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The Discovery and Development of Josh Reddick

09.02.09 at 11:12 pm ET
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At the time, his home run didn’€™t seem any different from the others he had hit that summer. Josh Reddick lofted a pitch from Ross Detwiler, who one year later would be the sixth overall pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball draft, over the wall at Lassiter High School in Marietta, GA, on a summer day in mid-July of 2006.

While the scouts had come to watch Detwiler’€™s Team USA take on Reddick’€™s Georgia Collegiate All-Stars, the questions started circulating about the kid named Reddick. Reddick’€™s home run was the only run the All-Stars would get off of Team USA and Detwiler in a 14-1 rout that day.

Yet for Reddick, the final outcome was an afterthought. He went 3-for-5 against a team comprised of the best college players in the country. Scouts buzzed about the Red Sox‘€™ still-unsigned 17th round draft pick.

Within minutes, Red Sox director of amateur scouting Jason McLeod was receiving phone calls from other MLB scouting directors suggesting that he sign Reddick before they got the chance to pursue him. While most scouts in attendance were cursing themselves at not noticing the skinny kid earlier, the Red Sox had nailed him.

Thanks in part to their detailed efforts to learn about a player who was unknown to most, the Sox worked out a deal with Reddick and signed him for $140,000 on August 8, just three weeks after that game and two days before he was to return to his team at Middle Georgia College.

‘€œThis kid was a raw junior college kid who (Red Sox scouts) dug out of nowhere,’€ said Mike Hazen, the Red Sox farm director. ‘€œIt’€™s a true scouting story. It’€™s a true, good evaluation, a gut instinct signing.’€

And so began the professional career of Josh Reddick. The 22-year-old rookie was called back up to the Red Sox on Wednesday, his third call-up of the year. That is three more trips to the majors ‘€“ with more to come ‘€“ than nearly anyone expected during an amateur career spent in obscurity. His is the story of a player who in three years has come from a small junior college to a growing role in the future of one of the most storied franchises in baseball.

‘€˜YOU JUST HAVE TO KEEP WATCHING’€™ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jason McLeod, josh reddick, middle georgia, mike rickard

Fake bomb outside Tropicana Field

09.02.09 at 6:17 pm ET
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According to the the St. Petersburg Police Dept., a man employed as a mechanic by the Tampa Bay Rays admitted to planting a fake explosive device outside Tropicana Field prior to Wednesday’s game between the Red Sox and Rays.

At about 2:10 p.m. lawn maintenance workers at Tropicana Field heard a beeping sound from a cabinet near Gate 2 that is closed to the public. The workers checked the cabinet and discovered a box inside, taped down to a shelf, with wires protruding from it, making it appear like an explosive device.

The employees notified the police. As a precaution the Tampa Bomb Squad responded to the scene and confirmed the device was a hoax.

Red Sox vs. Rays Match-Ups, 9-2-09

09.02.09 at 4:50 pm ET
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RED SOX VS. MATT GARZA

Last night’s 8-4 win over the Rays seemingly was a big one for the Red Sox in terms of Wild Card supremacy. Jon Lester broke the record for single-season strikeouts by a lefthander and the bats came alive, scoring the eight-pack of runs.

The offensive exploits last night came in large part to home runs from J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Jason Bay. Bay hit his 30th dinger in the game making this season the fourth that he’s reached that plateau in his seven-year-career.

The Boston bats will face a hurler that they have quite a bit of familiarity with in Matt Garza. Tonight’s start is his fourth this season against the Red Sox.

Here’s how the Red Sox hitters have fared against Garza in his career:

Jacoby Ellsbury (28 plate appearances) .346 BA/.396 OBP/.346 SLG 

Dustin Pedroia (27) .192/.222/.346

David Ortiz (23) .111/.304/.444 (2 HR. 3RBI, 9 K, 5 BB)

Kevin Youkilis (22) .222/.364/.444

Mike Lowell (20) .150/.150/.300

J.D. Drew (19) .125/.211/.375 (HR, 3 RBI)

Victor Martinez (15) .231/.267/.308

Jason Varitek (14) .154/.214/.231

Joey Gathright (12) .091/.091/.091

Jason Bay (9) .222/.222/.556 (3B, RBI)

Nick Green (6) .400/.500/.400

Brian Anderson (5) .400/.400/.400

Casey Kotchman (3) .500/.667/.500

Alex Gonzalez (2) .000/.000/.000

George Kottaras (2) .000/.000/.000

Garza has not faced Rocco Baldelli and Chris Woodward.

