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Bill Lee on Steinbrenner’s death: ‘Good’

07.16.10 at 7:56 am ET
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Former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee did not soften his stance on George Steinbrenner following the Yankees owner’s death Tuesday. “As far as Steinbrenner’s passing? Good,” Lee said in an interview with New Hampshire TV station WMUR. Added Lee: “Trust me, if hell freezes over, he’ll be skating.”

Lee, who spent 10 of his 14 major league seasons with the Red Sox and took part in a number of heated battles vs. Steinbrenner’s Yankees in the mid-1970s, claimed that Steinbrenner tried to have him banned from baseball. “He said I was an incompetent and I was bad for the game of baseball,” Lee recalled. “Well, I’m not a convicted felon like George Steinbrenner, and he’ll take that to his grave.”

Lee continued his rant during an appearance on WEEI’s Planet Mikey show Thursday night. “He tried to run me out of the game a long time ago, after the [1976 Red Sox-Yankees] brawl,” Lee said. “He said I was a pariah, I wasn’t good for baseball. … I told him basically to shut up.”

Added Lee: “He may have been good for the Yankees organization, but he was definitely a thorn in my side.”

During the WMUR interview at a golf tournament in Concord, N.H., Lee said of Steinbrenner, “I used to have nightmares of him. I was hallucinating one time and I thought he came into my hotel room window, and I realized I didn’t have any windows. And I was on like the 38th floor. [Play-by-play broadcaster] Dick Stockton was with me. He’ll vouch for it.”

Asked if he had any sadness about Steinbrenner’s death, Lee said: “I have no sadness. I’m Irish, I’m Catholic, and when you’re gone, you’re gone.”

On Planet Mikey, Lee joked his golf game improved dramatically when he learned of Steinbrenner’s death. “When I heard he was dead, I went out and sank seven 30-footers,” Lee said. “I was like on Tequila. I was floating. I took the team ‘€” we were 1-under and we went to 10-under, and the best golfer was me, and I’m a 15-handicap.”

To see the interview at WMUR.com, click here. To listen to Lee’s interview on the Planet Mikey show, click here.

Read More: Bill Lee, George Steinbrenner,

Rangers still may be interested in Lowell

07.15.10 at 11:50 pm ET
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According to major league source familiar with the situation, the Texas Rangers continue to monitor the status of Mike Lowell, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list with soreness in his surgically repaired right hip. The source suggests the Rangers may have increased interest in making a deal for Lowell depending on how the market unfolds as the trade deadline draws closer.

The Red Sox and Rangers had agreed to a trade for Lowell — along with $9 million of the $12 million owned the infielder this season — in December before Texas backed out of the deal because of concerns regarding the infielder’s hip.

The Rangers have continued to talk with the Red Sox about Lowell throughout the season. With rookie first baseman Chris Davis hitting just .203 (after going 0-for-3 with a walk Thursday night), and Texas having to include first base prospect Justin Smoak in the Cliff Lee trade, there remains a potential need at first for Texas. The source reports the Rangers will continue to explore other trade options before accelerating negotiations for Lowell.

Lowell was out on the Fenway Park field and, according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona, “took some ground balls, [hit] some balls off the tee and in the cage. He actually felt pretty good. We’re going to start ramping him back up, too.”

For more Red Sox coverage see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: chris davis, Justin Smoak, mike lowell, texas rangers

Scan shows Martinez still progressing

07.15.10 at 11:29 pm ET
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After taking a scan Thursday, it was determined that Victor Martinezfractured left thumb hadn’t gotten any worse after there were some concerns that it might have been regressed in some way.

“They wanted to see it had become worse or displaced and it is OK,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona after his team’s 7-2 loss to the Rangers Thursday night at Fenway Park. “He is still very tender. As that tenderness leaves he can do more, but that is where we are at.”

Martinez was relieved the scan indicated he was continuing to take steps forward instead of back.

“It shows it got a lot better,” he said. “I think from this point it’s just seeing how it feels every day. Hopefully I can wake up tomorrow with no pain. I’m just taking it day by day and just seeing how it feels.”

The catcher said he attempted taking swings Thursday, coming away with mixed results.

“I did it today. It was a little rough, but I did it at least,” Martinez said. “I swung the bat from the left side, it was pretty good, pretty normal. It’s pretty hard from the right side.”

