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Jason Varitek: We have young players, too so ‘kiss my rear end’

07.10.11 at 7:34 pm ET
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Tired of listening to Baltimore’s young players complain about the discrepancy in payrolls as the main reason for the big difference between the Red Sox and Orioles in the standing, Red Sox captain Jason Varitek finally decided to set the record straight following Sunday’s 8-6 win that completed a four-game series sweep heading into the All-Star break.

“We have some youth, too. So they can literally kiss my rear end,” Varitek said, when asked if he thought other teams like the Orioles were jealous of the Red Sox and they’re massive financial resources.

To Varitek’s point, the Red Sox started 24-year-old Kyle Weiland Sunday in his major league debut, the same age as Josh Reddick, who has assumed a regular spot in left field in the absence of the injured Carl Crawford.

Kevin Gregg, who instigated Friday’s brawl with David Ortiz, said after that game the Orioles won’t be “intimidated” by the Red Sox and their “$180 million” payroll. Orioles manager Buck Showalter ruffled feathers in spring training when he said he takes pride in “kicking the butts” of the Red Sox and general manager Theo Epstein, and their well-paid roster.

The Red Sox and Orioles completed a heated, four-game weekend series in which eight uniformed personnel were ejected, including four players in the brawl Friday night and both managers from Sunday’s game, that featured three more batters hit by pitches and Mike Gonzalez throwing behind Ortiz in the sixth.

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek

Middlebrooks making a powerful statement

07.10.11 at 7:25 pm ET
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PHOENIX — What to make of Red Sox third base prospect Will Middlebrooks?

“He’s a [expletive] stud,” said one NL talent evaluator.

Middlebrooks has emerged as one of the top Red Sox prospects over the last two years. He is a tremendously athletic 6-foot-4 third baseman who has terrific bat speed, big-time power potential and who consistently grades as one of the top defensive third basemen at every minor league level that he’s played at. Scouts describe him as a potentially above-average defensive third baseman with 20-25 home run power.

The 22-year-old typically puts on a show in batting practice, sending rockets well out of the park. He certainly commands the attention of his teammates both before and during games.

“He’€™s a guy with amazing power,” said Portland outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang. “He can share some of his power with me.”

But he is not just a slugger who represents a circus event. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 mlb all-star game, all-star futures game, Will Middlebrooks,

Terry Francona is just a little suspcious of Mike Gonzalez

07.10.11 at 7:22 pm ET
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Ironically, Red Sox manager Terry Francona believes the worst pitch of the day wasn’t even a pitch that hit anyone. After Sunday’s 8-6 Red Sox win over the Orioles, Francona said he had no problem with Kevin Youkilis getting hit on a changeup. But the manager was very concerned about the pitch that didn’t hit David Ortiz in the sixth, a pitch from Mike Gonzalez that was a foot behind the Red Sox slugger.

“I wasn’€™t mad,’€ Francona said of the Jeremy Guthrie changeup that hit Youkilis, drawing a warning from home plate umpire Marty Foster to both benches. ‘€œNobody was mad. Youk got hit with a changeup. I was very surprised.’€

Francona said it appeared clear that Guthrie wasn’€™t trying to hit Youkilis with runners on first and second and one out in the fourth. That set the stage for Francona and Kyle Weiland – making his big league debut – getting ejected when Weiland hit Vladimir Guerrero on the right hand in the fifth.

Sunday was the first time since Aug. 13, 2008 that a big league player was ejected in his big league debut. That day it was Francisley Bueno of the Braves.

‘€œI was ejected, too. I told him he was going to pay my fine,’€ Francona joked.

But when Gonzalez threw behind Ortiz in the sixth and was ejected, that was different matter, altogether.

‘€œIt looked a little [suspicious],’€ Francona said. ‘€œIt makes you think. The ball was three feet behind him. That’€™s where somebody gets hurt. That’€™s the point where somebody can really get hurt when you do something like that.”

Reached by a pool reporter after the game, crew chief Jeff Nelson said the league will look into it based on their crew report. ‘€œWe are in the process of issuing a report to the league office,” he said.

Read More: Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz

Closing Time: Red Sox 8, Orioles 6

07.10.11 at 5:02 pm ET
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The Red Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Orioles on Sunday, using a brilliant performance out of the bullpen from Alfredo Aceves and three more home runs to knock off Baltimore 8-6 at Fenway Park.

