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Francona on D&H: ‘Patience pays off’ with Ortiz

05.26.10 at 1:12 pm ET
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Terry Francona

Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined the Dale & Holley show Wednesday and talked about David Ortiz’ turnaround. Said Francona: “That’s what I was trying to tell people six weeks ago is ‘Just slow down.’ When you’re a radio personality or a writer, you can be wrong. When you’re the manager, a coach or a GM, we don’t have that luxury of changing our mind so you have to patient. When you have good players, a lot of times that patience pays off.”

As for Ortiz’ slow trot around the bases Monday that has gotten some press, Francona said, “I guess more what I care about as long as the ball goes over the fence, then I’m OK.”

Following is a transcript. To hear the interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

So, in the offseason when you were talking about run prevention, this is what you meant.

Again, when you get pitching, everything looks a lot better. [Jon] Lester pitches against a really good team. [Adrian] Beltre made some plays that on normal nights, normal players, they probably not only score runs but have rallies. He’s going left and right. You’re seeing a guy play with confidence and the ability. Yeah, it’s exciting. Did it take us a while to get there? Yeah, but now that it’s kind of got there, it’s fun to watch.

I [Michael Holley] was talking about how bad David Ortiz was and how maybe the Red Sox should release him, but I was wrong. What do you think the biggest key to his turnaround has been?

You’re probably not the only one to say that. Again, that’s what I was trying to tell people six weeks ago is “Just slow down.” When you’re a radio personality or a writer, you can be wrong. When you’re the manager, a coach or a GM, we don’t have that luxury of changing our mind so you have to patient. When you have good players, a lot of times that patience pays off. Read the rest of this entry »

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Boxscore Breakdown – One-Hitter At The Trop!

05.26.10 at 10:41 am ET
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Passing along a few things I found in the boxscore from last night’s 2-0 win at the Trop:

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* – The Red Sox had 4 pitchers combine for a 1 hit shutout last night. It was the first game in the majors this season in which a team allowed no runs and one hit (or less) while using four or more pitchers. Out of the 16 such games since 1952, 11 have come since 2002. It was the first such game in which Boston or Tampa have been involved.

ONE OTHER THING: There have now been 7 such games by a road team since 1952, but there have been 9 games in which a player has hit 4 HR in a game. So, yeah, it was rare.

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* – Since 2000, the Red Sox have thrown 12 one hit (or no hit) shutouts, the most in the majors (the Mets and A’s each have 11). Last night was the 3rd time since 2000 that the Sox have turned the trick against Tampa.

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* – The Red Sox 6-7-8-9 hitters combined to go 0-14 last night. It’s the first time that they have failed to get at least one hit between them this season (they did it 10 times in 2009). Last night was the first time that the Red Sox have won despite a combined o-fer from 6-7-8-9 since May 29, 2005. They had lost 22 straight going in.

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* – The Red Sox have now won 15 straight games (regulation, nine inning games only) in which their pitchers fanned 12 or more opposing batters (2-0 this season). It’s the longest such streak ever by a Red Sox team (the previous long was 10 games). The MLB record is 24 consecutive wins in such games by the ’95-’97 Seattle Mariners. The Rays had won both games in which their batters had 12+ strikeouts this season prior to last night. Of course, it seems that they had won nearly every game so far this season no matter what they did.

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* – David Ortiz now has 14 RBI in 10 games since May 14. Only Texas’ Nelson Cruz (17) and Toronto’s Jose Bautista (16) have more during that span. Kevin Youkilis has 12 RBI in that span as well.

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* – Big Papi did not strike out last night. After striking out 38 times in his first 109 plate appearances through May 16 (34.9%), he has fanned only twice in 25 PA since then (8.0%).

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* – Manny Delcarmen had his 5th “perfect” outing of the season (1+ innings without allowing a baserunner). That’s out of 19 total appearances (26%). He had only 2 such outings after July 3 last season (out of 32 appearances, 6%).

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* – Daniel Bard tossed his second straight perfect inning. Don’t look now, but he has not allowed a HR in 11 consecutive outings. The only longer streak by Bard was 27 straight outings at the start of his career.

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Closing Time: Red Sox 2, Rays 0

05.25.10 at 10:03 pm ET
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Jon Lester allowed just one hit while striking out nine over six innings Tuesday night. (AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox won their fourth straight game and second in a row against the Rays, beating Tampa Bay, 2-0, behind another standout pitching performance by Jon Lester. The Sox starter, who went six innings, was followed up by three scoreless innings of relief by Manny Delcarmen, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, respectively. David Ortiz supplied all the offense the Sox would need, launching a two-out, two-run double in the third inning. (Click here for a recap.)

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- Lester continued a dominating run by Sox starters, allowing just one run over six innings while striking out nine. Over the last 26 innings, Red Sox starting pitchers have given up just a single run. During the Sox’ current four-game win streak the starters are a combined 4-0 with a 0.32 ERA. The game marked just the second time in 12 chances that the Rays had lost a game to left-handed starter (the other being Dallas Braden‘s perfect game).

