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Red Sox announce signing of defensive whiz Iglesias

09.08.09 at 7:15 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced the signing of Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias to a four-year Major-League contract that is to begin in 2010, and added the shortstop to the 40-man roster. The deal was for $8.25 million, with the shortstop receiving a $6.25 million bonus (spread over four years) and annual salaries, starting in 2010, of $500,000 per season.

Iglesias is considered an elite defender, having drawn some scouting comparisons to Ozzie Smith and other Gold Glove-caliber shortstops. There are, however, questions about his offensive ability. This is from a Full Count post on the Red Sox’ international amateur shortstop signees in July:

(Iglesias) is considered a very athletic player with good speed who plays dazzling dazzling defense. Even so, there are questions about his ability to hit enough to justify an investment along the lines of the Sox’€™ rumored offer. He has shown little power in his Cuban career, though he was very young for the competition while playing in the Cuban National Series.

Dayan Viciedo, a 19-year-old power hitting third baseman whom the White Sox signed to a four-year, $11 million deal out of Cuba this offseason, played in several international tournaments with Iglesias. At the Futures Game in St. Louis, Viciedo offered the following scouting report on his former teammate and countryman:

‘€œHe’€™s a very good fielder in particular. You can put him anywhere,’€ said Viciedo. ‘€œHe can play third, short and second. He’€™s a very good player.’€

Asked about Iglesias’€™ hitting, Viciedo paused to consider his answer.

‘€œHe defends himself,’€ said Viciedo.

Iglesias defected while playing at a tournament in Canada last August.

That said, one international scout for an American League club suggested that his team, like the Sox, believed that Iglesias might have legitimate offensive ability. The scout suggested that Iglesias has the hand-eye coordination that could project to make him a viable No. 2 hitter.

Iglesias, 19, is slated to play for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League beginning in October.  He played 75 games for los Vaqueros de La Habana of Cuba’€™s major league Serie Nacional during the 2007-08 season, batting .322 (101-for-314) with 11 doubles, four triples, 39 RBI, 51 runs scored and 17 walks.  The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Iglesias was 17 years old when that season began.  A right-handed hitter, he posted a .329 (81-for-246) average against right-handed pitching.  A native of Havana, Cuba, Iglesias established residency in the Dominican Republic before signing with the Red Sox.

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Orioles-Red Sox Match-Ups, 9/8

09.08.09 at 11:07 am ET
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Coming into the Red Sox‘ game with the Orioles Tuesday night, at Fenway Park, the only team Clay Buchholz has made more starts against than the Orioles is Toronto, having faced Baltimore five times, including four starts. His results have been mixed, ranging from the no-hitter he tossed on Sept. 1, 2007, to his last face-off with the O’s, Aug. 2 at Camden Yards in which Buchholz allowed seven runs on nine hits over four innings.

In all, Buchholz has a career 6.17 ERA against Baltimore, going 2-2 while allowing 17 walks in 23 1/3 innings. His last three outings against the Orioles has resulted in a combined 16 runs in 11 1/3 innings, with 12 walks and nine strikeouts.

Here is what the current Orioles’ hitters have done against Buchholz:

Brian Roberts: 11 AB, 6 H, 3 RBI, 3 BB, .545 BA, .643 OBP, .818 SLG

Nick Markakis: 8 AB, 0 H, RBI, 4 BB, .000 BA, .385 OBP, .000 SLG

Adam Jones: 4 AB, 2 H, HR, 4 RBI, BB, .500 BA, .500 OBP, 1.500 SLG

Melvin Mora: 4 AB, H, RBI, BB, .250 BA, .500 OBP, .250 SLG

Luke Scott: 4 AB, 0 H, 2 BB, .000 BA, .333 OBP, .000 SLG

Felix Pie: 3 AB, H, .333 BA, .333 OBP, .333 SLG

Chad Moeller: 2 AB, 2 H, RBI, 1.000 BA, 1.000 OBP, 1.500 SLG

Ty Wigginton: 2 AB, 2 H, HR, 2 RBI, 1.000 BA, 1.000 OBP, 2.500 SLG

Robert Andino: 1 AB, 0 H, BB, .000 BA, .500 OBP. .000 SLG

Lou Montanez: AB, H, RBI, 1.000 BA, 1.000 OBP, 1.000 SLG

As for Buchholz’ opponent, David Hernandez, the 24-year-old has faced the Red Sox twice in this, his rookie season. The first outing, coming on July 26 at Fenway Park, he controlled the Sox’ bats, giving up just one run over seven innings, striking out two and not walking a batter. His next outing against the Red Sox, coming on Aug. 1, Hernandez only allowed two runs, but was forced to throw 102 pitches before exiting after 4 2/3 innings.

