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John Kruk on M&M: Why would David Ortiz flip the bat?

06.09.11 at 2:04 pm ET
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ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk, in a call-in interview with the Mut & Merloni show Thursday afternoon, questioned David Ortiz‘€™s now-famous bat flip in Tuesday night’€™s 6-2 win over the Yankees. After the designated hitter slammed a two-run homer to right field off New York rookie Hector Noesi, Ortiz spun around quickly and flung his bat toward the Boston bench in celebration of the blast. Earlier in the game, Jon Lester had already plunked Mark Teixeira and Russell Martin in the first inning ‘€“ the former left the game with a right knee contusion because of the hit – and it was those prior events that led to Kruk’€™s questioning.

‘€œIf you know you’€™re in a game where there’€™s some bad blood being brought up because they had a guy get hit and had to leave the game, why would you do that?’€ Kruk said. ‘€œI would love to ask him that. ‘€˜Why would you do that at that time? Why would you take that opportunity in a game where there’€™s a chance of retaliation against your team, why would add fuel to that fire by flipping your bat toward your dugout and admiring a home run?’€™’€

The common thinking was that Ortiz would be hit with a pitch of his own either later in the game Tuesday or in Wednesday night’€™s contest (an 11-6 Red Sox win) against the hard-throwing A.J. Burnett. Neither event transpired, however, and Kruk believed that was mostly because of the New York game plan.

‘€œThat’€™s just the way the Yankees are,’€ Kruk said. ‘€œUnder Joe Torre, they would never retaliate. I always questioned that about them. Why wouldn’€™t they protect their hitters more? That’€™s the thing I don’€™t understand.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Ortiz, John Kruk,

Remembering Anthony Rizzo’s Red Sox origins

06.09.11 at 1:43 pm ET
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The opportunity to acquire Adrian Gonzalez was almost too good for the Red Sox to pass up, and the reason for the club’s longstanding crush on the first baseman is now entirely evident. Gonzalez is a classic middle-of-the-order run producer. He’s a player with power and plate discipline who seems destined to put up huge numbers for several years as a member of the Red Sox.

Even so, the Sox were never under any illusions that they’d pulled a fast one on the Padres in sending four players to San Diego to acquire the superstar. The Sox sent three of their top prospects (pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes) along with utility man Eric Patterson to complete the deal, well aware that San Diego might be acquiring three players who can serve as key future contributors.

That future return starts now for the Padres. Rizzo, who slammed a remarkable 25 homers at two levels for the Sox last year, was off to an outrageous start in the Padres system, hitting .365 with a .444 OBP, .715 slugging mark, 1.159 OPS and 16 homers in 52 games for Triple-A Tucson. He has emerged as one of the best power-hitting prospects in the game and the Padres have summoned him to the majors for his big league debut. Rizzo will be unveiled against the Washington Nationals.

The timing comes as a slight surprise. One member of the Sox organization recently hypothesized that the Padres might wait until after they visit Fenway Park later this month before calling up Rizzo so that he would not have to be subjected to the compare-and-contrast game with Gonzalez (an exercise that would not have been unflattering to either — especially given that Rizzo’s performance in Double-A as a 20-year-old bore striking similarity to Gonzalez’ when he was in Portland as a Marlins minor leaguer at the same age).

Even so, that Rizzo is about to make his debut — even in another uniform — offers grounds for tremendous excitement among several members of the Sox organization on multiple levels. First and foremost, the personal relationship between Rizzo and the team that drafted him runs deep — not only with his teammates, but also with the many coaches, instructors, front-office members and scouts who became close to him when he was being treated in 2008 for Hodgkins’ lymphoma.

Yet while the team’s ties to the prospect deepened as he recovered from his illness — in the process, becoming an inspiring picture of strength — the connection with Rizzo started earlier, and helps to explain how it was that the Sox drafted a player who is now one of the top prospects in the game in the sixth round of the 2007 draft, after 203 other players had been selected.

