|06.23.11 at 3:24 pm ET|
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.
|06.22.11 at 6:49 pm ET|
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 »
|06.22.11 at 2:07 pm ET|
The day after the solstice, rain delays the start of the Red Sox game against the Padres. Go figure.
The two teams will play the rubber match of their three-game set, and WEEI.com (and friends!) is on the scene at Fenway Park for the latest news, analysis and updates. For the latest, click below to jump into the live blog.
|06.22.11 at 1:58 pm ET|
The time is nigh.
After the Red Sox finish their contest against the Padres at Fenway Park on Wednesday afternoon, they will have an off day and then travel to Pittsburgh to kick off a nine-game, 10-day roadtrip through National League parks to wrap up interleague play. It is always a frustrating stretch of the schedule, but the fact that the Sox must visit three straight NL cities this year is particularly frustrating, since the Sox face the specter of being without their designated hitter for an extended stretch.
That, in turn, creates concerns about disrupting the tremendous rhythm of DH David Ortiz. Ortiz has been one of the top hitters in the American League this year, carrying a .317 average, .395 OBP, .592 slugging mark, .988 OPS and 17 homers through the Sox’ first 73 games this year.
“If we don’t play David for 11 days, that’s going to kill him,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “I don’t want to do that. There’s some things to think about.’
Yet sticking Ortiz at first base is a flawed option as well, since Adrian Gonzalez has been even better. He is leading the majors with a .350 average while featuring a .403 OBP, .603 slugging mark, 1.006 OPS, 15 homers and a major league leading 68 RBI.
And so, the chief subject of reflection for the Sox is whether to have Adrian Gonzalez play some games in right field during the coming roadtrip through Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Houston so that Ortiz can get in the lineup as a first baseman. Gonzalez has told Francona that he’d only be comfortable in right and not left, based on the fact that a) his reads of the ball off the bat would be similar to what he faces at first base and b) that’s where his prior experience in the outfield — with the Rangers and in the Mexican Winter League in 2005 — came. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.22.11 at 1:10 pm ET|
MLB Network and NESN analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
One of the big topics lately has been how the Red Sox will handle interleague play on the road when they cannot use a designated hitter. Either David Ortiz or Adrian Gonzalez will be forced to sit so the other can play first base, or Gonzalez will have to play in the outfield, something he has only done once during his career.
‘I think [Terry Francona] might use Gonzalez for a couple of games, one in left field in Philadelphia and one in left field in Houston, which are both short,’ Gammons said. ‘Otherwise, I don’t think they will get too fancy. I think they will rely on their pitching to get by. It’s tough, they are both in the top five offensive players in the American League, but as long as baseball plays by two different rules, this is one of the things you have to live with.
“I just think it’s dangerous. If Gonzalez runs into a wall or something, you lose him for three weeks. That’s a lot worse than losing two out of three in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.’
If the Sox were to make it to the World Series, they would be faced with this dilemma again. Gammons said Gonzalez likely would not play in the outfield in a World Series game. He noted back in the 1993 World Series, the Blue Jays sat John Olerud and Paul Molitor in order to go with the best defensive team.
Gammons was asked about outfielder Josh Reddick and what he sees his role with the team going forth.
“I think he’s a guy that can hit .270, .280,’ he said. ‘He has improved a lot as far seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand and swinging at strikes. He’s got a wide bat. He’s a very good outfielder who is exceptional at charging the ball and throwing. To me, that’s his greatest skill. In some ways I think of him of being a fourth outfielder, but I think a pretty good one. I don’t think he has the ceiling of Ryan Kalish, but I do think he can be a pretty useful player.”
|06.22.11 at 10:02 am ET|
Padres coach Dave Roberts joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning, prior to the third game of San Diego’s interleague series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Roberts was a part of the Red Sox’ 2004 World Series championship team, and he said he never had a similar experience during his major league career. “No, I haven’t,” he said. “And I played on some very good teams, a lot of fun teams with some good guys and some nice ballplayers. But as far as the atmosphere here every single night and the group that we had and what we accomplished, it doesn’t compare.”
