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Ortiz officially headed to Home Run Derby

07.06.10 at 6:33 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — David Ortiz has been asked to participate in the All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby and — and as he said he would Monday — the designated hitter has accepted the offer.

Thus far six players have accepted invitations to compete in the Derby: Ortiz, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, New York’s Robinson Cano, Toronto’s Vernon Wells, Milwaukee’s Corey Hart, and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals.

Ortiz last participated in the Home Run Derby in 2006, when he made it to the second round of competition. He also took part in the 2005 and 2004 competitons. Entering Monday’€™s games, he is tied for seventh in the American League with 17 homers.

Ortiz said he doesn’€™t know who would be his pitcher for the Home Run Derby as Ino Guerrero, one of the Red Sox‘€™ batting practice pitchers, is going home for the All-Star break.

‘€œYou get tired after a while, especially when you’€™re on a streak and you’€™re hitting, and hitting and hitting,” Ortiz said. “When you sit down and cool off and then start up the engines again, it’€™s tough. That’€™s why you see people rake in the first round.’€

Adrian Beltre stood firm in his desire not to participate, allowing him to remain perfect in regards to winning Home Run Derby’s, having claimed first-place in his only professional HR Derby back in the Florida State League.

For more Red Sox news, visit www.weei.com/redsox.

Notes: Beckett optimistic after simulated game

07.06.10 at 5:54 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. ‘€“ Even though the names holding the bats were unfamiliar, the results on the mound weren’€™t.

Josh Beckett came away from his 64-pitch simulated game against members of the Gulf Coast League Red Sox in fine fashion, offering enough encouragement that he may need just two more rehab assignments before rejoining the Sox’€™ rotation (depending on how the outings go).

‘€œI definitely have that anxiety where I’€™m ready to (get back into the big league team’€™s rotation),’€ said Beckett, who is scheduled to pitch in Pawtucket Sunday. ‘€œBut as far as the light at the end of the tunnel, it’€™s definitely gotten brighter the last week and a half or two weeks. For a while there was nothing. I would just come in, do what they tell me to do and go home. You see that light at the end of the tunnel now and I’€™m definitely ready to do whatever they want me to do next.’€

The encouragement surrounding Beckett’€™s outing had less to do with the reaction of the opposing hitters ‘€“ who were bussed up to Tropicana Field after the scheduled rehab start in Sarasota was scratched due to weather ‘€“ and more because of the pitcher’€™s overall stuff.

Beckett threw all of his pitches, approaching the likes of Henry Ramos, Moko Moanaroa, Maykol Sanchez, Trygg Danforth and Luke Yoder in the same manner he would big leaguers.

‘€œI thought they were both pretty good today,’€ said Beckett of his velocity and command. ‘€œI thought my command was a lot better today than it was five days ago. I thought my velocity was about the same. Everything is coming together.’€

It is an analysis the Red Sox agree with.

‘€œHis ability to repeat his stuff was very encouraging,’€ said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. ‘€œHe’€™s felt better physically, more strong, with each bullpen session, each simulated session. He’€™s making solid progress.’€

Beckett has been on the disabled list since re-injuring his back May 18 at Yankee Stadium. The pitcher then aggravated his lat muscle during a bullpen session on May 29, resulting in the Red Sox shutting him down for 10 days. Prior to Tuesday’s simulated game, Beckett had pitched a simulated game at Fenway Park July 1.

Jacoby Ellsbury may be joining the Red Sox when they head to Toronto this weekend. Ellsbury hasn’t taken part in any baseball activities other than some throwing, but has made progress of late in regards to his injured ribs. Ellsbury has been rehabbing at Athletes Performance in Phoenix.

Jeremy Hermida took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the disabled list due to a rib injury. The hope is for Hermida to take live BP again Wednesday with the rest of the team.

“It’s good to get out on the field. It felt good,” said Hermida, who took some live pitching inside Monday. When asked if it felt good to hit a ball in the stands, he said, “Why not? Make sure it’s still there.”

Clay Buchholz said after going through some physical tests yesterday, his left hamstring still bothers him a bit, but only when he runs straight ahead.

‘€œHe did good. He ramped up a little bit more. Still, the running, we got to maybe 50, 60 percent,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “The idea is to continue to get stronger without having to hurt. He did some squatting with, I think, 80 pounds, which I think is a good sign. The throwing part has actually been pretty good. Trying to continue to get that hammy to where he can move quicker with more force and not have it hurt nad not have it grab at him.’€

– Pawtucket pitcher Michael Bowden has been moved into the PawSox bullpen, perhaps paving the way to helping out the big league club’s pen in the season’s stretch drive. Bowden won’t be closing, still getting a fair amount of pitches in. Bowden made seven relief appearances for the Sox last season, which marked the first time he had ever worked out of the bullpen during his professional career.

