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Sox do ‘due diligence’ in signing Delgado

08.07.10 at 4:44 pm ET
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NEW YORK — The Red Sox reached agreement with first baseman Carlos Delgado on a minor league contract. The deal carries little risk for the Sox, as they will pay the two-time All-Star just $20,000 per month while he is with Triple-A Pawtucket. If he is added to he major league roster, he would earn a prorated portion of $3 million. The deal (which was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com) gives Delgado the right to opt out of his deal on Sept. 1 if he has not been added to the major league roster.

The Sox are unsure what role, if any, Delgado might play for them in the majors this year. He has not appeared in a big league game since playing for the Mets last May. Since then, he has undergone two surgeries on his hip. While he represents a player with intriguing potential — his 473 career home runs rank 30th all time, and he hit .298/.393/.521/.914 with four homers and 23 RBI in 26 games last year — it is difficult to predict how he will perform after such a long layoff.

Delgado will report to Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday, where he will start working out with the PawSox. The Sox hope that he will be ready for games “soon after that,” said manager Terry Francona.

“[The Sox] will try to see how that hip responds and how productive he is with the bat and see where it goes from there,” said Francona. “This is us doing our due diligence. Mikey Lowell is the guy that we’€™re playing at first base. Whatever, whenever, whoever, would be to hopefully complement him.”

Lowell, who is playing on Saturday in back-to-back games for the first time since being activated from the disabled list, is taking a wait-and-see approach to the signing.

“I don’€™t have any thoughts on it. If he gets to Boston, we’€™ll address that,” said Lowell, who played with Delgado when both were with the Marlins in 2005. “We’ll see if he gets to Boston.”

When healthy and in the prime of his career, Delgado was one of the biggest offensive threats in the game. From 1998-2006, Delgado ranked fifth in the majors with 340 homers and third with 1,069 RBI.

“I hope it’€™s a good signing, because we could definitely use him, if he’€™s healthy, and puts together the type of at-bats that I saw in ’02, ’03, ’04,” said Sox catcher Kevin Cash, who played with him in Toronto during those years. “Anybody could use that.”

Yet whether he is able to perform to even a fraction of that standard — or at all — remains to be seen. The Sox evaluated him while he hit in a cage (though they did not ask him to don a glove), and also had a chance to assess his health. While Francona said that the 38-year-old “swung the bat great” during the workout on Friday, he also acknowledged that there is more that is known than unknown about what he might provide.

“He hasn’€™t played a game since two hip surgeries,” said Francona.

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Sox owner Henry believes in miracles (sort of)

08.07.10 at 2:54 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Red Sox owner John Henry turned a few heads when he was quoted by AOL FanHouse as saying that the 2010 Red Sox “need another miracle” in order to bypass the Yankees or Rays and reach the playoffs. Apprised of the statements, some Red Sox players seemed a bit stunned that their owner seemed to be expressing skepticism that the team could overcome its five-game deficit to the Yankees in the AL East or the 4 1/2 games separating the Sox from the Rays in the wild card.

Yet on Saturday, Henry clarified to WEEI.com that just because the odds are stacked against a Sox run at the postseason, it does not rule out the possibility. He cited recent experience in suggesting that he has not abandoned faith in his club’s ability to reach the playoffs.

“The playoff comebacks down 3-0 and 3-1 were nothing short of miraculous in 2004 [and] 2007,” Henry wrote in an email. “What were the odds of winning eight and then seven straight?”

Henry cited recent popular terms that suggest that unexpected events are both more common than expected and carry particular significance. He cited two theories to suggest why the suggestion that his club needs a “miracle” is not mutually exclusive with a belief in the plausibility of his team’s ability to come back.

“Black Swans and ‘fat tails’ have been in the media quite often of late,” Henry wrote. “There is quite a bit in the literature indicating the unexpected is more prevalent than we imagine.”

By way of explanation:

— “Black Swans” (a term coined by author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and explained in this New York Times excerpt of his book) are events outside the realm of expectation that carries an extreme impact and that can only receive proper explanation after the fact. In such terms, the fact that the Sox have never before come back from a five-game deficit at this stage of the season means that there is no historical precedent that would offer an expectation of success. And yet, “Black Swans” do exist — and are discovered — that can sometimes reshape our views of reality.

