|09.26.10 at 7:08 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Naturally, the Yankees suggested that it was not a panic move, even though it represented a complete reversal in the span of 48 hours. On Friday, New York decided that it was in their best interests to skip Phil Hughes‘ scheduled Sunday start against the Red Sox to keep him rested and healthy with the playoffs losing. Two losses to the Red Sox later, the Yankees reversed course and decided that Hughes — and not scheduled fill-in Dustin Moseley — would take the ball.
The change did not affect the Red Sox significantly. The team, said manager Terry Francona, kept the same lineup that would have faced Moseley. Even so, the decision by the Yankees suggests that they continue to view the Red Sox as a threat to their postseason ambitions. With New York’s lead in the wild card down to 5 1/2 games, the Yankees decided they needed to do what they could to increase the chances of winning on Sunday.
Rest took a back seat to the need to win. A pair of Sox victories — the latest in a stretch that has seen the Yankees go 6-13 — has tightened the collective collar in the Bronx.
“They’re in a situation where they have to win games. The pressure is on them. It doesn’t surprise me that they’re going to throw Hughes,” said Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie. “It’s good to put somebody in that position, see how they react.”
On Friday, Bill Hall said that the Sox were not looking to be spoilers, and that they instead wanted to run the table on the rest of the regular season to try to make a run at a playoff spot. The move to start Hughes (17-8, 4.31) would suggest that the Yankees are concerned about the possibility of just such an ambitious goal coming to fruition.
“It just shows we’re doing our job, and that we’re doing what we came here to do, which is win. We’re just looking to finish it off today, run out the rest of the year and see what happens,” said Hall. “If we start thinking that’s cool, that means we think the job is over. The job is not over.
“I think [the Yankees] thought that [the Red Sox were a threat] coming in, but at the same time, they thought they had a big enough lead that they could start resting some people. The reality is that didn’t happen, so now they’ve got to turn the page back.”
The Yankees insisted that their outlook had not changed, and instead that they are simply still trying to accomplish the same goals with which they’ve been concerned all along.
‘We need to win games,’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. ‘We’re still trying to win our division. We’re still trying to get into the playoffs. We’re still trying to get home field advantage and we’re going to go with Hughsie.’
Even so, the move — about which Girardi informed Francona at approximately 4 p.m. — suggested that, at the least, the Yankees were striking a defensive posture; at worst, they are panicking about he possibility of a collapse. And that development is, at the least, intriguing as Hughes — who was informed on Saturday night that he would start on Sunday — readies to face Daisuke Matsuzaka.
OTHER PREGAME NOTES:
—Mike Lowell should be available as a pinch-hitter on Sunday night, and with the Sox facing some left-handed starters in Chicago against the White Sox, manager Terry Francona anticipates that Lowell will be in the lineup at some point (or points) during the White Sox series.
—Clay Buchholz left at about 5 p.m. to fly to Chicago. Francona said the Sox encourage the starter for the first game of a series to fly ahead, and that he was pleased that the right-hander would be able to go to sleep by about midnight. The rest of the team is scheduled to land after 5 a.m.
|09.26.10 at 4:34 pm ET|
NEW YORK — In a surprise development, the Yankees will start Phil Hughes instead of Dustin Moseley against the Red Sox on Sunday night. Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first to report the decision.
Hughes is 17-8 with a 4.31 ERA, while Moseley is 4-3 with a 4.94 mark. On Friday, the Yankees had made the decision to skip Hughes, who has thrown a career-high 169 1/3 innings, in favor of Moseley in hopes of preserving the arm of their 24-year-old right-hander. But that decision occurred at a time when the Yankees were 7 1/2 games up in the division; with the Red Sox having trimmed the deficit to 5 1/2 games with victories in each of the first two contests of the three-game series in Yankee Stadium, New York made its decision to reverse its decision.
“I don’t think it’s panic,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman told the Post. “It is adjusting to circumstances. We haven’t had starters going deep into games. People can judge this and call it panic. I don’t care. I only care about making the right decision on the information in front of us. And the information is different on Sept. 26 than it was when we decided (to push back Hughes). I only care about being right, and this was right.”
Hughes is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts against the Red Sox this year; Moseley is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in one start against the Sox. The Sox will send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the hill against Hughes.
|09.25.10 at 9:02 pm ET|
NEW YORK — It may be a case of too little, too late. Even with consecutive wins over the Yankees in the first two games in the Bronx, the Red Sox still trail their divisional rivals by 5 1/2 games in the wild card race with eight games left on their slate.
