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Closing Time: Rangers 4, Red Sox 2

07.18.10 at 4:35 pm ET
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The Red Sox faced another tough lefty starter but this time they had no ninth-inning magic. C.J. Wilson fanned a career-best 10 batters and the Rangers scratched out eight hits and three runs off Jon Lester as the Rangers beat the Red Sox, 4-2, at Fenway Park to take three-of-four from Boston in the weekend series.

The Red Sox must now find a way to regroup as they face the daunting task of playing 10 straight against A.L. West foes Oakland [3], Seattle [4] and Los Angeles [3].

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– The game was played on a sunny day at Fenway, with day being the operative word. The team has played 24 day games in 2010, winning just nine of them. The glare seems to bother these Red Sox, especially when they’re facing a tough lefty like they did on Sunday. Wilson struck out a career-high 10, including David Ortiz twice. It’s no disgrace as Wilson has now faced left-handed batters 97 times this season, allowing nine hits and striking out 26.

Wilson allowed only three hits in allowing just one run over 6 2/3 innings. He biggest inning came in the sixth when he allowed a leadoff double by Marco Scutaro. But Darnell McDonald grounded out, David Ortiz flew out to left. And following a walk to Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre whiffed on a 2-2 pitch.

“Obviously, a leadoff double isn’t like a fun thing to pitch around,” Wilson said. “Today was just good day for me, I guess.”

– The offense, for the fourth straight game, could not sustain any prolonged attack. One reason, they simply blew chance after chance when given a free pass to first, six to be exact on the day. WEEI.com’s Gary Marbry reports that Red Sox had won 20 straight at Fenway when they receive at least six walks. Ironically, their last such loss: June 5, 2009 vs Texas.

“I walked just enough guys for them to swing, I guess,” said Wilson, who was responsible for five of the six free passes.

Gary Darling in the 8th. Bang-bang call at the plate when Darnell McDonald‘s throw clearly beat Elvis Andrus. But Darling ruled that Kevin Cash, out to cut off the angle on the throw home, tagged Andrus on the elbow while sliding safely in with his left foot. It was a pivotal call because it put the Rangers up three, and after Saturday night, insurance proved invaluable for the Rangers. Darling would be reminded of the call for the rest of the game as the crowd booed him on nearly every pitch.

– The Red Sox couldn’t defend the double steal. With Julio Borbon on third and Andrus on first in the fifth, Andrus took off for second. Dusty Brown, starting his first big league game behind the plate, threw down to second with Marco Scutaro covering. Scutaro’s angle to the ball was too close to the bag and Borbon took off and slide home safely with the Rangers’ first steal of home in nine seasons.

– The Red Sox allowed a Little League home run. With a scorching liner to left-center, Nelson Cruz doubled home Josh Hamilton in the fourth inning to tie the game at 1-1. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the play didn’t end there. Mike Cameron‘s throw missed the cut-off man and sailed to Dusty Brown at the plate. Upon seeing that, Brown threw accurately to third to Adrian Beltre as he saw Cruz taking off when the throw went home. It would’ve been close but Beltre allowed the ball to escape far enough for Cruz to take a shot at going home, which he did safely to complete the round trip.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Jon Lester was Jon Lester again. Before flipping his gum in disgust after the eighth inning in the vague direction of home plate umpire Gary Darling, he put up eight innings, allowing four runs and nine hits. He threw 118 pitches, 75 for strikes. He allowed three walks while striking out six. He showed grit and guts despite taking just his fourth loss in 15 decisions.

Michael Bowden. The right-hander, looking to continue an impressive run from Pawtucket, had a perfect ninth with two strike outs and fly to left. It was his first appearance with the Red Sox this season and he showed no nerves as he looks for a permanent spot in the club’s bullpen.

Kevin Youkilis over .300. Youk managed to get the average to .301 with two more hits and looks ready to continue the roll on the road. The Red Sox will need it.

Mike Cameron belted a home run, his fourth, to open the ninth and start yet another ninth-inning rally. This one, however, would not end the way Saturday night’s did.

