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Francona on D&H: ‘Err on the side of caution’ with Ortiz

04.13.10 at 1:14 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Tuesday and talked about the Sox’ slow start to the season and the challenges presented by David Ortiz‘ slow start this year. The Sox skipper discussed why he believes it is premature to alter Ortiz’ playing time, including why he does not believe that a platoon between Ortiz and Mike Lowell is appropriate at this juncture of the season.

“You can’t just treat these guys like chess pieces. I don’t think that works. There’s a human element to this, and probably a lot more than people realize,” said Fracona. “If you’re going to make a change, you’d better damn well be sure you’re right. And that’s what we’ve always tried to do.

“I think it’s too early to [discuss a platoon]. David’s been such a mainstay for us both vs. lefties and righties. And I think if you talk to any hitter, for them to succeed against one type, they almost need to face the other side also. A lefty makes a guy stay in there. Now, I understand at some point there needs to be production. Again, these are things that get magnified in the early season that we always talk about at the end of spring, and then when it happens, it still seems to throw people for a loop even though we know we’re probably going to go through it. So, now we just have to live through it and get ourselves into a routine, and get into the grind of the season, and these things will take care of themselves.”

Francona also touched on several other topics, including the fact that he was “alarmed” by the comments of umpire Joe West about the pace of games between the Sox and Yankees, the Sox’ struggles to shut down other teams’ running games and the productivity of the bench. A transcript is below. To listen to the interview, click here.

Against the Royals in the top of the ninth on Friday, with the tying run on first, why did you elect to employ a sacrifice bunt?

‘€œWe’€™ve got the top of the order. We didn’€™t feel like we could steal there. Give it two shots to score a run. A lot of times, we’€™ll start out by showing bunt, and if they want to give it to us on the first pitch, we’€™ll take it. Then if they move the infielders in, we’€™ll swing because they’€™ve sacrificed some real estate in the infield. A lot of things come into play on that. ‘€¦ We talk about that all during spring training. Once we get the infielders to crash, then we really are comfortable letting guys hit. Sometimes it backfires, and you get a guy who hits one right at somebody, but we’€™re just trying to play the percentages.’€

Have your starters not performed up to your expectations or hopes thus far?

‘€œYou start out with the Yankees ‘€“ that’€™s a tough transition from spring training to the Yankees lineup. I think Lester, it’€™s been the Lester we’€™ve seen the last couple of years. The stuff is plenty good, just not quite there as far as command. I thought yesterday, I know you make your breaks, but he was awfully unlucky. I know you make your breaks, but you’€™re going to see a better Lester.

“We’ve just not quite gotten into the flow of everything yet. It seems like in a couple of games we’re an inning short when we get to our bullpen and we have to go to guys before we want to, just things like that ‘€” normal, first-week things.”

Will you have to adjust your rotation when you get into a normal flow of games?

‘€œI don’€™t think so. I think we want to stay on a five-day if we can. Giving guys one extra day, especially early in the season ‘€“ actually, anytime ‘€“ we’€™re OK with that. We’€™re OK with staying in rotation. Regardless of how it works, we try to turn it to our advantage.’€

Do you think that talking to the media has become a problem for David Ortiz, that he’s thinking too much about criticism?

“I think he’s frustrated. ‘€¦ Yeah, I’ve seen that a few times, too. Until he really starts swinging like he can, he’s probably going to have to deal with it, and I’m going to have to deal with it, and we’re all going to deal with it. Because we went through this last year, and because of where we play, it’s there. And there’s no getting around it. It’s tough sometimes. You’d like to always say you have the right answers, and we certainly try to, [but] sometimes we’re searching a little bit, whether it’s the division between loyalty, and how far to go, and who to play, and the loyalty to a player and to your team, these are things we think about a lot, and it weighs on all of us. I was talking to [hitting coach Dave Magadan] after the game last night, because they’€™re down there constantly just trying to work on it, which is good. David, he drove the ball to left field yesterday, which is good. In his other at-bats, it looked like he was still stuck in between. But it was good to see him drive that ball to left-center.”

Does loyalty factor into whether David Ortiz is in your lineup?

“I think all our players have to have that feeling. These are things that I probably fight with myself all year long. I think the loyalty has to be to the team. And through that, I’m hoping that players whether they agree with the decisions we make or not, they understand why. And again, we go back to that we’re always trying to have an atmosphere around our team where guys want to do the right thing. Sure, they’re not always going to agree with the decisions. I understand that. I wish right now we could play two DHs. It’s just not the way it is. We continue to preach to guys, stay ready and stay focused, because you will get a chance and you don’t know when it’s going to be. And if you’re ready, then you’ll be able to help us win.”

Would you prefer not to platoon designated hitters?