— “Fat tails” are extreme events that seem to lie outside the normal course of events, and yet that Taleb and others suggest are far more normal than is commonly believed.

So, apparently, the Red Sox owner is not giving up on the season. He is merely acknowledging that the odds are weighted against his club this year, but, as he notes, stranger (and more miraculous) things have happened in his club’s recent history, even as he acknowledged that it would indeed be unexpected for his club to make the postseason.”

“Unexpected? Baseball Prospectus gave us an 8% chance mathematically of making the playoffs a couple of days ago (Pecota-based) when I was asked. With all of the injuries I said it would be a miracle if we made the playoffs,” Henry wrote. “We’ve won two in a row and the teams we’re trying to catch have lost so I’m sure that percentage is higher now.”

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Red Sox vs. Yankees matchups, 8/7

08.07.10 at 12:55 pm ET
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After closing the deficit in the AL East to five games on Friday night, the Red Sox face their toughest test of the four-game series on Saturday afternoon against CC Sabathia. The New York starter has been unbeatable at home in not losing a start at Yankee Stadium in more than a year. John Lackey, meanwhile, will try to follow Clay Buchholz‘€™s performance with a rebound from one of his worst starts of the season in his last outing.

Lackey (10-6, 4.48 ERA) allowed six runs over 5 1/3 innings in a 6-5 loss to the Indians on Monday. The poor start came after he went 1-0 with a 1.61 ERA in his previous three outings, showing signs that he was finally finding his rhythm after a sub-par first half. Lackey’€™s last start against the Yankees came in his first outing with Boston on April 7, a game in which he tossed six shutout innings while allowing only three hits. He received a no-decision, however, as the Red Sox suffered a 3-1 loss.

For his career, Lackey is 5-7 in 17 starts with a 4.40 ERA against New York. Since 2007 though, the right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.76 ERA in seven regular-season outings. Saturday will mark Lackey’€™s first regular-season start at the new Yankee Stadium with his only appearance coming in Game 1 of last year’€™s AL championship series. In that playoff game, he allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings in a 4-1 loss. While Alex Rodriguez has struggled against Lackey (.167 average), Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter have hit him hard, batting .380 and .348, respectively.

Sabathia (13-5, 3.19 ERA) will look to continue his dominance at home, where he’€™s 12-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 17 regular-season starts since last losing on July 2, 2009, against the Mariners. After winning nine consecutive decisions spanning from the beginning of June to late July, Sabathia has taken the loss in each of his last two starts. Despite allowing three and two earned runs against the Rays and Indians, respectively, he received only one total run of support. He’€™ll try to avoid losing three straight starts for the first time since April 2008, with Cleveland.

Against the Red Sox this year, Sabathia has three no-decisions and a 4.76 ERA. He pitched well enough to earn a win in his last start, tossing seven innings of one-run ball on May 18 at Fenway Park. The Yankees, however, dropped the game, 7-6, after allowing six runs in the final two innings. For his career, Sabathia is 5-5 with a 3.56 ERA in 14 starts against Boston. He’€™ll be fortunate not to face Kevin Youkilis, who’€™s enjoyed the most success against Sabathia on the Boston roster. Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Red Sox 6, Yankees 3

08.06.10 at 10:26 pm ET
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At one point, the Red Sox considered making a play for Javier Vazquez this offseason. With the Braves looking to unload the right-hander (and his salary), the Sox wanted to examine the acquisition cost of a pitcher whom they tried several times to acquire in deals early in the tenure of GM Theo Epstein.

But the Braves needed a big league-ready center fielder in any deal for the pitcher, and the Sox had no interest in sacrificing Jacoby Ellsbury in a deal. And so, Vazquez ended up going to the Yankees in exchange for outfielder Melky Cabrera and minor league pitchers Aroldys Vizcaino and Mike Dunn.

