|04.10.11 at 2:43 pm ET|
In 2007, there was a lively debate about the best pitcher in the American League. John Lackey went 19-9 and led the junior circuit in ERA with a 3.01 mark for the Angels. Josh Beckett led the majors in wins, going 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA for the Red Sox. But it was CC Sabathia who won the Cy Young that year (with Beckett finishing second and Lackey third), on the strength of a season in which he went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA while logging a startling 241 innings for the Indians.
That said, the Sox and Beckett were more than happy to see the Cy go to Sabathia, who appeared to run out of steam in the postseason. Beckett, meanwhile, was dominant in pitching the Sox past both Lackey’s Angels and Sabathia’s Indians en route to the World Series.
Since then, it has been a tale of paths divergent. Sabathia was traded in the middle of the 2008 campaign to the Brewers, and then signed a seven-year, $161 million deal with the Yankees before the 2009 campaign. In three-plus years since he won the Cy, Sabathia has cemented his credentials as one of the top handful of pitchers in the game, performing at a level that has been both extraordinary and consistent. He has a 57-25 record and 3.04 ERA, and his durability and dominance has been matched during that span only by Roy Halladay.
Lackey has enjoyed success, though of a more modest variety. He has a 38-20 record and 4.20 ERA. He missed stretches of both the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and whereas Sabathia sustained his place as one of the game’s best pitchers after relocating to the American League East, Lackey has found the going tougher now that he resides in Boston. Beckett, though an All-Star in 2009, has endured periods of struggles with his performance on the mound and his health. Sabathia has logged more than 200 additional innings over Beckett.
So, the argument since 2007 about the identity of the best pitcher since that season has been fairly one-sided. All the same, the Sox will hope that, for a night, Beckett can balance the scales a bit. Beckett will take on Sabathia on Sunday night, at a time when the Sox are getting anxious for wins.
Sabathia is 4-1 with a 3.04 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 14 walks in eight starts against the Sox as a member of the Yankees. Beckett, meanwhile, is coming off a 2010 campaign in which he suffered his greatest misery at the hands of the Yankees, against whom he went 1-2 with a 10.04 ERA in five starts, which included the back injury that he incurred on a slippery Yankee Stadium mound.
Here’s a look at how Beckett has fared against the Yankees and at how Sabathia has handled the Red Sox. Of note: one would expect to see Mike Cameron in the lineup against his former teammate Sabathia, : Read the rest of this entry »
|04.10.11 at 12:08 pm ET|
Amidst the pitching woes, there’s an overlooked truth. The Red Sox need more offense, too.
The Sox’ offensive struggles haven’t been quite as pronounced as their mound issues. Even so, they’ve been significant and surprising through this still-relatively brief eight-game stretch.
The Sox have scored 29 runs, tied for 21st in the majors; their average of 3.6 runs per game is tied for 18th. The team’s .215 average is 27th, the OBP is tied with Adrian Gonzalez‘ old team, the Padres, for 21st at .297, and the Sox’ .611 OPS is 25th in the majors.
In scoring opportunities, the Sox’ struggles are even more glaring. With runners in scoring position, they are hitting .197 (tied for 24th) with a .250 OBP (29th), .239 slugging mark (25th) and dismal .489 OPS (28th).
Certainly, the offense will get better. It’s a trust-the-track-record thing. That said, the fact that the Sox have had seven batting orders in eight games reflects the fact that they are actively searching for a formula that works, and that they have yet to settle upon one.
On Saturday, they made a move that should become more commonplace if they want to maximize their offensive potential. The Sox started Jed Lowrie at shortstop in place of Marco Scutaro. Read the rest of this entry »
|04.09.11 at 7:44 pm ET|
In an interview with the New York Times, three-time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez said that he remains open to returning to baseball in order to join a team with World Series ambitions. The right-hander, who pitched for the Red Sox from 1998-2004, said that he could be ready to face major league hitters in a month to a month and a half if a team called him, and if approached by the Phillies (with whom he pitched in the 2009 World Series), Yankees and Red Sox, he would want to return to the team with whom he enjoyed his greatest success.