“I’d prefer not to. And again, I think it’s too early to talk like that. David’s been such a mainstay for us both vs. lefties and righties. And I think if you talk to any hitter, for them to succeed against one type, they almost need to face the other side also. A lefty makes a guy stay in there. Now, I understand at some point there needs to be production. Again, these are things that get magnified in the early season that we always talk about at the end of spring, and then when it happens, it still seems to throw people for a loop even though we know we’re probably going to go through it. So, now we just have to live through it and get ourselves into a routine, and get into the grind of the season, and these things will take care of themselves.”

Is Ortiz being too patient? Should he be more aggressive early in the counts?

‘€œI don’€™t want to tell him that. I love the fact that he’€™s seeing a lot of pitches. I think there are times when he’€™s not committing to a pitch, and you’€™re seeing some check swings. I think [Magadan] was referring to that yesterday. But I never want to go up and tell someone, ‘€˜Just go up and whack the first one you see.’€™ I love the fact that he’€™s getting deep into counts, because the more he does that, that’€™s going to help him. He’€™s going to get better pitches to hit. We talk sometimes about how if you get a check swing on a breaking ball in the dirt in a fastball count, you’€™ve got to earn the fastball. If you lay off the breaking ball, you’€™re eventually going to get a fastball in the zone that you can handle. I think he’€™s in between a little bit. I don’€™t deny that. But I love the fact that he’€™s seeing pitches.’€™

Are his struggles just a function of the stage of the season, or is this a more serious concern than that?

We have some experience with this. Last year, the first six or seven weeks of the season, David looked ‘€“ he wasn’€™t driving the ball. It was tough. It was hard to imagine him being capable of driving in 100 runs. Then you look up four months later, and he’€™s doing that.

I don’t know if anybody has the exact right answer. But until you do, I’ll tell you what, as a manager you better err on the side of caution. Because you can’t just treat these guys like chess pieces. I don’t think that works. There’s a human element to this, and probably a lot more than people realize. And sometimes we struggle. If we struggle as a team, we’ll get ourselves straightened out as a team. And that’s how I guess I’ve always felt about it. If you’re going to make a change, you’d better damn well be sure you’re right. And that’s what we’ve always tried to do.

The bench made you look smart over the weekend.

I thought our guys did a terrific job. When you bring in a reliever and they give up runs, the manager is either a dummy or he’€™s smart. We try to know what we want to do before hand and be prepared. A lot of time when a reliever comes in and it doesn’€™t work, I probably don’€™t take it as personal as other people want me to. If I felt like it was the right thing to do, OK, maybe someone hung a pitch, that doesn’€™t mean you had the wrong pitcher in there. I thought our bench guys ‘€“ that’€™s tough duty. ‘€¦ I thought our bench guys did a great job, because that’€™s not easy duty, facing Greinke under those circumstance.

How can you improve on slowing opponents’€™ running games? Right now, opponents are 12-of-13 against you on steal attempts.

We’€™re well aware of that. I actually think that our pitchers have done a better job. Yesterday, we had some legitimate chances to throw guys out. We had a 1.21 [seconds time from the pitcher] to the plate. Lester was a 1.23. Victor [Martinez] was a little bit up and to the right, to the arm side, on his throws. The thing, teams aren’€™t stupid. They’€™re scouting us like we’€™re scouting them. If they see a crack or a chance to jump out at us, they’€™re going to be more aggressive on the bases. That makes it more difficult also. We can start trying to pitch out but we really value ‘€“ you’€™ve heard how much I talk about first-pitch strikes and pitching ahead in the count, we value that so much ‘€“ so we’€™ve just got to keep plugging along. Not every team is perfect. We realize that teams, that’€™s one of the way they’€™re going to try to attack us.

Why would opponents throw a high and inside fastball to Dustin Pedroia?

I don’€™t think they always try to, but the other thing is, what you remember are the ones he hits. He also covers the outside of the plate. When you see him reaching down on those breaking balls, spanking one to right-center, you’€™ve got to try to come in and get him off the plate, and every once in a while he hits it. He’€™s just a special hitter.

How’€™s Brad Mills holding up while managing the winless Astros?

Millsy’€™s been great. I was joking with John Farrell yesterday, I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that they were losing and I said, ‘€˜Man, I feel like we’€™re losing a doubleheader.’€™ He’€™s actually been terrific. I think, if anything, no one wants to go through what they’€™re going through, but I think it proves that they’€™ve got the right guy. I’€™ve heard some of the comments from their players, how consistent Millsy is, how upbeat he’€™s been and I don’€™t doubt that. I think that it will prove through some tough times that they got the right guy.

What did you think about umpire Joe West’€™s comments about the Red Sox and Yankees games?

