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Red Sox vs. Rays — Live from Fenway

04.12.11 at 7:11 pm ET
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Red Sox/Rays Live Blog

Francona: Red Sox’ view of Daisuke remains unchanged

04.12.11 at 6:09 pm ET
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Just about nothing went right for Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox Monday night against the Rays. Lasting just two innings, Matsuzaka allowed seven runs on eight hits as he watched his ERA climb to 12.86 on the season.  But while manager Terry Francona acknowledged that the pitcher struggled through a “horrendous second inning,” he also made clear that the Red Sox haven’t altered their view of Matsuzaka as a pitcher.

“I think if we do things like that then we set ourselves up for some really bad mistakes,” Francona said when asked if the poor outing had changed his view of the starter. “It was tough to watch, but if you make decisions based on emotions after a bad start, we wouldn’t have a team left. You can’t do that.”

Francona indicated that the pitching rotation will remain the same through the next turn, unless rainouts alter the schedule. The manager had not talked to the pitcher about Monday’s struggles as of his meeting with the media at 4 p.m.

“The hard thing for me is that I can’t have a casual conversation with Dice,” said Francona. “It’s easy to have one with anybody, like [John] Lackey, [Jon] Lester or whoever and that’s frustrating. It doesn’t mean he can’t pitch, it’s just hard to have that casual conversation.”

While language barriers remain for casual conversation, however, Francona said that miscommunication is not a factor in his performances during games. Regarding Monday’s struggles, Francona said that the location and life of the pitcher’s offerings were entirely responsible for the outcome.

“I thought [his fastball] was flat’€¦.but it was flat in the middle,” said Francona. “There was some pretty solid contact on it and it hurt us.”

Other Notes:

–Tonight’s Red Sox lineup against the Rays’ southpaw David Price is not surprisingly heavily right-handed. Righties Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald will play center and right field as Francona opted to go with Kevin Youkilis at DH and Jed Lowrie at third base to give the Sox some versatility around the infield. Jason Varitek will also be behind the plate tonight catching Jon Lester. Price has held lefties to a .218 average and .579 OPS in his career; righties have hit .232/.688 against him.

Jacoby Ellsbury showed some signs of life Monday night as he went 2-4 with a home run. Though the showing of power was a good sign, Francona suggested that he was more concerned with getting his speedy  centerfielder on the bases.

“He’s a strong kid. The ball comes off his bat good, so that’s gonna happen,” said Francona. “But the consistent swings and the ability to stay on top of the ball when he’s stuggling and going to left field. Things like that are probably more important.”

–Francona was pleased with what he saw out of Youkilis Monday night even though the one hit in three at-bats might not reflect it. In fact, Francona thought that one of Youkilis’ most promising at-bats was a line-drive double play to the second baseman that he hit into in the 7th inning. “I know it was a lineout, double play to second, but when he does that something’s going right,” said Francona. “You can’t, as a hitter, hit the ball that way and have your mechanics not be good. And it’s probably not a coincidence that he rifles a ball into left field a couple at-bats later.”

Youkilis is making his first career start as a DH on Tuesday.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be out of tonight’s lineup. The Sox had planned to have Varitek start against Price, but there was another reason that made for a solid reason to give Saltalamacchia an off-day: His wife gave birth to the couple’s third daughter late last night. The couple remains undecided on the daughter’s name.

          Time for Daisuke to go? For now, the answer should be no

          04.12.11 at 2:38 pm ET
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          It was one terrible start.

          There is no way to sugar coat what happened to Daisuke Matsuzaka on Monday night against the Rays. He was battered early and often, allowing seven runs on eight innings in just two-plus brutal innings of work.

          The reaction has been swift. Calls for Matsuzaka to be taken out of the rotation, or traded, or banished to the island of Elba have torn across New England. Matsuzaka — ever a lightning rod — has once again inflamed the passions of Red Sox fans as few others can.

          Even Sox manager Terry Francona could do little to mask his frustrations with the 30-year-old’s outing, particularly the horrific second inning in which the pitcher permitted six runs.