The discovery of Rizzo, in fact, was somewhat accidental. Area scout Laz Gutierrez, like most scouts, had been more interested in Daniel Elorriaga-Matra at Douglas High School, which produced a somewhat incredible three draftees in 2007. Matra would end up being taken in the 26th round by the Braves.

Gutierrez saw both in the summer after their junior years and again in the fall. Rizzo did not jump out as a prospect. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Anthony Rizzo, laz gutierrez, mlb draft

Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Josh Beckett vs. C.C. Sabathia

06.09.11 at 8:12 am ET
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In a Thursday night matchup in The Bronx, the Red Sox and Yankees will look to their best arms to take the series finale as Josh Beckett faces C.C. Sabathia at 7:05 p.m. The Red Sox have had the upper hand against their rivals so far this season, and it has primarily stemmed from starting pitching. Sabathia is undoubtedly the Yankees‘ ace, but even he’s been overshadowed by Boston’s rotation.

Sabathia and Beckett have already squared off twice this season, with Boston’s ace considerably out-pitching New York’s on both occasions. On May 14 in New York, Boston scored six runs on seven hits through 6 2/3 innings, marking Sabathia’s worst outing of the season. Beckett, on the other hand, struck out nine over six shutout innings to lead the Sox to a 6-0 win. Back on April 10 at Fenway Park, Beckett threw a two-hit shutout over eight innings before handing the ball over to Jonathan Papelbon for the save. Sabathia only gave up one run, but he walked four and surrendered nine hits in just 5 2/3 innings. The Red Sox won, 4-0, for their second win of the season.

Aside from his struggles against Boston, Sabathia (7-3, 2.80 ERA) has been the steadiest Yankee starter by far, leading the team in wins, ERA, and strikeouts (70). The 290-pound lefty has won five of his last six starts, including an impressive outing against the Angels last Saturday. Sabathia got 26 of 27 outs before Mariano Rivera came in to close out the 3-2 win, and nearly recorded his second complete game in three starts.

While the Yankees starter has the ability to go deep in games, he’s had trouble limiting his pitch count and handling some of Boston’s premier hitters. For instance, Kevin Youkilis has dominated Sabathia, hitting .394 with two triples, two doubles, two homers and five RBI in 40 career plate appearances. David Ortiz has launched two home runs as well, although he’s hitting just .250 with 11 strikeouts against the left-hander.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett, Red Sox, Yankees

Red Sox Day 3 Draft Recap: Sox take Yankees fan who demanded that Epstein draft him

06.09.11 at 2:43 am ET
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On Wednesday night, Luis Exposito got the call. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia sick, Exposito was summoned to Yankee Stadium for his first day as a major leaguer.

The timing seemed appropriate, since his call-up came on a day when Major League Baseball conducted Rounds 31-50 of its amateur draft. Exposito, after all, was taken by the Sox in the 31st round of the 2005 selection process as a draft-and-follow; he was signed prior to the 2006 draft, and over his six seasons in pro ball, he’s developed into a player whose abilities suggest that he has a major league future.

The third day of the draft, for obvious reasons, will feature fewer players with big league futures than the first two. Nonetheless, there are future big leaguers to be found in the final 20 rounds of the draft. Certainly, Exposito can offer hope to some of the players taken by the Sox on Wednesday.

31st round: Tyler Wells, OF, Lexington Catholic HS (Ky.)

Based on the limited available information on the interweb, it would appear that Wells won the John Philip Sousa Band award and was a National Honor Society member at Lexington Catholic, a school that had one of the top baseball programs in Kentucky. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, and is considered a fast-twitch athlete with a good swing, some speed and an idea of what he is doing at the plate. He does not have a known commitment to a college program.

32nd round: Julius Gaines, SS, Luella High School (Ga.)

Gaines is considered an athletics shortstop with a good glove. He dealt with early-season shoulder issues as a senior, but improved as the year progressed and ended up hitting .391 with two homers. Entering the year, he was projected to be a pick in the relatively early rounds, but appeared to slip due to his performance while playing through the injury. He has a commitment to Florida Atlantic University; Gaines fits the profile of a high-school draftee whom the Sox will follow over the summer to determine what kind of offer, if any, to make in hopes of convincing him to turn pro. Gaines told the Henry Daily-Herald that he was open to turning pro, depending on where he was drafted and what kind of offer he received.

