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David Ortiz to return to lineup on Saturday after visiting ‘the Ortiz laboratory’

05.30.15 at 2:13 am ET
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ARLINGTON, Texas — David Ortiz‘s break is over. Now it’s time to see if this little two-day science experiment yielded any breakthroughs.

After Friday’s 7-4 loss to the Rangers, Red Sox manager John Farrell said “everything points” to Ortiz rejoining the lineup for Saturday night’s game. The slumping slugger has had the last two games off to work on his swing. Did he find a fix?

“We’re about to find out,” he said. “I’ve been in the Ortiz laboratory.”

Ortiz has been mired in a 3-for-31 slump that has dropped his average to .216. Earlier in the week, he said that if he can’t find his old swing, he’ll move on to Plan B, which is to, “come back and rake.”

“A guy like myself, I always have to be on top of my game because every night I see the best coming out of everyone,” he said on Thursday. “So the minute I walk away from my game, this is exactly what happens. The pitcher be like, ‘Just keep that monster down there sleeping. Don’t wake him up. Bury him.’ So in my case, I’ve got to figure out how to execute better. There’s always a Plan B. There is always a Plan B that you’ve got to put in play. Once the Plan B stops working, that means you don’t have it anymore, so that’s another step you’€™ve got to take. I’€™m just going to put in play the Plan B.”

Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton would’ve loved to wear a Red Sox uniform

05.30.15 at 12:34 am ET
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Josh Hamilton and the Rangers took care of the Red Sox on Friday. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Josh Hamilton and the Rangers took care of the Red Sox on Friday. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

ARLINGTON, Texas — Josh Hamilton reaffirmed on Friday night that he is a destroyer of Red Sox. Two winters ago, he considered joining them.

The Rangers slugger shared one meeting with general manager Ben Cherington at the 2012 winter meetings, and though the sides never exchanged proposals, he was more than intrigued.

It turns out he loves Fenway Park.

“It was just good to sit down and talk with them,” he said after slamming his first two homers of the season in a 7-4 victory. “You think about places you’d like to go and play, and you get an opportunity to meet with people, when you want to go somewhere like that, just to think about the history that’s been there, that’s what’s always intrigued me, since the first time I walked out of the clubhouse on the wooden pallets underneath the tunnel and I went to the field. That was the only place I ever got nervous, my first season, playing with the Rangers.”

Hamilton’s first at-bat in Fenway was against Daisuke Matsuzaka, in 2008.

“The first pitch, I fouled it down the right field line,” Hamilton said. “I ended up striking out, but I remember I stood in the box and I was just shaking. So I won’t ever forget that.”

Hamilton never drew serious interest from the Red Sox, who were looking to sign veterans to short-term deals. A three-year deal for Hamilton, an MVP coming off his fifth straight All-Star berth, might’ve started at $90 million.
He instead signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels, which ended disastrously when he suffered a drug relapse before being traded this spring.

But back when he met with the Red Sox, he was on top of his game.

“It was just cool to meet them and talk with the guys,” he said. “It’s been such a prestigious organization throughout the years, a lot of good players come through there. They’ve won some championships of recent. It was basically an honor for me to sit in there and talk with them and think it could be a possibility. It was good. It didn’t work out, but it was good to talk to them.”

The Red Sox might’ve signed him just to keep him away from their pitching. With his two homers on Friday, Hamilton has now driven in 53 runs in 56 starts against them lifetime, with a .314 average and an OPS of over .950.

He’s had a number of impressive games against the Red Sox, including a towering home run in 2012 off Mark Melancon.

“That is the longest ball I’ve ever seen hit at Fenway,” said Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan, who was with the Red Sox at the time. “Some guys asked me recently the longest home run I’ve ever seen hit, and I told them it was that one.”

Hamilton’s homers didn’t travel that far on Friday, but they still did damage.

“I don’t know why, but I’ve always played pretty well against them,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know if it’s because I like playing at Fenway, because I do. It’s one of my favorite places to play. I’ll think about it.”

Closing Time: Josh Hamilton (2 HRs), Rangers too much for Red Sox

05.29.15 at 11:06 pm ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

ARLINGTON, Texas –€“ Josh Hamilton picked a bad time to reprise his role as unstoppable killing machine.

Only two months after narrowly escaping a season-long suspension following a drug relapse with the Angels, Hamilton was up to his old tricks with the Rangers on Friday night, smashing a pair of home runs off knuckleballer Steven Wright that proved the difference in Boston’s 7-4 loss.

Hamilton used to destroy the Red Sox with regularity ‘€“ his 2012 home run in Fenway off of Mark Melancon still hasn’t come down ‘€“ but he only made his 2015 debut in Thursday’s series opener.

Two games are apparently all he needed to find the range, and his blasts were too much for the inconsistent Red Sox offense to overcome.