On Friday, the Sox had no sense of loss about their decision to stand on the sidelines with Vazquez. They tattooed the right-hander, whose stuff was eminently unimpressive, en route to a 6-3 victory that brought them within five games of the Yankees in the AL East, the closest they have been since the end of the first half. The Sox also picked up a game on the Rays, who suffered a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays. The Sox are now 4 1/2 games back in the wild card.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Clay Buchholz had never beaten the Yankees entering Friday night, going 0-2 with a 6.53 ERA against New York. The Sox had lost all four of his starts against the Yankees.

But on Friday, Buchholz was terrifically efficient in earning his first ever win against the Pinstripes. Though he was a bit sluggish at the start, conceding a two-run homer to Mark Teixeira in the first, he quickly settled, employing a fastball down in the zone, a swing-and-miss changeup and a tough slider. As a result, he was able to fly through 7 1/3 innings of work in just 97 pitches. He minimized the damage after Teixeira’s first-inning homer, allowing just one more run the rest of the way and finishing the night having allowed three runs on nine scattered hits while striking out four and walking none.

Buchholz’ command against a Yankees team known for driving up pitch counts was noteworthy. He became just the fifth pitcher this year to throw at least seven innings against the Yankees in fewer than 100 pitches.

Ryan Kalish continued to make an impact in his early days in the majors. After he punched out in each of his first two at-bats, Kalish jumped on a first-pitch offering from Vazquez in the top of the sixth. He lined the ball into a jet streamthat carried it into the Yankees bullpen in right-center for a two-run homer, his first as a big leaguer. Kalish is now 9-for-20 (.450) with a 1.128 OPS in seven games.

Jed Lowrie continued to be a meaningful contributor in his return to the Sox. He reached base three times, going 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, and he is now hitting .289 with an .808 OPS. His at-bat in the second inning was particularly noteworthy.

Lowrie stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs. After Vazquez threw three straight balls to start the at-bat, he worked his way back into the count with a called strike and foul. Lowrie then fouled off three straight full-count pitches (each different: a curve, fastball and slider) before taking a curve for a walk that loaded the bases. That kept the inning alive for the Sox, a pivotal development, as Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a two-out walk to score one run (tying the game at the time, 2-2) and Marco Scutaro lined a ball down the left-field line for a two-run double that gave the Sox a lead they would never relinquish.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Jacoby Ellsbury managed to drive in his first run since returning from the DL on the strength of a bases-loaded walk, but he otherwise offered no offensive impact. He went 0-for-4, at one point chucking a shard of a broken bat to the ground in apparent frustration. He is 0-for-12 in his three games since coming off the disabled list. That said, Ellsbury did make his presence felt in the outfield, including a diving catch of a sinking liner in the bottom of the eighth that helped to stymie an incipient Yankees rally.

–Struggling left-hander Hideki Okajima landed on the disabled list due to a right hamstring strain.

–The Sox had several opportunities to blow the game open, but went just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Sox owner Henry: Sox ‘need another miracle’

08.06.10 at 8:36 pm ET
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Red Sox owner John Henry told Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse that amidst an “almost astonishing” run of injuries, his team will “need another miracle” if it hopes to overtake the Yankees or Rays to reach the postseason. Henry said that the Sox, if healthy, would have been well-positioned to compete against their AL East rivals, but that — while not giving up hope for the 2010 season — the catastrophic run of injuries to key players will be difficult to overcome.

Henry also defended outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury from critics who suggested that he took too long to return from his broken ribs.

“No one should question his desire to compete,” Henry wrote to Krasovic in an email. “In fact, he came back too soon initially. We didn’t realize he was as badly hurt as he was. No one was looking forward to this season more than he was.”

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Okajima lands on DL due to hamstring issue

08.06.10 at 8:11 pm ET
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NEW YORK — In his first three major league seasons, the absence of Red Sox left-hander Hideki Okajima for an extended stretch would have represented a subject worthy of panic. The southpaw was an integral part of the bullpen, and in extended stretches, one of the best setup men in baseball.

That has not been the case this year. Of the 156 relievers to appear in at least 30 games this year, Okajima’s 5.85 ERA ranked 148th entering Friday.