Read More: C.J. Wilson, Jon Lester, Rangers, Red Sox

Red Sox reach 600th consecutive sellout

07.18.10 at 4:13 pm ET
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Here is the team’s press release:

With a sellout in this afternoon’€™s game against the Texas Rangers, the fans of Red Sox Nation have reached 600 consecutive regular season sellout games at Fenway Park extending their record of most consecutive sellouts in baseball history.  The previous Major League Baseball record of 455, set by the Cleveland Indians between 1995-2001, was surpassed by Red Sox fans on September 8, 2008.  The record streak began on May 15, 2003, in the second year of the new ownership.

‘€œOn behalf of John Henry, Tom Werner, and our entire organization, I would like to salute the fans of Red Sox Nation who have extended their own all-time Major League Baseball record to an astonishing 600 straight sellout games,’€ said Larry Lucchino, President/CEO.  ‘€œWe congratulate them for achieving this extraordinary milestone and for the passion and dedication they have for the game, for their team, and for their ballpark.  We will continue to work hard to ensure that we are worthy of their loyal and steadfast support.’€

The Red Sox players and coaches recognized the fans of Red Sox Nation for their significant accomplishment by tossing commemorative baseballs into the Fenway Park crowd at the start of Sunday’€™s game.  Ownership, ushers and other staff members also distributed the commemorative baseballs to fans throughout the game.

LONGEST RECORDED REGULAR SEASON SELLOUT STREAKS IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

No.     Team                                                  Years
600*   Boston Red Sox                                  2003-2010
455      Cleveland Indians                               1995-2001
203      Colorado Rockies                               1995-1997

LONGEST RECORDED REGULAR SEASON SELLOUT STREAKS IN AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS HISTORY

No.     Team                                               Years
744     Portland Trailblazers (NBA)              1977-1995
600*   Boston Red Sox (MLB)                     2003-2010
407     Colorado Avalanche (NHL)              1995-2006

Bowden looking to pen new start

07.18.10 at 12:47 pm ET
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This time promises to be different for Michael Bowden. Just his role alone assures that.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Sunday that Bowden has been called up and will be ready for action out of the bullpen starting today. To make room, the Red Sox designated catcher Gustavo Molina for assignment, leaving the Red Sox with the standard two catchers, Dusty Brown and Kevin Cash.

In years past, Bowden had been touted as a finesse right-hander with tremendous make-up, and would eventually find his way into the starting rotation. Selected by the Red Sox in the first round – 47th overall – of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Bowden made his MLB debut in 2008. He allowed seven hits and two runs over five innings as the Red Sox beat the White Sox, 8-2, giving Bowden his first major league win in his debut on Aug. 30.

[Click here to listen to why Terry Francona and the Red Sox are excited about Bowden.]

Since then, he’s appeared in eight games but only once more as a starter, going 1-1 with a 9.56 ERA as he struggled to find his command and his comfort zone.

“This is a kid that’s certainly been on the radar for the last couple of years and he’s come up and had spot starts and had a chance to maybe make the team out of spring training in the bullpen,” Francona said. “That didn’t happen for a lot of reasons and I think he was frustrated.”

Then he got a call on the Tuesday before the All-Star break and that all changed. He was informed that he was being taken out of the Pawtucket rotation and being placed in the PawSox bullpen, prepping for a possible move to the big league club’s pen.

The 23-year-old Bowden was good as a starter for the PawSox, going 4-3 with a respectable 3.77 ERA in 16 starts. Then he got the call on July 6.

Bowden was dominant in four games as a reliever. He went 2-0, with a save. He allowing just one hit in six innings, holding batters to a .056 average against, striking out six and walking none in the process.

“He goes back down to Triple-A, gets his starters’ innings, gets his pitches going, moves to the bullpen, which we’ve done with other guys, and now gets his chance to contribute,” Francona said.

So, how will Bowden be used in Francona’s bullpen?

“Some of it could depend on his success and things like that,” Francona said. “He’s a young, durable arm, which is good. You can’t just say he’s going to throw the sixth inning. He’s got [six] innings of relief under his belt at Triple-A but we’ll see. The idea is to get him here and have him help us. We don’t want to hide him and get him pitch the third inning of blowout games. We think this kid can really help us win some games.”

