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Popular opinion? Ortiz’ days with Sox are numbered

04.28.10 at 2:40 pm ET
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If this is the end for David Ortiz, Terry Francona will do his best to let the slugger down easy. (AP)

When Terry Francona decided to pinch-hit Mike Lowell for David Ortiz on April 20 against Rangers left-hander Darren Oliver, Ortiz summed up the move in one word: embarrassing.

If that was his sentiment then, you have to wonder how he feels Wednesday, one day after he was pulled for Lowell with the bases loaded Tuesday night in a tie game against the Blue Jays. The Jays predictably brought in right-hander Kevin Gregg to face Lowell, who delivered by drawing a walk to force in the winning run. This time, the Red Sox can’t hide behind the fact that a lefty was on the mound. Ortiz was lifted simply because the Red Sox needed to get a hit, and Francona obviously felt that having Lowell at the plate gave his team a better chance at doing that.

Is this the final curtain on Ortiz’s career with the Sox? National columnists are certainly acting like the apocalypse is around the corner, with multiple headlines claiming something along the lines of, “The end is near.”

Even if Ortiz claims he wants to play two or three more seasons, it is becoming increasingly apparent that his career is winding down. Not that it wasn’t apparent last season, when similar stories littered national headlines about Ortiz’ decline before he picked things up in the second half.

Ortiz’ struggles have been a hot topic even for those outside Boston all season — see here and here — and he had to carry the burden of myriad questions concerning his issues at the plate into this season. He has been under the microscope all year, and not even Boston’s struggles with starting pitching can overshadow his paltry numbers: a .154 average, .241 OBP and just one home run in 58 plate appearances this month.

The talk has seemed to shift from whether Ortiz can turn things around to what the Red Sox will do with Big Papi. Last year, Ortiz had the luxury of waiting to get out of his slump. But this year his struggles are not new and the Red Sox have capable alternatives — Lowell and even Victor Martinez — to go to instead of Ortiz.

How bad have things gotten for Ortiz? When Ryan Howard signed his extension with the Phillies earlier this week, a lot of the talk concerned whether the Phillies would come to regret the move when their first baseman becomes the next Big Papi and suffers a steep decline.

People seem to be looking at this as if Ortiz’ career is already over, taking measures like pondering his Hall of Fame credentials or  wondering what Ortiz’s place amongst the best hitters in Red Sox history, as WEEI.com’s Kirk Minihane did a few weeks ago.

Calling Ortiz’ career over might be a little drastic, even though he clearly is not the same player he once was. But one thing is clear: National opinion seems to be that Big Papi’s time as a member of the Red Sox is coming to an end. It might not be the apocalypse, but if and when that times comes it likely will be a disaster in Red Sox Nation. Brace yourselves.

Read More: David Ortiz, mike lowell, Red Sox, Terry Francona

Francona on D&H: ‘Trying to do the right thing’

04.28.10 at 2:32 pm ET
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It's been a strange season for Terry Francona (right) and David Ortiz. (AP)

Red Sox manager Terry Francona called in to the Dale & Holley show Wednesday for his weekly interview. Francona has had to make some tough calls on David Ortiz and Tim Wakefield early this season, and he discussed what it’s like making those decisions.

“Guys that we’ve really leaned on and have been a huge part of some of the success here, all of a sudden they are hearing things they haven’t heard before,” Francona said. “That’s part of where we are at right now. The best thing I know to do is win and be honest with guys. We are doing the best we can. I don’t know that every decision is going to be perfect. It doesn’t mean we aren’t going to run into a bump in the road, but we are trying to do the right thing.”

To read the rest of the interview, look below. To listen, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Clay Buchholz did exactly what you needed last night, didn’t he?

We couldn’t have drawn it up any prettier. It was well documented where our bullpen was. You come into a game like that and certainly first and foremost you are thinking we got to win this game somehow. But in the back of your mind you are thinking if thing don’t go well we can’t ruin our bullpen. There are a lot of superlatives I’d like to use. He was so good. Then in the eighth when we gave him an extra opportunity, when we throw the ball away on the ground ball, he buckled down and probably threw better pitches at that point then he had earlier in the game.

What went into the decision to pinch-hit Mike Lowell for David Ortiz?

We are trying to do everything in our power to kind of scratch and claw and find a way to win a game. I didn’t think that Mikey was going to face the lefty. I thought they’d make a change. At that point, [Scott] Downs has been so tough on us and if they want to let him face Mikey, I think he was 5-for-9 against him. He’s got some good number. Every night, the way we are situated right now, there is going to be room to be second-guessed. You can either hit for somebody. You can’t hit for somebody or we don’t. I think what we need to do is win the game. When we win the game it will normally seem like the right move. When we lose the game it will seem like the wrong move.

How do you handle that situation as a manager, with Ortiz saying he is embarrassed for being pinch-hit for?

I think you guys make more of it than we do. That’s not what I’m thinking about during the game. I don’t think David heard me when I was yelling at him right away. The idea is never to embarrass anybody, of course. But we are trying to run the game, and you don’t know the situation before the at-bat comes up. You wait, but that’s certainly not something we would ever try to do is embarrass anybody. Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays matchups, 4/28

04.28.10 at 1:05 pm ET
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Jon Lester will try to stay on track against the Blue Jays Wednesday night.

