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How Daniel Bard almost became a Mariner

05.11.10 at 4:56 am ET
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On draft day in 2006, the Mariners had narrowed their decision about the fifth overall selection of the first round to two choices.

“The day before the draft [the Mariners] said they had it narrowed down to me or [Brandon] Morrow,” recalled Sox reliever Daniel Bard. “They said, ‘We’re 50-50. We’re split. We’re going to make a game-time decision, and go with who we go with.’ They went with him.”

The Mariners chose Morrow, a pitcher with an explosive, high-90s fastball and a hard slider. The right-hander was in the big leagues by 2007, and over the last three years, his role endured a tug-of-war between the rotation and bullpen. While that may have been detrimental to his development, he did enjoy some success, forging an 8-12 record, 3.96 ERA and striking out more than a batter an inning.

This offseason, he was traded by Seattle to the Blue Jays in exchange for Brandon League and a prospect. Toronto committed to having Morrow in the rotation, and he carried a 2-2 record, 5.40 ERA and American League-leading 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings into his start against the Sox on Monday.

Morrow had a somewhat remarkable outing that highlighted his outstanding stuff but also his control shortcomings. He lost the strike zone and lasted just 1.2 innings, allowing six runs. At one stretch, he went nine batters and 44 pitches without a single Red Sox batter making contact, walking four and striking out four between Victor Martinez’ run-scoring single in the first and his fielder’s choice RBI in the second.

“He’s got great stuff. No doubt about that,” said Bard. “We were talking about it in the bullpen during the game. He just looks like a reliever. His stuff, he’s around the zone. He’s not missing terribly. You can get away with that a little more in a one-inning stint, instead of going six or seven in a start.”

Bard, meanwhile, has gone through his own interesting career twists since the Sox took him with the 28th pick of the 2006 draft. His career nearly got derailed when he began his pro career as a starter. After his conversion to the bullpen, he became a dominant force, and on Monday, while Morrow failed, Bard turned in a strong inning of scoreless relief. He now has a 3.00 ERA this year, and an impressive 22-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18 innings of work.

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Beckett tweaks back while taking batting practice

05.10.10 at 11:27 pm ET
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Before Monday’s game, the Red Sox noted that Josh Beckett‘s struggles were mechanical, and had nothing to do with health. The right-hander’s scheduled start against the Blue Jays on Wednesday was pushed back not for any physical reason, but instead because he simply could use extra time working with pitching coach John Farrell to refine his delivery after yielding nine runs in his most recent outing against the Yankees.

Just before the game, however, Beckett injured himself while taking some hacks in the indoor batting cage. Sox pitchers are preparing for the onset of interleague play next weekend in Philadelphia, and while swinging, Beckett — whom manager Terry Francona said had experienced some minor back discomfort when he woke up recently — tweaked his back.

“He had a stiff back the other day,” said Francona. “He started to swing the bat. He felt it, and it grabbed at him a little bit. We’ll get him checked out tomorrow. It’s a little bit of a coincidence, because he was going to pitch Friday and Wake was going to pitch Wednesday. … When he was swinging tonight, it spasmed up on him a little bit. So we’ll get him checked out [Tuesday].”

Francona was unsure whether the pitcher’s Friday start would be put in jeopardy; the team will await a medical evaluation of the pitcher on Tuesday morning before making that determination.

“We really don’t know,” Francona said of Beckett’s availability to pitch on Friday.

Beckett has experienced back discomfort in the past, most notably when he started the 2008 season on the disabled list after catching a spike on the mound in spring training. Beckett also missed a start towards the end of the 2009 season with back discomfort that resulted from “three crappy beds on the road.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 6

05.10.10 at 10:16 pm ET
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The Red Sox continued to feast on the Blue Jays in their effort to contend in the AL East. Against the Yankees, Rays and Orioles, the Sox have a 4-12 record. Against Toronto, however, the Sox are now 4-0 following their 7-6 win on a chilly night at Fenway Park.

On a night when he struggled with his command and was pounded, John Lackey took the win while giving up six runs in six innings. It matched the most earned runs Lackey has ever allowed in a victory.

The offense, meanwhile, was led as much by struggling Jays starter Brandon Morrow as it was by any hitter. Morrow lasted just 1.2 innings, giving up six runs on three hits and six walks. In one stretch, he went 44 pitches without a single Red Sox batter making contact, walking four and striking out four between Victor Martinez’ run-scoring single in the first and his fielder’s choice RBI in the second.

The victory put the Sox back over .500.


Dustin Pedroia jump started the Red Sox’ offense with a double in the first inning, and later added a run-scoring walk and an RBI single for the Sox’ seventh run, which ultimately proved the difference in the game. Pedroia has collected multiple hits in eight of his last 16 games. He now has 19 extra-base hits, easily the most on the Sox. (Entering the day, his 18 extra-base hits placed him in a tie for the third most in the AL.)