          “We got into the second and everything went to the middle of the plate,” said Francona. “There was seven balls hit right on the barrel. We love when guys throw strikes but there was some balls that were middle-middle for the first seven hitters.

          “The best way to be a good player is to be consistent,” added Francona. “You’€™re going to have some good nights. There’€™s a lot of nights where you don’€™t know quite what’€™s going to happen. We’€™ve seen a lot of nights where there’€™s a lot of inconsistency in the strike zone, in and out, tonight he was right down the middle. They squared up a lot of balls in a hurry.”

          Matsuzaka, of course, has been anything but consistent over the course of his Red Sox career. His talent has often been something of a tease, with the pitcher alternately having outings that verge on dominance and then getting lit up like a firecracker. As colleague Rob Bradford points out, four-plus years and 100 starts into his Red Sox career, no one has made sense of the pitcher.

          So does that mean he should be demoted or sent packing?

          Nope. Not now. Not after one passable start (5 innings, 3 earned runs) against the Indians and one dreadful one against the Rays. If his struggles continue for additional weeks, then perhaps the Sox would be in position to reconsider. But for now, the Sox should — and likely will have to — stick with him.

          The team felt his performance was appalling, but they are mindful that he has bounced back from bad outings before, and feel that — based on what he did in spring training — he has shown the ability to do so once again to be a useful member of the rotation. There appear to be no plans to take him out of the rotation, a move that would represent an overreaction to a bad start.

          There are many reasons to keep him in the rotation, rather than banishing him to a lonely island. A closer look: Read the rest of this entry »

          Read More: alfredo aceves, Daisuke Matsuzaka, felix doubront, Tim Wakefield

          Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Jon Lester vs. David Price

          04.12.11 at 1:41 pm ET
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          After a promising showing against the Yankees over the weekend, the Red Sox fell back into old habits Monday night with an embarrassing 16-5 loss to the Rays. Daisuke Matsuzaka was less than impressive, allowing seven runs in just two-plus innings in earning his second loss of the season. The Sox look to bounce back in the second game of the series as Jon Lester takes on the Rays’ David Price.

          Price is off to an 0-2 start for Tampa Bay due to a lack of run support, as the Rays scored only one run in each of his starts. He gave up only three runs and nine hits in six innings in his last start against Chicago but picked up the loss as the White Sox won 5-1.

          Coming off a near Cy Young season in 2010 in which he went 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA, Price will need to return to his dominant form to carry this rebuilding Rays team. Boston’s only reliable offensive mainstay this year has been Dustin Pedroia, as he’s hitting .368. However, Price has held Pedroia hitless in six plate appearances.

          Lester is coming off a dominant performance in Cleveland, where he went seven innings, holding the Indians scoreless and only allowing three hits. However, no run support left Lester with a no-decision as the Sox lost their sixth in a row.

          Throughout his career Lester has matched up well against the Rays, posting a 9-3 record with a 3.80 ERA in 16 starts. Lester’s dominance over lefties should weigh in his favor against the many left-handed hitters in Tampa Bay’s lineup. However, one lefty who has fared well against Lester ‘€” .292 with two home runs and four RBIs ‘€” is Johnny Damon. After breaking out of his early season slump Monday night with three hits and three RBI, Damon will attempt to continue his success against his old team.

          Read the rest of this entry »

          Read More: David Price, Jon Lester,

          John Kruk on M&M: Give Daisuke Matsuzaka ‘the opportunity to fail on his own’

          04.12.11 at 12:54 pm ET
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          ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Tuesday to talk about the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

          Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up seven runs in two-plus innings Monday night vs. the Rays. “To me, it was a poorly put-together game plan, in my opinion,” Kruk said. “You saw the first inning. What Josh Beckett did to the Yankees on Sunday night, he was throwing the fastball early and then getting outs later with his breaking ball. But the first inning, he was just throwing fastballs ‘€” [Derek] Jeter, [Mark] Texeira ‘€” two-seamer and a four-seamer, just throwing fastballs by those guys. And it looked like they took that same game plan in there with Daisuke. The problem was Beckett was throwing 94, 95, and Daisuke was throwing 89, 90. And Beckett was locating, and Daisuke it was just: ‘Here, hit it.’

