|07.02.11 at 6:45 pm ET|
|07.02.11 at 12:54 pm ET|
Red Sox outfielders J.D. Drew and Mike Cameron have struggled mightily to keep their heads (and batting averages) above water this season. Mostly due to that pair’s struggles, the Sox rank near the bottom of the majors in terms of right field production in most major categories.
For all of Drew’s struggles, Cameron fared even worse. Everything changed on Thursday when the Sox decided to release the 17-year veteran in the final season of a two-year, $15.5 million deal.
So, what does this mean for Drew? It’s time to start swimming.
In 64 games this year, Drew is having the worst year of his career. His batting average (.235), OBP (.333), slugging percentage (.327) and OPS (.660) all would be career lows; his four home runs and 18 RBIs likewise suggest his poor output. He has also dealt with a number of injuries that have limited him to 64 of the Sox’ first 81 games. Most recently, Drew suffered a left eye contusion and missed the first two games of last week’s series against the Phillies.
With his diminished output, Drew is, once again, a highly scrutinized player for the Sox, something that has been the case almost from the day that word that the Sox had signed the free agent to a five-year, $70 million contract emerged after the 2006 season.
Yet as much criticism as Drew has faced, his deal was far from the biggest given to an outfielder that offseason. Indeed, his was simply part of a wealth of long-term deals that were given out like candy to outfielders that winter. As the Sox take on the Astros for three days in Houston, it is a reminder that the Sox weren’t alone in taking a plunge into the deep end of the free-agent pool five winters ago.
Let’s fire up the flux capacitor and turn back time to the 2006-07 offseason ‘ Jan. 26, 2007, to be more specific ‘ when the Red Sox inked the then nine-year veteran to a five-year, $70 million deal. Drew was coming off a strong season in 2006 in which he appeared in a career-high 146 games, recorded his first 100 RBI season and batted a more-than-respectable .283 with a .393 OBP. With Trot Nixon‘s contract expiring and no suitable replacement available on roster (unless you count this guy), it’s easy to see why Drew — even with his fragile reputation — was an attractive free agent target, resulting in his deal that made him the highest-paid player on the team.
However, he wasn’t the only high-profile outfielder on the market. Indeed, he didn’t even receive the biggest deal of that winter. After all, in that same offseason of 2006-07, the Astros gave a six-year, $100 million deal to Carlos Lee. Like Drew, Lee — who hit .305 with a .354 OBP, .524 slugging mark and .878 OPS while averaging 29 homers and 107 RBI in the first three years of his deal — began fading in 2010 when, at age 34, he plunged to hitting .246/.291/.417/.708.
Unlike Drew, Lee has bounced back somewhat this year (.270/.321/.427/.748), but his defense — never considered elite — has dipped to the point where he is considered something of a DH with a glove. He splits his time between left field and first base, when interleague play doesn’t permit the Astros the luxury of using him as a designated hitter. So, from that standpoint, his defensive value — already limited — is in a state of decline. That situation could become more pronounced as Lee plays out not just this season but next under the terms of his six-year deal.
Aside from Drew and Lee, Gary Matthews Jr., Juan Pierre and Alfonso Soriano were all there for the taking that winter. The Blue Jays, based on the prevailing trends of that market, also made a bold move to extend Vernon Wells on a long-term deal that winter. Let’s take a few minutes to compare Drew’s production with that of these five players in the last half-decade. Read the rest of this entry »
|07.02.11 at 12:36 pm ET|
Two starts may be a little early to call Andrew Miller the next Sandy Koufax, the man Miller had dinner with back in the spring of 2009. But the lanky lefty will do his best to improve the strength of any connection between the two when he takes the mound against the Astros and their own lefty starter J.A. Happ Saturday evening.
Miller (1-0, 3.09 ERA) pitched extremely well in his last outing, allowing one earned run on five hits and two walks over six innings while striking out four in a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh for his first W in a Red Sox uniform. The outing was arguably his best in the majors since June 23, 2009 (7 IP, 1 ER) and solidified Miller’s spot in the Boston starting rotation at least for the foreseeable future. He came up biggest in the fifth inning of that start when he struck out Neil Walker and got Matt Diaz to fly out to right with the bases loaded and the Pirates up 2-1. (The Sox would come back with two runs in the seventh to give themselves the win.)
