|06.20.11 at 8:08 pm ET|
At first glance, the idea seems absurd. Adrian Gonzalez, in addition to being one of the best hitters in the majors, is a Gold Glove first baseman. Putting him in the outfield, in a vacuum, would be crazy.
But in the absence of a designated hitter in National League parks during the interleague schedule, the Sox face a conundrum. They must find a way to be creative with David Ortiz and Gonzalez or else lose one of their bats from the lineup. Given that they both rank in the top four in the AL in OPS, that outcome is anything but optimal. The choice for an individual game is challenging enough, yet there are also longer-term repercussions to consider, chiefly that the Sox will take a red-hot hitter and leave him on the bench long enough that he will turn cold by the time the stretch has concluded.
The options are few. Ortiz can’t play any position but first base. Gonzalez, on the other hand…
He’s done it before. Indeed, back in 2005 with the Rangers, Gonzalez was landlocked behind first baseman Mark Teixeira for playing time. He got some games as a DH against right-handed pitchers, but in the interests of securing more time, he volunteered to work out in right field. Gonzalez played one game there at the end of the year, and he had four chances. He misplayed a single for an error, but he caught the three fly balls in his direction. Still, the terrain was definitely foreign.
“We made the first out of the game,” Gonzalez recalled earlier this year. “I turned around to tell the outfielders [how many outs there were — as he does when at first base]. It’s the stands. It was like, ‘Hey, guys, we got one down.’”
He would split his time between first base and right field in the Mexican Winter League after the season, but with his trade to the Padres that offseason, the situation was resolved. He has been a fixture at first base ever since. (For more on the history of Gonzalez in the outfield with the Rangers, click here.)
Interestingly, the coach who worked with Gonzalez in the outfield with Texas is now with the Red Sox. Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale was the first base coach who hit fly balls to Gonzalez back in 2005. He noted that the challenge of getting both Ortiz and Gonzalez into the lineup echoes the challenge that the Rangers faced with Gonzalez and Teixeira.
“Same thing,” said Hale.
Based on what he’s seen in 2011, Hale believes that the 29-year-old can still handle the experiment in limited doses.
“I’m sure it’s an option that if need be, he’s the type of player that is comfortable playing the game of baseball. I don’t think it would be a major concern with him,” said Hale. “I think you have to approach it where defensive positioning would be one of the factors to address, between me and [first-base coach Ron Johnson], really getting into the tendencies of hitters. The good thing, the National League, he’s been there, so he’ll have a sense of comfort with the hitters, and we can remind him of things that will take place ‘ the back baserunner. Those are the things that you can remind them, and in game situations, he’ll remain calm. It would come easier for him [than other players]. He plays the game calm enough that I don’t think he’ll panic. That’s the big thing. He won’t panic no matter what the situation is.”
Padres manager Bud Black was witness to Gonzalez as he won a pair of Gold Gloves at first. He saw attributes that he believes could translate into some spot duty in the outfield.
“I’ve seen it live. I saw it when he was with Texas and I was in Anaheim,” recalled Black, who was the pitching coach when Gonzalez made his lone big league appearance in the outfield. “He’s a good athlete. He’s got good hand-eye coordination. You’ve seen him catch fly balls here. He’s got good hands. Could I imagine it? Yeah. Would he have the range of Carl Crawford? No. [But] I can imagine it. I can imagine it.”
It’s certainly not an ideal situation. The Sox would be diminishing themselves defensively at two positions, both by having Gonzalez play the outfield and by having the defensively challenged Ortiz play first base.
Nonetheless, the offensive impact of keeping both in the lineup is such that the Sox will give a great deal of thought to the possibility. Especially given that the three parks that the Sox will visit — Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Minute Maid Park in Houston all feature limited plots of real estate in right field, something that plays into the fact that the Sox are willing to entertain the possibility.
‘We’ve actually talked to him about that a little bit. I guess the best answer I can give you is we’ll see,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “I’m glad he’s willing to do it. I think it’s admirable. I don’t want David to sit nine straight games ‘ that bothers me. I guess the best thing I could tell you is we’ll see. Maybe a couple of times just to kind of get David where he doesn’t go 10 days without playing because that worries me. And Gonzi I know did it. I know he’s done it in winter ball. And there’s a few right fields on this trip that aren’t huge. We’ll see. That’s probably the best way I can say it. It’s got to work though.”
