|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 »
|04.08.11 at 7:44 pm ET|
He knew all eyes would be on him for the Red Sox 2011 home opener and that the Fenway crowd would be pumped and jacked. He didn’t know the team behind him would be 0-6. And when he walked Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez in the first before allowing a two-run double to Robinson Cano, the collective groans began at Fenway.
And it really didn’t improve that much. He would yield single runs the next four innings before leaving after allowing six runs – all earned – on seven hits. His line also included two walks, two strikeouts, one hit batter, one wild pitch and one very long home run to A-Rod.
And one win.
That’s right. Since the Red Sox scored on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia double in the bottom of the fifth for a 7-6 lead, a lead they didn’t surrender, Lackey picked up his first and, more importantly, the team’s first win of 2011 in a 9-6 victory over the Bombers. He became the first Red Sox pitch since Matt Clement on Aug. 4, 2005 to pitch five or fewer innings, allow at least six runs and earn a win.
“Today, obviously, I didn’t pitch very well,” Lackey admitted. “My command was fine. Every ball they hit was down the line for extra-base hits. If I can keep them in the middle, they turn into singles and no runs.”
Was he thinking just settle down enough to get through the fifth?
“I don’t set my goals that low,” Lackey said. “I definitely want to do better than that but the guys swung the bats great and the bullpen was tremendous today. We won the game so it worked out but definitely have to keep working. It wasn’t pretty but it was closer than it looked.”
He may not have been just thinking get through five but his manager sure was.
“If he comes out in the third or fourth, it’s a whole different story,” Terry Francona said. “He was able to slug through it, and he always does that. I’ll say that. Then our bullpen came in and did a terrific job.” Read the rest of this entry »
|04.08.11 at 6:30 pm ET|
Bobby Jenks was teammates with Manny Ramirez in Chicago last year. On Friday — a day Ramirez retired after being told of an issue that arose under MLB’s drug-testing policy — Jenks recalled Ramirez as “a great teammate” and “a really good guy”.
But when asked for his thoughts on Ramirez potentially failing a drug test for the second time, Jenks chose words that weren’t as complimentary.
“I look at it as this. You do it, you get caught, you’re an idiot. If you do it again you’re a dumbass,” said Jenks. “I mean, it’s sad to see. One of the greatest hitters, or one of them, to make the same mistake twice, same bad choice. And within a year and a half of each other? I don’t know, you know?”
|04.08.11 at 5:12 pm ET|
It is over.
“It” being the career of Manny Ramirez, of course. Why, what did you think we were talking about?
The Red Sox finally picked up win No. 1 of the 2011 season on Friday, scoring more runs in a 9-6 win over the Yankees than they had managed to score in the previous 41 innings. The Sox survived another troubling outing from John Lackey, but an outstanding effort from the bullpen (four scoreless innings) and the breakout game from the lineup equaled a much-needed victory.
Here’s what went right (and wrong) in the win …
WHAT WENT RIGHT
— The Sox entered Friday having scored just 16 runs in their first six games, with a team batting average of .181 and an on-base percentage of .269. It seemed to reason that this lineup had to get going at some point, and it happened on Friday. Dustin Pedroia homered in the first to put the Sox on the board, but it was a five-run second inning that was the most productive stretch of the young season for a group that many pegged to be a 1,000-run threat. Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz all had RBI singles in the frame off of a struggling Phil Hughes (the worst starting pitcher on the mound Friday at Fenway — no small feat).
— Jarrod Saltalamacchia had two hits on Friday, or one more than his previous 2011 total. Saltalamacchia had an RBI double off of Bartolo Colon in the fifth, scoring Kevin Youkilis (who walked three times on Friday).
— Alfredo Aceves was recalled to Boston (along with Felix Doubront) Friday, as Matt Albers was placed on the DL (lat strain) and the Dennys Reyes Era came to an end. Aceves replaced John Lackey and pitched a scoreless sixth inning, which allowed the Sox to go with Bobby Jenks/Daniel Bard/Jonathan Papelbon in the final three innings (combined line of 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 4 K).
WHAT WENT WRONG
— The good news? John Lackey lowered his 2011 ERA. The bad news? He lowered it from 22.09 to 15.58. Another terrible outing from Lackey, who was given six runs to work with and couldn’t hold the lead. Lackey threw 92 pitches in five innings, allowing six runs on seven hits, walking two and hitting Alex Rodriguez. Lackey apologists can’t spin the idea that he looked good at times on Friday — as some tried to do after his disaster in Texas — as he gave up at least one run in each of his five innings.
— For all the success against Hughes — seven hits and six runs in two innings — the Sox only managed a single run and two hits (the Saltalamacchia double and a bunt single by Gonzalez) in 4.1 innings against Colon.
