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Pedroia shows signs of a turnaround

06.02.10 at 1:31 am ET
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Dustin Pedroia has been through slumps before. Indeed, it seems that almost once a year, he must endure a period in which he goes from being a catalyst of the Red Sox offense to a non-factor.

Yet even though he can rely on experience to reassure him that he will emerge from his struggles, it does not make it any easier to endure a fallow stretch.

“Your wife wrecks a car every year, it happens every year, but that doesn’€™t make it any easier,” joked hitting coach Dave Magadan. “He’€™s been frustrated, because he knows he’€™s a big part of this team. He takes it personal. I think it hurts him more. It affects him more in the way that he feels like he’€™s letting the team down, as opposed to his own personal goals.

“I think that’€™s what makes him such a special player. He makes everybody in this clubhouse better. He’€™s got a great attitude about it. But he wants to make it happen right now. He doesn’€™t want, ‘€˜Hey, do better tomorrow.’€™ He doesn’€™t want to hear that. He wants to be here right now taking B.P., trying to get better. That’€™s what makes him great.”

In that context, of the 14 hits that the Red Sox amassed in their 9-4 razing of the Athletics, one can make the case that the most important one came after the game had already been decided.

By the time the Sox were batting in the bottom of the eighth inning with a 6-4 lead, the team had already done all of the damage necessary to ensure victory. But it was then that Pedroia — stuck in a miserable 0-for-17 rut — unloaded on a 2-2 slider from A’s reliever Michael Wurtz.

His one-out, bases-empty rocket to right-center bounced on the warning track and into the Red Sox bullpen for a ground-rule double. That gave a reprieve to one of the worst runs of the second baseman’s career. Since hitting a two-run homer in his first at-bat on May 14, Pedroia had gone to the plate 63 times, and had a dreadful .127 average, .236 OBP, .159 slugging mark and .359 OPS to show for it prior to that double. He hadn’t driven in a single run in that span (a streak that continues even after the double). He had gone through an 0-for-19 stretch, emerged briefly to go 5-for-11, then slipped back into another hitless stretch.

On Tuesday, Pedroia had hit the ball well in two at-bats, and poorly in two others. He lined out to first in the first, popped out with the bases loaded and two outs in the second (prompting him to smash his helmet on the infield dirt), grounded out hard to short in the fifth and grounded into a bases-loaded double play in the sixth.

The pair of well-struck outs had already represented a positive direction for Pedroia’s evening, but he seemed unwilling to see the silver lining. Magadan saw the frustration mounting in the second baseman, and so pulled him aside after the double play. He told Pedroia to focus on the two quality at-bats that he had delivered, rather than his failures, and reminded the 2008 MVP that he might yet have another turn at the dish.

Sure enough, that prediction came to fruition.

“Sure enough, he got up that last at-bat, took a great swing at that ball and drove it to right-center. When he’€™s doing that, he’€™s a special hitter,” said Magadan. “He’€™s gone through a period right now where he’€™s kind of gotten away from what makes him a really good hitter. with the amount of hard work he does, it’€™s just a matter of time before he gets back to it.”

In that final plate appearance, Pedroia spread out his stance. According to Magadan, his stride has gotten too long in recent games, resulting in his struggles.

“He normally has a pretty big stride, but his stride right now has really gotten big. When his stride is big like that, he gets underneath a lot of balls,” said Magadan. “His game is hitting line drives and getting on top of the balls that he’€™s hitting the other way.”

In that final at-bat, Pedroia was rewarded for just that, but barely. The ball just eluded the grasp of speedy center fielder Rajai Davis. But the extra inches of carry meant a world of difference to Pedroia, who is now hitting .254 with a .776 OPS.

“If Davis catches that ball, we probably have to get out of the way because he’€™s going to be down there killing somebody or himself,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “I don’€™t really worry about him on the fact of his performance. I worry that he tries too hard.”

It remains to be seen whether the double will allow Pedroia to back off of that desperation. Nonetheless, on a night when the Sox featured plenty of offensive fireworks, it would be difficult to identify a single hit that brought as much relief to the entire club as that one.

