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Lester Says He’s On Track For Next Start

09.26.09 at 12:33 am ET
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NEW YORK — When the ball — more accurately, “a bullet,” according to David Ortiz — clanged off the inside of Jon Lester’s right knee and ricocheted all the way into foul territory, members of the Red Sox had two universal concerns: First, that Lester might be seriously injured; and secondly, that the team’s playoff chances had just taken a disastrous hit.

“I’m pretty sure everyone was focused on that,” admitted Sox D.H. David Ortiz. “You don’t want to see one of your aces going down like that, especially when you’re going into the playoffs.”

“He’€™s a huge, huge part of our team,” echoed Jason Bay. “You hate to see it happen to anybody, but especially at this point in the season and where we’€™re going to need him ultimately in a couple of weeks. It was scary.”

And so just as that sentiment was shared by nearly all the Sox, so, too, was the one that followed shortly thereafter: instead of suffering a potentially catastrophic injury, perhaps even a fracture, the line drive off the bat of Melky Cabrera had instead caught enough muscle and flesh that it softened the blow to the bone. There was no fracture. There were no bone fragments.

Though the liner had carried sufficient force that it left Lester writhing in pain on the ground for a couple minutes (“It hurt — it was going about Mach 7,” said Lester), the news for the pitcher and his club could not have been much better.

Indeed, the Sox think there is a decent chance that Lester could remain on turn to make his next start, likely a final regular-season tuneup prior to the postseason. That determination will be based on how the pitcher responds in the coming days, but assuming that the bruising and swelling does not become too much more severe than it was on Friday night, the pitcher might be able to make his next scheduled start next week. All things considered, the Sox felt immensely fortunate.

“When it first happened, I think it looked terrible. It sounded terrible. He was in a lot of pain,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “You know what? He’s going to be okay…I think it caught enough meat and muscle where it wasn’€™t just a direct blow on that bone. He got X-Rays and they came back clean.”

“I actually think from talking to Dr. [Larry] Ronan and our trainers, he might be right on turn, which , the fact we are even talking about that is good news. We’€™ll see how he shows up tomorrow and the next couple of days and try to figure out the right thing to do and how healthy he is. After what we saw, that was kind of a big sigh of relief.’€

If Lester does prove sore, and needs to have his start pushed back or even canceled, it is unlikely that it would affect the Sox in terms of their quest to reach the postseason. Though Boston lost and the Rangers won, keeping the Sox’ magic number to clinch a Wild Card berth at three, the team will likely punch its pass to the playoffs regardless of whether Lester makes his next start.

Even so, Lester said that it is important to him that he does make another regular-season start. The left-hander feels that it is important that he remain fresh as he prepares for a playoff appearance.

“I would like to start. I would like to start,” said Lester. “That amount of time off between your next start, regardless of how many simulated games or bullpens you can throw, it doesn’€™t get the full effect of seeing live hitters and getting that adrenaline rush and all that. I would definitely like to throw again, regardless of when it is or how long we have to wait.”

Though Lester had his worst pitching line in four months, allowing five runs on eight hits in just 2.1 innings and requiring 78 labor-intensive pitches to get through those, the Sox seemed all but indifferent to the fact that the pitcher endured his first loss since July 19 or his first career loss (in eight starts) to the Yankees. The 9-5 loss to the Yankees on Friday was not disastrous. And so, on Friday, though the Sox lost, it was a far less significant setback than the one they could have endured.

“That’€™s scary. I don’€™t know what the exact diagnosis is, but it kind of sounds like he’€™ll live, he’€™ll make it,” said Bay. “We dodged a big bullet there.”

Read More: contusion, Jon Lester, knee, playoffs

Lester day-to-day after being hit on knee by liner

09.25.09 at 8:25 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester left Friday’s game after Melky Cabrera lined a single off the inside of the pitcher’s right knee in the bottom of the third inning. Lester immediately collapsed on the mound. He was attended to by Red Sox trainers, but was able to get back to his feet with some assistance. He limped off the field under his own power.

