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Papelbon, Sox close it out

06.11.09 at 10:52 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth inning and retired the Yankees in order, aided by a pair of spectacular plays, to complete the Sox’ 4-3 win over the Yankees. Boston has now won all eight contests against New York this year. It was Papelbon’s 16th save of the season, and just his fourth appearance in which he did not allow a baserunner.

Nick Green made a spectacular defensive play to start the ninth, ranging far up the middle and doing a pirouette as he crossed the second base bag and delivered a rocket throw to first to get Derek Jeter by a step. It seems safe to say that Julio Lugo — who has been on the bench for each of the last five games — will see little playing time going forward.

After Johnny Damon flied to left for the second out, Mark Teixeira hit a rocket down the first-base line. But Kevin Youkilis, positioned perfectly, speared the rocket for the game’s final out.

Sox fight back, reclaim lead in the eighth

06.11.09 at 10:41 pm ET
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On Wednesday, Yankees starter CC Sabathia said that he wanted to pitch until his arm dropped off, and on Thursday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to accommodate that request.

Sabathia was already well over 100 pitches through seven innings, but with a bullpen in which Girardi has little faith, the pitcher — one of the most durable in the game, and someone who had permitted opponents just a .588 OPS after his 100th pitch this year — returned to the hill for the eighth.

The strategy backfired spectacularly, as the Sox immediately mounted a rally against Sabathia and reliever Alfredo Aceves.

Nick Green led off by lining a 2-2 single to left. Dustin Pedroia then followed by fouling off pitch after pitch in an eventual 10-pitch walk. J.D. Drew then followed by grounding a run-scoring single to center.

That was it for Sabathia (after a season-high 123 pitches), but not for the Sox rally. Against Aceves, Kevin Youkilis (1-for-3 with a homer against the reliever entering tonight) singled to right to load the bases. Jason Bay (2-for-3 with a homer and two walks) followed with a run-scoring single to left that tied the game. Finally, Mike Lowell lofted a sac fly to center that gave the Sox a 4-3 lead.

All four of the runs were charged to Sabathia, who likely deserved a better fate on a night when he mastered the Sox through seven innings. But the perceived weakness of the Yankees bullpen came to fruition, and it proved costly for New York.

The Sox, who were 3-20 when trailing after seven innings prior to tonight, lead 4-3, and are now three outs from their eighth straight win to start the season against the Yankees. Jonathan Papelbon is on for the ninth.

‘Pen Blows It for Penny

06.11.09 at 9:59 pm ET
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The markers of excellence for the Red Sox bullpen have been everywhere. Entering tonight, the team’s relievers:

  • Led the majors with a 2.77 ERA.
  • Led the A.L. with a .232 opponents batting average.
  • Had allowed the fewest hits in the A.L. (151)
  • Were tied for the fewest blown saves (3) in the A.L.

All that went out the window in the seventh. Manny Delcarmen came on in relief of Brad Penny, and was promptly tagged by the bottom of the order. Melky Cabrera led off with a single, and Francisco Cervelli (!) doubled on a hit-and-run down the left-field line to score Cabrera and tie the game, 1-1. After Derek Jeter grounded out and Johnny Damon walked to put runners on first and second, Mark Teixeira flied out to the warning track in center.

That put runners on the corners with two outs for Alex Rodriguez, the superstar who is much-maligned for his supposed inability to hit in the clutch. That did not seem an issue tonight, when Rodriguez ran the count full and then sent a 94 mph fastball screaming off the wall in centerfield for a two-run double. The shot gave the Yankees, who had trailed all game, a 3-1 lead, and ended Delcarmen’s night.

In late and close situations this year (7th inning or later, Yankees up by no more than one or with the tying run at least on deck), Rodriguez is now 5-for-16 (.313) with a .522 OBP, .938 slugging mark, 1.460 OPS and eight runs batted in.

Seems like he’s doing adequately in “clutch” situations.

