. I don't know how he is but hopefully, he's good and ready to start the season on time."
Buxton left the game with what the Twins called a "facial contusion."
Workman working for bullpen spot: Right-hander Brandon Workman, whose velocity has been down, pitched a perfect fourth inning, striking out the three batters he faced.
"I felt pretty good today," Workman said. "I had command of all my pitches, so that makes it a little easier."
Workman's velocity got up to 92 in the outing.
"I definitely know how hard it's coming out. I keep an eye on it. Yeah, with any pitcher, velocity's not everything but it helps you to get swings and misses on other things, off-speed pitches that sort of thing. So it's not everything but it is important."
He is among a handful of pitchers vying for what Cora has said are three remaining bullpen spot.
"I'm looking at it as when it's my day to pitch, I got to go out and pitch well," Workman said.
Wrap it up
Andrew Benintendi hit a leadoff home run, his first of the spring. Jackie Bradley, Jr., Christian Vazquez and Gorkys Hernandez went back-to-back-to-back in the third inning. It was Bradley's third homer of the spring, Vazquez's first and Hernandez's second. Bradley went 2-for-2 with a run scored and three RBI, giving him seven RBI this spring. ... Left-hander Dan Runzler started in place of Chris Sale, a healthy scratch. Runzler went 1 2/3 hitless innings, giving up two runs with three walks and two strikeouts. Runzler has appeared in 97 major league games from 2009-2017 for the Giants and Pirates. ... Runzler and Sale share a birthday. Sale will be 30 on March 30, while Runzler will be 34...