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Closing Time: Red Sox 9, A’s 4

06.01.10 at 10:59 pm ET
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The Red Sox kept their winning ways going, taking their third straight victory, beating the A’s, 9-4, in the teams series-opener at Fenway Park. The Sox appeared in trouble early on, falling into a 4-0 hole in the fifth inning. But the hosts managed three runs in the fifth, two in the sixth, one run in the seventh, and three more in the eighth to help hand starter John Lackey his sixth victory of the season.

Leading the way was Victor Martinez, who finished with five hits, four of them doubles, becoming the first catcher to hit four doubles in a games since Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar at Fenway Park on June 6, 1997. (Click here for a complete recap.)


– Victor Martinez showed his worth once again, especially against left-handers. Martinez finished the night going 4-for-4, scoring a run and driving in a run. Perhaps his biggest hit of the night came in the sixth when he broke a 4-4 tie with a run-scoring double off lefty reliever Craig Breslow. The decision to allow Breslow to face Martinez with Darnell McDonald at third seem curious considering the catcher’s success against lefties, both for the night and the season. Martinez came into the game hitting .383 against left-handers, and kicked off his night against Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez (a lefty) with two doubles and a single. Martinez also showed he can hit right-handers, as well, managing his fourth double of the night in the eighth, plating Dustin Pedroia. He also improved his batting average by 22 points, now sitting at .279.

– Like Martinez, the entire Red Sox lineup has continued to excel against left-handers. With the win over Gonzalez, the Sox improved to 12-6 in games started by left-handers, with the lefty starters they have faced going a combined 3-5 with a 5.97 ERA.

– Through four at-bats it appeared as thought Dustin Pedroia might be residing in the “What Went Wrong With The Red Sox” category. But in the eighth, after a night of hitting some balls hard with no results, Pedroia snapped an 0-for-17 drought by launching a double over the head of center fielder Rajai Davis.

Adrian Beltre continued to add punch to the Red Sox’ lineup, this time getting the Red Sox back in the game after their early four-run hole by launching a three-run shot over the left field wall in the fifth. It was the sixth homer of the season for Beltre, with all of his round-trippers coming with the Red Sox either trailing or tied. Even with all the success of Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz in the last month, it was Beltre who finished May having the most extra-base hits for the Red Sox.


– John Lackey pitched well enough to win, but there is still something missing from the starter’s game these days. Lackey finished his night having given up four runs on 12 hits over six innings. Lackey’s ERA now stands at 4.95.

– While McDonald once again filled in admirably in center field (coming away with a hit and two walks), his presence in the lineup raised a red flag as Mike Cameron had to sit out once again due to abdominal soreness. Cameron was scheduled to visit with Dr. Thomas Gill to diagnose the root of his problems. ‘€œWe were really excited Sunday that he felt good,’€ Francona said. ‘€œSome of that excitement we felt Sunday is a little tempered now.’€

Francona on Rivers: ‘I like the way he does everything’

06.01.10 at 6:43 pm ET
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If you found yourself driving around a car and engaging in some demonstrative gestures towards the driver of a vehicle that was inconveniently pulled over next to a rotary on Friday night, well, that may have been your way of saying hello to the manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Terry Francona has long been an enthusiast of the Celtics. Even when the team struggled through its 2006-07 year of misery, the Sox skipper would stay up in order to watch the Celtics play (and usually get crushed) on the West Coast.

So now, he is very much caught up in the excitement of the Celtics’ run to the NBA finals. But it is not merely a fan’s perspective that he brings to the mix.

The Celtics hired Doc Rivers in 2004, while Francona was in the dugout for his first season with the Red Sox. Since then, the two have struck up a friendship, and while much of their correspondence is via text, the two find a way to deliver meaningful messages to one another. That, in turn, led to an illegally and inconveniently parked Francona on Friday night, much to the chagrin of a few Boston drivers.

The Sox had gotten blasted by the Royals, enduring a 12-5 defeat that concluded with utility man Bill Hall on the mound. But the Celtics were putting the final touches on their Game 6 victory over the Magic to clinch their advance to the finals. And Francona wanted to reach out to his friend.