Meanwhile, Francona also said that he will sit down with Josh Beckett, pitching coach John Farrell and general manager Theo Epstein to determine whether the ace right-hander is ready to return to the rotation this week on the West Coast road trip or if he needs one more rehab start to shake off some of the “rust” he is still working through in his comeback from a strained lower back suffered on May 18 against the Yankees.

“We may be able to come to a conclusion on what we need to do or we may actually wait until he throws his side,” Francona said. “There’s no really technical reason it has to be made now.”

Beckett, pitching in what both he and the Red Sox hoped would be his final tune-up before rejoining the team, allowed three earned runs in four-plus innings for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday night in Syracuse.

Beckett threw 81 pitches, allowing five hits, walking a batter and striking out three as the PawSox fell in Syracuse. It was the second rehab start for Beckett, who has been on the disabled list since May 19 with a lower back strain.

“Physically, he felt fine,” Francona said. “I think he said he felt some rust in just the game itself, which I think is to be expected when you’re pitching to guys you don’t know, catchers, things like that.”

J.D. Drew didn’t start on Sunday and for good reason. Lefty starter C.J. Wilson entered the game for Texas, allowing just nine hits in 94 at-bats by lefties this season, with 24 strikeouts. He fanned David Ortiz twice before getting him to fly out to left in the sixth.

Read More: Josh Beckett, Michael Bowden, MLB, Red Sox

Brown gets first career start

07.18.10 at 12:43 pm ET
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Dustin Brown makes his first career start Sunday as he will catch Jon Lester in Sunday’s four-game series finale with the Texas Rangers. Mike Cameron also bats sixth and plays center field for the Red Sox.

Brown was called up on Saturday and came into catch the ninth inning after Ryan Shealy pinch-hit for Kevin Cash in the eighth. Brown popped out to short in the 10th in his only plate appearance of the night.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Guerrero makes his first career regular season start in left field, allowing slugger Josh Hamilton to DH for manager Ron Washington. Guerrero has appeared in left field only twice in the majors, in the 2000 and 2006 All-Star Games.

Read More: dustin brown, mike cameron, Rangers, Red Sox

The one pitch Lee could have back

07.18.10 at 10:32 am ET
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From the second inning to the first batter of the ninth, Cliff Lee looked like the best pitcher in baseball.

After all, when you throw 105 pitches and roughly 95 percent of them are fastballs to major league hitters, you must be pretty good.

As matter of fact and more to the point, if you’re throwing that many fastballs, you must be just about perfect with your location.

And if you ask the Red Sox batters, that’s what he was until Marco Scutaro opened the ninth with a clean single.

But that’s not the pitch Lee would like to have over.

It’s the 1-1 fastball he threw to Kevin Youkilis with the tying run on third and just one out from his second straight complete game with his new Ranger teammates.

“I was trying to go away but just pulled it a little bit over the plate,” Lee recalled.

And Youkilis didn’t miss his chance. He lined a fastball from Lee down the left field line for a game-tying double, Youkilis’ second hit off Lee on the night.

It wasn’t what he threw but where he threw it that gave Lee his biggest sense of remorse.

“I threw a pitch that caught a quite a bit of plate and he got a hit,” Lee said. “I wish I could have that pitch back but all-in-all, I gave the team a chance, got deep in the game but still kind of frustrated with giving up that run in the ninth when we have a one-run lead there but other than that, I’m pretty pleased with the way it went.”

Indeed, Lee needed only 83 pitches to get through eight dominating innings, facing only one pressure situation in the first. But that ended with Adrian Beltre grounding into a 4-6-3 double-play. Mike Cameron did double with one out in the fifth. But Lee struck out Bill Hall and Kevin Cash to end that inning, again throwing almost all fastballs.

So there was no reason for him to change, even in the ninth inning, even with the tying run at third and even with one of the best fastball-hitting batters in the game at the plate with two outs.

“I was going right at him,” Lee said. “It worked for me all night. There was no sense for me to change my approach there. Obviously in hindsight, maybe I should’ve thrown something different. If I throw it in a better spot, I think it’s a better result.”

