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Red Sox vs. Cubs Live Blog – Turn Back the Clock night

05.21.11 at 6:39 pm ET
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In celebration of the Cubs’ last visit to Fenway Park in 1918, the Red Sox and Cubs will wear throwback uniforms on Saturday night. The Red Sox have expressed near-universal dismay about their off-white uniforms, which feature no distinguishing features aside from the players’ numbers on the back. All the same, it qualifies as a distinctive look that should alter the aesthetic complexion of the game.

Fashion aside, the Sox will hope to maintain the roll that has now led them to seven straight victories and brought them one-half game out of the lead in the AL East entering Saturday. For all the latest news, analysis and details of the Sox-Cubs throwback throw-down at Fenway Park, click below to enter the WEEI.com live blog.

Red Sox vs. Cubs Live Blog

Red Sox getting to know new reliever Franklin Morales

05.21.11 at 5:32 pm ET
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Making your first appearance with a team like the Red Sox can be a daunting task. Ideally, Terry Francona would like to make it a little less dramatic for recently acquired reliever Franklin Morales.

“It would be great to get him in maybe not such a high-leverage situation his first outing, but that may not be possible,” Francona said Saturday. “The biggest thing is just get to know him, see what’€™s going on there and let [pitching coach Curt Young] kind of have his two cents.”

Morales, who was acquired from the Rockies on Thursday, arrived in Boston Friday night and warmed up in the bullpen in the eighth inning of Boston’s 15-5 trouncing of the Cubs. Francona said he never planned to use him in the game, though.

“That was just to let him get his legs under him and get that flight out of his system,” Francona said. “We didn’€™t want to do it earlier in the game just in case we needed him.”

Morales comes to the Sox with an arsenal of pitches that includes a mid-90s fastball, a curve, a slider and a changeup. His stuff was good enough to make him one of the top prospects in Colorado’s system, but the 25-year-old lefty’s control has been inconsistent at the big-league level.

“He’€™s got all the pitches. He just needs to pound the zone,” Francona said. “If we can get to that point, this is going to be good.”

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Injury updates: John Lackey ‘pain-free’ as he moves to 120 feet

05.21.11 at 5:06 pm ET
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John Lackey threw Saturday for the second time since receiving a cortisone shot on Monday. He threw 50 times from 120 feet on flat ground while being watched by both pitching coach Curt Young and trainer Mike Reinold.

The Sox were extremely pleased not just that Lackey (2-5, 8.01 ERA) showed good arm strength but also that he is expressing some relief about how good he feels physically.

“His arm’s feeling good. … He’s feeling pain-free,” said Young. “As a pitcher, when there’s something going on with your arm, it’s going to affect you both physically and mentally. Your arm’s never perfect, but you don’t want to feel any pain that is affecting how you whip your arm. I think that might have been the case with him.”

Lackey is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow. Manager Terry Francona said the plan moving forward is for Lackey to join the team on its upcoming seven-game road trip and continue to throw. He said there hasn’t been any decision made about a possible minor-league rehab stint.

“We’€™ll see. He really wasn’€™t down very long, which is good,” Francona said. “When there’€™s a shutdown of a guy not throwing for a couple weeks, that kind of interrupts what you’€™ve done. He really didn’€™t miss a whole lot of time. Saying that, there’€™s a reason he was shut down. If a guy goes from the two-week DL to seven innings, I don’€™t know if that’€™s in anybody’€™s best interest. So we have to figure that out.”

Francona also provided updates on Bobby Jenks and Marco Scutaro. He said Jenks “threw very well” Saturday and that he’ll play catch again Sunday before throwing a bullpen session Monday.

As for Scutaro, Francona said he could start swinging a bat sometime this week, but that Scutaro has yet to indicate that he is pain-free. Francona said once a player is pain-free, the team’s rule of thumb is to have him wait a couple days before doing anything.

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Red Sox-Cubs matchups: Alfredo Aceves vs. Carlos Zambrano

05.21.11 at 3:04 pm ET
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With their winning streak now at seven games, it’s safe to say the Red Sox have started firing on all cylinders. Sill, looming doubts about the back of the rotation only intensified with Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s recent elbow injury. The right-handed was sent to the disabled list with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor mass.

Matsuzaka had struggled mightily in his last two starts, giving up a combined nine earned runs in just over 10 innings. To fill the open spot in the rotation, Terry Francona will turn to Alfredo Aceves to pitch in a rare start opposite Carlos Zambrano.