          “It was awful. It just looked like, ‘I know I’m getting behind hitters so I’m just going to throw strikes.’ Strikes are strikes. Bad strikes are getting hit hard.”

          Kruk said putting Matsuzaka in the bullpen is not a long-term option. “How can he pitch out of the bullpen?” Kruk said. “Unless the only way you’re going to use him is in blowout games. But if you’re going to do that then why have him? Why have him on the roster?”

          As for the possibility of a trade, Kruk said Matsuzaka’s value is too low. “Who’s going to trade for him? And what are you going to get for him if you trade?” he said. “The problem with trading him is it’s going to be like Josh Beckett. You’re going to have to throw in someone like Mike Lowell in order to trade Daisuke. You’re going to have to throw in maybe someone like [Jacoby] Ellsbury or someone really good, [a] major league-ready player just so someone would take Daisuke. And that to me is a risky proposition for the Red Sox right now.”

          Kruk said Matsuzaka should adapt to the way pitchers are coached in the United States, but at this stage he’s ready to throw in the towel and let the Japanese legend prepare as he likes.

          Said Kruk: “That’s what I would do. I would say: ‘Look, here’s the deal. We don’t know what to do with you. We tried it our way for four years, five years, whatever it’s been. Go do what you want. Here, you go do it. You figure it out. You have your way of doing it, you go do it your way. And then if it doesn’t work, then we’re going to call you in and say bye-bye, we don’t need you anymore. Go find somewhere else to play.’ That’s what I would do. I would give him the opportunity to fail on his own.”

          Carl Crawford continues to struggle at the plate, and Kruk wonders why he’s changed his approach from last year with the Rays. “What Carl has to do is go back to basics,” Kruk said. “I watched tape on him yesterday. He is so different than he was last year when he was going good with Tampa, and his approach at the plate, the way he’s setting up at the plate. His hands are over his head. Last year they were about even with his chin. His front foot is almost out of the batter’s box. ‘€¦ Last year it was inside the line. That’s how much farther his hands are up and how much more farther he’s spread out.”

          Kruk said he’ll look at Manny Ramirez “as a guy that didn’t get it,” and said the former Red Sox slugger won’t get into the Hall of Fame. “My opinion of him is he would have been a great hitter regardless, he just probably wouldn’t have been as great for as long,” Kruk said. “And he was very ‘€” I don’t want to say ignorant, but defiant of the system.”

          Read More: carl crawford, Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Kruk, Josh Beckett

          Poll: What should Red Sox do with Daisuke Matsuzaka?

          04.12.11 at 11:52 am ET
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          Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up seven runs in two-plus innings Monday night in the Red Sox' 16-5 loss to the Rays. How should the team handle the enigmatic starter?

          • Trade or release him (57%, 416 Votes)
          • Leave him alone and let him work it out (20%, 148 Votes)
          • Have him skip a start or two but then get him back in the rotation (14%, 103 Votes)
          • Banish him to the bullpen (9%, 67 Votes)


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          Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka,

          Joe Maddon: In perfect world, Carl Crawford’s best spot in lineup is No. 2

          04.12.11 at 9:33 am ET
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          Speaking before his team’s game with the Red Sox Monday night at Fenway Park, Rays manager Joe Maddon explained that in a perfect scenario he believed Carl Crawford’s best spot in the batting order was hitting second. Maddon added that in his opinion Crawford’s second-best spot was hitting third, with the leadoff spot serving as his third option.

          ‘€œIn a perfect world, with what I know, I would go two, three, one,” Maddon said. “And I’€™m just talking about his comfort zone. You could make the perfect argument that he should be a No. 1 hitter. I’€™ve often said he’€™s a lot like Rickey Henderson. He’€™s got a great combination of speed and power. I get it. But just to consider comfort within a player’s comfort zone, wherever that may be. I was always aware of that and able to maneuver it.