Read More: Alex Rodriguez,

Penny’s value climbs

06.11.09 at 9:16 pm ET
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At a time when Brad Penny is on the market, the Red Sox must be thrilled to see what he is doing tonight.

The right-hander’s stuff appears better than it has been at any point in his season with the Red Sox. His fastball – if one is to trust the radar gun readings at Fenway – is popping Jason Varitek‘s mitt from 94-98 mph. He’s also effectively mixing his curve and, more effectively than any other time this year, his change and splitter. He is sustaining the power of his fastball into the sixth inning, beyond the 100-pitch mark, without sacrificing command of the pitch. (He has been mostly on the corners.)

Penny’s numbers this year (5-2, 5.85 ERA, 6 quality starts in 11 outings entering tonight) have been less than eye-popping. But tonight’s four-pitch mix, combined with the fact that he has held the vaunted Yankees lineup scoreless through six innings and a season-high 117 pitches while holding his own in a pitcher’s duel with CC Sabathia, makes a reasonable case that the starter is inching ever closer to his 2006-07 peak form.

Tonight, he has allowed six hits – five singles (mostly of the seeing-eye and infield variety) and a double. As he mows through the lineup of a contending team, other teams must surely be considering the possibility that this is a pitcher capable of being a useful contributor in a pennant race — if not with the Sox, then somewhere.

Penny dropped a full-count splitter on Hideki Matsui to catch the Yankees‘ D.H. looking at a called third strike, the pitcher’s fifth strikeout of the game against just one walk. Presuming that all goes well for John Smoltz in his rehab start on Friday, the Red Sox are open for business.

Read More: Brad Penny,

Red Sox Draft Picks: Rounds 31-50

06.11.09 at 8:34 pm ET
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Round 31: Shaughn Webb, left handed pitcher, Palm Beach CC (FL), 20 years old

Round 32: Michael Clark, left handed pitcher, American Heritage HS (FL), 18 years old

Clark had a very impressive senior season at American Heritage HS in Florida. He finished the year with a 2.36 ERA and opposing hitters hit just .198 against him. In 56 innings, he only allowed 19 earned runs.

Round 33: William Tart, right handed pitcher, Pendleton HS (NC), 18 years old

Nicknamed “Blaze”, Tart made Baseball America’s list of best players left for Day 3.

Round 34: James Patterson, left handed pitcher, Central Arizona College, 20 years old

In 94 innings this year at Central Arizona College, Patterson went 12-2 with a 1.53 ERA and struck out 117 batters. At this point 3 out of the Sox first 4 picks of the day were left handed pitchers.

Round 35: Matthew Milroy, right handed pitcher, Marmion Academy HS (IL), 18 years old

The Midwest baseball season starts late, and typically in cold weather, and so the stuff that a pitcher exhibits in his high school season does not always reflect his potential. As such, in recent years, the Sox have taken high-school pitchers from the Midwest and then followed them for the summer to get a better gauge of their abilities. One example is Kyle Stroup, “Mr. Irrelevant” from the 2008 draft: the Sox took Stroup, an Illinois high schooler, with the last pick of the draft, in the 50th round (1,504th overall). They had him work out at Fenway after the draft, and watched him compete in summer ball where he touched the low-90s. The Sox paid him $150,000 — remember: 50th round, 1,504th pick in the draft — to sign.

Milroy, who struck out 178 in 104 innings over the last two seasons, represents a similar summer follow candidate. He has a committment to play in college for Illinois, but the pitcher told the Suburban Chicago News that the Sox will monitor him this summer to figure out what kind of offer they might make to convince him to turn pro.

Round 36: Michael Yastrzemski, right fielder, St. John’s Prep HS (MA), 18 years old

Yes, Mike is Yaz’s grandson. He was considered one of the top — if not the top — high-school bats from New England but fell in the draft because he was considered to have an all-but ironclad commitment to Vanderbilt. Still, a year ago, the Sox appealed to Ryan Westmoreland’s local sensibilities (and about $2 million) to get the Rhode Island native to walk away from a scholarship offer to Vandy.