In 15 starts this season, Hernandez is 4-6 with a 4.54 ERA, and is coming off an outing against the Yankees in which he surrendered five runs over five innings.

This is what the Red Sox hitters have done against the right-handed Hernandez:

David Ortiz: 6 AB, H, 2B, .167 BA, .167 OBP, .333 SLG

Dustin Pedroia: 6 AB, H, HR, RBI, .167 BA, .167 OBP, .667 SLG

Jacoby Ellsbury: 5 AB, 3 H, BB, .600 BA, .667 OBP, .600 SLG

Kevin Youkilis: 5 AB, 2 H, HR, RBI, BB, .400 BA, .500 OBP, 1.000 SLG

Jason Bay: 4 AB, H, BB, .250 BA, .400 OBP, .250 SLG

J.D. Drew: 3 AB, H, .333 BA, .333 OBP, .333 SLG

Victor Martinez: 3 AB, 0 H, .000 BA, .000 OBP, .000 SLG

George Kottaras: 2 AB, 0 H, .000 BA, .000 OBP, .000 SLG

Josh Reddick: 2 AB, H, 2B, .500 BA, .500 OBP, 1.000 SLG

Jason Varitek: 2 AB, 0 H, .000 BA, .000 OBP, .000 SLG

Chris Woodward: 2 AB, H, BB, .500 BA, .667 OBP, .500 SLG

It’s official: Another year for Beckett

09.07.09 at 11:19 pm ET
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Ask about the 2006 contract extension many feel lost Josh Beckett millions in the open market, and the pitcher will usually give a hard-to-argue-with analysis:

“I will have made close to $50 million by the time I’m 30 years old.”

Thanks to Monday afternoon’s start in Chicago, that figure might be conservative.

By taking the mound against the White Sox Monday, Beckett started in his 28th game this season and thereby was able to have the $12 million team option vest for the 2010 season. The clause in the hurler’s contract was activated either if he started in 28 games in ’09, or 56 games combined in ’08 and ’09. Beckett started in 27 games last season.

The only way the option wouldn’t be triggered is if Beckett finishes the ’09 season on the disabled list.

Beckett inked his current contract extension in July, 2006 at what would be one of his lowest points of his Red Sox career. That deal was worth three years, $30 million plus the team option for ’10. When the deal was agreed upon, the righty owned a 5.12 ERA, the highest mark he would ever have any season as a Red Sox past May 16.

If the contract wasn’t signed, Beckett could have potentially made millions more in the free agent market since he would have become a free agent following the 2007 season. He would have been heading into the open market having not only finished second in the American League Cy Young voting, but having turned in a post-season in which he went 30 innings, allowing just four runs while striking out 35 and walking just two in leading the Red Sox to a world championship.

Many believe if he did go to free agency following the ’07 season, Beckett would have been in line for a deal similar to the one given to Johan Santana that offseason, a contract that came out to $137.5 million over six years.

Besides any insecurities that went along with getting off to a slow start with the Red Sox in ’06, there were good reasons Beckett inked his extension when he did. He was told while with the Marlins that getting his pitching shoulder insured might be difficult, potentially leaving some teams with uncertainty in terms of committing to the then-26-year-old. And there was also the knowledge that he would be young enough to get at least one more big deal if all worked as planned throughout the life of the extension.

(It should be noted that while Beckett wasn’t able to get insured by Lloyd’s of London to protect his pitching shoulder in ’05, he had undergone an MRI on his pitching elbow following the ’07 season at the request of the Red Sox for insurance purposes. As a result of the examination, the Red Sox were able to secure insurance on Beckett’s contract.)