          “I’€™ve never had a lineup as thick as this lineup. He is almost like a [Ben] Zobrist to them. You can almost hit him all over the place because you feel good about him in the other roles. In the World Series year, he came back from an injury and we hit him in the 5-hole, and again, speaking of his ability to drive in a run because B.J. [Upton] was so hot in the 2-hole, so I’€™ve done that with him too. I’€™ve often looked at him as a guy who’€™s actually pretty good at driving in a run given the opportunity.’€

          Since Maddon took over of the Rays in 2006, he only hit Crawford in the lineup’s top spot 30 times, primarily putting in the No. 2 hole (483 games), with No. 3 second (186). During that span, his slugging percentage in the No. 2 and 3 spots were identical (.467), with Crawford’s best batting average in the five-year span coming at No. 2 (.307).

          “To me, Carl was among our best guys at driving in a run because he didn’€™t just take home runs to drive in a run with Carl,” Maddon explained. “He’€™s very good at moving the ball with two strikes, with two outs, putting the ball in play, scoring a run with an out. He did all those kinds of things. that’€™s why I liked him in the three-hole last year. if we were a little thicker with RBI guys, we probably would have left him in the 2-hole. But I just thought Carl has always had a knack for driving in a run, in spite of what everybody else might think. It was always easy to keep him in the 2-hole but last year we experimented with the 3 hole for those reasons.’€

          Maddon said that while Crawford didn’t openly complain hitting in the leadoff spot — where the outfielder has been in the Red Sox’ order for the past four games — he didn’t feel as though the speedster was as comfortable in that position in the order as other spots.

          ‘€œOf course he would [hit there]. But especially with veteran players, I really try to listen to them, and I just knew that he was lot more comfortable two than one. So I didn’€™t want to put a square peg in a round hole,” he said. “I didn’€™t want to try to do that, especially with him being such a productive part of our team. Pretty much that was it. it was more, where he was more comfortable.’€

          As for Maddon’s take on the Red Sox’ approach to hitting Crawford where they have, and having to juggle the lineup, he said, “I can easily understand why he’s hitting first. … They have some great problems. Those aren’€™t bad problems. We’€™d all take those. I really don’€™t feel sorry for them. That’€™s something, if you wake up in the morning and try to figure that out, I’€™ll take it.’€

          For more Red Sox news, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

          Closing Time: Rays pounce all over Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox

          04.11.11 at 10:40 pm ET
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          Hope left the building early on in this one.

          The Red Sox fell into a tie for last-place in the American League East with the Tampa Bay Rays, who came away with a 16-5 win over the Sox Monday night at Fenway Park. It moved both teams to 2-8 for the season, with the Rays coming just four runs short of equaling their run production for the entire season (20). When it was all said and done, Tampa Bay came away with 20 hits.

          The worst offender for the Sox was starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, who saw his ERA rise to 12.86 after giving up seven runs on eight hits while walking two in just two innings.

          Here is how things went terribly awry for the Red Sox …


          – In his 100th career start with the Red Sox, it couldn’€™t have gone much worse for Matsuzaka. While he was able to escape the first inning with just a Johnny Damon solo home run, things really fell apart in the second. The Sox starter’€™s frame went as follows: Ben Zobrist double; B.J. Upton walk; Felipe Lopez singe; John Jaso double; Reid Brignac single; Sam Fuld homer; Damon single ‘€¦ and then three outs. After a single to Upton and walk to Lopez to lead off the third, that was all for Matsuzaka.

          – Damon didn’€™t allow the Fenway crowd to get a chance to boo him in his first at-bat, hitting Matsuzaka’€™s first pitch to the outfielder over the right fence. It was Damon’€™s 19th career homer against the Red Sox, and 29th in Fenway Park. The rest of his at-bats resulted in a showering of boos.

          Tim Wakefield struggled after replacing Matsuzaka in the third inning, giving up five runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings.

          – The Red Sox have five regulars hitting under .200, with Carl Crawford (.163), Kevin Youkilis (.167), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.154), Jacoby Ellsbury (.194) and Marco Scutaro (.185) all hovering under the Mendoza Line. Saltalamacchia and Scutaro went hitless. Crawford and Ellsbury finished with two hits, with Youkilis notching one.


