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Nava’s spark hasn’t faded

06.18.10 at 1:27 am ET
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Daniel Nava has gone from story of the day in his much-celebrated major league debut to a guy who looks like a seasoned veteran in just five games. In the short time he’s had with the Red Sox thus far, the 27-year-old left fielder has gone 8-for-18 in the five contests, good for a .444 batting average in addition to driving in five runs.

After his best game since his debut, a three-hit, two-double performance in an 8-5 Red Sox victory over the Diamondbacks, Nava spoke of what it’s like to dazzle in such an unexpected spot.

“Obviously it feels good,” Nava said of finally playing in the majors and doing it well. “I’d be lying to say it doesn’t, but I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible. I’ve had to make some adjustments.”

Nava said the biggest adjustment he’s had to make thus far has been relaxing in two-strike situations and “letting the ball get” to him. At first, he admitted, he felt as though he was reaching for balls at the plate, but he has adjusted and is enjoying his stay in the majors as a result.

Accustomed to minor league life, Nava is used to seeing teammates go up and down, from team to team, all while trying to string together a successful season. Now playing on the highest level thanks to injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida, Nava said the dynamic between the two levels is very different and that he’s been motivated by his teammates and the support and respect shown to one another.

“I’ve only been up here four or five days,” Nava said. “In the minor leagues, the goal is to get to this point. Everyone still wants to win, but the focus is a little different. Up here, it’s awesome. Guys pick each other up, and that’s something that gets you going and keeps you going, too.”

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Closing time: Red Sox 8, Diamondbacks 5

06.17.10 at 9:35 pm ET
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David Ortiz provided the offense and the Red Sox used the basebaths to their advantage en route to completing the sweep of the Diamondbacks with a 8-5 victory Thursday night. Neither John Lackey nor Daren Haren were particuarly impressive, as both big-name pitchers kept the bases occupied through mediocre showings in the final game of the teams’ three-game set. Haren fell to 7-5 on a difficult night while Lackey improved to 8-3.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Haren had an immensely difficult time with both Red Sox hitters and Diamondbacks fielders, and the combination ultimately did him in. Darnell McDonald ended up reaching thanks to a Mark Reynolds miscue at third to begin the third inning. After Haren got Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia to fly out, Ortiz homered to make it a 3-2 game. Both runs were unearned.

The trouble didn’t end there for Haren, however, he gave up four earned runs in addition to the two that were unearned in a performance that looked very little like his last, an eight-inning, nine-strikout gem vs. the Cardinals. Haren struck out just four and walked three (one of which was an intentional walk to Ortiz in the bottom of the fifth) while only lasting 5 2/3 innings.

– McDonald made the best of his opportunities to get on base, as he stole his fourth and fifth bases of the season in the third and sixth innings, respectively. McDonald reached in the sixth after being hit by a pitch. He scored in the third on Ortiz’ blast.

The Sox ended up three of four in stolen bases on the night. Dustin Pedroia stole second in the bottom of the first while Kevin Youkilis was caught at second in the same inning.

Daniel Nava continues to impress. The success story continued in the bottom of the fifth when he led off the inning with a ground rule double hit into the triangle. After being sacrificed to third by McDonald he scored on a double off the bat of Scutaro. Nava added another double in the eighth to score Adrian Beltre. It was Nava’s first three-hit game of his career.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Those curious as to when Lackey is going to be “on” for good were left to keep wondering. Facing a Diamondbacks offense that entered the night hitting .251, Lackey was satisfactory at best, allowing eight hits in his six innings of work. Additionally, his defense hurt his cause when he botched a throw first in the top of the third on a grounder hit back to him by Stephen Drew. The shortstop went on to scored with two down in the inning, making it an unearned run, but having committed the error himself, Lackey was very well responsible for all four Diamondback hitters to cross the plate in the first six frames.

– Ortiz had a forgettable night on the basepaths. After being walked to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning by Esmerling Vazquez, Kevin Youkilis flew out to deep center. Ortiz seemingly was a little too confident in Youkilis’ drive, as he was a few steps past second base when the catch was made. Diamondbacks center fielder Chris Young got the ball in to first before Ortiz could make it back for the 8-6-3 double play.

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Red Sox vs. Diamondbacks matchups, 6/17

06.17.10 at 2:47 pm ET
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After beating the Diamondbacks last night, and with losses from the Rays and Yankees, the Red Sox are now three games out of first place in the AL East. This marks the closest they have been to the top spot since April 16, and they will look to continue their success against the National League Thursday night with veteran John Lackey on the mound.