Martinez, who went on the 15-day disabled list June 28, still doesn’t have a timetable as to when he might be able to return.

“Hopefully I wake up tomorrow with no pain, that’s the next step,” he explained.

For more Red Sox coverage see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Closing Time: Rangers 7, Red Sox 2

07.15.10 at 10:21 pm ET
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The night started well, anyway. For one batter. Tim Wakefield struck out Elvis Andrus to begin the game but it was pretty much a disaster after that for the knuckleballer and the Red Sox as the Rangers connected for six straight hits to build a 6-0 lead before the Red Sox even had a chance to get their first swings after the All-Star break.

Combine that with the fact that they were facing a pitcher that had won five of his seven starts since re-joining the Rangers on June 5 and Boston’s fate was pretty much sealed only minutes after the moment of silence for Yankee legends George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard.

All told, Thursday’s 7-2 loss to the Rangers was a pretty simple story of bad starting pitching against a red-hot Texas lineup.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Wakefield simply didn’t have it. He threw 26 pitches in the first inning. Not bad by Daisuke Matsuzaka standards. But after the strikeout of Andrus, he gave up three singles to Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Vladimir Guerrero before Josh Hamilton’s double. Nelson Cruz followed with a two-run single and Bengie Molina connected for a two-run homer and it was 6-0. Wakefield appeared to collect himself with a five-pitch second inning, in which he retired all three batters. Wake had no such luck in the third when he faced three batters and retired none.

Wakefield suffered his shortest outing since Sept. 6, 2008, also against the Rangers. That night, like Thursday, he allowed seven runs. Thursday, Wakefield also yielded eight hits while striking out two.

– The Red Sox had no answers for Tommy Hutton. After the Rangers scored six in the first, the Red Sox went out in order in the first and could only muster a pair of solo homers against starter Tommy Hutton.

Terry Francona would have dearly loved to have had a longer night from Wakefield for the simple fact that he has Felix Doubront going Friday and John Lackey on Saturday. Especially with Doubront, there’s no guarantee the 22-year-old hurler can give them the six or seven innings they need to save a bullpen that had to get 21 outs on Thursday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

The Red Sox bullpen of Robert Manuel, Dustin Richardson and Scott Atchison did not allow a run over the final 21 outs of the game. Manuel came in and allowed Wakefield’s final run to score but didn’t yield one of his own. The lefty Richardson did walk three batters and recorded only one out but he was rescued by Atchison, who entered with two on and none outs in the sixth. Atchison allowed just one hit over three scoreless innings to keep the Red Sox within a big inning of getting back in the game.

‘€œThe bullpen was outstanding,” catcher Kevin Cash said. “You hate to see an effort like that where they kept us in that ballgame and a big hit there or big hit at any point and we’€™re right back in it. But tip your cap to the bullpen. They were outstanding, every one of them.’€

– The Red Sox got part of their power stroke back as J.D. Drew and Bill Hall hit homers over the Monster. Drew appears to warming up after a rough trip in Toronto, where he was just 2-for-11. Drew had two hits on Thursday, hitting out of the No. 5 hole behind Kevin Youkilis.

– Though Hall did commit an error on a sharply hit ball by Josh Hamilton in the third inning, he made a couple of outstanding plays at third base, filling in for Adrian Beltre, who could return to the hot corner on Friday night. In the fifth inning, Hall snared a sharp liner off the bat of Molina. Then, in the sixth, with Ian Kinsler at the plate, and runners at first and second, Hall fielded a grounder, stepped on the bag and then leaped in the air and threw a strike to Kevin Youkilis to complete the double play.

– Cash, while hitless with a walk on the night, continues to impress defensively behind the plate. Nelson Cruz tried to advance on a pitch in the dirt but Cash recovered quickly in the fifth to nail Cruz with an accurate throw down to Eric Patterson at second.

Read More: bill Hall, J.D Drew, Rangers, Red Sox

Michael Young’s side of the Beltre saga

07.15.10 at 8:09 pm ET
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Speaking prior to his team’s series opener with the Red Sox, Texas third baseman Michael Young explained that the entire drama surrounding his unexpected inclusion into the All-Star Game by American League manager surprised him as much as anybody.

