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Andrew Miller offers Sox a ‘very encouraging’ first glimpse

06.21.11 at 12:12 am ET
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It would, of course, be silly to jump to conclusions based on a pitcher’€™s first major league outing of the season. As if to emphasize that point, Andrew Miller received a no-decision in the Sox’€™ 13-4 victory over the Padres that prevented any runaway proclamations about his night or his future.

Even so, his performance was not short on intrigue. The left-hander is one of the more fascinating Red Sox experiments in some time — a pitcher with incredible natural gifts, a poor track record, a history of mechanical inconsistency and a run of recent dominance in the minor leagues.

The Red Sox have had plenty of buy-low candidates making appearances on their roster in recent years ‘€“ players like John Smoltz, Rocco Baldelli, Brad Penny and Jeremy Hermida come to mind ‘€“ but none with quite the combination of stuff and singularly disappointing track record of Miller.

And so, even as the Sox continued their offensive rampage of the past month ‘€“ scoring 10 or more runs for the ninth time in 29 games ‘€“ it was Miller whose no-decision was in many ways provided the night’€™s most intriguing storyline. That was true not just of Sox officials and spectators, but also of the pitcher himself, who conceded that he felt ‘€œprobably quite a bit’€ of pressure in the build-up to the outing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Gonzalez delivers in reunion with Padres as Sox win, 14-5

06.20.11 at 10:52 pm ET
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Apparently, there is nothing that can faze Adrian Gonzalez, a first baseman whose kryptonite has yet to be discovered since he came to Boston. Many newcomers to the Sox require an adjustment period during which they get used to the intensity of their new home environment.


“[Expletive] no,” manager Terry Francona before Monday’s game. “He’€™s hitting .350 with RBIs all over the place. No. He’€™s a pretty confident guy. He should be. If I could hit like that, I’€™d be confident too. No, he’€™s been really good. He’€™s enjoyed the intensity of playing here. I think that’€™s what we certainly hope when we get players. Honestly, that’€™s not always the case. This is a little bit different place to play.’€

“[But] I think everybody thought [Gonzalez] was really going to enjoy it here. And again, with the lineup around him, I think everybody thought he would really flourish, which you’€™re seeing.”

That continued on Monday, in a contest when it would have been understandable if it was challenging for Gonzalez to play with his emotions under control. he was, after all, facing the Padres for the first time since they traded him to the Red Sox this winter.

The result? Gonzalez went 3-for-5 and drove in three runs, including the go-ahead tally in the bottom of the seventh, in the Red Sox’ 14-5 victory over San Diego. He is now hitting .353 for the season with 67 RBI, a pace that would yield 151 for the season, as well as 43 extra-base hits — a pace that would result in 96 multi-base knocks on the year, which would surpass the Red Sox record of 92 set by Jimmie Foxx in 1938.

On a night when he was reunited with many former teammates, Gonzalez was everything that the Padres expected him to be and that the Red Sox hoped he would be when they enacted their winter blockbuster.


Andrew Miller received a no-decision, but offered more than a few glimpses of promise. He carried a shutout through five innings before faltering in the sixth, when he gave up a three-run homer to Orlando Hudson, and finished his night having permitted three runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.

His command — always the central area of conversation with Miller — left the Sox with little room for complaint. Though he walked three batters, he threw 58 of 89 pitches for strikes — a 65 percent rate that was slightly better than the major league average of 63 percent. He also showed swing-and-miss stuff, getting nine empty waves (five on sliders, two on fastballs, two on changeups) while getting seven groundball outs.

–The Red Sox continued to ransack opposing starters, knocking out Wade LeBlanc with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth inning. The contest marked the 11th time in 2011 that a starter pitcher has pitched three or fewer innings against the Sox, far and away the most times any team in the majors has sent starters to the showers that early. Indeed, entering Monday, the Yankee and Phillies were tied for second in the category, having knocked out starters in three or fewer innings on six occasions.

David Ortiz continued his tremendous campaign with a pair of run-scoring hits.