However, it appears that the Sox will be unlikely to convince Yastrzemski to back away from Vanderbilt. The young outfielder told the Eagle Tribune that he has compelling reasons to go to college:

Before his dad died he told his only son to promise him one thing.

“He wanted me to go to college and get an education,” said Yastrzemski. “He knew I wanted to play baseball, but you never know. It’s always nice to have the education to fall back on.”

Round 37: Matthew Koch, right handed pitcher, Washington HS (IA), 18 years old

Koch is a 6’3” shortstop and pitcher who was ranked as the top player in Iowa by Baseball America. He has a scholarship commitment to Louisville.

Round 38: Ezekiel Devoss, center fielder, Astronaut HS (FL), 18 years old

Zeke Devoss from Astronaut High School: great name for player and high school alike, though it does come as some disappointment that the school decided to lame up the space shuttle as a mascot (they are “The War Eagles”).

Devoss has a commitment to play college ball at Miami. His father informed Florida Today that the Red Sox will make him a summer follow, and that Devoss will consider an offer from the Sox.

Round 39: Gavin McCourt, outfielder, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA), 18 years old

Gavin is the son of Frank McCourt, the current owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. This may make one wonder why the Dodgers did not take him but maybe if they hadn’t by the 39th round, they weren’t going to.

McCourt is slated to attend Stanford in the fall, where he hopes to join the baseball team as a walk-on, according to the Los Angeles Times. As for the possibility of signing with the Red Sox, McCourt offered an interesting take on how negotiations might proceed:

“I don’t think Scott Boras would fit well into the family dynamics,” Gavin McCourt told the Times. “I think I’ll let my dad represent me.”

Round 40: James Dykstra, right handed pitcher, Rancho Bernardo HS (CA), 18 years old

Although he isn’t related to Lenny, he does have a pretty neat website where you can learn a lot more about him. He is committed to play at Yavapai College (Curt Schilling’s alma mater!), and is the brother of 2008 first-rounder Allan Dykstra — whom the Sox took in the 34th round of the 2005 draft but failed to sign.

Round 41: Kyle Rutter, right handed pitcher, NC State University, 22 years old

Round 42: Gera Sanchez, right handed pitcher, New Mexico JC, 20 years old

Originally hailing from New Mexico, Sanchez had good success at the junior college level. There’s a good writeup about him in this blog entry. Sanchez told the Leader-Telegram in Eau Claire, Wisc. (where he is pitching in a summer wood-bat league) that he would likely return to New Mexico Junior College.

Round 43: Luke Maile, catcher, Covington Catholic HS (KY), 18 years old

This is what Baseball America had to say about Maile in August of last year. “Maile has the type of arm strength from behind the plate that causes heads to whip around. His POP times, which currently sit in the 2.00 range, can be decreased with better footwork and a quicker release. Maile needs to improve with the bat, but he does flash a decent swing.”

Maile fell due to signability concerns. He has a commitment to play for Kentucky, but according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Sox will follow him this summer, and the young catcher is willing to sign regardless of the round he was drafted in so long as he receives the right bonus.

Round 44: Derrick Thomas, right fielder, Roswell HS (GA), 17 years old

Thomas, a tough, gritty player with speed, power and size, is committed to play for Memphis University next fall. Here’s the press release from Memphis.

Round 45: Kyle Arnsberg, catcher, Arlington Lamar HS (TX), 18 years old

Kyle is the son of Brad Arnsberg, pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays. In an article in the Globe and Mail, his father states that he believes his kid will wind up as a pitcher but he suffered a shoulder injury playing football earlier in year so he has played primarily at first base this year. He also said that his son signed a letter of intent to attend Arizona State University next year. You can read the full article here.

Round 46: John Pivach, right handed pitcher, U New Orleans, 21 years old

Pivach, a sophomore, was 0-1 with a 7.16 ERA for UNO this year, but his fastball is a 90+ mph offering. He is currently pitching for the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers.

