|06.17.11 at 9:00 am ET|
After dipping their collective toes in the interleague pool a month ago, the Red Sox will play their next 15 contests against National League foes, starting with Friday night’s game against the Brewers. Although nine of those 15 games will be played on the road in NL parks with senior circuit rules, this weekend’s series against Milwaukee ‘ as well as the following three-game set against San Diego ‘ will be played at the DH-friendly confines of Fenway Park. The Sox will send out John Lackey for the start Friday while the Brewers will counter with a man who is no stranger to the Boston ballpark, former Blue Jays hurler Shawn Marcum.
Lackey (4-5, 7.41 ERA) will take the hill for the third time since missing nearly a month while on the disabled list with a right elbow strain. Although his pitching was rather pedestrian (11 2/3 IP, 7 ER) in those two previous starts, he earned wins in both thanks to tons of run support from his offense (six runs on June 5, 16 last Saturday). One might think that Lackey would be one of the happiest people in Fenway on Friday, given that he won’t have to step into the box with a bat in his hands, but his stats at home this season may point the other way. The righty, who has earned decisions in each of nine starts this season, is 2-2 at Fenway in 2011 but owns an ERA of 8.27 and a .321 batting average-against in four starts there.
Perhaps a little change will do him some good in the form of the Brewers lineup. Only four Milwaukee hitters, including former Red Sox utilityman Mark Kotsay, have ever faced Lackey. That means the team’s heavy hitters Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks will rely more on what they see on the videotape than what they’ve seen in person when they face Lackey.
Friday will mark the first time Marcum (7-2, 2.68) has faced Boston while wearing a Brewers uniform. The 29-year-old has enjoyed a lot of success for Milwaukee, becoming the relative ace for a team that boasts a rotation with former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke as well as fireballer Yovani Gallardo. Marcum has pitched against the Red Sox 16 times since entering the majors in 2005, making them the team he’s faced the most in his career. Also with Friday marking his ninth appearance at Fenway (3-2, 3.52 ERA in eight previous starts), the stadium will become his most frequented baseball destination.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that every Red Sox position player has faced Marcum at least three times, although Adrian Gonzalez has only seen Marcum in interleague play when he was with the Padres. That being said, that breadth of experience hasn’t at all translated into production. The current Sox roster is hitting only .194 against Marcum with Dustin Pedroia (2-for-18) and Kevin Youkilis (4-for-22, nine strikeouts) being the chief strugglers. Even J.D. Drew, who has had some success with three home runs and two doubles off Marcum, owns just a .227 average against the right-hander to go with 10 strikeouts. Jason Varitek (4-for-10 with three walks) is the only batter with an average higher than .250 against Marcum but may not get the start as he has caught just one of Lackey’s nine starts thus far in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.16.11 at 10:25 pm ET|
The Red Sox are also coming home conquering heroes.
With their 4-2 win over the Rays Thursday night, the Sox finish off their nine-game road trip having lost just one contest, and has now claimed victories in 10 of their last 11 games. The Red Sox took two out of three against third-place Tampa Bay despite scoring just seven runs for the series.
The only downside of the Sox’ latest win was due to the continued ailments lingering with shortstop Jed Lowrie (shoulder) and Clay Buchholz (back). Both players were forced to cut their nights short due to the injuries.
Here is what went right (and wrong) for the Red Sox as they return home for a six-game homestand against the Brewers and Padres …
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Darnell McDonald, who entered the game with just one RBI on the season, drove in Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the Red Sox’ second run with a single to center. McDonald also made a nice leaping catch against the center field wall in the sixth inning on a drive by Matt Joyce. With lefty David Price on the mound, the outfielder was subbing in for Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury would pinch-hit for Mike Cameron in the eighth inning, continuing his streak of playing in all the Red Sox games this season, a feat just he and Adrian Gonzalez have managed.