His first-inning, RBI single represented one of the more impressive plate appearances of the slugger’s career. After falling behind the left-handed LeBlanc, 0-2, Ortiz took a pair of pitches off the plate, fouled off two more pitches and then took a curveball that appeared to catch the edge of the strike zone but was ruled a ball. He then fouled off six straight full-count offerings before waiting back on a changeup and rifling it to left-center to plate the first Sox run of the night. The 14-pitch at-bat was the longest of Ortiz’ career; he’d had three 12-pitch plate appearances, most recently in 2009.

–The Red Sox manufactured a pair of runs with consecutive bases-loaded HBPs, one by Marco Scutaro, the next by Jason Varitek. It marked the first time that a team had back-to-back RBI plunkings since the 2008 Giants accomplished the feat.

Josh Reddick drove in his first runs as a pinch-hitter, jumping on an 0-1 pitch for a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single. He had been 1-for-11 in the role.


–The outfield tandem of Darnell McDonald and Mike Cameron continue to offer the Sox little production. McDonald went hitless with two strikeouts in three plate appearances; he is 1-for-14 (.071) since coming off the DL, and is now hitting .114 with a .384 OPS for the season. Cameron was 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout, and he’s now hitting .153 with a .503 OPS.

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Why the Adrian Gonzalez trade had to make sense to Jed Hoyer

06.20.11 at 9:35 pm ET
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Jed Hoyer returned to Boston for the first time Monday as general manager of the San Diego Padres.

His legacy in Boston began when he was hired in 2002 by the John Henry group, the year before they brought in Theo Epstein. He ascended to assistant GM of the Red Sox, working with Jason McLeod – another former Red Sox executive. Together, Hoyer and McLeod oversaw the player development department that helped bring Boston World Series titles in 2004 and ’07.

Together, their second legacy is going to be a lot more challenging.

Recognizing the difference between Boston and San Diego – i.e. the different market sizes – Hoyer went about the most difficult decision of his young career. He had to trade away Adrian Gonzalez – the leading AL MVP candidate – and get back as much as he could in return. His advantage: he knew every player he wanted.

So, on Dec. 6, he dealt A-Gon to Boston and got back first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Reymond Fuentes and ace-of-the-future Casey Kelly. Rizzo struck out in his Fenway debut Monday night but then laced a long double to the triangle in center just moments after Orlando Hudson tied the game in the 6th. In any other park, it would’ve been his second big league homer.

“His at-bats have been pretty good,” Hoyer said. “He hasn’t had a lot of hits in the last four or five games to show for it. He’s been in a lot of deep counts. His takes and his recognition is excellent. Candidly, I think he might be over-swinging a little bit, trying to do a little too much damage because when he does get his pitch, he fouls it right back. But he’s going to be a really good player.

Rizzo reached base in his first seven games and eight of his first nine overall but has slumped of late. He entered Monday’s game at Fenway Park just 1-for-17 in his first six games of the nine-game road trip. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Rizzo overcame cancer to establish himself as one of the best prospects in the Boston organization. This year, he earned his promotion to San Diego by batting .365, hitting 16 home runs, driving in 63 runs in 52 games for Triple-A Tucson this spring.

“I talked to [San Diego media] when they asked about him everyday for two months and sort of cautioned that he’s going to have his growing pains, he’s going go through an adjustment period, which we’re seeing now, but he’s going to be a really good player,” Hoyer added. “Hopefully, he’s just a part of the group we got for Adrian that’s going to help replenish us. We’re excited to have him.”

With his 30-43 Padres in town, Hoyer was also just soaking it all in on Monday, returning to the place he called home between 2002-09. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield might be just crazy enough to work

06.20.11 at 8:08 pm ET
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At first glance, the idea seems absurd. Adrian Gonzalez, in addition to being one of the best hitters in the majors, is a Gold Glove first baseman. Putting him in the outfield, in a vacuum, would be crazy.

But in the absence of a designated hitter in National League parks during the interleague schedule, the Sox face a conundrum. They must find a way to be creative with David Ortiz and Gonzalez or else lose one of their bats from the lineup. Given that they both rank in the top four in the AL in OPS, that outcome is anything but optimal. The choice for an individual game is challenging enough, yet there are also longer-term repercussions to consider, chiefly that the Sox will take a red-hot hitter and leave him on the bench long enough that he will turn cold by the time the stretch has concluded.

