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Lowell still likely to retire after 2010

08.22.10 at 8:01 pm ET
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After the Red Sox‘ 5-0 win on Sunday, Mike Lowell was asked about whether anything had changed about his expectation that the 2010 season will be his last (a prospect that he first suggested in April). Lowell suggested that he still anticipated this season as his final one.

“I’m pretty much set in knowing what I’€™m going to do after this year,” said Lowell. “It will be fun. It will be fun enjoying my kids.”

Lowell went 1-for-3 on Sunday, and is now hitting .229 with a .685 OPS on the season. He has become an everyday contributor since the season-ending injury to Kevin Youkilis, hitting .250 with two homers, seven runs batted in and a .720 OPS in August.

Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 0

08.22.10 at 7:03 pm ET
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The Blue Jays can be forgiven if they regret their decision not to deal for Clay Buchholz as part of a Roy Halladay deal last summer.

On Sunday, Buchholz worked around a pair of rain delays to produce six shutout innings, allowing his team to forge a 5-0 victory on a day when the Red Sox offense could muster just seven hits. For the seventh time in nine career starts against Toronto, Buchholz allowed one earned run or fewer against the Blue Jays.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Clay Buchholz let the leadoff runner reach in five of his six innings, but managed each time to work around harm. On the afternoon, he stranded seven runners, and held the Jays hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position, in lowering his ERA to an A.L.-leading 2.26 while improving his record to 15-5, leaving him tied for second in the American League in victories.

Buchholz lasted six shutout innings, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out seven batters. The punchouts reflected both one of the more explosive fastballs he’s had this year as well as a tremendous changeup.

Buchholz has now gone a career-high three straight starts without permitting an earned run, running his streak of innings without an earned run to 23 1/3.

Daniel Bard, one night after turning in a pair of shutout innings of relief, returned to the mound to record a scoreless seventh inning. In the process, he recorded his 27th hold of the 2010 season, tied for the most in a single-season by a Red Sox reliever since the stat started being tracked in 1969. Bard pulled into a tie with Hideki Okajima (2007) for the recorded team record.

Bill Hall continued his remarkable success against Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum crushing a homer against the Toronto right-hander in his second trip to the plate against him. Hall has now gone deep in three of his four career at-bats against the Blue Jays starter.

Hall’s blast was his 17th of the year, tied for the second-most homers he’s ever hit in a season. He has been particularly hot of late, hitting six homers in the month of August, his most in a single turn of the calendar since hitting seven in April 2008.

David Ortiz kicked the Red Sox offense into gear by lining a triple off the Wall in left-center to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. The three-bagger was the first hit of the game by the Sox, who had seen the first 12 batters of the game go down in order against Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum.

Ortiz’ first triple since April 20, 2009, gave him at least one three-bagger in every season since 2000, making him one of just 13 major leaguers to hit a triple in each of the last 11 seasons. (For the complete list, click here.) Ortiz later added an RBI single.

–After striking out in each of his first two at-bats, Ryan Kalish doubled in the bottom of the eighth inning to snap an 0-for-15 skid in which he’d punched out six times.

–Despite a scare, Victor Martinez avoided harm after Jose Bautista hit him on the glove hand on the follow-through of a swing-and-miss in the top of the third inning. On his strikeout, Bautista hit Martinez’ left hand (the same one on which he suffered a broken thumb in June) with his bat. But Martinez, after being checked by Sox manager Terry Francona and trainer Mike Reinold, was able to remain in the game.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

The Yankees and Rays both won, and so even with the victory, the Sox could make no headway in the standings, remaining 6 1/2 games back of New York and 5 1/2 paces behind Tampa Bay.

Marco Scutaro saw his eight-game hitting streak come to an end, as he went 0-for-3 with a walk on Sunday.

J.D. Drew went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts (matching a season high), and looked like he was having trouble picking up pitches on a day when he had a number of check-swing strikes. Drew is now 3-for-21 (.143) with seven strikeouts in his last seven games.