RAYS VS. JOSH BECKETT

After a record-breaking performance from Jon Lester last night, the Red Sox give the ball to their ace, Josh Beckett. Beckett’s last start was a lackluster one against the Toronto Blue Jays, as he gave up five runs, five hits and five walks on Friday night. The five walks were a season-high for Beckett.

Home runs have seemingly come cheaper by the dozen for Beckett, as he’s served up 12 of them in his last four outings. The 2003 World Series MVP will take the hill against a lineup he’s faced a ton over the last few years.

Here’s how the Rays bats have fared against Beckett in the past:

Pat Burrell (49) .205/.286/.205 (3 RBI, 11 K)

Akinori Iwamura (33) .310/.394/.410

Carl Crawford (32) .333/.344./.400

Jason Bartlett (26) ..292/.308/.375

Dioner Navarro  (26) 120/.154/.120

Carlos Pena (25) .136/.240/.318 (HR, 3 BB, 13 K)

Evan Longoria (21) .250/.286/.500 (2 2B, HR, 5 RBI)

Gabe Gross (20) .059/.200/.235

B.J. Upton (18) .333/.333/.500

Gregg Zaun (15) .133/.133/.267

Willy Aybar (6) .667/.667/1.167 (2B, 3B)

Fernando Perez (3) .000/.000/.000

Shawn Riggans (3) .000/.000/.000

Ben Zobrist (3) .000/.333/.000

Beckett has yet to face Gabe Kapler

Read More: Josh Beckett, matt garza,

Terry Francona on Dale and Holley

09.02.09 at 12:59 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined the Dale and Holley show today. They talked to the Red Sox skipper about Jacoby Ellsbury’s defensive wizardry last night, the bullpen, and Tim Wakefield’s health.

(Click here for the full audio)

Here are some of the highlights:

On Jonathan Papelbon’s six-out save last night: “We went out in the eighth, we had Oki in the game and had Pap up and Bard. We had a rested bullpen. We had Bard up just in case something happened quickly…Each hit seemed to be hit a little softer. I didn’t want to bring Bard into a bases-loaded situation. (Papelbon) can get out of this and if this taxes him we’ll bring in someone else.”

On the depth of the bullpen: “You want the best pitchers to pitch in the big situations. You can’t warm up your closer in like the sixth inning. That’s where having a deep bullpen works. A kid like Bard is every bit as good. Wagner gives us a power arm from the left. Delcarmen and Saito can get lefties out, too.”

On the new defensive statistical rankings, which sometimes portray Ellsbury as below averge: “That’s an interesting concept, That’s an evolving part of the game. It’s hard to have it perfect. Fenway’s infield is so much slower than a Texas, Minnesota or here [Tampa]. What we’re trying to do is not have your eyes decieve you. I think Jake’s done a great job.”

On the last-minute adjustments Ellsbury made before that play: “It’s huge. Those are things that go unnoticed. There’s a lot of thought that goes into it. Coco was as good as you could be with that. If (Ellsbury) was anywhere but where he was then that ball goes into the gap as a triple.”

On the defensive set-up that afforded that Ellsbury web gem: “It’s not a no-doubles. We have a couple different versions of that. We have one that’s a little deeper. I thought Jacoby made a great play. He doesn’t go on that play with commitement, he doesn’t make that play.”

On the addition of Billy Wagner: “It gives us that second lefty where we don’t have to get Oki up. This guy’s coming off of Tommy John surgery. We’ll just pick spots. You don’t have to match him up against guys because he’s been a closer for so long.”

On whether it was surprising that Wagner was available in a waiver deal: “Not really. I think those types of moves become available when teams fall out of contention. They change their direction.”