Even so, with Friday’s 10-8 victory and Saturday’s 7-3 triumph, the Sox have now ensured that they will not have to suffer the indignity of watching the Yankees celebrate clinching a playoff berth in their own ballpark. Yet even that does not reflect the full measure of Boston’s ambitions.
After all, as Sox infielder Jed Lowrie said on Friday night when asked if the team was still holding out hope for a postseason berth, “Why not?”
The Sox have four games remaining against New York, along with four in Chicago against the White Sox. The Red Sox do not control their destiny — they would have to border on perfect and hope that New York faltered against the Blue Jays. The odds of reaching the postseason are terrible — coolstandings.com suggests that the Sox have a 0.8 percent shot at overthrowing the Yankees for the wild card — but insofar as the Sox are one of just five teams (the Rangers and Twins, who have both clinched, as well as the Rays and Yankees comprise the rest of the list) not to have been eliminated from a spot in the playoffs in the American League, the Sox are intent on competing.
“We’ve got a chance. That being said, it’s a long road,” said Sox starter Jon Lester. “Weirder things have happened in baseball. We’ve got four more games against the Yankees. We’ll see. All we can do is go out there and play hard and put up a good effort. You’re not going to expect anything less from these guys in this clubhouse. We’re going to go out there and battle and grind it out, and we’ll see where we are in a couple games.”
|09.25.10 at 7:38 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Felix Hernandez? Maybe, but not definitely.
David Price? Probably not until he’s done it for a couple more years.
CC Sabathia? His year-after-year success is astonishing, and yet even he does not match the level of dominance exhibited by Red Sox ace Jon Lester, who further solidified his credentials as one of the most, if not the most, dominant pitchers in the American League. The left-hander commanded a 93-94 mph fastball to all parts of the strike zone, adding to it one of the best curveballs he’s had all year, as well as his array of cutters and changeups, to overpower the Yankees in the Red Sox’ 7-3 victory.
Lester was brilliant. He retired the first 12 batters he faced, carried a no-hitter through five innings and ended up permitting just two hits and three walks in seven shutout innings of work.
Such outings have come with startlingly frequency against the Yankees, particularly given the troubles that some of Lester’s teammates have had against the grinding New York lineup. Lester has been remarkably good against the Yankees since the start of 2008, forging a 6-1 record, 2.56 ERA and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 11 starts against New York.
Now, with 19 victories this year, Lester has more wins than any other Red Sox left-hander since Mel Parnell reeled off 21 victories in 1953. Lester won’t match that mark, but with one start remaining on Thursday against the White Sox, his aspirations to win 20 games this year are very real, and a sub-3.00 ERA is also within his grasp, as he now has a 2.96 mark for the year.
All of that is a testament to Lester’s emergence as a pitcher with few equals in the game.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–The Red Sox ensured that they would not have to watch the Yankees celebrate a postseason berth this weekend in the Bronx. With their second consecutive win against New York, the Sox are now assured that the Yankees can secure no better than a tie for a spot in the playoffs on Sunday.
–Lester was, once again, dominant. He has now won each of his last six starts, and he has allowed four or fewer hits in five of his last six outings. He also surpassed the 200 innings plateau for the third straight season.
—J.D. Drew continued a productive September, blasting a homer (his third of the month) into the bleachers in right-center. The longball was Drew’s 20th of the year, marking the second straight season (and fifth of his career) in which he has reached that plateau.
—David Ortiz delivered a pair of run-scoring singles, bringing his season total to 98 RBI with eight games remaining this year.
—Victor Martinez sustained his incendiary September, going 1-for-3 with a homer (his 19th of the year) and two walks. He is now hitting .318 with a .990 OPS, six homers and 20 RBI.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
—Daniel Nava had a shot to keep Lester’s no-hitter intact, but his diving attempt at Francisco Cervelli‘s soft liner to left field came up short, as the ball glanced off the heel of Nava’s glove. Still, the left fielder made amends one play later when he charged aggressively on a single through the hole and came up firing to cut down Austin Kearns at the plate.
—Adrian Beltre went 1-for-5 while stranding six runners. He is now 1-for-21 in his last five games, dating to when he jammed his wrist last Saturday against the Blue Jays. Beltre also made an error, his 19th of the year.
|09.25.10 at 5:56 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Mike Lowell makes no secret of the fact. He is very fortunate that he turned his head just in time to avoid having a groundball doing some serious damage to his face.
