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Gammons on Big Show: Sox starters must dramatically improve

04.23.10 at 6:32 pm ET
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NESN analyst and Hall of Famer Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Big Show to discuss the state of the Red Sox.

The Sox will open up a three-game series at Fenway against the Baltimore Orioles Friday night after taking two out of three from the Texas Rangers. With the Yankees and Rays opening up the season with great starts, the Red Sox need to capitalize against weaker opponents if they want to stay in the race in the AL East. In order to do that, Gammons said that the starting pitching will need to be significantly better than it has been. “Their starters are last in the American League in ERA, quality starts, wins—if that doesn’t change dramatically they are not going to catch the Rays or Yankees,” he said.

Gammons was asked if Daisuke Matsuzaka will be ready to help the rotation. “I don’t know,’ he said. “I know that when he had the shutouts in the first two starts, he was okay—89-91 mph with an occassional 92. He may get to the big leagues and really dial it up. I feel very badly for Tim Wakefield for having to be the guy who has to step aside for awhile, but they need to find out what Daisuke is going to be.”

Gammons did say that he thought Victor Martinez’s troubles at catcher have been a factor in Wakefield’s performance, though not as big as some have made it out to be. “I guess so, although Victor last year caught him better than Mirabelli caught him,” he said. “It is one of those issues, and I think also because they want Buchholz to be in the rotation and they have to find out about Daisuke, Wakeifled ends up being sacrificed as usual.” Gammons did add that with the issues Wakefield has had with his back as well as his age, the eventual move might leave him better off in August.

Gammons was asked if the performance from the rotation has been the team’s biggest disappointment, considering the high expectations. “Yeah, it has been,” he said. “I don’t think that is going to continue. I thought Buchholz’s stuff last night was the best I have seen all year. I’m not worried about him.”

” I think that this week that Delcarman through the ball better than he has since May or June last year and Bard continues to make huge leaps,” he added.

Gammons commented on a rumor that came out today that the Red Sox might be interested in acquiring catcher Chris Snyder from the Arizona Diamondbacks. “The report is a little misguided because they actually talked about Miguel Montero,” he said. “That was a year and a half ago and Bard’s name came up. But it was Montero that they wanted.”

“I think they should get Snyder,” he added. “Arizona has had a terrible start and they are down I believe 20% in attendance. The problem is that Snyder is a $5 million contract and the Red Sox have been a little touchy about the money. Are they going to spend $5 million dollars on Chris Snyder when they may have to hold that money to get a big piece come July? I don’t know whether they’d go that way.”

A full transcript of the interview is below. To listen, click here.

How are you doing, Peter?

I’m doing well. This is kind of an important stretch for the Red Sox to get the ship righted against Baltimore, Toronto and then Baltimore—although Toronto is a lot better than people thought at the start of the season. Although they’ve got to get their starting pitching going. OK, it is very early in the season but their starters are last in the American League in ERA, quality starts, wins—if that doesn’t change dramatically they are not going to catch Tampa Bay or Yankees.

When you look at this, I think we thought there would be some challenges to this offense. But isn’t this the most surprising and disappointing part, that their starting rotation has really been awful?

Yeah, it has been. I don’t think that is going to continue. I thought Buchholz’s stuff last night was the best I have seen all year. I’m not worried about him. The other three guys will be fine. The front four I think will be outstanding. I will say that I think that this week [Manny] Delcarman threw the ball better than he has since May or June last year and Bard continues to make huge leaps forward. That is okay. They probably need a couple more relievers somewhere along the line, but I don’t know. I look at them and I say, ‘OK, you are probably going to be a month on [Jacoby] Ellsbury and maybe two months on [Mike] Cameron.’ That is a big problem. And then you’ve got the issues of what are they going to do about David Ortiz and how long are they going to go. And are they going to continue to catch Victor Martinez — they have allowed 36 stolen bases and The next team in the Major Leagues has allowed 18, Florida or Arizona. If they decide that they have to DH Victor, not only who catches but how do they work this arrangement where they have three DH’s on the roster: Martinez, Ortiz and [Mike] Lowell. So they have some issues that have to be resolved in a division where you don’t have a lot of time. You may have until May 10th or May 15th if you really pitch well, but you have to figure out how all those things are going to come today.