Lackey (7-3, 4.54 ERA) seems to have found his groove of late, having allowed two runs or fewer in his last two outings. Out of the seven wins he has this season, five have come at Fenway Park, although his ERA at home is an unimpressive 5.10. With a Diamondbacks offense ranked 10th overall with 312 runs scored, Lackey will look to limit the damage early by keeping the ball in the park. The free-swinging Diamondbacks have a .251 team average, but are fifth in the league with 79 home runs, making them a potentially dangerous team to pitch against.

Dan Haren (7-4, 4.61 ERA) toes the rubber for Arizona as they look to avoid losing their 13th straight game on the road. Stuck in last place in a very competitive NL West division, the Diamondbacks hope their ace can stop the bleeding and jumpstart a push towards relevancy. Haren went eight strong innings in his last outing against the St. Louis Cardinals, having allowed two runs while striking out nine.

The Sox offense, which was the target of much criticism heading into the season, is scorching hot with the second best offensive attack in the league (365 runs scored).They also have a few hitters with some good numbers against Haren in the past. Adrian Beltre, in 44 career plate appearances, has six doubles, two home runs, and six RBI.  Victor Martinez and David Ortiz each have a home run and three RBI a piece against the three-time All-Star selection.

With a 6:10 start in order to accommodate fans looking to watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the Sox look to close out the their three game series with a sweep before Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers come to town this weekend.

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Video: The Full Count Show

06.17.10 at 1:31 pm ET
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The Red Sox’ almost catcher of the future

06.17.10 at 10:08 am ET
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Had things played out slightly differently, Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero might have been the one receiving pitches from Red Sox starter John Lackey on Thursday night.

After the 2008 season, the Red Sox were contemplating a catching transition. Jason Varitek was a free agent coming off a brutal offensive season in which he could not sustain his performance down the stretch. Kevin Cash was let go.

And so, with no catchers with big league experience under contract, the Sox explored the market. Montero was very much in play as a possibility to take over as the catcher in Boston.

Then 25, Montero appeared to be stuck behind Chris Snyder in Arizona. Arizona had signed Snyder, coming off a career-best season, to a three-year, $14.25 million deal in the offseason, leaving Montero ‘€“ a player with an excellent minor league track record, but little big league experience ‘€“ as a very talented backup.

The Sox and Diamondbacks, according to multiple sources, engaged in several discussions involving the catcher. Montero, playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, could not help but catch wind of the talks.

‘€œOh, yeah. I heard the rumors. I was really shocked. I didn’€™t know what to think. I was playing winter ball. I didn’€™t even want to think about it. I try not to think about it, [but] I heard every day about it in spring training,’€ said Montero. ‘€œIt’€™s tough for us to go out and play while saying, ‘€˜I could get traded today or tomorrow.’€™ Just keep playing, do my thing.’€

According to multiple sources, the conversations between the clubs focused on having one of two pitchers head to Arizona. In exchange for Montero, the two sides discussed sending either Michael Bowden or Daniel Bard back to Arizona.

At different times, according to one source, the sides seemed to alternate in their desire to get a deal done. In the end, one source familiar with the negotiations suggested that the discussions never progressed to the point where a deal was imminent, as the two teams went back and forth on the relative value of those two pitchers. Still, the Sox were active in looking at Montero, scouting him in Venezuela that winter to see if he was the right fit to succeed Varitek in Boston.

In the end, no deal was struck. The Sox re-signed Varitek, and Montero remained with Arizona. The chaos of wondering about his future behind him, the Arizona catcher could instead take the Sox’€™ interest as a source of confidence that, even though he had been a backup to that point in his big league career, someone had faith in his abilities.

‘€œI always take it as a compliment, letting me know other teams are interested in me. It’€™s a good feeling, like, ‘€˜You like me? That must mean I’€™m decent,’€™’€ Montero reflected. ‘€œ[But] it was something I couldn’€™t control. Fortunately, I’€™m still here with the Diamondbacks. It’€™s good.’€

While Montero initially was without an apparent role, that changed quickly. Snyder suffered an array of injuries during the 2010 season, and by the end of May, Montero had assumed the role as Arizona’€™s primary catcher. He flourished in that capacity.

