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Lester on lat strain: ‘I don’t think this is going to be an issue’

07.05.11 at 10:34 pm ET
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The discomfort crept up in the fourth inning. Jon Lester was dominating the Blue Jays, having held them hitless while punching out five hitters. By his own account, he featured his best fastball of the year, a powerful offering that he could locate at will.

But in the fateful fourth, something was clearly amiss to the pitcher — even if his stuff did not show it.

The discomfort in his latissimus dorsi, a muscle on the left side of his back that spans from just below the shoulder down to just above the waist, was becoming increasingly uncomfortable, as if cramping. And so, as soon as he returned to the dugout after finishing the fourth, Lester consulted with Sox trainer Mike Reinold.

“It wasn’€™t one particular pitch. It was pretty much the whole inning,” said Lester. “It just built up and, at first, talking with [trainer Mike Reinold], I was just trying to go back out there in the fifth. He kind of said no. Him and [manager Terry Francona] always have our best interests. There’€™s no point in going out and pushing it right now. It’€™s going to be sore tomorrow. I think if I would have gone out there in the fifth, we possibly could have done some worse damage.

“I’€™d never take myself out of the game if it wasn’€™t something significant,” the left-hander added. “We’€™ll get it looked at tomorrow, see how I feel. Luckily, we have the All-Star break built in, so hopefully we don’€™t have to do anything drastic around here.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jon Lester, strained lat,

Closing Time: Red Sox best Blue Jays; Lester leaves with injury

07.05.11 at 9:48 pm ET
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The good news for the Red Sox? They claimed a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays Tuesday night. And it ended in fine fashion, with Darnell McDonald gunning down the potential game-tying run in Edwin Encarnacion at home plate on John McDonald’s single.

The bad news? It wasn’t tough to decipher.

With Jon Lester not having allowed a hit through four innings, the starter was suddenly pulled from his outing after throwing just 50 pitches. The reason, it would later be announced, was due to strained left latissimus muscle.

Here is what went right and wrong in the Red Sox’ 50th win of the season …

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Before leaving, Lester had electric stuff, striking out five and walking one. Since 1919, it is the latest a Red Sox starter has been removed from the game after allowing no hits.

Dustin Pedroia continued to torment left-handed pitching, this time taking Toronto starter Brett Cecil over the left field wall in the third inning for his eighth home run of the season. Pedroia came into the game with the highest batting average of any American League player against lefty pitching (.389), and highest on-base percentage in the majors vs. southpaws (.518). Pedroia is also now 13-for-26 when hitting cleanup.

– Reliever Matt Albers came on for Lester to start the fifth inning and performed admirably. The pitcher allowed just one hit while striking out two and walking a pair over his two innings. Albers also caught Corey Patterson trying to steal in the sixth by throwing over to third baseman Yamaico Navarro prior to delivering the pitch. He has now allowed just one run since June 1, encompassing 12 outings.

Jason Varitek now has hits in 18 of his last 22 starts thanks this time to a double to left which scored David Ortiz with the game’s first run.

– J.D. Drew, who came into the game with just 14 at-bats against lefties since May 1, notched his fourth RBI of the season against a southpaw when he singled in Varitek in the second while facing Cecil. He hadn’t claimed an RBI against a left-hander since April 20.

Franklin Morales came on and pitched a flawless inning, marking his fifth straight outing since coming off the disabled list in which the lefty hasn’t allowed a hit.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Lester’s injury.

– After Red Sox pitching had allowed just two hits over the first eight innings, Jonathan Papelbon gave up a leadoff single to Corey Patterson in hte ninth inning before letting Jose Bautista to take him over the left field wall for the third baseman’s 28th homer. It was the third homer surrendered by Papelbon this season, and first since June 1.

– Darnell McDonald managed an eighth-inning single, but still isn’t supplying the punch against lefties the Red Sox had hoped for. It was just the eighth time in McDonald’s 34 games he has claimed a hit, with his average now standing at .125.

Epstein: Sox more likely to add position players than pitchers

07.05.11 at 8:47 pm ET
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Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, in an appearance on NESN prior to Tuesday’s game, said that a complementary position player is the most likely avenue for his team to upgrade via the trade market between now and the July 31 deadline for non-waiver trades.

He suggested that the cost of pitching on the trade market is likely prohibitive, particularly given that the Sox feel that they have some pitching depth available (Felix Doubront, Kyle Weiland and Kevin Millwood) for reinforcements in the minors. As such, he suggested that a role player — likely a right-handed bat off the bench who would fulfill the role that had been intended for Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald — represented a likely target.

“I think for us, probably position players [are the most likely trade targets] at this point. I don’€™t see a ton of pitching help out there,” Epstein told NESN. “The few guys who can really make an impact, it would take half your farm system or your whole farm system. So we’€™re going to pursue it. I don’€™t see it as realistic. I think we would benefit from a complementary position player who would really fill a need for us in the right spot.

