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Bruised nerve the culprit in Jed Lowrie’s shoulder woes

06.25.11 at 7:27 am ET
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PITTSBURGH — Both Jed Lowrie and Red Sox manager Terry Francona said prior to their teams’ series opener against the Pirates at PNC Park Friday that it had been determined that a nerve in Lowrie’s left shoulder had shut down the muscles in the area, leading to the injury that landed him on the 15-day disabled list.

Lowrie, who has been suffering with soreness in the area since colliding left fielder Carl Crawford May 27,  had sought a second opinion with Dr. Lewis Yocum earlier this week after an initial diagnosis had shown no structural damage to the shoulder.

“The nerve shut down the whole area,” Lowrie said. “We knew the [scapula] wasn’t moving properly and the shoulder had some weakness. I was never told anything about the nerve.

“It’s going to be hard work to move properly and get that strength back, but I think we have a heading at this point and know exactly what is going on.”

Francona said there is no timetable for the return of Lowrie, who was placed on the disabled list June 17.

“There’s no getting around he bruised that nerve so it shut down the muscles a little bit, which is what happens. That happens you lose strength, you take a swing, it probably felt like it popped out, and maybe it did a little bit. We’ve got to get that thing to calm down and get his strength back so he can be the player we want,” Francona said. “The good news is structurally he’s in good shape. Some of the worst case scenarios were eliminated. But he’s sore and I think the doctors recognize that so we just have to get it better.”

Lowrie had been in a 1-for-18 slump prior to hitting the DL, and is batting .270 with a .723 OPS with three home runs for the season.

For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Jon Lester wasn’t the problem for the Red Sox Friday night

06.24.11 at 11:47 pm ET
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PITTSBURGH — It wasn’t vintage Jon Lester, but it was certainly good enough to win on most nights. Just not this one.

Lester suffered his first loss on the road this season, taking the defeat in the Pirates’ 3-1 win over the Red Sox Friday night at PNC Park. The lefty succumbed to two runs in the third inning (one of which came on a bases-loaded double play), and another in the sixth before exiting for pinch-hitter Josh Reddick to lead off the seventh.

When it was all said and done Lester had surrendered two earned runs on eight hits, striking out five and walking one in six innings and 107 pitches. It was ample ammunition to keep the starter moving in an optimistic direction.

“I kept the ball down. Other than two hits tonight, everything else was not squared up,” he said. “I’€™ll take my chances with that every time.”

In his last three outings, Lester has allowed six earned runs over 22 innings, striking out 21 and walking five. His ERA stands at 3.66, and his health appears to be solid.

It’s not mind-blowing, but it is good enough.

“I worry about getting outs. I don’€™t want to give up any runs, let alone three,” he said. “It was a battle tonight, but I thought I threw the ball pretty well.”

Closing Time: Red Sox can’t find offense in losing series opener to Pirates

06.24.11 at 10:15 pm ET
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PITTSBURGH — David Ortiz didn’t start, but he did find his moment to shine. Unfortunately for the Red Sox and their designated hitter, the clouds never truly lifted at PNC Park Friday night, resulting in a 3-1 win for the Pirates in their series-opener against the Sox.

With the tying runs at second and third with two outs in the eighth inning, Ortiz was called upon to pinch-hit for reliever Tommy Hottovy. But the DH, who had been forced to sit with the pitcher hitting in the National League park, could only rifle a hard grounder up the middle, which was grabbed by shortstop Ronny Cedeno and turned into the inning’s final out.

The out stranded both Darnell McDonald and J.D. Drew, and made the Sox 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position for the night. The Red Sox stranded 11 runners in total.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– With two outs and the bases loaded in the third inning, McDonald ‘€“ the Red Sox’€™ No. 5 hitter for the night ‘€“ stepped to the plate against Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm. The outfielder promptly grounded out to third, ending the threat, while David Ortiz ‘€“ the Sox’€™ usual five-hole hitter — was forced to watch from the bench.

– Up until his eighth-inning, leadoff single, McDonald had a tough game all around. The outfielder left six runners on base in his first three at-bats, and then was slow getting to a Chase D’€™Arnaud drive to left in the fifth, resulting in two-out triple.

– With Ronny Cedeno having led off the third with a bunt single, former Red Sox farmhand Mike McKenry lined a shot to shallow right field. After getting a poor jump, Mike Cameron attempted to make up the ground only to come up short and allow the ball to sneak behind him for a double. Both players would ultimately score.

– For just the second time in Lester’€™s career, the lefty walked the opposing pitcher. This time free pass proved costly, with Maholm taking first to load the bases with nobody out in what turned into a two-run inning. The last instance of Lester walking a pitcher came in 2006.