X-rays taken at Yankee Stadium were negative. The injury was described as a contusion of the right quad. The pitcher is considered day-to-day.

Lester left with the Red Sox trailing, 4-0, with one out in the bottom of the third, and ended up being responsible for a fifth run. He had given up all of the runs on eight hits and three walks. He needed 78 pitches to labor through the outing prior to the injury. It was his most runs allowed since May 26.

The 2.1 inning outing was Lester’s shortest of the year. But clearly, the Sox care far less about the pitcher’s availability on Friday or the rest of the regular season than they do about whether he will be available in the playoffs.

More information to come as soon as it is available.

Read More: Jon Lester, knee, quad,

Red Sox vs. Yankees Preview 9/25

09.25.09 at 2:30 pm ET
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Contrary to popular belief, it is still September. Yet, when Boston Red Sox lefty Jon Lester (14-7, 3.33 ERA) takes the mound in front of a packed crowd at the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx tonight, the atmosphere will more than likely carry with it a potential preview of what could be the 2009 ALCS.

After splitting a four-game set with the Kansas City Royals with last night’s 10-3 victory, the Red Sox (91-61) conclude their final road trip of the regular season with a three-game match-up against their arch-rivals the New York Yankees (97-56).

In the win splitting the series with the Royals, Clay Buchholz hurled 6 2/3 scoreless innings and David Ortiz slammed his second home run in as many games to give the Sox a .500 record on the road this year at 39-39. Victor Martinez extended his career-best hit streak to 23 games while Dustin Pedroia added to his 16 game streak as the Red Sox pounded the Kansas City’s pitching with 15 total hits.

Trailing 5 1/2 games behind New York for the AL East division lead, the Sox trimmed their magic number to clinch the Wild Card to three after the Texas Rangers dropped a 12-3 contest to the Oakland Athletics yesterday afternoon.

With the playoffs looming in the not-so-distant future, Lester enters the game having won his last four starts and five of his last six decisions. Since the All-Star break, Lester has been near perfect compiling a 6-1 record with a slim 2.57 ERA in 12 starts.

Against the Yankees this season, Lester has fared particular well. In his three starts opposing the Bombers, Lester owns a 1-0 record sporting a 2.70 ERA. Away from Fenway, the hard-throwing ace has also had his share of success going 8-4 with a 3.53 in 17 outings.

On the other side of the diamond, the Yankees decided not to skip over the right-handed Joba Chamberlain (8-6, 4.72), allowing him to accumulate a handful of innings every start despite cautiously keeping an eye his pitch count. In his last few appearances, however, the Yankees did not have to worry much about monitoring Chamberlain due to his inability deliver quality innings.

Chamberlain, who just turned 25 on Wednesday, has yet to win a decision since August 6. In that start against the Red Sox, the Nebraska native surrendered 4 runs and 7 walks in six innings, yet skated away with the victory in part to the ineffectiveness of John Smoltz and 13 runs of support from his offense.

While Lester continues to make a case to be named the Game 1 starter in the ALDS for the Red Sox, Joba is currently fighting for a spot in the playoff rotation. In his last eight outings since picking up the victory against the Red Sox, Chamberlain has struggled mightily going 0-4 with a whomping 8.42 ERA. Making three starts against the Red Sox this season, Chamberlain has had his troubles as well with a 1-1 record and a less-than-mediocre 5.06 ERA.