On that decision for the six-out save: “We know what we want to do. We did something we weren’t thrilled about. But you put your team in the best position possible. For the most part we think it through. Certainly we’re not perfect. John Farrell and I talk a lot and we know what we want to do.”

On the recent struggles of Josh Beckett and Carlos Pena’s power potential: “Sometimes when JB’s struggling he’s firm. Sometimes he wants to squeeze it. If 95 isn’t good enough, then 98 should be.It straightens out, he leaves it over the middle and it gets whacked. Fortunateley for us, he’€™s been able to take stock of his last couple outings. He’s had some really good sessions. I’€™d be totally surprised if he doesn’€™t have a good outing. I know Beckett will be fine. I hope it will be tonight. It’€™s nothing physical.

This linuep has something to say about it. I think we’re thinking about putting a shift on Pena. Maybe we’ll be putting someone on one of those catwalks.”

On Matt Garza’s success against the Red Sox: “He stepped it up against us like you couldn’t believe. There’s a way to beat him but then you see what he does to us. We’ve got to figure out how other teams have been able to beat him.”

On the current state of Tampa Bay Rays affairs: “I don’t think there really is (a significant difference from last year). They’re scoring a ton of runs have a good bullpen and they run a ton. Some of it is confidence of comeback wins. There’s a lot of things combined. And our division too. They’re playing us and the Yankees.”

On the odd call from umpire Joe West warning Papelbon for pace of play: “I figured I’m better off letting Joe have his fun. I just zipped it and watched.”

On Paul Byrd beating Halladay on Sunday: “I think there’s always the hope. That was kind of the ultimate. We’ve got a guy who was home a month ago coaching his kid’s team getting a win for us.”

On Tim Wakefield’s health: “He’s minimally better. I guess that’s better than being minimally worse. He rode the bike. We’ll monitor him again today. He can pitch, he just can’t cover first or bend down.”

On Bill Belichick’s reaction to the recent retirement of Patriots lineback Tedy Bruschi and if he’s had any players who were pleasures to coach: “I did watch that and it was very touching, You could see the emotions that Bill had. There’s a lot of players that you feel that way about. It just doesn’t get on television. For some reason those guys don’t make it to the major leagues. You could tell that Tedy was special. People in New England alreay knew it.”

On meeting the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and this year’s opening day first pitch experience: “Wasn’t that something? Because of the job I have, I’ve been afforded some neat oppotunites. I got to watch him throw the first pitch. I got a picture signed by him and a card that was signed by him. I later learned that that’s something he was famous for. In this job, I’m lucky I’ve met some amazing people.”

On tonight’s lineup changes: “We’ve got Youk at 3rd, Victor at first, and Tek catching.”

Read More: billy wagner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett

The legend of Joey Gathright

09.01.09 at 8:33 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Joey Gathright was called up to the Red Sox Tuesday. He figures to pinch-run and play a little backup outfield. Certainly nothing that would elicit a full 10 minutes of media back and forth.

But Gathright — a 28-year-old who hasn’t been able to establish himself as a major league regular since coming on the scene in 2004 — is more than just another innocuous Sept. call-up. Besides being the one to have set former Red Sox pitcher Julian Tavarez off into a slap-fight frenzy in spring training of 2007, Gathright’s claim to fame can be found courtesy You Tube.

See for yourself…

That’s right. Gathright can jump over cars.

The You Tube video of the outfielder leap-frogging an automobile was filmed during the Tampa Bay Rays‘ 2002 spring training and had (as of Tuesday night) received 699,881 views. Gathright, however, insists he doesn’t know how the video ended up on the site for public consumption.

“I was doing it for fun and one day my boy filmed it,” Gathright said. “He didn’t even know how it got released, but one day it ended up on You Tube and now you see everybody else trying it. I think everybody thought I put it out there, but it wasn’t me. I don’t want anybody getting hurt, but that’s the funniest thing, watching other people try to do it.”

As impressive as the video version was, it wasn’t the most impressive car-jump executed by Gathright. That might have come during his very first try and accomplishing the feat while waiting for his mother to pick him up after football practice as a 10th grader.