In the bottom of the fifth inning on Friday, Curtis Granderson hit what seemed like an innocent grounder to the first baseman. But the ball appeared to take a topspin hop, jumping right at Lowell’s nose. He turned his head to the left, and though the ball caromed painfully off the area between his right temple and eye, he reported to Yankee Stadium on Saturday without any evidence of a concussion symptoms, and with his visage largely intact. The Sox planned to do some reaction tests (and compare the results to the baseline testing that the team has conducted in spring training over the past couple of seasons) to ensure that the 36-year-old — who will retire next weekend — is fine, but by all indications, he appeared to escape significant harm.
“I think I actually got smarter,” Lowell joked of his performance on the baseline tests. “I slept pretty good, no headaches, never dizzy, it’s good.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ball bounce up like that. I’m just thankful I turned my head,” added Lowell. “[Dustin] Pedroia told me he took a ground ball in college and broke six bones in his face, so I’m very lucky. My eye, my nose, my cheek ‘ my boyish good looks would have taken a big hit there.’
The fact that the Sox had baseline testing to offer a comparison of Lowell’s pre- and post-injury acuity represents significant progress in the game. The way in which concussions and head injuries are handled now represents a significant departure from how such traumas were treated when Sox manager Terry Francona was a player.
“Thankfully, it’s different,” said Francona, who recalled suffering four or five concussions before reaching the majors. “Send a guy out there, with a guy throwing 95 mph, not being able to make a decision, that’s scary.”
That said, it appears the Sox will not be courting such risks in Lowell’s case. He took batting practice prior to Saturday’s game, and showed no ill effects from his injury.
“Overall,” said Francona, “I think he’s probably very fortunate.”
|09.25.10 at 4:58 pm ET|
NEW YORK — From coast to coast and in between, Felipe Lopez‘s name has mentioned in baseball talks throughout the country. In a matter of four days, he was placed on release waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals, claimed by the San Diego Padres, rejected that claim to make himself a free agent and then signed by the Boston Red Sox.
With just over a week go to in the regular season, Lopez suited up in his seventh uniform in 10 years. The veteran infielder joined the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. At first glance, the decision seemed puzzling, given that Lopez passed on an opportunity to play for a team (the Padres) in the thick of a pennant race in favor of one (the Red Sox) that stands on the cusp of elimination.
Yet the 30-year-old said that the Sox offered a level of comfort that San Diego could not. Even though the Padres are in the thick of the Wild Card and NL West races, Lopez didn’t feel comfortable jumping in this late in the season.
‘I know a lot of people here, good friends here, and I’ve always wanted to play here,’ Lopez said. ‘Nothing against San Diego. They’ve got something going on over there and I don’t want to just come [for the] last nine games and not feel like I’m part of it. If they win, celebrating, popping champagne, I don’t want to be the only one like, ‘OK, guys, good luck.’ I just don’t, I don’t like that.’
And so, Lopez opted to spend the final days of a season that has featured its share of frustrations with the Sox. After a 2009 campaign in which he batted .310, he averaged just .231 in 109 games for the Cardinals. Lopez struggled with the inconsistency of coming off the bench.
Off the field Lopez was tardy, as St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak previously told the media, on more than one occasion. He was released a day after arriving late for a game.
Lopez, who made it clear that he does not have ill-will toward the Cardinals, says his challenges began before the season even started. In spite of a standout season in 2009, he was not signed until late February of 2010, dangling in the wind until St. Louis extended a one-year, $1 million offer to the 2005 All-Star.
‘What happened to me in the off-season, that was kind of tough for me,’ he said. ‘Being the last guy signed, especially with the year I had, that was kind of tough for me. And then being a backup player, utility, after the year that I had, that was tough. Just not playing, that was tough. But I guess anything can happen so you learn from it, keep my mouth shut, keep going.’
When Lopez rejected the Padres’ waiver claim, he became a free agent and relinquished the remainder of his guaranteed salary. The Sox will guaranteed him the money that he would have made had he gone to San Diego (roughly $50,000). The team is unsure what role he might have for the rest of this year, suggesting that with Marco Scutaro struggling with his injured rotator cuff, Lopez — who has played second, third and short as well as a bit of outfield — could represent an insurance option.
