|05.30.10 at 6:56 pm ET|
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.
|05.30.10 at 6:23 pm ET|
It had been a rough way to start his career in Boston. Mike Cameron had injured himself almost as soon as spring training began, suffered through kidney stones (and their removal), endured a lower abdominal tear and, on top of that, had done little at the plate and was told after completing his rehab assignment that he was losing his job as the everyday center fielder of the Red Sox.
And so, on Sunday, it seemed as if Cameron was able to take satisfaction in his performance for just about the first time of the season. Cameron was able to play in three straight games against the Royals, the final one a day game after a night game that gave an indication that his body is starting to bounce back well and perhaps signaling a new chapter in a year that has been physically challenging. While the Sox will still carefully monitor his condition before committing to the idea that he will be able to play every day, he looked more like a player who could do just that.
“The first day, I showed up to spring training. The second day, there was no more 100 percent. … It was a comfort level, being able to go out and maintain some certain things I needed to have to play the game. It’s not all the way there, but I’m good enough to play baseball every day,” said Cameron. “The grinding on the field, the running around the bases, diving back, that type of thing, I felt pretty good.”
In the batter’s box, he has looked healthy. Cameron is now 6-for-17 (.353) in his five games since coming off the disabled list after going 2-for-3 with a walk and a pair of doubles on Sunday. Of significant relief to the 37-year-old was the fact that his second double — which he blasted off the Wall in deep left-center — scored a pair of runs.
In the process, he recorded his first ever RBIs as a member of the Sox, ending what had been the longest RBI drought to start a Sox career since Ivan Calderon went 17 games at the start of the 1993 season without driving in a run. Now, he is just hoping that — after coming close to going deep on that run-scoring double — a homer may soon follow.
“It was good getting one of the zeroes off the board. I’m still working on the other one. I’ve been trying for a couple of days, and it won’t get up over that wall yet. I guess it’ll come in the future. I’m just trying to constantly continue to have good at-bats, and those things will come,” said Cameron. “Once that happens, I’ll feel a whole lot better. It’s been a long time since I hit a homer.”
While Cameron still awaits that milestone (something he last accomplished last Sept. 30), he is nevertheless heartened by his ability to perform. On Sunday, he was a key contributor to a Sox offense that had its bottom third of the order (Jason Varitek, Bill Hall and Cameron) go 6-for-11 with seven runs and three runs batted in.
“It gave me a sense of confidence,” Cameron said of his return to regular playing time. “I don’t have to do too much hitting ninth. I’m just an old guy hitting ninth, going up there, trying to have good at-bats, know that things are starting to build up for me.”
|05.30.10 at 6:04 pm ET|
In 2008 and 2009, Jon Lester emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball. In 2010, however, he is reaching pinnacles that he never achieved in those two dominating years.
On Sunday, even though he was, in the words of manager Terry Francona, “sluggish,” Lester figured out a way to dominate a Royals club that has become a personal highlight reel. Against the franchise whom he no-hit in 2008 and tossed eight shutout innings of one-run ball in 2006, the left-hander logged seven innings and permitted just a single run on four hits in his club’s 8-1 victory.
In the process, the 26-year-old ran his career record against Kansas City to 4-1 with a 1.22 ERA, the second-lowest ERA of any pitcher (min. 5 starts) against the Royals behind Chad Ogea. More impressively, it ran his season record to 6-2 and his 2010 ERA to 2.97.
It marks the first time since his rookie season of 2006 that Lester has had a sub-3.00 ERA in a season. Clearly, he is enjoying status as one of the dominant young pitchers in the game. He is currently on one of the most impressive runs of his young career, as he is 6-0 with a 1.43 ERA in his last eight starts, including a 5-0 run in the month of May that established a new high for most wins in a single turn of the calendar.
Those numbers have made a distant memory of the left-hander’s slow start, when he went 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA in his first three outings. But, Lester insists, it did not take his current run to allow that deliberate start to fade from memory.
“You can sit here and dwell on the past, and you’re not thinking about your next opponent,” said Lester. “Those starts were behind me the day after I started those games. I’m not too concerned about it, nor will I be concerned about it if I do it again. I know what I’m capable of, and I just have to get on a roll, get some confidence and the rest will take care of itself.”
The same could be said of his performance against the Royals. Through the first 2 1/3 innings, Lester was fighting his mechanics, resulting in command issues. He walked three and allowed two hits before recording his second out of the third inning. He got to 59 pitches through the first three frames, and it appeared that he might struggle to work deep in the game.
But after a walk put runners on the corners with one out in the third, Lester found his form. He struck out Kansas City’s two best hitters (David DeJesus and Billy Butler), commencing a run in which he retired 10 straight hitters.
