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Poll: What should Red Sox do with Daisuke Matsuzaka?

04.12.11 at 11:52 am ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up seven runs in two-plus innings Monday night in the Red Sox' 16-5 loss to the Rays. How should the team handle the enigmatic starter?

  • Trade or release him (57%, 416 Votes)
  • Leave him alone and let him work it out (20%, 148 Votes)
  • Have him skip a start or two but then get him back in the rotation (14%, 103 Votes)
  • Banish him to the bullpen (9%, 67 Votes)

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Joe Maddon: In perfect world, Carl Crawford’s best spot in lineup is No. 2

04.12.11 at 9:33 am ET
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Speaking before his team’s game with the Red Sox Monday night at Fenway Park, Rays manager Joe Maddon explained that in a perfect scenario he believed Carl Crawford’s best spot in the batting order was hitting second. Maddon added that in his opinion Crawford’s second-best spot was hitting third, with the leadoff spot serving as his third option.

‘€œIn a perfect world, with what I know, I would go two, three, one,” Maddon said. “And I’€™m just talking about his comfort zone. You could make the perfect argument that he should be a No. 1 hitter. I’€™ve often said he’€™s a lot like Rickey Henderson. He’€™s got a great combination of speed and power. I get it. But just to consider comfort within a player’s comfort zone, wherever that may be. I was always aware of that and able to maneuver it.

“I’€™ve never had a lineup as thick as this lineup. He is almost like a [Ben] Zobrist to them. You can almost hit him all over the place because you feel good about him in the other roles. In the World Series year, he came back from an injury and we hit him in the 5-hole, and again, speaking of his ability to drive in a run because B.J. [Upton] was so hot in the 2-hole, so I’€™ve done that with him too. I’€™ve often looked at him as a guy who’€™s actually pretty good at driving in a run given the opportunity.’€

Since Maddon took over of the Rays in 2006, he only hit Crawford in the lineup’s top spot 30 times, primarily putting in the No. 2 hole (483 games), with No. 3 second (186). During that span, his slugging percentage in the No. 2 and 3 spots were identical (.467), with Crawford’s best batting average in the five-year span coming at No. 2 (.307).

“To me, Carl was among our best guys at driving in a run because he didn’€™t just take home runs to drive in a run with Carl,” Maddon explained. “He’€™s very good at moving the ball with two strikes, with two outs, putting the ball in play, scoring a run with an out. He did all those kinds of things. that’€™s why I liked him in the three-hole last year. if we were a little thicker with RBI guys, we probably would have left him in the 2-hole. But I just thought Carl has always had a knack for driving in a run, in spite of what everybody else might think. It was always easy to keep him in the 2-hole but last year we experimented with the 3 hole for those reasons.’€

Maddon said that while Crawford didn’t openly complain hitting in the leadoff spot — where the outfielder has been in the Red Sox’ order for the past four games — he didn’t feel as though the speedster was as comfortable in that position in the order as other spots.

‘€œOf course he would [hit there]. But especially with veteran players, I really try to listen to them, and I just knew that he was lot more comfortable two than one. So I didn’€™t want to put a square peg in a round hole,” he said. “I didn’€™t want to try to do that, especially with him being such a productive part of our team. Pretty much that was it. it was more, where he was more comfortable.’€

As for Maddon’s take on the Red Sox’ approach to hitting Crawford where they have, and having to juggle the lineup, he said, “I can easily understand why he’s hitting first. … They have some great problems. Those aren’€™t bad problems. We’€™d all take those. I really don’€™t feel sorry for them. That’€™s something, if you wake up in the morning and try to figure that out, I’€™ll take it.’€

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

Closing Time: Rays pounce all over Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox

04.11.11 at 10:40 pm ET
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Hope left the building early on in this one.

The Red Sox fell into a tie for last-place in the American League East with the Tampa Bay Rays, who came away with a 16-5 win over the Sox Monday night at Fenway Park. It moved both teams to 2-8 for the season, with the Rays coming just four runs short of equaling their run production for the entire season (20). When it was all said and done, Tampa Bay came away with 20 hits.

The worst offender for the Sox was starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, who saw his ERA rise to 12.86 after giving up seven runs on eight hits while walking two in just two innings.