“Kind of happened quick,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “With [Scutaro] kind of scuffling a little bit, we’re not sure how much we’re going to play him, Felipe became available. … I’m sure we’d like to watch him play a little bit. I just don’t know how much. Some of that will depend on the health of others.”
Regardless of the benefit that Lopez offers the Sox over the rest of the year, he could impact them in 2011 and beyond. There is a good chance that his production over the last two years will lead to him being classified as a Type B free agent, meaning that if the Red Sox offered him arbitration and he rejected such an offer to sign with another team, the Sox would get a draft pick in the supplemental first round. (Because the pick would be awarded by Major League Baseball, and wouldn’t come from another club, an arbitration offer would not impact Lopez’ market negatively.)
Lopez hopes to make the most of the remaining games. He isn’t particular about which position he’ll play.
‘I like playing. When I’m in there, like a consistent basis, I’m a pretty good player,’ he said.
Lopez believes he can learn from the veterans’ leadership and experience. He is living in the moment rather than focusing on where he will be playing next season.
‘I’m just here,’ he said. ‘I’m enjoying it so far. They’re giving me a chance to play. I’ll try to do my best. I’m just looking forward to these last nine games, take as much as I can from it, and have fun.’
|09.25.10 at 4:14 pm ET|
Here is the official press release announcing the signing of Felipe Lopez:
The Boston Red Sox today signed infielder Felipe Lopez, who will be active for today’s game in New York, wearing No. 32. To make room on the 40-man roster, the club transferred outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to the 60-day disabled list. The Red Sox active Major League roster is now at 36 players.
The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.
Lopez, 30, hit .231 (87-for-376) with 18 doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 36 RBI, 50 runs scored and 43 walks in 109 games with St. Louis this season, including 58 games at third base (51 starts), 24 at second base (17 starts), 24 at shortstop (19 starts), two at first base (one start) and one in right field. He also made his pitching debut with a scoreless 18th inning against the Mets on April 17. An All-Star and National League Silver Slugger award recipient at shortstop with Cincinnati in 2005, Lopez has hit .266 (1,112-for-4,181) with 87 homers, 427 RBI, 586 runs scored, 436 walks and 123 stolen bases in 1,133 career games over parts of 10 Major League seasons with the Blue Jays (2001-02), Reds (2003-06), Nationals (2006-08), Cardinals (2008, 2010), Diamondbacks (2009), and Brewers (2009). He was originally selected by Toronto in the first round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft.
Ellsbury, 27, was placed on the 15-day disabled list on August 14 with fractured ribs, his third stint on the disabled list in 2010. He appeared in 18 games with the Red Sox this season, going 15-for-78 (.192) with four doubles, five RBI, 10 runs and four walks.
|09.25.10 at 2:38 pm ET|
NEW YORK — The Red Sox‘ deal with Felipe Lopez, according to a major league source, pays him what he would have made over the duration of his contract with the Cardinals after St. Louis released him earlier in the week. Lopez was playing on a one-year, $1 million deal with St. Louis this season.
When Lopez elected free agency rather than accepting the Padres’ claim of him on release waivers, he forfeited the remainder of his deal (in the vicinity of $50,000). So, the Sox signed him for that amount, and he will now spend the last week and a half with Boston, giving him an opportunity to familiarize himself with the Sox and for the club to get to know him as he prepares for free agency this offseason.
And, there is a chance that he could qualify as a Type B free agent, meaning that if the Sox were to offer him arbitration and Lopez were to reject it before signing with another club, he would net the Sox a supplemental first round draft pick.
|09.25.10 at 11:34 am ET|
If you haven’t yet seen the HBO series Eastbound & Down, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s all about a washed up baseball player named Kenny Powers who, since leaving the game, has struggled with life after baseball. His character is an example of everything that is wrong with today’s athlete. He took steroids. He did drugs. He’s basically the biggest ass you could ever imagine, yet for some reason, you can’t help but love the guy.
I was sent this article today and had to laugh. It features 15 professional athletes who have had real life “Kenny Powers moments.” I was mentioned as No. 5. Kenny Powers’ post career job is as a substitute teacher. I myself was a substitute teacher earlier in my career while in the minors.
It made me think about those early years. My first full season in the minors was 1994 in Sarasota, Fla. DeMarlo Hale was our manager, Rico Petrocelli our hitting coach, and Al Nipper our pitching coach. I often refer to that coaching staff as the ” Dream Team.” We had a lot of fun that summer. At that level, you really don’t think about the money you make. It’s all about moving up and getting closer to the big leagues.