– Despite leaving after just five innings, Buchholz produced when he was on the mound one again. The starter allowed just one run on two hits and three hit. He struck out five, lowering his ERA to 3.48. The only run against Buchholz came in the second inning when Sam Fuld doubled in B.J. Upton in the second inning.
– The Red Sox were able to get Tampa Bay starter David Price out of the game after just five innings, forcing the lefty to throw 106 pitches. Price gave up just one hit after the second inning, but had to toss 33 pitches in a one-run first inning, and 30 in a second inning the Red Sox managed two runs.
– Dustin Pedroia continued to find his old stroke, this time coming away with an RBI double in the second inning. Pedroia came into the game hitting .407 on the road trip, having notched at least one hit in every start on the nine-game swing except one.
– Daniel Bard went his eighth straight outing without surrendering a run, pitching a scoreless 1 1/3 innings. It was just the third time the late-inning reliever has been used on the road trip.
– Gonzalez continued to master American League pitching, this time hitting his 14th homer, a solo shot off Tampa Bay closer Kyle Farnsworth. The homer, which allowed for some insurance in the ninth inning for the Sox, allowed the first baseman to finish the road trip with 11 RBI.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Because of lingering back issues, Buchholz only managed to go five innings, throwing 81 pitches. The righty seemed to be pitching very deliberately throughout his outing, although he was able to use all of his pitches. He had been pushed back heading into his last start due to the back woes, rebounding to allow just one run over seven innings.
– Alfredo Aceves, while coming on and throwing 95 mph, ran into some trouble after relieving Buchholz in the sixth. The righty gave up a solo home run to Casey Kotchman, who was hitting .335 after his third homer of the season.
– Lowrie’s shoulder problems continued, with the shortstop being forced to leave after just one at-bat (a first-inning strikeout against Price). Lowrie has been nursing a sore left shoulder since colliding with Carl Crawford on May 27, and is now in the midst of a 15 at-bat hitless streak. Lowrie, who is just 1-for-18 on the current road trip, was replaced by Marco Scutaro.
|06.16.11 at 9:29 pm ET|
Left-hander Andrew Miller talked with Pawtucket Red Sox announcer Dan Hoard prior to Thursday’s PawSox game about his experience in the Sox organization since signing a minor league deal this offseason, and why he remained with the club rather than exercising a June 15 opt-out. The 26-year-old acknowledged that the opt-out clause was on his mind in his most recent start on Monday — when he allowed one run, struck out 10 and walked one in 5 1/3 innings, the day before the opt-out date — but suggested that, even as he contemplated his options, he didn’t envision leaving the Sox.
“Ultimately, though, I knew things were well taken care of between the organization, myself and the agent,” Miller told Hoard. “I’ve been treated phenomenally here. I knew things would work out well, and was able to go out there with it a little bit in the back of my mind and still pitch well.”
Miller said that Sox GM Theo Epstein, in a meeting with Miller on Tuesday, made clear that the left-hander is part of the organization’s big league plans. That, in turn, allowed the pitcher to maintain a level of comfort in staying with an organization in which he has been, in his own words, treated “phenomenally.”
“I had a conversation with [Epstein]. He told me generally what would happen. They’re going to take care of me,” Miller told Hoard. “I think I am part of their plans, that I am a big part of the plans for the organization. Obviously my goal in signing here was to get better but also to help the big club win some games at some point. I’m looking forward to that opportunity when it comes.
“You’ve got to look at all your options,” Miller added of his opt-out, “but just because it’s an option doesn’t mean it’s a good option. I think, everything here has been so great. Everyone in general has been so good to me, and everything we’ve done has worked like a charm, so it seemed like a great place for me.”
Miller has a 2.47 ERA this year, and in his last four starts, he has a 1.78 ERA with 26 strikeouts and three walks in 25 1/3 innings. Those results have convinced the pitcher that his decision to sign a minor league deal with the Sox was the right course.
