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For Scutaro, playing time takes a back seat to winning

04.18.11 at 4:01 pm ET
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The striking emergence of Jed Lowrie has come at the expense of playing time for Marco Scutaro. With Lowrie amidst a seven-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .625 (15-for-24), he has cemented himself — at least for now — as an everyday player for the Sox. As a result, Scutaro (hitting .188 with a .547 OPS) has been left to sit for three of the last four games.

But despite the fact that Lowrie has effectively supplanted him for now, Scutaro is not complaining.

“It’s all about winning here,” said Scutaro. “I’m fine. It’€™s special being on a winning team. Being on a losing team is no fun at all. Right now, [manager Terry Francona] is just trying to put the best guys out there to win games.”

Scutaro said that it wasn’t necessary for Francona to explain the playing time division to him.

“You don’€™t have to [talk to the manager] to understand what’€™s going on,” said Scutaro.

He made clear that he was not upset about his current role. Though it took him years to become an everyday shortstop as a 32-year-old with the Blue Jays in 2008, Scutaro suggested that he is not concerned about playing time at this point.

“There’€™s still a long way to go,” said Scutaro.

In many respects, Scutaro and Lowrie complement each other very well, and in some respects are interchangeable depending on their performance. Lowrie is capable of playing all four infield positions; but should the Sox continue to use him as an everyday shortstop, Scutaro could be used as a player capable of giving the Sox depth at shortstop, second and third.

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Read More: Jed Lowrie, marco scutaro,

Kevin Youkilis found the booing of Daisuke Matsuzaka ‘a little shocking’

04.18.11 at 3:59 pm ET
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As Daisuke Matsuzaka was being booed as he took the mound for the start of Monday’s game, Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis couldn’t believe his ears. Seven innings of one-hit, shutout pitching later, those boos turned to cheers as he left the mound. The pitcher who gave up seven runs and eight hits over two-plus innings seven days earlier turned in a great outing to lead the Red Sox to a 9-1 win over the Blue Jays.

Youkilis couldn’t help but find the irony in the situation.

[Click here to hear Kevin Youkilis ask for a little patience and understanding from the fans.]

“One thing that was a little shocking was before the game he got booed,” Youkilis said. “It’s funny how he came off the field, everyone was cheering. It’s kind of foot-in-the-mouth right there but it’s good how he responded to that, too.”

Youkilis went on to explain that he and the team understand the frustration of the bad start but that it’s still early in the season.

“That’s one of the things that’s tough right now,” he said. “We’re starting to play a little bit better and we know it’s frustating for all the fans out there and we’re just as much frustrated, too. Be positive and good things will happen and that’s just the message about everyone. We just got to stay positive in here, outside the clubhouse, and good things will happen.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kevin Youkilis, MLB

Closing Time: Red Sox 9, Blue Jays 1

04.18.11 at 1:56 pm ET
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On Sunday, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia offered quite a boast for a Red Sox team that had just managed to win its fourth game (out of 14) in 2011.

“We’€™ve got everything you possibly need. We’€™ve got speed, we’€™ve got power, we’€™ve got pitching. Once it all goes together, it’€™s scary,” he said. “Every single day, we’€™ve got to go out there and do the same thing. We haven’€™t proven anything. We can’€™t go out there and have one good game, one bad. We’€™ve got to be consistent, and that’€™s what we’€™re working on.”

The Sox took another very impressive step towards that goal on Patriots’ Day. With a game that commenced at a time of day when a team could almost be expected to look sloppy, the Sox were sterling in their 9-1 victory over the Blue Jays. And the person most responsible for one of the cleanest Sox wins of the year was unexpected: Daisuke Matsuzaka.

After one of his worst starts as a member of the Red Sox, Matsuzaka turned in one of his best. On the strength of a 91-93 mph fastball, a cutter with good late life and a slider that he could throw for strikes at will, Matsuzaka had a remarkably efficient outing, churning through seven shutout innings and allowing just one hit and one walk.

And so, the Sox head west for the start of a nine-game roadtrip armed with the confidence of three straight victories and three straight outstanding starts from Matsuzaka, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. The trio combined to allow the Blue Jays just two runs in 20 innings, a sterling 0.90 ERA. The offense, meanwhile, enjoyed an eruption, giving the Sox their most comprehensive win of the year.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl crawford, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie

Red Sox bring back Okajima, send down Doubront

04.18.11 at 12:27 pm ET
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When he was told at the end of spring training that he would open the year in Triple-A Pawtucket, the disappointment for Hideki Okajima was undeniable. In the span of four years, he had gone from Hero in the Shadows to All-Star, then key bullpen contributor, then struggling left-hander, then minor leaguer. Even though he knew that opening the year in the minors was a possibility after he signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Red Sox during the offseason, that made the reality he faced — coming off a 2010 season in which his struggles against right-handers deepened, and he had a 4.50 ERA — any easier to accept.