“I had like 10 or 15 texts, saying congratulations, ‘Are you on a plane yet?’ Meanwhile I didn’€™t have any missed calls. I’€™ve known [Major League Baseball’s] Phyllis [Merhige] for years now, she runs a pretty tight ship over there. It’€™s a pretty well-oiled machine. If something was up, she would have called me right away. The fact that I didn’€™t have any missed calls, I knew something wasn’€™t right.

“I called my agent, asked him to get to the bottom of it. Phyllis called me five minutes later, she explained to me the situation, that there was a miscommunication between her and Joe. She said basically, they were seeing if Adrian was ready to play or not. At that point, Joe also called me, he apologized I told him there was no need for an apology. It didn’€™t disrupt my All-Star break one bit. It’€™s just a classic mixup. I apprecitated their phone calls, but it wasn’€™t necessary.

“Plus, I was happy [Adrian Beltre] got a chance to play. He’€™s having a great first half, and I didn’€™t want an injury to prevent him from getting a chance to play in a game he deserved to be in.”

Young, who has played in six All-Star Games, said the opportunity to stay at his Dallas-area home didn’t bother him at all.

“It didn’€™t disrupt my break one bit,” Young said. “I didn’€™t pack one article of clothing, I never went to the ballpark to get my stuff, I was totally fine. Phyllis sent me a text sometime Monday night telling me Beltre was going to play. So when I went to bed Monday night I was good. So I was like ok, good, I’€™m glad, thanks for keeping me posted.”

Beltre MRI turns out ‘pretty good’

07.15.10 at 5:38 pm ET
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Adrian Beltre had an MRI on his sore left hamstring and manager Terry Francona said the preliminary findings were “pretty good” but decided to hold him out of the starting lineup against the Texas Rangers on Thursday night at Fenway Park. Francona replaced Beltre with Bill Hall at third base for Thursday’s four-game series opener.

“I wasn’t real comfortable playing him tonight,” Francona said. “Hopefully, he’ll go out move around, maybe be available to pinch-hit, play [Friday], that would be, for me, best case. I just think with the travel, I just didn’t have a real good feeling running him out there. Just knowing the way he plays, I didn’t want him hurting himself.”

Beltre said he felt a cramp in his left hamstring that forced him from Sunday’s game in Toronto. General manager Theo Epstein said on Wednesday he didn’t anticipate Beltre winding up on the disabled list.

Victor Martinez told Francona that his left thumb is ‘€œfeeling a little bit better’€ and he is getting an exam on Thursday night.

Dustin Pedroia will get his broken left foot looked at noon on Friday and Jason Varitek will have his broken right foot examined at 12:30.

Mike Lowell [strained right hip] went out early Thursday and ‘€œtook some ground balls, [hit] some balls off the tee and in the cage,’€ Francona said. ‘€œHe actually felt pretty good. We’€™re going to start ramping him back up, too.’€

‘€œA little bit,’€ Francona said of the relaxation he got during his All-Star break. ‘€œI don’€™t know if I ever can quite get away but you try to use it to your advantage. I got away for a couple of days and again, there was a lot going on that we needed to stay in touch with but when there’€™s not a game hanging over your head, it’€™s a little easier to relax a little bit.”

One form of relaxation for Francona is to lose himself in a mystery. He began the book ‘€œStorm Prey’€ – a Lucas Davenport thriller in a series of novels by Davenport.

“I read about a half a book,” Francona said. “I guarantee you that book will be right there half-read when the season is over. I’€™ll read it in the winter.’€

Read More: Adrian Beltre, left hamstring, Lucas Davenport, Michael Young

Beckett to get 85 pitches to prove he’s ready

07.15.10 at 5:18 pm ET
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Sometimes the build-up can be better than the outcome.

In Josh Beckett‘s case, it’s crucial to it.

On Sunday in Pawtucket, Beckett looked strong in throwing 68 pitches over four innings in a 2-1 over Syracuse at McCoy Stadium. He allowed two hits and one run – a solo homer to Jason Botts – in his first rehab start back from a strained lower back. He last pitched on that rainy night of May 18 at Yankee Stadium.

‘€œIt went good and everything feels good,” Beckett said. “I threw a side [Wednesday] and we’€™re kind of just on the building-up stage now.’€

But Beckett said that doesn’t mean he’s trying to ease his way back into a possible return next week on the West Coast road trip.