Round 47: Jordan Sallis, second base, U Arkansas Ft Smith, 20 years old

Sallis, a speedy 5-foot-8 infielder, played in 46 of the Lions’ 58 games this past spring and batted .280 with 10 doubles, one home run and 23 RBIs. Originally from Muskogee, Okla., Sallis has been a two-year starter for Arkansas. According to the Muskegee Phoenix, Sallis is deciding between signing with the Sox and transferring to either Southeastern, Arkansas State or Southern University.

Round 48: Brian Heere, right field, U Kansas, 21 years old

After only one season with Kansas, Heere seems to be making a big impact. He was the number three hitter in the lineup this season and helped lead the team to the NCAA tournament. An article about what he brings to the team from the Kansas City Star can be found here.

Round 49: Chris Constantino, third base, Bishop Hendricken School (RI), 17 years old

Another player from the New England area (more specifically, Rocco Baldelli’s high school), Constantino has a sweet swing. Check it out in this video. Constantino told the Providence Journal that the Sox planned to treat him as a summer follow.

Round 50: Andrew Hedman, first base, Pomona-Pitzer College (CA), 22 years old

Hedman hit 24 homers as a senior for Pomona-Pitzer on his way to being named Division III Player of the Year (and getting a plug in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd). His nerve-wracking wait through 50 rounds is chronicled here.

Alex Speier contributed to this report.

Read More: mike yastrzemski, mlb draft,

Ortiz goes deep – against Sabathia

06.11.09 at 8:02 pm ET
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David Ortiz‘ fourth homer of the year was his most impressive. The Red Sox slugger jumped on a 94 mph fastball from Yankees starter Carsten Charles Sabathia, and sent a rocket over the Green Monster.

It is rare enough to see Ortiz going deep this year (though it is worth noting that the occurrence is becoming increasingly frequent, as Ortiz now has three homers this month). But to see him do it against CC Sabathia qualifies as the sort of event that should lead to bold proclamations.

Here’s one: Ortiz is back.

Sabathia had gone 26 straight starts, from last July 2 to this May 24, WITHOUT PERMITTING A SINGLE EXTRA-BASE HIT TO LEFT-HANDERS. Since then, he has allowed a double to Raul Ibanez and a homer by Grady Sizemore. From last July 2 through yesterday, the left-hander was holding portsiders to a .186 average (16th lowest in the majors, min. 100 plate appearances) and .226 slugging mark (4th lowest).

So the homer by Ortiz qualifies as a major turn of events. So does the fact that Ortiz is now hitting .296 with a 1.033 OPS and a team-leading three homers in June.

Just last night, hitting coach Dave Magadan suggested that Ortiz appeared primed for a breakout:

‘€œHe’€™s looking like he’€™s got some confidence. He’€™s consistently hitting the ball hard. His outs tonight were loud outs,’€ hitting coach Dave Magadan said after last night’€™s 6-5 Red Sox win over the Yankees. ‘€œHe’€™s getting his pitch and he’€™s exploding on it. He took (two walks).

‘€œHe’€™s just looking very hitter-ish up there,’€ said Magadan. ‘€œHe’€™s got a little bit of a swagger going. Hopefully sooner than later he’€™s going to start becoming his old self.’€

It now appears that time might have come.

Red Sox lead 1-0 after two innings.

(Footnote: not to be forgotten – J.D. Drew also stroked a liner off the base of the Green Monster in left-center for a double, so the Sox have become the first team to have left-handers record multiple extra-base hits against Sabathia since last May 31.)

Read More: C.C. Sabathia, David Ortiz,

Penny Drills A-Rod

06.11.09 at 7:27 pm ET
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If this is Brad Penny’s last start as a member of the Red Sox, chances are that his teammates will remember him fondly.

With two outs and a runner on third, Brad Penny fired a 96 mph fastball inside to Alex Rodriguez for a ball. Penny followed that with a 97 mph fastball for a called strike and then, with his third pitch, he drilled Rodriguez with another 97 mph fastball in the middle of the lower back.