Nonetheless, Okajima took the news professionally.

“Instead of going and pouting or feeling sorry for himself, he threw the ball pretty well and got a lot of people out,” said Sox manager Terry Francona.

Okajima tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Pawtucket, allowing just two hits, walking none and striking out five. With the Sox having gone through early struggles with a pair of left-handed relievers — first with Dennys Reyes, who was designated for assignment one week into the season, then with Felix Doubront, whose spring training was limited by elbow stiffness and who looked unready to compete at the game’s highest level — the Sox made the move on Monday to bring back a known quantity.

Even Okajima confessed that he was surprised at how soon his return to the majors came. Okajima is rarely a demonstrative person in the clubhouse, but after arriving at Fenway Park around 8:30 a.m., he was beaming upon being reunited with his big league teammates.

“I knew that if I pitched the way I can and believed in myself, I would eventually get the call up. That’€™s how I spent my time down there,” said Okajima, who was pleased with a cutter that he was using with positive results against right-handers. “[But] I didn’€™t expect to be up this early, so I’€™m very happy, very grateful to Tito and the rest of the club.’€

The opportunity arose because the Sox felt that Doubront, 23, was better served to resume his build-up for the season in the minors while also providing the team depth in the starting rotation. Doubront’s results were spotty — he looked good in moments, as when he struck out Robinson Cano of the Yankees, but his command was inconsistent as he worked to build his velocity. On Sunday, Doubront (who pitched 2 2/3 innings in three games, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks) walked both of the left-handers he faced, never a positive indicator for a team’s only southpaw in the bullpen.

“The thinking was, when we called Doubront back up, we fully well knew he wasn’€™t in midseason form. Saying that, we love this kid,” said Francona. “[But] we’€™re carrying one lefty. [Doubront’s] not a guy we want to get up and down a lot. That’€™s not going to work. The other side of that is that we can go get him stretched out as a starter, obviously for some depth reasons. So, Oki was throwing the ball really well in Triple-A, so it seemed like the logical move to make.”

The rotation depth consideration was not to be overlooked. With Doubront, Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves all in the major leagues, the Sox ran the risk of getting caught in a situation where their three primary starting depth options were all either unavailable or not sufficiently stretched out to step into the rotation, leaving the Sox at risk, in Francona’s words, of “not being prepared if something happened.”

If Doubront is built up to log a starter’s innings, that concern could diminish. Meanwhile, Okajima offers the Sox a reassuring presence in the bullpen. The team hopes that he might bring stability to a role that has represented an early-season vulnerability for the club.

“We know when Oki’€™s going well,” said Francona, “he can be a solid, reliable major league pitcher.”

Read More: felix doubront, Hideki Okajima,

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Patriots’ Day Live Blog

04.18.11 at 11:11 am ET
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Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Live Blog

Patriots’ Day notes: J.D. Drew is atop the order

04.18.11 at 11:03 am ET
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Gut morgen! (Nothing says Patriots’ Day like a hearty German greeting.)

A bleary-eyed group of Red Sox players made their way into the clubhouse very, very early this morning. J.D. Drew might have had to rub his eyes a couple of times to verify that he was indeed the leadoff hitter against the Blue Jays and Ricky Romero. Drew has enjoyed tremendous success in his career against Romero (.450 average, .560 OBP in 26 plate appearances), and the Sox felt that his general approach at the plate — see a lot of pitches, don’t expand the strike zone — made him a good candidate to helm the top of the batting order, at least against Romero.

Carl Crawford, meanwhile, moves down to the seventh spot in the lineup. His average is now down to .127 for the season (second-worst in the majors), and he’s 2-for-14 (.143) in his career against Romero. Manager Terry Francona reiterated his sense that the Sox “are going to like Carl wherever he hits,” but that right now, in the interests of balancing matchups and structuring the lineup in a way that didn’t fill the entire bottom of the order with left-handed hitters. Francona also considered other alternatives, including Jed Lowrie, but felt that Drew was the most sensible option.

Drew has not put up good numbers in the leadoff spot in his career (.229 with a .336 OBP and .727 OPS), but Francona suggested that in some respects, those numbers miss the point about Drew, who has averaged 4.01 pitches per plate appearance in 346 career plate appearances from the leadoff spot. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl crawford, J.D Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie

For a day, he was worth his Salt

04.17.11 at 10:33 pm ET
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The Red Sox organization made their dedication to Jarrod Saltalamacchia as their catcher very clear this past offseason. By not re-signing free agent Victor Martinez and making clear that Jason Varitek was returning in a backup capacity, the team showed its willingness to bet on Saltalamacchia behind the plate.

The payoff had been limited to date. But in Sunday’s matinee against the Blue Jays, Saltalamacchia shined offensively as he produced his second multi-hit game of the year while driving in multiple runs for the first time this season.