Miller has some experience against some hitters on the Houston roster, dating back to his days in the Tigers and Marlins organizations. Jeff Keppinger (2-for-2, 2 doubles, 1 walk) and Michael Bourn (2-for-2, 1 walk) have yet to be retired by Miller, but in the same token, Angel Sanchez and Hunter Pence are a combined 0-for-10 against the lefty with five strikeouts. Surprisingly, Happ has faced Miller in the past and actually reached on a basehit in his only official at-bat while he bunted successfully in the others. (On the flipside, Miller is 0-for-1 against his Happ at the plate.)
For the season Happ (3-9, 5.54) is hitting .292 at the plate (7-for-24) with a home run and four RBI, but while he’s been good offensively, you simply cannot say the same thing about his performance on the hill. Happ leads the National League in losses with nine, and that total already represents a career-high for the 28-year-old. The month of June was by far his worst of the 2011 season as he went 0-3 with a 7.86 ERA over five starts. Surprisingly, Happ has struggled the most against lefty hitters as they are hitting .328 against the southpaw with a .966 OPS compared to .261 and .775 marks for righty batters, thus explaining Terry Francona‘s decision to put Adrian Gonzalez in right field and David Ortiz at first base for Saturday’s affair.
That being said, Gonzalez is 0-for-3 with a walk against Happ in his career. In fact, Jacoby Ellsbury is the only Boston position player to get a hit off Happ, although he could miss another start due to the illness that kept him out of Friday’s lineup. Read the rest of this entry »
|07.02.11 at 12:20 am ET|
For six innings, it looked like Astros starter Bud Norris would be another in a long line of National League pitchers to contain the once-explosive Red Sox offense. Norris allowed a leadoff home run to Marco Scutaro in the first, then held Boston hitless through the first six innings. He struck out 10, making Boston’s 3-4 duo of Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis look downright silly (0-for-6 with five strikeouts and a double play against Norris).
The Astros, meanwhile, tied the game in the bottom of the first, went up 3-1 on a bunt and a ground-rule double in the second, then scored single runs in the fifth and sixth to go up 5-1 on Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox.
Then the seventh inning ‘ Boston’s highest-scoring inning this season ‘ arrived, and Boston’s offense returned. J.D. Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled off Norris before Josh Reddick doubled in a run. That chased Norris, and Boston went to work on the worst bullpen in the majors.
Drew Sutton scored a run with an infield single, then Dustin Pedroia hit a two-RBI single off reliever Wilton Lopez three batters later. Gonzalez followed Pedroia with a two-run double to deep left, and Boston’s bullpen kept the Astros off the scoreboard through the final 3 2/3 innings.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Boston’s five relief pitchers combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings, holding the Astros to just two singles. Dan Wheeler pitched the final two outs of the sixth in relief of Lopez. Matt Albers picked up the next two, and Franklin Morales recorded the final out of the seventh with one pitch. Daniel Bard struck out two in a scoreless eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon retired Carlos Lee on a ground out to second after allowing a two-out single to Hunter Pence to pick up his 16th save of the season.
– Josh Reddick was the only Red Sox hitter with a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a walk, an RBI and a run. Friday night was the fourth multi-hit game in his last five starts.
– Dustin Pedroia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia also reached based three times, each going 1-for-3 with two walks and a run.
– Boston’s six seventh-inning runs increased their seventh-inning seasonal total to 74 runs.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Kevin Youkilis finished the game 0-for-4 with three swinging strikeouts and a walk. Norris completely dominated Youkilis, twice striking him out on four pitches.
– Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball had solid movement, dancing and darting through the strike zone, 10 times getting Wakefield to two strikes on opposing hitters. That third strike never came, however, and five of the 11 hits Wakefield gave up came with two strikes.
– Marco Scutaro was relatively ineffective as a leadoff hitter following the first inning. He finished the game 1-for-5 with two strikeouts and a bases-loaded double play that killed a tremendous scoring opportunity in the top of the eighth. He went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position.