Jon Lester versus Yankees’ batters

Johnny Damon (24 career plate appearances) .318 AVG/.375 OBP/.591 SLG, 2 home runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Derek Jeter (24) .348/.375/.348, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts

Robinson Cano (20) .150/.150/.200, 4 strikeouts

Nick Swisher (18) .143/.278/.429, 1 home run, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts

Melky Cabrera (17) .375/.412/.438, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts

Alex Rodriguez (15) .143/.200/.429, 1 home run, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts

Jose Molina (13) .455/.538/.455, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Jorge Posada (12) .273/.333/.273, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Mark Teixeira (12) .250/.250/.500, 1 home run, 3 strikeouts

Jerry Hairston Jr. (4) 1-for-3

Eric Hinske (3) 0-for-3

Hideki Matsui (3) 0-for-3, 2 strikeouts

Joba Chamberlain versus Red Sox batters

J.D. Drew (17 career plate appearances) .067 AVG/.176 OBP/.133 SLG, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (17) .467/.529/.733, 1 home run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (17) .533/.588/.933, 1 home run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Jacoby Ellsbury (15) .143/.200/.143, 1 home run, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

David Ortiz (15) .214/.267/.214, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (14) .286/.643/.286, 7 walks, 2 strikeouts

Jason Bay (9) .571/.667/1.143, 1 home run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Victor Martinez (9) .400/.556/1.000, 1 home run, 3 walks, 1 strikeout

Jason Varitek (7) .200/.429/.200, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Nick Green (6) 2-for-6, 3 strikeouts

Casey Kotchman (6) 2-for-6, 1 home run, 1 strikeout

Joey Gathright (4) 0-for-4, 2 strikeouts

Jed Lowrie (4) 0-for-4, 2 strikeouts

Chris Woodward (3) 1-for-3, 1 strikeout

Rocco Baldelli (1) 0-for-1

The person who convinced Billy Wagner to come to Boston

09.25.09 at 11:50 am ET
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It’s a good thing Sarah Wagner chose psychology as a major at Ferrum College. Otherwise there’s a good chance Billy Wagner would still be a Met.

Among the twists and turns that came with the hours leading up to the 1:30 p.m. deadline for the Mets to trade Wagner to the Red Sox back on Aug. 25, there isn’t any part of the story that was as important as a phone call the reliever made to his wife just hours before his decision to accept or reject a trade had to be made.

Ironically, that phone call by Billy Wagner was supposed to be to tell Sarah that he was going to stay in New York.

“I wasn’t going to go to Boston,” Wagner said. “I wanted to try and stay healthy, get through the year, and I didn’t know what I had to offer. I didn’t know if I could stay healthy. And the trainers and doctors said it probably wasn’t in my best interest that I pitch into late October or November.”

Backing up…

At 7 a.m. that morning, on decision day, Wagner woke up to  find a message from his agent, Bean Stringfellow, who wanted to gauge where his client was at. The pitcher called back, informing Stringfellow of his decision.

“I said, ‘Bean, I’m not going,’ ” remembered Wagner. “He said, ‘Good, that’s great. That’s good for you.’ ”

A little while later, Stringfellow told Wagner that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona would like to talk to him. So the hurler touched base with the two Sox decision-makers, listening to what they had to say, but not hearing anything that was going to change his mind.

“They’€™re telling me all the good things,” Wagner said. “They were telling me all the things you need to say, but it’€™s one of those things that you’€™re asking me to be in midseason form or shape in the middle of a pennant race and all I’€™ve had was a few meaningless innings. It was difficult.”

Now it was late morning, and just one last call had to be made ‘€” to Sarah.

“I call home and tell my wife, ‘I’m not going to go.’ I just wanted to kind of be reassured I was making the right decision,” Wagner said.

And that’s when the 38-year-old found himself hearing things he didn’t expect.

“She’s the shrink of the house and she started saying, ‘Well, let’s look at the doctors who told you you weren’t going to pitch, aren’t they the same ones who are saying something could go wrong? What if it doesn’t? What if you go out there and you do well and don’t get hurt? Isn’t that worth a chance? You can go to a playoff team and go to the World Series. You can retire and be content.