Roberts continues to maintain an optimistic approach despite the Padres’ slow start this season.
“Obviously, everyone knows that it’s a different market, San Diego and Boston,” he said. “But we’re going to go out there and keep playing and try to play the game the right way and see what happens after 162 games.”
The Padres acquired two high-profile Red Sox minor leaguers as part of the trade for Adrian Gonzalez in the offseason. Anthony Rizzo already has joined the major league club, while pitcher Casey Kelly remains in the minors. Roberts said it doesn’t appear likely that Kelly will be added to the major league roster this season.
“I think at some point, but I don’t know if he’s a September call-up candidate,” Roberts said. “He’s having a nice year in Double-A. He’s moving along, he’s moving along. But I don’t think they want to rush him. I think that Rizzo, he was just playing so well that he forced our hand. Casey, I had a chance to see him in spring training. There’s a lot to like.”
|06.22.11 at 9:09 am ET|
At a time when Josh Reddick has been giving evidence of a maturing approach at the plate, J.D. Drew has been unable to make any kind of offensive impact for the Red Sox. His game-ending punchout on Tuesday night — a check swing on a 95 mph fastball against Padres closer Heath Bell — placed a punctuation mark on a season-long drought.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona maintains that he still expects that Drew will go on one of his annual hot streaks in which he proves capable of hitting home runs in bunches. Yet while that possibility certainly looms, it is also fair to ask whether Drew is simply in a state of career decline at age 35. Certainly, his standing among his peers suggests as much.
For years, Drew’s numbers have suggested a player who is subject to an unfair degree of criticism. This year, however, statistics offer him no quarter.
There are 68 outfielders in the majors who have had at least 200 plate appearances. Of those, Drew ranks in the bottom 20 percent in nearly every offensive category.
Drew’s nine extra-base hits are tied for 64th ‘ just one ahead of notorious batter’s box lightweight Juan Pierre. His .230 average is 61st; his .328 slugging percentage is 63rd; his .660 OPS is 57th. Though his .332 OBP ranks in the middle of the pack, his 19 runs (in a lineup that leads the majors in scoring) are second to last and his 18 RBIs are 57th.
Moreover, there are other telling aspects that speak to a decline in his other tools. He has become a more conservative baserunner as his speed has diminished, as he’s taken an extra base (first to third on a single; first to home on a double; second to home on a single) just 17 percent of the time, less than half the 38 percent clip at which he did so last year.
In fact, 2011 marks the third straight year of decline in the rate at which he’s taken an extra base. That trend points to the toll taken by the game on his legs at age 35. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.22.11 at 8:20 am ET|
John Lackey and Clayton Richard will take the mound in Wednesday’s series finale between the Red Sox and Padres in a matchup of two pitchers who have had their fair share of struggles this season. While Richard has been more effective statistically, a severe shortage of San Diego run support gives the win-loss edge to Lackey, who’s made some major improvements since his elbow injury.
Lackey (5-5, 7.02 ERA) has shown new life since his return from the DL, recording convincing wins in each of his last three starts. The Red Sox offense provided an average of 10.6 runs in those three games, but Lackey never gave up more than four.
The right-hander struck out eight over six innings in a win against the Blue Jays on June 11, and most recently he went eight innings while surrendering four runs and striking out five against the Brewers. Before being sent to the DL after a 9-3 loss on May 11, Lackey was 2-5 with an 8.01 ERA. Since returning on June 5, he’s 3-0 with an ERA of 5.03.
Lackey doesn’t have much experience against the National League, although he’s seen plenty of Jason Bartlett from his days in Tampa Bay, and Orlando Hudson from his time in Toronto and Minnesota. In 26 career plate appearances, Bartlett is hitting .320 with a double, three triples, and an RBI. Hudson is batting .261 with a triple and three RBI. Lackey has dominated Ryan Ludwick in just six plate appearances, holding him hitless and striking him out three times.
