MLB: Boston Red Sox at Minnesota Twins

Eduardo Rodriguez, shown last month, gets the start for the Red Sox Friday at Fenway Park against the Los Angeles Dodgers as the second part of the baseball season begins.


There really is no better way for the Red Sox to open the unofficial second half than with a three-game visit from the Dodgers.

And thanks to the All-Star Game, the home team comes in with a huge advantage as it tries to build on being a season-high eight games over .500.

The Dodgers have a Big Four of a rotation, with Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Rich Hill forming a marvelous top four. But the first three names mentioned above were all All-Stars and Hill is once again on the Injured List.

So, while the Red Sox were able to get things lined up perfectly for the resumption of play — Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale and David Price ready to throw — only Ryu will pitch for the Dodgers. He’ll go Sunday night, while Kershaw and Buehler, a combined 15-3 so far this season, will sit it out.

Not a big deal for Dave Roberts’ team, which comes in 13½ games ahead in the NL West. And they ARE getting Corey Seager back this weekend.

But let’s face it, these games mean a whole lot more to the Red Sox than to the Dodgers, who will throw Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling in the first two games.

Through the break, the Sox were nine games (10 in the loss column) behind the Yankees in the AL East. But they were also just two games away from the second wild card, 2½ behind the Rays for the top WC spot.

Over the break, word broke the Red Sox and Yankees were both in talks with the Mets on righty Zack Wheeler. Remember, the July 31 trade deadline is the only one now — no trades allowed after that date — so the next two weeks should be full of action OFF the field as well.

Big Papi update

All had been quiet on the David Ortiz recovery front until yesterday, when his wife announced Big Papi had undergone a third surgery.

“Earlier this week, David underwent a third surgery for complications resulting from his gunshot wound,” Tiffany Ortiz said in a statement delivered through the Red Sox. “The operation was performed by Dr. David King at Massachusetts General Hospital. David is recovering well and is in good spirits.

“We continue to be incredibly appreciative of the kindness and compassion shown to David and to our entire family during this difficult time.”

“If These Walls Could Talk, Stories from the Boston Red Sox Locker Room and Press Box,” by Jerry Remy and my pal Nick Cafardo is officially out — and you should buy it! The initial sales are great and should be — with a portion of the proceeds going to ALS research in honor of Cafardo, who passed away during spring training at 61.

Speaking of Cafardo, expect him to become a Hall of Famer in 2020. Bob Nightengale of USAToday reported Nick is one of three names that will surface on the writers’ ballot — along with Jim Reeves (Dallas/Fort Worth) and Pat Reusse (Minneapolis). Both Reeves and Reusse are worthy, but Nick will be a slam dunk.

All-Star leftovers

Have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled with Alex Cora leaving Indians closer Brad Hand on the mound for 32 pitches in the game. But Ian Browne of was one who pointed out Hand’s manager, Terry Francona, was right next to Cora in the dugout and clearly would have screamed if his guy was left out there too long.

Turns out Tito wanted Hand to get the work, so shame on me.

Kudos for Cora to be behind the classy move that saw the retiring CC Sabathia come out to the mound to TALK to Aroldis Chapman with two out in the ninth inning, thus allowing Sabathia to get a huge ovation from his old hometown crowd. Nice touch.

Strange that Masahiro Tanaka, the final injury addition, wound up getting the win. Wonder if David Price would have gotten the nod if he hadn’t pitched Sunday. He’s having a better year than Tanaka.

Justin Verlander got himself in hot water for saying the balls are juiced, leading to all these home runs. The powers that be didn’t like it and Verlander was summoned to talk to Joe Torre and Jim Leyland about it — kind of like getting called into the principal’s office.

Commissioner Rob Manfred maintains nothing has been done to the baseball, but Joe Maddon says “You could just have stamped Titleist on the side of these things.”

Jumping the gun

The new fan favorite for Celtics fans is 7-foot-6-inch (or 7-7, depending on who’s talking) Tacko Fall, the giant out of the University of Central Florida. He’s in Vegas with the Celtics on a tryout basis and when Guerschon Yabusele was waived, it looked like a spot was opening up for Fall (think of him guarding the inbounds pass late in the game).

Not so fast.

Amid talk the team has more moves coming, Fall remains in a tryout and will report to camp that way.

One name floating out there to give the Celtics depth at the 4-spot is old pal Jonas Jerebko, who last played for the Warriors.

From The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach: “Per source, the Celtics might even ultimately add 2 more players and enter training camp with 16 guaranteed contracts, as they’ve done in the past. It’s pretty clear that with so many young guys and unknown quantities, they want to get a look at as many players as possible.”

ESPY chatter

I used to view the ESPN/ABC show as contrived nonsense, which, if I recall, wasn’t even live several years ago. Times have changed.

Looking for anything to watch with the sports world quiet the day after the All-Star Game, I watched — and glad I did.

The tribute to Jim Calhoun was outstanding. But nothing topped Bill Russell capping the show by receiving the Arthur Ashe Award.

Paul Pierce might have been a more worthy presenter to Russell than Kobe Bryant, but the moment was special — and it didn’t go unseen by these eyes that Russell was seated way above the rest of the crowd, standing to acknowledge the award with almost a God-like presence.

The passing of Jim Bouton should not go unnoticed. His book, “Ball Four,” an honest look at the game that got people all kinds of upset, is the greatest baseball book ever written.

My friend Ira Kaufman wrote an outstanding obit on Bouton in The Hollywood Reporter.

“I didn’t know the value of (the book),” Bouton told The New York Times in 2017. “I was just really sharing the nonsense. Every once in a while, I would transfer the notes to audio and send in my tapes. I’d call (co-author Leonard) Shecter and say, ‘Is this interesting?’ And he’d say: ‘Are you kidding? Keep going!’”

When I was at United Press International in the 1970s, I was contacted to help Bouton with a sequel. My job was to contact members of the Seattle Pilots, the team at the center of much of the book, for reaction. Some, as you might guess, weren’t thrilled to hear from me.

Before arm trouble, Bouton was 39-20 for the Yankees in 1963 and ’64 (21-7 in ’63), and 2-1 with a 1.48 ERA in three World Series starts in those two seasons.

Finally, RIP to Astro, Price’s dog. The pitcher tweeted, “I knew this day was coming sooner rather than later but it still hurts the same. Astro took his last nap today and we will miss him dearly! Thank you to everyone who always checked in on him and asked me how he was doing!”

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