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Price, not Lester, gets nod for AL

07.12.10 at 12:56 pm ET
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ANAHEIM — Tampa Bay’s David Price will start the All-Star Game for the American League, getting the nod from AL manager Joe Girardi over Jon Lester of the Red Sox. Price is tied with CC Sabathia for the most wins in the AL (12), while carrying the league’s best ERA (2.42). The case for Lester was bolstered by the fact he was just one win shy of Price, while limiting opponents to an American League-worst batting average of .203.

Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez — who hits the break with 15 wins and a 2.20 ERA — gets the start for the National League.

The American League lineup is as follows: Ichiro Suzuki RF, Derek Jeter SS, Miguel Cabrera 1B, Josh Hamilton CF, Vlad Guerrero DH, Evan Longoria 3B, Joe Mauer C, Robinson Cano 2B, Carl Crawford LF.

The National League lineup, as announced by manager Charlie Manuel: Hanley Ramirez SS, Martin Prado 2B, Albert Pujols 1B, Ryan Howard DH, David Wright 3B, Ryan Braun LF, Andre Ethier CF, Corey Hart RF, Yadier Molina C.

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

Wagner ready to catch on in 2nd half

07.12.10 at 12:38 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET — PawSox catcher Mark Wagner was in a hurry to head out on his All-Star break following his team’s 2-1 win over the Syracuse Chiefs on Sunday at McCoy Stadium.

If somehow, when he returns to action this week, he’s with the big league club in Boston, he’ll be more than ready. But that possibility seemed somewhat remote, by Wagner’s own admission after Sunday’s contest.

Wagner, a ninth-round pick by the Red Sox in 2005, returned to Boston’s Triple-A affiliate this week after rehabbing two separate hand injuries that have made his 2010 season a bit of a nightmare. Wagner suffered a broken hamate bone in his left hand on April 29. He successfully rehabbed that injury, only to have another related pain develop where the bone meets the wrist.

He has spent the better part of the last eight weeks down in Fort Myers, rehabbing and playing in Gulf Coast League games, trying to get ready to play in the second half.

“It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment as we get back in the swing of things and battle through some soreness and stiffness but I feel like it’s going better and we’re heading in the right direction,” Wagner said. “Physically, we’re coming along. I think it’s going to be a little bit more of a mental adjustment because it’s going to take time to get back from rehabbing in the GCL to all of a sudden playing with a lot of big leaguers.”

While Wagner was battling his own problems, the Red Sox lost both of their veteran catchers ‘€” Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek ‘€” to the disabled list. With Wagner on the DL himself, the team was forced to go out and acquire Kevin Cash while calling up Pawtucket catcher Gustavo Molina to fill the current void.

On Sunday, Wagner, who was originally selected by Atlanta in the 29th round in 2002, showed signs of being able to possibly help the big league team, both behind the plate and with the bat.

He caught Josh Beckett‘s rehab start after catching him briefly in a couple of bullpen sessions in spring training. Wagner went 1-for-3 with a clean RBI single in the first, driving in what proved to be the winning run in the 2-1 Paw Sox win.

“Mark, he’s going through his own little things,” PawSox skipper Torey Lovullo said. “He’s going through his own little situations. He’s just coming back from a key injury. I think he did a great job. He squared up a lot of pitches. He does a great job receiving. I think Josh had a certain comfort level with Wags knowing they had worked together in spring training. I thought they worked very, very well together. They had good rapport and good communication between innings in then dugout.”

“If they call, then absolutely I want to help, obviously,” Wagner added. “I’ll be here trying to do my thing and if they need me, I’ll be ready.”

Read More: IL, mark wagner, Paw Sox, Pawtucket Red Sox

Jays make three relievers available

07.12.10 at 11:37 am ET
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ANAHEIM — According to a major league source, the Blue Jays have made three relievers available — Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor, and Scott Downs. The news should be of note considering one of the Red Sox‘ primary needs at the trade deadline figures to be late-inning bullpen help, and Toronto general manager Alex Anthopolous has shown a willingness to deal within the American League East.

The 32-year-old Gregg (who was first identified as being available by the Toronto Sun) has been closing for the Blue Jays, converting 20 of 23 save opportunities this season. He is signed to a $2.75 million deal this season, with either a $4.5 million club option for next year or a club option for a combined $8.75 million for 2011-12.