David Ortiz continued his return to run-producing status, shooting a 95 mph fastball from Jays starter Brandon Morrow to center for an RBI single in the bottom of the second. It marked the fourth straight game in which Ortiz has driven in at least one run.

Hideki Okajima needed just six pitches to blitz through a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Though he has a 5.23 ERA, he has not given up an earned run in 13 of his 15 outings this year.

Jonathan Papelbon likewise contributed his 13th appearance without allowing an earned run, delivering a perfect ninth for his ninth save. Papelbon proved adept at mixing his slider and splitter with his fastball in retiring the side.

–If patience is a virtue, then the Sox were exceptionally virtuous on Monday. The team’s offense against Morrow was helped in no small part by its willingness to accept six free passes in the Jays starter’s 1.2 innings of work.

–On a night when the wind made fly balls to right field an adventure, Jonathan Van Every (subbing for J.D. Drew) made a pair of terrific running catches on foul pop-ups to right field, leaning into the right field grandstand to handle both.


John Lackey claimed an ill-deserved victory on a night when his command was poor and he was hit extremely hard. Lackey did match a season high with six strikeouts, but also issued three walks and permitted six runs on eight hits in his six innings of work. He allowed one homer (to Jose Bautista) and nearly permitted another, when Alex Gonzalez sent a rifle to the top of the Green Monster that was ruled a double. A video review did not overrule the play.

His struggles were particularly acute in the second inning, when he allowed the first six batters to reach and gave up four runs. But Lackey recovered enough to steer his team through six innings, improving to 4-1 with a 4.60 ERA.

–Both Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro suffered defensive struggles, with Scutaro committing a throwing error (his fourth of the year) and Beltre getting chewed up by a bad hop that turned a potential double-play ball into a two-run double.

J.D. Drew was scratched from the lineup just prior to the start of the game due to vertigo. It was the second time in the last two weeks that vertigo had suffered from the condition; he also experienced the condition in Toronto at the end of April.

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Sox’ rotation shuffle: Wake on Wednesday, Beckett backed to Friday

05.10.10 at 7:55 pm ET
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The struggles of Josh Beckett have been significant. The need to keep Tim Wakefield stretched out and sharp for a potential return to the rotation looms large.

Hence, the Red Sox tried to address the proverbial pair of birds with one stone by tweaking their rotation this week. Wakefield, who appeared in relief on both Friday and Sunday nights against the Yankees, will get a start against the Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon. That outing, in turn, will permit the Sox to push Beckett — who was originally slated to pitch on Wednesday — back to a Friday start in Detroit.

With the extra couple of days, the Sox will have Beckett throw an extra between-starts side session in hopes of correcting some of the mechanical issues that have resulted in his starting the year with a 1-1 record and 7.46 ERA through seven starts.

“[The rotation change] gives Beckett a chance to have a second side – it probably won’t be lengthy, but a touch and feel, which is really good I think for him. It also helps us keep Wake stretched out like we wanted to do,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we won’t have allowed him to get too far where he hasn’t pitched. I think it works as well as it can. We’re trying to make it work. I think this is a good thing.”

With regards to Beckett, the Sox would like to see him get extra work from the stretch. He’s been adequate (though still worse than his career numbers) while pitching with the bases empty (.278/.327/.454/.781), but dreadful with men on base (.357/.452/.586/1.038).

The Sox opted on this course after consulting with Beckett. The pitcher endured a particularly frustrating outing on Friday against the Yankees, looking nearly unhittable out of the gate while striking out five of the first six hitters, but then getting touched for a three-run homer in the third and then coming unhinged in the sixth inning, when he walked two, hit two batters, threw a wild pitch and gave up four hits.

It is worth noting that Beckett, to this point of the season, is walking 3.5 batters per nine innings, a mark that represents his worst since coming to the Red Sox. Even so, the Sox suggest that the issue with Beckett is purely mechanical rather than physical.

“Beckett physically feels really good,” said Francona, a statement that he would subsequently repeat. “His stuff [against the Yankees] was phenomenal.”

But, to date, whether his stuff has been phenomenal or flat, Beckett’s results have been, at best, inconsistent, at worst abysmal. He has made 18 career starts in which he’s allowed seven or more earned runs, and three of those have come in his last four outings (sandwiched around an excellent seven-inning, two-run, no walk effort in Baltimore). For that reason, Beckett and the Sox were open to exploring different ways to fix the problem.

“He expects to be Beckett,” said Francona. “When he’s not, he feels that responsibility.”