Since signing his current contract, Beckett has the fourth most wins in the majors (51), the ninth-most strikeouts (605), and a 3.87 ERA. He has also developed into the leader on the Red Sox’ staff, both in performance and preparation, with the organization holding up the right-hander’s in-between-starts routine as the example for all their young pitchers.

As for life after ’10, Beckett presented the groundwork for his approach early on in this season’s spring training…

 

‘€œI honestly don’€™t try to think about it. I think if I deserve it I’€™ll be back here,’€ he said. ‘€œIf they think I don’€™t, I’€™ll have to go elsewhere and try something else. Obviously I would like to stay here, but (thinking about it) is really not in my core.

‘€œAt the end of the year hopefully we’€™ll sit down and maybe have a talk with (Red Sox general manager) Theo (Epstein), me and my agent (Michael Moye) and see what they’€™re thinking about. I want to see where they’€™re going, if I’€™m even in their plans. If I’€™m not it was an awesome run. I really haven’€™t sat down and thought about it too much, but at the end of the year we will sit down and at least have a talk. Even if nothing comes of it, just to say, ‘€˜Are we in the plans? Are we looking to get younger?’€™ It’€™s really up to them. I would like to stay here. I love playing in Boston. I can’€™t imagine another organization that would go so far out of the way to make my job as easy as possible. They realize our jobs are very demanding and very hard, and they do everything they can.’€

Red Sox at White Sox Match-Up, 9-7-09: Beckett vs. Buehrle

09.07.09 at 10:56 am ET
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It was only a few weeks ago on a Friday night in the new Yankee Stadium when Josh Beckett (14-5, 3.87) stood atop the mound in front of a sold-out crowd while in the prime of his season. Unfazed by the playoff-like atmosphere, Beckett was flawless in his duel with former Florida Marlins teammate A.J. Burnett, as the two one-upped each other inning-by-inning as zeros glimmered across the scoreboard.

Beckett threw 115 pitches in that seven-inning, seven-strikeout, scoreless no-decision that the Red Sox ultimately lost in dramatic extra-inning fashion courtesy of the walk-off two-run home run by Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Since then, Beckett has bounced from being a serious AL Cy Young candidate to suffering a late-season breakdown. In his last five starts, Beckett has allowed a preposterous 14 home runs after surrendering only 10 in his first 22 outings. Although he won his start against the Detroit Tigers on August 12 following his showdown against the Yankees, Beckett since has gone 0-1 with a skyrocketed ERA of 8.88.

Now, with his team carrying a slim three-game lead over the dangerous Texas Rangers, Beckett looks to regain his all-star caliber form as he prepares to take the ball at 2:05 pm today against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular field in the finale of a four-game series. In his career, Beckett has seen plenty of success against Chicago, going 4-0 in 5 starts with a 3.68 ERA.

On the flip side, White Sox ace Mark Buehrle (11-7, 3.86) has seen his share of recent woes. Since carving his name into the record books on July 23 by becoming on the 18th player in Major League history to hurl a perfect game, Buehrle has yet to collect a win, going 0-4 with a dismal 5.44 ERA in an eight-start span.

Against the Red Sox, Buehrle has struggled in the past. In 13 games (12 starts), Buehrle has compiled a 5-5 record with a 4.71 ERA. Victor Martinez, the former Cleveland Indian, has faced Buehrle successfully many times while in the Central, owning a career .339 batting average with three home runs. At home, though, this year Buehrle has been excellent, going 7-4 with a 3.74 ERA.

Both aces have high expectations to meet for this game.

Boston, while narrowly holding the Wild Card lead, has seen its rotation go through all sorts of ups and downs with injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield. Clay Buchholz has been inconsistent despite picking up a win last Thursday and Paul Byrd has hurled one brilliant and one disastrous showing since being called up from the minors.

Chicago, meanwhile, has watched its playoff contention shrivel in the past weeks after dropping below .500 on the season and eight games out of first place in the AL Central to the Detroit Tigers.

