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Quality, thy name is Wakefield

06.10.09 at 9:32 pm ET
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The standards for a quality start are hardly unreasonable: at least 6 innings pitched, no more than 3 runs. By definiton, the quality start is one in which the pitcher has a 4.50 ERA or better while logging a sufficient number of innings to give his team a fightin’ chance to win.

Tim Wakefield entered today with a 7-3 record (the Sox are 8-3 in his starts entering tonight) and 4.50 ERA. Tonight against the Yankees, he left that number unaltered, going six innings and allowing three runs on eight hits. He has now produced quality starts in eight of his 12 outings this year, second on the Sox only to the nine quality starts turned in by Josh Beckett.

Quite simply, Wakefield has given the Sox everything that they could have hoped for in the vast majority of his outings, including tonight, when he handed his bullpen a 6-3 lead after six innings.

Read More: Josh Beckett, quality start, Tim Wakefield,

Kevin Youkilis goes oppo

06.10.09 at 9:00 pm ET
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After the Yankees scratched across a run in the top of the fourth against Sox starter Tim Wakefield, Kevin Youkilis tacked on a pair of runs in support of his compatriot, smashing a two-run shot into the Boston bullpen in right-center off of reliever Phil Hughes. The homer was the 10th of the year for Youkilis, a number that is somewhat more impressive considering his 15-day spell on the D.L.

The first baseman now has 10 homers in his 45 games played this year. If Youkilis is able to maintain such a pace while staying healthy over the remaining 103 games (after tonight) of the season, he would finish the year with 33 homers.

The fact that he is hitting homers to right-center at Fenway Park, of all places, is a testament both to Youkilis’ tremendous strength (it is debatable whether he or Jason Varitek is the strongest player on the team) and to his ongoing improvement and evolution as a hitter.

According to baseball-reference.com, Youkilis had only hit two homers to right at Fenway in his career, and both had been Pesky Pole shots. This one was a blast to left-center that created a crater in the middle of the Sox bullpen, a legitimate shot to the opposite field, a place where — even last year — Youkilis proved incapable of reaching.

Though the Yankees scratched out another run (thanks to the continued Mark Teixeira Show: the switch-hitter, who is batting right-handed against Wakefield’s knuckleballs, is 3-for-3 with two doubles and a single off the Wall) in the top of the fifth, the Sox still lead, 6-3, entering the bottom of the fifth.

Read More: Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira,

Wang done, Yankees torch their bullpen

06.10.09 at 8:23 pm ET
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Before Wednesday’s game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi expressed his hope that starter Chien-Ming Wang could make it through 80-85 pitches and about six innings. Wang nearly fulfilled the first vision, but came nowhere near the second.

Wang labored through 69 pitches, lasting just 2.2 innings. It’s the second straight night in which a Yankees starter has failed to make it through three innings, following a 2.2 inning outing by A.J. Burnett on Tuesday. Wang allowed four runs and six hits while walking three in his abbreviated outing. Several of the hits were of the hard variety, foremost run-scoring doubles in the second inning by George Kottaras and Dustin Pedroia, and a solo homer that Mike Lowell lined off of the shelf atop the Green Monster for a homer to lead off the third.

Wang now has a 21.60 ERA in five starts this year. Incredibly, this was his second longest start of the year. Given that he was quite effective in three long relief appearances (2.25 ERA in eight innings), the Yankees may be forced to consider moving him to the bullpen and bringing Phil Hughes back to the rotation.

Hughes entered for Wang and stranded a runner by striking out George Kottaras. After three innings, the Red Sox are up, 4-1.

Read More: chien-ming wang,

And Jason Bay Goes Cha-Ching

06.10.09 at 7:37 pm ET
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Unlike Johnny Damon, Jason Bay has proved rather unmoved by playing at home or on the road. He is hitting .274 with a .402 OBP and .991 OPS at Fenway, and .282 / .406 / 1.024 away from the friendly confines.

But the timing of his greatest successes this year, both at home and on the road, has been well-nigh impeccable. In particular, Bay’s ability to decimate the Yankees (he is hitting .545 against them with three homers and 11 RBIs) has been virtually inspired.

“He’s been a Yankee killer,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before today’s game.

The elements are familiar: Bay is a free agent after this year. He has been a dynamo with the Red Sox, and last year showed an extraordinary ability to remain unperturbed by the potential upheaval of a mid-year trade in which he replaced Manny Ramirez. As such, any team that is interested in acquiring Bay’s services can have confidence in his ability to seamlessly integrate himself into a new clubhouse, city and environment.