Sox catching depth on the upswing?

07.06.10 at 3:39 pm ET
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Red Sox minor leaguer Mark Wagner, who had been out since April after suffering a broken left hamate that required surgery, was reinstated to the Triple-A PawSox following a brief rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League. Wagner was part of the decimated Red Sox catching corps, as all four of the team’s top catchers entering the year (Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek, Mark Wagner and Dusty Brown) were sidelined by injuries at the same time, forcing the Sox to call up Gustavo Molina and trade for Kevin Cash when Varitek and Martinez went down last week.

Wagner said by phone last week that he had resigned himself to the fact that this would be a year when he would have to try to gut it out and play through pain while dealing with the aftermath of his surgery.

‘€œIt’€™s frustrating. I just haven’€™t seen the progress I’€™ve wanted in terms of getting back to playing,’€ Wagner said on Friday. ‘€œWe’€™re leaning towards believing that this is an as-good-as-it-gets type of thing unless we give it complete rest.”

Apparently, the wrist did not regress during his rehab in the GCL, and so Wagner will rejoin the PawSox to get a better gauge for his progress. Depending on how quickly he can return to game speed, it is not inconceivable that he could have a shot at the majors before Varitek returns in the second half.

At the same time, there is a real possibility that the hamate cost Wagner (whom Sox sources say they would have been comfortable calling up when either Martinez or Varitek — and certainly when both — went down) his most meaningful opportunity for a regular big league role this year. Even so, Wagner last week suggested that he had been trying not to consider the idea that he had missed an opportunity, insofar as he did not want to be viewed as consumed by Schadenfreude.

‘€œA lot of my friends, family, sportswriters have been calling me and bombarding me with that. I don’€™t ever look at it as a situation where I’€™m waiting for someone to get hurt,’€ said Wagner. ‘€œIt’€™s one of those things where if I got a shot it would be great, but it would be much better to watch [Varitek and Martinez] play and learn. But if there’€™s any shot I can get up there, Lord knows, I would love it, and hopefully I could get up there and help the team win.’€

Wagner went 3-for-5 with five walks in his three-game GCL rehab stint.

For more on the Red Sox catching depth, click here.

Read More: Jason Varitek, mark wagner, victor martinez,

Youkilis on D&H: Fan support ‘means a lot to me’

07.06.10 at 2:28 pm ET
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Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis joined the Dale & Holley show Wednesday from Tampa and talked about possibly making the All-Star team, what it means to Jon Lester to finally make the All-Star Game, and the challenges the team has gone through with the injuries.

‘€œYou never work to be an All-Star but when you get named to be an All-Star it’€™s a great thing,’€ Youkilis said. ‘€œIt shows all the hard work and dedication you’€™ve put into the game. You become an individual because you’€™re an All-Star but the greatest thing is we have six All-Stars on our team. The past few years when I’€™ve gone to the All-Star Games, you see a lot of your team there at the All-Star Game and it means a lot because it shows how much great it is to come with your team and how much success your team has.’€

Youkilis also touched on David Ortiz turning things around in the first half of the year after having immense struggles.

Below are the highlights of the conversation. Visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page to hear the interview. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Kevin Youkilis,

Boxscore Breakdown: Short Starts and High Pitch Innings

07.06.10 at 11:23 am ET
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* – Last night in Tampa, the Red Sox knocked out Matt Garza after just three innings. It was the 7th time this season that the opposing starter has lasted three innings or less, and the Red Sox are now just 5-2 in those games. Over the last two seasons, the Sox went 30-1 in those games (15-0 in 2008 and 15-1 in 2009). Still, the Red Sox own the AL’s best winning percentage when the opposing starter lasts 3 or fewer innings since 2008:

.921 – Boston Red Sox (35-3)
.917 – New York Yankees (22-2)
.864 – Toronto Blue Jays (19-3)

In those games since 2008, the Red Sox are now 13-2 on the road and 22-1 at Fenway Park. Tampa Bay won such a game (where their starter lasted 9 outs or fewer) for the 3rd time in such a game since 2008 (3-13). For some perspective, the Red Sox are 3-14 and the Yankees are 4-24 during that span.