Since the start of the 2009 season, Montero has profiled as one of the top hitting catchers in the game. He is hitting .301 with a .362 OBP, .481 slugging mark and .843 OPS, a line that is virtually identical (albeit in notably less playing time) to that of Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez (.301, .372, .483, .855).

‘€œObviously, it was a big change,’€ said Montero. ‘€œUnfortunately, [Snyder] was injured all year. At the same time, it was the first chance for me to play everyday and prove myself, that I can play.’€

Montero has missed most of this season after landing on the disabled list with a torn meniscus in the season’€™s first week. But when on the field, he has been impressive, hitting .417 with a 1.023 OPS in eight games.

His return from the DL came just in time for the series in Boston. But during the series at Fenway Park, he has spent little time contemplating what might have been.

‘€œIt’€™s great. It’€™s a good place to play,’€ said Montero. ‘€œ[But] I like baseball, anywhere I play. I’€™ll play in Boston, Arizona or in my house. Anywhere, I’€™ll just play.’€

Read More: Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, miguel montero,

Pedroia on HR: ‘I’m strong – I drink milk’

06.16.10 at 11:13 pm ET
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Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia does not consider himself a power hitter. The eight homers that he had by mid-May, he shrugs, bordered on an aberration.

Even so, the small second baseman with the big swing clobbers more than his fair share of longballs, and so his power drought of late was nearing the point of being noteworthy. In no small part because of the effects of a knee injury, Pedroia had gone through spells in which he had failed to stay back on the ball, resulting in less ability for him to impact it with his typical force.

After hitting his eighth homer of the year on May 14, Pedroia had gone 28 games without another shot, tied for the second longest run without a longball of his career. The longest stretch endured by Pedroia took place last year, when he went 47 games without a homer.

But on Wednesday, in his club’s 6-2 victory over the Diamondbacks (recap), Pedroia ended that run of futility. He jumped on a 90 mph fastball in the first inning and lined it just over the Green Monster for his ninth homer of the year, ending his 117 at-bat fallow spell.

Asked about his power display, Pedroia first dismissed the notion that he was a home run hitter before engaging the topic with his typical smirk.

“I’€™m strong,” Pedroia said. “Strong. I drink milk.”

Pedroia has been taunting Sox broadcaster Don Orsillo for his lack of a signature home run call of late. On Wednesday, Pedroia was informed that Orsillo experimented with a “Ball gone” eruption as he rounded the bases. The second baseman offered a cautious endorsement.

“Better than the old stuff that he was bringing, which was not very good,” said Pedroia. “Good, good for Don. I’€™m always all over him, because I hear all these other announcers and they have their ‘€˜look at me’€™ calls and stuff, and Don is pretty boring. We’€™ve got to step up his game a little bit. Nobody really gets on him. So, that’€™s kind of my job, to wear him out a little bit.”

Given recent trends, Pedroia may give Orsillo further occasion to refine that call. The second baseman has snapped out of his slump in striking fashion. He is now 12-for-24 in his last six games with four doubles and a homer. He also swiped a base, all signs that he has not only left his slump behind, but also evidence that he is feeling meaningful improvement in his injured right knee.

That, in turn, allowed Pedroia to be confident in his ability to snap out of his skid.

“If you don’€™t shake [slumps] off, then you’€™re not very good,” said Pedroia. “I’€™ve hit every year my whole life. I don’€™t think it’€™s ever going to stop.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox 6, Diamondbacks 2

06.16.10 at 10:00 pm ET
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The Red Sox continued to feast on Diamondbacks pitching. For the second straight night, the offense showed up early, giving a Sox starter a cushion that he navigated with relative comfort through the end of the game. On this occasion, the beneficiary of Boston’s second straight six-run outburst was Jon Lester, who employed a four-pitch mix to earn his eighth win of the year in Boston’s 6-2 win over Arizona.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Dustin Pedroia continued his torrid stretch at the plate, with his fifth multi-hit game in six contests. The second baseman set his club’s offense in motion in the first inning, when he clocked a two-run homer just over the Green Monster for his ninth homer of the year, and his first in 117 at-bats (a streak that dated to May 14).

That drought was one of two streaks that came to an end because of the homer. By sneaking just over the top of the Wall, rather than hitting it, Pedroia saw his streak of doubles in seven consecutive home games come to an end.

Pedroia went 2-for-4, and is now 12-for-24 in his last six contests.

