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Minor Details: Salem Red Sox 2011 first half in review

06.30.11 at 11:12 am ET
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In the coming days, the Minor Details podcast will examine the performances of prospects at the different Red Sox minor league affiliates in the first half of the 2011 season. For the first installment, the podcast is joined by Salem Red Sox broadcaster Evan Lepler.

Salem, the Red Sox’ Hi-A Carolina League affiliate, got off to a great start, going 16-5 in April. Since then, however, the team has endured a rough stretch, having gone 15-38 at the time of the podcast with Lepler, including a 1-19 home record at LewisGale Field. (Salem won its next two home games after the podcast was recorded.)

But, wins and losses are always secondary in the minor leagues to player development. And so, Lepler suggests that there have been plenty of interesting players of note to observe in Salem. Among them:

–2010 first-round picks Kolbrin Vitek, Bryce Brentz and Anthony Ranaudo;

–Struggling prospect Drake Britton, who entered the year having vaulted himself among the top pitchers in the system only to endure significant command issues and corresponding mound challenges;

Chris Balcom-Miller, the pitcher whom the Sox wanted to draft in 2009 before the Rockies pounced on him in the sixth round, but whom the team subsequently acquired in a trade for Manny Delcarmen;

–Unheralded yet intriguing prospects such as Jeremy Hazelbaker and Reynaldo Rodriguez (both of whom have been promoted to Portland as a result of their excellent early starts) and pitcher Chris Hernandez.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

Read More: bryce brentz, evan lepler, kolbring, minor details

Third time’s a charm: Red Sox draftee Miguel Pena’s journey to professional ball

06.30.11 at 10:27 am ET
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When left-handed pitcher Miguel Pena was drafted by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft, it was not the first time Pena had been drafted by a major league team. In fact, it marked the third straight year that a team had selected the hurler.

He was drafted out of high school by the Nationals in the fifth round of the 2009 draft and then in 2010 by the Padres in the 13th round following his first year at San Jacinto Junior College. He did not sign with either team because of money issues with his contract.

‘€œI initiated what I wanted for money [with every team] way before the draft and I am a man to my word and for me to have that under-slot [bonus offer] thrown at me [by the Nationals and Padres], it really hurt my family and I,’€ Pena said. ‘€œI am not going to let it affect me on or off the field though.’€

The drafts each of the past three years have been somewhat unpredictable and surprising for Pena.

‘€œI was surprised coming out of high school, you know, fifth round, that’€™s pretty high,’€ Pena said. ‘€œBut, I was more shocked when I went down to the 13th round [in 2010], but I knew there were some off the field issues. This year I kind of knew the Red Sox were going to take me. I was really close with the area scout back in Texas and it was somewhat surprising but I was very pleased with the round I went in. It really meant a lot to me.’€

After not signing with the Nationals in 2009 he enrolled at San Jucinto Junior College (where Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte both played) and pitched there in 2009. Pena posted a 14-2 record with a 2.51 ERA in his freshman year and then was drafted by the Padres in the 2010 draft, and went on to play in the Cape Cod League that summer.

Pena played for the Falmouth Commodores and only appeared in three games, all of which he started. He did tally 21 strikeouts in only 16 2/3 innings.

There were some off-field issues for Pena that summer on the Cape, reportedly with his host family, which played a role in him not getting the amount of money he desired from the Padres, and therefore not signing.

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Little drama to be found in the Red Sox big switcheroo

06.30.11 at 1:01 am ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Prior to the Red Sox‘ 2-1 loss to the Phillies Wednesday night, Adrian Gonzalez reiterated (numerous times) that the media was making way too much of the switch that put David Ortiz at first base, and the Sox’ everyday first baseman in right field.

‘€œI’€™m playing right field,” Gonzalez said. “What do you want me to say?”

After manning the position for the first time since winter ball in 2005, there was even less to add.

Gonzalez wasn’t forced to track down any balls in right field (only being forced to jump for a Chase Utley fly ball in the eighth inning that was just out of reach), and Ortiz came across just one chance at first base — a slow roller in the fourth inning off the bat of Dominic Brown.