- David Ortiz (who has seemingly been in the “What Went Right For The Red Sox” category every game). After hitting his two-out, two-run double into the left-center field gap in the third, Ortiz now has 21 RBI in his last 18 games after totaling four for the entire month of April. Making it even more impressive this time around is that Tampa Bay starter James Shields has been a strikeout machine against lefties, fanning more left-handed hitters than any pitcher in baseball.

- Adrian Beltre reminded Joe Maddon why the Tampa Bay manager dubbed him the best defensive player in the history of mankind (or something like that). Here is what Maddon told our man Alex Speier: “[Beltre is] clearly the best [third baseman] I’ve ever seen in person. I think [Evan Longoria] is good, I used to think Scott Brosius was really good. … [Eric] Chavez was good, but Beltre was stupid good. I think Beltre is the best who I’ve ever seen with my two eyes – defender, not just third baseman, but defense.” After making two diving stops of grounders Tuesday night to prevent Tampa Bay rallies, that opinion most likely hasn’t changed.

- Home plate umpire Bob Davidson seemed to do the Red Sox some favors, making some generous strike calls in favor of Lester. One finally pushed the Rays’ patience to the point of no return, with Carl Crawford first disputing a strike well outside the zone before getting into a heated argument in which he made contact with Davidson before being ejected. Upon his leadoff hitter’s ejection, Tampa Bay manager Maddon got tossed after executing a good ol’ fashioned, nose-to-nose exchange with the umpire.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

- Jacoby Ellsbury, who was originally held out of the lineup just for the sake of getting a “breather,” according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona, was struck with a pain in his left side prior to the game. The ailment led the Sox to alter their plans of designating outfielder Darnell McDonald for assignment, instead choosing to DFA reliever Scott Atchison. The execution of designating Atchison, who does have an option left, is purely procedural and he is expected to be optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket Thursday.

- Lester’s only downfall was his control. The lefty starter walked five during his 111-pitch outing, matching a career-high he had accomplished on three separate occasions. Two of the previous five-walk outings were totaled in 2006, with the other coming in Cleveland on April 14, 2008, believed by many to be the last game before Lester went on his current run of excellence. After that game against the Indians (4 1/3 innings, 4 runs), Lester had a heart-to-heart with pitching coach John Farrell, who managed to get the lefty believing exactly how dominant he could be. Since that game in Cleveland, Lester is 34-14 with an ERA of 3.20.

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Red Sox designate Atchison, not McDonald

05.25.10 at 7:16 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox have designated relief pitcher Scott Atchison for assignment, not outfielder Darnell McDonald as they had originally planned. The reasoning for the move was that outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who wasn’t in the Red Sox lineup Tuesday night against the Rays, experienced soreness in his left side prior to the game. The moves were made in order to activate outfielder Mike Cameron, who started in center field in the second game of the three-game series. The choice to DFA Atchison is strictly procedural, according to the club, and the pitcher is expected to be optioned to Triple A Pawtucket Thursday.

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Ellsbury: ‘They told me I would be in center’

05.25.10 at 6:19 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury both confirmed that the plan going forward is to play Ellsbury in center field on a regular basis, even with the return of Mike Cameron.

“They told me I would be in center,” Ellsbury said prior to the Red Sox’ Tuesday night game with the Rays. “I don’t know what that means, but I’m assuming I’ll play center for the rest of the year.”

Ellsbury wasn’t in the Sox’ lineup Tuesday, getting what Francona described as a “breather” after having played the last three games following his stint on the 15-day disabled list (ribs). Cameron got the start in center field.

“I think so for now,” said Francona of the plan to put Ellsbury in center field. “The good news is that they can both play. I think that’s probably the right thing to do, at least for the moment, in the near future. I’ve talked to both of them about it. Both of them said, ‘Whatever you need to do.’ I just know we can’t play Cam every day yet. Hopefully we’ll get that point, but we need to be aware of what he’s gone through going forward. Because we have [Jeremy] Hermida it’s kind of a natural back and forth … I do think it might be a little bit easier on him.”

Ellsbury played six games in left field before having to go on the DL with cracked ribs. He makes no mistake about the fact that all things being equal center field remains his preferred position.

“That’s my natural position,” said Ellsbury, who said he did feel comfortable playing left in his short time there earlier this season.. “I’ve had success playing center field. I’ve played there my whole life. It’s definitely my natural position.

“It’s just nice to always have a position. You just know where you’re going to be at. You don’t have to look at the lineup every single day. ‘Hey, I’m going to be at short, I’m going to be at second, I’m going to be at third, I’m going to be at first.’ It’s nice to have one mainstay position.”