Lee began the game throwing 28 of his first 32 pitches for strikes. He finished with 105, 75 for strikes.

“It went pretty good,” Lee said. “I threw a lot of strikes. We made some really good plays. We had a good chance to win the game there in the ninth with a one-run lead, two outs and a guy on third. Locating fastballs. That was it. Throwing fastballs down in the zone and mostly fastballs away, mixing one inside, here and there, and a cutter here and there. But that was really it, locating fastballs.”

How amazingly efficient can Lee be? He allowed six runs in his first start on the Saturday before the break in a 6-1 loss to Baltimore. He needed just 95 pitches to last all nine innings in the complete-game loss.

“I was a little more comfortable,” Lee said after Saturday’s no-decision. “Obviously, my routine was kind of weird with having to go to the All-Star Game and all that stuff but yeah, I felt a little more comfortable with what was going on. I felt alight the other day, too. I just missed location more often than today.”

Read More: Cliff Lee, Rangers, Red Sox,

Hero Youkilis not concerned with who’s on mound

07.18.10 at 3:14 am ET
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Kevin Youkilis came up twice on Saturday in key situations during the Red Sox‘ 3-2 11-inning victory over the Rangers. First, in the bottom of the ninth with Marco Scutaro at third base and two down, and later in the bottom of the eleventh with Scutaro again occupying third. Both cases were against less-than-desirable opposing pitchers. The ninth inning featured Rangers’ ace Cliff Lee and the eleventh brought stellar reliever Darren O’Day. The team needed the runs in clutch situations, and with David Ortiz having been intentionally walked in the 11th, the usual suspect was unavailable to deliver. Still, the team had faith in their middle-of-the-order hitters.

“You want one of those guys up there with the bases loaded,” winning pitcher Manny Delcarmen said.

Youkilis came through each time, doubling in the ninth and hitting a sacrifice fly in the eleventh. Having had to face some difficult pitchers throughout the night, how did he find a way to capitalize?

“You’€™ve just got to stick to yourself,” Youkilis said. “You can’€™t try to go and do too much. I just went up there and tried to get a good pitch to hit, and I was fortunate to get one.”

Though Youkilis made solid contact the outfield in both situations, this victory was not one that came thanks to slugging. Marco Scutaro, the runner who scored in each case, had been advanced along via bunt each time.

“It’€™s great just to have guys go out there and play the small ball. You don’€™t have to hit home runs to win ball games,” Youkili said. “That shows tonight. That’€™s one of the things I said in the duguout in extra innings. ‘€˜We don’€™t need a home run. Just get on base and get hits and good things will happen,’ and they did, so for us, it’€™s good. Sometimes you can just see that where you play the small ball and you win a game.”

Lee kept the Red Sox’ bats completely silent from the second inning until the ninth inning. He gave up just two runs on the day, but because Red Sox starter John Lackey also stumped the Rangers and gave up just as many runs, Lee received a hard-luck no-decision. Despite the lack of scoring throughout the game, the Red Sox seemed to know what they were up against.

“We had good at-bats, we were hitting some balls hard, but he’€™s one of the best pitchers in the game for a reason,” Youkilis said. “You’€™ve just got to battle. There’€™s no time on the game, you’€™ve just got to go out there until the final out.”

So did coming back against a Cy Young winner (the Sox are actually now 7-1 against Cy Young winners on the season) make a difference to Youkilis? Not more than any other game.

“It was good to have it against a guy like Cliff, but I guess [it would be good against] anybody,” Youkilis said. “It doesn’€™t matter if it’€™s Cliff or a fifth starter on any other team or the ace on any other team. It’€™s the same approach we take every day.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis,

Closing Time: Red Sox 3, Rangers 2 (11 innings)

07.17.10 at 10:11 pm ET
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Call it hyperbole or simple overstatement if you will but this win, 3-2 in 11 crisply-played innings, over the Texas Rangers was the biggest of the 2010 season for the Red Sox.

Kevin Youkilis drove in the tying run with a two-out double to left off Texas ace Cliff Lee in the bottom of the ninth and then drove home the winning run in the bottom of the 11th with a sacrifice fly to center.