Gregg had taken over closing duties for the 32-year-old Frasor, who is 3-2 with a 4.67 ERA in 30 appearances. Frasor has been pitching well of late, allowing just one run in his last six appearances. The right-hander is slated to become a free agent at the end of this season, currently carrying a one-year, $2.65 million deal.

Downs, a left-hander, is also on the last year of his deal, making $4 million this season. In 41 appearances this season he has totaled a 2.65 ERA, with lefty hitters managing just a .208 batting average against the 34-year-old.

As for the Red Sox’ current bullpen situation, Hideki Okajima has said that his back still isn’t 100 percent, a contributing factor to his ineffectiveness this season. Manny Delcarmen, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a forearm issue, is scheduled to throw another bullpen session Wednesday and may come off the DL later this week.

The team has also moved prospect Michael Bowden to the bullpen in Triple A Pawtucket, where he has allowed just one hit in three relief appearances. Felix Doubront, who is with the big league team as insurance for Clay Buchholz‘ hamstring, is also candidate to help out in the Sox’ bullpen down the line.

Read More: Rumor Mill,

Sox pitching prospect Pimentel gets a taste of Futures

07.11.10 at 10:11 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Red Sox pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel spent little time in the All-Star Futures Game. He entered the contest for the World team in the bottom of the fifth inning, and showed his three-pitch mix — a 92-93 mph fastball, a change that elicited a swing and miss, a work-in-progress curve — while retiring both of the batters he faced.

The first hitter, Marlins prospect Logan Morrison, drove a full-count fastball to the warning track in center field, where Pirates prospect Gorkys Hernandez made a fine grab while crashing into the wall. Pimentel then got Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa on a broken bat groundout to second on a fastball to conclude his day.

Though the experience (in a game that the U.S. team won, 9-1) was brief, its significance was not lost on Pimentel. For the second time in his career (following an appearance as the Lowell Spinners’ starter in the Futures at Fenway contest in 2008), the right-hander had enjoyed the opportunity to pitch on a big league mound. The experience was a reminder of the 20-year-old’s ambitions.

“I was excited to be here. I hope to be here again,” said Pimentel. “[Fenway Park and Angel Stadium] are big league mounds. Everything in the big leagues is good.”

The Sox are confident that Pimentel will have the opportunity to return to the big league setting in the not-too-distant future. Indeed, the team was sufficiently bullish about his future that it refused to include him in the three-way trade that brought Jason Bay to Boston and sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, nearly jeopardizing the deal.

That Pimentel has achieved that status as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects is somewhat remarkable, given his obscure professional origins. The Sox were the only team that asked him to a workout in the Dominican Republic. At the time, the 16-year-old was rail thin, and his fastball was just 84-86 mph. He signed as a 16-year-old for the relatively modest bonus of $25,000. But the money was less important to Pimentel than the opportunity to pitch professionally.

“I wasn’€™t throwing hard. I was skinny, younger. I wasn’€™t thinking about the money I got to sign. I wanted to play professional baseball. As soon as I signed, I started working, working, working,” said Pimentel. “I wasn’€™t thinking about money. I wanted to play because I love to play. Making the big leagues, that was my big goal.”

That makeup was a part of what impressed the Sox about Pimentel when they signed him. Yet the team also saw a pitcher who was eminently projectable. That forecast, in turn, increasingly has come to fruition.

“Stolmy’s arm action [and] athleticism stood out,” said Sox Vice-President of International Scouting Craig Shipley. “He has grown both physically and mentally, allowing him to improve his stuff and the understanding of what it takes to become a [major league] pitcher.”

Pimentel’s physical maturation is very apparent. When he was with Lowell, he estimates, he weighed 180-185 pounds as an 18-year-old. Now, he has packed on muscle in reaching 220 pounds. That has already added some velocity and life to his fastball, and the Sox believe that there is more such growth to come.

“I think he projects to throw harder — he’€™s only 20 years old — as he continues to grow into his frame, define his physique. His arm works really well,” said Sox GM Theo Epstein. “I think he’€™s going to be a guy who has power to his game, but with a swing-and-miss changeup and the ability to command the ball to both sides, it’€™s not like he needs double-plus velocity in order to be successful. He’€™s got three pitches.”

Statistically, this season has been Pimentel’s most challenging since turning pro. He is 5-7 with a 4.61 ERA for High-A Salem. His strikeouts (55) are down, though his control (25 walks) has been very good. But the Sox believe that his progress as a professional cannot be judged by his 2010 numbers.