After sitting on Saturday, the catcher capitalized on his return to the lineup going 2-for-4 with 3 RBI against the Blue Jays. He plated the first Sox run to tie the game, 1-1, in the second inning, and then with the Sox up 4-1 in the sixth, he delivered the key hit to blow the game open. With the bases loaded and two outs, Saltalamacchia jumped on a 2-2 slider from Jays starter Jesse Litsch and laced it into right field.

“Spread the game out,” Francona said of the hit. “That’€™s exactly what we needed to do. Instead of warming up [Jonathan Papelbon] for a third straight day, we go to [Dan Wheeler]. The game was a lot closer than that an inning before.

While he is saddled with a .182 average and .462 OPS, Saltalamacchia suggested that Sunday gave him a performance upon which he could build.

“I tried to slow it down a little bit today,” Saltalamacchia said his approach. “Not jumping too much, not trying to crush the ball every time, just staying within myself.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: jarrod saltalamacchia,

No April Fool’s start: Lester pleased with strong first month

04.17.11 at 6:39 pm ET
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Jon Lester‘s history of April blahs was well documented. He entered this season with a 3-6 record and 4.76 ERA in 20 career starts in March and April. His slow starts out of the gate both undermined potential Cy Young candidacies and left the pitcher befuddled.

This year, he has not had to puzzle through such concerns. Since somewhat puzzling first start of the year (a 5 1/3 inning outing against the Rangers in which Lester failed to get a single strikeout), Lester has been true to form as one of the elite pitchers in the game.

On Sunday, that continued in Lester’s first victory of the year, on a day when the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, 8-1, to achieve their first two-game winning streak of the season. He logged six-plus innings and allowed just one run on six hits, punching out five. In his last three starts, Lester now has a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings, during which he’s allowed 16 hits and struck out 22 in 20 innings.

This was not, however, vintage Lester. The 27-year-old had to work for his results, on a day when his command was slightly off, and when his feel for different pitches came and went at different times.

But in that respect, it was a marker of what a good pitcher Lester is. Because he has so many weapons on the mound — fastball, two-seamer, cutter, curve, changeup — he can shut down opposing lineups even on days when he doesn’t have his best stuff.

There were stretches of the game when he could rely on a four-seam fastball that produced not only four swings and misses but also multiple shattered bats (one of which came perilously close to Lester’s face). There were other stretches later in the outing when his cutter became a tremendous weapon, eliciting four swings and misses as well. And, he stunned Adam Lind into a strikeout at one point by dropping a rare left-on-left changeup to Toronto’s first baseman.

“I don’€™t think he commanded like he can, but he’€™s got all his pitches. He’€™s always got somewhere to go,” said manager Terry Francona. “It was probably at times a little hard. … [But] he’€™s got a lot of ways to get you out.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jon Lester,

Closing Time: Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 1

04.17.11 at 4:42 pm ET
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And finally, there was a streak.

For the first time in 2011, the Red Sox own a multi-game winning streak. That their winning streak comes on the strength of consecutive outstanding starts is no surprise. One day after Josh Beckett dominated the Blue Jays, Jon Lester continued to stifle Toronto in an 8-1 Red Sox victory.

It wasn’t nearly as dominating as Beckett’s performance, but the left-hander’s third straight quality start was exactly what manager Terry Francona described before the game as the key ingredient to sustained success.

“If you get consistent pitching, you can have inconsistent hitting and still win. I think we all know when we get our lineup going, we’€™ll be pretty good. We’€™ll score some runs,” said Francona. “If you pitch, you give yourself a chance every night.”

The Sox are now in position to finish their nine-game homestand — on which they are currently 4-4 — with a winning record.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–Remember when Jon Lester didn’t get a single swing and miss in his first start of the year against the Rangers? That seems like a long time ago.

For his third straight outing, Lester featured overpowering stuff. Even though he struggled with his command at times (three walks), he limited the Blue Jays to one run on six hits in six-plus innings while striking out five. He elicited nine swings and misses, four on fastballs (a pitch that topped out at 95 mph for the day), one on a change and four on cutters.

In his last three starts, Lester now has a 1.80 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 16 hits allowed in 20 innings. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bobby jenks, carl crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, jarrod saltalamacchia

Street closures around Fenway Park on Monday

04.17.11 at 3:07 pm ET
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Courtesy of the Red Sox, the information about the many, many street closures near Fenway Park for Monday’s Patriots’ Day game:

According to information provided by the Boston Transportation Department website, there will be significant street closures in the Fenway neighborhood and surrounding areas tomorrow, Monday, April 18, 2011, on account of the 115th Boston Marathon. The Red Sox urge all fans to use public transportation, provide extra time for making the trip to Fenway Park and to arrive early. The game on Monday is scheduled to start at 11:05 a.m. and the Fenway Park gates will open to the public at 9:35 a.m.

The following streets will be closed to vehicular traffic tomorrow starting at 9:00 a.m. and lasting until at least 6:00 p.m.: Read the rest of this entry »

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