Jon Lester featured one of the best changeups of his career. Most notably, he used it in a pivotal stretch of the game. With the bases loaded, one out and the Sox leading, 4-2, in the bottom of the fourth inning, he used the pitch to punch out Rusty Ryal on a 2-2 pitch and then used it three times in the next at-bat against Chris Snyder: twice to get swings and misses, and then again on a 2-2 pitch to get the Diamondbacks catcher to fly to center and end the rally.

The pitch allowed Lester to settle on a night when he struggled a bit with the location of his cutter and fastball in the early going. A mislocated fastball early against Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton was punished for a two-run homer in the second inning, the first longball that Lester had allowed in seven starts (and 45 1/3 innings) dating to May 9.

But Lester allowed no further harm in delivering his eighth quality start of the season. He tossed seven innings and permitted two runs on just four hits while striking out six to improve his record to 8-2. The outing marked the eighth time this year that Lester has allowed four or fewer hits in a start.

Marco Scutaro returned to the lineup one day after sitting while recovering from a cortisone injection in the base of the neck. The shortstop made an impact both at the plate and in the field, collecting a pair of hits, scoring a run and making a diving grab of a liner to his right.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–A night of terrible luck led to the demise of Victor Martinez eight-game hitting streak. His 0-for-4 night included three resounding outs on the warning track, including a spectacular catch by Diamondbacks center fielder Chris Young, who climbed the wall to pull back an extra-base knock.

Mike Cameron appeared frustrated at the plate on a night when he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout while stranding three runners. Cameron still is looking for his first homer of the year, and has driven in runs in just one game this season.

–A baserunning blunder by Daniel Nava helped to undermine a rally early. After Nava reached on an infield single and advanced to second, he took off on a ball that David Ortiz hit into the left field corner. When the ball was tracked down, Nava was already halfway between third and home, and was doubled off second easily.

Sox make 10 draft signings official

06.16.10 at 8:05 pm ET
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The Red Sox officially signed 10 of the players whom they selected in the 2010 draft, most notably including first rounder Kolbrin Vitek (who signed for $1.359 million) and supplemental first rounder Bryce Brentz (who signed for $889,200). Here are the details of the group of signees:

The Boston Red Sox today signed the club’€™s top selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, infielder Kolbrin Vitek out of Ball State University. The club also signed its second overall selection, outfielder Bryce Brentz of Middle Tennessee State University.

The announcement was made by Red Sox Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein and Director of Amateur Scouting Amiel Sawdaye.

Both Vitek and Brentz have been assigned to the Short-Season A Lowell Spinners.

The 20th overall selection in the draft, Vitek was named 2010 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound infielder led the league with 73 runs, tied for second with 17 homers and ranked third with 68 RBI and 161 total bases. The junior also earned Louisville Slugger First-Team All-American honors, pacing the Cardinals with a .361 (84-for-233) batting average, .691 slugging percentage, 20 doubles and three triples (tied) in 58 games. He stole 16 bases in 20 attempts and walked 33 times with a .445 on-base percentage. The 21-year-old also made 17 pitching appearances, including 13 starts, and finished second in the MAC with a 3.28 ERA (29 ER/79.2 IP). He was 3-4 with three saves, 60 strikeouts and just 20 walks. The right-handed hitter was one of 30 finalists for 2010 Golden Spikes Award and last summer won the Triple Crown in the Great Lakes League, batting .400 (54-for-135) with six home runs and 38 RBI. Vitek was rated by Baseball America as the top second baseman in this year’€™s draft as well as the third-best pure hitter among college players.

Brentz, 21, was selected 36th overall in the supplemental first round after hitting .348 (64-for-184) with 51 runs, eight doubles, 15 homers and 49 RBI in 46 games as a junior for the Blue Raiders this season. He posted a .636 slugging percentage and walked 29 times with a .440 on-base percentage. In 2009, the right-handed hitter was the NCAA leader in batting average (.465), home runs (28), slugging (.930) and total bases (214) and was named Sun Belt Player of the Year. He also hit .366 (26-for-71) in 23 games during the 2009 Team USA season. The 6-foot-0, 200-pound native of Knoxville, Tennessee was rated by Baseball America as the third-best power hitter among college players in this year’€™s draft. He was selected out of high school by Cleveland in the 30th round of the 2007 draft but did not sign.