The Sox head into the All-Star break with a record of 55-35, tied for the best in baseball and good for a game lead over the Yankees in the AL East. The Sox have won six straight games and are 20 games over .500 for the first time this season.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong in the win …

WHAT WENT RIGHT

— The Sox offense got off to another fast start, plating a pair of runs in the first inning and four more in the second, chasing starter Mitch Atkins, who recorded just five outs. David Ortiz and Josh Reddick had first-inning RBI and then the Sox hit a trio of homers off Atkins in the second, with Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia connecting on solo shots and Kevin Youkilis blasting a two-run bomb to center field.

— Alfredo Aceves was superb in relief of Kyle Weiland, pitching out of an inherited jam in the fifth (runners on the corners, zero outs) and finishing his outing with a line of zero runs on zero hits in three innings pitched, with four strikeouts against no walks to pick up a well-deserved victory.

— Pedroia had three runs, a double and the solo second-inning home run. Pedroia now has a 12-game hitting streak, and his .284 average on the season is his highest since April 26. He finished the four games against the Orioles with nine runs and nine hits.

Adrian Gonzalez collected two more hits, bringing his major-league leading total to 128 at the All-Star break. The first baseman also leads the league with a .354 batting average and 77 RBI.

— Ellsbury continued his torrid streak with another multi-hit game, including a two-out, RBI single in the eighth inning that scored J.D. Drew and gave the Sox an 8-6 lead. Ellsbury enters the All-Star break with a batting average of .316 and is batting .447 (17-of-38) in July, with nine RBI in eight games.

Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon picked up where Aceves left off, with Bard striking out a batter in a perfect eighth inning and Papelbon allowed just a walk to pick up his 20th save. That walk of J.J. Hardy by Papelbon was the lone baserunner allowed by the Sox bullpen in five innings following the Weiland hit by pitch of Guerrero.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— Kyle Weiland allowed six runs on eight hits in four innings in his major-league debut before being ejected by home-plate umpire Marty Foster after hitting Vladimir Guerrero with a pitch with no outs in the top of the fifth (a ludicrous piece of umpiring by Marty Foster — there was clearly zero intent by Weiland to hit Guerrero. Terry Francona, Mike Gonzalez and Buck Showalter were also ejected in the contest).

To be fair, Weiland had his moments on Sunday. He pitched a perfect first inning before allowing six runs (and seven of the eight hits) in the second inning, including a two-run homer by Derrick Lee and RBI singles from Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Guerrero. Weiland was able to get out of that inning and pitch a pair of scoreless frames in the third and fourth before running into trouble in the fifth inning.

— J.D. Drew had a single and scored a run, but went just 1-for-10 in the Baltimore series and now has a batting average of .229 on the season and just 10 extra-base hits in 214 at-bats.

Terry Francona just wants to get away… to Mohegan Sun

07.10.11 at 4:23 pm ET
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Terry Francona – thanks to a questionable bit of judgment by home plate umpire Marty Foster – got an early start on his All-Star break Sunday.

All that meant was he had a little more time to prepare for his big night out – at Mohegan Sun. Francona revealed before Sunday’s game with the Orioles that he and his clubhouse attendants are going to the Connecticut resort for a little R&R. Francona is headed there with Edward ‘Pookie’ Jackson, John Coyne and Steve Murphy.

“Tonight, I’m taking the clubhouse kids to Mohegan Sun, or they taking me,” Francona said. “I’ll come back in the morning. But the biggest thing is I don’t want to have plans. I do not want to have plans. I just want to do whatever I do [like] If I want to get up and go to the mall.”

If you’re worried about Francona going overboard with the spending, don’t.

“I’m going with Pookie, Murph and John Coyne so I’m probably not going to be in the high rollers’ room,” Francona said.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Coyne, MLB, Mohegan Sun

Red Sox notes: Josh Beckett good to go for All-Star Game, and beyond

07.10.11 at 3:15 pm ET
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Josh Beckett threw on the side Sunday before the series finale with the Orioles at Fenway Park and was cleared to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Phoenix.

Beckett left Friday night’s game with a hyperextended left knee when he slipped on a wet mound. He threw four shutout innings before slipping in the fifth and leaving after just 68 pitches.

Sunday’s decision also means Beckett should be at full strength and ready to return the rotation after the break.