According to Gathright, the initial leap over any car was managed while wearing Timberland work boots and baggy pants. And, just for good measure, it was a sizable Lincoln Town Car that he hurdled.

“I just stood up, tried it and I made it,” said Gathright, who said he long-jumped 23 feet in eighth grade. “We were just waiting after football practice. Nobody knew I was doing it. But then I started running and they started paying attention. Everybody went crazy. I didn’t tell anybody. I just tried it.

“That’s happened a few times. I haven’t made money off it. I wish I would have, but nothing’s come along.”

For now, Gathright will have to make his money riding out the final month of the season with the Red Sox. His athleticism — which was measured via a 4.23 40-yard dash in high school — figures to be his biggest attribute. He has averaged 30 stolen bases per 162 games while playing most part-time throughout his 428-game major league career.

Red Sox at Rays Match-Ups, 9/1

09.01.09 at 4:02 pm ET
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The Red Sox are in Tampa Bay this evening for the start of a pivotal three-game series that will help determine whether the Rays can climb back into the thick of the AL Wild Card race. A three-game sweep by Tampa Bay would put them only two games back of the Sox for the Wild Card, while a Sox sweep would bury the Rays by eight games and give Boston a comfortable pad in their pursuit of the playoffs (the Rangers are still hanging around, currently four games back of the Sox).

The Sox will have their 1a on the mound tonight in the form of Jon Lester. Lester was pushed back from a Sunday start against Toronto after news of the continuing pain in Tim Wakefield‘€™s back.

This will be Lester’€™s third start against the Rays this year and he hopes to reverse his 2009 trend of frustration against the divisional rival. He is 0-2 with an 8.22 ERA in three starts against the Rays. In his most recent outing against them, he recorded a no-decision on August 4 when he went six innings and struck out 10 in a game the Sox lost in 13 innings, when Evan Longoria took reliever Takashi Saito deep for the walk-off win.

Lester has 187 strikeouts on the season and needs four more to pass Bruce Hurst for the most by a left-handed Sox pitcher in a single season. With 21 strikeouts against the Rays this season there is an outside chance that the lefty will approach the 200-strikeout plateau this evening (though his career high for punchouts in a game is 12).

The Sox are opposed by Andy Sonnanstine, who won his only outing against the Sox this year back on May 1. Sonnanstine went 5.2 innings, giving up eight hits and two runs while walking four with a strikeout. He also beat the Sox in the ALCS last year when he went 7.1 innings and allowed three runs on six hits in Game 4.

Here are the matchups: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andy Sonnanstine, Jon Lester, Match-Ups,

Red Sox Announce Call-Ups

09.01.09 at 3:40 pm ET
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The Red Sox issued the following press release about a flurry of Sept. 1 activities, which featured four minor-league call-ups (outfielders Brian Anderson and Joey Gathright from Triple-A Pawtucket, infielder Chris Woodward from Pawtucket, and pitcher Junichi Tazawa from the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League) as well as the reactivation of catcher George Kottaras from the 15-day disabled list: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brian Anderson, call-ups, chris woodward, george kottaras

Change Comes For Jon Lester

09.01.09 at 1:45 pm ET
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As mentioned in today’s feature, Jon Lester stands on the verge of setting the Red Sox record for strikeouts in a single season by a left-handed pitcher. Lester, who is averaging just over 10 strikeouts per nine innings, has fanned 187 batters this year. With four more punchouts, he will surpass the current Sox southpaw record of 190, set by Bruce Hurst in 1987.

Lester’s strikeout rate has spiked significantly this year, to the point where he is one of the foremost power pitchers in the American League. He ranks behind only Justin Verlander of the Tigers in strikeouts per nine innings. Yet for the most part, Lester and other members of the Sox insist that his stuff is almost unchanged from a year ago. A year ago, he already featured his current repertoire of a mid- to high-90s fastball, a low-90s cutter, hammer curve and changeup.

“Not one particular pitch is all of a sudden, ‘€˜Oh, he has a cutter and he never had one.’€™ He’€™s had all four, and he’€™s developed all four more,” said catcher Jason Varitek. “He’€™s just developed more as a pitcher. I think that’€™s more than anything.”