The Red Sox were on the brink of losing their first three games out of the All-Star break blocks before Youkilis came to the rescue.

While it would have been completely understandable, a loss would hurt the Red Sox far more than the two previous games when they were simply outplayed by the Rangers. And consider this: the Red Sox were 0-31 this season when trailing after eight innings and they trailed Saturday, 2-1, heading into the bottom of the ninth when Youkilis stepped to the plate as Boston’s last chance in the ninth.

They took a 1-0 lead in the first against Lee in the opening inning when Darnell McDonald doubled and scored on David Ortiz‘s single to right-center. Things really looked promising when Youkilis singled Ortiz to second. But Lee got Adrian Beltre to hit into a 4-6-3 double play and the threat was over.

And so were the Red Sox bats until Marco Scutaro led off the ninth with a single. Mike Cameron doubled in the bottom of the fifth to snap a streak of 11 straight retired by the Texas lefty.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Kevin Youkilis. On a night when the Red Sox had precious little success against Lee, Youkilis not only singled in the first inning, he doubled down the left field line with the pressure on in the bottom of the ninth to score Marco Scutaro from third and force extra innings. Youkilis drove home Scutaro with the game-winner in the bottom of the 11th with a sacrifice fly to center.

Youkilis became the first Red Sox player to drive in the tying run in the ninth and win it in extras since Ortiz accomplished the feat on Aug. 16, 2005 at Detroit.

John Lackey. The Red Sox right-hander threw 115 pitches on a hot, steamy night at Fenway. He allowed just seven hits and two runs to a red-hot Rangers offense. He walked two and struck out three on the night but most impressively, he got ahead of the batters all night and had his full assortment of pitches working, including a nasty curve that was generating lots of bad swings on the night.

Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen. With the Red Sox losing big late in their first two games, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon didn’t get the chance to get into a game in a meaningful situation. Such was not the case Saturday as Bard walked one but looked good in throwing a scoreless eighth. Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth and 10th to at least give the Sox a chance. And then Manny Delcarmen, in his first stint back with the big club, looked nasty with his curve and fastball, reaching 94 on a heater to Vlad.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Cliff Lee was the starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers. Lee showed exactly why the Rangers made the move of the trading season so far when they dealt Justin Smoak to Seattle on July 9. He needed just 83 pitches to get through eight innings and was one out from his second complete game in as many starts in a Rangers uniform. That would’ve makde him the first Ranger since Fergie Jenkins in 1974 to accomplish the feat. Jenkins threw nine straight complete games to start his Rangers career.

– Red Sox couldn’t support a solid effort by Lackey. The double play ball off the bat of Beltre to end the first inning was a killer, especially when they had the chance to remind Lee of last Saturday against Baltimore, when he was knocked around in a 6-1 loss to lowly Baltimore.

– Lackey couldn’t get the biggest outs of the night when he needed it. After getting Elvis Andrus and Michael Young quickly for the first two outs of the sixth, and protecting a 1-0 lead, Ian Kinsler singled and Vladimir Guerrero worked an unlikely walk. Josh Hamilton, who had been flinging his bat with regularity the last two nights, held on long enough to single to left-center, scoring Kinsler to tie it. When Cruz singled home Guerrero, it was 2-1 and there was the sense already – only in the sixth – the game was over. That is, before Scutaro and Youkilis had their say in the 9th.

Nelson Cruz was playing right field for Texas. He robbed pinch-hitter Ryan Shealy with a sliding grab to end the eighth and made a nice running grab of Mike Cameron’s drive to right-center in the 10th that would’ve cleared the short wall and was ticketed for the Red Sox bullpen.

Read More: Cliff Lee, john lackey, Kevin Youkilis, marco scutaro

Lowell: ‘I don’t fear’ retirement

07.17.10 at 6:42 pm ET
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Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell (hip) is inching closer and closer to a return from the disabled list. Manager Terry Francona said he would get a shot from Dr. Bryan Kelly on Monday, one that Lowell said is cortisone. After a rehab assignment beginning Thursday, he should be good to go, though even through the team’s injuries, he should once again struggle to find playing time.