33rd round: David Chester, 1B, University of Pittsburgh

At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, he likely wins the prize for the biggest player drafted by the Sox (helped in part because the team’s tallest draftees, such as 6-foot-6 sandwich pick Henry Owens, are rail thin). Chester is a senior out of Pitt who mashed in Big East play. He led the conference with 16 homers while hitting .345 with a .470 OBP and .665 slugging mark. He’s a likely candidate to land in Lowell.

34th round: Ben Dartnell, LHP, Vauxhall High School (Manitoba)

A 6-foot-3, 210 pound lefty from Canada, Dartnell told the Winnipeg Sun that he was pleasantly surprised when the Red Sox — his favorite team — drafted him, since he’d had little contact with them. He had worked out for the Brewers. The article suggests that Dartnell throws as hard as 91 mph.

Also noteworthy: Vauxhall is a place of profound yet subtle significance, as the Vauxhall Gardens in London were a cultural institution from the 17th to 19th century that helped to shape popular amusements — such as amusement parks — into present times. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft,

Closing Time: Red Sox 11, Yankees 6

06.08.11 at 10:33 pm ET
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The Red Sox continued their early-season dominance against their chief AL East foe, battering the Yankees in an 11-6 victory that gave Boston sole possession of first place in the division. The Sox took a one-game lead in the division, largely on the strength of their performance against New York.

On the year, the Sox are 7-1 against the Yankees, and 28-25 against everyone else; the Yankees, meanwhile, are 32-19 against clubs who do not hail from Boton. The Sox have won six in a row against the Yankees, including five straight in New York. It is the first time in 99 years that the Sox have won five straight games against the Yankees (or their earlier incarnation, the Highlanders) in New York to open a season since 1912.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX (OR, NEARLY EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED IN THE GAME)

–Wakefield wasn’t supposed to start against the Yankees this series, but the balky back of Clay Buchholz resulted in the 44-year-old claiming the start. And he was masterful through the first four innings of the game, allowing just one run on three hits, before seemingly tiring in the fifth, when he started to leave pitches up in or out of the strike zone. He ended up allowing five runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking three.

The final line was far from overwhelming, but the knuckleballer’s signature pitch was moving all over the place, enough to unbalance the Yankees through the early innings and put the Sox in a position to win. That has been a common feature of Wakefield’s six starts this year, in which the Sox enjoy a 4-2 record.

David Ortiz continued a torrid stretch at the plate, in what is fast becoming his best year since 2007. He lined another homer — his second in as many nights — in the top of the first inning and later took a walk to push his OPS for the year to 1.010 (as of that at-bat). Aside from the first couple games of this season, it marked the first time since the end of the ’07 season that Ortiz has had an OPS above the 1.000 plateau. Though he was hitless with a walk in four subsequent plate appearances to drop his OPS in 2011 to .999, he is nonetheless re-establishing himself as one of the top slugging threats in the game. He is now hitting .435 with a 1.480 OPS and three homers in June.

Jacoby Ellsbury continued his outstanding season, going 3-for-5 with a double and a steal. He now has eight three-hit games this year, halfway to his career-best of 16 in 2008. He currently is on pace to amass 199 hits.

Alfredo Aceves earned a save the hard way. He entered the game with one out in the sixth, and pitched the duration, logging 3 2/3 innings while giving up one run on four hits and a walk, striking out four. It was the first save of more than three innings by a Sox pitcher since Casey Fossum had a four-inning save on July 21, 2003. On a night when Jonathan Papelbon was likely unavailable after a 27-pitch outing on Tuesday, the fact that Aceves was able to offer a night off to the rest of the Boston bullpen could be felt in days to come.