Yet Lester’s strikeouts per nine innings have increased by roughly 54 percent, going from 6.5 per nine innings last year to his current double digit tally. While the development of his ability to attack opponents with all four pitches has increased as Lester — widely viewed as an excellent student of the game — has gotten more experience, it is also clear that his increased confidence in his changeup has also changed the looks that the pitcher presents to opposing hitters.

Asked how he is using his changeup differently in 2008 versus 2009, Lester offered an explanation that revealed not only one of the causes for his increased strikeout rates this year, but that also gave fascinating insight into his thought processes on the mound. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: changeup, Jon Lester,

The Misinterpreted J.D. Drew

09.01.09 at 6:00 am ET
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You’€™ll be hard-pressed to find someone on a more even keel than J.D. Drew.

He’€™s not one for throwing his helmet in disgust after striking out, nor is he the kind of guy who’€™ll give a little fist pump after belting a homerun to deep right field.

No, Drew is more composed. He’€™s the guy who’€™ll hardly ever flash a smile, let alone celebrate an impressive play. Case in point:

August 7, 2009. The Red Sox and Yankees are each scoreless through 14 innings in the Bronx. It’€™s the second game of a crucial four-game series for these two AL East foes, and both teams are exhausted after playing over a game and a half’€™s worth of baseball. In the bottom of the 14th with runners on first and second, Yankees outfielder Eric Hinske crushes a 2-2 pitch to right. Just as it seems like New York is walking off with the victory, Drew sprints to the wall, fully extending every limb on his body, and swiftly snatches the ball from thin air before landing gracefully and tossing it back. Hinske’€™s out, the dance goes on.

One man single-handedly deflates an entire stadium.

As Hinske skulks backs to the dugout in disbelief, shaking his head and swearing like a sailor along the way, Drew remains in right field just chewing his bubble gum and looking as calm and collected as he did before.

‘€œOn the field he’€™s almost surgeon-like,’€ said Marty Scott, Drew’€™s coach with the independent Northern League St. Paul Saints in 1997. ‘€œHe’€™s just meticulous in his play, but again, you’€™ll never see him upset and you’€™ll never see him overly happy.’€

For Drew, making plays and scoring runs is all part of his job description, which is why he fails to see the need for celebration.

‘€œAs a player it’€™s your responsibility to do certain things,’€ Drew said. ‘€œSo when you do them, it’€™s just kind of what you expect of yourself. There’€™s no reason to go crazy.’€

But his no-nonsense stoicism has been the subject of much criticism over the years. He’€™s widely perceived as someone who not only lacks emotion, but someone who as a player doesn’€™t exert himself to his fullest potential ‘€“ a guy who does the least with the most.

A recent Sports Illustrated Players Poll surveyed 380 MLB players on this very question: ‘€œWho gets the least out of the most talent?’€ Drew tied Elijah Dukes for third place with six percent of the vote.

‘€œHe has the Eddie Murray curse,’€ said former Red Sox teammate Curt Schilling. ‘€œHe’€™s so gifted and such a great athlete that at times he looks like he’€™s moving at a slower pace, when he isn’€™t.

‘€œQuiet country boy who never gets too high or too low. It’€™s a blessing and a curse in a town that cherishes players that wear their hearts on their sleeves, and is reviled by players that don’€™t shout and scream and show emotion.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Curt Schilling, florida state university, J.D Drew, mike martin

Things are looking up

08.31.09 at 8:38 am ET
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A few thoughts from the weekend:

Josh Beckett

Are you concerned about Josh Beckett? I’m not. I know that he has been getting beat by the long ball (12 in his last 4 starts), but to me it doesn’t look like he’s hurt, the velocity is still there. His two-seam fastball has just flattened out and doesn’t have that good sink that we’ve been accustomed to. There are a few universal truths to pitching: 

1. Strike One. Getting ahead of the hitter can change the entire at bat and how you approach it. 

2. Leadoff walks. They usually cause stressful innings and more times then not, end up scoring

3. Two-out walks. They almost always come back to bite you.

I’m sure you saying, “What the hell do you know about pitching?” But the reality is is that as a hitter you are well aware of what a pitcher is trying to do and what causes them to get out of their game. Josh, in his last outing, had a little problem with No. 3.  On two different occasions, he not only walked one hitter, but two with two outs. It cost him in the second inning as Aaron Hill then stepped up hit a three-run shot. But I don’t think that there should be a concern when it comes to “stuff’. It just goes to show you how fine you have to be to be a great pitcher in this league. Make no mistakes about it, Josh Beckett is a great pitcher in this league. 