There is a report on foxsports.com that the Red Sox are interested in Chris Snyder, the catcher from Arizona. But they won’t be able to get him for another five weeks until Miguel Montero comes back from knee surgery. Can they wait five weeks, Peter?

Well a) the report is a little misguided because they actually talked about Miguel Montero. That was a year and a half ago and Bard’s name came up. They didn’t offer Bard for Snyder in spring training. That was a year and a half ago during the offseason, but it was Montero that they wanted. Montero is a really good player. Although, they are not going to trade Daniel Bard now. There is no way. I think they could get Snyder. Arizona has had a terrible start and they are down I believe 20% in attendance. The problem is that Snyder is a $5 million contract and the Red Sox have been a little touchy about the money. Are they going to spend $5 million dollars on Chris Snyder when they may have to hold that money to get a big piece come July? I don’t know whether they’d go that way. I have been scouring every catching name possible. One would be, would you trade a big pitcher to get — probably the best guy in the minor leagues that might be traded is Wilson Ramos with Minnesota, because obviously he is not going to replace Joe Mauer. But I don’t see a match there. They would want Buchholz or Bard and I don’t think that is going to happen. So I don’t know where they go. I raised the question yesterday that if Ortiz doesn’t hit, how much difference is there between the offense of David Ortiz and Mark Wagner? Because Wagner can at least catch and throw. But they set this team up to get offense out of catcher and DH, so that is a tough change in direction without a real answer.

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Ortiz on being pinch-hit for: ‘It was just embarrassing’

04.23.10 at 6:10 pm ET
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Speaking to WEEI.com prior to the Red Sox’ series opening game with the Orioles, Friday night at Fenway Park, David Ortiz called being pinch-hit for Tuesday as “embarrassing” although he didn’t blame Sox manager Terry Francona. The move by Francona to pinch-hit Mike Lowell for Ortiz came in the seventh inning with lefty Darren Oliver on the mound, marking the first time the manager had ever pinch-hit for Ortiz in a meaningful situation since Francona took over in 2004.

“It was just embarrassing, getting pinch-hit for,” Ortiz said. “I understand. I’m not swinging the bat good, with a lefty and whatever. I’ve got to come through and do my thing and get that out of people’s heads. When I’m swinging the bat good that’s not going to happen. Basically it was a wake-up call to say, ‘You better start hitting or you’re going to get pinch-hit for.’

“You saw my reaction. I just came back tot he dugout. Of course, I was embarrassed, but I took it like a man. It wasn’t Tito’s fault that I was pinch-hit for. It was my fault because I’m not hitting. I know it’s not going to get me any confidence, but it’s telling me to work on your (stuff) and start hitting.”

Ortiz is in the Red Sox’ lineup for the first time since the move by Francona. The designated hitter is batting .146 with no homers and two RBI. He has used the time off to taking extra early batting practice both Wednesday and Thursday.

“I’ve just got to regroup, go back to doing my thing and make sure I get in the lineup,” Ortiz said. “A lot of people have a lot of questions about me not hitting. It’s not a good situation to be in. I’m still working and trying to make things happen. I want to make sure everybody gets me out of their head and lets me play the game.”

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Daisuke to make first start in Baltimore

04.23.10 at 4:21 pm ET
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Speaking to the media prior to his team’s series opener against the Orioles Friday at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw a simulated game Monday in Toronto in preparation of making his first start of the season in Baltimore in the Sox’ weekend series against the O’s.

Francona wouldn’t discuss reports that Tim Wakefield will be moving to the bullpen once Matsuzaka is inserted into the rotation. Wakefield is scheduled to make his regularly-slated start Sunday against the Orioles at Fenway.

Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester will pitch for the Red Sox against the Blue Jays next week in Toronto. Matsuzaka’s simulated game in Toronto will include getting up and down at least four times.

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Red Sox vs. Orioles matchups: 4/23

04.23.10 at 11:24 am ET
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If Jon Lester struggles against the Orioles, then the April problems will no longer be speculation — it will be the cold, hard truth. Lester is 10-0 with a miniscule 2.39 ERA in 12 career starts vs. the division rivals. This would be a great time for Lester to turn the season around, especially heading into the final week of his month of despair.