Kevin Youkilis had a tough sixth inning, first watching Neil Walker’€™s grounder down the third base line glance off his glove, and then misplaying what should have been a double play ground ball off the bat of Matt Diaz. The immediate result was another run for the Pirates thanks to Lyle Overbay‘€™s single. It was Youkilis’€™ fifth error of the season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– In a good move by Youkilis at the time, the third baseman allowed a slow roller from Cedeno to go past him at the last minute. The play — which came with nobody out, and runners on first and third in the fourth inning, — resulted in a foul ball instead of a run-scoring infield single. Cedeno ultimately popped out to second for the inning’€™s first out. Mike McKenry would follow with an inning-ending double play.

Jason Varitek continued to quietly establish himself as one of the league’€™s better offensive catchers over the past few months, notching two more hits. He now has hits in 15 of his last 18 starts and has hit safely in nine straight games. His .869 OPS since May 1 was sixth-best among big league catchers coming into Friday. He also executed a perfect sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning, moving runners to second and third.

– Lester pitched well enough to win despite allowing eight hits over six innings. The lefty struck out five and walked one, surrendering two earned runs while throwing 107 pitches. He also had two decent at-bats, lining sharply to left field in his first plate appearance of the season, and almost dropping in a hit over shortstop in his second time up.

Live Blog: Follow all the action from PNC Park as Red Sox take on Pirates

06.24.11 at 5:49 pm ET
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Red Sox-Pirates Live Blog

Red Sox sign three more college right-handed pitchers

06.24.11 at 3:33 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced the signings of three more draft picks on Friday, adding three college right-handers: Matty Ott of Louisiana State and Braden Kapteyn of Kentucky and Joe Holtmeyer of the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

13th round (No. 412): Matty Ott, RHP, Louisiana State University

The 6-foot-2 right-hander looked like a coming star as a freshman in 2009, when he struck out 69 and walked six as a teammate of Sox prospect Anthony Ranaudo on LSU’€™s national champion squad. Ott was the closer, setting an LSU record with 16 saves, mostly on the strength of a wipeout slider. But his performance moved backwards from that point, as he had a 6.38 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 21 walks in 42 1/3 innings as a sophomore. He threw just 27 2/3 innings this year, with improved strikeout-to-walk numbers (27:7), a 2.60 ERA and six saves, but nothing akin to what he did as a freshman.

Still, he was a Cape League All-Star last summer while forging a 0.44 ERA, striking out 19 and walking four in 20 1/3 innings last summer, and he looked sharp at times this year, with a swing-and-miss secondary offering to complement his high-80s to low-90s fastball. He will be developed by the Sox as a reliever, a seemingly natural fit for a pitcher with a low three-quarters arm angle.

Ott’s signing was delayed slightly when he became ill just before flying to Boston to sign and report to the Spinners. And so, the right-hander required a bit of extra time to get healthy before taking his physical, but he is now set to join the Lowell Spinners after signing a five-figure bonus.

15th round (No. 472): Braden Kapteyn, 1B/RHP, University of Kentucky Read the rest of this entry »

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Friday’s Red Sox-Pirates matchups: Jon Lester vs. Paul Maholm

06.24.11 at 2:36 pm ET
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Most of the talk leading into the opening game of the Red Sox‘ nine-game interleague series has been centered on what the Sox will do with David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez in an attempt to keep both of their bats in the lineup.

Lost in that focus is a decent pitching matchup Friday night in Pittsburgh between left-handers Jon Lester and Paul Maholm.

Lester is 9-3 with a 3.70 ERA, and he’ll try for the second time to become the first 10-game winner in the majors. He has a 2.78 ERA in June, although he lost his last outing, a 4-2 setback vs. the Brewers in which he allowed four runs, three earned, in eight innings. All of the earned runs came courtesy of solo home runs as Lester tied a career high by allowing three round-trippers.

Maholm comes in with a 3-8 record but with a respectable 3.29 ERA. Prior to allowing four runs in 6 1/3 innings in a loss to the Indians in his last outing, Maholm had tossed shutout ball in three of his previous four outings, including a complete-game three-hit gem vs. the Cubs on May 28.

Maholm, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2003 out of Mississippi State (where he was a teammate of Jonathan Papelbon), is pitching for his future, as he is near the end of the guaranteed part of the $14.5 million contract he signed before the 2009 season. He has a $9.75 million option for next season that the team can buy out for $750,000.

The longest-tenured player on the Pirates, Maholm had a 5.10 ERA last season. He attributes his improvement to pitching inside more frequently. His success, although not evident in his won-loss record, has helped the perennially woeful Pirates to a .500 record through 74 games ‘€” although they are just 17-19 at home.