The options are few. Ortiz can’t play any position but first base. Gonzalez, on the other hand…

He’s done it before. Indeed, back in 2005 with the Rangers, Gonzalez was landlocked behind first baseman Mark Teixeira for playing time. He got some games as a DH against right-handed pitchers, but in the interests of securing more time, he volunteered to work out in right field. Gonzalez played one game there at the end of the year, and he had four chances. He misplayed a single for an error, but he caught the three fly balls in his direction. Still, the terrain was definitely foreign.

“We made the first out of the game,” Gonzalez recalled earlier this year. “I turned around to tell the outfielders [how many outs there were — as he does when at first base]. It’€™s the stands. It was like, ‘€˜Hey, guys, we got one down.’€™”

He would split his time between first base and right field in the Mexican Winter League after the season, but with his trade to the Padres that offseason, the situation was resolved. He has been a fixture at first base ever since. (For more on the history of Gonzalez in the outfield with the Rangers, click here.)

Interestingly, the coach who worked with Gonzalez in the outfield with Texas is now with the Red Sox. Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale was the first base coach who hit fly balls to Gonzalez back in 2005. He noted that the challenge of getting both Ortiz and Gonzalez into the lineup echoes the challenge that the Rangers faced with Gonzalez and Teixeira.

“Same thing,” said Hale.

Based on what he’s seen in 2011, Hale believes that the 29-year-old can still handle the experiment in limited doses.

“I’€™m sure it’€™s an option that if need be, he’€™s the type of player that is comfortable playing the game of baseball. I don’€™t think it would be a major concern with him,” said Hale. “I think you have to approach it where defensive positioning would be one of the factors to address, between me and [first-base coach Ron Johnson], really getting into the tendencies of hitters. The good thing, the National League, he’€™s been there, so he’€™ll have a sense of comfort with the hitters, and we can remind him of things that will take place ‘€“ the back baserunner. Those are the things that you can remind them, and in game situations, he’€™ll remain calm. It would come easier for him [than other players]. He plays the game calm enough that I don’€™t think he’€™ll panic. That’€™s the big thing. He won’€™t panic no matter what the situation is.”

Padres manager Bud Black was witness to Gonzalez as he won a pair of Gold Gloves at first. He saw attributes that he believes could translate into some spot duty in the outfield.

“I’€™ve seen it live. I saw it when he was with Texas and I was in Anaheim,” recalled Black, who was the pitching coach when Gonzalez made his lone big league appearance in the outfield. “He’€™s a good athlete. He’€™s got good hand-eye coordination. You’€™ve seen him catch fly balls here. He’€™s got good hands. Could I imagine it? Yeah. Would he have the range of Carl Crawford? No. [But] I can imagine it. I can imagine it.”

It’s certainly not an ideal situation. The Sox would be diminishing themselves defensively at two positions, both by having Gonzalez play the outfield and by having the defensively challenged Ortiz play first base.

Nonetheless, the offensive impact of keeping both in the lineup is such that the Sox will give a great deal of thought to the possibility. Especially given that the three parks that the Sox will visit — Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Minute Maid Park in Houston all feature limited plots of real estate in right field, something that plays into the fact that the Sox are willing to entertain the possibility.

‘€œWe’€™ve actually talked to him about that a little bit. I guess the best answer I can give you is we’€™ll see,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “I’€™m glad he’€™s willing to do it. I think it’€™s admirable. I don’€™t want David to sit nine straight games ‘€“ that bothers me. I guess the best thing I could tell you is we’€™ll see. Maybe a couple of times just to kind of get David where he doesn’€™t go 10 days without playing because that worries me. And Gonzi I know did it. I know he’€™s done it in winter ball. And there’€™s a few right fields on this trip that aren’€™t huge. We’€™ll see. That’€™s probably the best way I can say it. It’€™s got to work though.”

If it does, the Sox would be thrilled, since one of the chief drawbacks of their forthcoming nine-game trip through National League parks will be diminished.

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Red Sox vs. Padres Live Blog, June 20

06.20.11 at 7:12 pm ET
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Andrew Miller will make his Red Sox debut, while Adrian Gonzalez will be facing his former Padres club for the first time since the blockbuster that sent him to Boston. For all the latest news, analysis and updates, join the live blog, below.