–The team dealt with a couple of rain delays that totaled 2 hours 43 minutes. A significant portion of the delays occurred when there was either light rain or no rain.

Read More: bill Hall, Blue Jays, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays matchups, 8/22

08.22.10 at 3:03 pm ET
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At a point in the season where desperation may be the buzzword on the tips of every Red Sox fan in Boston and beyond, Sunday’€™s matchup between Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and Blue Jays hurler Shawn Marcum may be very, very comforting. The two starters will take the hill in the same game for the third time in 2010, and the Sox are 2-0 in the previous times the pair have squared off. The local nine have proven that they can beat Marcum in both a slugfest (a 10-1 win over him on Aug. 11) and a pitcher’€™s duel (a 2-1 win on April 27) when Buchholz takes the mound against him.

If those two results aren’€™t enough to calm Sox fans’€™ nerves, Buchholz’€™ (14-5, 2.36 ERA) recent run of starts should do the trick. Buchholz enters Sunday coming off two starts in which he hasn’€™t allowed an earned run. That’€™s the third time this season that he has not permitted an earned run in consecutive starts. (Note: Buchholz, however, has not allowed 0 ER in three straight starts in 2010.) This most recent streak has vaulted him into the top spot in the American League for ERA and put the stat at its lowest since the end of April. It could continue to be on the decline given Buchholz’€™s opponent Sunday. In the previously mentioned two starts he’€™s had against Toronto this season, Buchholz is 2-0 with a miniscule 0.56 ERA.

Marcum (9-7, 3.39 ERA) has been less consistent in his three starts against Boston this season; he’€™s allowed one, zero and eight runs in those starts respectively. That being said, he’€™s still having a very solid season overall for the Jays. He is second on the team in ERA, behind Ricky Romero‘€™s 3.43. In fact, in his latest start, the one after his eight-run meltdown against the Sox on Aug. 11, he settled down quite nicely. In that start last Monday, he threw a complete-game one-hitter in a 3-1 win over the A’€™s after losing his no-hit bid in the seventh on a home run by Conor Jackson. At 28, he’€™s the oldest starting pitcher for Toronto, but if he can continue to string together starts like that one, he should be a fixture in the rotation for some time to come. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Shawn Marcum,

Bard not-so rare commodity

08.22.10 at 2:31 pm ET
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As hard as Daniel Bard throws, it’s a common assumption that he is a one-inning pitcher, to bridge the eighth inning to closer Jonathan Papelbon.

But these are certainly not ordinary times for the Red Sox. And with the inconsistencies of the middle men in the Red Sox bullpen and the injury to Hideki Okajima, manager Terry Francona has been left with little choice but to lean on Bard maybe a little more than normal.

Stopping short of calling it desperate, Francona said Sunday that he might be inclined to repeat Saturday night’s call to the pen when he asked Bard to pitch the 9th and 10th innings.

“How rare? It might not be,” Francona began. “We’€™ll see. We try to monitor guys all year so when we get to this point, we can do what we need to do. We’€™re not going to hurt anybody but I think he threw 13 pitches.”

After needing just eight pitches to retire the Blue Jays in order in the ninth, there was no reason – in Francona’s mind – not to send Bard out for the 10th.

“Part of the amazing thing, 13 pitches, you have to be pretty good do do that. he just kept pumping strikes, quality strikes. we want to pitch the guys that are getting peple out, as often as possible without overusing them. That’€™s the way it is.’€

So while it’s not ideal, to get a flame-throwing reliever up again for a second inning of work, it’s not that unusual this season – for either Bard or Papelbon.

Consider: Bard leads the staff in bridging innings this season, having finished one inning and started another, 15 times this season. Only long man Scott Atchison, with 18, has more such appearances. Delcarmen has done it 12 and Papelbon and Okajima each have eight multi-inning appearances.

So, can we expect to see Bard continue to be available like he was on Saturday night for the rest of the season?