“I understand that my results on the field haven’t been there,” Okajima acknowledged through a translator.

And so, after he struggled badly on Thursday, allowing a pair of hits and walking a batter while retiring just one hitter, the Sox could be forgiven if they were relieved when Okajima walked into the office of manager Terry Francona and informed him that he was feeling discomfort in his right hamstring, the latest hiccup in a season in which he’s dealt with both hamstring and back injuries since spring training.

“It hasn’€™t been a great year healthwise,” said Okajima. “I had a problem with my hip and back for a while, but I felt something in my hamstring yesterday when I threw, so I feel that the problem with my hip and back came down into my hamstring.”

Since Okajima would not have been available for at least 10 days, the Sox quickly made the decision to put him on the disabled list, and to summon minor leaguer Felix Doubront in his place. He left Yankee Stadium to head back to Boston on Friday in order to receive acupuncture treatment, and it remains to be seen when he will come back.

“I want to be back in the fifteen days, but I can’€™t predict how long it will take,” said Okajima. “I’€™ll get the treatment and see how it goes.”

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Source: Sox ‘doing their homework’ on Delgado

08.06.10 at 7:49 pm ET
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NEW YORK — According to a major league source, the Red Sox were simply “doing their homework” by holding a workout for first baseman Carlos Delgado in New York on Friday. Delgado has not played since May 2009, when hip surgery sidelined him for the remainder of a season that he started by hitting .298 with a .914 OPS and four homers in 26 games for the Mets.

Delgado has been out of pro ball in the States this year, but he has been talking to teams in hopes of finding a fit for the rest of the year. While the Sox are exploring the market for left-handed hitting first basemen who might make complement the right-handed Mike Lowell (who has his own hip issues), Delgado’s own physical limitations might make him an imperfect match. Even so, that is a question that the Sox are at least willing to consider, leading them to watch the first baseman’s workout on Friday.

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Doubront eager for the bullpen challenge

08.06.10 at 7:31 pm ET
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NEW YORK — No one said it’€™s going to be easy, but Felix Doubront likes it that way.

On Friday, the Red Sox recalled Doubront from Triple-A Pawtucket to join their bullpen, with Hideki Okajima going on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. The challenge is, Doubront has made a single relief appearance in over 550 innings during his professional career. (He previously pitched a few innings out of the bullpen during winter ball in Venezuela.) That one time came just days ago on Tuesday, when he struck out four in two scoreless innings for the PawSox.

Now the 22-year-old left-hander is back on the Red Sox, and he is ready to take on his new role.

‘€œI have to focus on that hitter and the next three hitters I have to face,’€ he said prior to Friday’€™s Red Sox-Yankees game. ‘€œIt’€™s going to be challenging my mind, trying to get an out to get the win.’€

Doubront started in three games this season for the Red Sox, earning a 1-2 record and 4.11 ERA. He was optioned to Pawtucket in mid-July, and learned later that month that he would be moved to the bullpen once he re-joined the team.

Even though Doubront will be coming out of the bullpen, that doesn’€™t mean he will face just one batter a night. Manager Terry Francona prefers not to use him as a ‘€œmatchup guy,” noting he can get both left and right-handed batters out.

“Having the two lefties really helps,” Francona said of Doubront and Dustin Richardson. “We talk about this all the time, get the lefty up in the big situation. That could be four times a game. You could really hurt somebody’€™s production that way.’€

While Doubront admits he may not have had enough time to completely transition to the relief role, he is confident in his fastball and breaking ball. He said his arm feels better and he can throw harder than in his last stint in the majors.

Besides, he likes the pressure of the relief position.

‘€œI felt that in the last inning I threw in Pawtucket,’€ he said. ‘€œI felt the pressure, it’€™s like a challenge. I like the challenge.’€

And what bigger challenge than taking the mound during one of the most historic rivalries in sports?