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* – Matt Garza threw 49 pitches in the 3rd inning last night as the Red Sox knocked him around for five, two-out, runs. That was the 2nd most pitches thrown by a pitcher in an inning of any game that his team eventually won since the start of the 2008 season. Jake Peavy, then of the Padres, had a 53-pitch fifth inning in 2008 that San Diego eventually won.

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* – Daisuke Matsuzaka needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning last night in Tampa. It was the 8th time this season that a Red Sox starter has thrown 30+ pitches in the opening frame and the Sox are now 3-5 in those games. Four of those have come courtesy of Dice-K (Boston won 2 and lost 2), three by Clay Buchholz (1-2), and the other by Jon Lester (0-1).

The Sox had nine 30+ pitch first innings last season (going 4-5) and only six in 2008 (3-3).

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* – I probably don’t have to tell you this, but among pitchers that have appeared in 300+ innings since the start of 2008, Dice-K has required 25+ pitches in the highest percentage of them:

15.4% – Daisuke Matsuzaka
15.2% – Ian Snell
14.6% – Scott Kazmir
13.6% – Gil Meche

Other Red Sox’ percentages in that span: Clay Buchholz (11.4%), Josh Beckett (9.0%), John Lackey (8.5%), Jon Lester (7.7%), Tim Wakefield (6.2%).

The pitcher with the LOWEST percentage? Roy Halladay (4.5%)

Youkilis has unlikely ally in All-Star push

07.06.10 at 10:48 am ET
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In an attempt to get All-Star votes for first baseman Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox struck an agreement with the Reds to encourage both teams’ fans to vote for Youklis and Reds first baseman Joey Votto. Youkilis grew up in Cincinnati and was a two-time All-American at the University of Cincinnati.

Mark Sheldon at MLB.com reports that the Reds will wear T-shirts during batting practice Wednesday at New York’s Citi Field that read: “Vote Votto-Youkilis.”

“We told the Red Sox that if you do this for us, we’ll let you have a full month to think that you won the 1975 World Series in six games,” joked Reds assistant director of media relations Jamie Ramsey.

Both Votto, who leads the National League with 21 home runs, and Youkilis, batting .299 with 17 homers, were passed over for the initial All-Star selections despite clearly having the qualifications. Fans can vote until 4 p.m. Thursday to select the final member of each team. As of Monday, Votto was leading the “Final Vote” over Padres reliever Heath Bell, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Braves reliever Billy Wagner and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Youkilis trailed Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher, with White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, Twins outfielder Delmon Young and Rangers third baseman Michael Young also in the running.

Read More: All-Star Game 2010, Joey Votto, Kevin Youkilis,

Red Sox vs. Rays matchups, 7/6

07.06.10 at 9:18 am ET
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Looking to rebound after a tough loss on Monday, the Sox will send Felix Doubront to the hill on Tuesday. Making his second major league start, Doubront replaces Clay Buchholz, who remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. Doubront (1-0, 5.40) will face the Rays for the first time in his career.

The Sox continue to be hampered by injuries but remain in contention with the Rays and Yankees for first place in the AL East.

Opposing Doubront is Jeff Niemann, who is 6-2 with a 2.80 ERA. Niemann has pitched consistently well almost every game this season but is on a two-game losing streak, with losses to the Diamondbacks and Marlins mixed in with two no-decisions in his last four starts. Niemann pitched well against the Sox back on April 19, picking up the win when he allowed five hits, two earned runs and one home run while striking out three batters over seven innings.

Tampa Bay is 21-19 at Tropicana Field and looks to extend its three-game winning streak on Tuesday.

Jeff Niemann vs. Red Sox

Marco Scutaro (14 plate appearances): .143 AVG/.200 OBP/.143 SLG, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (10): .300/.364/.300, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Bill Hall (5): .200/.333/.200, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (4): .500/.600/ 1.000, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (4): .000/.200/.000, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (3): .000/.400/.000, 2 walks

Felix Doubront vs. Rays

No Rays batter has faced Doubront.

Read More: felix doubront,

Report: Orioles close in on Showalter

07.06.10 at 8:35 am ET
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According to a report by Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports, Buck Showalter is the leading candidate to become manager of the Orioles. Showalter, who has managed the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers, spoke with the O’s on Monday. Baltimore also had two interviews with former Indians manager Eric Wedge and a discussion with former O’s player and coach Rick Dempsey.

Juan Samuel has been serving as interim manager since the firing of Dave Trembley in June.