But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the average salary in High-A ball was about $1,200 a month for the five-month season. I’m not a math genius, but I’m pretty sure that’s $6,000 a year. When you make that kind of money, an offseason job is a must.
Which brings me to my point: Major League Baseball has to do something to help out these kids in the minors. Back then, the average monthly salary in Double-A was about $1,500, and the Triple-A salary was about $2,200. That just isn’t enough for a kid who is one injury away from getting called up to the big leagues. Organizations expect these kids to work out all offseason to prepare for the upcoming season, but not all kids can afford to go out to Arizona or Florida to work out for months before spring training.
Meanwhile, the draft is a joke. High schoolers and kids in college become instant millionaires. A mid-first round pick can make more than someone who has three years in the big leagues. Does that make sense? I really hope that MLB takes a look at it during the next bargaining agreement and finally reduces some of those signing bonuses and in turn gives that money back to the minor league players. If they are the future of the game, give them a chance and pay them like it.
|09.25.10 at 11:27 am ET|
NEW YORK — Their time as teammates was brief, yet fascinating.
Lars Anderson and Casey Kelly occupied the same clubhouse for only short spells during the 2010 season. The two were both in the Sox’ big league clubhouse during spring training; both were relocated to the minor league complex on the same day; and the two spent all of 17 games together with the Portland Sea Dogs before Anderson’s tremendous start led to a quick promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Yet while they only played together through April, the experience was a particularly intriguing one for Anderson. In 2009, Anderson had been the sure-thing prospect whose every move generated tremendous attention and scrutiny. He was named the top Red Sox prospect and indeed one of the top prospects in all of minor league baseball, creating immense expectations that ultimately proved, at times, overwhelming for him.
As a 21-year-old, Anderson found himself at times ill-equipped to handle everything that had been thrown at him. He ended the year hitting .233 with a .673 OPS, and then had to endure the widespread perception that his year was a disappointment.
One year later, while he was decimating the Double-A competition, he had the opportunity to see Kelly go through a similar experience to what he encountered. The prospect spotlight had redirected from Anderson to Kelly, the can’t-miss pitching prospect who — following an outstanding spring — was expected to dominate Double-A and push his way up the ladder, perhaps positioning himself for a big league callup before the end of the season.
For Anderson, the opportunity to examine the prospect machine as an outsider — rather than in the belly of the beast — was meaningful, particularly because he could serve as a sounding board for the 20-year-old phenom.
“It was interesting to watch. It was also kind of nice to be able to talk to him about it. He’s an awesome dude and a good player. You want him to be comfortable,” said Anderson. “I could just feel for him a little bit. For me it wasn’t the most comfortable setting. He had some similar frustrations. He handled it a lot better than I did, I thought. I know that he shared some of the feelings that I had. I could totally relate. We hung out a lot.”
There was no specific message that Anderson had for his teammate. The two were simply able to identify with the experiences of each other, things as mundane as the oddity of the autograph demands that had been thrust upon them.
‘We all have our own ways of processing, learning and experiencing. There is no right and wrong to it, I don’t think. I just think he probably suffered less than I did. I made myself suffer a lot,’ said Anderson. ‘But [Kelly] was more mature with it than I was, which was nice to see.’
Statistically, Kelly ‘ like Anderson in 2009 ‘ endured a year of struggle that failed to match the hype. The young right-hander, in his first full season as a pitcher, went 3-5 with a 5.31 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 95 innings.
Anderson did not see that part of the season. While he and Kelly were teammates, the pitcher forged a solid 3.38 ERA in his first four outings. At that point, he was still being held to a strict pitch count.
Even so, some of the outings during their time as teammates were better than others. And in that, Anderson had an opportunity to observe what many in the organization have described as the startling maturity of Kelly in dealing with success and adversity.
‘You know what impressed me about him? He was really detached from all the numbers stuff. Good start or bad start, he was even-keeled,’ said Anderson. ‘As far as how his outings went, he was over it, good or bad, pretty quickly, which is a huge thing.’
That is a lesson that has been part of Anderson’s maturation in 2010, in which he is able to isolate negative results rather than letting them carry over and snowball. It is part of what positioned him to get his first taste of the big leagues this year, and that still may help Kelly to follow that path in the not-too-distant future.
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