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Red Sox face outfield dilemmas

06.27.11 at 4:58 pm ET
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It is an offensive position.

In the American League, right field is a spot where teams expect to get some thump. Players such as Jose Bautista and Carlos Quentin and Nelson Cruz have made right field one of the positions upon which teams are most reliant for run producers. The average team in the AL features a .264 average, .340 OBP, .425 slugging mark and .764 OPS from that spot on the field; only one position (first base) has yielded a higher OPS in the American League.

That, in turn, makes the Sox’ deficiency at the position all the more glaring. Among the 14 American League clubs, Sox right fielders had the worst average (.220), OBP (.304), slugging percentage (.336) and OPS (.640) of any team. It was a position where, entering the year, the Sox expected a platoon could offer them fairly strong production.

J.D. Drew was expected to deliver his usual impact against right-handed pitching, while Mike Cameron and/or Darnell McDonald were viewed as capable of offering above-average production against left-handers. But clearly, it hasn’t worked out that way.

“We need more out of that position,” a team source acknowledged. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl crawford, darnell mcdonald, J.D Drew, josh reddick

How Bill Hall’s pants have defined Andrew Miller’s season (sort of)

06.27.11 at 1:51 pm ET
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Bill Hall may be gone, but, at least in Andrew Miller‘€™s world, he is hardly forgotten.

Hall will always offer Miller two important reminders: 1. In the major leagues you get your own pants; and 2. Fashion among big leaguers has gotten out of control.

Here is Miller’€™s response when Alex Speier recently asked him if he had a hard time finding uniform pants ‘€¦

‘€œNo,’€ he said. ‘€œThey came up to me and said, ‘€˜You wouldn’€™t believe some of these guys, they’€™re (pants) so much longer.’€™ The pants they gave me in spring training were Bill Hall’€™s and they were plenty long enough. How tall is Bill Hall? Five-foot-9? He’€™s certainly not a tall guy. With the style being the long pants I can usually track down a pair.’€

So what has led to Miller getting his own pants (or, more specifically, carve out a niche in the major leagues)? A big reason, according to the pitcher, has been the adjustment of his pregame routine. Let him explain:

‘€œI go out there about 10 minutes earlier and sit down for five minutes when I get done. I then get up and basically get up to as close to game speed as possible so when I get out there I’m not making adjustments for the first time.

‘€œFor me, I’m trying to get as close to game intensity as I can when I’m doing it as opposed to just warming up. You typically pick it up at the end, but it’s not quite game speed so I’m trying to get as close to that and make adjustments off of that.

‘€œIt’s something that just kind of made sense. We tried it once and it worked so why change it?’€

Pants. Routines. Results. Change has been a good thing for Andrew Miller.

Adrian Gonzalez: More likely to be hurt at first base than in outfield

06.27.11 at 8:01 am ET
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PITTSBURGH — Prior to Saturday night’s game at PNC Park, Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez downplayed the risk he might face if switching from first base to left field, suggestion such concerns shouldn’t be the impetus for not making the change.

“If I happen to do it everybody knows I’m not going to be great at it but I’ll make the routine play and I don’t see any fear of getting hurt for any reason,” Gonzalez said. “Guys make errors in the outfield the same way they make errors in the infield.

“I can get hurt the same at first than I can get hurt in the outfield. I actually think I can get hurt more at first base because I’m not thinking about it, where in the outfield I would be cautious. I think there’s a greater chance of me getting hurt at first base, but then again you never play the game thinking about getting hurt. If you get hurt, you get hurt. It just happens.”

Red Sox manager Terry Francona reiterated Saturday that he was struggling with the decision regarding possibly playing Gonzalez in right field in order to get David Ortiz playing time at first base. The manager cited the risk of injury as one of the chief concerns when contemplating the idea of playing his No. 3 hitter in the outfield.

“I’m just hung up. I’m struggling with it, and I don’t want to do something I’m struggling with,” Francona said. “If we put Gonzie out there and he got hurt, I’m just not ready to do it. Maybe three, four games into this road trip, maybe I will. We’ll see.”