“There are certainly still lots of strides to be made, but like I said, things have gone the direction we envisioned. Everything has gone as well as I could have hoped for. I would hope the organization thinks the same from their side,” said Miller. “I signed here because it seemed like a good fit. It seemed like a great organization. So far, it’s been better than I expected.”
While Miller did not discuss details of when he might pitch in the majors — reportedly, he will start for the Sox in the majors next week, perhaps as soon as Monday — he expressed confidence that he is ready to perform effectively when he does get called up.
“I’m certainly confident that if I throw the way I have the last three weeks or so that I’d do pretty well and hold my own up there,” said Miller. “You never know till you go out there and compete, but certainly I like the way I’m throwing the ball and I like my chances.”
To listen to the complete interview between Miller and Hoard, in which Miller discusses the new pre-start routine that has contributed to his effectiveness, click here.
|06.16.11 at 1:39 pm ET|
After being scratched from his prior start with a sore back, Clay Buchholz shined against Toronto in his most recent outing. Buchholz (5-3, 3.59) allowed one run on three hits in seven innings of work. He struck out six Blue Jays batters while walking a pair. In fact, Boston’s 26-year-old hurler walked no more than two batters in each of his last nine starts. In his career against Tampa Bay, Buchholz is 3-2 with an impressive 1.81 ERA and 43 strikeouts. Thursday, Buchholz will look to continue add on another quality start, going against Tampa Bay’s David Price.
Price (7-5, 3.51) had one of his worst starts of the season Saturday in Baltimore. He allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings. He allowed two home runs to Orioles batters after having given up zero longballs in his three previous starts. In his career at Tropicana Field, Price is 20-8 with a 2.50 ERA. And, in his career pitching against Boston the No. 1 overall selection in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft is 4-2, with a 3.18 ERA.
B.J. Upton and Casey Kotchman are the two Rays with the most success in their respective careers against Buchholz. Upton is 4-for-10 with one home run, a double and two walks. However, this season Upton boasts a measly .167 average against his divisional rivals. Kotchman is 6-for-9 against Buchholz with half of his hits being doubles. He is hitting a scorching .342 this season, but has cooled off in the month of June, tallying a .250 pace. Neither former Red Sox Johnny Damon and Kelly Shoppach have done anything notable against Buchholz.
The Boston bats have a decent history against Price. Every hitter on roster has fasted the Rays starter. Kevin Youkilis (.385), Darnell McDonald (.333) and Jed Lowrie (.333) have all hit Price well and enter Thursday’s game with a combined six extra-base hits in 38 at-bats. Mike Cameron is 3-for-6 with a home run, while headline offseason acquisitions Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are a combined 0-for-8.
Rays vs. Clay Buchholz
Evan Longoria (21 plate appearances): .278 BA/.381 OBP/.389 SLG, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
Ben Zobrist (15): .231/.333/.231, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts
B.J. Upton (12): .400/.500/.800, 1 HR, 1 double, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
Casey Kotchman (9): .667/.667/1.000, 3 doubles, 1 strikeout
John Jaso (8): .143/.200/.286, 1 double, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Johnny Damon (6): .200/.333/.400, 1 double, 1 walk
Matthew Joyce (5): .333/.400/.333, 2 RBIs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Reid Brignac (2), Sean Rodriguez (2) and Kelly Shoppach (2) are all hitless against Buchholz. They have struck out a combined five times.
Sam Fuld, Elliot Johnson and Justn Ruggiano have not faced the Boston starter.