Meanwhile, Clay Buchholz – on the disabled list with a strained lower back – did not throw Sunday. Buchholz received treatment and will be monitored over the break, throwing only under team supervision if his back continues to respond to a cortisone shot last week.

Carl Crawford will play in two minor league games on a rehab assignment next weekend for Triple-A Pawtucket before returning to the Red Sox on July 18 in Baltimore.

The star left fielder has been on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring since June 17 but Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Sunday that if everything goes well in two games, Friday and Saturday, Crawford will join the team for their series at Camden Yards.

Trade Deadline: Francisco Rodriguez switches over to Scott Boras

07.10.11 at 10:44 am ET
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According to MLB.com, Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez has changed agents, going from Paul Kinzer to Scott Boras. Rodriguez, who signed a three-year deal worth $37 million, has a vesting option that will pay him $17.5 million if he finishes 55 games this season. Heading into Sunday, Rodriguez has converted 23 of 26 save opportunities to go along with a 3.16 ERA, having finished 34 games.

Because of the option, the 29-year-old Rodriguez is a prime candidate to be traded at the non-waiver trade deadline this season with the notion that he might be used as a set-up man by a new team, thereby avoiding the option year.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline,

Sunday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Kyle Weiland vs. Mitch Atkins

07.10.11 at 10:02 am ET
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The Red Sox and Orioles will get their last swings in before the All-Star break Sunday in an interesting matchup of two pitchers who have just one career start between them. Boston will send 24-year-old Kyle Weiland to the mound to face Baltimore’s 25-year-old Mitch Atkins.

Weiland (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will be making his major league debut in place of the injured Jon Lester, taking on an Orioles lineup that ranks 20th in runs scored and 10th in batting average. The right-hander out of Notre Dame has impressed in the minor leagues this year, posting a 6-2 record and a 2.33 ERA in 10 starts with Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox drafted Weiland in the third round, 108th overall in 2008.

In his last start with Pawtucket, Weiland tossed 6 2/3 innings of two-run, six hit ball and picked up the win. Overall, he’s shown tremendous control, striking out 59 hitters and walking just 19 in 58 innings this season.

Of course, major league hitting is a different beast altogether, but Weiland will be up against a Baltimore squad that has been outscored 20-7 through the first two games of this series. This being his first ever appearance in a major league uniform, Weiland has obviously never faced any Orioles hitters.

Atkins (0-0, 1.50 ERA) has very limited big league experience, logging just 18 total innings since 2009. As a reliever with the Cubs in 2010, Atkins struggled to a 6.30 ERA. He made his first major league start just last Tuesday, and pitched relatively well despite giving up eight hits. The right-hander held the Rangers to one run over six innings while striking out four and walking none.

Atkins managed to dance out of trouble against a potent Rangers lineup, but he’ll have an even tougher task against the Red Sox, who rank first in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage entering Sunday. However, Boston’s lineup has yet to face Atkins, so the young starter may have the upper hand, at least the first time through the order.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: kyle weiland, Mitch Atkins, Orioles, Red Sox

What a difference a year makes for Jacoby Ellsbury

07.09.11 at 11:36 pm ET
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All-Star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is one Red Sox that wishes maybe the All-Star break could come a few weeks later, as the left-handed center fielder has been red hot of late at the plate and does not want to get out of the rhythm that he is in.

Ellsbury will be making the trip to Phoenix to play in his first career All-Star game, so the break will not be as long if he was not heading out west for the mid-summer classic.

‘€œI’€™ll still have two days that we are taking batting practice, then I will have two days off,’€ he said. ‘€œI think everyone could use a break. It’€™s nice that we’€™re playing so well, but you kind of want to keep playing and keep on rolling’€

The center fielder has been on a tear of late. He is batting .462 with seven runs scored and nine RBIs in nine games since June 30 at Philadelphia. In that span he has recorded five multiple hit games.

On the season Ellsbury is batting .314, has recorded 112 hits, 11 home runs and 48 RBIs. He has also stolen 28 bases, which is the most in the American League. This is the first time in his major league career that he has reached double-digit home runs.

Ellsbury recorded one of the five multiple hit games in Saturday night’s 4-0 win over the Orioles, a contest in which he was just a home run shy of the cycle. He has hit a single, double and a triple in the same game three times during his career, but he has yet to hit for the cycle.

He was on deck when the bottom of the eighth inning ended and Ellsbury hinted after the game that he wanted another crack at a home run, but realizes getting the win is the most important thing.