– The Red Sox had multiple opportunities to break the game wide open, but left nine men on base and went 4-for-10 with runners ins coring position.
|07.01.11 at 1:34 pm ET|
Millar said that Interleague play ‘does take away a little bit from the American League teams.’
‘It’s a little different-looking when you look at [Josh] Beckett instead of David Ortiz,’ Millar said. ‘That’s where American Leagues take a notch back: when you’ve established a DH, and you have to take him out of the lineup.’
The lack of a designated hitter in the National League wasn’t the real problem with Interleague play, Millar said, adding that he liked it because it let fans watch superstars they wouldn’t normally see.
Added Millar, ‘It’s kind of funny to see the American League pitchers swing the bat.’
Of the decision to move Adrian Gonzalez to right field, Millar said the risk of injury outweighed getting Ortiz extra at-bats.
‘Is it worth Adrian blowing out his elbow on a play at the plate ‘ because of course he’s going to try to throw him out at home ‘ to get David Ortiz a game in?’ Millar said. ‘You look at it that way, you’re thinking ‘no, you’re right.’ But, Papi needs to play. You can’t sit him nine days.’
Millar said that Josh Reddick also needs more playing time.
‘You have to play the hot hand,’ Millar said. ‘’¦ He’s swinging the bat as well as anybody in the big leagues, so let him play out there. He’s got some nice tools.’
Millar called Mike Cameron a ‘tremendous professional,’ but said that age may have contributed to his reduced playing time and designation for assignment.
‘You just get to an age and things slow down,’ Millar said. ‘’¦ He just didn’t have the bat speed.’
Added Millar, ‘I don’t think Boston was a great fit for him when he’s not the everyday guy.’
While Millar would not predict whether or not Jonathan Papelbon would return to the Red Sox next season, he liked where Papelbon is at this season.
‘He’s in tremendous shape,’ Millar said. ‘His velocity is back, his arm speed’s back, but he looks great. Is he going to be too expensive? I don’t know.’
Millar also said that closers are ‘weird dudes,’ and that the mentality necessary to be a closer doesn’t always translate to success in other relief roles. He agreed that this might be the case with Bobby Jenks.
‘I don’t know when the last World Series champion team had a six-man rotation,’ Millar said. ‘It’s just a little odd; guys need roles.’
|07.01.11 at 9:03 am ET|
Under the new guidelines of this year’s Home Run Derby, Ortiz has been handed the keys to the car when it comes to picking the American League representatives for the event. The DH ‘ who was named the captain for the AL side ‘ will pick three hitters to join him in going up against the National League.
One candidate, Gonzalez, is officially going on record: if asked by Ortiz, he will answer the call.
‘I think if asked it’s something you should do for the fun of it,’ the Red Sox first baseman said. ‘Go out and hit some home runs.’
Gonzalez has participated in the event just one other time, in 2009, not getting out of the first round. At the time of that All-Star Game, he was second in the majors in home runs with 24 (7 behind league-leader Albert Pujols).
As for any concerns about the contest altering his swing ‘ a worry that led Jason Bay to bypass the event in ‘09 ‘ Gonzalez dismisses such a notion.
‘There are plenty of times where guys try and hit home runs in BP, so you take that same approach,’ Gonzalez said. ‘Nobody will ever go into BP and at one point or another not try to hit a home run. There’s going to be at least five swings you try to hit a home run.’
Typically, one aspect of the endeavor that might play in Gonzalez’ favor is the lefty hitter’s ability to use all fields. Nine of his homers this season have gone to left field, with the rest landing in right or right-center. But, like St. Louis in ‘09, the Arizona fences ‘ the site of this season’s game ‘ are fairly symmetrical.
‘If the field had an area that was shorter, yeah, I would adjust to the park,’ Gonzalez said. ‘But Arizona is the same everywhere. You use your pull-side, typically. It’s always a lot easier. I think the biggest key is getting strikes from the batting practice pitcher.’
So what went wrong for Gonzalez in ‘09? Part of it, he explained, was a travel schedule that allowed him just two hours of sleep after having to rent a mini-van and bus in from Indianapolis. Then there was that batting practice pitcher, who was San Diego coach Ray Crone.