If it does, the Sox would be thrilled, since one of the chief drawbacks of their forthcoming nine-game trip through National League parks will be diminished.
|06.20.11 at 7:12 pm ET|
Andrew Miller will make his Red Sox debut, while Adrian Gonzalez will be facing his former Padres club for the first time since the blockbuster that sent him to Boston. For all the latest news, analysis and updates, join the live blog, below.
|06.20.11 at 6:24 pm ET|
“Jed is going to leave [Tuesday], fly to LA and see Dr. Yocum on Wednesday,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “He’ll have the pictures [taken] and he’ll see him in person, which we feel like there’s no reason for him not to go. He’s not playing anyway so let’s have him examined in person and that’ll be good.”
Lowrie injured the left shoulder on a collision with Carl Crawford in Detroit on May 27.
“I think it’s everybody, it’s not just one-sided, just trying to figure out what’s going on,” Lowrie said after Monday’s game as he readied for his trip out West. “I’d just love him to say it’s normal from the collision and just a little time and rehab and it’ll be back to 100 percent.”
Lowrie returned to action but was taken out of last Thursday’s game at Tampa after one inning after complaining that the shoulder felt like it slipped out of joint. He was placed on the DL on Saturday.
“It hasn’t gotten worse but it’s about the same,” Lowrie said. “I don’t think there’s anything else to read into it. It’s just that we both want to make sure we know what we’re dealing with. I don’t want to say [rest] hasn’t helped, it’s just been a little slower than I had hoped. I’m just going to find out. Nothing I can do, just find out what’s going on.”
Lowrie said he’s fully confident he’ll be able to return to the level he played at early in the season.
“I know what I’m capable of as a player and we’re going to figure out what’s going and I’m going to be back on the field and doing what I know I’m capable of doing.” Read the rest of this entry »
|06.20.11 at 5:42 pm ET|
The annual dilemma about what to do with designated hitter David Ortiz in National League parks has a new twist this year. Terry Francona said he has approached first baseman Adrian Gonzalez about playing right field to allow Ortiz to play first since there is no DH in NL parks.
“We’ve actually talked to him about that a little bit,” Francona said before Monday’s game with San Diego at Fenway. “I guess the best answer I can give you is, ‘We’ll see.’ I’m glad he’s willing to do it. I think it’s admirable. I don’t want David to sit nine straight games, that bothers me. I guess the best thing I can tell you is, ‘We’ll see.'”
The biggest concern to Francona is not wanting Ortiz to get stale over the nine-game trip through Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Houston, starting this weekend at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
“Maybe a couple times just to get David [playing time] where he doesn’t go 10 days without playing because that worries me,” Francona said. “Gonzy did it and I know he’s done it in Winter Ball and there are a few right fields on this trip that aren’t huge so we’ll see. That’s the best way I can say it. It’s gotta work, though. I don’t want to outsmart myself but we’ll see.”
As for Gonzalez, he said he didn’t push for the outfield job but offered to try and help the team.
“I wouldn’t say it was willingness,” Gonzalez said. “It’s the fact that I’ve done it before. If I was approached on it and Tito wanted to do it for a couple of games, I’d be OK with it. I know I’m not an outfielder and I wasn’t an outfielder but if it meant to get Papi in the game and get him a few more games, it’s definitely something I would do.”
Gonzalez played the outfield one time while he was with the Texas Rangers and also played it while in Winter Ball earlier in his career.
|06.20.11 at 12:27 pm ET|
Gonzalez talked about his relationship with David Ortiz, as the two frequently have been spotted in the dugout talking strategy. Most people have assumed Gonzalez has played a role in helping Ortiz regain his stroke, but Gonzalez downplayed his impact.
“For me, with Papi, he’s been an incredible help for me as well,” Gonzalez said. “And I know that there’s been a lot of times that he comes to me and he’s just asking me, ‘Hey, what’s this pitcher got?’ Or, ‘What do see on him on video?’ And I’ll relay what I’ve seen, what I’ve done. We’ve just had a great relationship. It’s worked really well both ways. He’s helped me a ton, and I think I’ve helped him a little bit.”
Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Were you psyched to come here to Boston and get more triples than [Jacoby] Ellsbury through the middle of June?
No, definitely not. It’s not something that I even look into or try to do during the season. I just try to get one to fill the goose egg in the column. It’s just worked out that way. Three lucky bounces, or balls hit in the right spots. If I can get there, I think anybody else could be standing out there, or maybe trying for an inside-the-parker. They’ve just been fortunate bounces for me.
