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Mastrodonato: What Red Sox have learned, what they haven’t learned with two weeks left in regular season

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Mastrodonato: What Red Sox have learned, what they haven’t learned with two weeks left in regular season

It sure looks like the Red Sox have something in Garrett Richards as a reliever.

Richards closed out the ninth inning of the Sox’ 8-6 win on Sunday in emphatic fashion, needing just eight pitches to wrap up the win and complete the sweep.

It was a relatively easy series against the Orioles, who have just 47 wins and need a few more over the final two weeks to avoid going down as one of the 25 worst teams in MLB history.

There weren’t a lot of moments where the Red Sox were tested this weekend, but there were a few.

Here’s what the Red Sox have learned over the last week, and a few things they still need to find out:

Learned: Richards looks like a closer.

Facing Ryan Mountcastle, the first-ever 30-homer rookie for the Orioles, Richards threw a fastball just off the plate, then came back with three straight sliders dotted on the lower-outside corner for a strikeout. It was unquestionably one of the most impressive at-bats of Richards’ season.

He got the next two outs on four pitches. The radar gun flashed 98 mph, 3 mph faster than his usual max velocity.

The Red Sox aren’t exactly flush with late-inning options right now, and Richards looks like the best choice on most nights. He has an 0.87 ERA with 25 strikeouts and eight walks in 20 2/3 innings since joining the Sox’ bullpen. He’s yet to allow a home run.

Matt Barnes admittedly struggled in his first outing back from his bout with COVID-19 and still has a ways to go before he wins back the trust of manager Alex Cora.

Adam Ottavino hasn’t pitched in four days, and Cora offered no reason why after Sunday’s game, saying only that Ottavino “is OK.”

Hirokazu Sawamura hasn’t looked great since his return from the COVID-19 related injury list.

Garrett Whitlock left Sunday’s game with right pectoral tightness after Rafael Devers noticed the pitcher’s injury from third base. He’s considered day-to-day.

This looks like Richards’ job to lose, though Cora said he’s taking it day by day.

“We feel that way,” Cora said. “We’ve got stuff back there. That’s the way to go. People talk about the ninth inning, but today the sixth and seventh were big, too. So, we’ll mix and match and keep doing it that way.”

Have yet to learn: How will Kyle Schwarber get into the lineup? 

“It’s just Bobby (Dalbec),” Cora said Sunday, when asked why Schwarber was on the bench twice in three days. “Let’s put it that way. Bobby has to play against every lefty, and you have to pick and choose with Alex Verdugo and Kyle, that’s the bottom line and Kyle will be fine. He’ll play both games against the Mets (Tuesday and Wednesday). They’re going with two righties and Alex will play those games against righties, we’ll find a way to do that but this is more about Bobby Dalbec than anything else.”

With Dalbec swinging the bat the way he has, it has to be hard to keep him out of the lineup against right-handers, as Cora has done. Either way, Cora will have an elite pinch-hitting option late in games.

Learned: The top of the rotation

Nathan Eovaldi bled out a few runs in the third inning Sunday, but still struck out eight and continues to rank as the most valuable starting pitcher in the American League based on WAR. He’s fanned 188 over 173 2/3 innings with a 3.53 ERA and he’s yet to miss a start.

Chris Sale is still trying to find consistency and his velocity is a concern, but between Sale and Eovaldi, the Sox are 12-2 in their last 14 starts and the two have a 2.32 ERA.

Not learned: Who starts the Wild Card Game?

Eovaldi has been the ace all year, but Sale is the de facto leader of this team. Eovaldi has experience coming out of the bullpen in big games. So too does Sale. It’ll probably depend on the matchup, but it’s not a bad problem to have.

Learned: The best defensive alignment

Verdugo in left, Kiké Hernandez in center and Hunter Renfroe in right field seems to be the way to go, though Schwarber will play left against lefties.

Not learned: Who is the second baseman? 

José Iglesias has been an underrated pickup and somewhat of a gift for the Red Sox, who signed him on Sept. 6 after the Angels released him to let him catch on with a playoff-caliber team. He has a premier glove and has brought reliability to a position that has been anything but reliable this year.

Unfortunately, he’s not allowed to be on the playoff roster because he wasn’t in the organization before Sept. 1. Christian Arroyo is due to come back from his bout with COVID-19 this week. It’s likely Arroyo’s job to lose, but Cora could ride Iglesias’ hot bat to secure the Sox make the postseason before handing the job to Arroyo.

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Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to raise awareness and funds for research

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Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to raise awareness and funds for research

ST. LOUIS – The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s is back this year. The goal is not just to raise awareness about the disease but to also to raise funds for research.

The walk is happening at the Enterprise Center beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

So far, the Alzheimer’s Association has raised more than $800,000, not too far away from reaching its goal of $1.3 million.

This progressive disease affects millions of Americans. In fact, the CDC says in 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease.

The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. That number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.

During the walk you’ll see people carrying flowers of different colors, each color representing the person’s connection to the disease.

A purple flower is for those who have lost a someone to the disease. A yellow flower represents someone who is currently supporting or caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s.

Registration for the walk is at 7:30 a.m. There will be a ceremony at 9:15 and the walk begins at 9:30 a.m.

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

ST. LOUIS – Art historians are calling it the holy grail of a find, a rare work of art found in a St. Louis front yard. What looked like a lawn ornament is now headed to a museum in New York.   