Red Sox vs. David Price
Marco Scutaro (19): .111/.158/.111, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Darnell McDonald (14): .333/.429/.538, 1 HR, 1 triple, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
Kevin Youkilis (14): .385/.429/.538, 2 doubles, 2 strikeouts
Jed Lowrie (12): .333/.333/.500, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, 2 strikeouts
David Ortiz (12): .167/.167/.333, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 4 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (10): .111/.200/.222, 1 double, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
J.D. Drew (7): .167/.286/.167, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
Jacoby Ellsbury (7): .167/.286/.333, 1 double, 1 walk
Mike Cameron (6): .500/.500/1.000, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Jason Varitek (6): .167/.167/.300, 1 double, 1 strikeout
Carl Crawford (4): .000/.250/.000, 1 strikeout
Adrian Gonzalez (4): .000/.000/.000
Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked in his only plate appearance against Price.
|06.16.11 at 12:57 pm ET|
Here is the first look at the movie “Moneyball,” the story of the A’s and their general manager Billy Beane. It is being directed by Bennett Miller (“Capote”) and stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is due out in September.
|06.16.11 at 9:03 am ET|
In the latest edition of the Minor Details, Baseball America’s Jim Callis joins the podcast to discuss the players whom the Red Sox selected in the 2011 draft. The Sox had four of the first 40 picks — the first time in roughly three decades since they had such a confluence of picks at that early stage of the process — and in a now-familiar pattern, they continued to select high-ceiling players (many of whom will require signing bonuses in excess of Major League Baseball’s slot recommendations) after their top picks.
“For me, it was business as usual for the Red Sox,” Callis suggested. “Let’s get the best players and go from there.”
A few of Callis’ observations:
–He described top selection Matt Barnes (1st round, No. 19 overall) as a pitcher for whom “the ceiling’s a No. 2 starter, and maybe being more realistic, a really good No. 3 starter. … What the difference is going to be for him is how consistent he gets with the breaking ball, which is very good at times, and how consistent he gets with control, which comes and goes a little bit. I think that will determine whether he’s a No. 2 or a No. 3. I don’t think he has the same ceiling as Anthony Ranaudo did last year, but he’s a very good arm.”
–Barnes was the seventh college pitcher selected in this year’s draft. Given the wealth of advanced college arms, Callis suggested that had the Sox not signed Casey Kelly for $3 million when they selected him out of high school in the first round of the 2008 draft, the right-hander would have been unlikely to get similar money this year had he enrolled at Tennessee and returned to the draft this year.
“It’s not like he’s an overwhelming stuff guy,” said Callis, who still views Kelly as a terrific pitching prospect. “I don’t know that he would have gotten the same money now that he got out of high school having the two-sport leverage that he did at this point.”
–Callis spoke highly of the Sox’ second first-round pick, Blake Swihart. However, he noted that the switch-hitting high school catcher with a very strong commitment to the University of Texas could be one of the most difficult players to sign in this year’s draft.
“He’s really exciting. I guess the operative phrase on Blake would be, he’s really easy to dream on,” said Callis. “It sounds like he’s going to hit. I haven’t talked to anyone who’s doubted his offensive potential. I think he’s got the athleticism and the arm strength to figure out catching and to be a good catcher. I think the question becomes, if the bat is as good as you think it is, do you want him to catch which maybe adds a couple years to his development or do you want to expedite his bat to the big leagues? …
“[But] of the guys who went in the first round of the draft, the top 33 picks, he’s probably going to be the toughest sign of all of them,” he added. “If another team had drafted him, I think I’d be more concerned that he’d go to college. But since it’s the Red Sox and they obviously have the money and they’re aggressive, I bet they wind up signing him.”
Callis said that he wasn’t sure how much credence to put into the number, but he heard in the spring that Swihart might be seeking a bonus in the vicinity of $2.5 million.
–Callis suggested that South Carolina center fielder Jackie Bradley (sandwich round, No. 40) could be similar to Ranaudo, whom the Sox took in the sandwich round last year with the No. 39 overall pick. Like Ranaudo, Bradley had a junior year in which he underperformed and then suffered an injury. Yet if Bradley bounces back as a professional, he could be an impact player.
“I think if he’s healthy, and had the year he was supposed to have, goes somewhere in the teens,” said Callis. “If he had the year people thought he would have, he might not have even been available when the Red Sox picked at 19. He might be a steal for them.”