“I’d probably have to say the Red Sox,” Martinez said when asked for which of those three teams he would most like to pitch. “I would like to win a World Series in the National League, so the Phillies are in there, too. But for the time I’m going to be playing, I think Boston is more suitable so that I can retire with the Boston Red Sox and go to the Hall of Fame with the same hat.”
Martinez also said that he is picking the Phillies to beat the Red Sox in the World Series.
“I believe if the pitching staff stays healthy, I’d pick the Phillies to win the World Series and National League,” said Martinez. “In the American League, I’d probably have to go with the Red Sox. They’re loaded. They have pitching, they have everything, so I think they’re due.”
Martinez, 39, did not pitch in 2010, but he has never filed retirement papers with Major League Baseball. He went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA, 37 strikeouts and eight walks in 44 innings for the Phillies in 2009. In his seven years with the Red Sox, he was 117-37 with a 2.52 ERA while averaging 10.9 strikeouts and just 2.0 walks per nine innings.
|04.09.11 at 6:41 pm ET|
But you certainly couldn’t prove it by the show he put on Saturday at Fenway Park, belting two homers to the Monster seats in left as part of a four-homer barrage that led the Yankees over the Red Sox, 9-4.
Martin afterward acknowledged the Red Sox tested the waters on the veteran catcher as a back-up but were scared off by the torn labrum in his right hip from last August – the same injury that slowed Mike Lowell over his last two seasons in Boston.
“The Red Sox, I think they were a little iffy with the injuries that I had and they weren’t too sure,” Martin said. “It was one of those injuries that hadn’t happened in baseball. The Yankees took the chance and hopefully, I’ll make it a good one for them.”
The Red Sox decided on keeping Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has mirrored many in the Boston lineup with a slow start. Salty went 1-for-4 Saturday which actually raised his average to .182 in eight games as the first-string catcher.
The Yankees, on the other hand, were not as picky as the Red Sox and felt they needed a veteran presence behind the plate to finally take some of the load off Jorge Posada until prospect Jesus Montero is ready. Call Martin a “bridge” catcher.
“I hadn’t played since August,” Martin said. “I was injured but I did the right things to get back healthy and I feel fresh.
“My focus is just going out there and giving my best effort every day. With this lineup, you feel like you’re protected anywhere you hit, and that’s a little bit different than the last couple of years. I feel comfortable wherever I hit in the lineup and I’m just trying to put good swings on the ball.” Read the rest of this entry »
|04.09.11 at 4:41 pm ET|
So much for the winning streak.
A day after the Red Sox finally claimed their first victory of the 2011 season, they quickly drifted back into the “L” column, enduring a 9-4 loss at the hands of the Yankees. Clay Buchholz got shelled early and often by New York’s imposing lineup, which chased the young right-hander after just 3 2/3 innings in which Buchholz permitted five runs (four earned) on eight hits and three walks, striking out two.
After he gave up four solo homers to the Rangers in his 2011 debut, Buchholz allowed another longball (a three-run shot by Russell Martin) in his second outing. In just two starts spanning a combined 10 innings, Buchholz (who has a 7.20 ERA and 0-2 record) has given up five homers, nearly half as many as the nine he permitted in 173 2/3 innings in 2010.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–For starters, Buchholz. In 2010, Buchholz did not allow as many as four extra-base hits in any of his 28 starts. This year, he’s done it in both of his outings, having permitted four solo homers to the Rangers in his debut last Sunday, and allowing three doubles and a homer to the Yankees on Saturday.
It would be bad enough for the Sox if Buchholz was amidst a couple of poor outings, but the team is enduring an epidemic of dreadful starts. The team has just one quality start on the year (tied with the Twins for the fewest in the majors entering Saturday). The team’s starters have a 7.46 ERA (worst in the majors), 12 homers allowed (most in the majors — and as many as the other four AL East teams combined) while permitting a .631 slugging percentage (easily the highest in the majors).
–Failure to capitalize on opportunities. The Sox were hitless in their first nine at-bats with runners in scoring position against Yankees starter Ivan Nova. For the day, they were 1-for-16. That continued a theme that has haunted the club in the early going. Entering Saturday, the Sox had a .241 average and .571 OPS (11th among the 14 AL teams) with runners in scoring position.