Offensively, the move didn’t translate into any sort of drama, either. Gonzalez had one of the Red Sox five hits, while Ortiz went 0-for-4. While Gonzalez had little to say about the new venture — which, according to Ortiz, won’t be making a repeat performance Thursday — the DH-turned-first baseman offered his thoughts on the challenges.

“To be honest with you I was thinking about defending myself out there,” Ortiz quipped. “You’ve got tons of lefties coming to hit so you don’t want to get caught with a rocket hit right at you when you’re thinking about hitting … Yeah, I came out of it alive. That’s a good thing.”

Before the game, Ortiz even made a plea to a fellow first baseman, Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard.

“I had a little chat with him before the game,” he said. “I told him I have a family waiting for me at home. He said, ‘Alright Papi, we’ll try and stay way from there.”

Closing Time: John Lackey can’t lead the Red Sox past Phillies

06.29.11 at 9:36 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — John Lackey sent a message Wednesday night, it just wasn’t strong enough to hand the Red Sox a much-needed win.

The much-maligned starter held the Phillies to just two runs on six hits over 7 2/3 innings, but the end result with still be another Sox defeat with the Phils coming away with a 2-1 win at Citizens Bank Park. It pushed the Red Sox to just 1-4 on their current road trip, and now puts them at 2-6 over their last eight games.

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox loss …

WHAT WENT WRONG
– The addition of David Ortiz to the lineup didn’t accomplish what the Red Sox had hoped, which Philly starter Vance Worley holding down the majors top offense. The righty, who had allowed just one run over his previous 11 innings, allowed one run on five hits over seven innings. He threw 116 pitches. Ortiz went 0-for-4.

– Ibanez continued his mastery of Lackey. Ibanez, who came into the game 19-for-54 against the Sox starter, came away with three hits and two RBI, including the go-ahead solo home run in the seventh.

– The Red Sox were put in a tough position in the seventh inning when with the game tied at 1-1, two outs and Josh Reddick at first base, John Lackey was scheduled up. The starter had only surrendered one run on five hits, while having thrown just 77 pitches. Wanting to keep Lackey in the game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona let the pitcher hit, resulting in an inning-ending ground out to shortstop. It also led to Lackey facing Ibanez in the first at-bat in the next half inning.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Lackey dominated for much of the night, holding the Phillies to just the two runs before giving way to reliever Franklin Morales in the eighth. Take away his last outing and since coming off the righty has now given up 13 runs in 27 2/3 innings (4.22 ERA), striking out 20 and walking four since coming off the disabled list.

– Lackey, who went 2-for-5 last season in interleague play, helped his own cause in the fifth inning by launching a double to center field, scoring Josh Reddick. Prior to coming to the Red Sox the starter had just one hit in 30 at-bats.

– Reddick continued to remain red-hot, claiming his fourth multi-hit game in just 13 big league appearances this season. His second hit of the game resulted, a single to right field, allowed the Sox to get on the board.

Live Blog: Red Sox, John Lackey look to rebound against Phillies

06.29.11 at 6:34 pm ET
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Red Sox/Phillies Live Blog

Bobby Valentine on The Big Show: Lackey ‘the only whipping boy right now’

06.29.11 at 5:56 pm ET
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Former manager and ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine joined The Big Show Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

As Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced earlier on The Big Show, Adrian Gonzalez will start in right field Wednesday night against the Phillies and David Ortiz will get the start at first base. This will be Gonzalez’s second career start in right field, and Valentine recognized the risk of the move.

“They’re looking for some more offense, and this is a team that allows its pitchers to relax knowing that they’re going to put up a crooked number. This is a way to try and do that,” Valentine said. “I think that it is risky, as everyone knows and as Terry mentioned. I mean, my goodness, you’re putting your MVP candidate in a foreign place where he doesn’t really know the field that well. He’s going to be chasing after fly balls. I’m sure he told him to just pick it up on one hop or if necessary, two hops and throw it on in and drive in a couple.”

