FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Wide receiver Josh Gordon addressed reporters Sunday for the first time since he was traded to the New England Patriots two weeks ago, vowing to make the most of his fresh start after having been with the Cleveland Browns since 2012.
“I have no doubt I can take advantage of this opportunity,” he said after the Patriots’ 38-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, in which he made his debut with the team and finished with two catches for 32 yards.
“I’m more than blessed and extremely grateful to be put in this scenario and the only thing right for me to do is take full advantage of it. I’m loving it, the guys here are great. It’s a real home environment and I feel as comfortable as ever here.”
Gordon’s locker is directly next to Tom Brady‘s, and Gordon relayed that having the quarterback’s backing has meant a lot to him.
“He’s been rooting for me and it’s been awesome to have his support and his love, as well as the rest of the teammates and staff here,” said Gordon, whose struggles with substance abuse are well documented . “Tom’s a passionate guy and I love that, and I love the game of football. I think we’re going to mesh just fine.”
Gordon has been limited in practice with a hamstring injury, and he was charted on the field for just 18 offensive snaps on Sunday (including penalties). He was part of the starting lineup as part of a one-receiver package, and caught a 13-yard slant from Brady on third-and-6 to extend an opening drive that culminated in a field goal.
In the second quarter, Gordon drew an illegal contact penalty on cornerback Xavien Howard on third-and-7, which extended that drive and ultimately led to a touchdown.
He also was credited by running back James White for holding his block on White’s 22-yard touchdown run, and later added a 19-yard catch on third-and-3 in the third quarter. Gordon dropped one pass, but the play was nullified by an offsides penalty.
“He kind of got us going in certain areas,” Brady said. “It was great to have him out there.”
Gordon, who fielded just three questions after the game in a news conference kept short by the club, called it an “awesome experience.”
His emergence came on the same day that tight end Rob Gronkowski was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Gronkowski retreated to the locker room, and didn’t hold his regular post-game news conference, as there was no official update from the team on his status.
Gordon’s contributions were a notable topic among players in the locker room after Sunday’s victory.
“He’s a good football player with a lot of great skills and he’s working really hard at trying to do his job,” receiver Chris Hogan said. “He’s holding himself accountable to learn this offense as quick as he can.”
Added safety Devin McCourty: “As far as being surprising, I saw him in another jersey and he was tough to play against, so he’s one of those guys that when you get him, you’re happy he’s on your team.”
Anyone who has watched the Milwaukee Brewers this season can tell you that manager Craig Counsell is not shy to use his bullpen.
But, with twice as many arms available in the month of September with expanded rosters, Counsell pulled the plug on starters earlier than ever. In 26 games, during which the Brewers went 19-7, a starter went as many as six innings just twice – Wade Miley on Sept. 4 against the Cubs and Gio Gonzalez on Sept. 19 vs. Cincinnati.
Starters went less than five innings – and therefore did not qualify for a victory – 12 times, including eight times in the last 11 games. And that’s counting the 3 2/3 innings that Freddy Peralta pitched in St. Louis on the 24th, not the one batter faced by reliever Dan Jennings to open that game.
In the 11-0 romp Sunday over Detroit that guaranteed a game No. 163 against Chicago on Monday for the NL Central crown, Gonzalez went five shutout innings, departing with a 3-0 lead. After his departure, the Brewers broke open the game, avoiding using high-leverage relievers who have worked hard of late.
“That’s a huge factor in this,” Counsell said of the 14 relievers he has had available on most nights in September. “If you have a whole another pitching staff … we’ve had guys down there who have started a lot of games for us down there.
“Do you want one more inning (out of a starter) or an at-bat by a position player? That’s not really a hard decision, when you start looking at it like that. Our depth is what has been valuable. We feel it has helped us and allowed us to do that. It doesn’t happen every night, but there have been nights when it gets you runs.”
Even accounting for the extra bodies over the final month, the Brewers have made liberal use of their bullpen this season. The 610 2/3 relief innings rank second in the National League, behind only last-place San Diego (631 entering Sunday). Despite that heavy usage, Milwaukee’s relief corps ranked second in the league with a 3.52 ERA, behind only the Cubs (3.33).
Josh Hader, often used for multiple innings, ranked second in the NL with 79 1/3 innings, just behind leader Robert Gsellman (80) of the Mets. Jeremy Jeffress ranked eighth with 76 2/3 innings.