“It was the night we lost a tough game. I was driving, and they were getting down towards the end but it wasn’€™t the end, so I purposely sat at the rotary because I knew I’€™d lose my service when I got to the house,” said Francona. “I wanted to be, like, one of the first ones to tell them congratulations, but I didn’€™t want to do it too quick. So I endured all the people flipping me off, then sent him a note saying, ‘€˜Hey ‘€“ way to go.’€™ because I do care. I’€™m a big fan of the Celtics, but I’€™m a big Doc fan. I like the way he does everything.”

Professionally, they share a number of similarities. Francona is 51, Rivers is 48. Both had relatives who offered roots in their sports — Francona as a second-generation baseball player who came to be called by the same name (Tito) as his father, Rivers as the nephew of Jim Brewer. Both learned a great deal from spending four seasons (for Rivers, four and change) with other franchises before getting fired. Both took over once-proud Boston franchises that had become desperate for championships and oversaw them as they climbed the mountain. Both are now viewed as being among the best in their field.

Philosophically, the two also feel a kinship. That became particularly evident to both this past winter, when Rivers accepted an invitation from the Red Sox to speak at the organization’s Rookie Development Program. Rivers addressed a group of Sox prospects, and Francona found himself in nearly total agreement with his basketball-coaching colleague.

“I think our kids enjoyed [Rivers’ talk]. They probably didn’€™t enjoy it more than me. I loved it. When he talks, he has a lot to say that’€™s really interesting,” said Francona. “We laughed afterwards. I said, ‘€˜You may have said it better than I do, but I think we agree totally on everything.’€™ we got to talk a little bit. All the things he believes in, I probably agree with. I hope I’€™m able to get it across to our guys in a way that he does, because I think he’€™s tremendous.”

Francona loves both hoops and football, but he resists the temptation to talk X’s and O’s with either Rivers or Bill Belichick. Those two, in turn, pay him the same courtesy.

“[Rivers] hasn’€™t had any complaints [about Francona’s bullpen management],” said Francona. “He’€™s one of the few.”

Yet while he does not try to discuss the relative merits of playing man-to-man or zone, Francona makes no secret of the fact that he is invested in the Celtics, a fact that he admitted candidly when asked for an NBA finals prediction.

“I’€™d better say the Celtics,” said Francona. “I’€™m a biased observer. I like the Celtics so much I’€™m rooting for them. I’€™m a big fan.”

Read More: Doc Rivers, Terry Francona,

Red Sox pre-game notes: Cameron’s setback

06.01.10 at 4:35 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that outfielder Mike Cameron is experiencing a recurrence of soreness that kept him out of the lineup for Tuesday night’s game against the Athletics. Francona said that Cameron, who went 2-for-3 on Sunday with two doubles and a pair of RBI, would see Red Sox team physician Dr. Thomas Gill to determine the nature of the issue.

“We were really excited Sunday that he felt good,” Francona said. “Some of that excitement we felt Sunday is a little tempered now.”

The pain that the 37-year-old encountered was in a different location from the strain that forced him to the disabled list. But the Sox were unsure whether that fact represented a positive or negative development.

“That’€™s what we’€™re trying to figure out. The area that he originally was hurting in is feeling OK. It could just be simply general soreness, which I think we’€™re all hoping,” said Francona. …

In other Red Sox injury news, Francona said that Jacoby Ellsbury took some swings in the batting cage and that the team is still figuring out a plan for Josh Beckett, who has been on the DL with a lower back strain since May 19. Beckett had suggested that he would be allowed to pick up a ball only when his back felt 100 percent; he had not reached that target on Monday’s off-day. Francona said the team will check with the right-hander Tuesday and “figure out where to go the next couple of days.”

Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett, mike cameron,

All-Star voting getting ugly for Sox

06.01.10 at 3:30 pm ET
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When last week’s numbers on All-Star balloting came out, it didn’t look good. One week later, it’s gotten worse. It appears the Red Sox will have to hope their pitching gets attention if they want strong representation July 13 at Angel Stadium.

