MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at Boston Red Sox

Red Sox relief pitcher Darwinzon Hernandez delivers a pitch during a recent spring training game.

Craig Kimbrel still unemployed: Let’s talk about possible closers.

IT’S MARCH 5. Craig Kimbrel still doesn’t have a job. The Red Sox, the team he is apparently leaving behind, don’t have a closer.

If you listen to the rumblings out of Florida, they have TWO.

The old saying in sports is if you have two of anything for one job, you really have none. But this is baseball, 2019, and there’s no secret there’s a trend AWAY from the solo closer.

Old school here. I like the thought of an automatic guy coming into the game in the ninth inning. But I get the new way of thinking, that the most important outs aren’t always in the ninth — or even ending the eighth.

Which brings us to the Red Sox. The defending champions have Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and who knows who else — probably just the mentioned pair — closing games. It’s not the old bullpen committee thing. This is a different. This is a mindset that didn’t want to pay Kimbrel, shaky in the 2018 postseason, and this appears to be the way they’re going.

How do YOU feel about that? Drop me a note at the e-mail listed below. Are you holding out hope of a Kimbrel return? Someone else?

“We know who (the relievers) are,” says Alex Cora. “We know the stuff. It’s just about the plan. The plan will be out there on March 28th. It’s just a matter of, see what we’re going to do as an organization, what plan we’re going to do, how comfortable are we with a closer or mixing it up, or getting people out in certain situations?

“We still have a lot of days to see how we feel about it.”

Does 22-year-old lefty Darwinzon Hernandez factor in the thinking? Remember, there’s no lefty truly penciled into the opening day bullpen. “He’s got a hell of an arm, I’ll tell you that,” says Chris Sale. “I’ve watched him throw a couple of times. He’s right where he needs to be.”

Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook has Hernandez rated as No. 3 in a system. Bobby Dalbec and Michael Chavis are 1 and 2. Under “The Future,” they say, “If Hernandez clicks, he could be a potential Jake McGee-type reliever who can blow away opponents with his fastball. Others see a Robbie Ray-type starter — if he can cut down his walk rate. Hernandez will return to Double-A, this time as a starter.”

Hernandez, who signed at 16 out of Venezuela, has been a starter for all but five blow-away outings at Portland last season. Says Sale: “I know a lot of people talk about him being in the bullpen, but a big body, that’s a big guy, I’d like to see what he can do as a starter and see how that goes. Obviously that’s (option) 1A.”

Pedroia close

It’s the real story of this spring, isn’t it? Does Dustin Pedroia have anything left after all these injuries? Well, we may start finding out soon as the little leader returns to the field in the coming days — after a Monday workout.

“Let’s see how he reacts to that one,” Cora said. “If everything goes well, most likely during the weekend.

“We have to (mark) all the check points. Workload and moving around. Spring training gives you a lot of information. So we’re tracking that and comparing with other players. And there’s a lot of factors that go in. We feel like hopefully if everything goes well on Monday, we’ll set a date towards the end of the week.”

Just a thought, but Gorkys Hernandez, fighting the odds, has been VERY impressive for the Red Sox. He hit 15 homers for the Giants last year and gives the Sox great depth at Pawtucket.


Remember the good old days, when the Celtics fans taunted Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo was a star then. Now he’s not. He’s looking for work, and The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn thinks the Celtics should sign him.

Could he help? The way things have gone lately — five losses in six games heading into Oakland for tonight’s meeting with the Warriors, the start of a four-game western trip — it could inject some life into a stagnant situation.

Pau Gasol went to the Bucks. Andrew Bogut is said to be heading back to Golden State. Bodies are being added. Washburn wrote “(The Celtics) need a boost off the bench. Gordon Hayward scored 6 points Sunday, and is averaging 6.3 points per game since the All-Star Break. So either (Brad) Stevens maintains loyalty to his former Butler pupil and allows him to get untracked or uses his minutes for a more productive player.”

Hayward, still trying to make his way back from that horrible leg injury, is struggling with any kind of consistency. But here’s another problem with this team — Jayson Tatum’s progress has stalled, at least for the time being.

Tatum “celebrated” his 21st birthday Sunday by going 5-for-15 from the floor in the loss to the Rockets. He is 9-for-28 in the last two games, 1-for-9 in the last two. During the 1-5 stretch, he is averaging 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, but is just 4-for-17 from 3-point range over that span. Stevens needs more out of him. Could the arrival of Anthony help with that? Could he help push Marcus Morris, who has struggled mightily from the outside (27.5 percent from three over the last 10).

Stevens is thinking hard about his rotation, and Jaylen Brown returning to the starting lineup is one real possibility. Morris could then be effective coming off the bench.

Could Anthony do the same thing?

Get it together

Teamwork? The players are sniping at themselves. Kyrie Irving continues his puzzling off-court comments. Heck, the other night, Semi Ojeleye screamed at his mates in the huddle, urging them to be … well, urgent.

Semi Ojeleye.

After shouting “Wake the bleep up,” Ojeleye later said, “I don’t normally do that, but I felt like we were kind of splitting apart. And I think we have to try to change it. I mean, the season’s wasting away. In the NBA, teams are only together for so long. So it’s time to change it.”

Sunday, James Harden registered the fifth 40-point game — two of them by Harden — by a guard against the Celtics this season. Once again, the guards got beat and there was nothing behind them. Aron Baynes was back, but looked all kinds of rusty.

The latest poor defensive performance spurred radio voice Sean Grande to tweet, “Before Zach Lavine and Lauri Markkanen did it last weekend, the Celtics had gone nearly 14 years...5,072 days and 1,117 games since allowing teammates to go for 40 and 30 in the same game. James Harden and Eric Gordon did it Sunday. 8 days and 4 games later.”

According to the Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach: “A fan just yelled ‘go to New York, Kyrie.’”

Helping both teams

The Wild lost to the Predators in a shootout Sunday, Minnesota’s first loss in six games since sending Charlie Coyle to Boston for Ryan Donato.

By the way, the Bruins, who host the surging Hurricanes Tuesday night as the homestand continues, haven’t lost since the trade, either.

In six games with his new team, Donato has two goals and five assists and is a plus-5. Coyle has yet to register a point, is a minus-1 and has gone 27-17 on faceoffs.

One-time Bruin Jarome Iginla had his No.12 retired by the Flames Saturday night, Patrice Bergeron saying, “Always been impressed with him as a player, the way he competes, carried himself on & off the ice as a role model for every kid that wants to play hockey. Once I got a chance to play with him, it was a pleasure. He’s a true gentleman.”

This is getting old, but Tuukka Rask still hasn’t lost a game in regulation since two days before Christmas.

“He’s really in the zone right now, and it looks like one of his easier shutouts, but I think these games are sometimes hard to play,” Bruce Cassidy said after Saturday night’s 1-0 win over the Devils. “When you don’t see a lot of action you have to stay focused. He’s no different coming off a big win against Tampa, so I give him a lot of credit, especially early on to make sure the guys know you’re ready to go.”

Finally, now that both the Red Sox and Yankees officially passed on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Yankees GM Brian Cashman says, “We’re up and running with what we’ve got. We’re excited about what we’ve got. We’re hoping that’s enough, but always looking to improve over the course of time if it fits within certain parameters.”

Same with the defending champs.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.