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Terry Francona on D&H: ‘Realistic’ with Jacoby Ellsbury

09.22.10 at 2:30 pm ET
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Terry Francona

Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday and talked about his point of view now that his team’s chances for the postseason are an afterthought.

“Where we’ve played ourselves into kind of a longshot, I think we have an obligation — I don’t care if we’re 20 games out — we have an obligation to try to win as many games as we can,” Francona said. “Now, you might use some younger guys in doing that, and do some balancing for the organization. But we always have an obligation to try to play the game right. That will never change.”

Following is a transcript. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

After a game like last night, you probably would rather talk football.

The first five innings were kind of interesting. [Clay Buchholz] was doing his thing. We weren’t doing much offensively, but it was a nice, crisp game, so it was actually kind of fun. And then, boy, it really got away from us in a hurry. That was frustrating. That’s a tough way to leave a game. We were up 1-0, Buch’s battling, throwing some speed counts and some longer innings, but really still throwing; he had some good curveballs and really good changeups. We let the popup drop, the run scores, and then from there it just went downhill.

Do you still allow yourself to think at this stage like some optimists do? Do you still do those mathematical permutations in our head?

I don’t spend my whole day doing the permutations. I certainly think I need to be aware of where we are in the standings. But I hope I’m going to spend more time on how we’re going to play better baseball. Where we’ve played ourselves into kind of a longshot, I think we have an obligation — I don’t care if we’re 20 games out — we have an obligation to try to win as many games as we can. Now, you might use some younger guys in doing that, and try to do some balancing for the organization. But we always have an obligation to try to play the game right. That will never change.

Is it different now, the way it feels than in June or July?

I think at the ballpark the last couple of night you can see a little bit of a difference. And I think that’s human nature. People are still coming, which I think is fortunate. I think this streak we have of sellouts is one of the really cool things in sports. I think it’s something the Red Sox are really proud of. I think the fans should be proud of it. I hope that’s something that doesn’t get broken, because I think it’s really cool. And I think it’s easy to lose sight of that sometimes, so I hope that stays intact. As far as people wanting to talk football, that’s what fans do. That’s OK, shoot. I’m not a fan. My job is to try to get these guys to play good. So, that’s what we’ll do.

From a medical perspective and a baseball perspective, if your season was going on into the playoffs, would a guy like Jacoby Ellsbury be approaching what he’s doing differently?

Yah. I don’t doubt that one bit. We’re trying to be pretty realistic with where we’re at. We tried numerous times to get him out there. The last time, when it didn’t work, it was pretty obvious that we needed to shut him down. So, maybe I didn’t actually answer that correctly. I don’t know if he would be able to play or not. I do know that by finally sitting back and allowing him to rehab and not try to play, I think it ensures when he comes into spring training next year we won’t have to deal with it anymore.

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Read More: David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, ryan kalish, Terry Francona

Bowden expects to remain in bullpen in 2011

09.22.10 at 1:03 pm ET
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Michael Bowden anticipates spending the 2011 season as a reliever. (AP)

It is an opportunity that Michael Bowden relishes. The 24-year-old right-hander will head to Venezuela following this season, where he will pitch out of the bullpen for Magallanas. The assignment represents not just a chance to hone his education as a reliever, but also to have new life experiences.

“I’m really excited,” said Bowden, who has been pitching out of the bullpen for the Sox for the first extended stretch this year after spending most of his six pro seasons as a starter. “I’ve never really been outside of the country. Not only that, but I get to play baseball, experience something that I’ve never experienced. I just get to play the game, learn how it’s played in different places. I’m excited about the lifestyle, getting to play baseball and learning, working on my game, fine-tuning some things I want to work on. I’m just very, very excited about going.”

The experience will likely prove valuable as Bowden prepares for the 2011 season, which is shaping up as his first full year as a bullpen guy. Bowden confirmed that, as of now, the plan for him is to report to spring training as a reliever.

“As of now, I’m going to winter ball to work on getting repetitions in the bullpen for next year,” said Bowden. “The plan as of now is to be a reliever [in 2011]. I enjoy it. There’s still a lot of learning to do.”

Bowden is hopeful that he will get roughly 15 appearances out of the bullpen for Magallanes, adding to his limited experience as a reliever. This year, the right-hander has pitched in 11 games for the Sox, and while his 5.25 ERA and 18 hits in 12 innings both suggest room to improve, he has shown some promise, striking out 10 batters and walking just two.

In his most recent outing, Bowden struck out three batters in a scoreless inning of work on Monday. He suggested that he worked with pitching coach John Farrell prior to the game on pitching down in the strike zone, and that the immediate results were satisfying.