— Terry Francona told the media before the game that he moved Jacoby Ellsbury out of the leadoff spot and down to the eighth in the lineup for several reasons, but said he would not have made the move if he had been happy with how the center fielder was swinging at the plate. Ellsbury had a single and run in the eight-hole, but the man who took over the top spot in the order — Carl Crawford — was hitless in five at bats, dropping his average to .143.
|04.08.11 at 4:29 pm ET|
After his team finished a series in Cleveland scoring exactly five run in three games against the Indians’ pitching staff, Terry Francona knew he had to do something to shake things up.
That something was evident to everyone Friday morning before a single pitch had even been thrown at Fenway Park this season.
Jacoby Ellsbury was dropped from leadoff to eighth in the batting order while Carl Crawford was moved up to batting leadoff for the first time in his career since opening the 2007 season leading off the first seven games for Tampa Bay.
“I’m comfortable as long as I’m in the lineup. We’re trying to find something that works. He wants to try me in the lineup, I’m fine with it. He said what you think about leading off? And I said, ‘At this point, we’ll try anything,'” Crawford laughed.
Francona – as is his standard procedure – always informs the player what he is thinking before actually going ahead with it. So, in this case, it was on the flight back Thursday afternoon after the Red Sox dropped a listless 1-0 decision to the Tribe that inspired a change. Francona went to Crawford on the charter flight back and told his left fielder what he was thinking.
|04.08.11 at 2:03 pm ET|
|04.08.11 at 1:11 pm ET|
MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Friday afternoon to talk about the Red Sox on Opening Day at Fenway Park. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Millar isn’t too concerned with the Red Sox’ 0-6 start.
“This team’s good. They’re going to be fine,” he said. “They’ve gotten off to a tough start. OK, great. They’re coming back home. They’re coming back to their music. They’re digging in their batter’s box. And if you’re the Yankees, you’d better take advantage of them right now. If you’re the Red Sox, the Yankees are coming to town at almost the right time, because this team will be good.
“I don’t care what anybody says. They pitch, they have bullpen and their offense ‘¦ when that heats up there in Fenway Park, they’re going to score runs ’til the sun goes down.”
Millar said the Sox’ biggest concern is the batting order. “I don’t think they know where to hit everybody,” Millar said, noting that David Ortiz deserves to be higher than sixth. “I don’t want to hear about his bat speed is getting slower,” he said. “This guy’s a real threat.”
On the Red Sox’ 2004 World Series championship team, Millar was known as the player who kept his teammates loose. He suggested that the team might need a similar character in the locker room now.
“Who’s the guy in that locker room that goes up and tries to put a light on the situation?” Millar wondered. “Who’s going to get butt-naked right now and stand on a stool and start clapping their hands? I don’t know. Do they have that guy?”
Added Millar: “When you’re inside those doors and everything’s closed, somebody’s got to get on their chair and fire this team up. Now, who’s that guy? ‘¦ Someone needs to fire these boys up. That’s all. You’re 0-6. Who cares?”
Regarding criticism of manager Terry Francona for not showing enough emotion, Millar said that’s not the style that has made him the most successful manager in team history.
“One thing about Tito is he’s got a way of just keeping things light,” Millar said. “As much as sometimes the media doesn’t like it ‘ they want to see him throw TVs and throw the tables ‘ that’s not him. He’s going to come out and crack a joke. He’s going to tell you that you’ve got terrible shoes on today. He’s going to look at your outfit. That’s what he does. That’s his gift. He’s got a way of keeping things light.
“Now, it’s who in that clubhouse is going to take the stance to fire the boys up. Who is it? It might be little [Dustin] Pedroia.”
|04.08.11 at 1:09 pm ET|
“Home openers are so cool for anybody that likes baseball,” Francona said. “I’d be lying a little bit if I [didn’t] say we’re not happy with where we’re at. So that takes a little fun out of the pageantry. We have to remind ourselves it is a long year and it’s our responsiblity to make it good and not to be hanging our heads and be pouting and feel sorry for ourselves. But I do think think things like Opening Day are more fun when you feel like you’re on a roll.
“I know when planes go over, when stuff like that happens I’m usually by then thinking, ‘Let’s go. Let’s pitch, get them out and get those planes out of here.”
There will be a military plane flyover as part of the Opening Day fesitivites that begin approximately 30 minutes before first pitch. As for the worst Red Sox start since 1945, Francona said the team can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves right now with the Yankees in town for a three-game weekend series.
“I think you have to respect the loss a little bit in the clubhouse,” Francona said. “Once you get out of there, I don’t want them to be hungover with a loss. That’s not what we’re shooting for. I think anytime we win or lose, we try to learn from mistakes and get better. I wouldn’t want to walk back there and see everyone hangling their heads. I think they’re aware of where we’re at, they’re human, they know we’re scuffling but I don’t think that’s the way to go out there and play better, is go out there and feel sorry for themselves and woe is me.”
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