“It’€™s so funny because she’€™s been counting the days down [to retirement]. You can tell, we’€™ve got four kids and she’€™s got a lot on her plate. But now she was saying, ‘€˜You should go and play.’€™ She was the one who was saying, ‘You should do this, go to Boston, take a chance. So what? What if you blow out? But what if you don’€™t and they go to the World Series or win the World Series, you’€™d be kicking yourself.’ She was playing devil’€™s advocate, saying ‘€˜What if?’ The whole time I’€™m thinking, ‘€˜You’€™re right.’€™ It was long enough of a conversation that during it I’€™m thinking, ‘I have to call Bean.’ She was making sense. But still, the whole time we’€™re talking she is still saying, ‘Whatever decision you want to make, we’€™re behind you.’ ”

It was time to make one last call.

“I get off the phone with my wife and I call my agent, saying, ‘I think I’ve changed my mind,’ ” Wagner said. “He’s like, ‘No, no, no!’ But I’m just like, ‘That’s it, Bean, I’m going to Boston and that’s it. What if nothing happens? What if I do make it through and everything is fine?’ He said, ‘I’m not going to change your mind, am I?’ I said, ‘No.’ So he said, ‘All right, but you know what the doctors are saying. You heard your career’s over.’ I just said, ‘So be it.’ ”

And so it was.

Ortiz doesn’t want to get his clubhouse dirty

09.25.09 at 1:01 am ET
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David Ortiz is feeling pretty good about himself, and his team, a notion supported by the words uttered he explained before leaving the visitors’ clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium Thursday night. “Confidence never walks away from us,” he said.

On the field, the latest example of Ortiz’ bravado came via his second home run in as many nights, his 26th of the season, which was one of three hits in the Red Sox’ 10-3 win over the Royals.

Then the jovial slugger carried his confidence over to the post-game, where he spoke on the subject of potentially clinching a playoff berth in Yankee Stadium this weekend.

‘Oh, we will… Hopefully,” Ortiz said, “so we don’t have to get our clubhouse dirty.”

With the Red Sox Magic Number now standing at three, and three games against the Yankees in their home park staring at the Sox, Ortiz understands the opportunity that lay ahead, along with the chance to be the first team to clinch in the new stadium.

There is a chance that the Yankees, who have their Magic Number to clinch the American League East standing at five games, could be the ones popping the corks this weekend, but Ortiz clearly feels the Red Sox have what it takes to beat their rivals to the punch.

“Great, man. That’€™d be great,” said Ortiz of potentially becoming the first team in the new Yankee Stadium to break out the champagne. “I guess, get that out of the way. It would be a welcome to the new stadium… They’€™re playing good. We’€™re playing good. We’€™ll see who’€™s playing best this weekend.”

In the past six years the Red Sox have clinched their playoff berths at home in 2003, ’05, and ’08. In 2007 the Sox earned their postseason berth while in St. Petersburg, Fla., but were able to celebrate their division title at Fenway Park.

Transcript: John Farrell on Dale & Holley

09.24.09 at 2:53 pm ET
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Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell joined Dale and Holley earlier this afternoon to discuss the state of the Sox pitching staff going in the last week of the season and into the playoffs. Farrell touched upon the relationship between Josh Beckett and Victor Martinez, the recent work of Daisuke Matsuzaka and the game calling approach between Martinez and Jason Varitek.

The full audio of the interview can be found here.

Here is the transcript:

Let’€™s talk about pitching and talk about last night’€™s guy. Do you take the positive that Josh Beckett was able to limit the damage and get his feet back under him or is there concern?

 I think there are a lot more positives than negatives or things you might be concerned about last night. The raw stuff that he is featuring, the fastball, change up and the curve ball that he did use, you know, not as consistently as some other games. The stuff is clearly there. I think the most encouraging thing was , they got their hits, no doubt about it, 12 hits over six innings gave him some opportunity to pitch out of some jams which he was able to minimize damage, able to keep the ball on the ground for the most part. So, it was another step of he and Victory [Martinez] working together. Before the question comes up, there is nothing etched in stone for who will catch him in the postseason but I think it was an opportunity for us to see them work together and have time to evaluate that battery.

 Josh Beckett about not being on top of the baseball when he breaks down.