—Jarrod Saltalamacchia remained mired in a terrible rut to start the year. Though he singled in his fourth at-bat (when the Sox were trailing by five), he had two strikeouts, a groundout and stranded six baserunners in his first three plate appearances. Saltalamacchia is now hitting .182 for the season.
–While there were moments when Felix Doubront looked sharp — most notably while striking out Robinson Cano on a curveball to end the fourth inning — the Yankees cuffed the left-hander in the fifth inning. Most notably, Curtis Granderson jumped on a 91 mph fastball and lined it inside the Pesky Pole for a two-run homer. The blast, which came immediately after the Sox had rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fourth to bring them back within a run, gave New York a 7-4 lead and ultimately wiped out any momentum that the Sox had.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Dustin Pedroia once again did everything in his power to ignite the Sox. He went 3-for-4 with three doubles, one of those a two-out, two-run two-bagger for the only Sox hit with runners in scoring position all day.
–It wasn’t exactly a banner day for Jed Lowrie, who committed an error at shortstop (where he was playing in place of Marco Scutaro) and struck out looking at a full-count fastball down the middle with one out and two on in the bottom of the fifth. All the same, Lowrie collected a pair of hits against Yankees starter Ivan Nova and another against reliever Luis Ayala. On the young season, he is now 4-for-6 with a walk in seven plate appearances against right-handed pitchers.
|04.09.11 at 3:58 pm ET|
The complaints about the Fenway Park infield have been legendary.
From Eric Chavez calling it the “worst he ever played on” years ago when he played with Oakland to Dustin Pedroia ripping it last year for its inconsistencies, the infield on Yawkey Way has been notorious among major league infielders for decades.
But all of that has hopefully changed this year as the infield is brand new.
‘It looks beautiful,” Terry Francona raved before Saturday’s game. “A couple of things that excite us are, the texture of the dirt is really good, and I think it’ll get better as we get into a couple of homestands and it’s get played on, it’ll even get better. But everybody was really excited.
‘The hardest thing for players is inconsistency. But, again, when I walked it [Friday], it had a real nice texture to it. How’s that going to hold up? We’re one game in, and [head groundskeeper] Dave Mellor needs some days, too. He’s got to check with everybody and see how it plays and see how it digs up, if it clumps. But the initial reviews were really good.’
Pedroia was all aglow after Friday’s game, raving about how the ball bounces much truer and stays down lower to ground without coming up unexpectedly.
‘It was new,” Francona added. “There’s five infields that have this same surface. You’d have to ask Dave. But I believe it’s five. I’m sure those guys talk. Cleveland has the same one.”
Someone may have forgotten to tell Jed Lowrie. Making his first start on the new infield Saturday, he put his glove down on a grounder by Alex Rodriguez. He expected to come up like the old infield. It stayed down on the new one. Result: E-6. It was an error that opened the door for a two-run Yankees second, one of which was unearned.
|04.09.11 at 2:29 pm ET|
Terry Francona heard the news of Manny Ramirez‘s sudden retirement after Friday’s game but declined detailed comment or reaction to the slugger’s exit from the Tampa Bay Rays and Major League Baseball.
“I thought about it [Friday] night a little bit and I really don’t have a comment,” the Red Sox manager said before Saturday’s game with the Yankees. “He’s not our player. I don’t know anything about it. I saw a blurb and I guess I really don’t have a comment.
“It’s probably something that’s a little larger than baseball,” Francona said, adding that he believes today’s MLB PED testing is much improved. “Way better. Again, when things sort of looked like they getting out of hand in the mid-90s, I thinked the general public would be shocked in a good way how hard these guys work. I do get to see that. The younger players coming up, the testing is pretty stringent, and I think that’s good.”
Before Friday’s home-opening win, before the Red Sox had yet to win a game in 2011, manager Francona confirmed Saturday morning that he called the meeting to reassure his players that management still believed in them. Francona also acknowledged that GM Theo Epstein wanted a few moments with the players, an address that reliever Daniel Bard called “awesome.”