“We could end up with a pitcher. We could end up with a position player. But just looking at the landscape, there are probably more position players that could fit for us than pitching right now. There is some pitching depth. There are some areas, because of injuries, both up here and in the minor leagues, we don’€™t have as much position playing depth at the moment. Now, two, three weeks from now, if we get healthy, we might have that depth here.”

While Epstein did proclaim pitching depth a strength, he also took stock of a pair of concerns in the Red Sox rotation. He suggested that there are no obvious solutions to the season-long struggles of right-hander John Lackey (5-8, 7.47 ERA).

“As an organization we’€™ve got to find some answers. A lot of times this year, he just hasn’€™t been good enough and has taken us out of games. We know he’€™s working hard and we know he wants to get better,” said Epstein. “Right now, there aren’€™t answers. Otherwise he would have applied some things and taken some steps forward. There are questions, not answers. It’€™s our job to find the answers. We’€™ve got to keep working at it and get better. It’€™s definitely got to get better. He has a chance to be an important part of this team, wants to be, and has the talent to. It’€™s just not happening right now.”

Epstein added that, for the time being, Lackey will remain in the rotation, though if he continues to struggle in a fashion that gives the Sox little chance to win, the organization will have to reconsider its options.

“I think that work that has to happen for him to improve can take different forms. It’€™s something that can happen while he’€™s pitching,” said Epstein. “If he’€™s able to go out there and keep us in games, then yeah, he should get the ball. If he’€™s not, then we’€™ve got to look deeper. But he’€™s in the rotation. He’€™s got a chance to go out there and make it better.”

Meanwhile, Epstein said that the team is hopeful that Clay Buchholz will receive confirmation on Wednesday, when he visits Dr. Craig Brigham in Charlotte, that he is in a position to pitch without risking a significant injury.

“It’€™s essentially a third opinion, essentially confirming that it’€™s just a muscular issue. If it’€™s muscle, it will resolve in time,” said Epstein. “Hopefully we’€™ll get a feel for how long it will be and confirm that it’€™s safe for him to push through and get out there, get back on the mound.”

For video of the interview, click here.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, john lackey, Theo Epstein,

Live Blog: Red Sox, Jon Lester look to take down Blue Jays

07.05.11 at 7:59 pm ET
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Red Sox/Blue Jays live blog

Sox take stock of Wily Mo Pena HR Derby Campaign

07.05.11 at 7:56 pm ET
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David Ortiz is in a unique position. He is the captain of the American League’s Home Run Derby squad, in charge of selecting the AL representatives who will join him in Phoenix during the All-Star festivities next week. He is also a former teammate of Diamondbacks slugger Wily Mo Pena, a unique power-hitting menace who is capable of hitting the ball farther than just about anyone in the sport.

Apprised of the grassroots campaign to get the NL to add Pena to the Home Run Derby (which, for the first time this year, is not limited to All-Star participants), Ortiz made his feelings clear.

“That’s not good,” Ortiz said of the idea of having Pena among the NL’s lineup of batting practice bashers. “We would lose right away.”

The decision was not Ortiz’ to make. Instead, it belonged to Brewers slugger Prince Fielder, who won the 2009 Home Run Derby in St. Louis. Fielder passed on Pena, instead selecting Brewers teammate Rickie Weeks, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday.

So, the grassroots #wilymo4derby campaign on twitter did not achieve its goal. Still, the Sox are in unique position to assess the possible theater that Pena could have brought to the Derby setting. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: #wilymo4derby, David Ortiz, Home Run Derby, Prince Fielder

Trade Deadline: Mets willing to trade K-Rod, Yankees ‘marginally interested’

07.05.11 at 1:23 pm ET
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According to Bob Klapisch of Fox Sports, the Mets are open to dealing closer Francisco Rodriguez, even if it means shipping him to their crosstown rival. Rodriguez’ contract has a no-trade clause, but he said he would wave it for a trade to “good teams” like the Yankees and Rays. The Yankees could use another reliever, but their set up role could be filled when Rafael Soriano makes his return from the disabled list after the All-Star break.

Rodriguez has expressed a desire to stay with the Mets. He leads the team with 21 saves and has a 3.32 ERA.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Francisco Rodriguez, Mets, Yankees

Twitter campaign underway to get Wily Mo Pena in Home Run Derby

07.05.11 at 1:10 pm ET
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Red Sox fans may not have the best memories of Wily Mo Pena. The outfielder spent parts of two seasons in Boston from 2006-07 and was best known for a vicious swing that sometimes led to moonshot home runs but more often was the direct cause of nothing more than a violent strikeout.

Now, Pena has made his return to the majors for the first time since 2008, this time with the Diamondbacks, and is returning to his homer-mashing days of yore. After just 13 games in Arizona, he has smashed five home runs over 39 at-bats, giving him 7.8 at-bats per home run which would lead both leagues if he had accrued enough ABs to be eligible.