Also agreeing to terms with the club were 12th-round selection, right-handed pitcher Garrett Rau from California Baptist University; 13th-round selection, right-handed pitcher Keith Couch from Adelphi University; 34th-round selection, right-handed pitcher Michael Gleason from California State University-Chico; 39th-round selection, shortstop Nick Robinson from North Central College; 40th-round selection, outfielder Luke Yoder from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo; 41st-round selection, catcher Jayson Hernandez from Rutgers University; 45th-round selection, shortstop James Kang from Pomona-Pitzer College; and 49th-round selection, first baseman Trygg Larsson-Danforth from Yale University. Rau, Couch, Robinson and Hernandez have been assigned to Lowell while Gleason, Yoder, Kang and Larsson-Danforth have been assigned to the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League Red Sox.

With the signing, Boston has 10 selections from this year’€™s draft under contract.

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Prospect Iglesias sidelined at least two weeks with finger fracture

06.16.10 at 7:07 pm ET
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A CT scan on Wednesday revealed that Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias, who was hit by a pitch on the right hand on May 29, suffered an occult fracture of the right index finger, according to Sox farm director Mike Hazen. An occult fracture is one that cannot be identified by X-rays, but that can be found instead once evidence of healing becomes available. In Iglesias’ case, the healing of the injury has begun, and so the fracture could be identified.

Initially, the Sox anticipated that Iglesias — who is playing for Double-A Portland — would be sidelined for no more than a few days, but when the injury lingered beyond expectations, the further tests were ordered, leading to the discovery of the fracture. The injury affects Iglesias most when he attempts to throw the ball; he can field without any issue. He had also been hitting, but the Sox will have him take a break from doing so in the immediate term, and Iglesias will not throw for the next two weeks. Once that period has elapsed, his condition will be reassessed.

In his first professional season after signing a four-year major league contract with the Sox for $8.25 million last summer, Iglesias was hitting .306 with a .340 OBP, .408 slugging mark and .748 OPS for Portland. He had committed seven errors in 40 games, receiving generally high marks for his performance.

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Red Sox pregame notes: Doubront to get the nod

06.16.10 at 5:04 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona confirmed that his team plans to call up left-hander Felix Doubront on Friday from Triple-A Pawtucket to make his major league debut against the Dodgers. Doubront has a 2.11 ERA in the minors this year, having split time between Double-A Portland and Pawtucket.

The left-hander is already well known to the Sox. Since being added to the 40-man roster following the 2008 season, he has been in big league camp in each of the last two years, and was particularly impressive in delivering seven shutout innings this year in Grapefruit League action. He has also taken part in the Rookie Development Program in both 2009 and 2010, and he has made a formidable impression on Sox officials.

“He’s not a finished product. He’s still developing his secondary pitches. But he’s got some finish on that fastball and he’s not afraid to throw it,” said Francona. “We’ve got a young kid coming with a chance to impact our future, but in the meantime, help us win now. That makes it exciting.

“[Red Sox pitching coach] John Farrell loves him. Absolutely loves him. When he says that, that gets my attention,” Francona added. “He’s been on this kid since the first day he saw him throw.”

Doubront has already had a number of instances that have helped to demonstrate that he has the makeup for a callup. Most notably, he outpitched heralded Reds prospect Aroldis Chapman for Pawtucket this year and he turned in an outing that was, at times, dominant for Portland at Fenway Park a year ago. Those sorts of performances helped convince the Sox that Doubront was ready for his call-up, and can use the experience as a valuable building block.

“We always kind of check and see, OK, worst-case scenario happens, does it get in the way of this kid’s development. Once the player development people say no, we’re fine with it,” said Francona. “I think there’s a lot we can learn and a lot that can help, and ultimately, we want to win the game, but a lot of good can come of it.”

Other pre-game notes:

Marco Scutaro is back in the lineup on Wednesday, one day after missing a game while allowing a cortisone shot in the base of his neck to take effect. Scutaro had suggested he could play on Tuesday, but the Sox wanted to give him the extra rest to ensure that the procedure was productive.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was scheduled to throw up to 150 feet today, and may throw a side session tomorrow. To this point, all signs suggest he should need no more than the minimum amount of time on the disabled list.

Josh Beckeett is responding well to his gradually increased throwing program. “That was the best news for us, just the look on his face,” said Francona.

–Francona noted that Jonathan Papelbon does not seem to have been affected adversely by the time he missed while on bereavement leave. He noted that Papelbon’s fastball, which registered at 96 mph on Tuesday, was “electric.”

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, felix doubront, Josh Beckett, marco scutaro
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