For Cameron the experience in left will be somewhat new, not having played there in a major league game since 2000. And while the 37-year-old did man left for Double A Portland in his final rehab appearance, other than a brief stint in the minors his experience left is limited to three big league games.

“I don’t think I’ll have a problem with it,” said Cameron, who said he wasn’t surprised by the move when told because the team had discussed the possibility when he first signed.. “Whatever they decide to do. But I feel pretty good now, so we’ll see. I’m just trying to get a chance to a chance to get out here and run around and try and play the game to the best I can possibly play it. If that’s the case, man, then it is what it is.”

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Ortiz’ HR trot sets slow standard

05.25.10 at 5:12 pm ET
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David Ortiz

When David Ortiz hit a home run in the second inning of Monday night’s win over the Rays, he took what appeared to be his usual leisurely stroll around the bases. However, according to a website that tracks home run trots, Ortiz took 30.59 seconds to get around the basepaths, making it the slowest trot in the majors this season.

On the Tater Trot Tracker at wezen-ball.com, Larry Granillo writes:
 “Well, I’ve been saying it all year, and it finally happened tonight: David Ortiz became the first player in the 2010 season to take more than 30 seconds to trot around the bases after a home run. With four of the top five slowest home run trots of the year already — all four of which were clocked in at 28.95 seconds or slower — it seemed inevitable that he would be the first to break the half-minute barrier. With his laser beam down the right field line in the second inning of tonight’s game, he finally did it.”

Here’s a link to the video of Ortiz’ home run trot.

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The Factors – Week 7

05.25.10 at 3:06 pm ET
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Thru Sunday’s games. Pssst. Things are looking up!

* – LEADING OFF INNINGS – Boston’s pitchers had a nice week, allowing just a .274 OBP to leadoff batters.  Only 3 leadoff walks tied their best week of the season.  That’s a real good sign because only two AL teams have issued more leadoff walks than Boston this season: Toronto (47) and Cleveland (44).

* – AFTER 0-1 COUNTS – Sox pitchers were fantastic last week after getting ahead, allowing just a .362 OPS, the 3rd best week by any AL team this season.  Among individual pitchers, only Seattle’s Doug Fister (.375) has a lower OPS allowed than Jon Lester’s .389 following 0-1 counts this season (min. 100 such batters faced).  Red Sox hitters slammed 8 HR after falling behind 0-1 last week, tied with Toronto for the most in the majors.  For the season, they lead the majors with 30 such HR.  Only 10 AL players have five or more such HR and three are Red Sox: David Ortiz (6), Dustin Pedroia (5), and Kevin Youkilis (5).

* – AFTER 1-0 COUNTS – The Sox found themselves up 1-0 only 38% of the time last week, the first time that they’ve been below 41% all season.  The pitchers got behind on 107 batters and walked 21 (19.6%) and for the season have walked 16.4% of those hitters.  Meanwhile, Minnesota’s hurlers have walked only 11.9% of the hitters that they fall behind 1-0.  By the way, if the Twins stay below 12% this season, they will have four of the top nine such seasons since they began tracking the stat in 1988.

* – AFTER 3-0 COUNTS – The Sox allowed their 4th HR following a 3-0 count this season, tied with Oakland for the most in the majors.  Of course, they also hit their 3rd such HR and now have a major league leading 15 RBI following 3-0 counts this season.  Their RBI per 2.50 AB in those spots would easily be the best mark by a Sox team since 1988 (3.23).

* – AFTER 0-2 COUNTS – Over the last two weeks, opponents have gone 7-83 (.084) against Red Sox pitchers after falling behind 0-2.  Their OPS in that span has been an anemic .190.  Boston’s hitters continue to do relatively well after falling in an 0-2 hole (their .507 OPS ranks 5th this season), but the fact that they’re did it in 23% of their plate appearances last week is a concern.  Only Cleveland (62) in the AL had more PA’s go through 0-2 counts last week than Boston (61).

* – FULL COUNTS – Boston pitchers have walked 34.4% of batters on full counts this season, which would be the highest by a Red Sox club since 1997 (34.7%).  They didn’t help themselves at all in Week 7, walking 15 (42%) while only fanning 5 on full counts.

* – GROUNDBALLS – .158 average allowed on grounders ranked 5th last week as the Sox allowed only 12 groundball hits over 7 games.  Compare that to the Orioles, who allowed 30.

* – LINE DRIVES – Sox pitchers have been quite “line drive lucky” this season (or is it the defense?), allowing a .695 average on line drives.  In the AL, only the Yankees (.670) have been luckier.  The worm just might be turning on the Yanks, though, as they allowed an MLB -high .893 average on liners last week (25-28).

* – RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION – This was just a great week for Sox pitchers, and their .107 average allowed with RISP and 2 outs led the majors last week as well.  Oh, the Yankees fell apart here last week, too, allowing a .438 average with RISP and 2 outs (14-32), with 6 of those hits going for extra bases.

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