–In his first start being paired with Wakefield since June 6, 2005, Jason Varitek handled the knuckleballer with aplomb. On a night when Wakefield’s pitches were dancing all over the place — both in and out of the strike zone — Varitek had a passed ball, but otherwise showed quiet hands while corralling almost all of the pitcher’s offerings. The two had an evidently good rapport, with Wakefield remaining in a steady rhythm in part because Varitek was catching his offerings and tossing them back to the mound.

In past years, the Sox were left in a state of panic anytime that Doug Mirabelli was unavailable to work with the pitcher. Now, between the work done by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Varitek, those concerns are something that the Sox evidently will not have to contend with.

–There was a time when Derek Jeter was unquestionably the one member of the Yankees lineup that the Red Sox didn’t want to see at the plate with the game on the line. No longer. The future Hall of Famer is nearing the 3,000 hits milestone, but his .656 OPS ranks in the bottom 20 percent in the game.

With Aceves struggling upon entering Wednesday’s game, Jeter stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, representing the go-ahead run. Jeter went ahead in the count, 3-1, but then took a fastball for a strike before rolling over into a 5-4-3 double play. The outcome offered a reprieve to Aceves, who allowed singles to Eduardo Nunez and Francisco Cervelli — the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the Yankees lineup — upon his entry into an 8-4 game.

Carl Crawford delivered an insurance two-run homer in the ninth. He now has six homers for the season, a pace that would leave him with 16 for the season, which would be the third highest total of his career.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–Every member of the lineup either scored or drove in a run while reaching base at least once. Wakefield did his job holding the Yankees off the scoreboard early. Aceves, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon closed the door late. The Sox took over first place. So what went wrong for the Sox? Beyond the middle innings stumble by Wakefield, and the fact that Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis both suffered three strikeout nights, virtually nothing.

Alfredo Aceves no longer has his bike, but he does have some revenge

06.08.11 at 10:14 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Alfredo Aceves showed them.

The Red Sox pitcher held the fort Wednesday night in Yankee Stadium after coming in for Tim Wakefield, allowing four hits and one run while striking out two in 3 2/3 innings for a hard-earned save against the Yanks. His biggest pitch came when he induced a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Derek Jeter with the bases loaded and the Sox clinging to a three-run lead in the sixth inning.

Consider it payback.

Aceves, who had spent his entire professional baseball career with the Yankees prior to coming to the Red Sox this season, found himself with his current team in part because of a mandate set out by New York in the offseason. According to the pitcher, because of an injured back he was told by the Yanks not to do any running in the offseason, but instead pick up bike riding.

That didn’t work out well.

“The Yankees said not to run because of my back. I was like, ‘€˜What do you mean I can’€™t run?’€™ So I started to bike and I had an accident,” he explained.

Riding on a 10-inch strip of pavement along a highway, Aceves took a spill. The result was a broken collarbone.

“I could feel my shoulder in my elbow,” he said.

With nobody with him, Aceves sprung into action the best he could, hitch-hiking with the 10-speed left for junk. It would take six cars to pass by before somebody finally helped out the wounded cyclist, driving him to the hospital for X-rays. The prognosis resulted in 11 screws and a titanium rod being inserted in his affected area.

Because of the injury, the Yankees weren’t sure about Aceves’ ability to rehab his pre-existing ailment, the back, paving the way for New York to non-tender the hurler. It has worked out well for the Red Sox, with the righty having entered Wednesday with a 3-1 mark and 3.38 ERA. Remarkably, he now stands at 17-2 for his major league career.

“My left side,” he said, pointing to where the break occurred, “is stronger than the right side.

“My father taught me something, saying, ‘If you want to do something, do it well. If you’€™re not going to do it well, don’€™t do it at all.’ That’€™s the way I live my life. Every day. I’€™m happy every day I wake up. I thank God I’€™m allowed I’€™m alive that day. God has given me the opportunity to live. We live and learn. I just keep living and working hard every day I’€™m alive.”

And while Aceves survived the bike accident, it is an incident he’ll never forget. That’s why, as far as he’s concerned, from here on in, it’s all about baseball, and not biking … no matter what.