“I think sluggish is the best word [to describe his performance] early, but he fought through it and did a terrific job,” said manager Terry Francona.
As a result, Lester was able to take satisfaction in going seven innings and getting a win in a game where it appeared he might struggle to last even six innings. It marked the sixth time in seven outings that he has gone at least seven frames.
“That’s our job, to find a way to go deep in the game,” said Lester. “Early on, it was a battle. And it still was a battle through the middle innings, but I was able to get a couple one- and two-pitch outs. that always saves your pitch count when you get a couple of those. … I started pounding the zone better. Guys started hitting the ball on the ground. It makes the game a lot easier.”
|05.30.10 at 5:43 pm ET|
David Ortiz couldn’t have punctuated what he called the most satisfying month of his career any more perfectly.
Just before stepping to the plate in the fifth inning he looked over and saw a friend of his.
‘I said, ‘What are you doing here today?’ He said, ‘Just waiting for you to go deep.’ So I said, ‘Alright, coming up,’’ Ortiz explained.
Then ‘¦ boom ‘¦ a swing, a home run, and a red-hot designated hitter pointing to his buddy.
What a difference 30 days makes.
After hitting the two-run homer into the center field bleachers, and walking twice, Ortiz is finishing May having hit 10 home runs, his highest total for a month since August, 2006. Since May 1, Ortiz has also hit .363 with 27 RBI and an OPS of 1.212.
It was just the second time in his career that the DH finished a month having notched at least 10 homers, 25 RBI and a .350 batting average (June, ‘04 the other time, finishing at 10 HR, 33 RBI, and .355).
‘I feel good,’ Ortiz said before leaving the clubhouse for the last time this month. ‘It’s not over yet.’
When Ortiz exited April he was hitting just .143 with a single homer. That first day in May, however, the DH launched a pair of homers in Baltimore. He is now hitting .272.
“I’m not really so worried about the month of May. He took some good swings today. He’s been taking good swings,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “I don’t know if it matters that it’s June or not, but he’s gotten himself to a point where he feels really good about himself. You can see it in his body language and his energy. He goes up to the plate and they make a mistake and he hits hit a long way. Sometimes when they don’t make a mistake he’ll shoot it to left or foul it off. But he’s a very dangerous and very productive hitter.”
|05.30.10 at 4:25 pm ET|
What a difference a month makes.
Red Sox teammates David Ortiz and Jon Lester both ended April facing a pile of questions. For Ortiz, there was curiosity about whether his career was done after his second straight miserable start to the season. He was hitting .143/.238/.286/.524 with just one homer and 4 RBI, and many were speculating that either his replacement in the lineup by Mike Lowell or his release could be around the corner. Lester, similarly, had gone 0-2 with a 7.44 ERA in his first three starts before enjoying some rebound in his last starts of April, but still, his 1-2 record and 4.71 ERA didn’t scream dominance.
But now, with the Sox having concluded their May slate of games, both players are worlds removed from any April uncertainties. In six starts, culminating in his seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball in Sunday’s 8-1 win over the Royals, Lester went 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA to secure his place as the ace of the Sox staff. His season ERA now stands at 2.97.
And Ortiz put an exclamation mark on his month by crushing a two-run homer to straightaway center as part of a day when he went 1-for-1 with two walks, a sac fly and three runs batted in. Ortiz nearly doubled his batting average and OPS over the month, finishing May with a season average that now stands at .272 with a .929 OPS.
The rediscovery of a pair of stalwarts helped to propel the Sox to an 18-11 month that resolved much of the panic surrounding the club.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—David Ortiz concluded his biggest month-long power display since the 2006 season (which he finished with a franchise record 54 homers). Ortiz hit .362 with 10 homers and a 1.211 OPS in May, achieving his highest average and OPS since Sept. 2007, and his highest single-month homer total since Aug. 2006.
In that context, of particular note were the two walks that the Royals issued to the designated hitter. Given that he has been pulverizing the ball, it has been surprising that opposing pitchers have not shied from the slugger. Sunday may have marked a turning point, since it was Ortiz’ first multi-walk game of the season.
—Jon Lester continued to make life miserable for the Royals. He now has a 1.22 career ERA in five starts against Kansas City — a team against him he has thrown a no-hitter and against whom he has thrown eight innings of one-hit ball. The only concern for the pitcher is that he has been struggling with his control a bit in his last two starts, having walked four members of the notoriously impatient Royals lineup on Sunday after having issued five walks in his previous start against Tampa Bay. Still, Lester prevented those free passes from proving costly, as he held the Royals hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
—Marco Scutaro enjoyed his most productive day at the plate in more than three weeks. The shortstop, who entered Sunday hitting .225/.324/.258/.582 over a 22-game span, pulled a pair of doubles in his first two at-bats against Royals starter Bruce Chen, and later added a single. It was Scutaro’s second game with three hits and second with multiple extra-base hits this year (both accomplished previously on May 4).