The clearly intentional drilling was likely in response to the fact that the Yankees have twice drilled Jason Bay with pitches – first when Joba Chamberlain fired a fastball into Bay’s back in early May in New York, and again on Tuesday when Jose Veras pounded Bay (hitting .480 against the Yankees this year) with another mid-90s heater.

Both benches were warned.

There is an irony to any discipline that might be meted out by Major League Baseball: if Penny is suspended for intentionally drilling Rodriguez, the suspension could either a) be served with another team, if the pitcher does get traded to make room in the rotation for John Smoltz; or b) could buy some time with a quick-fix clearing of the log-jam in the rotation by forcing Penny to miss a turn.

Anyhoo, Penny’s featured his best fastball velocity of the season in the first inning, firing six fastballs at 97 mph, and sitting in the 95-97 mph range. Still, the Yankees are making him work: Penny threw 25 pitches in the first, and the Yankees swung and missed at none.

Read More: Alex Rodriguez, Brad Penny, jason bay, joba chamberlain

Lowell: Philly fans can be rude

06.11.09 at 5:12 pm ET
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Mike Lowell nearly signed with the Philadelphia Phillies following his 2007 MVP performance in the World Series.

On Thursday, on the eve of a return trip to the city with the Red Sox, he sounded like he was glad he stayed in Boston.

“They’re kind of rude there,” Lowell said of the Philadelphia fan base. “In New York you hear, ‘You (stink),’ a lot, which I think you can deal with. They’re a little more personal in Philadelphia. But I think that’s the nature of their fans and how they’ve been characterized through the years. They’re tough on their own players so I think it’s only normal to feel like if you’re a visiting guy it’s not really going to be that easy.”

The Red Sox resume the interleague portion of their schedule on Friday at Citizens Bank Park in South Philly when they open a three-game weekend series.

Read More: mike lowell, Philadelphia Phillies, Philly fans,

Smoltz pursues perfection

06.11.09 at 5:00 pm ET
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In a few minutes, John Smoltz will commence his fifth and likely last rehab outing in the first game of a double-header for Triple-A Pawtucket in Syracuse. His rehab assignment, which featured two outings for Single-A Greenville, one with Double-A Portland and, most recently, one last Friday with the Pawsox, has been just short of flawless to date: in four starts, he has a 1.56 ERA, has held opponents to a .148 average and has struck out 13 and walked just two in his 17.1 innings of work.

Yet Smoltz, while pleased, remains unsatisfied. On Sunday, he gave himself a Grade B for his most recent outing, and said that he is eager to take the necessary steps to improve on that mark.

That being the case, it seems fair to wonder what the difference is between an A and a B. (Worth noting: Smoltz is close friends with Tiger Woods, the man who popularized the term “A-Game.”) Smoltz offered the following clarification on Tuesday, following Josh Beckett’s one-hit, six-inning mastery:

“What Josh did (on Tuesday) was an A: key pitches when you have to, quality of the pitch needed to dominate a lineup like the Yankees,” Smoltz said. “You can still be very effective with B and C stuff, but your chances to dominate, to get to that level, you need the stuff to make your pitches. I have room for improvement on that. That’€™s got to come with time. It’€™s been a long time since I’€™ve been up on the mound. With that patience will hopefully come the stuff that I’€™m used to.

“The (split-finger fastball) was an A the other day. Fastball was close to an A. Slider was a C. Changeup was probably a B. It’€™s just cumulative ‘€“ what I know I can do. It might never get to an A-plus, but that’€™s the goal.”

Of course, the Sox are convinced that Smoltz – an extremely intelligent pitcher thanks in part to his professorial association with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in Atlanta – can win without his best stuff. Nonetheless, the team and the pitcher will both be eager to see whether he takes another step forward with the quality of his pitches on Thursday.

Read More: john smoltz,

Red Sox vs. Yankees Match-Ups, 6/11 – Can Sabathia Win 300?