Here is how things went terribly awry for the Red Sox …

WHAT WENT WRONG

– In his 100th career start with the Red Sox, it couldn’€™t have gone much worse for Matsuzaka. While he was able to escape the first inning with just a Johnny Damon solo home run, things really fell apart in the second. The Sox starter’€™s frame went as follows: Ben Zobrist double; B.J. Upton walk; Felipe Lopez singe; John Jaso double; Reid Brignac single; Sam Fuld homer; Damon single ‘€¦ and then three outs. After a single to Upton and walk to Lopez to lead off the third, that was all for Matsuzaka.

– Damon didn’€™t allow the Fenway crowd to get a chance to boo him in his first at-bat, hitting Matsuzaka’€™s first pitch to the outfielder over the right fence. It was Damon’€™s 19th career homer against the Red Sox, and 29th in Fenway Park. The rest of his at-bats resulted in a showering of boos.

Tim Wakefield struggled after replacing Matsuzaka in the third inning, giving up five runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings.

– The Red Sox have five regulars hitting under .200, with Carl Crawford (.163), Kevin Youkilis (.167), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.154), Jacoby Ellsbury (.194) and Marco Scutaro (.185) all hovering under the Mendoza Line. Saltalamacchia and Scutaro went hitless. Crawford and Ellsbury finished with two hits, with Youkilis notching one.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– In a strange turn of events, two of the slowest members of the Red Sox, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, both had triples. For Gonzalez, it was his first three-bagger since 2009, while Ortiz last triple came Aug. 22 of last season. Gonzalez’€™ ball, which got past Joyce in right field, resulted in an RBI, while Ortiz eventually scored after his hit on J.D. Drew’€™s single.

– Ellsbury had a solid return to the lineup after getting a day off, launching his first homer of the season — a solo shot in the eighth inning off of Joel Peralta. He also made a nice, head-first diving catch in the fourth, robbing Joyce. (Later in the game, however, the center fielder did dropa long fly ball off the bat of Fuld that resulted in a sixth-inning triple.)

– Crawford showed some power, notching his first extra-base hit of the season when he launched a ground-rule double into the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth inning.

– Ortiz continued to dominate left-handed pitching, notching a run-scoring single off of Tampa Bay reliever Cesar Ramos. The Red Sox’€™ DH is now 6-for-14 against southpaws this season.

Red Sox live blog: Daisuke Matsuzaka gets smacked around by Rays

04.11.11 at 6:55 pm ET
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Join us in following all the action from Fenway Park as the Red Sox take on the Rays in the teams’ series-opener.

Red Sox/Rays Live Blog

Johnny Damon returns to Fenway and shows his classic form

04.11.11 at 6:07 pm ET
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For approximately 15 minutes, in the visitor’s dugout at Fenway Park, Johnny Damon showed exactly why he was one of the most popular players ever to put on a Red Sox uniform.

He answered every question fired at him. From returning to Fenway as a visitor with his fifth different team to how he felt about Manny Ramirez‘s retirement leaving the Rays in the lurch to the dynamic at last year’s trade deadline that left him staying in Detroit and the Red Sox winding up with Carl Crawford.

So, without further adieu, we present Johnny Damon, uncut.

Does it ever get old coming back? ‘€œNo, this place is magical. This place meant so much to me during my four years here. It was a real pain in the butt in my four years in New York. Bottom line, I’€™m a baseball player. I go out and try to play as good as I can. Now, I’€™m on team number six so it’€™s part of the game.’€

Do you still have energy for the game? ‘€œCertain days, yes, other days you’€™re a little tired.’€

Are you surprised at your team’s 1-8 start? ‘€œAbsolutely. There’€™s definitely some reasoning. Our pitching’€™s been pretty good. Our offense has been real bad. We might have one guy hitting over .250 right now, and anytime you lose a guy like Longoria in the second game of the season and then we lose Manny, who was really solid for us during spring training and we were looking forward to doing a lot of good things this year. Right off the bat, we lose our No. 3 and No. 4 guys and we have a young team. We have a lot of young guys who are trying to press to fill that void. I’€™m here to get them relax and remind them there’€™s a lot of baseball left to play. Yeah, we’€™re upset where we stand right now but this game is tough. It’€™s tough to win games in the big leagues.’€