On the lack of production from the bottom half of Boston’s lineup in interleague play:

“It’€™s not really a pray (situation), but you hope to turn it over,” Valentine said when asked jokingly if he would pray in that situation. “And the challenge there is not necessarily to score a lot of runs with the bottom of the lineup, but to get it turned over, not hit into double plays. Have situations where it’€™s at least one batter at a time so three innings later you can get back to your guys that give you a chance to hit. And hopefully they get some men on base.”

On the decision to either keep or remove John Lackey, who’s holds a 7.36 ERA, from the starting rotation:

“Once again that’€™s a turnover situation,” Valentine said. “He either needs to turn over that fastball or turn over that starting role to somebody else. It’€™s kind of unfortunate in that Daisuke [Matsuzaka]’€™s no longer there so he’€™s the only whipping boy right now. You can’€™t bring Daisuke back. He went under the knife. Right now he’€™s got to do what is at least partially what’€™s expected of him and that is keep his team in the game.”

On second-year outfielder Josh Reddick, who is hitting at a .414 clip:

“I don’€™t know what I think yet,” Valentine said. “I’€™ve only seen him about 10 at-bats. He’€™s different for sure. He’€™s a little freer than the other guys.”

Valentine offered his thoughts on interleague play.

The National League game should be played in the American League city and the American League game should be played in the National League city, just so the fans of those cities kind of get to see what the other game looks like up close and personal,” Valentine said. But, frankly this DH thing was a three year experiment that’€™s gone 35 years now. And usually these experiments end after a few years, three, ten, a couple decades. This is going on a little too far I think. And I think if in fact they’€™re going to realign, like they say they are, and if in fact they’€™re going to have a two 15-team leagues, I think they should play one brand of baseball.”

On which brand of America’s pastime he prefers:

For me, it’€™s the pitcher in the lineup only because it is a different game,” Valentine said. “It’€™s more fun.  When I say you have to turn the lineup over, in the American League city you’€™re not thinking about turning the lineup over. You’€™re thinking about getting guys out so your boys can get up and you don’€™t care where you’re starting in the lineup because usually you have a 1-through-9 situation that’€™s going to be part of your offense. When you have that pitcher hitting, it turns into a whole different part of the game that I like, where you can think a little and try to make things happen instead of just what I think happens often in the American League, just watching things happen.”

Read More: Bobby Valentine, Boston Red Sox, The Big Show,

Terry Francona on The Big Show: I’m anxious about Adrian Gonzalez in right

06.29.11 at 4:56 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined The Big Show on Wednesday for his weekly interview. Francona discussed the series against the Phillies and addressed his decision to start Adrian Gonzalez in right field. To hear the interview, check out The Big Show audio on demand page.

Francona said Gonzalez will be starting in right field Wendesday night, while David Ortiz will man first base. The Red Sox manager said getting Ortiz more plate appearances was the driving force behind the decision.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about. I don’t want to do it very often. That’s the truth,” he said. “It may not be in our best interest to win a game tonight. I don’t know. Does the offense outweigh the defense? We’ll find out, but at the least it gets [Ortiz] a game, because that’s important. He’s got three at bats on this trip. If he goes 10, 11 days without playing, that’s going to kill him, and it’s no good. He’s too important to our offense, so we’re taking a little bit of a gamble here on the defensive side. Our lineup sort of looks a lot better, and it’s good for [Ortiz]. We’ve talked to [Gonzalez] about, ‘Hey, use your head here now,’ because if something did happen I would deserve to be ridiculed, I’d deserve some criticism. So I hope it doesn’t happen.

“I didn’t want to do it in Pittsburgh as long as [Ortiz] got some at bats. And he actually hit in all three games so I kind of knew. And I don’t always feel obligated to tell the media everything. We got [to Philadelphia] and they had a lefty the first day, they have a lefty tomorrow. I thought [Wednesday’s] game was a perfect day to play him. And again some of it was seeing how [Gonzalez] was doing in the outfield and things like that. Just seeing how we were doing as a team, how our health was and things like that. I was always leaning towards it all along.