A lot of these fans here that have watched you play, I think the one moment that they take away and mention to me a lot is that home run off of CC Sabathia in Yankee Stadium, when you went up there and pulled a little Ichiro. And when I saw that home run, I said, “This guy’s not afraid to fail, because he’s willing to go out there and try some things that maybe others weren’t.”
This game’s all about failure. I always tell my teammates that. If I’m 0-for-4, in a way I’m happier than most people who would be, because I failed four times in a row and more often than not, the next one’s going to be a good one. I just try to take that mentality all the time, and have fun with the game, enjoy the game. If I feel like a pitcher’s dominating me, I’ll ask Tito [Francona], “Are you sure you don’t want to take me out here? I have not been doing pretty good against this guy so far. If I do [stay in], I’ll try something new.” Just having fun with the game and enjoying it and trying the best to succeed every time.
|06.20.11 at 12:18 pm ET|
In some respects, the numbers are staggering.
Adrian Gonzalez leads the majors with a .348 batting average. He has 15 homers, and is on pace for 34. He leads the majors with 64 RBI, and is on pace for 146. He leads the majors with 24 doubles, and is on pace for 55 two-baggers. He has 42 extra-base hits, a pace that would yield 96 for the year — a mark that would rank among the top 35 of all-time, and that would surpass the Red Sox franchise record of 92 set by Jimmie Foxx in 1938. Gonzalez leads the AL with 101 hits, has a .403 OBP (tied for third in the AL and seventh in the majors) and a .607 slugging mark (second in the AL, fourth in the majors).
The performance has been extraordinary to date. And so, it is worth asking: Is Gonzalez a better hitter than he was as a member of the Padres.
The statistics certainly suggest as much. The first baseman entered the year as a career .284 hitter with a .368 OBP, .507 slugging mark and .875 OPS; since becoming a big league regular in 2006, he’s averaged 32 homers and 100 RBI.
But Gonzalez suggests that his performance this year is not a radical departure from what he’s accomplished in the past. It merely reflects an environmental change. For starters, there is the park. Gonzalez no longer has to play half his games in Petco Park, San Diego’s beautiful home ballpark that happens to be as hostile to hitting as Pluto is to beach vacations. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.20.11 at 11:18 am ET|
Even after watching two of his best pitchers get rocked this weekend at Fenway, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke still thought his staff had the right stuff to shut down the hottest offense in baseball.
He was dead wrong.
The Red Sox outscored the Brewers 22-7 in winning Friday and Sunday and taking two-of-three from the leaders of the NL Central.
On paper, there was some rational thought to thinking that Milwaukee – with the trio of Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf and Yovani Gallardo – could come in and make it a very competitive series. Marcum was 7-2, with a 2.68 ERA. Wolf was 4-4, with a 3.20 ERA and Gallardo was 8-3 and 3.76. All very good pitchers with very good numbers. And that doesn’t even include Zack Greinke.
Wolf held up his end of the bargain with seven stellar innings, allowing the Red Sox just two runs, lowering his ERA to 2.73 in four career starts at Fenway in Milwaukee’s 4-2 win Saturday night.
But Marcum – thanks to a balky hip flexor – lasted just one inning, throwing a stunning 46 pitches in the process. He allowed two runs before departing. And on Sunday, the first inning was even worse for Yovani Gallardo. He was shelled for six runs, throwing 48 pitches as the Red Sox sent 11 men to the plate to put the game away early. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.20.11 at 9:54 am ET|
Interleague play for the Red Sox continues Monday night when the Padres come to Fenway for a three-game series. The Padres last visited in 2004, when the Red Sox took two out of three. The Red Sox also took two out of three at San Diego in 2007. The Red Sox won the World Series both those years, so perhaps the Padres’ arrival bodes well for Boston’s postseason chances.
With Clay Buchholz on the DL, the Red Sox are turning to Pawtucket call-up Andrew Miller. In 12 minor league starts this season, Miller was 3-3 with a 2.41 ERA. Although he has just a 1.74 BB/K ratio in 65 2/3 innings, he has only given up two home runs. Miller’s last major league start was a Sept. 29 loss to the Braves while with the Marlins, giving up four runs in just three innings.
Miller will face another pitcher that has bounced between the majors and the minors throughout his career in Wade LeBlanc. LeBlanc was called up from Triple-A Tuscon on June 14 and will make his third start of the season when he faces the Red Sox. In 11 minor league starts this season, LeBlanc is 5-1 with 5.24 ERA. The Red Sox may have some luck with the long ball against him, as he has given up eight home runs in 68 2/3 minor league innings. Miller lost both of his previous major league starts this season, walking more batters than he struck out while allowing six earned runs in 12 2/3 combined innings.