Though Counsell had more options in the pen in September, the same group of pitchers is deployed in high-leverage situations, and had been ridden hard over the past week as the Brewers pushed toward the playoffs. Corey Knebel had pitched in five of the last six games, a span that included a team off day on Thursday; Jeffress had pitched in three in a row and three of four; Joakim Soria four of the last five; Hader three of the last five; and Corbin Burnes four of seven days.
There was little wonder that Counsell, general manager David Stearns and their staff were trying to figure out a pitching plan for a period that could include game No. 163 as well as the wild-card game on Tuesday, if the Brewers lose to the Cubs.
“Pulling pitchers is always too early if the reliever gives up runs and too late if the starter gives up runs,” said Counsell, stating a can’t-win fact of life for managers. “It’s always judged by results. That’s the fun of baseball, the second guessing. That’s why we love the sport.
“You have to think about (future games). You do have to strategize with that in mind. There are a lot of scenarios that have to be considered. You have to be in position to be at your strongest in the most important games. Ahead of time, you have to make decisions. Not every decision is easy. But there are some that are pretty clear-cut, in our eyes.”
Keeping stiff upper lip: While it was a great week for the Brewers, it was a tough week personally for right-hander Chase Anderson, who was removed from the starting rotation at the outset of the playoff-clinching series in St. Louis. There has been no indication of more action for Anderson, the team’s opening day starter.
“That’s out of my control,” Anderson said. “When my name is called, I’ll go out there and try to do the best I can. I don’t make those decisions. My job is to pitch when they call my name. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Anderson has tried to stay ready to pitch by throwing bullpen sessions but he has no idea if he’d be on a postseason roster, either for the wild-card game or NLDS. It has been a tough pill to swallow but he is trying to adopt an all-for-one attitude in supporting his teammates.
“I was a little frustrated at the beginning but this isn’t about me,” Anderson said. “It’s about the team. I’m trying to do the best I can to put myself aside and try to contribute, make an impact any way I can.
“When you’re part of something, I’ve been here since 2016, kind of part of this whole (rebuilding) process, you want to continue to be out there and pitch. I’m a competitor; I’ve always been a competitor. I’ve competed since I was 5 years old. I love this game.”
Anderson, who had trouble all season getting comfortable with his pitching mechanics, has moved his hands back to where he had them last season in his set-up.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the mound and seeing how that works in a game,” he said. “I know what I did last year was not a fluke at all. I know what I’ve done wrong this year and it has been hard to correct it, outing to outing.”
SAN FRANCISCO – Hunter Pence got to give a speech and ride off on a scooter. For other Giants, the end might have come without anyone knowing it, but two key veterans hope that’s not the case.
Derek Holland reiterated before the game that he wants to return to San Francisco next season. Afterward, Nick Hundley said the same.
“This is an amazing place, a one-of-a-kind organization,” Hundley said. “Obviously we didn’t win a whole lot of games this month, but we were right in the thick of it up until the end of August. If we’re healthy, this team is capable of winning a World Series. If I’m able to add to that, I would definitely take the opportunity.”
The Giants do need to shake things up, but these are two decisions that could be easy. Hundley had a one-year, $2.5 million deal and something similar should be in the works. The staff is excited about Aramis Garcia and believes he could handle backup duty, but with Buster Posey rehabbing from major surgery, the preference is to have a veteran in-house, too. Holland made $2 million and gave the Giants a 3.57 ERA in 171 1/3 innings. He’s due a raise, and could be in line for a multi-year deal, but a reunion makes sense.
— The Giants finished 73-89 a year after losing 98 games. They’ll pick 10th in the draft. That’s a slot where they previously picked up Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum. This wasn’t how they wanted to end it, though. This was embarrassing. They gave up 14 runs in the first five innings.
“No question, that’s the last way we wanted this thing to go out,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
— Hunter Strickland replaced Andrew Suarez in the third and continued the fireworks, giving up three earned in 1/3 of an inning. Strickland started this season as the closer and did a pretty decent job before punching a door and putting himself on the DL for two months. He finished it with diminished velocity and a 3.97 ERA. Strickland made $1.55 million in arbitration this season and is due a small raise for next year. Will the Giants want to pay a couple million for a right-hander who was stuck in mop-up duty down the stretch?
Earlier in the day, Brian Sabean spoke with reporters and did not seem to indicate that the Giants plan to non-tender anyone notable, but the new VP/GM will get to make that decision. This will be an interesting one.
“He never really got in sync when he came back,” Bochy said. “I mean, we’re talking about our closer and he just wasn’t quite right. It just looks like he needs a winter off to get completely healed up.”