Here is how each pitcher has fared against the opposing batters:

Josh Beckett vs. Chicago batters

Alex Rios (22 career plate appearances, .333 AVG/.409 OBP/.667 SLG, 1 home run, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts)

A.J. Pierzynski (16), .333/.313/.400, 2 strikeouts)

Mark Kotsay (13) .200/.385/.200, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts)

Jermaine Dye (12) .273/.333/.818, 2 home runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts)

Paul Konerko (9) .143/.333/.143, 2 walks

Scott Podsednick (7) .429/.429/.429, 2 strikeouts

Ramon Castro (5)  .500/.600/.500, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Josh Fields (5) .200/.200/.800, 1 home run, 3 strikeouts

Carlos Quentin (4) 0-for-3, 3 strikeouts

Dewayne Wise (4) 2-for-4, 1 strikeout

Alexei Ramirez (3) 1-for-3, 1 strikeout

Mark Buehrle vs. Red Sox Batters

Victor Martinez (58 career plate appearances, .339 AVG/.362 OBP/.536 SLG, 3 home runs, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts)

David Ortiz (52) .354/.404/.604, 2 home runs, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (31) .357/.419/.571, 2 home runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout

Jason Bay (16) .214/.313/.286, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (11) .222/.273/.222, 1 walk, 2 strikeout

J.D. Drew (11) .100/.182/.100, 2 strikeouts

Rocco Baldelli (10) .500/.500/.900, 1 home run

Dustin Pedroia (10) .400/.400/.500

Mike Lowell (9) .222/.222/.222, 3 strikeouts

Nick Green (4) .500/.500/.1000, 1 strikeout

Alex Gonzalez (3) 3-for-3

Jacoby Ellsbury (3) 2-for-3

Joey Gathright (2) 1-for-2

Read More: Josh Beckett, mark buehrle, White Sox,

Red Sox Call Up Bowden

09.05.09 at 12:34 pm ET
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With Junichi Tazawa having pitched 3.2 innings on Friday, the Red Sox summoned right-hander Michael Bowden from the minors to serve as an insurance option who can provide long relief should Tim Wakefield struggle to provide innings on Saturday. This is Bowden’s third call-up of the year; he has a 15.75 ERA in his two prior appearances, one of which was successful (2 shutout innings against the Yankees), the other of which was a disaster (2 innings, 7 runs).

Bowden (4-6, 3.13 ERA in Triple-A this year) is a native of the Chicago area, and so the opportunity to join the Red Sox in U.S. Cellular Field represents a homecoming of sorts for him.

Here is the release from the Red Sox announcing his call-up:

The Boston Red Sox recalled right-handed pitcher Michael Bowden from Triple-A Pawtucket.  Bowden will wear No. 64 and be available for today’€™s game against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.  With today’€™s move, the club’€™s active Major League roster is at 32 players.

The announcements were made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

For Bowden, 22, it is his third stint with the Big League club this season after combining to allow seven runs over 4.0 innings in two relief appearances for Boston earlier this year.  Over 24 starts with the PawSox this season, he went 4-6 and at the time of his promotion ranked 4th in the International League with a 3.13 ERA (44 ER/126.1 IP).  The right-hander was 1-1 with a 1.96 ERA (5 ER/23.0 IP) over his final four starts.

Selected by Boston in the supplemental round (club’€™s fifth pick) of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Bowden has appeared in three career Major League games (one start).  He made his debut with the Red Sox in a start on August 30, 2008 against the White Sox.  In 106 career minor league games (103 starts) over parts of five seasons in the Boston organization, he is 33-25 with a 3.15 ERA (186 ER/532.0 IP), 477 strikeouts and 153 walks.

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Red Sox at White Sox Match-Ups, 9/4

09.04.09 at 3:25 pm ET
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A month ago, the odds sprawled across the boards of the crowded Vegas casinos most likely would have favored potential Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay to earn his 14th win of the season over 38-year-old righty Paul Byrd. In fact, a month ago, Byrd was still pitching to 13 year-old little leaguers before receiving an unexpected call from the Red Sox inquiring whether or not he would like to sign with the team and take the mound a few weeks later.

Byrd did not hesitate and immediately inked a minor league deal. He made a pair of starts in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League, moved on to an assignment with Triple A Pawtucket where he made two rehab starts before facing off against Halladay on August 30. Remarkably, Byrd picked up the win, going six shutout innings, surrendering six hits and three walks while striking one.