‘€œWell we’€™re not there yet but I don’€™t anticipate any problems,” Francona said. “He’€™s a pretty sharp kid. He’€™s a hard worker. He prepares. I don’€™t see any dropoff coming. He’€™s been pretty consistent all year. You get pretty much the same stuff every time you go out. There’€™s been a couple of times where we’€™ve dug deep. He got around that 25-pitch mark and you see his arm slot lower a little bit but he’s been pretty solid.”

But as he always does, Francona put perspective on Bard’s usage. It’s great he’s available but the Red Sox would rather not make it a habit.

“Bard can do that,” Francona said when asked if Bard could consistently give Derek Lowe-type innings as a reliever. “I don’t know we want to be running Bard out there two innings all the time. That’s not the goal.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox

Prospect Westmoreland to join Lowell, Greenville

08.22.10 at 1:11 pm ET
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Red Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland is slated to join the Lowell Spinners of the Short-Season Single-A New York-Penn League and Greenville Drive the Greenville Drive of the Single-A South Atlantic League in the coming weeks, according to Sox farm director Mike Hazen.

The 20-year-old, who has missed the season due to March surgery to repair a cavernous malformation in his brain stem, has made what doctors have described to him as remarkable progress in his recovery from the surgery. He has been running, throwing and taking some swings (both off a tee and soft toss), and the Sox will now have him continue his rehab with minor league clubs before the end of the season.

Westmoreland will join the Lowell Spinners from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, and then head to Greenville from Sept. 3-6. He will not play in games, bu he will be running and doing a little swinging. But, most importantly, the move will allow him to “just be part of [a] team again,” according to Hazen. Westmoreland will be in uniform for games during that final week of the minor league season, a likely prelude to continued rehab in a baseball environment during Fall Instructional League in Fort Myers later in September.

Westmoreland was rated the top prospect in the Red Sox system by Baseball America entering this season. While he has spent the year recovering from his surgery, he has remained around baseball throughout his rehab, regularly attending games at Fenway Park and in the minor league setting. Now, he will have the chance to enjoy a return to the dugout vantage point before the end of the 2010 minor league season.

Read More: ryan westmoreland,

Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4 (11 innings)

08.21.10 at 10:42 pm ET
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The Red Sox needed this win pretty badly.

After the proverbial wheels fell off during a 16-2 loss on Friday night, they needed to prove that old baseball adage that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher and that blowout losses don’t carryover.

“It kind of flushes last night’s game right down the toilet,” said hero Jed Lowrie, whose leadoff homer off Casey Janssen in the 11th sent the Fenway faithful home happy Saturday night with a 5-4 Red Sox win. “We just have to put that one behind us and we did that tonight.”

Thanks to the bats of Lowrie, Marco Scutaro and Victor Martinez and the fielding of Yamaico Navarro, they not only flushed down the loss from the night before but they managed to come out smelling like a rose with the win at Fenway.

[Click here to listen to Jed Lowrie talk about his game-winning heroics and his perspective over last two seasons.]

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX:

Lowrie had a short memory. After dropping a routine foul pop-up that prolonged a potentially dangerous at-bat to John Buck, he homered off Casey Janssen to lead off the bottom of the inning.

“It’s just funny how the game works out that way,” Lowrie said. “Fortunately, the error didn’t matter. It was a foul pop-up. I got the opportunity to lead off the inning and end the game.”

VMart got down and dirty. Not only did he drive in the first three runs for the Red Sox with two singles in the third and fifth, he took a one-hop strike relay from Navarro in the fourth inning and was bowled over onto his back by Lyle Overbay. He got up and gave a love tap to Overbay’s chest just to make sure.

Scutaro looked very good at the top of the order. Scutaro had three hits in his first three at-bats and scored twice as he continued his hitting streak to eight games.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was on his game for seven innings. Aside from a speed bump in the sixth [see below], Matsuzaka not only had all his pitches working, he had tempo, rhythm and command. After giving up the lead in the sixth, he retired the final six batters he faced on a total of 20 pitches. He allowed six hits over the eight innings, three walks and eight strikeouts.