The former Yankee has started only five games in his three-year major league career, and four of those came as a rookie in 2008. Aceves (1-0, 2.60 ERA) has a solid lifetime ERA of 2.10 in 26 1/3 innings as a starter, but he’s worked only in relief since 2009 and has never gone deeper than seven innings. Aceves did get the win in his last appearance, a solid three-inning effort on May 16 in which he gave up one run on two hits. With the Sox trailing Baltimore, 6-0, Aceves pitched well enough to keep his team in the game, and Boston eventually came back to win, 8-7, on a walk-off double by Adrian Gonzalez.

As is often the case in interleague play, the Cubs have had very limited experience against Aceves. Only Carlos Pena (0-3) and Marlon Byrd (1-2) have ever faced the Mexican right-hander, who will be making his first career appearance against the Cubs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox have righted the ship

05.21.11 at 12:16 am ET
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The Red Sox faced some bleak odds on April 15. Their record was 2-10. They had been outscored, 79-46. They were facing the reality that few teams in big league history had ever come back from such a start to reach the playoffs. The season was just two weeks old, and yet some forecasting systems (such as the fascinating coolstandings.com) had pegged the team’s odds of reaching the postseason at less than 10 percent based on a very, very bad start to the season.

That time now seems remote. The Sox are 22-10 since that point, playing at a .688 clip, and have now zoomed back near the top of the AL East. The team leapfrogged the Yankees with its seventh straight win on Friday, and moved within a half-game of the Tampa Bay Rays for first place. And suddenly, the Sox are playing very much like the team that most people anticipated they would be entering the year, a team that has three top starters (Jon Lester‘s recent struggles aside) and a thunderous middle of the order.

The Sox insist that they are not surprised by their current standing.

“We know what we’€™re capable of doing. We know we should be in first,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “We’€™ve got a great team, a great pitching staff, and there’€™s no reason why we shouldn’€™t be in first place right now. Those other teams are playing great baseball, no doubt about it, but that’€™s their goal. Our goal is to be in first and stay in first all year.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Jon Lester: ‘I’m just not executing pitches’

05.20.11 at 11:52 pm ET
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Jon Lester got the win Friday night to improve to 6-1, but it was far from pretty. He gave up five runs on a career-high 12 hits and didn’t record a single 1-2-3 inning in six frames.

The outing continued a troubling stretch for Lester, who has now given up four or more runs in each of his last three starts. This marks just the fourth such streak of his career and the first since April 2010.

“I’€™m just not executing pitches,” Lester said. “Pitches that I felt like I did throw pretty well, they got some hits on. That’€™s just the way it’€™s going right now.”

The string of bad starts certainly raises questions about whether Lester is 100-percent healthy or whether something’s wrong with his delivery, but the left-hander insisted there aren’t any physical or mechanical problems.

“Execute pitches, that’€™s all it is,” Lester said. “It sounds easy, but sometimes it’€™s not. I didn’€™t do that tonight and they made me pay for it.”

When asked to elaborate on his execution, Lester said there are a number of factors that go into that.

“It’€™s location, ball’€™s not down,” he said. “I had chances to put guys away and didn’€™t do it. You can go down the list. There’€™s a lot of things. I’€™m not doing my job right now.”

Lester said he hasn’t changed anything in terms of preparation before or during this rough patch, and that he doesn’t plan on doing so now.

“Nope, same stuff,” he said. “Just go out there and continue to work on the stuff that’€™s gotten me to this point. I’€™m not going to change anything. I’€™m not going to the drawing board.

“Come back tomorrow, get back to work and go get ’em in five days.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox bats light up Cubs

05.20.11 at 10:46 pm ET
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The Red Sox made it seven straight wins Friday night with a 15-5 thrashing of the Cubs. Their bats exploded for double-digit runs for the first time this season. With the win, the Sox leapfrogged the Yankees for second in the division and moved within a half game of the first-place Rays. This is the closest they’€™ve been to first since the season started.

Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis led the offensive surge with a combined seven hits and seven RBI. Gonzalez notched his first four-hit game and first four-RBI game with the Sox. Youkilis’€™ night included his eighth home run of the season, a rocket to left that cleared everything and wound up on Lansdowne Street.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia also went deep when he belted his second homer of the season off the Volvo sign above the Monster seats in the fifth inning. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Jed Lowrie all contributed multi-hit efforts to the cause as well.

The Sox scored multiple runs in four of the first five innings and chased Cubs starter Doug Davis (0-2) from the game after just 3 2/3 innings.

It wasn’€™t all sunshine and roses for the Sox, however. Although he got the win, Jon Lester (6-1) struggled all night long. He gave up five runs on a career-high 12 hits in six innings of work. He didn’€™t have a single 1-2-3 inning.