‘€œNo, I’€™m not trying to take it slow,” Beckett said. “We’€™re definitely trying to accelerate the best we can but the building-up part, it’€™s basically like spring training. You can’€™t go too fast or you end up going backwards.

‘€œI haven’€™t even heard that this is my last start. That’€™s not my decision. I’€™m just trying to build up. I want to feel good at the end of the game and feel like I got the results I wanted.’€

[Click here to listen to Josh Beckett talk about why he’s excited to make it back soon.]

Speaking for the first time since his first rehab start last Sunday, Beckett said he is making progress on building up the strength and stamina he needs to return to the rotation. Beckett will make at least one more rehab start on Saturday in Syracuse for Triple-A Pawtucket before sitting down with Red Sox coaches and manager Terry Francona to determine if he can return to the rotation next week on the road trip.

“I haven’t even heard this is my last start,” Beckett said Thursday afternoon. “That’s not my decision. I’m just trying to build up. I want to feel good at the end of the game and feel like I got the results I wanted but also building up is a big part of it.”

Francona left the door open for Beckett to return to his normal spot in the rotation if everything goes well on Saturday and the days following.

“If he’s ready to come back and pitch for us, he will,” Francona said. “If he’s not we’ll let him have another [rehab start]. He The plan is to have him throw maybe about 85 pitches and if all goes terrific, he can come back and take his slot with us. If we all feel like he needs another one, then he would do that but we want to evaluate that after he pitches.”

Most importantly, Beckett said he is feeling stronger and stronger following his work, a good sign.

‘€œThat’€™s real exciting,” he said. “It’€™s as good as felt in six or eight weeks. Just to come in the day after I pitched and know that I can play catch today and not have to worry about limitations.

‘€œIt’€™s tough to sit in the training room for four or six weeks and watch guys go down with you. That one road trip seemed to be really bad. It’€™s tough but for the most part, we’€™ve held our own with everything going on.’€

Beckett recalled several times in his career – including 2008 – where he’s had to come back from injuries and he has to listen to the team before making a decision of his own.

‘€œI’€™ve dealt with it before ‘€™08, too,” he recalled. “When decisions are taken out of your hands, there’€™s nothing you can do. That’€™s where I’€™m at right now. Go to Syracuse on Saturday and pitch and do the best I can, as far as getting my innings in and everything like that. There was a chance I could’€™ve went five innings the other day and it didn’€™t end up happening, went four innings. I wasn’€™t disappointed with the way I pitched or that I didn’€™t go five innings. It just would’€™ve been nice to have that under my belt and go into the next one with a little bit more firm feeling that this could be my last one.’€

If he feels on Sunday the way he did after his start at McCoy, he thinks he could be ready to return.

‘€œI felt good the next day,” Beckett said. “I got a little bit tired during the game. I think it’€™s part of it. It was really hot that day. We had been inside for seven straight days in Tampa and Toronto.

‘€œI didn’€™t think my curveball was very good the other day. I ended up going to a lot more cutters and sliders than curveballs the other day just because it felt better. But that happens throughout the year.’€

Read More: Josh Beckett, McCoy Stadium, Paw Sox, Red Sox

Red Sox vs. Rangers matchups, 7/15

07.15.10 at 3:44 pm ET
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The Red Sox will return to the field Thursday night to start the second half of the season after a three day layoff. Coming back to Fenway, the Sox will have their hands full with the top team in the AL West, the Rangers. The last time they played Texas, also at Fenway, back in April, the Sox took two of three, including a 7-6 win in the debut game of outfielder Darnell McDonald. The last time the two played each other, however, the Red Sox didn’€™t face the resurgent Tommy Hunter.

A three year veteran of the league, Hunter (5-0, 2.34 ERA) didn’€™t even start playing this season until June 5 because a left oblique strain from spring training forced him to start the season on the DL until he was able to rehab in triple-A Oklahoma City for May. Since coming back to the league, the 2007 first round pick has had a nearly blemish free season, winning five of seven decisions, never giving up more than three runs or three walks. In six of his starts, Hunter has pitched six or more innings, but on June 16, he lasted only 2 1/3 innings after straining his hip flexor. Hunter came back five days later and continued his strong performance for this season. The Rangers will have to take pride in that, however, as Hunter is 0-1 in his career at Fenway Park. In 2008, Hunter lasted only 1 2/3 innings after giving up seven hits and nine runs. His current ERA at the park is 48.60.