Navarro showed flashes of a strong and very accurate arm. He made the play of the game in the fourth when John McDonald doubled over the head of Darnell McDonald in center. Navarro, making his first MLB start at second went out to shallow center and took a relay from McDonald and fired a one-hop strike to Victor Martinez at the plate, nailing Overbay and preserving Matsuzaka’s lead at 2-1.

Bard and Papelbon were back to form. For all the talk there will be over Lowrie’s heroics and Matsuzaka’s solid outing, don’t overlook what Bard and Pap did in relief over the final three innings. After a perfect ninth, Bard pitched out of a jam when Lowrie couldn’t field Hall’s low throw on Travis Snider’s grounder in the 10th. But Bard got help when Snider got caught off second and in a run-down a sharp grounder by Fred Lewis. Bard then threw a double play ball to Escobar and the inning was over. Papelbon struck out one in a perfect 11th and has now thrown back-to-back perfect innings for the first time this season.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX:

Matusaka was not on his game with a three-run lead. As great as he was for seven innings, his one hiccup nearly cost him the win. Jose Bautista singles on a sharp line drive to left. Vernon Wells doubled on a line drive. John Buck‘s sacrifice fly scored Bautista. It looked like Matsuzaka would get out of it with a 4-2 lead when Aaron Hill popped out to Scutaro at short. But then for some reason, with Wells still and second and first base open, Matsuzaka decided to challenge Overbay with a fastball. Um, bad idea. He rocketed one over the Jays pen in right and all of sudden the fine work of the first five innings was out the window.

Again with the runners in scoring position. The Red Sox had a legitimate threat in the bottom of the seventh when Scutaro and Drew singled with one out. But after Ricky Romero buzzed David Ortiz up and in, he came back with a predictable slider and then a well-located fastball that jammed Ortiz just enough that he flew out to the warning track in left. Adrian Beltre struck out swinging to end the threat.

In the eighth, Mike Lowell popped a lazy fly to short left, near the line. Yunel Escobar camped under but allowed the ball to drop out of his glove and hit the ground and bounce into the stands for a two-base error. But Bill Hall failed to get a bunt down twice, and struck out. After pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie walked, Darnell McDonald whiffed and Scutaro grounded out into a fielder’s choice. And then in the ninth, a leadoff walk to J.D. Drew was followed by a pop out by Martinez and your standard 3-6-1 double play with the Jays employing the shift on Ortiz.

Lowrie looked like he was new to playing first base. He dropped a pop foul off the bat of Buck in the 11th, prolonging an at-bat that ended in a strikeout. Leading off the 10th, he wasn’t able to field a reasonable throw by a charging Hall on a soft Travis Snider grounder to second. He also lost track of the count during a pinch-hitting appearance in the eighth. All was forgotten and forgiven when he led off the 11th.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jed Lowrie, MLB

Two minutes for insulting

08.21.10 at 8:35 pm ET
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On the surface, it seemed innocent enough. A reporter from Rogers Sports Net, the official broadcaster of the Toronto Blue Jays, informed Terry Francona during the manager’s daily briefing with the media that he was doing a piece about how managers keep confidence in their closers every time they have a series of rough outings.

Of course, the reporter knew full well, as did Francona, that it was the Blue Jays who provided the nightmare portion of the 2010 highlight reel for Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox nine days earlier when he allowed a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth at Rogers Centre to become a 6-5 punch-in-the-nether-regions loss.

So, the reporter asked, how do you not lose confidence?

“He’€™s got 30 saves,” Francona began. “It’€™s very easy not to lose confidence. He’€™s one of the best in the game. I would be a horrible manager if every time he gave up a run, we kind of put him in the penalty box. I wouldn’€™t be doing my job very well. It’€™s an easy question.’€

The irony in this is two-fold. First, hockey of course is just a little bit heavier on the sports scale north of border in Toronto and with the analogy, Francona set up the Blue Jays reporter for a perfect power play. Second, Francona readily admits he doesn’t understand hockey, never really has tried to and doesn’t plan to anytime soon.