The Orioles have gotten off to an abysmal 2-14 start this season, and as a team they are only hitting .225, which is tied for third worst in the American League with Toronto. This is good news for Lester, because opposing hitters are batting .313 against the lefty – way above his career .259 mark.

There hasn’t been much good news to speak about in Baltimore, and this could be what Lester needs to bust out of the funk.

Another Red Sox player that could enjoy a little Orioles in his life: David Ortiz. Ortiz has had great success against Friday’s starter, Jeremy Guthrie. “Big Papi” is a career .304 hitter against Guthrie with two career home runs. Nothing will get Ortiz going like a couple of long balls in front of the home fans, before the Sox head out on the road.

Guthrie has a career 1-5 record vs. the Sox, and three of those losses came in 2009. In his four appearances last year against Boston, Guthrie sported a lofty 7.23 ERA.

Jason Varitek's (left) words of wisdom can't snap Jon Lester out of his April funk. (AP)

ORIOLES VS. JON LESTER

Nick Markakis (36 plate appearances): .200 average/ .222 OBP/ .314 slugging percentage, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts

Brian Roberts (35): .281/ .343/ .565, 1 homer, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts

Adam Jones (22): .263/ .364/ .263, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts

Ty Wigginton (14): .462/ .500/ .769, 1 homer, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Miguel Tejada (12): .444/ .500/ .444, 2 walks

Matt Wieters (9): .556/ .556/ .556, 2 strikeouts

Luke Scott (8): .000/ .000/ .000, 3 strikeouts

Nolan Reimold (7): .500/ .571/ .667, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Cezar Izturis (6): .333/ .333/ .333, 1 strikeout

Felix Pie (5): .400/ .400/ .600, 1 strikeout

Robert Andino: 3-for-4

Never faced: Garret Atkins, Julio Lugo, Craig Tatum

RED SOX VS. GUTHRIE

Jeremy Guthrie struggled mightily vs. Boston last season. (AP)

Kevin Youkilis (33 plate appearances): .250 average/ .364 OBP/ .393 slugging percentage, 1 homer, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (32): .321/ .406/ .393, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts

David Ortiz (28): .304/ .393/ .739, 2 homers, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (25): .174/ .240/ .304, 1 homer, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

J.D. Drew (24): .300/ .417/ .650, 1 homer, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (21): .263/ .333/ .474, 1 homer, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (20): .056/ .150/ .111, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (18): .235/ .278/ .294, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Victor Martinez: 1-for-4

Josh Reddick: 1-for-1

Never faced: Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida, Darnell McDonald

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Closing Time: Rangers 3, Red Sox 0

04.22.10 at 10:13 pm ET
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The two-game winning streak is history for the Red Sox, as they could only manage a mere six hits in a 3-0 loss to the Rangers. The Sox wasted perhaps their best performance by a starting pitcher to date in 2010, as Clay Buchholz overpowered the Rangers for six innings before losing steam in the seventh.

Key Play Of The Game

Old friend David Murphy doubled in Nelson Cruz (who reached second on a stolen base) in the top of the seventh inning to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead and a little breathing room. Murphy would later advance to third and score on a throwing error by Clay Buchholz. The Rangers added a third run in the frame for a lead that would turn out to be the final score.

What Went Right For The Red Sox

Clay Buchholz was Bob Gibson for six innings: The 25-year-old entered the game with a 1.80 ERA, but hadn’t pitched as well as that number would indicate. He had walked 10 batters in just 16 innings, and his 1.60 WHIP was nearly identical to Tim Wakefield’s (1.64), who has an ERA of 6.38. And his lack of control showed in his pitch count totals, as Buchholz had averaged 101 pitches per game despite only lasting five innings in both starts.