‘He’s great, but he wasn’t on his game,’ Gonzalez remembered. ‘It wasn’t his fault, it was my fault because I could have taken more pitches. But it was fun.’
|07.01.11 at 9:00 am ET|
The Red Sox‘ matchups during their 15-game ride through interleague play thus far in 2011 have developed plenty of storylines. The Cubs’ first trip to Fenway Park since 1918. Adrian Gonzalez‘ first appearance against his old squad from San Diego. Tim Wakefield‘s first time on a mound in Pittsburgh since 1993. The three-game set between the two of the best teams in each league in the Sox and Phillies. Friday’s series opener between the Sox and the Astros will bring the last matchup-based story for interleague play this season as former Boston bench coach Brad Mills faces old boss and good friend Terry Francona for the first time since taking over the manager position in Houston last season. (Now whether any of these stories make interleague actually worth the hassle is up for debate.) In Francona-Mills Round 1, the Red Sox will again send out Wakefield not only to pitch but also to hit in Minute Maid Park while the Astros will counter with Bud Norris.
Wakefield (4-3, 4.54 ERA) scuffled a bit in that last start against the Pirates. The knuckleballer was cruising along nicely through his first three innings until he allowed four runs in the fourth frame, three of which came on a three-run homer by Lyle Overbay. Wakefield would finish with a line of five earned runs on seven hits and four walks over six innings pitched. He’ll be trying to prove that that performance was nothing more than a momentary blip on his seasonal radar because he had been solid in his previous six starts, going 4-1 with a 3.60 ERA and .193 opponents’ batting average.
Carlos Lee and Jason Michaels are the only Astros to have any kind of previous experience against Wakefield. Lee’s team-high 27 career plate appearances against the 44-year-old date back to the former’s days with the White Sox and those times at the plate have more than just been productive. He’s the owner of a .375 batting average in those battles while hitting for the career cycle.
Like Wakefield with the Astros, Norris (4-6, 3.36 ERA) will be seeing many of opponents for the first time Friday. Only Adrian Gonzalez has seen Norris before, although Mike Cameron had as well before the Red Sox designated him for assignment Thursday afternoon.
Norris has more or less been the ace for a Houston squad that has struggled all season long with the worst record in the majors. His 100 strikeouts in 99 innings are a team-best and give him the seventh-most in that category in the senior circuit. As good as Wakefield was as a starter before the Pittsburgh slipup, Norris was even better in his previous four starts heading into Friday night’s affair. Over that span, he allowed just five earned runs over 26 innings for a 1.73 ERA, but due to minimal running support ‘ including two straight starts in which his team fell 1-0 ‘ he owned a record of just 1-2 in those games.
Astros vs. Wakefield
Carlos Lee (27 career plate appearances): .375 BA/.407 OBP/.750 SLG, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 double, 1 triple, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
Jason Michaels (5): .333/.600/.333, 2 walks
Clint Barmes, Brian Bogusevic, Michael Bourn, Carlos Corporan, Matt Downs, Chris Johnson, Jeff Keppinger, Hunter Pence, Angel Sanchez, J.R. Towles and Brett Wallace have never faced the Boston starter.
Red Sox vs. Norris
Adrian Gonzalez (3 career plate appearances): .000 BA/.000 OBP/.000 SLG, 2 strikeouts
J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Darnell McDonald, Yamaico Navarro, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Reddick, Jarrod Satlalamacchia, Marco Scutaro, Drew Sutton, Jason Varitek and Kevin Youkilis have never faced the Houston starter.
|06.30.11 at 4:10 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — It could have turned out to be a very uneven day for the Red Sox.
First came the news that Kevin Youkilis wouldn’t be available due to an injured left ankle (which was X-rayed, coming back negative). That led to a lineup that featured Darnell McDonald hitting second and Jason Varitek manning the No. 5 hole. And then, just before the series finale with the Phillies, outfielder Mike Cameron was designated for assignment by the Sox.
But thanks to Jon Lester, all the potential distractions meant little. The lefty starter allowed just two hits over seven innings, striking out five, walking two and not giving up a single run. The end result was a 5-2 win for the Red Sox, who head to Houston 2-6 on their current road trip.
Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox win …
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Jacoby Ellsbury showed his worth once again, notching a pair of hits, including an RBI single scoring Drew Sutton with the Red Sox’ second run. It was a welcome turn of events for Ellsbury, who came into the game just 2-for-21 on the road trip.
– Varitek accounted for the Red Sox’ third and fifth runs when he went deep to right field for his fourth and fifth home runs of the season. The two solo shots allowed the catcher to now hit safely in 16 of his last 20 starts. The game marked the first time since 2007 that Varitek had hit as high as the No. 5 spot in the order, being slotted just behind cleanup hitter Dustin Pedroia. It was also his 11th career multi-home run game.
– Sutton, who was subbing in for Kevin Youkilis due to the third baseman’s injured left ankle, came away with his fifth multi-hit game of the season. According to WEEI.com stat man Gary Marbry, he also became the 61st Red Sox player to have at least one RBI on his birthday, with Ted Williams leading the way with 13 birthday RBIs.
– The Red Sox were able to get Philly starter Cole Hamels out of the game after just four innings thanks to a line-drive off the bat of Adrian Gonzalez which bruised the pitcher’s right hand. (X-rays were negative.) Hamels, who now has the second-lowest ERA in the majors since last July 1, had only surrendered two hits without allowing a run before his departure.
“I hope this kid is OK, but Gonzy’s hit was’¦ He was going right through us,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “That was probably our best way to get him out of there because he wasn’t going to leave anytime soon. Obviously, when you get to the bullpen before you want to, it gave us a chance.”
– Pedroia remained strong as a cleanup hitter, this time hitting his fourth career opposite field home run in the eighth inning. The blast over the right field was the only hit of the day for the second baseman, who is now 14-for-24 three homers in the No. 4 spot.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Bobby Jenks‘ struggled in his second appearance of the series, allowing a two-run homer to Ryan Howard in the ninth. The reliever recorded just one out, allowing two hits and a walk before giving way to Jonathan Papelbon.
– J.D. Drew couldn’t show the Philadelphia fans what was what, lining out to end the Sox’ half of the seventh inning after being booed robustly by the sellout crowd. Drew, who chose not sign with the Phillies after being drafted by Philly in 1997, came into the game hitting .338 in Citizens Bank Park (25-for-74, 5 HRs). Things only got worse for Drew in the next half inning as he failed to come up with a foul fly ball off the bat of Chase Utley, watching it bounce off his glove while siding near the stands.
|06.30.11 at 2:55 pm ET|
The Mike Cameron era in Boston is over.
The Red Sox announced prior to Thursday’s game against the Phillies that they had designated the 38-year-old veteran outfielder for assignment. Despite spending just about a year-and-a-half in Boston, Cameron played in only 81 games because of an injury-riddled season in 2010 and his placement as a reserve this season. He amassed a .219 batting average with seven home runs and 24 RBI over that time.
Although the road ahead for Cameron is still yet to be decided, here’s a look back at the outfielder’s relatively short stay in Boston.
Dec. 16, 2009 ‘ Red Sox announce they have signed the three-time Gold Glove-winning Cameron in press conference at Fenway Park. The terms of the contract were for two years and $15.5 million. Cameron was signed to take over the outfield spot left vacant by Jason Bay‘s departure, and the move signaled a change in team philosophy to emphasize pitching and defense almost exclusively over offense. The Red Sox become the seventh team that Cameron has played for in his career.
April 4, 2010 ‘ Goes 2-for-3 with a run and a walk in Sox debut as the team defeats the Yankees 9-7 on Opening Day. Starts in centerfield while Jacoby Ellsbury slides to left. Neither would play more than 48 games in 2010 for the club.
April 20, 2010 ‘ Team puts Cameron on the disabled list for the first time with abdominal strain. Prior to injury, the new Sox centerfielder had a seven-game stretch in which he went just 2-for-17 at the plate, including five games when he had failed to get a hit, and also dropped an easy flyball in an eventual 6-5 loss to Tampa Bay on April 17. After a rehab stint in the minors, he returns to the big club on May 25 but would need days off the rest of the way to nurse the strain that had still yet to completely heal. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.30.11 at 1:21 pm ET|
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