Now, with the Red Sox riding on a hot streak winning 12 of their last 16 games, Byrd looks to continue the sizzling run as the Kelsey Grammar double opposes Freddy Garcia and the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field at 8:11pm tonight to open a four-game series.

The White Sox have fallen out of the playoff race this week after losing eight of their last eleven on the road and trading away slugger Jim Thome to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Garcia still is searching for his first win of the 2009 season.

Released by the New York Mets in early April after failing to secure a spot in the rotation, Garcia signed a minor-league contract with his former Windy City team in June. Since then, Garcia has struggled in his three major league starts with the White Sox, going 0-2 with a 5.94 ERA. One of those starts included an impressive performance against the Sox in a no-decision, as Garcia went 6 1/3 inning, while allowing three earned runs at Fenway on August 25.

In his career, Garcia has seen some success against Boston, as he owns a 6-2 record with a 4.74 earned run average in 14 starts.

Byrd, who spent time with the Cleveland Indians before arriving in Boston last season, also has had his share of success against Chicago. In 18 career starts, Byrd owns an 8-3 record with a 4.43 ERA including two complete games and one shutout.

Although he sports a winning record, several White Sox players have hit Byrd well in the past. In 38 at-bats, first-baseman Paul Konerko has batted .316 with one home run against the pitcher with the old-school wind-up, while former Red Sox Mark Kotsay posts a .464 average with a stellar .531 OBP in 28 at-bats versus the soft-spoken Byrd.

Since knuckleballer Tim Wakefield‘€™s status for tomorrow’€™s scheduled start is still dependent on how he feels today, the Red Sox hope that Byrd can reproduce the efficient start he compiled against the Toronto Blue Jays last week. With only a few weeks left in the regular season and the uncertainty surrounding Daisuke Matsuzaka‘€™s return and Josh Beckett‘€™s recent woes, Byrd has the chance to step up and contribute to the Red Sox’€™ playoff run.

White Sox vs. Paul Bryd:

Paul Konerko (39 career plate appearances against Byrd) .316 average/ .333 OBP/ .447 SLG, one home run, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

A.J. Pierzynski (37) .212/ .278/. 242, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Mark Kotsay (33) .464/.531/.750, 2 homers, 4 walks, 1 strikeout

Jermaine Dye (30) .179/.233/.571, 3 homers, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts

Alex Rios (24) .167/.167/.542, 2 homers, 2 strikeouts

Scott Podsednik (16) .357/.438/.357 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Josh Fields (7) .000/.143/.000 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Carlos Quentin (6) .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout

Alexei Ramirez (5) 1-for-5

Red Sox vs. Freddy Garcia

Jason Varitek (31 career plate appearances against Garcia) .300 AVG./.323 OBP/.500 SLG, 1 homer, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (30) .217/.400/.478 2 homers, 6 walks, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (25) .174/.240/.391, 1 home run, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts

Rocco Baldelli (10) .222/.300/.222, 2 strikeouts

Joey Gathright (10) 0-for 9, 1 sacrifice fly, 4 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (9) .111/.111/.111, 2 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (7) .333/.429/.500, 1 walk

Jason Bay (6) 0-for-5, walk, 2 strikeouts

Nick Green (6) 1-for-6, 2 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (6) 2-for-6

Casey Kotchman (5) 0-for-4, 1 walk

Alex Gonzalez (4) 0-for-4, 2 strikeouts

Jacoby Ellsbury (3) 1-for-3, 1 strikeout

Dustin Pedroia (3) 0-for-3

Read More: freddy garcia, Paul Byrd,

How the Red Sox finally got Longoria out

09.04.09 at 12:08 am ET
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The Red Sox might have had a three-run lead when Evan Longoria stepped to the plate with two outs in the eighth inning, but that still didn’t offer any sense of security when having to stare down the Rays’ third baseman.