Friday marked the third straight start that Lester gave up at least four runs, the fourth such streak of his career and first since April 2010, when he did so in his first three outings of the season. Between the end of that streak and the beginning of this one, Lester allowed four or more runs just eight times in 32 starts. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Kevin Youkilis

Tazawa’s first rehab outing in the books

05.20.11 at 9:27 pm ET
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Red Sox right-hander Junichi Tazawa appeared in a game for the first time since 2009, logging four innings and allowing four runs (all earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out two for Hi-A Salem against Winston-Salem. According to Salem Red Sox broadcaster Evan Lepler, Tazawa’s fastball sat mostly at 86 mph and topped out at 87 mph.

The 24-year-old is on the 60-day disabled list as he continues his rehab from Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in spring training in 2010. With his appearance, the 30-day rehab clock for his minor league assignment has commenced. Barring a setback, the Sox will have to activate him at the conclusion of that period. While the team is likely to option him to the minors at that time, it will nevertheless have to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for him in order to activate him.

Tazawa went 2-3 with a 7.46 ERA in six big league games for the Sox in 2009, his first year in the U.S. after signing out of the Japanese industrial league. He went 9-7 with a 2.55 ERA between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket that year.

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Recruiting pitch: How Drew Sutton was sold on becoming a Red Sox

05.20.11 at 7:00 pm ET
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Free agency features any number of fascinating processes, most of them involving courtship. The representatives for Carl Crawford sent out iPads with highlights of the outfielder’s brilliance when he was a free agent this past winter. Sometimes, teams will offer tours or perhaps welcome a player to a stadium with his name on the scoreboard in hopes of wooing him to a new city.

But the Sox don’t just put on a full-court press for high-profile free agents. The team had a sales pitch for Drew Sutton, a free agent during the winter who had spent 55 games in the majors over the past two seasons with the Indians and Reds after having been drafted and developed in the Astros system.

“I think it was November when the Red Sox started talking to me, they sent a packet that had a list of the past four or five years, the guys who have signed as minor league free agents and how they got an opportunity when the need would arise. They would help fill that role. Having a track record like that, it’€™s not just last year because of all the injuries,it’€™s the last four or five years. So that says a lot,” said Sutton. “Some of the clubs I’€™ve been with, like the Astros and the Reds, they’€™re going to use as much as they can on the 40-man. It’€™s because I guess they don’€™t want to lose the players if they have to take somebody off. … Different teams have different philosophies.

“One of the attractive things about the Red Sox was their track record as far as their minor league free agents that they’€™ve signed,” he added. “If they’€™re playing well, they want to call up people who are going to help them win. With some other organizations, they’€™re going to call up whoever’€™s available on the 40-man. That was something that was attractive to me because if you’€™re not on the 40-man, it still gives you a chance to come up here if you play well.”

The Sox could point to players such as Nick Green and Darnell McDonald who had signed as minor league free agents but ended up assuming prominent roles. That was convincing for Sutton, a versatile player who played all four infield positions in spring training and who recently added left field to his resume in Triple-A Pawtucket.

And Sutton has also shown an ability to hit for the Sox. In spring training, he went on virtually every road trip, serving — along with Nate Spears — as one of the team’s “travel guinea pigs” (in Sutton’s words). As he was shuttling around the diamond, he received plenty of playing time, hitting .317 with a .382 OBP and .550 slugging mark while ranking among the team leaders with 60 at-bats. That, in turn, gave him an opportunity to put himself in the thoughts of team decision makers should the need for minor league reinforcements arrive.

Sutton carried that success into the season with Pawtucket, hitting .304/.385/.522 with five homers in 36 games. And so, when the Sox decided that they needed to send Jose Iglesias back to the minors in order to allow him to continue his developmental progression (for more on that decision, click here), it was Sutton who was summoned in his place.

“I can’€™t really say I expected to be here at any point during the season because you never know what’€™s going to happen,” said Sutton. “But you play well and you put yourself in a good position where, if you play well, you’€™re a name they think of.”

Now, Sutton said, he is prepared to do whatever the Sox need him to do. Towards that end, he spent Friday afternoon trying to take balls off the Green Monster.

“I hope nobody got video of that,” he said. “Probably would have been funny.”

But Sutton has made an impression far beyond a source of humor. He positioned himself to become another face in the brochure issued to future minor league free agents who are looking for a major league opportunity.

Live Blog: History being made at Fenway Park with Red Sox taking on Cubs

05.20.11 at 6:47 pm ET
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Red Sox/Cubs Live Blog

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