“First, third, and DH are our healthy positions,” Lowell pointed out to reporters prior to Saturday’s game vs. the Rangers.

The Rangers have come up quite a bit in rumors regarding the third baseman, as a trade between the two clubs including Lowell and Rangers catcher Max Ramirez was squashed when Lowell’s right thumb soured the deal. Should Lowell be able to prove his health, he could potentially be a trade chip headed in any sort of direction as the trade deadline approaches. He’s done his best to drown such chatter out, but if he has found a new home and is getting playing time come the first (or later, given the potential of waivers) of August, Lowell doesn’t understand why it necessarily has to be viewed as a negative for either party.

‘€œI think there’€™s been rumors since the Winter Meetings of last year,” Lowell said. “If something happens, I don’€™t think that changes the way I feel about my teammates or the city or the fans. Those are all positives for me. I love Miami too. So, I don’€™t see why it changes, or it’€™s always a bad thing. I do know I enjoy playing baseball and I’€™m doing that less this year than I ever have. I don’€™t know. I’€™ve heard talks, but I’€™ve heard talks for eight months. I have no idea. I don’€™t know the situations other teams are in, whether it’€™s a need or what, I don’€™t really care to know either. I think you’€™ll drive yourself crazy trying to break down every team. I just want to be in a position where I can play.

“I don’€™t think I’€™m a (July) 31st guy,” Lowell added. “I’€™m going to clear waivers in two seconds. That’€™s not a fear for me. I don’€™t think I have a deadline of that. if anything, if I’€™m someone who might be considered along with other people, the other people might have deadlines, so it might screw up something for me. but me personally, I don’€™t think there’€™s an urgency for the 31st from another team’€™s standpoint. But it’€™s very low on my priority list to be honest with you.’€

Lowell is on pace to play in by far the least amount of games in a single season since his eight-game cup of coffee with the Yankees in 1998. In just 31 contests (91 plate appearances), he’s hitting .213 with a pair of homers and 12 RBI. Given the ups and, through little fault of his own, mostly downs this season, what does the future hold for Lowell? Will he get another shot in the offseason?

‘€œI don’€™t really know what I’€™m thinking,” Lowell said. “I’€™m thinking short term.”

In the time that Lowell has been able to spend away from the club (he was not with the Red Sox in Toronto last weekend), Lowell has used the opportunity to charge his batteries and get better. He said that he did ‘€œvery little” baseball activities but continued to heal. In his time away, the 13-year veteran got a sneak preview of what life after baseball might be like.

“I was rehabbing a lot,” Lowell said. “I rested a lot. But yeah, I went to the gym. I threw a couple of times. I didn’€™t hit. I didn’€™t really see a need to because I knew I’€™d probably go on a rehab assignment anyway and I’€™d have a chance. I think it was a great little mental break. I got to enjoy my family a lot. It maybe even gave me a glimpse of what retirement is all about. Honestly, that’€™s a chapter in my life I’€™m looking forward to. When that is, I don’€™t know. I don’€™t fear it.”

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Pre-game notes: Beckett could need ‘another one’

07.17.10 at 5:27 pm ET
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Prior to the Red Sox‘ matchup with the Rangers on Saturday, their roster experienced a type of shakeup it has likely grown accustomed to this season. Four names were shuffled around — Fernando Cabrera was designated for assignment after Friday’s game, followed by Saturday moves that consisted of the team optioning Felix Doubront to Pawtucket, recalling catcher Dusty Brown, and activating reliever Manny Delcarmen from the disabled list.

“I hope it will be really good,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Delcarmen’s return. “He’s a guy that, when he’s going good, has the ability to pitch multiple innings, get lefties, righties. That’s been missed a little bit the last couple weeks. Hopefully it will be a very valuable. Getting him back the way he can pitch is important, but it should really help.”

Josh Beckett will throw 85 pitches for Pawtucket on Saturday in what the team hopes will be his final rehab start before rejoining the Sox. Beckett and the Red Sox will then reevaluate things before determining whether he will be activated or will “need another one.”