Red Sox vs. Padres

Second opinion for Jed Lowrie while Bobby Jenks makes progress

06.20.11 at 6:24 pm ET
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Another Red Sox player is headed West to visit Dr. Lewis Yocum as Jed Lowrie will travel to Los Angeles this week to get a second opinion on his sore left shoulder.

“Jed is going to leave [Tuesday], fly to LA and see Dr. Yocum on Wednesday,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “He’ll have the pictures [taken] and he’ll see him in person, which we feel like there’s no reason for him not to go. He’s not playing anyway so let’s have him examined in person and that’ll be good.”

Lowrie injured the left shoulder on a collision with Carl Crawford in Detroit on May 27.

“I think it’s everybody, it’s not just one-sided, just trying to figure out what’s going on,” Lowrie said after Monday’s game as he readied for his trip out West. “I’d just love him to say it’s normal from the collision and just a little time and rehab and it’ll be back to 100 percent.”

Lowrie returned to action but was taken out of last Thursday’s game at Tampa after one inning after complaining that the shoulder felt like it slipped out of joint. He was placed on the DL on Saturday.

“It hasn’t gotten worse but it’s about the same,” Lowrie said. “I don’t think there’s anything else to read into it. It’s just that we both want to make sure we know what we’re dealing with. I don’t want to say [rest] hasn’t helped, it’s just been a little slower than I had hoped. I’m just going to find out. Nothing I can do, just find out what’s going on.”

Lowrie said he’s fully confident he’ll be able to return to the level he played at early in the season.

“I know what I’m capable of as a player and we’re going to figure out what’s going and I’m going to be back on the field and doing what I know I’m capable of doing.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Terry Francona doesn’t want to ‘outsmart’ himself with Adrian Gonzalez in OF

06.20.11 at 5:42 pm ET
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The annual dilemma about what to do with designated hitter David Ortiz in National League parks has a new twist this year. Terry Francona said he has approached first baseman Adrian Gonzalez about playing right field to allow Ortiz to play first since there is no DH in NL parks.

“We’ve actually talked to him about that a little bit,” Francona said before Monday’s game with San Diego at Fenway. “I guess the best answer I can give you is, ‘We’ll see.’ I’m glad he’s willing to do it. I think it’s admirable. I don’t want David to sit nine straight games, that bothers me. I guess the best thing I can tell you is, ‘We’ll see.'”

The biggest concern to Francona is not wanting Ortiz to get stale over the nine-game trip through Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Houston, starting this weekend at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

“Maybe a couple times just to get David [playing time] where he doesn’t go 10 days without playing because that worries me,” Francona said. “Gonzy did it and I know he’s done it in Winter Ball and there are a few right fields on this trip that aren’t huge so we’ll see. That’s the best way I can say it. It’s gotta work, though. I don’t want to outsmart myself but we’ll see.”

As for Gonzalez, he said he didn’t push for the outfield job but offered to try and help the team.

“I wouldn’t say it was willingness,” Gonzalez said. “It’s the fact that I’ve done it before. If I was approached on it and Tito wanted to do it for a couple of games, I’d be OK with it. I know I’m not an outfielder and I wasn’t an outfielder but if it meant to get Papi in the game and get him a few more games, it’s definitely something I would do.”

Gonzalez played the outfield one time while he was with the Texas Rangers and also played it while in Winter Ball earlier in his career.

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Adrian Gonzalez on M&M: David Ortiz has ‘done everything on his own’

06.20.11 at 12:27 pm ET
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Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez made an appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Monday morning as he prepared to face his former team, the Padres, Monday night at Fenway Park.

Gonzalez talked about his relationship with David Ortiz, as the two frequently have been spotted in the dugout talking strategy. Most people have assumed Gonzalez has played a role in helping Ortiz regain his stroke, but Gonzalez downplayed his impact.

“For me, with Papi, he’s been an incredible help for me as well,” Gonzalez said. “And I know that there’s been a lot of times that he comes to me and he’s just asking me, ‘Hey, what’s this pitcher got?’ Or, ‘What do see on him on video?’ And I’ll relay what I’ve seen, what I’ve done. We’ve just had a great relationship. It’s worked really well both ways. He’s helped me a ton, and I think I’ve helped him a little bit.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Were you psyched to come here to Boston and get more triples than [Jacoby] Ellsbury through the middle of June?