‘€œI think we were kind of hoping to lengthen that acclimation out a little bit more. But so much for development,’€ said Francona. ‘€œHere are the Yankees, go get ‘€˜em, kid.’€

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Sox place Okajima on the DL, recall Doubront for relief

08.06.10 at 6:47 pm ET
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NEW YORK — The Red Sox just officially announced that they will put left-hander Hideki Okajima on the 15-day disabled list with a strained hamstring. In his place, the team recalled left-hander Felix Doubront from Triple-A Pawtucket.

More from Okajima, Doubront and manager Terry Francona in a bit, but here is the official release from the Red Sox:

The Boston Red Sox today placed left-handed pitcher Hideki Okajima on the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain and recalled left-handed pitcher Felix Doubront from Triple-A Pawtucket. Doubront will be active for tonight’€™s game in New York.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

For Okajima, 34, this is his first career stint on the disabled list. The left-hander has compiled a 4-3 record and a 5.85 ERA (21 ER/32.1 IP) with 24 strikeouts in 40 relief appearances with the Red Sox this season, becoming the first pitcher to begin his career with 40 or more relief outings for Boston in each of his first four Major League seasons since Dick Radatz did it from 1962-65.

The 22-year-old Doubront is 1-2 with a 4.11 ERA (7 ER/15.1 IP) and 10 strikeouts over three starts with the Red Sox this season in his Major League debut. In 17 minor league appearances (16 starts) this year between Pawtucket and Double-A Portland, Doubront has combined for an 8-3 record with a 2.81 ERA (25 ER/80.0 IP) and 72 strikeouts. The left-hander made his first professional relief appearance with 2.0 scoreless innings in his last outing with Pawtucket on Tuesday and ranks among Red Sox minor league leaders in wins (second) and strikeouts (10th).

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Pedroia: ‘I’m upset till I can play’

08.06.10 at 6:06 pm ET
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NEW YORK — For Dustin Pedroia, the mission had been clear. He had been told that six weeks was a normal timetable by which to return from a broken navicular bone in his left foot. He was going to beat that assessment.

Now, it is evident that he will not be back in less than six weeks. Indeed, Friday’s game against the Yankees marks the six-week marker of the fracture that Pedroia suffered when he lined a foul ball off his left foot, and his progress came in incremental form.

Pedroia jogged 90 feet at what he estimated to be 70 percent on Friday. Manager Terry Francona said he thought that the effort went “great,” but noted that the second baseman still had trouble decelerating. Pedroia acknowledged that he’s running faster than he had in previous sessions, but he’s still experiencing pain.

Until that stops being the case, Pedroia won’t return to games. And so, he’s searching for a new goal, but aware that any timetable for his return is now guess work.

“I’€™m upset till I can play. I didn’€™t think it was going to be this long. I think I got more of a sense of an idea in Anaheim, when [Dr. Lewis Yocum] told me this isn’€™t anything to mess around with. … If they would have told me how realistic [the six-week goal] would be at the beginning, then I’€™d have probably set different goals.,” said Pedroia. “I still felt it [while running on Friday]. It still hurt. But I was running faster, so that’€™s a good thing. My goal is to play when we get home [on Aug. 17]. I don’€™t know if that’€™s realistic. I just don’€™t know.”

It has been painful for Pedroia to watch his team while unable to help. The day he went on the disabled list, the Sox were three games behind the Yankees in the standings, tied with the Rays for the wild card lead. Entering Friday’s game, the Sox trail New York by six games, and are 5.5 behind the Rays.

“It stinks, man. Miss two months of the season where you feel like you can be helping the team, but you just can’€™t be out there physically,” said Pedroia. “It’€™s just tough that we’€™re five games out, this is a big roadtrip for our team and I can’€™t help them. That’€™s the thing that’€™s tough. If I got hurt and they won, I don’€™t think I’€™d [care].”

Pedroia, who is hitting .292 with a .370 OBP, .502 slugging mark and .871 OPS — numbers very much in line with his 2008 AL MVP season — recognizes that even though he fall short of the goal he initially set for his return, he can still give his club a boost. It is simply that he does not know when that will happen, or whether there will still be enough time for him to impact the season when he does get back on the field.

“I’€™m going to come back and make an impact. That’€™s a fact,” said Pedroia. “I just don’€™t know when that’€™s going to be.”

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