After going 2-13 in interleague play last year, Pittsburgh is 4-5 vs. the American League and coming off consecutive victories over the Orioles. Outfielder Andrew McCutcheon went 6-for-9 with two doubles in the series with the O’s and leads the team with a .289 batting average, 10 home runs and 14 stolen bases.

The teams have met in interleague play twice before. Both times ‘€” 2005 in Boston and 2003 in Pittsburgh ‘€” the Red Sox won two out of three games.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adrian Gonzales, Andrew McCutcheon, David Ortiz, Jon Lester

Kevin Millar on M&M: ‘Right field’s not that big of a deal; I played right field’

06.24.11 at 12:55 pm ET
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MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the Red Sox as they begin a nine-game interleague road trip Friday night in Pittsburgh. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merlonio audio on demand page.

With no designated hitter in use, the Sox are trying to find a way to keep David Ortiz in the lineup.

“Don’t bench David Ortiz for the whole interleague thing because he’s our DH,” Millar said. “David is actually pretty darn athletic. As much as people think he’s just this big DHer guy. I’d put him at first base, I’d let Adrian [Gonzalez] take some fly balls in right field. Bottom line: I’d get both their bats in the lineup and figure it out. I think Adrian’s a good enough athlete, he can go out there and catch a few fly balls. I want their bats in the lineup, period.”

Responding to a suggestion that pitchers would rather have good defense behind them, Millar said: “Make your pitches pitch and execute and let these guys hit three-run homers and you guys will be fine.”

Millar insisted the Sox should try the new configuration and then decide if it’s working. “How do we know if you don’t try it?” he said, adding: “We’ll know immediately if this guy’s capable of doing it. That’s my point. Let’s see how he looks. Right field’s not that big of a deal; I played right field in the big leagues ‘€” miserable speed, miserable arm strength.”

John Lackey continues to struggle, even after returning from a stint on the disabled list. Millar said it isn’t for a lack of effort.

“I know he’s better than this, too,” Millar said. “You hope he’s better than this if you’re Theo [Epstein] behind the scenes. You’re hoping that this isn’t the end. You’re hoping this is just a rough first half. Lackey, I know he has that bulldog mentality. I know he won’t stop working behind the scenes. You watch him work, he cares.”

Added Millar: “This man works, this man cares, and this man will figure it out. So, you’ve just got to cross your fingers and bite the bullet. And the Red Sox are playing well without him, basically.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, john lackey, Kevin Millar

Friday Nuggetpalooza!

06.24.11 at 9:20 am ET
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Thank God it’s FRIDAY!

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* – The Red Sox head to Pittsburgh having allowed fewer than 10 hits in each of their last 19 road games, the longest such streak ever by the Red Sox, snapping their 16-gamer from a stretch over the 1992-1993 seasons. It’s also the longest streak within a single season in the majors since the 1981 Yankees went 21 straight. And they are 10 away from the all-time record of 29 in a row, set by the 1968 Indians.

Other Red Sox road notes: The Red Sox have won 16-of-19 road games, hitting 31 home runs, and scoring 10+ runs five times in that span… They haven’t stolen a base in their last six road games, their longest such streak since a nine-gamer last June… The Sox pitching staff has allowed more than four runs only once in their last 16 road tilts… Dustin Pedroia has scored or knocked in a run in 15 of his last 17 road games (22 hits, 14 walks, 15 runs, 15 RBI in that stretch)… Despite recording a save in all nine road chances this year, Jonathan Papelbon’s road ERA is 4.05, exactly the same as last season… Kevin Youkilis is just 10-for-54 (.185) in his last 14 road games.

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* – On Wednesday, Adrian Gonzalez went 4-for-4 as the Red Sox lost to the Padres, becoming the first #3 hitter in the majors this year to go 4-for-4 (or 5-for-5) at home and see his team lose the game. It was just the sixth time since 1950 that it’s happened to a Red Sox #3 hitter:

Adrian Gonzalez – June 22, 2011
David Ortiz – September 27, 2007
Jim Rice – April 28, 1982
Carl Yastrzemski – September 11, 1966
Carl Yastrzemski – June 1, 1966
Carl Yastrzemski – May 14, 1965

Note this: It was only the third time in the majors since 1992 that all of that happened *AND* his team scored one run or fewer.

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* – Lost in all the hand wringing over losing a home series to the Padres: San Diego has now won four of their last five road interleague series. Just sayin’.

Note this: It was just the third home interleague series that the Red Sox have lost since 2003.

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* – Of the last 18 hits allowed by John Lackey, 16 of them have come either on the first pitch or with two strikes.