To hear more of Callis’ observations on these and several other Sox draftees, as well as how the possibility of a more rigid draft slotting system going forward could impact how the Sox approach this year’s draft class, click here.
|06.15.11 at 4:03 pm ET|
Francona called Julien before the Bruins’ Game 6 victory Monday night.
“Yeah I talked to him about the power play a little bit,” Francona joked. “Guys, I don’t even know what a line is.”
Following is a transcript of the conversation. The hear the interview, check out The Big Show audio on demand page.
So is [not liking hockey] a Western Pennsylvania thing? How did you never grab on to the Penguins? What happened?
You know what, when I was growing up I never went to a Penguins game. They used to come down every once in a while. My dad ran an ice arena when he retired at the park and they’d come down every so often and work out. I thought that was pretty cool, but it just doesn’t interest me. I actually told [Julien] that. I said, “Hey, I like the way you do things, I love the way you handle yourself.” And from what everybody tells me, the media that are around him, they love him. I said, “I don’t get into it, but I just want to wish you luck.” I didn’t want to lie to him.
I get the excuse that you grew up in a baseball family, but you said your dad ran an ice rink?
Yeah. How about that? You ought to see me on skates, it’s pretty great.
|06.15.11 at 2:33 pm ET|
The fans at Tampa’s Tropicana Field will be treated to a pitching battle between a rookie phenom and a dominant veteran Wednesday night at 7:10 p.m. The Red Sox will give the ball to 31-year-old Josh Beckett, as the right-hander looks for his sixth win in his last seven decisions. The Rays will counter with Jeremy Hellickson, a 24-year-old hurler with the fourth-highest win total in the American League.
Beckett (5-2, 2.06 ERA) will look to build on another stellar start after holding the Yankees to two runs in seven innings on June 9. The Red Sox ace fanned six and walked two, while keeping his AL-leading ERA under 2.10 (Atlanta’s Jair Jurrjens leads the majors at 1.82).
Beckett has yet to face the Rays in 13 starts this season, and hasn’t started against Tampa Bay since April 2010. The Rays have made some serious roster changes since then, but three hitters have seen their fair share of Beckett, and have performed quite well.
Former Red Sox speedster Johnny Damon has a team-high 52 plate appearances against Beckett, hitting .292 with two homers, five doubles and nine RBI. On the other hand, Damon also leads the Rays with 11 strikeouts against the Boston starter. Evan Longoria has led the charge against Beckett, hitting .353 with two homers, five doubles and eight RBI in 35 plate appearances. B.J. Upton is hitting .308 in 29 plate appearances to go along with three doubles and two homers.
Beckett has shown pristine control against Tampa Bay, striking out 41 hitters and walking just seven in 160 total plate appearances.
After a spectacular month of May, Hellickson (7-4, 3.03 ERA) is slowly emerging as the AL Rookie of the Year candidate many expected him to be at the beginning of the season. The 24-year-old went 4-1 in five starts last month, and allowed just five runs for a 1.36 ERA.
Hellickson’s only start against Boston came earlier this season on April 11. The right-hander got his first win of the year at Fenway Park, tossing 5.1 innings of two-run ball in a 16-5 win. Hellickson gave up just one run in 7 1/3 innings against Seattle on June 4, but had his worst outing of the season in his last start. On June 10 vs. the Orioles, he surrendered five runs in 5 2/3 innings, including two homers.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the only Red Sox player to face Hellickson more than three times, drawing a walk and hitting an RBI double in four career plate appearances. Seven other hitters have seen the rookie exactly three times, and five of those players have base hits. As a whole, the Red Sox are hitting .292 in 29 plate appearances against Hellickson. No player has a home run or more than one hit against the right-hander, although both Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, of all people, have triples.