The left-hander had struggled early this season, going 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in his first four starts. Control has been an issue, as he has 13 walks so far in 2010. But he looked significantly better in his last start against the Baltimore Orioles, pitching 5-2/3 innings of shutout ball before leaving in the sixth with men on second and third. Daniel Bard closed things out, and Lester ended up with a line of zero runs allowed on four hits with seven strikeouts (although he did walk four).

Lester has been solid against Toronto, with a 4-3 record and 3.03 ERA in nine career starts. Last season, Lester faced the Jays three times, going 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in his four starts. He allowed just one earned run in each of the three victories, including his eight-inning stint on Aug. 20 when he scattered three hits and struck out five.

Brett Cecil will be making his second start of the season for Toronto. He allowed four earned runs and had eight strikeouts in 6-2/3 innings of work in an April 23 victory over Tampa Bay. He was victimized by a pair of  home runs by Willy Aybar and Gabe Kapler, but was solid in his first work of the 2010 season.

Cecil faced the Red Sox twice in his rookie year, and did not have much success. In his first game he was tagged for eight runs on 11 hits in 4-2/3 innings, allowing five home runs, including four in the fifth inning. His second outing against Boston was not much better, as he allowed six runs (four earned) in 4-1/3.  The long ball was a problem again, as J.D. Drew smacked a pair of homers in the Boston win.

There isn’t much history to go on for the Sox against Cecil, but the little that exists is mostly positive.

Blue Jays vs. Jon Lester

Vernon Wells (24 career plate appearances against Lester): .222 average/.375 OBP/.444 slugging, 1 home run, 4 walks, 1 strikeout

Jose Bautista (21): .235/.333/.412, 1 home run, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

Aaron Hill (19): .118/.211/.176, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts

Adam Lind (15): .143/.200/.214, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts

Lyle Overbay (15): .308/.400/.462, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Jose Molina (13): .455/.538/.455, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

John McDonald (10): .125/.222/.125, 1 strikeout

John Buck (8): .125/.125/.250, 1 double, 2 strikeouts

Randy Ruiz and Travis Snider are both hitless in three appearances against Lester, while Edwin Encarnacion also was shut down in his only appearance against the Sox starter. The left-hander has never faced Alex Gonzalez or Mike McCoy.

Red Sox vs. Brett Cecil

Victor Martinez (10 career plate appearances against Cecil): .250 average/.400 OBP/.375 slugging, 1 walk

Dustin Pedroia (6): .400/.500/.600, 1 double, 1 walk

Kevin Youkilis (6): .400/.500/.400, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (5): .400/.400/1.000, 1 home run, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (5): .200/.200/.800, 1 home run, 1 strikeout

J.D. Drew (2): 1.000/1.000/4.000, 2 home runs

Jason Varitek (2): 1.000/1.000/4.000, 2 home runs

Cecil has never seen a number of Red Sox players. Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida, Marco Scutaro, Josh Reddick and Darnell McDonald have not faced the Jays starter.

Read More: Blue Jays, brett cecil, Jon Lester, Red Sox

Remy on D&C: ‘No flow’ for Sox early in season

04.28.10 at 11:19 am ET
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Jerry Remy

NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning to talk about the state of the Red Sox as they look to complete a the three-game sweep in Toronto Wednesday night.

Remy said that the biggest concern early on is the lack of consistency for the Sox. “My concerns would be that there is no flow to anything right now,” he said. “You are still trying to figure out what you are going to do with [David] Ortiz, what to do with [Mike] Lowell, and you’ve got [Tim] Wakefield in the bullpen. So you’ve got three veterans that can’t be happy with what you are doing. You’ve got two of your outfielders out in [Jacoby] Ellsbury and [Mike] Cameron. … They’ve got to get more out of [Victor] Martinez. He hasn’t produced at all and he is a key part of that lineup.

“It has been very weird,” he added. “There has been no flow to the games, and I think part of that is because there is no flow to the team right now. They are not the edition of the Boston Red Sox that you expected to see coming out of spring training, and I think that makes a big difference.”

Remy was also asked whether he thought David Ortiz might “erupt” at some point after he was pinch-hit for by Mike Lowell once again in Tuesday’s win. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he erupts one of these days. This can’t be fun,” Remy said. “And I was a little surprised because I thought this early in the season maybe this is the moment — you are always looking for that one moment. Then when I saw Lowell come out I went, ‘Uh oh, this is not going to play very well.’ And as you saw, Ortiz kind of just walked all the way to the other end of the dugout and then up to the clubhouse.”

As for how long Terry Francona will continue to platoon the two veterans, Remy said that one of the players has to get hot before that ends. “But what has to happen is somebody is going to have to prove that they can be the everyday DH,” he said. “I can’t imagine them going the whole season with a platoon situation at the DH position, I just can’t see that happening. So, one of them is going to have to take charge. And quite frankly, to this point it has been Mike Lowell who has been a better hitter.”