—Mike Cameron had a pair of doubles, including a two-out, two-run to left-center for his first runs batted in of the year. Cameron is now 6-for-17 (.353) since returning from his abdominal strain.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
—Kevin Youkilis, after sitting out of Saturday’s game, went 0-for-4 and saw his streak of reaching base in 27 straight games come to an end.
—J.D. Drew went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and now has 48 punchouts in 49 games. His OPS for the year has now fallen to .783.
|05.30.10 at 2:11 pm ET|
The hottest hitter in the Red Sox lineup happens to also have the best average of any regular. Not only is Adrian Beltre leading the team with his .342 average, he is batting .476 with three homers and 13 RBIs in his last 11 games. He is tied for sixth in the American League with 20 multi-hit games.
When they signed Beltre in the off-season, the Red Sox knew they were getting a third baseman with one of the best defensive reputations in the game.
They also knew they were getting an aggressive batter, who has been known to swing from his heels. Like this week in Tampa Bay when he hit one of his two home runs from his knees.
But whether it’s swinging for the downs or singling to right field in the second inning and scoring the only run in Boston’s 1-0 win, Beltre has been hitting everything, and hitting it well.
“It’s not like he really cuts his swing down a ton,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said on Sunday. “When you talk to him, he talks about trying to see the ball longer, which certainly makes sense to me.
Beltre entered Sunday having hit safely in 10-of-11 games, with at least two hits in seven of those 10.
“Sometimes I think it’s a little bit of everything,” Francona said. “There’s confidence, you get into a streak where things are happening in your favor and you feel good about things and you’re not afraid to get deep in the count because you’ve had success putting the bat on the ball.
“He’s gone through a really good run here where he’s a really aggressive hitter and he’s getting balls in the zone and driving them. He’s getting balls out of the zone and getting hits. His bat is staying through the zone a long time.”
|05.30.10 at 1:11 pm ET|
Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, whose return from the disabled list has been delayed due to his struggles to repeat his delivery during a bullpen session on Friday, discussed his prolonged recovery from a back injury that he thought would keep him out for no more than 15 days.
The problem arose on May 18, when the pitcher slipped on the mound in the fifth inning of a rainy start in Yankee Stadium. Beckett (1-1, 7.29) said that the MRI that looked at the injury showed that the problem was muscular, just as it was when he missed a start on May 14 against the Tigers. He had felt that he was making headway in his return to the mound with some promising long-toss sessions, but when he tried to throw a side session on May 28, his delivery inconsistencies led the Sox to shut him down and slow the process of his return to the mound.
Given that he is not yet at a stage where the team will let him pick up a ball, there are no definitive timetables for when he will return to action for the Red Sox.
“It’s Groundhog Day right now,” said Beckett. “I think [the problem is] just repeating one [pitch] to the next. It’s kind of frustrating. It’s more discomfort than it is pain. It’s things you’re working around. I just think now they’re not comfortable with that.”
“I’m past the frustrating part and trying to figure things out. It is what it is. Everyone has to answer to somebody and right now they’re telling me what to do,” Beckett added. “I know we’re taking yesterday and today off. From what I’m hearing, I basically have to come in and say I’m 100 percent tomorrow before I can even pick a ball up. Obviously, off-day [Monday], from what I’m being told I have to be 100 percent tomorrow to even pick the ball up.”
Beckett said that he has been limited to cardio activity until he can demonstrate that his improvement is more complete. To date, his recovery has been fitful, with a promising day or two followed by a setback.
“I’ve had a couple days like that where I felt good, one being the day before my side. And then I’ll have two or three days where it feels different every day, but it gets worse, or stays the same,” said Beckett. “It’s definitely a day-to-day thing. I’ve had two days where I was excited about the next day. Then you go out and throw a side and doesn’t go very well.”
|05.30.10 at 12:52 pm ET|
Left-hander Scott Schoeneweis, whom the Red Sox designated for assignment on May 20, cleared release waivers and is now a free agent. The left-hander, whom the Sox picked up in the last week of spring training after he was released by the Brewers, was 1-0 with a 7.90 ERA in 15 games for the Sox. Though he struck out 10 of the 29 left-handed hitters whom he faced, southpaws hit .346 with a .914 OPS against him.
Meanwhile, the Sox have enjoyed strong performances from a number of their relievers against left-handed hitter, making it unnecessary to carry a specialist (despite the fact that the only left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, Hideki Okajima, has struggled against left-handers this year, allowing a .286/.412/.464/.876 line).
Manny Delcarmen has always been tremendous against left-handers thanks to a nasty changeup, and this year has been no different. He is holding lefties to a line of .135/.256/.162/.418, and he has not allowed a homer to lefties.