“I’m just trying to get through [Wednesday] … I have to see how tonight goes. I’m not lying to you when I tell you I have some anxiety over this, but I think [Ortiz] needs to play. I’m hoping it works out well. It might not. But it’s a long season.”

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Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, Phillies, Red Sox

Peter Gammons on M&M: Don’t expect anything major at trading deadline from Red Sox

06.29.11 at 1:46 pm ET
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MLB Network and NESN analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni Show Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Gammons was asked about the schedule the Red Sox are in the middle of– nine straight games on the road in National League parks. He noted that the dilemma about what to do with Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz — whether to start Ortiz at first and move Gonzalez to right to improve the lineup — is a reflection of the tremendous consequences that losing Gonzalez to injury could have.

‘€œIt’€™s part of the schedule. … If anything happens to Gonzalez this team is not going to make it,’€ Gammons said. ‘€œThey aren’€™t going to be playing in October very long. That is a question, and an issue and how much of the defense is a problem if you have [David] Ortiz and Gonzalez in the lineup at the same time out of position’€¦ These are the issues they face now.

‘€œThey need to win these two games in Philadelphia and at least two out of three in Houston and move forward. They need Andrew Miller to continue to overcome adversity like he did on Sunday and eventually I am sure [Felix] Doubront will come up and be somewhat in the rotation’€¦ They haven’€™t had [Clay] Buchholz, [Jon] Lester and [Josh] Beckett going all at the same time this year and that would be a huge thing moving forward.’€

While players such as Mets right fielder Carlos Beltran and Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer could both be available in the coming month as the July 31 trade deadline nears, Gammons suggested that the Sox are near their payroll limit, to the point where they wouldn’t be able to take on players like Beltran and Cuddyer who are making eight-figure salaries.

“No chance. No chance. If they can add a million, maybe a Jeff Baker [from the Cubs] or someone like that, [Rockies outfielder Ryan] Spilborghs is [making $1.9 million], that would be [$800,000] at the trade deadline, they might be able to do that at the trade deadline, but as of right now, they spent their money during the winter,” said Gammons. “Remember in 2009, when they claimed Jose Bautista on waivers, and [Red Sox GM Theo Epstein] worked out a deal with [then-Blue Jays GM] J.P. Ricciardi. That deal was rejected because they were already at the level. They’€™re not getting Carlos Beltran. They’€™re not getting Michael Cuddyer. … If they do something it will be something very small.”

Beltran is enjoying a renaissance with the Mets this year after dealing with injuries over the last two seasons. The free-agent-to-be is hitting .281 with a .373 OBP, .862 OPS and 11 homers. Cuddyer is also enjoying a solid season for the Twins, hitting .286 with a .351 OBP, .805 OPS and 10 homers. Both have numbers that would represent a vast improvement over what the Sox have received to date from J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald in right field.

But Beltran is earning $18.5 million this year (and counts for $17 million for luxury tax purposes), while Cuddyer is under contract for $10.5 million ($8.375 million for luxury tax purposes). As such, Gammons does not think they are realistic options.

“They’€™re not taking on Cuddyer or Beltran,” said Gammons. “I know they set budgets, as do most companies, even though they have the worst right field production in baseball. I think what they’€™ll do is, two weeks from now, they’€™ll make a decision about where they go with Mike Cameron. Probably three weeks from now, they’ll make a decision about what to do with Darnell McDonald. If it’s really dire at that point, and they say, ‘We have to do something,’ then maybe they can make a deal for a Baker or a Spilborghs.”

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Jerry Remy on D&C: Interleague play ‘stinks’

06.29.11 at 10:47 am ET
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NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning, following the Sox’€™ 5-0 loss to the Phillies in Philadelphia. To hear the interview, go the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

With the Sox in the mist of the interleague portion of their schedule, Remy expressed how much he dislikes the format of interleague play.