Gonzalez, who is perplexed by all the attention the potential move has garnered, downplayed how difficult the switch might be.

“You have guys who play multiple positions and they move around all the time. Nobody seems to care about that,” he said. “Even moving around the infield, guys that move around from short to second there’s different ways of moving your feet that is a lot harder than going from first to the outfield.”

Closing Time: Pedroia, Red Sox pitchers fight back to claim win over Pirates

06.26.11 at 4:57 pm ET
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It wasn’t exactly an emphatic response, but ultimately, there is little question that Dustin Pedroia and the Red Sox were satisfied with the measure of revenge that they enacted in the series finale against the Pirates.

Pedroia became irked when Pirates starter James McDonald went up and in to him in three straight at-bats. The second baseman shouted at the pitcher, and Sox starter Andrew Miller appeared to try to settle accounts in the bottom of the sixth, when he fired a couple fastballs at the feet of catcher Eric Fryer en route to a walk (with Miller’s pitches resulting in warnings being issued to both benches).

But in the top of the seventh, Pedroia stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs in a 2-2 game. He bounced a run-scoring groundout to short up the middle, giving the Sox a 3-2 lead en route to a 4-2 victory to salvage the final contest of a three-game series in Pittsburgh.

With the win, the Sox — who lost in Pittsburgh on both Friday and Saturday nights — averted their first sweep at the hands of a National League team since they dropped a two-game set to the Phillies in 2003. The Sox, who typically use interleague play to pad their wins total, have now evened their record against the senior circuit at 6-6 this year.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Andrew Miller (1-0) continued to show promise in the Red Sox rotation, claiming his first victory with Boston and dropping his ERA in two outings to 3.09. In his second start since being called up to the majors, the 26-year-old tossed six innings, allowing just two runs (one earned) on five hits (all singles) while walking two, hitting a batter and striking out four for his first win in the Sox’ rotation.

For the second straight start, 65 percent of his pitches (74 of 114) were strikes. Notably, of his eight swings and misses, five came on fastballs, on a day when he averaged 92 mph and topped out at 95 mph.

–The Sox took advantage of terrible fielding by the Pirates, who committed a season-high four errors that resulted in three unearned runs. Even so, while the team had some productive outs (including a pair of sac flies and Pedroia’s run-scoring groundout), the Sox went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

–For all of the concerns about Pedroia’s foot entering the season, it is notable that he is stealing bases as never before. He swiped second in the first inning, giving him 15 steals (in 17 attempts) on the season. He is on pace for 32 steals, a mark that would shatter his previous career high of 20 (achieved in both 2008 and 2009).

Adrian Gonzalez notched two singles, giving him 36 multi-hit games this year. He is on pace for 76 games with at least two hits this year, giving him a chance to break the mark of 72 multi-hit games by Wade Boggs in 1985 that represents the most by a member of the Red Sox since at least 1919.

Jonathan Papelbon, pitching for the third time in 16 days and first time in five days, looked a bit rusty when he took the mound for the ninth inning, walking the first batter he faced (Ronny Cedeno) on four pitches. However, he recovered quickly, punching out Fryer on seven pitches (all fastballs, the last a 96 mph offering) en route to his 14th save of the year and first since June 16. His scoreless ninth concluded three innings of hitless relief by the Boston bullpen, following perfect frames by Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The Red Sox’ defense struggled. Josh Reddick misplayed a fly ball into an error, and a bad hop prevented Marco Scutaro from fielding a potential double-play grounder. The error resulted in an unearned run charged to Andrew Miller. Later, Kevin Youkilis couldn’t convert a pair of tough plays in the sixth, as his throw to first on what appeared to be a sac bunt attempt by Chase d’Arnaud was late, resulting in a single, and he also failed to glove a smash single off his glove by Andrew McCutchen.

Darnell McDonald continues to make little impact. After entering the game as a replacement for injured right fielder J.D. Drew, McDonald went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. The punchout came with runners on first and second and two outs in the third, and McDonald later popped out with runners on second and third with two outs and ended the ninth with a two-out, bases-loaded groundout, dropping to 1-for-20 with seven strikeouts with runners in scoring position and two outs, dating to last year.