With his delivery and being very much a power pitcher he rides a fine line with throwing the ball down hill and occasionally getting under the ball and elevating the ball in the strike zone. That has a lot to do his energy level, in other words if he tries to over power the baseball, typically he can get spread out and be a little bit late out of his glove and it limits his downhill plane or leverage on the baseball. He is an astute watcher of the game and it is something that we continually address between starts and work out in conversation or in the bullpen. That is the difference between being a dominant pitcher or one who can get hurt with some long balls. 

Was he struggling with that at all last night?

There were a couple times in some key spots last night where he tried to overpower the baseball a bit too much and rely a little bit more on velocity than location. The one thing about Josh is that he is built to throw the baseball hard. When he keeps a quiet mind and allows his body work in an efficient timing in his delivery, that is when he works his best. When he tries to add one or two miles per hour more, that is when he can get spread out and get a little bit more uphill and elevate the baseball.

Beckett on stubborn.  Enough time to get comfortable with Martinez behind plate before the postseason?

 Well, that question can only be answered once you get through those repetitions. Now keep in mind that we have Victory who has caught him twice and  Tek has caught him almost four years. So, the rapport and the experience level between the two is night and day. Now, the one thing that Tito mentioned about the stubbornness is the one quality that makes Josh so good because he is not going to back down from certain challenges and it has allowed him to be as fierce a competitor as we all know him to be. 

There are a couple things we have to balance out here. If we are pointing toward Victor catching him in the postseason it is a pretty steep learning curve between now and the end of the season. Can it be done? Absolutely. But we have to continue to take the necessary steps to get there — the conversations between starts, the game planning that is set up. I think that it is more Victor getting to know what pitches keep Josh’s delivery in sync and what pitches he can go to to put a hitter away. There were times they were doing that well last night and there were other times where it could have possibly worked out a little bit different.

Is there the same level of concern between Daisuke Matsuzaka and Victor Martinez, who have never worked together in a game?

Good question only because we haven’€™t seen what the working relationship between Dice-K and Martinez might be. Daisuke is probably a little bit more free spirited when it comes to his in-game approach. There is probably a more creativity on Daiuke’s part, not that Josh doesn’t shake off pitches or that Josh doesn’t have the ability to think through a game plan and act accordingly, but because of that focused approach that Josh has, it takes a little bit more time to work through. Daisuke on the other hand? In order to comment on that we would need to see it with Victor behind the plate.

You and Tito said you were disappointed with Daisuke and reports from earlier this year. How far has he come since we last talked with you?

 He has come a long way and I think it is solely the result of what Daisuke has done himself. He has made a tremendous commitment to the reshaping of his body to increasing his core strength and his shoulder strength and he deserves every compliment that he can get for what he has done.

You got back to extended spring training and in the midst of the season for about three months or so there was a lot of soul searching and a lot of digging down deep to find the self pride and motivation that has you on the field at 6 a.m.  in Fort Myers when the rest of your teammates are competing on the major league schedules. He has done a great job with that and given him a little bit more flexibility with the amount of pitches thrown and how the throwing is done solely because of the way he built his foundation.

 Because of the work that he has done he has put himself into a position to contribute and really be a big part of what we got going on the rest of the season.  

 On how the ALDS roster will be assembled.

I don’€™t know if we fully know how our roster will be fully allotted. Either 10 or 11 on the pitching side and 14 to 15 on the position side. Those are on going discussions and some of the last season performance will have bearing on that and some may be effected on whether we carry two or three catchers. So,while we are corralling this there is not answer on how the roster will be set as of yet.

On Victor Martinez defensive catcher. How would you rate his game calling?

 He is prepared, there is no question about it. To the extent Jason is? Victor goes about his game calling a little but different than Jason does. Jason has a lot more recall based on scouting reports and based on past history with individual hitters. Victor goes a lot more on feel. When a certain starter or a certain reliever has going for him on that particular day and the feel from what he gets from the hitter standing at the plate. That is not to say that Victor’s approach is wrong, it’s a little bit different. The thing to find out is, through repetitions, he has caught Josh, he has caught Lester three or four times, the history that he gets and the feel that he has with the individual pitcher is what matters most.