It’s a sculpture of two sisters that sat in the front yard of a St. Louis home that’s been on quite a journey. First rediscovered in 2019 by a gentleman named John Foster, an art historian.     

For years the sculpture entitled “Martha and Mary” sat on a bench in the city of St. Louis before an art historian saw it while out on a stroll. 

“That didn’t look like the commonly seen concrete lawn ornament that we are used to seeing,” said Valerie Rousseau, senior curator American Folk Art Museum & Exhibition chair. 

Sally Bliss had inherited this Martha and Mary sculpture, and it sat outside her home in New York when she was a ballet dancer. Years later after her first husband died, she moved to St. Louis when she met her second husband, Jim Connette. 

“I had it and put it out in my garden in Long Island, which was our main house, and brought it with me and put it on the bench,” Bliss said.

“I knew it was valuable. But I knew that nobody would steal it because it looked like it was part of the bench and would be really difficult to pick up that bench and steal the whole thing.” 

This lawn sculpture was originally made by artist William Edmondson, the famed black sculptor from Nashville, Tennessee.

The ‘two sisters’ sculpture had been featured at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937 in New York and later Paris, France. 

Today, William Edmondson is considered a preeminent black sculptor, although he didn’t start sculpting until 1934 when he was 60 years old, and only made 300 sculptures over the course of 15 years. 

Using limestone from demolished buildings.  

“Like most museums, we have to have supporters to acquire such artwork,” Rousseau said. “Prices for Edmundson sculptures can be $350,000 to $800,000.”   

And after some conversations and a cleaning, Martha and Mary are headed back to New York. This time, the sculpture will be the centerpiece of the American Museum of Folk Art. Debuting this January on the celebration of the museum’s 60th year. 

Thanks to the generosity of a man named Brian Donnelly, this sculpture and its wild ride of a story will reside in the Big Apple.  

“I was sad,” Bliss said. “But I knew that this was the right place for it to go and especially to New York and so many people will see it and he will get his due and to me, that’s more important than me having to be sad because I’m losing that work of art.” 

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Working Strategies: Quitting your job Part 2 — Consider your personal finances

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Working Strategies: Quitting your job Part 1: What to do at work

Do you know what the problem is for people who quit jobs? It’s the timing. People tend to wait too long, then quit all of a sudden, leaving themselves with a pile of unfinished business.

Amy Lindgren

Sometimes that business is emotional, with workers’ feelings of being unappreciated accumulating to a toxic level by the time they exit. There’s usually some unfinished business in the job itself, and in the worker’s career as well, not to mention the feeling of being unprepared personally or financially.

Which brings us back to timing: What’s with that pattern of staying too long and suddenly exiting? For one thing, it’s usually a difficult decision. Most people will delay the real or perceived conflict of quitting for as long as they can, opting to adapt to difficult situations instead.

Others may not recognize that their sense of discontent in life may be rooted in a job that no longer challenges them. If the job itself is reasonable, it’s easy to disregard the nibbling sense that something doesn’t quite fit.

And others may just prefer the known downsides of the current job over the potential (but unknown) upsides of a new position.

Regardless of the reasons for a delay, the truth is, most people eventually do leave their jobs and you probably will too. If you’re near the end of your career, the leave-taking might be through retirement or illness, but otherwise you’re likely to quit for reasons that range from new employment to business startup to just needing time off.

Once you acknowledge that fact, you can take more control of the timing. Instead of disregarding the mounting discontent until you can’t take any more, you can plan steps and processes to follow. Whether these unfold over the course of weeks or years is up to you – which is exactly the point.

To help you organize those steps, last week’s column provided five things to do in your current job before quitting. Today we’ll look at five things to do in your personal finances, and next week’s column will finish the series with a look at five things to do in your career before stepping out the door.

Organize (or pay down) your debt. It’s a rare person who doesn’t have debt, whether that’s a mortgage, car loan, student loan, credit cards, or a combination of all of these. The reason to review these accounts while you’re working is three-fold: One, what you discover may influence your timing; two, if you want to make a major purchase, that will be easier while you’re still working; and three, strategies such as refinancing your mortgage to achieve lower payments will be more difficult after you quit.

This step holds true even if you’re quitting to start a new job, because longevity in your position is often considered in lending decisions. And it’s a hundred times more true if you’re quitting to start a business — one of the most difficult positions from which to re-organize one’s debt.

Retirement accounts. Decisions to roll over a 401(k), to set up a new retirement account, or to convert an IRA to a Roth are all things best considered before quitting, while you have the most options available.

Health insurance. You don’t need to be reminded, but just in case: Be sure you know what health insurance options will be available after you leave your job. If any steps can be handled now, you’ll appreciate not having that burden later, when the timing could be more critical.

Take your sick days. Speaking of health … have you used your sick time? Those days have been set aside for you to use in taking care of your health, so now’s the time to schedule your preventative care. This is especially smart if your sick days are “use it or lose it” in terms of payout.

Figure out your cash flow. If you’re taking another job, this step may be built-in, since you’ve already negotiated your next salary. But if you’re leaving without another source of income, you’ll enjoy the getaway more if there’s gas in the car. Don’t just assume that your savings will cover you. Make a decision about how much of your savings you’re willing to spend before you need a new income source.

If all of these personal finance steps are starting to kill your enthusiasm for quitting, don’t worry. You’ll get your motivation back next week when you review the steps to take in your career to ensure a good transition.

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