No, definitely not. It’s not something that I even look into or try to do during the season. I just try to get one to fill the goose egg in the column. It’s just worked out that way. Three lucky bounces, or balls hit in the right spots. If I can get there, I think anybody else could be standing out there, or maybe trying for an inside-the-parker. They’ve just been fortunate bounces for me.

A lot of these fans here that have watched you play, I think the one moment that they take away and mention to me a lot is that home run off of CC Sabathia in Yankee Stadium, when you went up there and pulled a little Ichiro. And when I saw that home run, I said, “This guy’s not afraid to fail, because he’s willing to go out there and try some things that maybe others weren’t.”

This game’s all about failure. I always tell my teammates that. If I’m 0-for-4, in a way I’m happier than most people who would be, because I failed four times in a row and more often than not, the next one’s going to be a good one. I just try to take that mentality all the time, and have fun with the game, enjoy the game. If I feel like a pitcher’s dominating me, I’ll ask Tito [Francona], “Are you sure you don’t want to take me out here? I have not been doing pretty good against this guy so far. If I do [stay in], I’ll try something new.” Just having fun with the game and enjoying it and trying the best to succeed every time.

Read the rest of this entry »

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What impact has a new team (and park) had on Adrian Gonzalez?

06.20.11 at 12:18 pm ET
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In some respects, the numbers are staggering.

Adrian Gonzalez leads the majors with a .348 batting average. He has 15 homers, and is on pace for 34. He leads the majors with 64 RBI, and is on pace for 146. He leads the majors with 24 doubles, and is on pace for 55 two-baggers. He has 42 extra-base hits, a pace that would yield 96 for the year — a mark that would rank among the top 35 of all-time, and that would surpass the Red Sox franchise record of 92 set by Jimmie Foxx in 1938. Gonzalez leads the AL with 101 hits, has a .403 OBP (tied for third in the AL and seventh in the majors) and a .607 slugging mark (second in the AL, fourth in the majors).

The performance has been extraordinary to date. And so, it is worth asking: Is Gonzalez a better hitter than he was as a member of the Padres.

The statistics certainly suggest as much. The first baseman entered the year as a career .284 hitter with a .368 OBP, .507 slugging mark and .875 OPS; since becoming a big league regular in 2006, he’s averaged 32 homers and 100 RBI.

But Gonzalez suggests that his performance this year is not a radical departure from what he’s accomplished in the past. It merely reflects an environmental change. For starters, there is the park. Gonzalez no longer has to play half his games in Petco Park, San Diego’s beautiful home ballpark that happens to be as hostile to hitting as Pluto is to beach vacations. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox to Brewers manager Ron Roenicke: ‘Hold’ this

06.20.11 at 11:18 am ET
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Even after watching two of his best pitchers get rocked this weekend at Fenway, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke still thought his staff had the right stuff to shut down the hottest offense in baseball.

He was dead wrong.

The Red Sox outscored the Brewers 22-7 in winning Friday and Sunday and taking two-of-three from the leaders of the NL Central.

On paper, there was some rational thought to thinking that Milwaukee – with the trio of Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf and Yovani Gallardo – could come in and make it a very competitive series. Marcum was 7-2, with a 2.68 ERA. Wolf was 4-4, with a 3.20 ERA and Gallardo was 8-3 and 3.76. All very good pitchers with very good numbers. And that doesn’t even include Zack Greinke.

Wolf held up his end of the bargain with seven stellar innings, allowing the Red Sox just two runs, lowering his ERA to 2.73 in four career starts at Fenway in Milwaukee’s 4-2 win Saturday night.

But Marcum – thanks to a balky hip flexor – lasted just one inning, throwing a stunning 46 pitches in the process. He allowed two runs before departing. And on Sunday, the first inning was even worse for Yovani Gallardo. He was shelled for six runs, throwing 48 pitches as the Red Sox sent 11 men to the plate to put the game away early. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, Randy Wolf
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