“It felt good,” Bowden said of the outing. “I was working with [Farrell] in the bullpen, prior to the game, just to stay on top of the ball because I’d been up in the zone quite a bit. So I’ve just been working on staying down in the zone. I felt comfortable. I’m just glad that I was able to apply it and get results.”

Bowden is hoping to continue that development in Venezuela this coming offseason. It is an undertaking for which his enthusiasm is far-reaching.

“I’m going there for just over a month, hopefully about 15 appearances or so, get some work in. I’ve heard it’s a crazy atmosphere there. That’s what I’m looking forward to,” said Bowden. “Hopefully I’ll be pitching some meaningful innings, getting some good experience. Hopefully it will carry over into next year.

“How aggressive I can be, the execution of pitches, that’s going to come with more repetition. I feel like I’m getting ahold of it, but I know there’s still more there.”

Read More: magallanes, Michael Bowden, venezuela,

Jerry Remy on D&C: Give Jacoby Ellsbury another chance

09.22.10 at 11:21 am ET
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Jerry Remy

NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning and talked about the team overview as the Sox head into the final two weeks of the season.

“The last couple of weeks haven’t been fun,” Remy said. “From a team point of view the only thing left now is to make life a little miserable for the Yankees. They still have six games left to play with them so that should get the team a little bit excited anyway, the fact that they could do that.”

Remy also mentioned keeping an eye on specific players who have been personally having good seasons, such as Clay Buchholz and Adrian Beltre.  “It comes down right now to reflecting on what kind of year guys have had,” Remy said. “You know, can they get to 100 RBIs, can [Jon] Lester pick up his 20th win, you know, stuff like that.”

Following are a few more highlights from the conversation. To hear the full audio, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Where does the team stand going in to the last week and a half of the season?

It’s interesting we started this whole thing talking about pitching and defense and they’re probably going to finish middle of the pack in pitching, middle of the pack in defense, but they’re going to be near the top in offense. So, it’s been a crazy year and you can’t take away from all the injuries. It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact that without [Dustin] Pedroia in there, without [Kevin] Youkilis in there, without [Jacoby] Ellsbury in there, it’s a totally different team.

You have to wonder, as close as they were even a couple weeks ago when we went down to Tampa Bay and they swept the series and they had a chance to win every single game, then they’d have been 2½ games out of the wild card at that point with this group. So, it leads me to believe that had they all been healthy, across the whole season, then it would have been a very competitive team with New York and Tampa Bay, so we’ll have to see what happens moving forward.  They have a lot of decisions to make and it could be a very interesting off season.

On the chances the team moves on from Jonathan Papelbon in the closer’s role:

I don’t think so. I just don’t get that feeling. I think they are very comfortable with the situation they have out there right now. Things can change, which we’ve seen before, where they’ve been pretty bold about making moves, and I think that would be a bold move.

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Papelbon on rough outing: ‘I thought I threw the ball well’

09.22.10 at 12:12 am ET
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The excuses were readily available. Jonathan Papelbon jogged into the game before a sparse crowd, entering the ninth inning with his team trailing, 5-1. This was about as far removed from the adrenaline rush of a save situation as a closer could be.

But Papelbon needed to get some work, even in garbage time. It had been a full week since had had been in a game, and the right-hander had pitched just twice since his Sept. 5 fiasco (4 runs, 4 outs, 48 pitches) against the White Sox.

And so, when Papelbon allowed four ninth-inning runs on five hits, members of Papelbon’s club were entirely willing to give the pitcher a mulligan due to the twin factors of rust and the game situation.

“It’s tough when you bring a closer into a non-save situation. Obviously, he hasn’t pitched in a couple of days, a few days,” said catcher Victor Martinez. “As a closer, you’re used to coming into the game with the game on the line — the adrenaline when you come in the game. He just came in tonight to get his work done, and, unfortunately, things went went the way [they did].”

Papelbon acknowledged that there was a different mentality to his appearance, that he was focused more on keeping his delivery intact and throwing strikes. Yet he said that the game situation did not dictate how he threw the ball. At the same time, he suggested that — despite the Orioles’ outburst against him — he was pleased with his performance, in which he attacked the strike zone (13 of his 18 pitches were strikes) and Baltimore batters simply ambushed him, jumping on first-pitch fastballs.

I don’t think it was rusty from not pitching in a week. I thought I went out there and threw some pretty good pitches. I thought my delivery was pretty good. I thought I threw the ball well. I thought the ball came out of my hand well. The outcome wasn’t good, but I thought the way I threw the ball was [good],” said Papelbon. “If you look at the situation in the ballgame that we’re in, it is what it is. I was coming in trying to get some work in and that team came out swinging the bats and was ambushing some first pitches and there’s nothing you can really do about that. The whole outing kind of snowballed. …

Like I said, the outcome wasn’t what I would have liked, but I’m happy about the way I threw the ball, about the way the ball came out of my hand,” he added. “There’s nothing really you can do about what the outcome was.”