Fresh off a galvanizing 5-1 victory on Thursday in Eduardo Rodriguez’s debut, the Red Sox squandered any chance to build momentum by stranding five runners and hitting into a pair of Rusney Castillo double plays.

That made a loser of Wright, who is fighting to maintain his spot in the rotation with the Red Sox carrying an extra starter through the next turn. He didn’t pitch horribly, limiting the Rangers to three hits in 5 2/3 innings, but two of them left the park, and that was enough.

Wright gave the Red Sox enough to win, but they were stymied by Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo, whom they stroked 10 hits against during a 4-3 win in Boston on May 19.

This time, Gallardo limited them to four hits and just one earned run in six innings, striking out five.

The killer inning was the fourth, when a single, walk, and error loaded the bases with no outs. Xander Bogaerts put a charge into one, but it went as a long sacrifice fly to deep right. Catcher Blake Swihart followed with a game-tying single to left that put runners on the corners, but Castillo grounded sharply into the first of his two double plays.

Hamilton then homered with two outs in the bottom of the frame, and that was the ballgame.

The Red Sox tried to mount a rally in the eighth, with Hanley Ramirez‘s two-run homer drawing them within a run, but the bullpen gave the two runs right back in the bottom of the frame.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Josh Hamilton entered the game a lifetime .309 hitter against the Red Sox with a eight homers and a .908 OPS, and he improved on all of those numbers with his two homers. He has now driven in 53 runs against the Red Sox in 56 career starts. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

— Catcher Blake Swihart continues to come along offensively. His opposite-field single tied the game in the fourth.

— Center fielder Mookie Betts stole his seventh base in eight tries in the eighth, and was also robbed of a hit by a leaping Leonys Martin against the center field fence.

— Shortstop Xander Bogaerts allowed everyone to breathe a sigh of relief by returning to the lineup one night after getting hit in the wrist.

— Left fielder Hanley Ramirez smashed his second home run in as many nights, a two-run opposite field blast in the eighth.

— At Triple A Pawtucket, left-hander Brian Johnson tossed six perfect innings in a 1-0 win against Louisville before being lifted for pitch count reasons at just 74 pitches. Like Rodriguez, Johnson could end up giving the rotation a boost before the season is through.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— Rusney Castillo grounded into a pair of inning-ending double plays to kill rallies.

— Asked to keep the deficit at 3-2, reliever Alexi Ogando allowed three hits and two runs. His night could’ve been even worse, but he picked Mitch Moreland off second after a leadoff double, a call that was only made after consulting the replay.

— Relievers Craig Breslow and Matt Barnes combined to allow four hits and two runs in the eighth after the Red Sox had pulled within a run.

— First baseman Mike Napoli and manager John Farrell were ejected after arguing balls and strikes with home plate ump Todd Tichenor, who also ejected Jason Varitek and Terry Francona in the same game in Minnesota in 2009.

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to remain in rotation for at least another turn

05.29.15 at 7:27 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez

Eduardo Rodriguez

ARLINGTON, Texas — Eduardo Rodriguez isn’t going anywhere.

One day after the rookie made a sensational big league debut with 7 2/3 shutout innings in a 5-1 victory over the Rangers, manager John Farrell announced that he’ll start against the Twins on Wednesday at Fenway Park as part of a six-man rotation.

The Sox will stick with the extra starter for just one turn, Farrell said, before deciding who gets bumped, but for one more start, anyway, Rodriguez is penciled in.

“He was very good,” Farrell said. “I think when the initial reasons, factors we brought in ‘€“ get his first start out of the way ‘€“ the poise he demonstrated and what we’ve come to know of him, a guy that in Eddie’s case is very self confident but in a respectful way. He carries himself like that, he pitched like that last night. He pitched very much at ease last night and was very impressive.”

The Red Sox initially turned to Rodriguez simply to build in an extra off day for the rest of the rotation during a busy 20-game stretch, but they also knew there was a chance he’d force their hand, which he did.

“We’re not thinking that we would go to a six-man rotation,” Farrell said. “I’m not a fan of it, but I know there are merits to it for short periods. Our goal is to get back to a five-man rotation and a full complement on the bench.”

Rodriguez gives the Red Sox rotation something it has lacked ‘€“ a power arm with command of secondary pitches. Right-hander Joe Kelly throws upwards of 100 mph, but his fastball is hittable. Rodriguez, conversely, produced defensive swings with his fastball and also showed a surprisingly effective slider that rendered his strong changeup his third pitch, at least for a night.

“What we saw early on was a slider that was maybe better than advertised,” Farrell said. “But then when he got deep in the game the changeup became a key pitch.”