Are you surprised at Boston’s 2-7 start? ‘€œThey actually have a bull’€™s eye on them. They’€™re picked to win the World Series. From everything that happened going into the season, they already were awarded the 2011 World Series. You know teams are going to get excited to play them, where teams stand and how teams prepare for them. They’€™re definitely the team to beat.’€

What are your thoughts on Manny Ramirez and his sudden retirement, brought on by MLB’s “issue” with a recent PED test? ‘€œIt’€™s a very sad thing that happened with Manny. I wish him nothing but the best. He was a great teammate of mine. He was a great player. I was just hoping that we would continue to have all the fun that we had when we had the press conference. For it to end so abruptly and for the reason, it’€™s sad. I hope Manny is in a better place. I heard he’€™s going to be traveling. He deserves to do it. After 18 or 19 years in the big leagues, it’€™s time for him to walk away. Unfortunately, it’€™s under these terms.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez

Hideki Okajima trying to work his way back to Boston

04.11.11 at 12:24 pm ET
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Reliever Hideki Okajima knew when he signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox this offseason that he was not guaranteed a roster spot. That didn’€™t make getting sent to Pawtucket to start the season any easier, though. When asked Thursday night how he felt upon being told of the decision, Okajima responded through a translator with a simple ‘€œdisappointed.’€

That said, Okajima recognizes that a call-up to Boston could be right around the corner if he pitches well in Pawtucket, which he has so far. He tossed a perfect inning in the season opener Thursday and followed that up with a one-hit scoreless inning Saturday.

‘€œIt’€™s all about results over here,’€ Okajima said. ‘€œSo I’€™ll do whatever I’€™m needed to and I’€™ll do everything that I’€™m told to do.’€

Okajima didn’€™t produce those results last season, when the former All-Star posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.72 WHIP in 56 appearances. Both of those were easily career worsts. In his first three seasons, he never had an ERA higher than 3.39 or a WHIP higher than 1.26. A poor spring training (5.14 ERA, 1.57 WHIP) didn’€™t help his cause.

‘€œI just felt that I had lost the battle at that point when I was told,’€ said the 35-year-old Okajima. ‘€œI had been preparing, of course, to start the season up in the majors. So I had been preparing that way, getting my body ready. But since I’€™ve been told, I’€™ve had to regroup myself, get myself ready again and start back from [square] one.’€

One of the things Okajima said he had been working on was ways to get right-handed batters out. Righties hit an eye-popping .340 off him last season. Okajima said part of the reason for his struggles could be that major league hitters are getting used to his stuff, meaning he needs to make some adjustments.

‘€œI’€™m sure the opposition has been studying me and the more they see me, the more they get used to me,’€ Okajima said. ‘€œSo my plan in preparing for this season, I was studying and developing pitches to attack right-handed batters. I was really looking forward to using that up in the big leagues, but since this happened, I’€™ll just have to try those out here and hopefully everything goes well and I can make it back up.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Arnie Beyeler, Hideki Okajima, Michael Bowden,

Red Sox-Rays matchups: Matsuzaka vs. Hellickson

04.11.11 at 10:47 am ET
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It’€™s safe to say no one was expecting the Red Sox and Rays to be a combined 3-15 entering Monday night’€™s series opener at Fenway Park. But after both teams started 0-6, they have found themselves looking up at the rest of the AL East in the early going. The Sox took a step in the right direction over the weekend, taking two of three from the Yankees, while the Rays dropped three of four to the White Sox.

Monday night’€™s pitching matchup pits Daisuke Matsuzaka against Jeremy Hellickson. They both enter the game 0-1 after similar first starts. Matsuzaka gave up three earned runs over five innings against the Indians and Hellickson gave up three earned over 5 2/3 against the Angels.

The 24-year-old Hellickson appeared in 10 games last year in his first season in the bigs, posting a 4-0 record and 3.47 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. One of those games came against Boston on Sept. 7. The right-hander came out of the bullpen and gave up three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings, but the Rays still won the game 14-5. Four current Red Sox had an at bat against Hellickson in that game, with Jed Lowrie, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Darnell McDonald all getting a hit and an RBI — McDonald’€™s of the home run variety.

Matsuzaka has much more experience against the Rays, but it’€™s rarely been a pleasant experience for the right-hander. He’€™s just 2-6 with a 5.09 ERA in 12 career starts against Tampa. Last year was even worse, as Matsuzaka struggled with the Rays more than any other team, going 0-2 with an 8.62 ERA in three starts.