Papelbon suggested that he feels stronger at this point of the 2010 season than he has at a comparable point in the prior seasons of his career. Even so, while in other seasons it would have been easy enough to dismiss Tuesday’s struggle on the basis of the circumstances, it is more difficult to simply dismiss a poor outing in the 2010 season.

After all, Papelbon had entered this year having allowed three earned runs just once in his career, in a garbage time appearance on the final weekend of the 2008 campaign. He had never allowed as many as four runs in an outing.

That has changed in 2010. Tuesday marked the fifth time this year that he has allowed three runs in a game, and the third time that Papelbon has had a four-run yield. Before this year, he had never had an ERA over 2.65. His career ERA was 1.84. This season, his ERA has been more than twice that pre-2010 mark, reaching 3.92 with Tuesday’s outing.

That said, there has been some bad luck at times. His strikeouts per nine innings (9.7), walks per nine innings (3.5), homers per nine innings (0.9), hits per nine innings (7.3) and WHIP (1.19)  are all largely in line with the numbers he amassed last year (10.1/3.2/0.7/7.1/1.15) — not the vintage Papelbon of 2006-08, but an elite closer nonetheless.

That being the case, Papelbon hardly seemed disconcerted by either Tuesday’s struggles nor by a season that has brought him unprecedented scrutiny.

“I’d just like to keep throwing the ball well, stay healthy and basically keep my delivery intact,” Papelbon said of his goals for the remainder of the season. “Take a few things into the offseason and make some adjustments and go from there.”

Read More: Jonathan Papelbon,

Closing Time: Orioles 9, Red Sox 1

09.21.10 at 10:41 pm ET
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Maybe Clay Buchholz should sue for non-support and file a worker’s comp claim. Maybe then he’d have a shot at a 20-win season like teammate Jon Lester.

On June 26, Buchholz strained his left hamstring and missed three weeks of action. Still, in 26 starts this season, he posted 16 wins and an ERA of 2.48, second only to Felix Hernandez in the American League. But on Tuesday, we were reminded that Buchholz can’t help himself with the bat and he doesn’t play second base.

The Red Sox managed just one run off Baltimore righty Brad Bergesen, who came in with a 7-10 record and a 5.03 ERA. Then in the sixth inning, just one strike away from leaving with a 1-0 lead, Marco Scutaro dropped the third out, allowing the Orioles to tie the game.

Tuesday night was just another frustrating example of why managers and baseball people are always saying never judge a pitcher solely by his win total.

Buchholz actually LOWERED his ERA from 2.48 to 2.40 but watched as his teammates couldn’t manage more than one run against Brad Bergesen and lost 9-1 at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox saw their tragic number lowered to six. Any combination of Red Sox losses and Tampa Bay wins equalling six will keep Boston at home come playoffs for the first time since 2006 and for just the second time since 2002.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX:

Marco Scutaro couldn’t read the tricky wind at 2nd. The veteran infielder must’ve felt like he was back in Oakland with the strange winds that were blowing around Fenway on Tuesday night. With a 3-2 count on Felix Pie and Buchholz just one strike away from heading to the bottom of the sixth, Pie popped up to short right field. Scutaro appeared to have a bead on it but then the ball seemed to drift back and Scutaro was late in making the adjustment. The ball clanged off his glove and onto the grass, allowing Adam Jones, who was going on the pitch, to score all the way from first and tie the game.

Scott Atchison put fuel on the fire. It’s a rule of thumb to expect a first-pitch fastball immediately after a visit by the pitching coach. Well Atchison mixed it up with Ty Wigginton by throwing him a first-pitch cutter at 85 MPH that didn’t do much more than spin. Wigginton wrapped it around the Pesky Pole in right for a three-run homer and a 4-1 Orioles’ lead in the seventh.

Nothing doing in Red Sox order. The top five batters in the order – Scutaro, Drew, Martinez, Ortiz and Beltre – went a collective 2-for-21, including key failures with men on base. And there was none bigger than the strike out taking by David Ortiz against lefty Michael Gonzalez as Buck Showalter managed the seventh inning like a man who wanted to show his team that he has no intention of suffering through a 90-loss in 2011.