McDonald did reach on an error when his cousin, Pirates starter James McDonald, threw away a comebacker (a misplay that helped the Sox to score their second run of the game), but he was cut down trying to steal to end the sixth inning.

J.D. Drew had to leave Sunday’s game in the second inning due to a left eye contusion. The right fielder had a foul ball bounce off his eye during batting practice. Initially, he remained in the lineup, but after striking out in his only at-bat, he left the game.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, andrew miller, darnell mcdonald, Dustin Pedroia

The Red Sox’ ultimate draft recruiting tool

06.26.11 at 11:04 am ET
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For several years, the Red Sox have drafted talented, athletic high school players with potentially significant upside even in the face of what many consider to be strong commitments to fulfill college scholarships. Players who are considered unsignable by some organizations are not viewed in that fashion by the Sox for a couple of reasons.

The first is fairly obvious: Money. The Sox spend aggressively to sign players away from their college scholarship offers (whether in baseball or multiple sports) based on their view of what they can become. There is risk in that proposition (many never pan out), but there can also be a significant payoff when players like Ryan Kalish or Will Middlebrooks or Anthony Rizzo emerge as top prospects.

The second one, however, is a more distinctive sales pitch. The Sox, who often must compete not just with college baseball coaches but also, in the case of two-sport athletes, renowned college football coaches if they are to sell an 18-year-old on turning pro, dig in with their own recruiting pitch.

“We do have an awesome sales pitch, and that’€™s Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox. We’€™re extremely fortunate to be in an organization where there’€™s a commitment to player development and scouting, but also the end product is the most storied ballpark in all of baseball and probably in all of sports ‘€“ the Mecca,” Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye noted early this year. “You walk into Fenway Park and you envision pitching on the mound or hitting a ball off the Monster, trying to reach the red seat in right field. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, blake swihart, cody kukuk, fenway classic

Live Blog: Red Sox look to salvage series against Pirates

06.26.11 at 9:38 am ET
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Red Sox-Pirates series finale

Interleague uneasiness setting in for David Ortiz, Red Sox

06.26.11 at 9:24 am ET
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PITTSBURGH — For the second straight game, David Ortiz was limited to a single at-bat thanks to the lack of a designated hitter in the NL park. This time the result was a ground out to first base to lead off the ninth. It marked the first time this season he has gone four straight games without reaching base at least once.

The slugger doesn’t expect to play Sunday either, especially with the Red Sox needing to ride the never-ending hot hand of Adrian Gonzalez. So the player with the fifth-best OPS in the American League will most likely exit the latest three-game series with three at-bats.

“It’s not easy,” he said after Game 2 of the nine-game road swing. “I’m trying to stay positive.”

As for the combination of players who have filled into Ortiz’ No. 5 spot in the batting order — Darnell McDonald and J.D. Drew — they have stranded eight runners while going 2-for-8 (although Drew did show some moxie with sharply-hit warning track fly balls in his first two at-bats).

It has been just two games into the uneasiness of a DH-less experience, but clearly Red Sox’ players have been heightened thanks to the two losses.

“It’€™s part of this interleague,” said Kevin Youkilis. “Interleague is an advantage to the National League teams. We build our teams around the designated hitter and when they come to our park they get to use their position players and their pitchers don’€™t have to hit. But vice versa with us, our pitchers have to hit, which they never do.

“It’€™s one of those things, it’€™s not going to change. Hopefully at some point Bud Selig will review it, but for us, we’€™re at a disadvantage a lot and hopefully in interleague we can use the DH in National League parks and the World Series, too.”

Sunday’s Red Sox-Pirates matchups: Andrew Miller vs. James McDonald

06.26.11 at 1:00 am ET
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The Red Sox and their fans will get a second look at Andrew Miller since his call-up to the big club when the lefty takes the hill Sunday afternoon against the Pirates and their starter James McDonald.

