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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.”

Red Sox vs. Yankees matchups, 8/6

08.06.10 at 2:32 pm ET
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After the Red Sox managed to scrape together a split of a four-game home series against the lowly Indians, it doesn’€™t get any easier as they start another four-game set with the rival Yankees, who enter Friday’€™s game leading the AL East by a half-game over the Rays. The two teams haven’€™t faced each other since May 18, a 7-6 Red Sox win. The Yankees lead the eight-game season series 5-3 and haven’€™t suffered back-to-back losses to the Red Sox all season. The Sox may need to put back-to-back-to-back-to-back wins, in other words a sweep, if they want to play their way back into the middle of the conversation for both the division and the wild card races. Clay Buchholz will try to get the team started on the right foot Thursday when he takes the starting mound against New York’€™s Javier Vazquez.

Buchholz (11-5, 2.59 ERA) might have taken over the title of best Red Sox pitcher this season given Jon Lester‘€™s recent struggles. He’€™s second only to Cliff Lee‘€™s 2.51 ERA in the American League in that category. His 11 wins are good for sixth. However since he suffered a hamstring injury before the All-Star break, Buchholz hasn’€™t been quite as dominant. In the three games since returning to the rotation, he has a 1-1 record with a 3.32 ERA, solid numbers for sure but a little lackluster when compared to his whole body of work this season. However, batters are hitting just .183 in that time. When Buchholz takes the mound Thursday, he’€™ll do it on the road where his ERA (2.36) is surprisingly nearly half a run better than at home (2.81). That may be good news, but the opponent isn’€™t nearly as much. Buchholz has struggled against the men in pinstripes in the past, going 0-2 with a 6.53 ERA in four starts.

Despite Buchholz’€™s checkered past against the Yankees, no one would question that the Red Sox have the upper hand in Thursday’€™s pitching matchup. Vazquez (9-7, 4.61 ERA) simply has not lived up to expectations since the Yankees got him from the Braves in the offseason. He started the season 1-4 with a 8.10 ERA in his first six starts, earning a demotion to bullpen duty in mid-May. It was then that he made his only appearance against the Red Sox this season as he struck out Kevin Youkilis in the ninth inning in his only relief appearance of the season on May 17. (He actually received the win in that game after Jonathan Papelbon blew a 9-7 lead in the ninth.) Since then he has calmed down some, going 7-3 with a 3.36 in 13 starts. However, don’€™t expect Vazquez to stay in the game for too long; he hasn’€™t pitched more than seven innings in any outing this season. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox close to signing sixth-rounder Kendrick Perkins

08.06.10 at 11:10 am ET
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Red Sox sixth-round draft choice Kendrick Perkins is in Boston in order to take a physical that will be, barring a setback, the last step in his signing with the Sox.

Perkins, a star running back at La Porte High School in Texas, had a two-sport scholarship offer from Texas A&M. But he made clear to the Sox that he was interested in pursuing a professional baseball career, and his size (he is roughly 6-foot-3, 230 pounds), athleticism and power (in a workout for Sox draftees at Fenway Park in July, he slammed a triple high off the Green Monster) offer an intriguing skill set.

‘€œHe’€™s a super athlete,’€ Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye said shortly after the draft. ‘€œHe has a unique power-speed combo. There’€™s a lot to like. He’€™s not raw by any means. He’€™s been playing baseball for a while. A lot of times, people envision two-sport athletes as raw players. He’€™s not raw. He’€™s got an idea up there.”

Perkins would be the fourth-highest Sox selection to sign this year, following first-rounder Kolbrin Vitek, sandwich pick Bryce Brentz and fifth-rounder Henry Ramos. Perkins is expected to be the first above-slot signing by the Red Sox.

While Perkins’ physical is likely the final hurdle to his deal becoming official, nothing appears imminent with second-rounder Brandon Workman, a pitcher out of the University of Texas, despite the fact that he was at Fenway Park earlier this week for a physical and to throw a bullpen session. Negotiations are not expected to pick up between the two sides until closer to the Aug. 16 deadline for draft picks to sign.