But for six innings on Thursday night Buchholz looked every bit the ace that many had hoped (and some still hope) he would turn out to be, striking out nine batters (he would finish with 10, a new career high.) But perhaps more importantly, he walked only a single batter which, despite the high K totals, allowed him to pitch into the seventh inning for the first time this season. For those six frames, an absolutely dominating performance (the Rangers had 22 swing-and-misses in total against Buchholz) on a night when the Red Sox decided to stick with Buchholz in the rotation and move Tim Wakefield to the bullpen.

The bullpen pitched out of trouble: Ramon Ramirez relieved Buchholz with two outs in the seventh and Andres Blanco on third. He was able to to induce a lineout to first from Julio Borbon to prevent more damage in an inning that would prove to be the difference in the game. After Ramirez allowed a leadoff double to Elvis Andrus in the eighth (Andrus would advance to third on a ground out), Scott Schoeneweis would come in and retire Josh Hamilton and Murphy without allowing a run. Schoeneweis would turn in a one-two-three inning in the ninth to complete a solid night of work from the ‘pen.

What went wrong for the Red Sox

Clay Buchholz was not Bob Gibson in the seventh inning: Perhaps the pitch count caught up to Buchholz in the seventh inning, as he allowed three runs on three hits. All in all, though, the Red Sox should be thrilled with the overall effort.

Victor Martinez is a GIDP machine: Another rough night for Martinez, who grounded into his league-leading seventh double play of the season following a leadoff single by Kevin Youkilis in the second inning. Right now he’s on pace to break Jim Rice’s single-season GIDP record of 36 before the end of the NBA playoffs.

C.J. Wilson: Wilson, who entered the game with just eight career starts out of his 260 appearances, pitched 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits. It was a relatively stress-free night for Wilson, as the Red Sox could only  get a single runner into scoring position against the left-hander.

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Sources: Wakefield headed to the bullpen

04.22.10 at 7:16 pm ET
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According to sources familiar with the situation, the Red Sox enter Thursday night’s game against planning to send Tim Wakefield to the bullpen when Daisuke Matsuzaka returns to the Red Sox’ starting rotation.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before his team’s series finale against the Rangers that Matsuzaka would be making his next start for the Red Sox after pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox in his last three appearances while on a rehab assignment. Francona, however, would not disclose when Matsuzaka would be making his first start this season with the Sox, saying the team still had to speak to all the parties involved.

Wakefield last pitched out of the bullpen in the 2004 American League Championship Series, earning the win in Game 5 against the Yankees after pitching three scoreless innings. For his career the 43-year-old has made 141 regular season appearances, going 10-13 with a 3.75 ERA and 22 saves. The knuckleballer served as the Red Sox’ closer 1999 season, saving 15 games.

Wakefield is currently 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA in three starts this season. Barring any unforseen circumstances Clay Buchholz, who got the start for the Red Sox Thursday night, will remain in the starting rotation. He enters the game against the Rangers with a 1-1 mark and a 1.80 ERA.

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Is Buchholz pitching for a rotation spot tonight?

04.22.10 at 5:48 pm ET
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With the impending return of Daisuke Matsuzaka to the rotation, and Terry Francona’s insistence that the Red Sox will not use a six-man starting staff, someone will be moving to the bullpen.

And it doesn’t take a baseball IQ of 180 to know that Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey are going nowhere.

So the question is: Will it be Tim Wakefield or Clay Buchholz?

Francona was asked on Thursday afternoon if the return of Matzuaka to the rotation will help the bullpen depth. The manager evaded the question, but it wouldn’t be hard to conclude that a power arm like Buchholz could be a nice option in the sixth and seventh innings for the Sox. With Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez struggling there is clearly a need for another quality pitcher in the bullpen.

But has Buchholz done anything to lose his spot on the staff? Through two starts he has battled control issues (six walks in 10 innings pitched,) but his ERA is just 1.80. Wakefield has an ERA of 6.38, and his knuckeball only makes things more difficult for Victor Martinez (witness the nine steals by the Rangers on Tuesday night.)

It’s hard to image Wakefield playing a key role in the bullpen, but perhaps Francona sees an advantage to keeping Buchholz in the rotation and moving the 18-year veteran to a long-relief spot.

One would assume that a good start from Buchholz tonight makes Francona’s decision an easy one, but a stinker from the 25-year-old could mean the odd man out is anyone’s guess.

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