Jonathan Papelbon had to get work in sometime. Too bad it was Tuesday night. The Orioles lit up the closer who hadn’t pitched since Sept. 14 at Seattle. Papelbon allowed four runs on five hits and now has an unseemly 3.92 ERA for a closer.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX:

Clay Buchholz pitched like a Cy Young candidate. Obviously, Buchholz will not win the Cy Young vote with names like C.C. Sabathia and Felix Hernandez likely to garner most of the first-place votes. He allowed just four hits and one unearned run over six innings, walking three and striking out five. Until the wheels fell off with the Scutaro error, he figured to be the main storyline. He instead became a lonely afterthought.

Read More: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Brad Bergesen

Adrian Beltre: ‘I hope I don’t have to use [option]‘

09.21.10 at 6:46 am ET
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Speaking before the Red Sox’ 4-2 loss to the Orioles Monday night at Fenway Park, Adrian Beltre said that he isn’t concerned about reaching the 640 plate appearances that will automatically make his $5 million player option for 2011 jump to $10 million because he doesn’t believe it will come into play. “It doesn’t matter,” said Beltre, who finished Monday with 603 plate appearances with 12 games to play. “I hope I don’t have to use it.”

Beltre has reached 640 plate appearances three times in his career, having last reached the milestone in 2006 when he totaled 681. He missed the mark by one PA in ’07, and finished with 599 last season.

“That number was set because I had done it before. I had been close to that number for a lot of years. Since the season started I never thought about numbers. I never really thought about it,” he said. “It shows I wasn’t hurt, which was one of the things I wanted to do. Hurt is one thing, but to have soreness and nagging things are another. For me being hurt is having surgery. I’ve been lucky enough that the injuries I’ve had haven’t stopped me from swinging the bat or anything like that.”

Beltre said that his latest ailment — a sprained left wrist suffered when diving for a ball Saturday night — was among the most frightening of the season in terms of threatening to make him miss time. He explained that the only other time throughout the 2011 campaign there was some doubt came when he pulled his hamstring in July.

“That thing the other day was the scariest because I thought I broke my wrist,” Beltre said. “I thought I saw the bone coming out.”

Beltre was back in the Red Sox’ lineup Monday night, going 0-for-3. He is now hitting .327 with 30 home runs and an OPS of .941.

For more Red Sox coverage see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

A Bard’s lament

09.21.10 at 12:46 am ET
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Daniel Bard

It is a commentary on how good Daniel Bard has been that his failure to escape nearly impossible circumstances inspired questions about whether anything was wrong.

Bard was entrusted with a formidable task in his team’s eventual 4-2 loss to the Orioles on Monday. Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka carried a 2-2 tie game into the seventh inning but then faltered, issuing a one-out walk to Brian Roberts followed by a double to the opposite field by Nick Markakis.

That put runners on second and third with one out. With the Sox needing a strikeout to keep the game in check, the call went out for Bard, the flame thrower who has punched out 68 in 69 1/3 innings this year. Bard jumped ahead of Ty Wigginton, getting him to foul off a pair of sliders that created an 0-2 count. But Bard could not put Wigginton away, as the Orioles first baseman battled back to 3-2 before delivering a sac fly on a slider that gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead.

The development was somewhat startling, as Bard borders on unhittable when jumping ahead to an 0-2 count. Prior to Monday, he had reached 0-2 counts on 50 occasions, with opponents hitting .063/.080/.063/.143 with 31 strikeouts. He admitted that, yes, in that situation, he was looking to punch out the right-handed Wigginton on a slider, and so his inability to do so was disappointing.

Bard then got ahead of Luke Scott, working his way to a 1-2 count, but he again left a slider up — this time on a 2-2 count — that Scott yanked through the right side of the infield for another run.

“If you get to 0-2, 1-2, I don’t want to settle for anything less than a strikeout there,” said Bard. “Striking people out is kind of an art. It’s all about executing pitches when it matters. I’ve been able to do it at times, a lot of times this year, but lately it’s been tougher putting guys away. It’s all about executing off-speed pitches.”

Bard has been having some difficulties with inherited runners in recent weeks. Since Aug. 13, he has inherited a total of five runners. He has now let all five of them cross the plate. Even though he has a 1.59 ERA in 15 appearances in that time, the right-hander — who had not pitched since Sept. 14 — Bard was asked whether he was “running on empty.”

The question elicited a chuckle from the reliever, whose fastball was clocked at its usual 98-99 mph on Monday.

“Does it look like it?” Bard mused. “No. I feel good. I really do. Physically I felt great. If anything, I had maybe about a five-day layoff. Wasn’t as sharp with the off-speed stuff as far as location. Just wasn’t able to bury the breaking ball or the changeup for a strikeout. That was the only difference. I felt great out there.”

Read More: Daniel Bard,
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