“I think you have to look past the numbers. He has a major league changeup right now. his breaking ball is getting better all the time. He’€™s going to be a good one. He has all the ingredients to be a major league starting pitcher if his development continues at the rate it’€™s been going the last four years,” said Epstein. “His progress in the system has been steady and methodical. For a guy who signed four years ago at 16, to move through and have success at every level like he has, it’€™s been impressive. This has been a very solid developmental year for him.”

Pimentel has had flashes of brilliance, as when he threw six perfect innings in one start and six no-hit innings in another, while he has had other outings in which he has been hit hard.

The range of performances is all typical for a young pitcher. Pimentel feels that 2010 has been a continuation of his steady progress since signing with the Sox.

“Sometimes there are bad days, but you have to be positive and keep working everyday, no matter what. Be positive and aggressive. That can make you a better player,” said Pimentel. “I’€™ve been doing a good job this year. I feel good. I just have to keep working hard and prepare myself.”

Pimentel suggests that his goals for the second half are to stay healthy and to reach Double-A, though he recognizes that the decision about a promotion is out of his control. All the same, he harbors ambitions of reaching the big leagues as soon as the 2011 season, a goal that he has held since he first turned pro.

“I’€™ve got one more year left. I think I can make it,” said Pimentel. “I feel ready. I’€™m going to be positive and aggressive no matter what. I know if I pitch like I can, I can make it to the big leagues pretty soon.”

On Sunday, pitching on a big league mound, he received a reminder of what may lie ahead.

Read More: Stolmy Pimentel,

McDonald’s heroics not done

07.11.10 at 5:59 pm ET
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TORONTO — There have been plenty of surprises in the first half of the season for the Red Sox, so on a day in which another one popped up in the form of a dominant start to Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch‘s day, perhaps one shouldn’t have been caught off guard by the fact that it was Darnell McDonald who was able to break the scoreless tie in the sixth inning. The outfielder has seemingly co-headlined the you-don’t-know-us-but-you-will-after-a-couple-at-bats tour with Daniel Nava that’s sweeping the nation (and now Canada).

McDonald has gone from being a first-round non-factor with the Orioles to being a key part of the operation on the diamond in Boston. With injuries in the outfield to Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida and the fact that Mike Cameron isn’t 100 percent, McDonald has been big for the Red Sox, hitting .271 with, six homers, 24 RBI.

“He’s been a valuable member of what we’re doing,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said after the team’s 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays. “I think when he first got here he was really trying to show he belonged in the big leagues. I think now he knows he belongs and he knows he’s valuable on our team. He’s kind of taken it and run with it. He’s been tremendous.”

McDonald can agree with Francona’s assessment that he emphasized showing everybody that he was a major-leaguer, but that subsided after he homered and added a walk-off single off the left field wall in his debut against the Rangers on April 20.

“Sometimes you try to come up and do too much,” McDonald admitted. “It definitely helped getting off to a good start. The biggest thing is the opportunities. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities and every day I just want to take advantage of those opportunities and the guys around me have made me feel comfortable, made me feel a part of this team and that definitely helps out.”

Even with all of the factors that McDonald can give credit to for his success — God, hard work, his teammates — it’s the sense of having something to prove to others that has continued to be a motivating factor as he and the Red Sox head into the second half of the season.

“I know that I didn’t have to prove anything to myself,” McDonald said. “I believe in myself, that I can play at this level. Every day i feel like I’ve got to prove something to everybody, being that I can play at this level. I’m not 21 years old anymore, but the biggest thing is just believing in yourself and that’s one thing that I haven’t stopped doing from day one.”

McDonald would not have been in Sunday’s lineup if it weren’t for Cameron feeling sore after getting hit on the wrist in Saturday’s game by a fastball from Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow. Now 31, McDonald seems to fit in excellent in a role that can be unpredictable given Cameron’s health. Despite being in a reserve role depending on the day, the 67 games that the outfielder has played in this season are the most for a year in his career. He played in 17 with the Orioles back in 2004 and saw game action four times for the Twins in ’07 before playing 47 games for the Reds last season.

The excitement that McDonald can exude paints the picture of just how fortunate he considers himself to be in a major league clubhouse. If he has it his way he’ll keep helping the team for the rest of the season, but for now he takes it day by day as he tries to improve.