Red Sox hitters are being crushed so badly in the fan voting that Dustin Pedroia is the only Boston player to have half the number of votes as their respective position’s leader.

Here’s a look at Sox hitters and where they rank.

Kevin Youkilis (298,332) — fourth among 1B (leader Mark Texeiera has 610,851).

Pedroia (487,733) — second among second basemen (leader Robinson Cano has 811,300).

Adrian Beltre (190,988) — fourth among third basemen (leader Evan Longoria has 915,247).

Victor Martinez (222,527) — third among catchers (leader Joe Mauer has 1,138,286).

David Ortiz — (235,986) — fourth among designated hitters (leader Vladimir Guerrero has 725,752).

Read More: 2010 MLB All Star Game, Adrian Beltre, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis

Red Sox vs. Athletics matchups, 6/1

06.01.10 at 12:51 pm ET
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After going 18-11 in the month of May, the Red Sox begin June in a better standing in the American League East. Following an April in which Boston went below .500 with an 11-12 record, the Sox picked up their play and closed the gap to five games between them and the division-leading Rays in May. Now, Boston will open up the new month with a three-game series at Fenway Park against the Athletics. Lefty Gio Gonzalez will be on the mound in Tuesday night’€™s opener for Oakland while John Lackey will look to continue his success against the Athletics from his days in an Angels uniform.

In only his second full season in the majors, Gonzalez is 5-3 with a 3.54 ERA. After going 6-7 last year, he’€™s only one win away from reaching his victory total of 2009. Gonzalez has been even better in his last three starts, in which he’€™s 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA, including an eight-inning gem against the Giants on May 22. He outdueled Matt Cain in a 1-0 win, allowing only two hits and one walk.

During a season when he had control issues, Gonzalez walked four hitters in his only start against Boston last year at Fenway Park. He gave up five hits and three runs while striking out eight to earn a no-decision in a 5-8 loss. Gonzalez has improved his control this season, walking 27 batters through 61 innings after allowing 56 free passes in 98 2/3 innings last year.

Opposing Gonzalez will be Lackey, who is no stranger to the Athletics lineup. In 29 career starts against Oakland, he’€™s 16-4 with a 2.76 ERA ‘€” his most wins over any opponent and his lowest ERA against any team he’€™s faced more than twice. Despite struggling at times this season, Lackey had a solid outing in his last start against Tampa Bay, allowing two runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings.

Prior to his win against the Rays, Lackey was on a two-game losing streak and had allowed 15 runs over three starts. The righty also has had problems finding the strike zone this year and has a concerning walk-strikeout ratio (30 walks, 35 strikeouts). Facing a familiar opponent in the Athletics, Lackey will attempt to find a rhythm and continue a consistent pace through the rest of the season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Athletics, Gio Gonzalez, john lackey, Red Sox

The Factors – Week 8

06.01.10 at 8:59 am ET
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* – LEADING OFF INNINGS – Boston’s leadoff man has reached base 172 imes this season (tops in the majors), but he has scored only 75 times (43.6%), the 3rd lowest percentage in the AL:

39.6% – Baltimore Orioles
40.8% – Seattle Mariners
43.6% – Boston Red Sox

During Week 8, the Sox were much better (56%).  The Blue Jays lead the majors at 59.0% for the season.

Red Sox pitchers have made a big improvement here as they allowed a leadoff OBP of just .291 over the last 4 weeks (9th in MLB) after .351 during the first 4 weeks (26th).  In the last 4 weeks they have walked 23 leadoff batters, tied with Toronto for the most in the AL in that span.

While Tim Wakefield leads the Red Sox this season, allowing a leadoff OBP of .283, the AL leaders are concentrated on the West Coast:

.113 – Doug Fister, SEA (7 of 62)
.196 – Cliff Lee, SEA
.197 – Jered Weaver, LAA

Jon Lester (.358) and John Lackey (.333) are among the 25 highest OBP’s allowed to leadoff men so far.