Not only had Longoria proved to be the difference-maker Wednesday night thanks to an eighth-inning, three-run homer, but he also has been on a historic run against Red Sox pitching this season. Heading into his final at-bat of what would turn into a 6-3 Sox win, Thursday night at Tropicana Field, Longoria had 27 RBI against the Sox, the second-most of any Red Sox’ opponent since 1954.

In 15 games against the Sox, Longoria is hitting .371 with eight homers and an .871 slugging percentage, and after two more hits Thursday night, he carries a six-game hit streak against the Red Sox in which he has gone 11-for-26, with four multi-hit games.

Simply put, regardless of the score, there is a discomfort for Red Sox pitchers when they face Longoria, especially in a ballgame’s waning innings.

This time it was reliever Daniel Bard who was charged with the task of retiring Longoria. The rookie’s experiences with the Tampa Bay slugger hadn’t been pleasant, having surrendered more than a few hits when the two met in the Cape Cod League, and a first-pitch home run in the eighth inning of the Red Sox’ Aug. 4 game against the Rays.

“He’€™s had my number,” Bard siad. “I’€™ve only faced him once at this level, but I’€™ve faced him five times at the Cape League and he’€™s hit me pretty well. And it’€™s always been fastballs. He’€™s always hit my fastball.”

But this time Bard had a trick up his sleeve.

Since Longoria had seen just one major league pitch from Bard — albeit a fastball which he deposited in the Tropicana Field bleachers — the reliever knew that the righty hitter hadn’t gotten a load of the reliever’s newly-revamped slider, which had become increasingly effective thanks to a subtle change in the gripping of the pitch.

After showcasing a fastball that went as high as 100 mph in facing his inning’s three previous Rays’ hitters, Bard came back with three straight sliders. The final offering induced the kind of awkward swing not seen from Longoria against any Red Sox pitcher this season.

“I kind of wanted to go fastball in to start but Victor [Martinez] gave me the slider, it sounded good so I went with it. He didn’€™t look really comfortable so I stuck with it,” Bard said. “He hadn’€™t even seen a slider from me, so that bat does a lot because now he knows I have it he can’€™t sit on that first-pitch fastball now that I went back to back to back. It kind of sets up for the next time I face him.

“He probably thought, ‘€˜There’€™s no way he’€™s going to throw me three sliders in a row’€™. The hits he got off of me they were always fastballs early in the count. Obviously he was sitting on it and wasn’€™t acknowledging any other pitch, but I kind of forced him to today.”

Papelbon fined $5,000

09.03.09 at 5:27 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. —  Jonathan Papelbon was fined $5,000 by Major League Baseball for taking too long in coming to the mound from the bullpen in Tuesday night’s game at Tropicana Field against the Rays. The Red Sox closer said it was the seventh time he has been fined by MLB for such delays.

“I don’€™t know why they keep coming after me. It’€™s probably because I’€™m not doing what I’€™m supposed to be doing. I’€™m not obeying the rules. I’€™m taking too long getting to the rubber,” he said. “You’€™re allowed 2:25 and I’€™m taking too long.”

 Papelbon said he hasn’t sought an explanation and the fines don’t figure to alter his approach in the future.

 “Nothing affects the way I pitch, man,” he said. “Nothing. Zero.”

Papelbon said the first violation drew a $1,000 fine, and that paying the latest one is going to be unavoidable.

 “I don’t feel like I should have to pay them, but eventually I’m going to have to pay them,” said the closer, who estimates his fines now to be well upwards of $10,000.

“I don’t know, man. I really don’t. I know it’s a new rule and everything and they’re trying to enforce it. I guess I’m just the one they decided to enforce it on… A rule’s a rule. I don’t know who else is getting fined. I can’t say I’m being picked on. They may be saying the same thing to everyone else.”

Red Sox vs. Rays Match-ups, 9/3/09

09.03.09 at 3:34 pm ET
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It is the battle of the aspiring aces. 

Young studs Clay Bucholz and David Price will face off this evening in the rubber match of this three-game set in St. Petersburg. The Rays took advantage of Josh Beckett last night to the tune of five runs with two solo home runs (Carl Crawford, Pat Burrell) to keep their Wild Card chances alive. The Sox are now back to five games up on the Rays and two-and-a-half on the Rangers entering tonight’€™s game.