Yet the decision to have Beckett’s start pushed back by just one game is not without some benefit, given the Sox’ unusual rotation configuration. In addition to the current five-man staff (Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka), the Sox have Wakefield at the ready, and few other reliable options in the minors who would be viewed as major-league ready should one of those five falter.

For that reason, the Sox need to keep Wakefield (0-1, 6.03 on the year; 0-1, 5.40 as a starter) stretched out to the point where he can slot into the rotation relatively seamlessly should he be needed, either due to the poor performance of one of the current five rotation members or because of an injury. A start on Wednesday — his first since a 6.2 inning, two-run no-decision on April 25 — will serve the intended purpose of keeping Wakefield’s pitch count up.

With their sixth starter on the major-league roster, and not in the minors where he can pitch every fifth game, this solution struck the Sox as the right way to balance their short- and long-term interests.

“I think it’s obvious that we view Wake as a starter. … At the moment he’s not been a starter. But I would not want to get in a position where we’d need Wake to start and we have to build him back up. We’re trying to cover as much as we can,” said Francona. “If we have to be outside the box a little bit, I would rather do that than just say, “We’ve got six for five. We’re in a bad spot.” We’re really not. We have good pitching. Let’s make it work the best we can.”

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The Factors: Week 5

05.10.10 at 3:38 pm ET
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* – The .379 OBP leading off innings by the Red Sox this week was still quite solid, but it marked just the 2nd week this season that they’ve been under .400.

* – Only 8 leadoff strikeouts by Boston pitchers tied for their weekly low this season.  Their 26 leadoff walks allowed this season is the 4th most in the AL, trailing only Cleveland, Toronto, and Kansas City.

* – Clip N’ Save:  Toronto has hit a major league leading 15 HR leading off innings this season.

* – Pittsburgh’s pitchers allowed the leadoff batter to reach base only 7 times in 6 games last week, a .130 OBP, best in the majors last week.  They entered last week having allowed a .395 OBP to each inning’s leadoff batter, the worst mark in the majors.



* – Boston hitters fell behind 0-1 in 50% of their plate appearances last week and are at 50.9% for the season, the highest percentage in the majors:

50.9% – Boston Red Sox
50.1% – San Diego Padres
50.1% – Baltimore Orioles
49.9% – Los Angeles Dodgers

Fortunately, the Sox have put up a .717 OPS after 0-1 counts (4th best in the majors).  They hit an AL high 5 HR last week after falling behind 0-1.

* – Sox pitchers got ahead only 42% of the time last week, the 3rd lowest mark in the majors.

* – Angels’ pitchers walked 15 batters last week after getting ahead 0-1 and have now walked 53 such batters this season, the most in the majors:

53 – Los Angeles Angels
44 – Colorado Rockies
42 – Boston Red Sox



* – You can see that the Red Sox rank 4th in OPS after 0-1 counts and are 8th this season after 1-0 counts (.858 OPS).  But when they put the first pitch in play, they’ve hit .427 with a 1.263 OPS.  Both lead the majors.  And they led the majors last year in first pitch hitting, when they batted .359 with a 1.029 OPS.

* – Darnell McDonald entered the season 2 for 13 (.154) in his career when putting the first pitch in play.  He’s 6-6 so far this season.

* – As well as the Sox have hit following 1-0 counts, the pitching has been pretty horrid after falling behind 1-0.  Last week, Sox pitchers allowed 5 HR (tied for the most in majors) and a .350 average (MLB high) last week after 1-0 counts.  The main culprits:

Josh Beckett - .392 average and .500 OBP after 1-0, compared to .221 average and .280 OBP after getting ahead 1-0.

Okajima, Ramirez, Schoeneweis relief troika - .375 average, 16% walks, and 6 HR after 1-0 counts, versus .242 average, 4% walks, and 0 HR after throwing strike one on the first pitch.

* – Clip ‘N Save - Toronto hitters have stroked 22 HR after getting ahead 1-0 this season, the most in the majors.



* – The Sox’ .133 average last week after getting in an 0-2 hole was their worst weekly mark so far this season.  Their .209 mark for the season to date still ranks 3rd best in the majors.

* – Opponents are 1-15 (.067) with 10 strikeouts after Daniel Bard gets ahead 0-2 this season.  In his career, he has struck out 64.6% of opposing hitters after 0-2 counts, the 2nd highest career mark in the AL (since 1990; min. 60 such BF):

66.5% – Bryan Harvey
64.6% – Daniel Bard
62.9% – Travis Phelps

* – Clip ‘N Save - Opposing hitters went just 2-37 (.054) last week against Toronto after falling behind 0-2, the lowest average allowed in the majors.  For the season, Blue Jays pitchers have allowed a .351 OPS after 0-2 counts, the best mark in the AL.