“He’d fit in anywhere,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

Damon and Hideki Matsui represent $26 million in free-agent money that could be coming off the Yankees’ books following this season. The Yankees should be in the market for a power-hitting outfielder. And every Yankees executive and every Yankees fan has seen Bay as nothing but a colossal wrecking ball, capable of decimating a pitching staff.

Tonight, Bay stepped to the plate with runners on first and second in the bottom of the first. He bounced a single through the left side on the infield and into left field to give the Sox a 1-0 advantage. And the drumbeat in New York suggested that the Yankees should make a run at a player whom the Sox would love to retain just grew a little louder.

Thanks to Bay’s single, the Red Sox are up, 1-0, after the first inning.

Read More: jason bay, Yankees,

Johnny Damon does not take his free-agent show on the road

06.10.09 at 7:26 pm ET
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You look at the numbers and marvel at the show that Johnny Damon is putting on as he prepares for free agency.

Damon is 35, but his numbers suggest that he is someone with plenty in the tank. He entered tonight hitting .294 with a .367 OBP — marks largely in line with his career totals — but with a shocking 12 homers and .908 OPS. Damon is threatening to break his career high in homers (24, accomplished in his first season with the Yankees in 2006) by the end of July. In some respects, the confluence of his mammoth season and impending free agency would seem to represent the perfect storm.

Only that the storm is taking place in one and only one city and ballpark. The new Yankee Stadium has seemed on some nights like the House George Built For Johnny. In his home park, Damon is hitting .315 with 9 homers and a 1.033 OPS. On the road, he is hitting .273 with a .319 OBP, 3 homers and a .783 OPS — respectable numbers (except for the on-base percentage), but not exactly the stuff on which multi-year contracts for a veteran corner outfielder is built.

Therein lies the rub. The Yankees’ new ballpark is puffing up the stats of its residents in such dramatic fashion that it might have a perverse effect — namely, much as was the case with Coors Field in Denver, it could end up devaluing the numbers of its residents because teams will simply assume that players like Damon are nothing more than a product of an incredibly hitter-friendly environment, in which every pop-up to left-field seems like a potential homer.

Facing Tim Wakefield in the first inning of tonight’s game between the Yankees and Red Sox, Damon rolled a weak grounder to first on the third pitch he saw. He is now hitting 4-for-17 this year at Fenway. One imagines that every out he has while outside of New York is costing him money.

Read More: Johnny Damon,

Red Sox vs. Yankees Match-Ups, 6/10

06.10.09 at 2:18 pm ET
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YANKEES VS. TIM WAKEFIELD

The Yankees are hitting home runs at an insane pace this year, which would seem to make them a bad matchup for the flyball-inclined Tim Wakefield (or, in fairness, anyone else who makes his living on a mound). Traditionally, Wakefield gives up a ton of homers.

But not so through the early paces of this year. To date, Wakefield has allowed 0.6 homers per nine innings, the lowest rate for any Sox starter this year.

Noteworthy: Alex Rodriguez has gone deep against Wakefield a whopping seven times, tied (with Frank Thomas) for the most by any single player against the knuckleballer.

Derek Jeter (105) .313/.343/.444 3 HR 10 RBI
Alex Rodriguez (89) .276/.382/.566 7 HR 10 RBI
Jorge Posada (77) .222/.351/.429 3 HR 14 RBI
Johnny Damon (68) .317/.382/.600 4 HR 9 RBI
Hideki Matsui (53) .170/.264/.319 2 HR 3 RBI
Robinson Cano (38) .324/.342/.703 3 HR 9 RBI
Mark Teixeira (33) .207/.303/.310 HR 3 RBI
Angel Berroa (13) .500/.500/.750
Melky Cabrera (12) .455/.500/.636
Nick Swisher (7) .167/.286/.333
Brett Gardener (6) .200/.333/.200

Wakefield has yet to face Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Pena.

RED SOX VS. CHIEN-MING WANG

The Yankees had been hopeful that Chien-Ming Wang had turned the corner when he returned from the disabled list by allowing two earned runs in eighth innings spanning three appearances out of the bullpen. But the pitcher who was a top Cy Young contender just a couple years ago got hit hard in his last appearance, when he started (for the first time since April) against the Rangers on June 4. Wang allowed five runs in 4.2 innings, and his ERA as a starter this year now sits at an unsightly 23.62.