As for Clay Buchholz (hamstring), who gave up two earned runs in 3 2/3 innings on Friday for Pawtucket, both the pitcher and Francona said the plan is for him to pitch for the Red Sox in Oakland on Wednesday. Buchholz said he felt fine in his rehab outing.

“(I) basically went in not wanting the velocity and everything to be there, and not notice that i was favoring anything. That’s what I went out there to do, and everything felt good. Like I said, (I) just left a couple of pitches in the middle that got hit and the release point was a little scattered, but other than that it went well.

“Everything felt good, pitches felt good coming out of my hand. Each pitch I threw, I threw a couple good ones, so the stuff is still there. I just wanted to make sure there was nothing wrong internally.

Regarding third baseman Mike Lowell, who has been on the disabled list since June 23 with a strained right hip, Francona said the veteran will head to New York on Monday to receive a shot from Dr. Bryan Kelly. Lowell will then return to Boston during the Oakland series before likely embarking on a rehab assignment on Thursday. Francona said the team has yet to sort out a schedule for Lowell, but that ideally he will play between four and six games before being ready for activation.

“We’ll get him going, play him in Pawtucket, hopefully enough ‘€¦ and space him out a little bit where he’s able to be real productive and feel real good about himself and get ready to play — not too much, but enough where he can do what he can do,” Francona said.

Francona added that Lowell will hopefully ease his way back with the Red Sox rotating between designated hitter, first base, and third base.

Jed Lowrie, who went 3-for-4 with a homer and a stolen base on Friday for Pawtucket, has impressed by all accounts, but Francona said setting a date for his return would be “premature.”

“He’s fighting through some of the longer games, which is good, he’s swinging the bat really well, he’s going to play second base tomorrow — that’s the one thing he really hasn’t done down there — but he’s really swinging the bat well. I think he’s starting to feel pretty good about himself,” Francona said.

Jacoby Ellsbury (ribs) is also in high spirits, according to Francona. Though he has yet to reach the point of being able to take on-field batting proactive, the manager noted that “he’s throwing, he’s running, he’s doing everything he’s supposed to.”

Jeremy Hermida (ribs), in the midst of a Double-A rehab assignment, will DH Saturday after playing six innings of left field and going 2-for- Friday. He will then check in with the Red Sox on Sunday before beginning a stint with the PawSox to begin next week.

Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett,

Sox prospect Head looks to grow as hitter

07.17.10 at 11:04 am ET
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Red Sox infield prospect Miles Head took his cuts during batting practice prior to the annual Futures Game at Fenway Park last Saturday, spraying line drives to left, right and center field. Since he was taken by the Sox in the 26th round of the 2009 draft, many in the organization have been impressed with what they have seen from the young first baseman.

Although he had originally signed a national letter of intent to play for the University of Georgia, he chose a different path. Though the Sox took him late, they gave him a bonus more in line with a player taken with a third-rounder taken with one of the top 100 picks in the draft ($335,000 ‘€” an amount roughly in line with that recommended by Major League Baseball for the No. 99 pick of last year’s draft).

He made his pro debut late last year with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, going just 3-for-29 (.103 average). Now with the Single-A Lowell Spinners, the 6-foot, 215-pound Head is realizing that life as a big league player is not all fun and games, but a lot of hard work.

“It’s really tough playing every single day. It’s a grind, but I love it,” he explained while preparing for the Spinners’ rain-shortened loss to the Jamestown Jammers, a Single-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins, last weekend during the Futures at Fenway.

Head has impressed a lot of people within the Red Sox organization with his innate, raw power at the plate. In his senior year at Whitewater High School in Georgia, the right-handed masher hit .528 with 14 home runs, four grand slams and 48 RBI.

While it would seem to be a tough decision to skip out on a college education, Head was pretty sure of what he wanted to do with his life. Playing baseball for a living represented the obvious goal.

“I mean, professional baseball has always been my dream. Whatever it took to get to that level is what I was going to do,” he explained. “If it meant me having to go three years of college and then come here, then I would have done that. It’s whatever gets me here.” Read the rest of this entry »

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