The rookie has struggled a bit with his command against the Red Sox, walking five hitters while striking out just one.
|06.15.11 at 12:30 pm ET|
A few health-related notes about Red Sox prospects who are returning from injury:
–Had all gone according to plan, outfielder Ryan Kalish likely would have seen game action by this point. However, while the recovery of his left shoulder (in which he suffered a partial tear of the labrum while attempting a diving catch for Triple-A Pawtucket in April) is proceeding as the Sox had hoped, the 23-year-old is dealing with what Sox VP of Player Personnel Mike Hazen described as “a little bit of a stiff neck.”
That, in turn, forced Kalish to shut down his baseball activities for a bit, and forced him to renew his progression back to the field, starting with hitting off a tee. Hazen suggested that the outfielder is making improvement to the point where “it should not be long” before he is in a lineup. With the downtime, Kalish — barring a setback — should be fairly close to playing the outfield by the time he is ready to play in games. While he will split his time between DH and the outfield in deference to the fact that he is recovering from an injury, the Sox are optimistic that he will be able to play in the outfield by the end of the month.
–Right-hander Junichi Tazawa, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, has made significant steps forward in his rehab assignment with the Hi-A Salem Red Sox in recent outings. It took him a while to recover his velocity, which was sitting in the mid-80s both while he rehabbed in Fort Myers and also in his initial outings for Salem. Tazawa was shelled for 12 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his first two rehab starts, walking five and striking out just three. However, in his most recent three starts, he’s tossed nine shutout innings, struck out eight and walked one, and perhaps more importantly, his velocity bumped back up to 91.
“He’s been slow getting back there, but he’s been solid,” Hazen said of the 25-year-old. “He’s getting more comfortable with the slider, the split, competing under the lights. He’s been good.”
Tazawa will make one more start with Salem before his 30-day rehab assignment expires; after that, the Sox will determine the pitcher’s next step. Since he will be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list, the Sox will need a 40-man roster spot for Tazawa. However, they currently have an opening on the 40-man thanks to the trade that sent Mike McKenry to the Pirates, and the Sox can also move Rich Hill to the 60-day disabled list to create a roster spot when needed.
It is noteworthy that the Sox have one current vacancy on the 40-man roster and one potential one, since that means that the team can both add Tazawa back from the 60-day DL and, conceivably, call up Andrew Miller from the minors without having to remove anyone from the 40-man roster. However, multiple team officials said that the McKenry trade had nothing to do with freeing a roster spot for either Tazawa or Miller, and that it was motivated by a desire instead to promote catcher Ryan Lavarnway — one of the most consistent hitters in the system — to Pawtucket. (For more on Lavarnway’s promotion, click here.) Read the rest of this entry »
|06.15.11 at 9:48 am ET|
NESN analyst Jerry Remy made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning, following the Red Sox‘ 4-0 loss to the Rays Tuesday night that snapped a nine-game winning streak. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Remy said of the Sox’ impressive run that includes road sweeps of the Yankees and Blue Jays. “That New York and Toronto series was about as good as you can get. Everything was going right ‘ the pitching was going right, the defense was going right, the offense was going incredibly right. It was fun to sit there and watch that. It was just bombs away. They were taking early leads, they were putting people away early, putting them away late. It just does not get any better than that.
“But it just goes to show how fickle this game is. You come into a game last night with a tired [Rays] team that got in late in the morning but they had a fresh starter in [James] Shields, who pitched a great game against them and just shut them down. That’s the way this game goes. You run into a hot pitcher, and he can put you to sleep in a day.”
Remy said he expects the Rays to hang around but that ultimately the Sox will battle the Yankees for AL East supremacy.
“I still think it’s going to be a two-horse race, but the Rays aren’t as bad as people predicted,” he said. “They thought when they lost all those players that they were going to be terrible. They’re not going to be terrible, because they’ve got decent pitching. Last night was a good example. And they’ve got a couple of guys that can do that to you. So, they’re going to be competitive, there’s no question about that. They’re offense is a little bit shaky, but their pitching and defense is very good. And if you’ve got pitching and defense, you should be able able to hang around.”
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