The Yankees can ill afford to give him too much of a leash, either in tonight’€™s game or in the rotation going forward, as a single weak spot in a rotation can be a huge impediment in the most challenging division in baseball. Because Wang’€™s performance this year has been so out of line with his career, it’€™s difficult to connect the dots between his past performances against batters and what he might do tonight.

Nonetheless, here’€™s his history against the Sox:

David Ortiz (42 career plate appearances).444 Avg./.524 OBP/.724 Slugging 2 HR, 11 RBI
Julio Lugo (41) .167/.268/.194
Kevin Youkilis (36) .296/.472/.407 1 HR
Mike Lowell (29) .208/.345/.250
Jason Varitek (23) .100/.217/.300 1 HR
JD Drew (18) .235/.278/.412
Dustin Pedroia (17) .313/.350/.500
Rocco Baldelli (14) .143/.143/.357 1 HR
Nick Green (8) .250/.250/.375
Mark Kotsay (6) .333/.333/.333
Jacoby Ellsbury (4) .250/.250/.250

Wang will face both Jason Bay and George Kottaras for the first time tonight.

Greg Cameron helped compile this report.

Read More: chien-ming wang, Tim Wakefield, Yankees,

Red Sox Rounds 5-10: Young, Younger, Youngest

06.10.09 at 2:06 pm ET
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Through 10 rounds, the Red Sox draft breaks down thusly:

4 high school position players

2 high school pitchers (both right-handed)

2 college position players

2 college pitchers

Here are the team’s choices for Rounds 5-10:

Round 5 (168 overall): Seth Schwindenhammer, outfielder, Limestone (IL) Community HS, 17 years old

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Schwindenhammer has a commitment to play at Illinois following a senior season when he tagged 15 homers. He comes from the same high school as Jim Thome. He sounds inclined to embrace a professional career.

‘€œIllinois has always been my dream school, the school I’€™ve rooted for since I was little,’€ Schwindenhammer told the Journal-Star (Peoria, Ill.). ‘€œBut at the same time, I don’€™t want to miss an opportunity and this is a pretty incredible opportunity.’€

Round 6 (198): Brandon Kline, right-handed pitcher, Gov. Thomas Johnson (MD) HS, 17 years old

Kline has a commitment to pitch at the University of Virginia, but the Red Sox have consistently convinced players to forego offers to go to Charlottesville in recent years.

Round 7 (228): John Younginer, right-handed pitcher, Mauldin (SC) HS, 18 years old

Signed to play at Clemson, Baseball America suggestions that Younginer is a power arm who touched the mid-90s and features a plus-plus breaking ball. The Sox view him as a pitcher with a very high ceiling should they prove able to come to terms on a deal that would keep him out of college.

Round 8 (258): Shannon Wilkerson, outfielder, Augusta State Univ., 20 years old

Wilkerson dominated his competition en route to being named National Player of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Wilkerson informed the Gwinnett Daily Post that he foresees no problems in negotiations, and that he looks forward to starting his pro career with the Sox soon.

Round 9 (288): Kendal Volz, right-handed pitcher, Baylor Univ., 21 years old (college profile here)

Volz entered the year considered one of the elite college pitching prospects in the draft after serving as closer for Team USA last summer, a capacity in which he threw 14 shutout innings. Then, his fastball was a powerful, low-90s sinker. But after being shifted to the rotation this year, he struggled, and his stuff (both the velocity and life) diminished. If he can recapture what he was before his junior year, he could have significant upside.

Round 10 (318): Brandon Jacobs, outfielder, Parkview (GA) HS, 18 years old

A running back, but not that running back. The 18-year-old Jacobs is a two-sport star who was recruited by Auburn, where his two-sport talent formidable frame (5-foot-11, 240 pounds) might have led to echoes of Bo Jackson. However, Jacobs told the Gwinnett Daily Post that he and the Sox have already agreed in principle to a deal that would pay him second-round money, and so he will begin his professional career this summer.

Read More: brandon jacobs, brandon kline, john younginer, kendal volz

Francona on Dale & Holley

06.10.09 at 1:32 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley Show. Here are some of the highlights from his interview:

On Josh Beckett‘€™s recent success: ‘€œHe’€™s been the guy we all look to. He’€™s put it together and he’€™s at the point now where he can pitch his game.’€

On Beckett’€™s personality: ‘€œThere is no pretense there. If he’€™s got something on his mind, he’€™ll tell you.’€

On a missed hit-and-run last night: ‘€œI probably overdid it a little. Sometimes you need to just stay out of the way.’€

On David Ortiz‘€™s 7-game hit streak and if he’€™s about to turn the corner: ‘€œI hope so. Last night’€™s swing was a real good swing. If he goes 0-4 tonight people will probably ask again, ‘€˜what’€™s wrong with David?’€™ including David.