He has done a good job with Clay [Buchholz]. They have gotten on a very good working page or rapport with each other and really it has taken Clay to a much higher level of perform or consistency in the last six to eight weeks. They are different in their own right but two very talented catchers.

On who starts Game 1 in ALDS. 

One if the Yankees or we were to end up with the best record what format is chosen or what format you are handed. Secondly is how the rotation works out through the final week of the season. One thing we want to be careful of and pitchers get negatively effected by it is if you are dealing with more seven days or less than seven days of rest. Once you get into that eight-nine days of rest that starts to negatively effect the feel and effect of secondary pitches. Pitchers will be strong but sometimes they will be too strong and that is another thing that we will factor in. I can tell you that Lester, Beckett, Buchholz don’€™t want more than seven days of rest. Sometimes you can’t avoid it but if we can we will line that up accordingly. 

Bill Parcells said he would never throw a young player to the wolves unless I know he is one of the wolves. Is Daniel Bard one of the wolves?

 Yes. While you can say that along with youth comes inexperience we’ve also seen someone who has evolved as the year goes on. He’s got nearly three-quarters of the year here at the major league level. He has experienced settings in Tampa, settings in New York, settings in Fenway and that some key parts of the game with some heightened stages. We know that he is early in his career but at the same time when he has hit a bump in the road he has responded positively and very effectively. We have confidence in him in key parts of the game.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Farrell, Josh Beckett

The story behind how Jason Bay started stealing bases

09.24.09 at 1:23 pm ET
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When analyzing Jason Bay’s game, baserunning usually falls way down the list of things that might help define the outfielder’s major league existence. But considering his base-stealing success, it shouldn’t be pushed to the back burner.

It’s not how many bases Bay steals ‘€” 13 this season and 66 for his career ‘€” but how successful he has been when he attempts to swipe a bag.

Since the beginning of the 2005 season, Bay has the best success rate when it comes to stealing bases of any player in the major leagues, having stolen 59 bases while only getting caught seven times (89.4 percent). This year he has been caught just three times in 16 tries.

But what is just as amazing is how Bay got his start in stealing these bases. It’s a story his former baserunning coach in Pittsburgh, Rusty Kuntz, loves to tell:

“It probably took him almost two seasons to give him the green light,” remembered Kuntz, who is now the Kansas City first base coach. “Jason isn’t in that burner category, so he uses what he sees to get his feet going. He had enough speed to be able to steal, so I kept telling Mac [then-Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon] that when we were doing drills this guy was off the chart in terms of his jumps. He’s reacting to it so much quicker than anybody else. I asked him to please give the green light and just see what he could do.

“We weren’t doing very well at the All-Star break, so finally I walked in and talked to Jason about it and he said he would love a green light. So I walked into Mac and said, ‘Can we just see what happens giving Jason Bay a green light?’ Mac says, ‘I’ll tell you what, he can have the green light until he’s thrown out.’ I told him that was a good deal for me. So I went back to Jason and said, ‘OK, we’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that Mac gave us the green light, so you can go any time you want. The bad news is that as soon as you get thrown out, that green light goes to red really quick.’ He said, ‘OK, I’ll take it whatever it is.’

“Well, he goes off and sets the record for most times without getting caught. By about the 20th base in a row Mac walked over to me and said, ‘Hey, remember I told you if he gets thrown out he’s got no more green light? Well, that’s off. Tell him to keep running because he knows what he’s doing.’ He just took off from there, and every once in a while he’ll text me back and say, ‘Hey, I got another one.’ He’s an above-average runner, but he doesn’t have that burning speed. He just picks his spots and he can read the key as good as anybody I’ve ever had. That’s the key for him, he sees it and those feet start moving.”

The record Bay tied was that for most consecutive stolen bases in a season without getting caught, going 21-for-21 to begin the ’05 season before being nabbed by Milwaukee’s Damian Miller on the third-to-last game of the season.