* – The Cincinnati Reds have not allowed a HR following an 0-2 count yet this season (in 201 batters faced).  They are the only team that has yet to do so.



* – The Red Sox offense finally came to life last week on 3-2 counts, putting up a .548 OBP (6th) and 1.120 OPS (3rd) for the week.  Both were easily their highest weekly marks of the season.  They’ve still got a ways to go, though, carrying just a .392 OBP (28th) and .739 OPS (27th) on full counts for the season.  That OBP is still a full 100 points behind their full count OBP of last year (.492).

* – The 3-2 pitching by the Red Sox has been atrocious as they’ve allowed a .513 OBP and major league worst 1.050 OPS for the 2010 season to date.  The worst full-season OPS allowed by a Red Sox team on full counts was .912, by the 1998 squad.  This could be an interesting race.

* – Twins’ opponents went 0-17 on full counts last week and are batting .112 (10-89) for the season.



* – Boston’s .256 average on grounders was their highest since they put up a .271 in Week One.  Still, their .210 season-to-date average ranks 24th and is far from their .237 of last season.

* – The Sox induced 96 groundballs last week, easily a season high for them and 2nd most in the AL.  For the year so far, they’ve gained significant ground, allowing a .199 average on grounders (7th), much better than that 22nd ranked .244 from last season.

* – The Florida Marlins infield, including former Sox farmhand-turned-superstar Hanley Ramirez, has allowed a .258 average on grounders this season (28th).  This includes last week’s average allowed of .373.



* – The 53 line drives hit by the Red Sox last week were the most in the majors (Texas was 2nd with 46) and 10 line drive doubles was 2nd in the AL, trailing only Boston’s next opponent, Toronto (12).

* – Not only have the Yankees allowed the 2nd fewest line drives in the majors this season (142), but they’ve also allowed the lowest batting average on line drives (.638), far better than 2nd best Tampa Bay (.673).

* – Opponents were 30 for 32 (.938) on line drives versus the Orioles last week and are hitting .810 for the season, the highest line drive average allowed in the majors so far (and they’ve allowed the 2nd most liners in the AL).  Their line drive average allowed last season was .754.  Only the Angels (.759) was higher.  Yikes.



* – Since that dismal showing in Week Two in which the Red Sox went just 4 for 42 with RISP (.095), the Sox have hit .333 or better in each of the last three weeks in those situations.  Their .337 average over the last three weeks with RISP is 17 points better than any other major league team during that span.

* – Boston’s pitching gave a lot of the offense’s RISP gains right back last week, allowing a .322 average (4th highest in the majors) and .463 OBP (2nd highest) last week.  It was Boston’s second straight week allowing a .300+ average with RISP.

* – JD Drew is batting .071 (1 for 14) with 1 RBI every 7 AB this season with RISP and 2 outs.  He’s hitting .304 with an RBI every 5.5 AB in all other spots.

* – How much longer can Tampa Bay keep up their .128 average allowed with RISP and 2 outs?  Their WORST week so far was Week One (.179), followed by two consecutive weeks where opponents combined to go 2 for 40, followed by .160 (Week Four) and .143 (last week).  Here are the all-time (since 1974) AL single season leaders in batting average allowed with RISP and 2 outs:

.126 – Tampa Bay Rays, 2010 (partial season)
.194 – Anaheim Angels, 2002
.197 – Oakland A’s, 1977
.197 – Oakland A’s, 1976

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Batting Stance Guy: The Red Sox All-Moustache Team

05.10.10 at 2:25 pm ET
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Our good friend Batting Stance Guy is back, just in time to check in before going on his promotional tour for the soon-to-be best-selling book “Batting Stance Guy: A Love Letter To Baseball” (Click here to check it out.)

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Red Sox vs. Blue Jays matchups, 5/10

05.10.10 at 12:53 pm ET
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Two weeks ago, the Red Sox traveled to Toronto and swept the Blue Jays in a three game series. John Lackey didn’t get a chance to see Toronto; instead, he will get his first crack at the Jays on Monday night.

Lackey will be trying to follow up a fantastic performance against his old team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, in his last start. The right-hander let up just two hits and one earned run  in seven innings. After getting shellacked by the Tampa Bay Rays on April 19 — he allowed eight runs in just 3 1/3 innings — Lackey has gone seven innings in each of his last three starts and has lowered his ERA from 5.63 to 3.89 for the season.

The Sox starter faced Toronto once in the 2009 season, with good results. He lasted seven innings and gave up two earned runs, striking out six batters and walking three. That was only good enough for a no-decision, however, in the Angels’ victory. In his career, the right-hander is 3-3 in 11 starts against Toronto, sporting a solid 3.31 ERA. Read the rest of this entry »

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