‘€œI think it stinks, the whole thing stinks,’€ Remy said. ‘€œI’€™ve never liked interleague play. To play nine games in a row, for a team not to be able to use a DH is totally wrong. If you split it up that might be okay. ‘€¦ It would be a little different because at least the guy gets 15 at-bats and is not totally lost for a week and a half. The whole system stinks and is unappealing to me and always has been and I hope they do something about it.’€

One of the major topics the past week has been how to get both David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez into the lineup in National League parks. That would mean that Gonzalez would need to play the outfield and Ortiz first base. The team has been reluctant to do that because of injury concerns with Gonzalez in the outfield. Remy believes the Sox need to have them both playing because the bottom half of the lineup has been devastatingly thin without Ortiz.

‘€œThey can’€™t continue with the lineup that they have been putting out there during these interleague games on the road,’€ he said. ‘€It’€™s been ridiculous. You get past the four hitter and you have a guy like Cameron hitting .100, and McDonald that is hitting .100. There’€™s nothing going on in the lineup.

‘€œLast night, a guy like Cliff Lee is going to beat any lineup, but the fact is they are losing games that they could be winning. To me, the only resolution to this is to put [Gonzalez] out there [in right] and hope for the best.’€

Remy said that he thinks it is up to the organization rather than the player to determine whether Gonzalez should play in the outfield for the first time since he did so in Mexico after the 2005 season.

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Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, J.D Drew, Jerry Remy

Wednesday’s Red Sox-Phillies matchups: John Lackey vs. Vance Worley

06.29.11 at 8:22 am ET
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While this week’s Red Sox-Phillies series promises several marquee pitching matchups, Wednesday’s game will feature two back-of-the-rotation hurlers at Citizens Bank Park. Struggling veteran John Lackey will take the mound for the Red Sox, while the Phillies counter with young righty Vance Worley, a rookie who’s had success while flying under the radar in Philadelphia’s rotation of superstars.

Lackey (5-6, 7.36 ERA) will get another shot at redemption in the midst of the worst season of his career. He didn’t exactly impress in his last start, giving up five runs, four hits and four walks before being pulled in the fourth inning against the Padres, an outing that was made more challenging by multiple rain delays. Lackey did go eight innings against the Brewers on June 17, although he gave up four runs on eight hits. With Clay Buchholz poised for a return from the DL, Lackey could be pitching for his spot in the rotation, although Andrew Miller or Tim Wakefield could be moved to the bullpen instead.

The Phillies roster has amassed 143 plate appearances against Lackey, and nearly every Philadelphia regular has seen him at least five times. Raul Ibanez has a team-high 59 plate appearances against the Boston starter from his days with the Mariners. Ibanez is hitting a sweltering .352 off Lackey with four doubles, five walks and six RBI. Placido Polanco has hit for the cycle in 24 plate appearances against the right-hander, although the single, double, triple and home run are his only four hits off Lackey. Polanco is the only Phillies hitter with a home run off the Boston starter.

In 37 career plate appearances, Lackey is hitting .086 with a double, an RBI and 10 strikeouts. Two of his three hits came off Ubaldo Jimenez, and the third came against Barry Zito.

Worley (2-1, 2.83 ERA) will be making his ninth career start on Wednesday and his seventh of 2011. With just 48 career innings under his belt, it comes as no surprise that the 23-year-old has yet to face a Red Sox hitter. Left-handed hitters are batting .250 against Worley, while he’s held righties to .242.

The Phillies will have an obvious advantage playing at home in the interleague matchup, and Worley has pitched his best at Citizens Bank Park. The former Long Beach State standout has recorded both of his wins at home, posting a 1.57 ERA and holding opponents to a .163 batting average in 23 innings.

Worley struggled mightily against the Mets on May 29, allowing eight runs in three innings, but bounced back quite well in his two starts in June. Through 11 innings this month, Worley has allowed just one run on six hits while striking out seven and walking six.

At the plate, Worley is 2-for-10 with four strikeouts.

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Read More: john lackey, Phillies, Red Sox, Vance Worley
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