As for baseball – and to Francona’s point – in his first save opportunity since the Toronto disaster, Papelbon struck out the side on Wednesday against the Angels for his 30th save in 36 chances. It was also the first time since June 17, 2008 at Philadelphia that Papelbon had a perfect inning in which he struck out the side.

Quite the comeback for Papelbon, who also made some other history on Wednesday, becoming the first pitcher in big league history to record at least 30 saves in each of his first five full MLB seasons.

All of which wouldn’t be possible if Papelbon and his fastball, splitter and slider were sitting in the penalty box – or bullpen.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jonathan Papelbon, MLB, Papelbon

A good Tek report

08.21.10 at 6:03 pm ET
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In a season ravaged by injury, the Red Sox are happy their captain is making progress in an effort to get back on the field. Jason Varitek is not close to resuming his position behind the plate but following a Friday conference call at Fenway, he has reason to believe he’s moving in the right direction.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Varitek, who broke his right foot on June 30 against Tampa Bay, had a conference call on Friday afternoon with manager Terry Francona, his agent Scott Boras, team trainer Mike Reinold and a pair of doctors to discuss how much progress was being made.

‘€œHe did a really good job of articulating how he felt,” Francona said of Varitek. “What [Dr. Robert Johnson] basically said was that he doesn’€™t feel that Jason can’€™t hurt that foot, even when he feels some discomfort, which is good.

‘€œNow, Tek’€™s not ready to play. He’€™s able to advance forward and continue his progression. He’€™s just not quite ready to play in a game yet. But the really good part of that is that if he feels some discomfort, neither doctor felt like he was putting himself in jeopardy so that was good to hear. I think Tek felt pretty relieved by that. When he’€™s ready, we don’€™t know.’€

Red Sox prospect Yamaico Navarro, who connected on his first MLB swing Friday for a single, got his first start Saturday at second base as the Red Sox gave Jed Lowrie the night off.

On Friday, Lowrie moved from second to first in the top of the fifth inning as the Red Sox try to give him more time there to get comfortable if they need him in a pinch or as a late-game replacement.

‘€œHe looked ok,” Francona said. “He’€™s been taking grounders there. We tried to take advantage of a miserable night, get him some time over there so that when he does play over there he doesn’€™t feel out of place. All infielders, they’€™re probably not going to have a tough time catching the ball but anytime when you’€™re playing a position where it’€™s not second nature, where you make a change of direction.

‘€œActually, the first time he played out there a while back, he got a grounder and you could see him hesitate before he went to first base. It’€™s a not a natural movement. The more natural it can get, the best off we’€™ll all be.’€

In other Red Sox news, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia will remain in at Massachusetts General Hospital until Monday as doctors continue to monitor an infection in his lower right leg.

‘€œHe’€™s going to stay in the hospital until Monday I know it’€™s a little bit longer than we originally anticipated,” Francona said. “The antibiotics took a little bit longer to kind of get going. Saying that, he’€™s actually doing a lot better today. It’€™s more localized and he’€™s feeling better but it did take a little bit longer than I think we thought to kick in.”

With Saltalamacchia not eligible to come off until Sept. 1, when rosters expand to 40 and no disabled list, there’s no rush to have him hurry home and try to get ready for re-joining the team.

‘€œOriginally, we thought about maybe not putting him on the DL,” Francona added. “But if you sit for four or five days in the hospital, it’€™s kind of stating the hospital that you need a couple of days to kind of get back on your feet. And since there wouldn’€™t be a DL, there wouldn’€™t be a rush to do that.’€

‘€œThe blood has still not come back. We know it’€™s an infection but they have not said what it is, though.’€

Read More: Dr. Robert Johnson, Dr. Tom Gill, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek

Minor setback for Delgado

08.21.10 at 5:24 pm ET
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The effort of Carlos Delgado to make to the Red Sox by Sept. 1 was dealt a setback on Saturday when the team announced he was being placed on the minor league disabled list with continued back soreness following his recovery from a pair of surgeries on his right hip.