* – AFTER 0-1 COUNTS – Despite hitting just .222 last week following 0-1 counts (15th), their 6 HR after falling behind led the AL and their 13 extra-base hits led the majors.  Over the last 4 weeks the Sox have 21 such HR, not only the most in the majors, but only one other team has even reached 14 in that span (Toronto, 18).

8 of David Ortiz‘ 11 HR have come after falling behind 0-1.  That’s tied with Texas’ Vlad Guerrero for the most in the AL this season.  Also, Kevin Youkilis has battled back to walk 17 times after a first pitch strike, the most in the majors (Teixiera, 14).

For the season, the Red Sox have fallen behind 1-0 in 51.6% of their plate appearances, the highest percentage in the majors so far:

51.6% – Boston Red Sox
50.6% – Cleveland Indians
49.6% – San Diego Padres

Boston’s pitchers have allowed just a .168 average after 0-1 counts over the last 4 weeks, the lowest in the majors in that span:

.168 – Boston Red Sox
.182 – Detroit Tigers
.182 – Toronto Blue Jays

Their 5 such HR over the last 4 weeks is also a marked improvement from the 12 allowed in the first 4.

AFTER 1-0 COUNTS – The Sox .322 average after 1-0 counts last week led the AL, but their .276 season-to-date mark still ranks 10th.  That breaks down to .216 over the first 4 weeks and .305 over the last 4.

The .207 average allowed by Sox pitchers after 1-0 counts also led the AL last week:

.207 – Boston Red Sox
.219 – Los Angeles Angels
.229 – Baltimore Orioles

AFTER 3-0 COUNTS – Red Sox opponents have an MLB-high .857 OBP following 3-0 counts this season, but fortunately, they’ve only occurred 4.4% of the time, the 2nd lowest frequency in the majors (Minnesota, 3.3%).  Since the start of last season, Daisuke Matsuzaka had fallen behind 3-0 on 22 batters and he has proceeded to walk 19 of them.

AFTER 0-2 COUNTS – Boston’s hitters did nothing after falling in an 0-2 hole in Week 8, hitting just .105 with a .286 OPS. They are now down to 12th in the majors for the season in OPS after 0-2 counts (.476) after leading the majors during the first 4 weeks with a .230 average and .568 OPS.

The pitchers have been spectacular after 0-2 over the last 4 weeks, allowing just 21 hits (MLB-best .114 average) including opponents 8 for 59 (.136) last week.  The Red Sox have allowed 2 HR this season following 0-2 counts (4 teams have allowed just 1), but the Diamondbacks hurlers have allowed a whopping 13 bombs after getting way ahead.

FULL COUNTS – While Sox hitters rank 3rd in MLB in full count frequency (15.2%; trailing only the Indians and Yankees), their .777 full count OPS ranks just 25th.  They’re showing signs of climbing out of that hole though, as their OPS has been .930 over the past 4 weeks (7th), compared to just .626 (29th) over the season’s first 4 weeks.

The pitchers, though, are still just awful on 3-2 counts as their 1.016 OPS allowed over 315 full count PA’s is not only last in the majors but is nearly 50 points worse than any other AL club.  Much of this is due to their 114 walks on full counts, which is 36.2% of opponent full count PA’s.  That’s on pace to be the highest 3-2 walk percentage by a Red Sox staff since they started tracking the stat in 1988:

36.2% – 2010 Red Sox
34.7% – 1997 Red Sox
34.3% – 1996 Red Sox

GROUNDBALLS – I’m tellin’ ya, people can smirk all they want, but that defense is REALLY improved.  After allowing a .214 average on grounders during weeks 1 through 4, it’s been just .181 over the last 4 weeks, 2nd best in the majors.  For the season, they’re tied for 6th at .196.  Here are the groundball averages against Red Sox pitchers (min. 20 grounders against) along with their average last season:

Daniel Bard – .069 (.273)
Jonathan Papelbon – .095 (.286)
Jon Lester – .131 (.221)
Manny Delcarmen – .143 (.253)
Clay Buchholz – .188 (.208)
Josh Beckett – .203 (.214)
Daisuke Matsuzaka – .214 (.338)
Tim Wakefield – .230 (.242)
John Lackey – .236 (.182 for LAA)
Hideki Okajima – .263 (.309)
Ramon Ramirez – .286 (.216)
Scott Atchison – .350 (NA)

LINE DRIVES – OK, what’s lucky is that opponents have hit just .645 over the last 4 weeks on line drives against the Red Sox, the 3rd lowest average in the majors.  What’s not luck is that the Red Sox have allowed line drives on 13.5% of their opponent plate appearances, just 9th best in the American League.