JD Drew

JD is hot. For most of the year, JD has been silent. We’ve been waiting for him to get hot and carry this team for a month like he’s done in the past. He may not be carrying this team but he’s definitely doing his part. Drew hit .333 with 6 HR’s and 13 RBI’s in the month of August to go along with an OBP of .459. Since being moved down to the eight-hole JD in eight games has hit .333 with three HR’s. Imagine being an opposing pitcher and having to face this lineup with that kind of production from your number No. 8 hitter? 

Clay Buchholz

Let me introduce you to the Sox’€™ No. 3 starter. He has been outstanding in four of his last five starts. He held his own going up against three “aces” in a row. Then he got lit up against a pretty good White Sox lineup, but that’s what happens with a young pitcher in this league. In his last outing, he was as close to unhittable as you can get without throwing a no-hitter. 

I can’t say enough about the development of his two-seamer. Last year we saw him struggle locating his four-seamer. When he did throw it for strikes, it got hit hard. Because of that, he started nibbling and missing with it falling behind hitters and getting himself in trouble. Now he looks confident with his fastball and is willing to throw it and rely on its movement to get easy outs. It also opens the outside part of the plate for his slider, which is another pitch we didn’t see much from him last year. Overall, he looks like a more confident pitcher who is starting to catch his stride. 

The Lineup

Now this is the way it should have been when this team acquired Victor Martinez. It hasn’t been easy for Tito to rotate everyone around and keep players happy with their roles. But I must say, it has gone smoother than I thought it was going to go. I know that Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, and Jason Varitek get frustrated at times, but it has been working and the offense has woken up from its season long slumber.  When you look at the numbers from the month of August, you have a pretty good idea why this team feels pretty good about themselves:

Jacoby Ellsbury: .297-0-11

Dustin Pedroia:. 307-5-13

Victor Martinez: .308-5-19

Kevin Youkilis: .325-4-13

Jason Bay: .289-9-18

JD Drew: .333-6-13

Mike Lowell: .319-5-19

I left David Ortiz out because he struggled early in August dealing with “the list” issues, but recently, he has been on fire, also batting .308 with 7 HR and 16 RBI’s in his last 14 games. Even Alex Gonzalez who was brought here to catch the ball not hit it is batting .296 since coming over to Boston from Cincinnati. When you have a team hitting the way the Sox are, you can make up for the occasional bad outing from any of your starters and still go out and win. 

Billy Wagner

He will be a great addition to an already great bullpen. Remember Saturday night when Oki came in the game to face Adam Lind and Lyle Overbay only to give up a double to Lind and a single to Overbay? In about a week or so, those hitters will be Wagner’s. It’€™s the perfect scenario to bring in a lefty with power stuff to face two left-handed hitters back to back. I know that the Sox don’t pick guys up with the Yankees in mind, but its a good fit.  If and when the Sox play the Yanks in the ALCS, they will have two lefties in the pen to switch Teixeira, Posada, and Cabrera around to hit right-handed, a strategy that will be utilized when playing New York with that short porch in right. The luxury that you have is that both lefties are just as effective against right-handed hitters. Oki has his change up and Wagner has that power slider. 

As good as I feel about this team, they still have to go out on the road and play good baseball. Jason Bay said it best while in Texas, “Until we play better on the road, nobody is going to take us serious”. No better place to start than in Tampa where the Sox have lost 13 of their last 15 going back to last year. They have their rotation set up with Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz going in the three games. Winning two out of three will put the Rays even further in the rear view mirror. I’m not sure about you, but I will breath allot easier once the Rays are out of the picture

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