“You can run on the field, but you’€™re not going to jump on a bike and go to first base,” he explained.

Read More: alfredo aceves,

Top pick Matt Barnes ‘thrilled’ to be taken by Red Sox

06.08.11 at 6:55 pm ET
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Right-hander Matt Barnes, the top overall pick of the Red Sox in the 2011 amateur draft, said that despite growing up as a Yankees fan, he’s thrilled to be a member of the Red Sox organization after being taken with the 19th overall pick in the draft. Barnes, who is in South Carolina preparing for the University of Connecticut’s Super Regional against the University of South Carolina, suggested that it is a bit odd watching a Red Sox-Yankees series and having an altered rooting interest, but that he was more than happy to change his allegiance.

“It’€™s definitely ironic, but as much as I’€™ve always been a Yankees fan, I’€™ve always respected the Red Sox,” said Barnes. “They have a great organization, they have a great team, they develop their players well. So I’€™m very excited for the opportunity to play for the Red Sox. I know that they’€™ll take care of me just fine.”

Barnes found out about the fact that the Red Sox took him during Monday’s regional game against Clemson for the right to advance. He had been aware of the Sox’ scouting interest in him — he’d seen GM Theo Epstein at his outings on a few occasions — but there hadn’t been direct contact between him and members of the organization in the weeks leading up to the draft, or even on the day of the draft. He had his cell phone close at hand prior to and even during the game against Clemson on Monday, and a couple of teammates who weren’t allowed into the dugout during the game would give him updates on the draft every half-inning .

“All in all, it was hectic, but it was a great day,” said Barnes. “I was very fortunate to be drafted by the Red Sox on Monday, and to top it off, to get the W, and now we’€™re here in South Carolina.”

Barnes came of age with a UConn program that has done the same while he has pitched there. In high school, he was able to live with a fastball that was in the upper-80s and touched 90 mph. In a baseball region where the level of competition wasn’t elite, that single pitch allowed him to dominate his competition, permitting him success on the baseball field even as he committed his winters to basketball rather than baseball conditioning. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, matt barnes,

Terry Francona on The Big Show: Ortiz ‘can handle himself’

06.08.11 at 3:49 pm ET
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As always when the Red Sox and Yankees play, there was a bit of controversy Tuesday night after Sox slugger David Ortiz flipped his bat following a home run in their 6-3 win. Red Sox manager Terry Francona was a guest on The Big Show on Wednesday and offered his take.

“I don’t think it matters. We’ve got [Tim Wakefield] going. He’ll handle it,” Franconca joked. “David’s a big boy. He can handle himself. I don’t know if there’s any difference in somebody hitting a home run and looking in their dugout and waving or something like that. David’s a big boy he can handle himself.”

As for the notion of baseball’s unwritten rules, Franconca dismissed those. “I don’t know about the unwritten rules. I think the people who are writing these rules aren’t in the game. I don’t know who’s writing them. I think there a lot of different books. Everybody’s got their own thoughts. I think David respects the game. I think he flipped his bat, I don’t know, he just flipped his bat. David’s a big boy. He can handle himself.”

To hear the whole interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.

Here’s a transcription of the rest of the interview.

Is the fact that Jon Lester is struggling but still earning victories a good sign?

I think it’s a great sign. Sometimes these things don’t even out. If he can get some wins when he doesn’t have his A game going, he’s going to get it together. We’ve all seen it. He’s healthy. He’s not being as consistent right now as he has been. When he dials it, we’ve all seen it, he keeps it. I think that bodes really well for us.

On nights when you don’t have your A game you’ve got to find a way to stay out there. Against the Yankees that’s hard because they make you work so hard and if you don’t execute your pitches you’ll drive that pitch count up in a hurry, as they did with Lester. But to his credit he stayed out there and he kept them off the board.

How as Ortiz’z ability to hit lefthanders affected the lineup this season?