‘€œThat would have been nice to get that extra one and see what would happen, but we had the lead and that is the most important thing,’€ Ellsbury said. ‘€œI am happy we got the win.’€

Ellsbury has been keeping things simple at the plate, not trying to do too much.

‘€œI am just going up there with a solid approach and try to get a pitch I can drive that is over the plate and get a good swing on it,’€ he said.

Manager Terry Francona is excited for the first time All-Star and feels that he is deserving of the honor.

‘€œHe’s a good player,’€ Francona said. ‘€œHe’s feeling pretty good about himself right now. He spanked the ball to left field for the double, pulled the ball hard for the triple. He’s all over the place. He’s diving in the outfield. I know we’ve got another game tomorrow, but I think we’re all excited about the fact that he’s an All Star. It’s probably not the time to talk about personal stuff right now, but this is kid is an All Star.’€

It was exactly one year ago (July 10) when Ellsbury read from notes in the dugout in Toronto explaining to reporters the exact timetable of his rib injury and why he was not with the team and rehabbing on his own in Arizona at Athlete’€™s Performance. Ellsbury was heavily criticized for that decision.

In 2010 Ellsbury played in only 18 games due to the injury and batted .192. What a difference a year makes.

Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury, Terry Francona,

John Lackey feels the same, but looks better

07.09.11 at 11:25 pm ET
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One and a half seasons into the righty’s Red Sox career, Bostonians generally aren’t thrilled with the John Lackey that they’re used to. The tag has been applied, and Sox fans figure to follow each one of the 32-year-old’s starts with complaints about his lack of accountability or his actions on the field.

‘€œOverall, my arm felt pretty good. Probably one of the better ones it’€™s felt as far as velocity, stuff like that,” Lackey said after being chased in the third inning of Monday’s loss to the Blue Jays, an outing in which he surrendered seven runs.

So while it may come as puzzling, Lackey made sure after perhaps his best start of the season to at least provide consistency when it came to analyzing himself.

Rather than saying that he was back on the track that he had been on in three of the four starts leading into Monday’s disaster, Lackey went back to shrugging. Yet rather than shrugging off getting too down on himself, he was downplaying how encouraging his outing was.

“I guess I was locating a little bit better, but honestly, not a whole lot [was different],” Lackey insisted after Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Orioles. “The velocity was pretty much the same. I told you my arm felt pretty good the other day, so moving forward, I’ll keep going.”

Lackey pitched into the seventh inning, getting pulled after 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball and receiving a rare standing ovation from those on hand at Fenway.

Though he struck out seven in the victory and allowed only three hits, the 32-year-old was adamant that the difference between the performance that had 38,205 on their feet and the performance that had fans calling for him to lose his spot in the rotation wasn’t anything big.

“There’s a fine line between good and bad,” Lackey said. “My arm felt about the same as it did the last start, honestly.”

Though Lackey clearly had no interest in patting himself on the back, his teammates and his manager were glad to do it for him. The right-hander said the ovation was “nice,” but his catcher put things in better terms.

“I think that he has had it rough,” Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who called Lackey’s performance “great,” said. “To his credit, he keeps coming out there and pounding. He never complains, never says anything and just lets the chips fall. I am glad he went out there and pitched the way we know he can.’€

Now, Lackey heads into the All-Star break coming off what was clearly his best start at home, a performance that rivals only his April 24 outing in Anaheim (8 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, BB, 6 K) as his best of the season. Historically, Lackey has been a better second-half pitcher, but neither he nor Terry Francona figured momentum will play a major role in how he fares going forward.

“Lack’s been doing this a long time,” Francona said. “I think he actually — I know he gets up here some nights and maybe he’s a little gruff, or however — but he always is the same when he’s pitching, and during the week. I hope he feels good about himself. He should.”

Lackey’s performance Saturday night lowered his ERA to 6.84. Though the mark is still the worst in the majors among pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched, it’s as big a step forward as Lackey, who entered the night with a 7.47 ERA, could have taken. He may not have wanted to admit whether he felt any better, but with his ability to get Orioles hitters with his fastball, cutter, slider and curveball, he certainly looked better.

‘€œHe threw the ball great,” Kevin Youkilis said. “That is the John Lackey we’€™re used to.”

Read More: john lackey, Terry Francona,
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