On paper it looks like the Sox have not seen the phenom Price a lot. Yet the pitcher looms large in the recently rivalry between the teams as a result of his role in last year’€™s ALCS, where Price closed out the Sox’ World Series ambitions in dramatic fashion in Game 7 when he pitched 1.1. innings and struck out J.D. Drew, Mark Kotsay and Jason Varitek before getting Jed Lowrie to ground out to second to save the series for the Rays.

Price has only seen the Sox once in the regular season this year, picking up the win on August 5 while going six innings and giving up two runs on six hits, striking out five and walking none.

Buchholz has seen the Rays twice, making consecutive starts against them last season. He went 1-1, losing the first start 2-1 despite a complete-game, 9 strikeout effort in Tampa Bay and winning the second, 7-3, in Fenway with a 5.1 inning, 5 hit, 1 run, 6 strikeout line with 4 walks.

Red Sox Against Price:

Victor Martinez (5 career plate appearances) .200 average/ .200 on-base percentage/ .800 slugging, homer, strikeout

Jason Bay (3) .333/ .333/ 1.333, homer, strikeout

Jacoby Ellsbury (3) .333/ .333/ .667

Mike Lowell (3) .000/ .000/ .000, 2 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (3) .000/ .000/ .000

Kevin Youkilis (3) .333/ .333/ .667

Rocco Baldelli (2) .000/ .000/ .000, strikeout

Varitek (2) .500/ .500/ 1.000

Has not faced: Brian Anderson, Drew (regular season), Joey Gathright, Alex Gonzalez, Nick Green, Casey Kotchman, George Kottaras, David Ortiz, Chris Woodward.

Rays Against Bucholz:

Carl Crawford (7) .333/ .429/ .500, walk, 2 strikeouts

Akinori Iwamura (7) .286/ .286/ .714, homer, 2 strikeouts

Evan Longoria (6) .000/ .167/ .000, walk, 3 strikeouts

Carlos Pena (6) .200/ .333/ .200, walk, 2 strikeouts

Gregg Zaun (6) .167/ .167/ .333, strikeout

Jason Bartlett (5) .250/ .400/ .250, walk, strikeout

Gabe Gross (5) .000/ .000/ .000, strikeout

Dioner Navarro (3) .333/ .333/ .666, strikeout

B.J. Upton (3) .500/ .667/ 1.000, walk

Shawn Riggans (2) .000/ .000/ .000

Has not faced: Willy Aybar, Pat Burrell, Gabe Kapler, Fernando Perez, Ben Zobrist.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, David Price,

Francona explains the eighth

09.03.09 at 12:54 am ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona was forced to make some interesting decisions in the eighth inning of the Red Sox’ 8-5 loss to the Rays, Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.

The first came after David Ortiz led off the inning with a walk. With the Red Sox’ trailing by a run, Francona chose to send in Joey Gathright to pinch-run for his designated hitter, a move he typically stays away from for fear of losing Ortiz’ bat later in the game.

Gathright would steal second and ultimately score from third on a J.P. Howell wild pitch for the game-tying run. 

“With a little bit more of a deeper bench, with Mike Lowell sitting there and we have the DH, Joey’s able to steal. Although we’re not playing for a tie game, but with a deeper bench like that we can do some things we might not be able to do earlier in the season with four guys on the bench. We got a tie.”

Just prior to the equalizing run scoring, Francona pinch-hit for Jason Varitek for the first time this season, sending up Casey Kotchman, who drew a walk to load the bases. The manager pointed to the match-up as a primary reason, with Varitek carrying an 0-for-11 mark against the Tampa Bay pitcher at the time, reliever Grant Balfour.

Francona then chose not to pinch-hit Lowell or Rocco Baldelli against Howell, a left-hander. While the run did score via the wild pitch, Gonzalez would make the inning’s second out via a strikeout.

“Gonzy had been on everything,” said Francona regarding his shortstop, who had ripped a leadoff double in his previous at-bat. “If I said I didn’t think about it I would be lying, but I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. We had bases loaded and he throws a wild pitch… Gonzy’s been on everything, and with David out, Mikey would hit in that spot… it gives us a little bit better chance to stay out out of the double play.”

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