The ’05 season, however, clearly set a tone, as Bay went on to steal 11 bases in 13 tries the next year. He went 4-for-5 in ’07 and a perfect 10-for-10 last season.

“He’s an intelligent guy. He’s got the instincts,” Kuntz said. “He’s got all the ingredients you need as a player. I just gave him the information as far as what I’ve used in the past, in terms of looking for keys and different counts. I just gave him the information, and him being an intelligent guy he just took off with it. He was like a Rolodex in terms of taking in all the information. He got up to speed in about a month for what takes another player a year to get that.”

Red Sox vs. Royals Match-Ups, 9/24

09.24.09 at 12:45 pm ET
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The past few starts have been nothing short of impressive, quality outings for Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz (6-3, 3.49 ERA). With a 3-0 record and a 1.73 ERA in his four September starts, Buchholz has all but solidified his spot as third in the rotation behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester as the playoffs draw near.

Certainly, these highly efficient outings are ones that Buchholz would like to remember every time he takes the mound. His lone start in his career against the Kansas City Royals (64-88), however, is one he wouldn’t mind forgetting: He surrendered four runs in six innings while scattering seven hits and walking three in a loss last season.

After defeating the Royals 9-2 last night to end a two-game losing skid, the Red Sox reached the 90-win mark for the third straight season and inched closer to clinching the AL Wild Card, with the magic number dwindling to five over the Texas Rangers.

Initially down 2-0, the Sox scored six runs in the fifth inning after Jacoby Ellsbury hit an RBI triple followed by three consecutive RBI singles from Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, and David Ortiz, who also blasted a three-run home run to deep right center later in the ninth.

Looking to split the series against the Royals before heading to New York on Friday, the Sox hand the ball over to Buchholz to see if he can continue his September dominance and help secure a playoff berth.

For Kansas City, the Royals call upon right-hander Anthony Lerew, who was just promoted from Double A prior to yesterday’s game to make his season debut with the team. The 26-year-old Pennsylvania native was a former 11th-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves, where he spent three seasons and went 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA in eleven career appearances.

After undergoing major elbow surgery after the 2007 season, Lerew has since recovered. He spent the entire year in the minors, posting a 10-6 record with a 4.09 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Pitching in relief for the majority of his time with the Braves, Lerew has made only three starts in his short big-league career.

One of those three outings took place against the Red Sox, which coincidentally was his last appearance before requiring season-ending surgery. In that start, Lerew was tagged with the loss, lasting only two innings while giving up three runs on five hits ‘€” two of which were home runs.

In their final road game against a non-divisional opponent, the Sox aim to get their road record back to .500 (it currently sits at 38-39). In last night’s victory, manager Terry Francona tied Pinky Higgins for second-place on the all-time win list in Red Sox history, though Francona still has a long way to go to catch up to Joe Cronin’s 1,071 mark.

Clay Buchholz vs. Royals batters

John Buck (3 career plate appearances) 0-for-2, 1 RBI, 1 hit-by-pitch

Billy Butler (3) 0-for-2, 2 strikeouts, 1 sacrifice fly

Alex Gordon (3) 1-for-1, 1 home run, 2 walks

Mitch Maier (3) 1-for-3, 1 strikeout

Mark Teahen (3) 2-for-3

Willie Bloomquist (2) 0-for2, 1 strikeout

Anthony Lerew vs. Red Sox batters

Jason Bay (2 career plate appearances) 1-for-2

Mike Lowell (2) 0-for-2

David Ortiz (2) 1-for-1, 1 walk

Kevin Youkilis (2) 1-for-2, 1 home run

J.D. Drew (1) 1 walk

Dustin Pedroia (1) 0-for-1

Jason Varitek (1) 0-for-1

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Youkilis Shrugs Off Tough Roadtrip

09.24.09 at 12:33 pm ET
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kevin Youkilis ended up in the hospital last week to be treated for back spasms and missed the entire three-game Red Sox-Angels series. Given the debilitating nature of the injury, it would take little effort to connect the dots and to cite the injury as the reason why the cleanup hitter has struggled since returning to the lineup on the current road trip.