Remy also speculated on what Wakefield’s role will be as a reliever. With Daisuke Matsuzaka set to make his 2010 big league debut in Baltimore, Wakefield will be going from the rotation to the bullpen. “I think it would be more of him coming on in the sixth inning if he had to,” Remy said. “Give him a couple of innings — the sixth and seventh — and then go to the eighth with the set-up guy and the closer. Like I said, you don’t want to bring him into situations where you are in a one-run game and you get a passed ball, and all of a sudden you have a runner in scoring position.”

A full transcript of the interview is below. To listen, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

I’ve got a feeling that the Red Sox might get eliminated before the Bruins and the Celtics. I look at Tampa and I look at New York and I say, ‘That streak of postseason appearances, that is in jeopardy.’

Well, I tell you, those two teams are very good — there is no question about that. We’ve seen both of them and they are really very good. Tampa is — I don’t think surprising people — but they’re off to their best start ever and they are really, really good. So you can’t afford to drop seven, eight, nine games behind either one of those teams and hope to bounce back. Now, every club will hit a skid now or then during the season, but you don’t expect Tampa or New York to hit very long skids. You don’t think you are going to make up seven or eight games on them, so you’ve got to stay in the hunt here. Especially at the beginning of the year here when things are so out of whack for the Red Sox. You see strange lineups out there every day, you’ve got some injuries — as I mentioned on the broadcast last night, for Francona this has to be very tough to manage right now. You’ve got all the veterans he has to deal with and the injuries he is dealing with. So they’ve got to find a way to hang tight in this early going until they get this thing straightened out. And hopefully they won’t fall too far behind these other clubs. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dennis & Callahan, Jerry Remy, Red Sox,

Beltre says ‘Thank you’ to Buchholz

04.27.10 at 11:58 pm ET
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TORONTO — Adrian Beltre is getting a big dose of unique moments in his short Red Sox career.

Last week it came when the free-swinging third baseman won a game with a bases-loaded walk. And Tuesday night — in the midst of what turned into a 2-1 win for the Red Sox over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre — Beltre found another aberration in the form of what could have been the most costly of errors.

With one out and nobody on in the eighth inning, and the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead, the usually slick-fielding Beltre gathered in a slow bouncer off the bat of Vernon Wells. But after double-clutching, he tossed the ball wide of first baseman Kevin Youkilis, putting the potential game-tying run at second base.

“The ball got in the packet of the glove, I couldn’t get it out, and then I threw a cutter,” explained Beltre regarding his fourth error of the season. “It wasn’t the runner. It was just a bad grip, rushed it, pulled the ball and threw a cutter.”

Fortunately for Beltre, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz eased the pain.

The starter promptly got Lyle Overbay on strikes, and then induced a weak fly ball to center off the bat of Alex Gonzalez to end the threat, and calm Beltre’s nerves.

“That was good. He was behind me after I made that play,” Beltre said. “I told him to pick me up and he did, big time. That was huge. Nobody wants to make an error, but when you make an error like that you’re just praying the run doesn’t score, especially the way he was throwing the ball tonight. It was one of those plays you’re praying the pitcher picks you up and get out of the inning. It happened.”

Drew had another bout with vertigo

04.27.10 at 11:29 pm ET
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TORONTO – J.D. Drew said after the Red Sox’ 2-1 win over the Blue Jays that he was stricken with another case of vertigo Sunday night and early Monday. It is a condition that the outfielder has suffered through at various times in his career, with the last bout coming at the end of May, 2008, forcing him to miss a game. Drew said the symptoms had subsided enough by game time Monday that he was able to play, and by Tuesday’s first pitch the problem had dissipated.

“The first at-bat (Monday) I felt like I was kind of floating, but as my heart rate got going things started speeding up and I was able to faze out of it,” he explained. “It felt better as the game went along, and it felt fine tonight.

“It’s one thing you don’t want to deal with over an extended period of time. I felt much better tonight. What happened in 2008 it was something I woke up with it, and had it all day. What happened the other night was that I had it all night, I woke up 4 a.m. in the morning and the room was all over the place.”

Drew ended up playing some of a key role in the Red Sox’ win Tuesday night, drawing a two-out walk to load the bases in the eighth inning, setting up Mike Lowell’s game-winning, run-scoring free pass. The Sox’ right fielder also had a hit to go with his two walks, boosting his batting average to .191.

Embree called up, Castro sent down

04.27.10 at 11:05 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona said after his team’s 2-1 win over the Blue Jays Tuesday night that lefty reliever Alan Embree was being called up to the team, with Fabio Castro headed back to Triple A Pawtucket. The Red Sox still have to make a corresponding roster move to fit Embree on to the 40-man roster.

Embree had pitched in eight games with the PawSox, allowing three runs on two hits, striking out six and walking five over 7 1/3 innings. He had faced 14 left-handed hitters, not surrendering a hit and just one walk.

Embree had the option of opting out of his contract with the Red Sox if he wasn’t placed on the 25-man roster by Friday. Castro was with the Red Sox for just one day, having joined the team as insurance in the bullpen, with Scott Atchison having been sent to Pawtucket.

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