06.11.09 at 3:36 pm ET
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Finally, in the third series of the year between the Red Sox and Yankees, CC Sabathia will make his debut in ‘€œThe Rivalry.’€ He’€™s had his fair share of big games against the Sox before ‘€“ most notably, when he lost a pair of games to Boston in the 2007 ALCS. But the scrutiny that will attend him here, now, will be immense, particularly after fellow Yankees free-agent signee A.J. Burnett and Chien-Ming Wang both got lit up in the first two games of this series, leaving after just 2.2 innings each.

The Yankees need Sabathia to step up, need him to absorb innings, and, one would likely say, need him to win. Of course, winning is a peculiar talent exhibited by the mountain of a moundsman.

Sabathia (5-3, 3.56 ERA) is still just 28 years old (he turns 29 on July 21). He has 122 wins in his career. And he is now with an organization that gives him an excellent likelihood of claiming lots of wins on an annual basis, so long as he remains healthy.

His 122 wins (and counting) through his age 28 season put him on a short list. He has the eighth highest wins total for a player of that age in the last 40 years. And so, amidst the talk that Randy Johnson might be the last 300-game winner, it is worth taking a moment to consider whether Sabathia might make a run at the milestone.

Certainly, he is close to or ahead of most of the recent members of the 300 wins club through age 28. Johnson had just 49 wins at that age. Roger Clemens had 134, Greg Maddux 131 ‘€“ marks that Sabathia will likely near by the end of the year if he remains healthy. Tom Glavine had just 108 wins by Sabathia’€™s age.

So, what does Sabathia think of the milestone?

‘€œIt would be awesome to do. It would definitely be a blessing to play that long and pitch that good,’€ said Sabathia. ‘€œThree-hundred wins is unbelievable, though. I’€™d much rather focus on trying to win championships and trying to win some rings. If that comes, it comes. But it’€™s so far down the road that it’€™s something you can’€™t let yourself think about.’€

That said, Sabathia is signed to a seven-year contract right now. And he has no intention of walking away from the game when he concludes it at the age of 35. The left-hander, who won the Cy Young award in 2007, would embrace the possibility of pitching into his 40s.

‘€œYou play this game as long as you want. It’€™s a privilege,’€ said Sabathia. ‘€œIf I’€™m healthy enough, I’€™ll play until my arm falls off.’€

Here is how Sabathia has fared against the team against whom he will target career win No. 123 tonight.

RED SOX VS. SABATHIA

Rocco Baldelli (19 career at-bats against Sabathia): .211 average/ .286 OBP/ .316 slugging, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
David Ortiz (18): .278/ .286/ .316, homer, walk
Julio Lugo (18): .222/ .300/ .444, homer, 2 walks
Mark Kotsay (14): .286/ .333/ .357, walk
Jason Varitek (10): .100/ .250/ .400, homer, walk
Mike Lowell (7): 2-for-7
Kevin Youkilis (7): 3-for-7
J.D. Drew (3): 0-for-3, 3 strikeouts
Nick Green (3): 0-for-3, 2 strikeouts
Jason Bay (3): 0-for-3
Dustin Pedroia (3): 0-for-3

YANKEES VS. BRAD PENNY

Sabathia will oppose Boston’€™s Brad Penny, whose every start seems like an audition for scouts of other clubs. He is clearly a moveable piece for the Sox, given the imminence of John Smoltz‘€™ return and the depth provided in the minors by Clay Buchholz and Mike Bowden. Moreover, his stuff appears to be getting better as the season progresses. How that will translate into his first outing as a member of the Sox against the Yankees tonight remains to be seen. Here’€™s his history against the current New Yorkers:

Xavier Nady (10 career at-bats against Penny): .400 average/ .455 OBP/ .700 slugging, walk
Mark Texeira (6): 0-for-6, 3 strikeouts
Jose Molina (5): .1-for-5, homer
Angel Berroa (4): 1-for-4
Derek Jeter (3): 1-for-3
Alex Rodriguez (2): 0-for-2, walk
Johnny Damon (2): 0-for-2, walk
Jorge Posada (1 PA): walk

D.J. Bean contributed to this post.

Read More: Brad Penny, C.C. Sabathia,
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