Johnny Damon, Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman are all hitting .278 or better with a home run off Matsuzaka. John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach and Sean Rodriguez are all hitting .333 or better against Matsuzaka as well. B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce have also homered off Matsuzaka — Upton twice — but they’€™re both hitting below .240.

MATSUZAKA VS. RAYS

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
B.J. Upton 24 21 5 0 0 2 4 2 6 .238 .304 .524 .828 1 0 0 0 0
Johnny Damon 23 18 5 0 0 1 5 4 3 .278 .391 .444 .836 0 1 0 0 0
Ben Zobrist 16 12 4 0 0 1 4 4 4 .333 .500 .583 1.083 0 0 0 0 0
Matthew Joyce 15 8 1 0 0 1 1 5 0 .125 .533 .500 1.033 0 0 0 2 0
Casey Kotchman 14 10 3 0 0 1 2 4 0 .300 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 1
John Jaso 9 9 3 1 0 0 2 0 1 .333 .333 .444 .778 0 0 0 0 0
Kelly Shoppach 9 8 3 1 0 0 2 1 3 .375 .444 .500 .944 0 0 0 0 0
Dan Johnson 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .143 .000 .143 0 0 0 0 0
Sean Rodriguez 6 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Total 123 98 26 3 0 6 20 21 21 .265 .402 .480 .881 1 1 0 2 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/11/2011.

HELLICKSON VS. RED SOX

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Jed Lowrie 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Darnell McDonald 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 5.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Varitek 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 4 4 3 2 0 1 3 0 0 .750 .750 2.000 2.750 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/11/2011.
Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, darnell mcdonald, Jeremy Hellickson, Johnny Damon

Orel Hershiser on D&C: Manny Ramirez ‘such a frustrating character’

04.11.11 at 10:14 am ET
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ESPN baseball analyst Orel Hershiser joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Red Sox following Sunday night’s 4-0 shutout of the Yankees. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Josh Beckett had his most impressive outing a long time in Sunday’s victory. Hershiser, the former Dodgers star who himself battled injuries during his career, said he thinks Beckett is learning how to become a different pitcher.

“Back problems, arm problems, they can get into your mechanics,” Hershiser said. “They can also get into your confidence. They can also get into your aggressiveness. ‘€¦ That creeps into where you are as a person and competing. And I think the fact that he was home, that the Red Sox needed a win, that they were playing the Yankees, that the adrenaline was so great, that you forget that you are hurt. You get to that fight-or-flight mentality, and he decided to fight.

“And his mechanics were much better. He wasn’t tilting back toward first base on his leg kick. He was driving toward home plate. He was confident out over his front leg and having the finish on his pitches. And you could see that, especially on his curveball. The depth on his curveball ‘€” even when he hung it ‘€” it was sharp.”

Added Hershiser: “For Josh, he’s not going to reinvent himself, but he’s smart enough to know how to adapt. And if he’s not going to throw 96, 97 [mph] and he’s not going to be able to pitch up in the strike zone because he’s going to be more around 92-94, I think he’s going to be fine. I think he’s going to learn.”

Hershiser picked the Red Sox to win the World Series and insisted he still has confidence in them. “I think it’s a great team,” he said. “I think they have holes. Of course, they have question marks. But you know what? Everybody has holes and question marks. On paper, when you look at them, the resume tells you this team is going to score a ton of runs. This team is going to pitch well over the long term. This team has a great 7-8-9 bullpen. And this team has kind of the intangibles with Terry Francona at the helm and some of the things that [Dustin] Pedroia and [Kevin] Youkilis bring to the table. This team could have chemistry. I still think they’re going to turn it around.”

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Read More: Alex Rodriguez, Josh Beckett, Manny Ramirez, Orel Hershiser

Junichi Tazawa starts the road back

04.11.11 at 9:51 am ET
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Red Sox right-hander Junichi Tazawa, who missed all of 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, pitched in a game setting for the first time since undergoing the procedure. In an intrasquad game in Fort Myers, the right-hander threw 27 pitches while facing eight batters, striking out three and not allowing a base runner. His fastball velocity registered as high as 89 mph — still below his low-90s velocity of 2009, but close to his pre-surgery form as he continues to build arm strength in his comeback.