In terms of ERA, Richard (2-9, 4.35 ERA) has pitched consistently better than Lackey this season, but a lack of run support has deflated his record tremendously. In Richard’s nine losses, the Padres have averaged 2.3 runs. The offense provided more than enough run support in his two wins, scoring eight runs on May 16, and 11 runs back on April 2.
The Padres have lost in Richard’s last six starts, although the left-hander has posted a respectable 4.18 ERA this month. However, he was knocked around by the Twins in his last outing, surrendering six runs on 10 hits through five innings. Richard’s current numbers don’t justify his performance in 2010, when he finished 14-9 with a 3.75 ERA.
As for his experience against Boston, the three-year pro hasn’t faced a current Red Sox hitter more than seven times. Mike Cameron leads the way with seven plate appearances, going 2-for-6 with a walk, a double, and a home run. Marco Scutaro has had the most success in just six plate appearances with two walks, two hits, and a home run.
|06.22.11 at 1:02 am ET|
“I was just talking to him. Sometimes you overlook some things as a pitcher and to me, like I tell him, hitting is not easy,” Ortiz recounted. “When you get yourself in trouble thinking about what you want to throw, that gives the hitter opportunity to have more than just the half-second you have for thinking. Sometimes it works your way, sometimes it doesn’t. But other than that, I think he came out good.”
The popular question after Aceves walked five straight in the second inning to force home two runs and give the Padres their first lead of the night, 2-1, was whether anyone had seen such a lapse before.
“I’ve seen that before,” Ortiz said. “It’s not the first time, it’s not going to be the last one.”
To be honest, though, it’s been a while since it happened in the majors. Cleveland’s Jason Davis was the last to accomplish the dubious feat on April 24, 2005, in the eighth inning at Seattle.
But Ortiz wasn’t so concerned about history as he was pumping up his teammate. And after watching Aceves rebound from the second inning and finish five innings with 99 pitches (53 strikes), he felt like his starting pitcher deserved some credit for showing his talent and his guts.
“Alfredo has got good stuff. He just got caught in a situation,” Ortiz said. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.21.11 at 10:55 pm ET|
So this was the San Diego pitching staff that everyone was talking about.
One night after the Padres bullpen had collectively allowed 11 runs to the Red Sox, including 10 in one inning, relievers Chad Qualls (win), Mike Adams (hold) and Heath Bell (save) closed the door on a Boston team that had put up double-digits in three of its last five games heading into Tuesday night’s affair. Boston had reigned in a 4-1 early deficit by the sixth inning, but the trio of San Diego hurlers held down the fort for the remaining 3 1/3 innings as the Padres held on for a 5-4 win.
The Red Sox dropped just their third game in their last 17 contests dating back to June 3 while the Padres broke a streak of six consecutive losses.
Here’s what went wrong and a few things that went right for the Red Sox in Tuesday night’s loss.
WHAT WENT WRONG
—Alfredo Aceves‘s start fell apart in the second inning, even after he retired the first two batters on seven pitches. The spot starter, the replacement for Josh Beckett who was out with the stomach bug, walked the next five batters he faced, allowing two runs to score in what would be a 42-pitch inning. He would allow two more runs the following inning while his attempts to throw strikes were slapped to the outfield.
Aceves’s six walks on the night were a career-high as was his pitch total of 99. His five-inning, four-run performance wasn’t horrible for a starter taking the hill on an emergency basis, but the control issues are certainly concerning for the Red Sox going forward.
–The biggest culprit offensively for the Red Sox was their performance with men on base. The team strung together 13 hits but stranded 11 runners in the losing effort. The biggest culprits were the most unusual suspects. Adrian Gonzalez stranded six of his teammates on the basepaths while David Ortiz left five men on. The team as a whole was just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the loss. Read the rest of this entry »
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