“Every day is special for me,” McDonald said. “Man, it’s been a great ride and by no means am I satisfied with what I’ve done. I’m definitely happy to be able to come up here and contribute and help the team win. I think there’s still more to come and things that i camn work on and become a better player at playing at this level.”

Read More: daniel nava, darnell mcdonald, Terry Francona,

Beckett wows them in Pawtucket

07.11.10 at 5:47 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET — Josh Beckett did not speak about his 68-pitch performance following a rehab start Sunday afternoon at McCoy Stadium for the Triple-A PawSox.

But those who did were very impressed with the right-hander, who was making his first start since being placed on the disabled list with a strained lower back. Beckett retired 12 of the the 14 batters he faced, striking out four and walking none.

“For the most the most part, he got through the outing healthy, he felt great,” Pawtucket manager Torey Lovullo said. “His fastball, to me, was electric and the secondary stuff, in bits and pieces, was there for him. He threw some change-ups when he had to and he threw some quality breaking balls. I thought the outing was outstanding.”

“The only thing he asked me was, ‘How many pitches did I throw?'” Lovullo added.

Then there were the observations of Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur, who will report his observations to Red Sox skipper Terry Francona and Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell as well as general manager Theo Epstein.

“I thought he threw the ball very well,” Sauveur said. “It was his first outing back. It was about four innings, 68 pitches and it was about getting up four times. He said he felt very good. He did a very nice job, I thought.

“He told me he felt great getting off the mound again. It’s been such a long time. The situations he had, he was battling. He went deep in some counts, just missing off the plate a little bit. But the deep counts and just being aggressive with the the hitters, that’s what Josh Beckett is about.”

Beckett’€™s day was done after 19 pitches in the fourth inning, which included a long homer to right by DH Jason Botts on a 90 mph cutter. Catcher Mark Wagner was only too happy to take responsibility for the homer.

“I think that was on me,” Wagner said. “I probably called the wrong pitch there, unfortunately. He went with me, and that just means we have to learn to get on the same page.

“It was actually a cutter, so I kind of read his swing wrong but he stuck with me and pitched really well,” Wagner said.

Did he say anything to Beckett following the home run?

“My fault,” Wagner recalled, before looking on the very bright side of catching Beckett’s first rehab start.

“It was one of those things where we were touching everything we needed or we would foreseeably see up in the big leagues,” he said. “It was awesome. His stuff was getting better as we were going on. Right as we were getting ready to take him out, his stuff was getting crisper. That’s what was really impressive.”

Beckett used his final inning to work nearly exclusively on his cutter, significant because he faced three left-handed batters.

In the fourth, Beckett’€™s velocity tapped out at 94 on his fastball and 91 on his cutter, according to the right field radar gun. Beckett threw only a handful of curves and change-ups on the day.

“It was more about making sure he got four or five innings out here,” Sauveur said. “It really wasn’t about a certain amount of pitches for each pitch. It was just about getting out there for four innings, 65-70 pitches.”

Lovullo and Sauveur confirmed afterward that if Beckett feels good on Monday he will likely make one more rehab start, but they did not know if it would be for Pawtucket or somewhere else in the system.

Read More: Josh Beckett, lower back strain, Paw Sox, Red Sox

Beltre: ‘If I don’t feel good, I won’t play’

07.11.10 at 4:47 pm ET
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TORONTO — Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre, who left Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays with a hamstring tear, said that the feels ‘so-so’ and that he “should be able to play” in the All-Star game on Tuesday in Anaheim.

“So far I’m playing for now if they ask me to but we’ll see how it feels tomorrow,” Beltre told reporters following the game. He noted that he “won’t try to risk anything.”

“If I don’t feel good, I won’t play,” Beltre said.

Beltre said that the injury occurred about three steps before Beltre reached first base after grounding to shortstop in the fifth inning.

“I thought it was going to be worse,” Beltre said. “It felt like something was going to pop. It just kind of cramped up on it and every time I curl my legs it kind of cramps up.”

Manager Terry Francona pointed out that Beltre wanted to stay in the game given how close it was but that the Red Sox had to take precaution.  Beltre said that he “wasn’t going to come out of the game if it was nothing.” The team will keep in close contact with him in each of the next three days.

Read More: Adrian Beltre,

Closing Time: Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 2

07.11.10 at 3:41 pm ET
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TORONTO –The billing certainly didn’€™t scream ‘€œpitchers duel,’€ but the starters in the Red Sox‘€™ 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays were very productive in churning out quality starts. Jesse Litsch held the Red Sox hitless until the sixth inning and pitched seven strong frames, while Daisuke Matsuzaka countered with six brilliant innings and a not-so-brilliant start to the seventh.