More surprising has been the fact that Daniel Bard has been dominant against lefties, allowing just four hits in 47 at-bats (.085) while holding them to a .289 OPS. That development has been particularly noteworthy given that Bard was hit hard by lefties last year, allowing them to hit .263/.379/.488/.866. In 80 at-bats, lefties hit four homers off of him in 80 at-bats; this year, he has not been victimized for a single longball.
Bard worked to develop his changeup as a weapon against left-handed hitters in spring training. However, he has thrown it infrequently this year. He insists that there is no great science to his success this year against lefties.
“I think last year was just a small sample size. I’ve also been good in the minor leagues against lefties,” said Bard. “I think last year was just kind of a fluke, not executing some pitches against lefties. I can’t attribute it to an individual thing. I haven’t changed my approach.”
Yet with the improved results, the Sox haven’t had to hide Bard from opponents’ lefties. And that, in turn, has meant that the Sox have not felt acutely the absence of a left-handed specialist, particularly given that Schoeneweis struggled with the Sox.
|05.30.10 at 12:32 pm ET|
He sees that Dustin Pedroia – his MVP, Gold Glove second baseman – was hitless in his first 12 at-bats of the series against Kansas City and just 5-for-40 in his last 10 games heading into Sunday.
So, Pedroia, who saved Saturday night’s game with his sparkling defense in the eighth inning, is getting a day of rest and is not in the starting lineup for the Red Sox as they close out their four-game series with the Royals at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox have a day game Sunday followed by a day off on the Memorial Day holiday, followed by a night game on Tuesday. It seemed the ideal time to rest Pedroia.
“That’s the whole idea,” Francona said. “With a day game after a night game and a day off [Monday], hopefully he can feel a little bit re-energized. You want to maximize the day off and I think this is the best time to do it.”
Bill Hall will start in his place at second and bat eighth while Darnell McDonald has been moved up to second in the order by Francona.
Hall has been very versatile to the Red Sox this season, possessing the ability to spot start in left field, center field, shortstop and second base.
“It helps a lot. You certainly are always going to have a back-up infielder but he just has the ability to do it himself so it’s allowed us to carry maybe a different position that maybe we couldn’t. Having a guy that can do both [infield and outfield] is certainly a luxury.”
Other notes… The Red Sox and Royals are wearing alternative third caps for Sunday’s game and Francona joked that they made the players and coaches look like they’re “selling ice cream.” The caps are white with a dark bill and the stars and stripes in the logo. …
|05.30.10 at 10:50 am ET|
The Red Sox go for the split of their four-game weekend series with the Royals Sunday afternoon. The Sox suffered from poor starting pitching performances by Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield, both of whom failed to make it past the fifth inning, in their losses in the first two games of the series, but Clay Buchholz single-handedly reversed that trend Saturday with his seven-inning performance in the 1-0 Sox win. Ace Jon Lester will look to make it two solid starts by Sox pitchers Sunday as he takes the mound against fellow lefty Bruce Chen of the Royals.
Lester (5-2, 3.15 ERA) will cap an absolutely spectacular month of May during which he has gone 4-0 with a miniscule 1.95 ERA and 40 strikeouts over 37 innings. Over his last three starts alone, he has struck out 28 batters. If history is any indicator, he has a very good shot at continuing his dominance when he faces the Royals Sunday. Lester is 3-1 all-time against Kansas City and with just a 1.20 ERA in his four starts. In fact, Lester pitched 17 scoreless innings between his last two appearances against the Royals with nine of those innings coming in his famed 2008 no-hitter.
That no-hitter is just one of the reasons explaining David DeJesus’s poor performance against Lester. The left-handed outfielder is just 1-for-12 against Boston’s lefty ace all-time. But Lester may need all he’s got to retire DeJesus as the KC outfielder comes into Sunday’s matchup on an 11-game hitting streak. In the three games he’s played in Boston this weekend, DeJesus is a combined 7-for-12 with four RBI, including a 4-for-6, two-RBI performance in the Royals’ 12-5 win Friday night.
At the other end of the lineup card will be Bruce Chen (1-0, 2.89), who is making his first start of the season Sunday. Chen has been solid in relief for the Royals with nine strikeouts over 9 1/3 innings and even racked up a save in his second appearance of the season. However, he hasn’t pitched for more than 1 2/3 innings in any of his outings and has been wild at times with eight walks this season. He made nine starts for KC last season, going 1-6 with a 5.81 ERA.
With Saturday’s win, the Red Sox stayed an even six games back of the AL East leading Rays and closed the gap between them and the second-place Yankees to just two games after New York’s 13-11 loss to Cleveland. The Sox remain a game behind third-place Toronto.
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