          – In a strange turn of events, two of the slowest members of the Red Sox, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, both had triples. For Gonzalez, it was his first three-bagger since 2009, while Ortiz last triple came Aug. 22 of last season. Gonzalez’€™ ball, which got past Joyce in right field, resulted in an RBI, while Ortiz eventually scored after his hit on J.D. Drew’€™s single.

          – Ellsbury had a solid return to the lineup after getting a day off, launching his first homer of the season — a solo shot in the eighth inning off of Joel Peralta. He also made a nice, head-first diving catch in the fourth, robbing Joyce. (Later in the game, however, the center fielder did dropa long fly ball off the bat of Fuld that resulted in a sixth-inning triple.)

          – Crawford showed some power, notching his first extra-base hit of the season when he launched a ground-rule double into the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth inning.

          – Ortiz continued to dominate left-handed pitching, notching a run-scoring single off of Tampa Bay reliever Cesar Ramos. The Red Sox’€™ DH is now 6-for-14 against southpaws this season.

          Red Sox live blog: Daisuke Matsuzaka gets smacked around by Rays

          04.11.11 at 6:55 pm ET
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          Join us in following all the action from Fenway Park as the Red Sox take on the Rays in the teams’ series-opener.

          Red Sox/Rays Live Blog

          Johnny Damon returns to Fenway and shows his classic form

          04.11.11 at 6:07 pm ET
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          For approximately 15 minutes, in the visitor’s dugout at Fenway Park, Johnny Damon showed exactly why he was one of the most popular players ever to put on a Red Sox uniform.

          He answered every question fired at him. From returning to Fenway as a visitor with his fifth different team to how he felt about Manny Ramirez‘s retirement leaving the Rays in the lurch to the dynamic at last year’s trade deadline that left him staying in Detroit and the Red Sox winding up with Carl Crawford.

          So, without further adieu, we present Johnny Damon, uncut.

          Does it ever get old coming back? ‘€œNo, this place is magical. This place meant so much to me during my four years here. It was a real pain in the butt in my four years in New York. Bottom line, I’€™m a baseball player. I go out and try to play as good as I can. Now, I’€™m on team number six so it’€™s part of the game.’€

          Do you still have energy for the game? ‘€œCertain days, yes, other days you’€™re a little tired.’€

          Are you surprised at your team’s 1-8 start? ‘€œAbsolutely. There’€™s definitely some reasoning. Our pitching’€™s been pretty good. Our offense has been real bad. We might have one guy hitting over .250 right now, and anytime you lose a guy like Longoria in the second game of the season and then we lose Manny, who was really solid for us during spring training and we were looking forward to doing a lot of good things this year. Right off the bat, we lose our No. 3 and No. 4 guys and we have a young team. We have a lot of young guys who are trying to press to fill that void. I’€™m here to get them relax and remind them there’€™s a lot of baseball left to play. Yeah, we’€™re upset where we stand right now but this game is tough. It’€™s tough to win games in the big leagues.’€

          Are you surprised at Boston’s 2-7 start? ‘€œThey actually have a bull’€™s eye on them. They’€™re picked to win the World Series. From everything that happened going into the season, they already were awarded the 2011 World Series. You know teams are going to get excited to play them, where teams stand and how teams prepare for them. They’€™re definitely the team to beat.’€

          What are your thoughts on Manny Ramirez and his sudden retirement, brought on by MLB’s “issue” with a recent PED test? ‘€œIt’€™s a very sad thing that happened with Manny. I wish him nothing but the best. He was a great teammate of mine. He was a great player. I was just hoping that we would continue to have all the fun that we had when we had the press conference. For it to end so abruptly and for the reason, it’€™s sad. I hope Manny is in a better place. I heard he’€™s going to be traveling. He deserves to do it. After 18 or 19 years in the big leagues, it’€™s time for him to walk away. Unfortunately, it’€™s under these terms.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

          Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez
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