One other thing:  Daisuke Matsuzaka has allowed 27 line drives, but only 11 have gone for hits, a .407 average.  That’s the lowest line drive average allowed in the majors so far this season (min. 20 line drives allowed).

RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION – Last week, opponents managed just 2 hits in 28 AB against Red Sox pitchers with runners in scoring position and 2 outs.  Since May 10 (three weeks), Sox hurlers have allowed a .107 average with RISP and 2 outs, the best mark in the majors by far in that span:

.107 – Boston Red Sox
.181 – Chicago White Sox
.189 – San Francisco Giants

During that same three-week span, the Yankees have allowed a .365 average (31-85) with RISP and 2 outs, the worst mark in the majors.

Kalish promoted to Triple-A

05.31.10 at 10:31 pm ET
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A baseball source confirmed that Red Sox outfielder Ryan Kalish, one of the top position prospects in the system, was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after Monday’s game with the Portland Sea Dogs. The news was first reported by the Portland Press-Herald.

The 22-year-old started out slowly this year, hitting .222 with a .373 OBP, .444 slugging mark and .818 OPS in April before enjoying a tremendous second month of the season. In May, Kalish hit .345/.430/.586/1.016 with four homers, improving his overall marks to a .293 average, .404 OBP (4th in the Eastern League), .527 slugging (9th) and .931 OPS (6th). His performance this year cemented his strong showing in Portland in 2009 when, after an early-season promotion, he hit .271/.341/.440/.781 with 13 homers in 103 games.

Kalish has always had an advanced approach at the plate. Since the start of the 2009 season, he has also shown solid power potential. He hit the second most homers in the Sox system in 2009 (18), and is tied for second in the system this year (8).

‘€œI’€™ve heard it from a million people: ‘€˜We think we can get power out of you,’€™’€ Kalish said this offseason. ‘€œUntil this year, I never really thought it would actually happen.

‘€œOnce I started it, I knew it would keep going. It was an awesome surprise to add it to my game. Last year, I feel like, almost similar season as far as average, but when you add home runs and score a lot of runs, stay on the field, it’€™s an awesome combination.

‘€œIn years past, I concentrated on guiding the ball to the opposite field. It’€™s good to hit the ball to the opposite field, but to make money in the big leagues, you’€™ve got to hit home runs, and pulling the ball is where it’€™s at. I got a lot more aggressive.’€

For more on Kalish, click here.

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Report: Sox trade Van Every to Pirates

05.31.10 at 10:42 am ET
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According to MLB.com, the Red Sox have traded outfielder Jonathan Van Every back to the Pirates in exchange for minor league catcher Josue Peley. The Red Sox had originally acquired Van Every from Pittsburgh on April 24, but then designated the 30-year-old for assignment 10 days ago.

In 21 games with the Red Sox this season, Van Every hit .211 with one home run.

Peley was a 35th round pick in the 2006 draft, having been converted from middle infielder to catcher in the Pirates’ system. The 22-year-old was hitting .179 with the Single A West Virginia Power.

Source: Angels haven’t contacted Sox about Lowell

05.30.10 at 6:56 pm ET
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According to a baseball source, the Los Angeles Angels have not yet shown any interest in Red Sox corner infielder Mike Lowell. The Angels lost middle-of-the-order slugger and first baseman Kendry Morales on Saturday when he broke his leg while celebrating his walk-off grand slam. To date, according to the source, the pursuit of a replacement has not yet included Lowell, who is hitting .239/.329/.358/.687 in part-time duty with the Sox this year.

Read More: Angels, kendry morales, mike lowell,
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