“It just seemed like it made common sense,” Francona said before the second game with the Yankees. “I don’t think you ever have a meeting for that day. It can’t be like football, every Sunday, we play too many games. From my point, I just wanted to reassure guys it’s ‘we’ and Theo spoke and I thought he spoke was more eloquently than I ever could, and I thought he spoke from the heart, which is probably more important.” Read the rest of this entry »
|04.09.11 at 1:36 pm ET|
On Saturday night in Greenville, heralded prospect Anthony Ranaudo will make his first professional start in a game that counts.
Ranaudo, who was taken in the sandwich round (No. 39 overall) in the 2010 draft, and 6-foot-5 right-hander Brandon Workman (a second rounder last year) represent a pair of pitchers who rank among the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox farm system.
To date, however, neither has thrown a single meaningful pitch since signing with the Sox last Aug. 16. Given their workloads in 2010 (Workman for the University of Texas, Ranaudo with LSU and then in the Cape League), the Sox elected not to have them pitch either for short-season Lowell or in fall instructional league.
Nonetheless, both have advanced pitch mixes that allow them to stand out from most players who are making their professional debuts. Ranaudo features a mid-90s fastball and a hard-breaking curveball along with a usable changeup. Workman has a low- to mid-90s fastball, a devastating cutter (for video of him annihilating a bat, click here), a changeup and a breaking pitch.
Given their college performances (both had pitched at prominent programs against top competition) and pitch repertoires, the two pitchers were widely expected to open the year at Hi-A Salem. After all, the Sox have followed such a course with other less-heralded college arms in their first pro seasons, including the likes of Justin Masterson, Kyle Weiland and others.
But the Sox instead opted to send both Workman and Ranaudo to Single-A Greenville of the South Atlantic League, the lowest level in the system for a full-season affiliate. So, it seems fair to wonder: Why Greenville over Salem?
Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen explains:
“The biggest thing was that they didn’t pitch at all last year. They’ve never pitched on a five-day routine. When they were in college, they pitched on a seven-day routine. They’ve never pitched on a five-day routine,” said Hazen. “The only time they’ve pitched on a five-day routine was in spring training, which was three to four times through. We’re asking them to make all these adjustments. To now have them go out and pitch at an advanced level, the guys who we’ve done that with in the past like [Kyle] Weiland, [Alex] Wilson, Justin [Masterson], those guys had a full season at Lowell. They didn’t pitch all that much, but they were on the five-day cycle for the entire season.
“We felt like we wanted to get [Ranaudo’s and Workman’s] feet wet doing those types of things where maybe there would be a little more comfort as far as the level of competition. Once they prove that they don’t belong there ‘ we certainly don’t necessarily think that in terms of raw stuff they belong there, considering the way they competed in the past ‘ but developmentally, we feel like they needed to take that step.”
Ranaudo will get the start for the Drive on Saturday, with Workman scheduled to take the hill on Sunday. While they will open the year in Greenville, the Sox certainly appear hopeful that they will pitch their way past that level in the not-too-distant future.
|04.09.11 at 1:08 pm ET|
|04.08.11 at 10:44 pm ET|
The idea was to have Bobby Jenks pitch the seventh, Daniel Bard the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon closing out games just like he has since 2007. And on Friday, that’s exactly what happened in a 9-6 win over the Yankees in the 2011 home opener at Fenway. Three of the hardest-throwing relievers in baseball. And all of them delivered.
Consider it a whole new take on “closer by committee.”
“I think that’s what they planned to do,” said Papelbon, who was perfect in recording his first save of the season and closing out Boston’s first win. “That’s the reason they brought Jenks here. I think as a bullpen unit down there, we feel like if you can get the ball to us in the late innings of a game with the lead, we should be able to hold it.”
The key to getting there was Alfredo Aceves, recalled earlier in the day before the home opener to take the place of the disabled Matt Albers. Aceves came in and did what starter John Lackey could not, put up a zero on the board against the Yankees.
“We put up four zeroes,” Francona said. “Aceves has been through this before. Bobby has pitched a closer with the White Sox. Regardless of who we’re [pitching], it doesn’t matter, we have to find ways to win.” Read the rest of this entry »
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