Read More: Buck Showalter, eric wedge, Orioles, Rick Dempsey

Ortiz sees his fears slide away

07.06.10 at 12:15 am ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — David Ortiz wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but he sure was after the fact.

Ortiz had one focus when watching Kevin Youkilis drive the ball to right field in the third inning — get home from first base. The designated hitter chugged around third base as the throw came in from Tampa Bay right fielder Matt Joyce, gearing for a close play at the plate.

As Rays catcher John Jaso gathered in the throw, Ortiz veered off, proceeding to stick his left hand out to catch the corner of the plate to successfully complete his journey from first to home for the first time since 2008 (when he did it four times). But this was more than just a run home and a nice slide. It was a reminder.

“The last time I slid like that, you want me to tell you what happened? I broke my wrist,” said Ortiz after the Red Sox‘ 6-5.

The instance Ortiz talked about was in 2001 when he broke his wrist sliding home, still managing to hit a home run later in the game. While that time he managed to reach home safely from second base, the similarity of the slide wasn’t lost on the slugger while walking back to the dugout.

“I wasn’t thinking about it during, but I was after,” Ortiz said. “I remember that. That was (screwed) up.)”

Closing Time: Rays 6, Red Sox 5

07.05.10 at 10:53 pm ET
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It was the sort of game that has been a staple of Red Sox success for several years. The lineup produced one quality plate appearance after another against Rays starter Matt Garza, most notably in a four-run third inning in which the team made the Tampa Bay hurler labor for 49 pitches. That effort, in turn forced Tampa Bay to turn to its bullpen for the start of the fourth inning, and with the Sox leading, 5-1, by the end of that frame, a rout was seemingly in the making.

But the Boston offense sputtered from that point forward, finishing the night by going 2-for-18. The team did not score another run, and when Daisuke Matsuzaka unraveled and the Rays rallied for a run in the seventh inning, it was Tampa Bay that had edged the Sox for a 6-5 victory that allowed the Rays to leapfrog the Sox in the AL East standings, with Boston stumbling to third in the division.

It was just the fifth loss of the year for the Sox when they had a lead entering the sixth inning. The Sox dropped to 13-14 in one-run games.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Daisuke Matsuzaka, entrusted with a 5-1 lead in the fourth inning, coughed up that advantage in one of his worst starts of the season. He pitched five-plus innings and threw just 56 percent of his pitches for strikes, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits and four walks. The start snapped a streak of six straight games in which Matsuzaka had allowed three or fewer runs.

In each of his three starts since coming off the disabled list, he has now walked four batters. Since May 22, he has issued four or more free passes in five of his last seven games.

–The decision by manager Terry Francona to leave Matsuzaka in the game was itself a suspect one. The pitcher had given up two runs in the fifth inning, and was at 90 pitches by that point, while clinging to a 5-3 lead. He proceeded to allow all four baserunners he faced in the sixth to reach, allowing a double, walk, bunt single (on an intended sacrifice on which Matsuzaka turned to throw to third — where no one was covering — rather than taking the out at first base) and a two-run single up the middle.

–After the Sox took a 5-1 lead in the fourth inning on Eric Patterson‘s solo homer, the Sox collected just two more hits, going 2-for-18 over the duration of the game. Most notably, in the top of the seventh inning, both Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew struck out with the bases loaded, allowing the Rays to cling to preserve a 5-5 tie. In the next half inning, the Rays pushed the decisive run across the plate.

–Drew’s strikeout came against Rays left-hander Randy Choate. Drew has been something of a liability against southpaws this year, hitting .184/.267/.237/.504 against them.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Eric Patterson, who entered Monday with six homers in 390 career plate appearances, had a career night. He ripped a pair of solo homers for his first career multi-homer game, and later added a double for his first career game with three extra-base hits. His three hits also tied a career high.

Kevin Youkilis cracked a triple, his fifth of the season, to set a new career high for three-baggers. He also drew a walk.

–With runners on first and third and no outs in the bottom of the sixth of a tie game, reliever Dustin Richardson recorded a pair of key outs, getting a fielder’s choice groundout on a safety squeeze (on which Youkilis made a strong play to cut down a runner at the plate) and then getting a fly out. The lefty has allowed three of eight inherited runners to score, and he has a 2.45 ERA in his seven appearances.

–In yet another reminder of how opposing teams are once again approaching him with extreme caution, David Ortiz walked three times. It marked the second time this season he had been walked three times, after not having done so in either the 2008 or 2009 seasons.

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