On the other side, Tim Wakefield has had a hard go of it this year. The 18 year veteran hasn’€™t won back to back decisions all year and has double the amount of losses than wins (3-7, 5.22 ERA). The Rangers aren’€™t even fazed by the knuckleball; in 34 career games against Texas, Wakefield is 10-15 with a 6.09 ERA. Rangers DH Vladimir Guerrero hasn’€™t been on the team beyond this season, but of all the men on his team, he’€™s handled the knuckle the best with his extra large strike zone. Guerrero is 10-for-23 with five home runs and eight RBI, but he can also control himself at the plate as well; Guerrero has nine career walks against Wakefield, compared to only three strikeouts.

The Red Sox don’€™t have enough players on the roster to count on significant production of Tommy Hunter, but do keep an eye out for David Ortiz. After winning the home run derby, Ortiz should continue his hot streak with the bat, especially off of Hunter, who he is 2-for-5 against with a three run home run. Only time will tell if the derby has affected his swing for the rest of the season or not.

The home stand will be a quick one for the Sox; after playing three games at home against Texas, they will travel out to Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim (again, for some Red Sox) for another West Coast swing.

Rangers vs. Tim Wakefield

Mike Young (49 career plate appearances against Wakefield): .233 BA/.327 OBP/.395 SLG, 1 double, 2 home runs, 7 RBI, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts

Vladimir Guerrero (30): .429/.600/1.790, 1 double, 5 home runs, 8 RBI, 9 walks, 3 strikeouts

Bengie Molina (22): .350/.409/.650, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 3 RBI, 1 strikeout

Ian Kinsler (13): .154/.154/.385, 1 home run, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Josh Hamilton (6): .333/.333/.333, 2 RBI

David Murphy is 0-for-2 with a strikeout, while Nelson Crúz and Chris Davis have both walked in their lone plate appearances against Wakefield. Elvis Andrus, Joaquin Arias, Andres Blanco, Julio Borbon and Matt Treanor have yet to face the Boston starter.

Red Sox vs. Tommy Hunter

Adrián Beltré (6 career plate appearances against Hunter): .500 BA/.500 OBP/.667 SLG, 1 double, 1 RBI

Marco Scutaro (6): .167/.167/.167, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (5): .400/.400/1.000, 1 home run, 3 RBI, 1 strikeout

Kevin Youkilis (5): .600/.600/1.000, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Eric Patterson (2): .500/.500/2.000, 1 home run, 1 RBI

J.D. Drew is 0-for-4 with an RBI against Hunter. Mike Cameron, Kevin Cash, Bill Hall, Darnell McDonald, Gustavo Molina, Daniel Nava and Ryan Shealy have yet to face the Texas starter.

Read More: Rangers, Red Sox, Tim Wakefield, Tommy Hunter

Duquette: Expect more Clemens steroid evidence

07.15.10 at 12:31 pm ET
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Former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette, during a conversation on “Sports Buzz” with Butch Stearns (view the interview here), said that he expects more information to come out linking Roger Clemens to performance-enhancing drugs.

Asked if Clemens ever will be welcomed back in Boston, Duquette said: “There’€™s been a lot of water under the bridge since Clemens left town, and I think there’€™s more information that will come out here before we’€™re done with this current saga in Roger’€™s professional life.”

Added Duquette: “Let’€™s let it play out a little bit more. I think there is more information and evidence that will show that Roger used performance-enhancing drugs in a significant way.”

Clemens, who has been in a legal battle with former trainer Brian McNamee, has denied McNamee’s accusations that the pitcher used performance-enhancing drugs, but he is the subject of a grand jury inquiry to determine whether he lied when he testified as such under oath to Congress in 2008.

Duquette was the Red Sox general manager in 1996 when the team decided to let Clemens go to free agency following four  seasons with 11 wins or less. Clemens went to Toronto and resurrected his career, winning two straight Cy Young Awards before moving to New York and winning two World Series titles with the Yankees. He won another Cy Young in 2001 in New York and his seventh and final Cy Young in 2004 with the Astros.

Read More: Dan Duquette, Red Sox, Roger Clemens,

Video: The Full Count

07.15.10 at 12:07 pm ET
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Alex Speier dedicates an episode to examining the Red Sox’s farm team standouts at the half-season mark.

Read More: Alex Speier, Red Sox, The Harvest,
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