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Saltalamacchia prepared for ‘fresh start’

08.06.10 at 10:34 am ET
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After being traded from the Texas Rangers organization in a July 31 deadline deal, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was ready to pack up his bags and move towards a fresh start with the Red Sox system with the man who had just given him a new opportunity, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. The GM kept his conversation brief ‘€” there was still time left before the deadline to make additional moves that never transpired ‘€” but two words summarized the call.

‘€œBig plans.’€

Epstein isn’€™t the only one with high expectations for the catcher who was named at one point the best prospect in the Atlanta system and was long considered one of the premier catching prospects in the game. Red Sox fans remember these labels and almost immediately pointed to Saltalamacchia as the catcher of the future before he had even taken a swing for the Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket.

But Saltalamacchia’€™s troubles behind the plate are also well-documented. He’€™s known in some circles as ‘€œthe guy who can’€™t throw back to the pitcher.’€ That’€™s led others to question his value as a catcher at the major-league level.

One thing is for sure. The 25-year-old switch-hitter is willing to do anything and play anywhere if it means getting another taste of the big leagues, where he’€™s played 241 games.

‘€œWhatever they want me to be. They want me to move to another position, I will. They want me to catch, I will. I have to be ready to do whatever they want me to do,’€ Saltalamacchia said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Red Sox 6, Indians 2

08.05.10 at 10:12 pm ET
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The Red Sox earned a spilt of their four-game series with the Indians on Thursday, riding eight strong innings from Daisuke Matsuzaka and a grand slam from Adrian Beltre to a 6-2 victory. The win moves the Sox to within 5.5 games of Tampa Bay for the wild card and six games behind division leader New York, who begin a four-game series with Boston on Friday. Clay Buchholz and Javier Vazquez (career 3-7 vs. Boston) are the scheduled starters for the series opener.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Adrian Beltre continued his brilliant 2010 season, hammering a 1-0 pitch from Indians starter Josh Tomlin over the Monster for his eighth career grand slam. Beltre’s 20th homer of the season (and eighth career grand slam) gave the Red Sox a 4-1 lead. With Kevin Youkilis now gone for the season it is impossible to make a case for anyone (assuming he stays healthy) but Beltre as the team MVP.

– Save for one pitch to Shin-Soo Choo in the top of the first inning (a 3-1 fastball that was blasted by Choo some six rows deep over the center field wall) Daisuke Matsuzaka was in control for his entire start on Thursday. The right-hander pitched 8.0 innings, allowing just the single run on five hits while striking out six. An economical outing — particularly by Matsuzaka standards — as well, throwing 109 pitches (just two walks). Matsuzaka improved to 8-3 on the season, and his 3.96 ERA is the lowest it has been all year (in fact, the last time Matsuzaka finished a start with a seasonal ERA under 4.00 was September 28, 2008).

J.D. Drew — who has just four extra-base hits in the last month — came through in the eighth with a one-out single to score Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz. It was a much-needed hit for Drew, who was in a 3-for-21 slump prior to the eighth-inning at-bat.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

— Before the game Terry Francona announced that Kevin Youkilis would undergo season-ending surgery on Friday to repair a tear in the adductor muscle of his right thumb. Youkilis joins Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek and Mike Cameron on the disabled list for the Red Sox, who have already seen Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Manny Delcarmen all miss significant time with injuries. Youkilis was having his third consecutive standout season in 2010, ranking in the AL top 1o in walks, OBP, slugging percentage, extra-base hits and total bases.

Jacoby Ellsbury is now hitless in his eight at-bats since returning to the Red Sox lineup, posing an 0-for-3 in the leadoff spot Thursday.

— With a 6-1 lead in the ninth, Hideki Okajima could only record a single out, walking leadoff batter Matt LaPorta and giving up a pair of hits. Jonathan Papelbon was forced to come in and close the game out, instead of having the night off and entering the Yankees series with two days of rest.

Pregame Notes: Francona not surprised at Youkilis news

08.05.10 at 7:02 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters prior to Thursday’s series finale with the Indians that Kevin Youkilis will have surgery Friday to repair a torn muscle in his right thumb. The surgery will be performed in Cleveland by Dr. Thomas Graham, who examined Youkilis on Thursday.