It does a couple of things. One, it lets me answer a heck of a lot less questions. The second thing is last year we were vulnerable against left-handers. When David didn’t get hits or JD and that happened probably too many times we had a tough time. Now we’re not having to drop him in the order. We can hit him fifth. We can hit him behind [Kevin Youkilis] and he’s a big presence right in the middle, whether it’s against lefties or righties. We have become used to that over the years.

For whatever reason, I know a lot of people thought he was getting old and everyone was taking their shots at him. But he got himself in a position where he wasn’t able to show his bat speed. He was swinging at balls out of the zone. He was check-swinging. He was behind the fastball. He was ahead of the breaking ball. Now he’s shortening up with two strikes. he’s not striking out very much at all. He’s hitting the ball to left field and when they come in on him he turns it he hits a home run. It’s fun to watch. He’s been productive and he’s probably going to be more productive as the season wears on because it will get hot. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Big Show, bobby jenks, Clay Buchholz

Peter Gammons on M&M: ‘Distinctly possible’ Yankees may retaliate

06.08.11 at 1:58 pm ET
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MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox, who started a three-game series in New York with a 6-4 victory over the Yankees Tuesday night.

In that game, Jon Lester hit Mark Teixeira with a pitch, knocking the Yankees slugger from the game. Gamons was asked if he expected any payback Wednesday night.

“It will be very interesting to see if they do open this up a little bit and get into it,” he said. “It’s a good night with Burnett doing it, because he’s not worried about having people on base. And Tim Wakefield‘s not exactly going to go drill people. Maybe something like that will happen.”

Following are highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Jon Lester gets the win but once again doesn’t look sharp. ‘€¦ What are they saying down there? Is he just going through a tough period right now, or is there any concern?

It’s a tough period in overthrowing. I think at times, he’s reaching back so much that he’s getting his delivery out of whack early on. When he rocks back, sometimes he rocks back so far he just gets out of that delivery. And also I also think at times, he’s become so cutter happy. Rather than thinking about being able to use all four of his pitches, I think he’s trying to become too much of a power guy and overthrows, then throws that cutter, cutter, cutter.

But the good thing is that he hasn’t been losing while he’s been in this period. I was thinking about this last night, watching him. He never gives in. And that may be part of his personality. He is so aggressive. And he also is so accountable. He beats himself up unbelievably. And I think that makes him press even further.

But if he doesn’t lose while not pitching very well, what’s he going to be when he goes on one of those 10-game streaks where he’s almost untouchable? So, I think the good news for the Red Sox is they survived Jon Lester not being their best pitcher.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon

Jerry Remy on D&C: ‘No way’ Jon Lester hit Mark Teixeira on purpose

06.08.11 at 10:32 am ET
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NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning, following the Sox’ 6-4 victory over the Yankees Tuesday night in New York. To hear the interview, go the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi criticized David Ortiz for flipping his bat after hitting a home run off rookie Hector Noesi in the fifth inning. Remy defended the designated hitter.

“The bat flip didn’t annoy me last night because [Ortiz] did it. He’s done that in the past. He’s done that quite a few times, and it’s almost become accepted in the game today,” Remy said. “I didn’t think very much of it, except that when he made contact he knew it was gone, so he just kind of gave it a little flip and that was it.”

Another reason for the Yankees to be upset is because Mark Teixeira had to leave the game after being hit by a Jon Lester pitch. He was one of two batters hit by the Sox lefty.

“Both those pitches were cut fastballs that certainly weren’t intentional,” Remy countered. “But it does hurt, obviously, when you get Teixeira out of the lineup early in the ballgame. So, we’ll have to see how it goes. We don’t know how New York took it. But if they’re taking that Lester was throwing at those guys intentionally, they’re wrong there, because that wasn’t the case. If they’re offended by the bat flip, that’s a different story.”

Added Remy: “If I was on the other side, I wouldn’t say that that [hit by pitch] was intentional. I’d be upset that we lost one of our best players, obviously. But there’s no way you can sit there and say Lester was trying to put Teixeira out of the game with a cut fastball that hits his knee.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Ortiz, Jerry Remy, Jon Lester, Mark Teixeira
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