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* – The Red Sox allowed a leadoff home run at home (i.e. to the first batter of the game) on Wednesday for the first time since October 4, 2009. Since 2003, the Red Sox are 5-10 when allowing a home run to the first batter of the game. It was the third road game this season that the Padres have led off with a home run, tied with the Brewers for the most in the majors. The Padres are 2-1 in those games, while the Brewers are a surprising 0-3.

Leadoff HR (first batter of the game) Notes: When Jacoby Ellsbury took the YankeesFreddy Garcia deep leading off the game on June 7, it was Boston’s first leadoff HR on the road since 2007 (June 20; JD Drew in Atlanta)… The all-time leader in leadoff home runs (on the road) is Rickey Henderson, with 39, followed by Alfonso Soriano (31), Brady Anderson (23), and Craig Biggio (23)… Jamie Moyer has allowed 11 such home runs, the most ever, followed by four pitchers with nine each (Randy Johnson, Don Sutton, Javier Vazquez, Tony Cloninger)… The Indians have not allowed a home run leading off a game since CC Sabathia gave one up to Alex Rios on May 1, 2007… The San Francisco Giants have allowed seven leadoff home runs in the top of the first inning since 2004, but wound up winning six of those seven games… The Reds have led off only two games with home runs out of their last 725 road contests (since June 26, 2002). They did it THREE times in 2002 alone… The Yankees have won their last eight games when they’ve led off the game with a HR (dating back to 2006)… The Phillies are the only team that has led off a road game with a homer at least once in each of the last 13 seasons.

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

Will Middlebrooks, Chih-Hsien Chiang to represent Red Sox in Futures Game

06.23.11 at 3:24 pm ET
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PITTSBURGH — The Red Sox organization will have two representatives performing in this year’s All-Star Futures Game, to be held the Sunday prior to the Major League All-Star Game in Phoenix. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks will play for the United States Team, while Chih-Hsien Chiang, an outfielder, will participate for the World Team.

Middlebrooks has been playing for Double-A Portland this season, having compiled a .294 batting average and .812 OPS, to go along with eight homers. The one subpar aspect of his campaign thus far has been the 22-year-old’s inability to walk, having drawn just 12 free passes in 213 plate appearances. The right-handed-hitting Middlebrooks, who is batting .364 in June, has shown consistency against lefty (.293) and righty (.294) pitching.

The 23-year-old Chiang, a native of Taiwan, is also playing for Portland, hitting .307 with a .983 OPS. The outfielder has hit 11 home runs to go along with 41 RBI, while also not yet fully developing plate discipline, as is exemplified by just 16 walks in 208 plate appearances. The lefty hitter has torn up right-handed pitching, hitting .336 against righties.

Another name of note playing in the Futures Game is former Red Sox minor leaguer Reymond Fuentes (.294, 30 SBs), who went to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal.

Click here to see the entire list of both rosters.

Closing Time: Lackey’s dismal outing leads Sox to loss vs. Padres

06.22.11 at 6:49 pm ET
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John Lackey was never acquired to be an ace. If he would be a very good No. 3 starter for the Red Sox, the team would be satisfied with the return on its five-year, $82.5 million investment in the big right-hander with a big-game pedigree.

Part of the appeal of Lackey was the fact that he was a strike thrower who, based on his history, would minimize his walks and remain fairly efficient against the grinding lineups of the American League East. Yet his performances as a member of the Red Sox — especially in a 2011 campaign that has been, to date, horrible — have failed to match that expectation, a trend that continued on Wednesday in the Red Sox’ rain-shortened 5-1 loss to the Padres.

Unquestionably, the brutal weather conditions did Lackey no favors. Even so, it would be one thing if an outing in which he walked four (including one with the bases loaded), hit two batters (one with the bases loaded) and uncorked a wild pitch (with the bases loaded) were an isolated event. But his command issues have been a recurring theme through his career in Boston.

In his final three years with the Angels spanning 84 starts, Lackey issued as many as four walks in a total of eight games. In his first two years with the Sox, he has now had nine such games in 44 starts. He went from a pitcher who walked 2.6 batters per nine innings over those last three years with the Angels to one who has issued 3.2 free passes per nine as a member of the Sox. Coupled with the fact that his strikeouts have gone down from 7.2 to 6.3 per nine innings, you have the recipe for trouble.

It might have been understandable for such struggles to come against the AL East, but the fact that he could not attack the strike zone against a Padres team that ranked as one of the worst offenses in the majors was more disconcerting. It was a reminder that, as strong as the Sox are from top to bottom, they are a team with flaws, something that is noteworthy at a time when the Yankees have managed to tie them in the division.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, john lackey, mike cameron
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