The 24-year-old is currently on the 60-day disabled list. While he is likely to spend much of the year in the minors, he could end up providing the Sox with either bullpen or rotation depth later in the year. In his first (and only) professional season in 2009, he went 9-7 with a 2.55 ERA in 20 minor league starts at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, then went 2-3 with a 7.46 ERA in six big league appearances for the Sox.

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Nuggetpalooza: Sunday Night Nuggets!

04.11.11 at 9:39 am ET
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Lots of interesting stuff happened last night at a raucous Fenway Park, but most of it was Josh Beckett related:

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* – Some quick notes on Josh Beckett’s specific pitches last night (via Brooks Baseball): Beckett ended 13 atbats with his curveball last night, all against left handed batters, resulting in 0-for-13 with five strikeouts. He got one or two outs via his curve in all eight innings that he pitched… Beckett also threw 18 changeups, all to lefties, and found the strike zone on 11, resulting in 0-for-4 with one strikeout… In two starts, opponents are now 0-for-17 against Beckett’s curve, 0-for-11 against his changeup, and 7-for-31 (.226) with five of his six walks against his fastball… Overall, 81 of  Beckett’s 102 pitches last night were to left handed hitters.

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* – The YankeesCC Sabathia allowed 14 Red Sox to reach base last night, but allowed only one run. It was the first time in the majors since 2007 that a pitcher had allowed 14 or more baserunners and fewer than two runs.

Note this: The last time that a Yankee pitcher had such a start? Ron Guidry in 1982. The last time that an opposing pitcher had such a start against Boston? Baltimore’s Mike Mussina in 1993.

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* – Before taking the loss last night, Sabathia was 23-0 as a member of the Yankees when allowing one or zero earned runs.

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* – Last night, Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon combined to retire the first Yankees batter in all nine innings. It was the first time in 2011 that Sox pitchers have done it after it happened six times last year, four times in 2009, six times in 2008, and 10 times in 2007.

Note this: Not included above is last September 26, where Red Sox pitchers retired the Yankees first batter in each of the first nine innings, but allowed him to reach in the 10th inning. If you include that game, then it means that Red Sox pitchers have done it to the Yankees in three of the last nine games played between the two teams (and gone 2-1 in those games).

And this: The Red Sox have won three in a row and 14 of their last 19 when they’ve not allowed any leadoff batters to reach base.

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* – Beckett fanned 10 Yankees last night, the 11th time in his career (and sixth time as a Red Sox) that he’s struck out 10 or more in a game. Red Sox career leaders in double digit strikeout games:

72 – Pedro Martinez
68 – Roger Clemens
14 – John Lester

Note this: Beckett had not struck out 10 or more in any of his last 35 starts prior to last night.

And this: Beckett had fanned six through the first four innings last night. Prior to that, he had struck out six or more in just 10 of his last 22 starts.

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* – Boston now has seven RBI with the bases loaded in 2011, and Marco Scutaro has four of them. Since the start of last season, Scutaro is 9-for-16 with the bases loaded (.563), the third highest average in the majors in that span (min. 15 bases loaded AB):

.647 – Vladimir Guerrero (11-for-17)
.611 – Robinson Cano (11-for-18)
.563 – Marco Scutaro (9-for-16)

Hmmmm. All three in the AL East.

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* – Last night was just the fourth time since coming to Boston that Josh Beckett has recorded an eighth inning out in April. What’s more, he went more than seven innings last season only once.

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* – Beckett’s “game score” last night was 87, his second best mark since coming to Boston. The only better score (88) came in 2009 when he fired a three-hit shutout at Kansas City.

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* – What a change from Beckett’s recent history: Over last year plus this year’s first start, Beckett’s ERA in the first three innings was 3.74. His ERA from the fourth inning on: 7.49.

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* – After hitting just 24 line drives (the fewest in the AL) in their first eight games, averaging  just 3.0 per game, the Red Sox had nine liners last night. It was just the second time in their last 47 games that they’ve had nine or more line drives.

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* – The Red Sox used their eighth different batting order in nine games this season, which is on pace for their most ever in a season, set last year:

143 – 2010 (no batting order was used more than five times)
141 – 2004 (no order was used more than four times)
140 – 2000
136 – 2001

In 1984, the Red Sox used only 42 different lineups and the exact same one was used in 66 different games that season!

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