Miller (0-0, 4.76 ERA) looked good but not spectacular in his first start for Boston last Monday in a 14-5 win over San Diego. Through the first five frames of the contest, the 26-year-old didn’€™t allow a single run before offering a meatball that was crushed by Orlando Hudson for a three-run bomb into the Monster seats. When Anthony Rizzo smashed a double to the 420-foot mark in center that would’€™ve been a homer in any other park, Red Sox manager Terry Francona yanked Miller one out before he would have been credited with a quality win. In addition to the three earned runs, Miller also allowed seven hits and three walks while striking out six. The former sixth-overall draft pick posted a 3-3 record for Triple-A Pawtucket to go with a 2.47 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 65 2/3 innings.

The Pirates as a team haven’€™t had much experience against Miller, who has bounced up and down between the majors and minors since being seen as the best pitcher in the 2007 draft. Pittsburgh outfielder Matt Diaz is the only player with more than three plate appearances against the lefty with 15, dating back to the pair’€™s time in the NL East (Diaz with Atlanta, Miller with Florida). Diaz, who has yet to knock one of the park this season, is 4-for-13 with a home run and .938 OPS against Miller.

McDonald (5-4, 4.86 ERA) has had a lot more experience at the major-league level this season than his Sunday counterpart as he will make his 16th start of 2011. The right-hander has performed well as of late with 3-1 record and 3.46 ERA over his last seven starts. That being said, he has proven to be hittable over that time with a .295 batting average-against. Before any Red Sox fan or member of the organization gets too excited about that last stat, consider the 26-year-old’€™s home-away splits. On the road, McDonald has not pitched well at all, going 3-3 with a 6.25 ERA, but at the friendly (and beautiful) confines of PNC Park, he is 2-1 and has seen his ERA nearly cut in half at 3.43.

Most of the Red Sox lineup, including of course Miller himself, will be taking their first cuts against McDonald. Only Adrian Gonzalez (3-for-5, walk) and Mike Cameron (0-for-2) have faced McDonald. Interestingly enough, Darnell McDonald has never faced his cousin ‘€“ Darnell and James’€™s fathers are brothers ‘€“ in the majors but no word as of yet about how any backyard battles played out during family gatherings. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: andrew miller, James McDonald,

Live Blog: Red Sox, Tim Wakefield look to bounce back against Bucs

06.25.11 at 3:28 pm ET
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Red Sox vs. Pirates, Live Blog

Jim Lonborg on Sports Saturday: ‘Not a big fan of DH’

06.25.11 at 1:20 pm ET
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Red Sox pitching legend Jim Lonborg talked with Sports Saturday about the issue that is dominating the radiowaves and TV screens across the country: interleague play in modern baseball. While others talk about their dislike for the practice, Lonborg told WEEI that he actually enjoys seeing the AL and NL battle it out.

“I absolutely love it now. I wasn’t a big fan of it in the beginning. But I think in terms of getting to know some of the other ballplayers that are playing professionally and have great skills, I think it’s a great opportunity for people who love baseball to be able to see the other talent in the other league.”

That being said, Lonborg, who pitched in Boston from 1965-71 before the designated hitter rule came in to effect in 1973, said he’s not particularly enthused about the DH’s role in the modern game.

“I’m not a big fan of the DH,” Lonborg said. “Being able to have played in the American League into the early 70’s then going to the National League and always have pitchers hit, I just thought there was a lot to think about managing a ballgame, managing players. I think there was lot more for fans to watch and figure out the moves you would make over the course of a game. But it’s the way it is. Just try to enjoy the DH.”

Hosts John Ryder and Kirk Minihane also asked the former Cy Young winner to address what is behind the struggles of John Lackey, whose 7.36 ERA is the highest among AL pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched.

“Well, I’ve tried to figure out what’s happening with him,” Lonborg said. “I know that personally he has a lot going on in his life. I have a feeling that distracts from any professional. I don’t think anybody can walk away from a situation like his with a clear head. But I think he’s doing the best he can. I just hope he’s healthy. I think that when you get the kind of contract that he got and yet he’s a pitcher – and pitchers are susceptible to all sorts of injuries – that you make that kind of money and you get an injury, it looks worse than if you weren’t making big money and got an injury.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jim Lonborg,
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