Matsuzaka earned his sixth win of the season and was given all the offense he needed in the sixth when David Ortiz followed a two-run Darnell McDonald homer with a blast of his own. The Red Sox now break for All-Star festivities before resuming their season on Thursday for a four-game set with the Rangers.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Matsuzaka was very impressive for most of his start, including a stretch of retired batters in a row lasting from the third inning to the sixth. Though he was unable to record an out in the seventh inning and was tagged for his only two runs of the game in the frame, the start in which he walked none and struck out five should be viewed as very encouraging. He gave up six hits in total, with the final two coming in the forgettable seventh.

Matsuzaka looked particularly good in striking out Jose Bautista looking in the third inning. After backing the home run leader off the plate on an 0-1 count with high heat, Matsuzaka got him to foul off an inside pitch, thus setting Bautista up to be frozen on the outside corner.

– Darnell McDonald filled in for Mike Cameron (sore wrist) quite admirably, crushing an offering from Litsch to left and supplying the Red Sox with the game’€™s first two runs.

McDonald has continued to emerge as a reliable piece in the Red Sox’€™ injury-themed puzzle. His production out of the No. 2 spot in the batting order was key on a day in which most of the lineup failed to get going early. On the season, McDonald is now hitting .271 with six homers and 24 RBI.

– Red Sox hitters went back-to-back in for the fourth time this season. It wasn’€™t hard to remember when the last time they did it was, as Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Beltre hit consecutive homers off Blue Jays reliever Brian Tallet in the top of the fourth inning in Friday’€™s 14-3 blowout.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– The Red Sox struggled to muster any type of offensive output early on against Jesse Litsch, who entered the game with an earned run average of 7.30.  Litsch was masterful in taking a no-hit bid into the sixth inning. Though a Marco Scutaro double with two out in the inning broke it up and was followed by back-to-back homers from Darnell McDonald and David Ortiz, Litsch remained sharp for the final four outs he recorded.

On the day, Litsch allowed four hits over seven innings, earning all three runs he gave up and striking out five. He walked just one batter and lowered his ERA to 6.54.

– Though swinging at the first pitch is generally frowned upon when facing Daisuke Masuzaka, Aaron Hill had no problem doing so in the seventh inning and making it Matsuzaka’€™s last pitch of the game. His homer to left put the Blue Jays on the board chased the Red Sox starter.

– Adrian Beltre was pulled from the game in the bottom of the sixth inning with a left hamstring strain, forcing Bill Hall over to third base and bringing Eric Patterson into the game at second base. The injury appeared to have occurred while Beltre was running to first base in the fifth inning on a grounder to shortstop.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka,

Beckett fourth inning

07.11.10 at 2:23 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET — Josh Beckett’s day is likely done after 19 pitches in the fourth inning, which included a long homer to right by DH Jason Botts on a 90 MPH cutter.

If Beckett is done, he threw 69 pitches, 42 for strikes.

Beckett used his final inning to work nearly exclusively on his cutter, significant because he faced three left-handed batters.

In the fourth, Beckett’s velocity tapped out at 94 on his fastball and 91 on his cutter, according to the right field radar gun.

Beckett threw only a handful of curves on the day.

He allowed two hits, the homer to Botts and a clean single by Mench in the second. He struck out four while walking none and left with a 2-1 lead.

Read More: IL, Josh Beckett, MLB, Paw Sox

Beckett third inning

07.11.10 at 2:07 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET — Boomer Whiting made sure Josh Beckett got his work in during the third inning. After getting Leonard Davis and Carlos Maldonado on a combined three pitches, the Chiefs center fielder worked Beckett for an 11-pitch at-bat before succumbing on a high fly to center, Beckett’s second perfect inning of his three so far at McCoy Stadium.

Whiting fell behind 1-2 before working the count full and fouling off five pitches to stay alive before the fly out.

Beckett is now up to 49 pitches, 30 for strikes. He has thrown mainly fastballs, getting up to 96 MPH on the right field radar gun.

The Paw Sox have staked the rehabbing right-hander to a 2-0 lead after two runs in the bottom of the first.

Read More: IL, Josh Beckett, MLB, Paw Sox
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