Youkilis went 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout on Wednesday. In his six games back in the lineup, Youkilis’€™ production has been almost non-existent. He has just three hits (all singles) and four walks in 30 plate appearances, good for a .115 average, .233 OBP, .115 slugging mark and just one RBI.

Of course, the mere fact that Youkilis is struggling following the injury does not mean that physical woes are responsible for his rough week. Aside from his strikeout, Youkilis made solid contact in his other at-bats on Wednesday, lining to left and center. Several of his outs have been of the loud variety ‘€” line drives and deep fly balls ‘€” in the past week, and so the corner infielder insists that he is fine.

‘€œWhen I hit those line drives right at people, that’€™s when it really hurts,’€ he joked. ‘€œ[The back is] fine. [There’€™s a] little tightness in my whole body, but it’€™s September. [There was the] same tightness in April. I’€™m fine. I’€™m good.’€

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Schilling: ‘There Are No Fakes and Frauds In October’

09.24.09 at 11:57 am ET
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Curt Schilling visited the Dennis & Callahan Show on Thursday morning to discuss the shape of the Red Sox and the baseball landscape as the playoffs approach. Schilling discussed whether Josh Beckett or Jon Lester should start an ALDS Game 1, whether Beckett can succeed with Victor Martinez behind the plate, whether the Red Sox are better off pursuing Matt Holliday or Jason Bay this offseason, and why Alex Rodriguez has endured epic October struggles.

A full transcript of Schilling’s baseball conversation is below. For a transcript of Schilling’s decision not to run for Senate, CLICK HERE to visit the 38 Pitches blog.

To listen to the complete interview, CLICK HERE.

Would you have Lester or Beckett start Game 1? Is there a question?

I think [Beckett] already is [set in stone as the Game 1 starter]. Barring any physical issues, I think he is.

I’€™ve looked at clinching, because I’€™ve been in both cases, in two ways: clinching too early, if there is a case, of clinching too late. Clinching too early, I would be concerned about it with any other club other than this one. Given Terry and the mentality in this one, I don’€™t think that would have been a concern three weeks ago. Clinching too late changes screws up a lot of things. If you have to pitch into the last weekend of the season, in [2005], I had to pitch against the Yankees [on the season’€™s final day]. It’€™s still one of the biggest mistakes that was made, I did not pitch in that postseason series against the White Sox because I pitched against the Yankees, I didn’€™t have a chance. And I was coming back from the injury, people were wondering what I would be like, and I was like, ‘€˜I don’€™t care what you’€™re wondering. It’€™s October. Give me the ball and I’€™ll beat somebody.’€™ We had to play into the last weekend. Any time you have to do that, you have two problems.

No. 1, guys don’€™t get a breather. And No. 2, you don’€™t get to start the guys you want to start when you want to start them.

Would you go pedal to the metal to win the AL East and play a lesser team than the Angels?

You clinch your spot. That’€™s the priority. You clinch your spot first, and then if you have a chance to manipulate your opponent over the last week or two of the season and you can do that without pushing buttons and maxing things out from a workload standpoint. But I never, ever was concerned or wrapped up personally. The only thing that changed for me from an opponent’€™s standpoint was who I was going to be preparing for. I knew I was going to be so thoroughly prepared, and I was going to have such a huge advantage, that I didn’€™t care. I just wanted to know sooner rather than later so that I’€™d have more time. What you see, when the calendar turns, one of the transitions in the Red Sox organization is data. They provide their players with more data and better data than any place I’€™ve ever been. October is the one time that everybody on the team uses it. It’€™s the reason there are no fakes and frauds in October.

Did you care who was catching you?

Always.

Why? You were prepared. You shook off Jason Varitek. It’€™s not like it cost you a no-hitter. ‘€¦ Actually, it did. Is it really important to Beckett? Read the rest of this entry »

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