“He’ll be immobilized for approximately six weeks, and be evaluated from there,” Francona said of Youkilis. “I think Youk was pretty resolved to the fact that this was probably what was going to happen. It was pretty consistent what they [the doctors] were telling him, so I think he kind of had an idea what was going to happen.”

Francona was asked if there was a chance Youkilis would return this season.

“We’d have to drag it out until about Thanksgiving,” Francona said. “I don’t know how we are going to do that.”

The manager noted that a full recovery is expected and Youkilis should be “ready to go” for spring training.

Francona has Mike Lowell slated to play four of the next five games at first base.

Indians third-base coach Steve Smith received a two-game suspension and fine for his role in Monday’s bench-clearing alteracation, one that saw a heated Francona exchage words with Smith. Francona, though, was not surprised that he wasn’t fined for his part in the incident. Josh Beckett, Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis were all fined.

“I wasn’t expecting one [a fine],” Francona said. “The DL guys, they have to get the fine, which we understand. That was fine. The league does what they need to do and our players did what they needed to do. We’re a team and pay the fine. We knew that would happen. But I didn’t expect to be fined.”

Nothing new on Jason Varitek or Mike Cameron. Francona said with the rain on Thursday afternoon it would be a “limited” day for injured players in pregame workouts.

Carlos Delgado to Red Sox ‘seems a reach, but you never know’

08.05.10 at 7:02 pm ET
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While there is always a chance that Carlos Delgado could sign with the Red Sox — they are searching for a left-handed hitting first baseman and that’s exactly what the 38-year-old is — a source familiar with the situation said Delgado filling the Sox’ void “seems a reach, but you never know.”

The source suggests the Red Sox will first monitor which players pass through trade waivers in the coming days. And while Delgado has drawn interest from the Sox in the past — and is, according to the Boston Herald, ready to participate in a workout for the Red Sox in the coming days — there are concerns regarding the fact he hasn’t played in the big leagues since May 10, 2009, having spent the 15 months recovering from hip surgery. Still, the Sox are keeping in open mind as Delgado’s return seemingly draws near.

Another factor in weighing the potential acquisition of Delgado is exactly how much Mike Lowell is able to play with Kevin Youkilis now out for the season with a thumb injury. Both Red Sox manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein said Thursday that Lowell would start four of the next five games.

One major league source familiar with Delgado’s medical history suggests that because of the uncertainty regarding how much Lowell can play at first Delgado would be a “poor fit” for the Red Sox, noting, “He is worth a dice roll, but not for the Sox.”

According to ESPN.com, the White Sox have had extensive conversations with Delgado’s representatives, hoping he could fill a role as the team’s left-handed designated hitter. Delgado’s agent, David Sloane, was quoted in the report as saying that the first baseman would need a minor-league rehab assignment.

Ortiz on Youkilis: ‘A major hit’

08.05.10 at 6:14 pm ET
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David Ortiz was asked by a reporter on Thursday if he had heard the news about Kevin Youkilis.

“What happened with Youk?” asked the All-Star DH.

When he was told that the first baseman would be undergoing season-ending surgery Friday morning to repair  a tear in the adductor muscle of his right thumb, Ortiz just shook his head.

“Man, it’s a major hit,” Ortiz said. “Things just get worse around here.”

Youkilis joins Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek and Mike Cameron on the disabled list for the Red Sox, who have already seen Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Manny Delcarmen all miss significant time with injuries.

“Everbody knows that Youk is a guy that plays the game hard,” Ortiz said. “He’s just like Pedroia — when you see those guys coming out of the game, something’s wrong. I remember the way he looked after he hit that ball, his last at-bat, I knew that something was definitely wrong with Youk. He never does that, he plays through pain. Something that everyone’s aware of. Now that I heard the news that he’s not going to play again this year, it’s going from worse to worse.”

Ortiz was asked how much of an impact the injury will have on the team for the rest of the season.

“He’s one of the best players we have, no question about it,” said Ortiz of Youkilis, who ranks among the AL top 10 in walks, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs and extra-base hits. “He’s …. it’s crazy. Not what you want to see.

But you gotta do what you gotta do. You have to take care of that [thumb] and come back healthy next year.”

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