With Clay Buchholz, Wade Miley, and Rick Porcello secure, the final two spots in the rotation are up for grabs between Rodriguez, Kelly, and knuckleballer Steven Wright, who was scheduled to start in Texas on Friday night.

Red Sox lineup: David Ortiz starts on bench again

05.29.15 at 4:57 pm ET
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For a second straight game, David Ortiz will start the game on the bench, with Hanley Ramirez serving as the Red Sox‘ starting designated hitter against Texas righty Yovani Gallardo Saturday night in Arlington, Texas.

Red Sox manager John Farrell had noted that the plan was to give Ortiz a couple of days off to work on his swing, with an expectation that he would be back in the starting lineup Sunday.

Also starting once again is Rusney Castillo, who mans right field and hits ninth.

Here is the rest of the Red Sox’ lineup with Steven Wright on the mound for the visitors:

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Mookie Betts CF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Brock Holt LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Blake Swihart C
Rusney Castillo RF

For all the matchups, click here.

Benched to figure out swing, David Ortiz has a plan: ‘Come back and rake’

05.29.15 at 10:22 am ET
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David Ortiz has been here before.

In May of 2009, the Red Sox arrived in Seattle for a three-game series with Ortiz in tow, but he didn’t appear in a game. Instead, manager Terry Francona gave his struggling slugger the entire series off to work on his swing and try to fix what had been the worst start of his career.

Ortiz had just gone 0-for-7 in a 12-inning loss to the Angels to drop his average to .208. Even with the time off, it would get worse before it got better. Ortiz ended May hitting .185 before catching fire in June. He blasted 27 homers over the final four months to salvage an otherwise lost season.

Six years later, Ortiz is similarly struggling and manager John Farrell has delved into the playbook of Terry Francona by giving him time off during the team’s current series with the Rangers to sort out a slump that has Ortiz hitting .216.

“Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” Ortiz said on Thursday night. “For me, it worked once. I’ll try it again now and go from there. I’ve just been thinking too much and overdoing things. Sometimes that works and sometimes that doesn’t. I know this ballclub needs me, and now we have a long season ahead. I’m just going to try to pull the best out of this.”

For Ortiz, that might mean altering the formula that has made him successful.

“A guy like myself, I always have to be on top of my game because every night I see the best coming out of everyone,” he said. “So the minute I walk away from my game, this is exactly what happens. The pitcher be like, ‘Just keep that monster down there sleeping. Don’t wake him up. Bury him.’ So in my case, I’ve got to figure out how to execute better. There’s always a Plan B. There is always a Plan B that you’ve got to put in play. Once the Plan B stops working, that means you don’t have it anymore, so that’s another step you’ve got to take. I’m just going to put in play the Plan B.”

And what might that be?

“Come back and rake,” he said.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Rangers matchups: Steven Wright vs. Yovani Gallardo

05.29.15 at 8:38 am ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

Trying to build on a solid win Thursday night, the Red Sox send knuckleballer Steven Wright out to face Yovani Gallardo in Game 2 of Boston’s series with the Rangers on Friday night.

Wright (2-1, 3.68 ERA) last took the mound Saturday opposite the Angels, recording his first major league win as a starter with 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball. The righty surrendered just four hits and walked one while striking out a pair.

“For me, it’s just another day,” Wright said after the 8-3 victory. “If you try and put too much pressure on yourself you’re just going to disappoint and you’re going to try and over do things, over work. For me, I am going to try and go in there and throw quality knuckleballs in the strike zone. They are going to put it in play, it’s a contact pitch. Today we were fortunate to get balls right at some guys, guys made some good plays. I went as deep as I could.”

The win came during Wright’s second stint as a member of the rotation. While he has been in that role, he has given up four earned runs, five total, on nine hits over 11 1/3 innings. That’s good for an ERA of 3.18 and an opponent slash line of .209/.244/.249.

Wright has faced every team in the AL West except the Rangers, posting a 3-1 record in eight games vs. that division. He has allowed 16 earned runs in 34 2/3 innings against AL West teams for an ERA of 4.15.

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Friday Red Sox Farm Report: International signees starring in low minors; Justin Haley, Ty Buttrey pitch well

05.29.15 at 8:22 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (24-24): Scheduled off day. Next action Friday vs. Louisville (Reds)

— In a reverse of a roster move on May 25, Boston swapped relief pitchers again as Heath Hembree was sent back to Pawtucket while Robbie Ross Jr. was recalled. In 14 games with Boston over two stints, Ross has a 5.14 ERA with a 9 K/6 BB ratio in 14 innings pitched. Ross had just one appearance in his recent stay with Pawtucket, a scoreless inning with two strikeouts and two walks. Hembree pitched just one inning as well during his three days away from the PawSox, a scoreless frame against the Twins in Minnesota on Monday.