Those numbers have Yahoo! MLB columnist Jeff Passan starting a Twitter campaign with the hashtag “#wilymo4derby” in which he suggests that NL Home Run Derby captain Prince Fielder select Pena for his squad in next Monday’s competition, which will take place in Pena’s current home of Chase Field.

Pena’s former teammate in Boston and AL Derby captain, David Ortiz, has already chosen current teammate Adrian Gonzalez as well as Toronto’s Jose Bautista and New York’s Robinson Cano for his squad.

Read More: wily mo pena,

Trade Deadline: Yankees interested in Padres’ bullpen arms

07.05.11 at 12:52 pm ET
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The Yankees bullpen was hurting when Joba Chamberlain (Tommy John surgery) and Rafael Soriano (elbow injury) both were sent to the disabled list long-term. Although the injury isn’t considered serious, Mariano Rivera also gave the team a scare when he became unavailable to pitch Monday night with sore triceps.

Without any other big-name reliever outside of perhaps David Robertson, those kinds of maladies have the Yankees scrambling for potential stopgaps in their pen, and they seem to be looking to San Diego’s wealth of weapons in the bullpen as a potential solution, according to FOXSports.com.

Closer Heath Bell (2.50 ERA, NL-best 25 saves) seems to be one of the hot names on the trade market, but the report also throws Padres right-handed reliever Mike Adams (1.17 ERA, 0.65 WHIP) into the discussion of potential New York targets because of his ability to get lefties out (.468 OPS against). New York only has Boone Logan as a lefty in its bullpen right now.

However, Ken Rosenthal notes that San Diego would only part with Adams if they receive “an extraordinary offer.”

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Mike Adams, New York Yankees, san diego padres

Trade Deadline: Astros expected to sell, sell, sell

07.05.11 at 11:02 am ET
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Not that it comes as a big surprise to anyone, but Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com report that the Astros, the league’s worst team with a 29-57 record as of Tuesday, will be aggressive sellers come the end of the month.

The only untouchables on the roster are expected to be franchise player and recently named All-Star Hunter Pence as well as right-handed starters Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles. Carlos Lee, who is owed $18.5 million next season and the balance of that figure this season, will most likely not be moved due to his excessive contract and lack of production.

Everyone else appears to be fair game, including southpaw Wandy Rodriguez (6-4, 2.97 ERA). Rosenthal has mentioned the Yankees as potential suitors for Rodriguez, who is owed $23 million combined over the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The pair also mentions Michael Bourn, the Astros speedy leadoff hitter who leads MLB in stolen bases with 35 and is considered a solid centerfielder. They list the Braves, Giants and Nationals as possible destinations for Bourn.

Rosenthal and Morosi note that a switch in ownership could be the cause for a potential firesale, given potential owner Jim Crane‘s willingness to start from scratch. However, the $680 million sale may not become official until after the July 31 trade deadline, although it is stated that the team could still trade several players regardless.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Houston Astros, Michael Bourn, Wandy Rodriguez

Nuggetpalooza: Interleague Recap

07.05.11 at 10:53 am ET
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Another interleague “season” is in the books. Coming up is a statistical look at “Interleague 2011″. But first, a quick nugget from yesterday’s loss:

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* – In the 9th inning, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez struck out in succession (while each represented the tying run), snapping a streak of 156 straight innings where both had batted in the same inning without both striking out since May 19. It had only happened once in the last 264 innings in which they both batted (since April 16).

Note this: Monday was the 120th time since the last time that the Red Sox came to bat in the 9th inning at Fenway trailing by one or two runs and all three outs came via strikeout. That time, April 11, 1997, it was Troy O’Leary, Bill Haselman, and Nomar Garciaparra whiffing against Seattle’s Norm Charlton with the Red Sox trailing 5-3.

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* – While the Red Sox were going 10-8 in interleague play, the Yankees and Angels were putting up major league best 13-5 records. The Astros, at 4-11, had the worst interleague record in the majors this year. The best records ever for one interleague season belong to the 2006 Red Sox, 2006 Twins, and 2002 A’s (16-2). The worst ever was 2-13, by the 2010 Pirates.

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* – Boston won at least 50 percent of their interleague games for the 9th straight season, trailing only the Yankees, who did it for the 14th season in a row. It was the 7th consecutive year that the Astros have not won more than 50 percent of their interleague games.

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* – The Red Sox hit a major league leading .300 in interleague play this year. They also led the majors by scoring 100 runs in their 18 games (5.6 average), seven more than the Yankees. The Phillies wound up at .220, the lowest mark in the league, barely worse than the Marlins (.221).

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* – The Blue Jays and Rangers each hit 26 home runs in their 18 interleague games to lead the league, while the Padres hit just four in 15 games, tying the 1997 Yankees for the fewest in an interleague year.

—————————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

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