On Jed Lowrie and the seemingly fluid deadline for return from the DL: ‘€œHe’€™s doing really well, taking BP. We don’€™t want to rush him too early because of our shortstop situation. Both wrists have gotten stronger. We want him to be ready to play. He just can’€™t play 50-60 innings after not playing in awhile.”

His thoughts on the Sox and the MLB draft: ‘€œI have no business giving my two cents into the draft. I may poke my head in there and wish everybody luck, but other than that I have no input into it.’€

On the recently called-up Daniel Bard and other young players: ‘€œI think when a player [like Bard] acknowledges that he has something to learn, it creates a good atmosphere that we appreciate. It’€™s not like a kid gets called up and says, ‘€˜Move over, I’€™ve arrived.’€™’€

On how the team gauges pitching workloads: ‘€œWe try to keep track of workload. We keep track of innings compared to years before. Lester’€™s jump in innings last year made us a little uncomfortable, but there’€™s no trouble with his arm. He’€™s as strong as a horse.’€

Read More: David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Terry Francona

What Alex Cora Means for the Julio Lugo Market

06.10.09 at 12:58 pm ET
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Alex Cora spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons as the back-up to Julio Lugo. But right now, the former Red Sox utilityman has helped to ensure that the Mets don’t need to contemplate a desperate move, which is how the Mets and virtually everyone else in Major League Baseball would view the acquisition of Lugo.

Jose Reyes has a torn hamstring tendon, and so, as Newsday reports, the dynamic Mets shortstop is likely sidelined for about a month. Cora, who was acquired by the Mets (on a one-year, $2 million deal) this offseason in part because the Mets imagined that he would be a perfect complement and mentor to Reyes (and outfield prospect Fernando Martinez), has been pressed into starting duty for the Mets. And he’s responded.

Cora, who has started four of the last five games for the Mets since returning from the disabled list on June 4, is hitting .304 with a .402 OBP. He has played his usual excellent defense, and has also earned enormous respect from his Mets teammates for playing through a painful thumb injury, as detailed in the New York Times yesterday.

As such, though one major-league source suggested that the Mets consider themselves in “dire straits” with regards to their shortstop situation, New York’s National League club is “not quite (so) desperate” as to have interest in Lugo. Multiple sources indicate that Lugo is available on the trade market, though the likelihood of a trade involving the shortstop, who still has roughly $15 million left on a contract that runs through 2010, seems very, very slim.

Read More: Alex Cora, Julio Lugo,

Round 4 Notes: Forget Max, Here Comes the Hazelbaker

06.10.09 at 12:20 pm ET
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The fourth round of the MLB draft has a fond place in the hearts of the Red Sox. It was, after all, in the fourth round of the 2003 process that the team plucked a Mississippi State closer with an explosive fastball named Jonathan Papelbon.

Though catcher Max Stassi had been connected to the Red Sox — indeed, Stassi’s father, Jim, suggested that he anticipated that the Sox would ignore slot bonus recommendations to sign his son — it was the Oakland A’s who pounced on the prep catching star from Yuba City, Fla., with the 12th pick of the fourth round. Stassi, considered a first- or sandwich-round talent, fell due to concerns about signability, as his father said that the catcher wanted Top 20 money to forego his commitment to UCLA.

Clemson’s Chris Dwyer, from Swampscott, Mass., was taken by the Royals in the fourth round, followed quickly by Dan Mahoney, a right-handed pitcher from Brighton, Mass., by way of UConn, was taken by the Marlins in the fourth round.

The Sox took the awesomely-named Jeremy Hazelbaker with their fourth-round pick, an outfielder from Ball State University who enjoyed a breakout campaign as a college junior. The leadoff hitter hit .429 with a .550 OBP, .724 slugging mark and 29 steals. Here is Hazelbaker’s profile from Ball State University.

Hazelbaker represents something of a departure from recent draft strategy for the Sox. In recent years, the Sox had concentrated most of their position player picks on high-school players with big upside. Hazelbaker is the first college position player drafted in the first five rounds since 2006, when the Sox grabbed Aaron Bates (3rd round) and Jon Still (4th round) in the early going.

Read More: jeremy hazelbaker, Jonathan Papelbon, max stassi, mlb draft
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