Delgado was put on the seven-day disabled list at Triple-A Pawtucket and hasn’t played since August 15, when he tweaked his lower back and has missed almost a week of action.

“I don’t think he got hurt,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “I think he was sore. I don’t think there’s an injury, per se. I think he’s just sore and it’s not the side of his repaired hip.”

Delgado, who turned 38 in June, had a pair of hip surgeries after hitting just four home runs and playing in only 26 games for the New York Mets in 2009.

The Red Sox signed Delgado to a minor league contract on Aug. 7 and reported to the PawSox with the hope of making the big league roster by Sept. 1 when rosters expand to 40.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carlos delgado, minor league DL, New York Mets

Ranaudo’s Lowell reunion

08.21.10 at 9:28 am ET
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To most, the name of Jayson Hernandez was unfamiliar when the Red Sox selected the catcher in the 41st round. But to Anthony Ranaudo, the selection of the Rutgers product by the Sox was an amazing development.

The two were high school teammates for three seasons at St. Rose High School in Ocean Township, NJ. They lived just a mile apart from each other, and they were friends, just as were their parents. Hernandez, who was one year ahead of Ranaudo in school, would drive his teammate to and from practice. In the winter, they worked out together not only in high school but even through college, when Hernandez stayed in state to attend Rutgers while Ranaudo went to Louisiana State University.

The two had batted around the “what if” notion that they could end up in the same organization, but even though the Sox had expressed interest in both, neither had any inkling that the scenario could actually come to fruition.

“We talked about it before the draft. He asked, ‘€˜Who have you been talking to?’€™ I said, ‘€˜Actually, Boston’€™s been one of the biggest teams I’€™ve been talking to.’€™ He said, ‘€˜Me, too ‘€“ me, too.’€™ The day before the draft, we said, ‘€˜How crazy would it be if we both got picked up by the same team? That would be crazy,’€™” Hernandez recalled. “Boston picks him up the first day, draft goes on, then I get drafted by Boston. Everyone in my house is going crazy. I give him a call, he didn’€™t pick up but left him a voicemail. He calls me back and says, ‘€˜Don’€™t mess with me, man. You’€™re just kidding, right?’€™ We were both pretty pumped about it.”

Hernandez recalls Ranaudo having always stood out on and off the field. As a freshman, the catcher recalled, Ranaudo was already “a big, huge kid,” perhaps 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6. His talent was apparent, as was his drive.

“You could just tell the kid had great work ethic and sky was the limit for him,” said Hernandez.

In high school, Ranaudo was a pitcher who could dominate at times. He threw a pair of no-hitters as a junior, in a season when St. Rose won the state championship. And yet the right-hander remained extremely raw.

“He was throwing hard then pretty much without any mechanics. He wasn’€™t using his lower half,” recalled Hernandez. “He was sitting around 87-89, would occasionally top out around 91, 92.”

As for a breaking ball?

“No. No. No. Not at all. That was a work in progress,” said Hernandez. “Changeup was decent, but that was a work in progress. Once he developed that in college, that really made him succeed a lot more.”

Hernandez received direct evidence of that notion while catching his former high school teammate when the two were home from college.

“Once he got to LSU, you could see the results,” said Hernandez. “His velocity has jumped like crazy since he got to college. I attribute that to the work ethic. The kid, in the winter, he’€™s tough to keep up with.”

Yet in one sense, Hernandez has done just that, as the two will be teammates with the Lowell Spinners. However, as excited as they are to be reunited, the catcher does not anticipate a return to chauffering status for his New Jersey neighbor.

“I think he’€™s got enough money to drive me around,” Hernandez said of his teammate, who signed for $2.55 million. “[But] just getting the chance that we get to play together again, it’€™s kind of crazy.”

For more on the first day of Ranaudo and Brandon Workman with the Lowell Spinners, click here.

Read More: anthony ranaudo, jayson hernandez, LSU, rutgers
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