Miller has made two major league starts against the Padres, going 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA and a .250 batting average against. Shortstop Jason Bartlett has had the most success against Miller, batting 4-for-9 with two doubles. Third baseman Chase Headley has two hits and three RBIs in three plate appearances.
The Red Sox will have to learn LeBlanc on the fly Monday, because no player has faced him before.
Padres vs. Miller
Jason Bartlett (9 plate appearances): .444 BA/.444 OBP/.667 SLG, two doubles, two RBIs
Ryan Ludwick (7): .286/.286/.429
In three plate appearances, Brad Hawpe is 0-for-1 with two walks
In three plate appearances, Chase Headley has two hits, including a double, and has driven in three.
Nick Hundley is 0-for-1 with a walk in two appearances.
Chris Denorfia, Alberto Gonzalez, Jesus Guzman, Rob Johnson, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable have never faced Miller.
Red Sox vs. LeBlanc
No Red Sox player has a major league plate appearance against LeBlanc.
|06.19.11 at 8:52 pm ET|
Just in case Terry Francona is tempted to pinch-run for Adrian Gonzalez like he did on June 4 against Oakland ‘ in the that wild and woolly 9-8 Sox win in 14 innings ‘ A-Gon wants the Red Sox manager to remember Sunday, and specifically the fourth inning.
That’s when Gonzalez tripled to the center field triangle in the fourth inning of Sunday’s 12-3 laugher over the Brewers, collected career hit No. 1,000 in the process. He also earned his third three-base hit of the season, two more than the speedburner Jacoby Ellsbury, something he let Ellsbury know shortly thereafter.
“I was telling Jacoby, ‘I have more triples than you do. What’s going on?’ ” Gonzalez told reporters afterward. “He just said, ‘Hey, you’re faster than me.’ ”
Gonalez said he never thought about what type hit it would take to reach the 1,000 plateau.
“I’ve never drawn it up,” Gonzalez said. “It’s something you never think you’re even going to get close to. It’s nice to get, nice to put it behind and focus on getting some more.”
Gonalez added hit No. 1,001 when he ripped a more routine RBI single to right in the seventh that scored Drew Sutton. The American League All-Star leading vote-getter at first base went 2-for-5 to raise his average to .348 on the season.
|06.19.11 at 4:24 pm ET|
The Red Sox on Sunday returned to their high-scoring and winning ways after a brief detour on Saturday, plating six runs in the first inning against Yovani Gallardo in a 12-3 victory over the Brewers to take two of three in the interleague matchup. The Sox (43-28) have reached double digits in runs for the fifth time in the last 11 games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
— Kevin Youkilis — who had left Friday’s game early with a stomach bug — followed up Saturday’s multi-hit game with a three-run HR in the first inning on Sunday. Youkilis now has 50 RBI on the season, good for fifth in the American League.
— Adrian Gonzalez became the first AL player to reach the 100-hit mark for the 2011 season with his fourth-inning triple (Jose Reyes is the only NL player to do so). The three-bagger was also the 1,000th hit of his major-league career. Gonzalez also knocked in a pair of runs in the game and now has 64 on the season — tops among all players in the majors.
— Tim Wakefield allowed a two-run HR to Nyjer Moragn in the second inning and a solo shot to Prince Fielder in the seventh inning but was virtually flawless otherwise, finishing with the three earned runs on just three hits with six strikeouts against a single walk in 8.0 IP to pick up his fourth win of the season and 183rd in a Red Sox uniform. Wakefield had an ERA of 5.73 for the season after giving up six runs in 4.1 IP vs. the Twins on May 6. His ERA now stands at 4.33, the lowest since April 9.
— Dustin Pedroia homered off Gallardo in the fourth inning (his sixth of the season) and is now batting .266 for the season, his highest average since April 29. Pedroia has enjoyed a superb June, with a batting average of .359 and 14 RBI in 15 games (he had 18 RBI in the previous 53 games).
— Marco Scutaro also homered and is 14-for-40 since returning from the disabled list on June 7.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
— Clay Buchholz became the third Sox player in as many days to land on the disabled list, joining Carl Crawford and Jed Lowrie. Buchholz was placed on the DL with a lower back strain. Andrew Miller — who will start for the Sox in the series opener vs. the Padres on Monday — took the place of Buchholz on the roster.
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