Justin Haley

Justin Haley

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS (21-27): L, 2-0, at Binghamton (Mets)

— The tough luck for 6-foot-5 right-handed starter Justin Haley continues. Haley, 23, pitched his fourth straight game in which he allowed just two earned runs. However, he’€™s lost three of those four games to drop his record to 1-6. Haley’€™s line on Thursday: 5 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO. The first five innings were scoreless, before a two-run Binghamton double in the sixth inning ended Haley’€™s day. Over his last four starts (and since coming off the disabled list May 11) Haley’€™s ERA is 3.32. Last year in 17 combined starts between High-A Salem and Portland, Haley combined to go 10-6 with a 2.35 ERA.

— Lefty reliever Robby Scott continued his fine year with two scoreless innings in relief to lower his ERA to 2.75. Scott, 25, has thrown 7 1/3 shutout innings in his last four outings, and has been particularly tough on left handers, with southpaw bats hitting just .143 against him in Double-A. Scott has been up the ladder to Pawtucket three times already this season (3 ER/10 IP), and combined between the two levels has 28 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings of work.

— With an opposite-field double in the first inning, Portland third baseman Jantzen Witte pulled into an Eastern League tie for the most two-baggers, while Witte also recorded his 11th double in the month of May. A 2-for-4 day for Witte brought his average up to .329, good for fourth best in the league. The 25-year-old Texan now has an on-base percentage of .399, seventh best among his league peers. In the field it was Witte’€™s ninth start at third base, as he’€™s played most of the year (34 games) at first base.

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Closing Time: Eduardo Rodriguez shows Red Sox he belongs in stellar debut victory over Rangers

05.28.15 at 10:56 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez

Eduardo Rodriguez

ARLINGTON, Texas — You want eventful? We’ve got eventful.

The Red Sox beat the Rangers 5-1 on Thursday night, and the story was rookie left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who made his debut one to remember.

Pitching efficiently and at times looking overpowering, Rodriguez silenced a dangerous offense in its home park while making a case for an extended stay in the rotation.

Rodriguez limited the Rangers to three hits in 7 2/3 shutout innings, striking out seven. His fastball routinely punctured the 95-97 mph range and he drew 10 swings and misses. He used his slider, his third pitch, effectively, and incorporated his changeup as the game wore on, throwing 68 of his 105 pitches for strikes.

The 22-year-old’s performance couldn’t have come at a better time, with the Red Sox fresh off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Twins that dropped them to 21-26, just percentage points out of last place in the American League East.

The plan had been for Rodriguez to make one start as the sixth man in the rotation and then rejoin Triple-A Pawtucket. But considering the struggles of the rotation, it’s hard to imagine Rodriguez pitching anywhere other than the big leagues when he makes his next start.

On any other night, he’d be the only story that mattered, but two other developments loomed large as well, one good and one bad.

First, the bad news. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts got drilled on the left wrist by a Nick Martinez fastball in the second and was lifted two innings later for pinch hitter Carlos Peguero. Bogaerts appeared to be in considerable pain before remaining in the game, but he didn’t last long and the Red Sox later announced that he departed with a forearm contusion.

There was good news, though, in the form of designated hitter Hanley Ramirez, who punished a pair of balls to left field, including his first home run of May. The Red Sox have stuck with Ramirez since he injured his left shoulder at the end of April, and he showed signs of ending a month-long power outage.

While Bogaerts’ situation could have a huge impact on the roster, that is a problem for tomorrow. For right now, Rodriguez is the story, and what a story it is.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Can it be anyone else? Rodriguez was exactly what the doctor ordered for a Red Sox rotation desperately needing talent. His fastball had the Rangers on their heels and he attacked the zone. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

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Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts day-to-day after getting hit by pitch

05.28.15 at 10:44 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

ARLINGTON, Texas — A great night for the Red Sox was marred on Thursday when shortstop Xander Bogaerts was forced to leave a 5-1 victory over the Rangers in the fourth inning with a left forearm contusion.

Bogaerts was hit in the wrist in the second inning by a Nick Martinez fastball and appeared to be in considerable pain, slamming his helmet in frustration and taking steps toward the Red Sox dugout. After a lengthy visit from the training staff and manager John Farrell, Bogaerts stayed in the game.

He was replaced in the fourth by pinch hitter Carlos Peguero, but it appears the Red Sox have dodged a bullet. Farrell said further examination didn’t reveal any breaks, and expected Bogaerts to be day-to-day, with the hope of playing on Friday.

“There’s no fracture of any kind,” Farrell said. “He had a scan here tonight. Day-to-day, hopefully he’ll be ready to go tomorrow. Just above the wrist.”

Bogaerts is hitting .268 with a pair of homers. He went 0-for-12 in the recently completed series against the Twins, and was looking to get back on track Thursday before getting hit.

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