I was actually kind of alarmed. I get all the information from the league and I know how they feel. The one thing I think is misconstrued is I’ve seen the word ‘arrogance’ a few times, or ‘lack of respect.’ That’s not it. Sometimes we’re cited for slow play. I think sometimes we’re guilty. That’s the way it is, and we’ve paid the price. We’ve paid fines, we’ve gotten warned. But when you have a guy that is supposed to have no bias for a game come out and make comments that strong, it actually kind of alarmed me a little bit.

I’€™ve known Joe for a long time. You hate to see something like that come out in public, just because he’s supposed to be the guy ruling the game having no feelings, just making the calls. So, we’ll see where that goes.

Read More: Brad Mills, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Joe West

Video: The Full Count

04.13.10 at 9:30 am ET
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On the first edition of The Full Count video show, Lou Merloni talks with Red Sox center fielder Mike Cameron, Rob Bradford explains his MLB Power Rankings and Alex Speier talks Red Sox farm system.

Read More: mike cameron, Red Sox, Yankees,

Closing Time: Twins 5, Red Sox 2

04.12.10 at 7:14 pm ET
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It was a great day for the Twins, who opened their new ballpark with a solid 5-2 victory over the Red Sox. (Recap.) One-time Red Sox great bait Carl Pavano (traded back in ‘€™97 in the Pedro Martinez deal) turned in six strong innings of one-run, four-hit ball. Counterpart Jon Lester, meanwhile, struggled, allowing four runs in five innings.

Lester nearly avoided harm in each inning, but ended up permitting all four runs with two outs.

The Sox now enter Tuesday’€™s off-day with a 3-4 record.


Jacoby Ellsbury avoided a serious injury

Though Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the lineup on Monday, he should not be sidelined for too long. Ellsbury suggested to reporters that he could be back in the lineup as soon as Wednesday.

Dustin Pedroia is raking

Dustin Pedroia lashed a double (his second of the year), had a pair of line outs to center and added a sac fly in the eighth. He is now slugging .750 in the young season, and has driven in a team-high eight runs.

David Ortiz drove a ball to the opposite field

In a promising sign for David Ortiz, he took a 90 mph fastball on the outside corner from Twins starter Carl Pavano and drove it to the wall in left-center. When left-fielder Delmon Young failed to corral it, it dropped for a run-scoring double, Ortiz’€™ third hit of the year.

However, it was a good news/bad news sort of day for Ortiz, who also struck out looking at a thigh-high Pavano fastball on the inside part of the plate and later struck out swinging on a slider from left-hander Brian Duensing.

He went 1-for-4, and is now hitting .136 with a .436 OPS.


–Lester’€™s April Struggles Continue

It’€™s not as if Jon Lester was tattooed. Of the nine hits he gave up in five innings, just one (a Joe Mauer double down the left field line) went for extra bases. Some of the hits were of the bat-shattering variety.

Nonetheless, it was another instance in which Lester struggled with his location, something that has become a common theme of his April difficulties. Just 55 percent (59 of 107) of Lester’€™s pitchers were strikes, and he walked three batters, two of whom ended up coming around to score.

Lester has allowed 4.4 walks per nine innings in March and April, and 3.2 walks per nine innings from May through the end of the season. That helps to explain why the left-hander has a 5.08 career ERA in March/April, and a 3.50 mark in all other months.

–The Running Game

Nick Punto swiped a bag in the bottom of the second, making the Sox the first team in the majors to permit 10 stolen bases this year. The Twins went on to swipe another pair of bags, and the Sox have now allowed 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts.

Right now, the team is on pace to allow 278 steals this year. The only team to yield 200 or more steals since 1990 was the 2001 Red Sox, when the diabolical trio of Hideo Nomo (52 steals), Tim Wakefield (32) and Frank Castillo (27) led the charge for a team that opponents to steal 223 times.

Read More: David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester

Ortiz denies wrist injury

04.12.10 at 5:33 pm ET
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Speaking to the Boston Herald, David Ortiz denied a report in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he was battling an injured left wrist. The initial report suggested that “[f]riends of David Ortiz say the Red Sox slugger’s left wrist is hurting, though he refuses to make excuses.”

Before Monday’s game, Ortiz told the Herald that injuries have not been to blame for his poor start. He entered Monday with a .111 average (2-for-18), and six strikeouts in his previous nine plate appearances.

“Don’€™t pay attention to that crap,” Ortiz said of the report of an injury. “I’€™m fine. If I’€™d have been raking they wouldn’€™t be saying that.”

“I just can’€™t pay any attention to any of this crap going on around me,” he added. “Just play the game. The game is hard enough for people to be talking trash about you and you paying attention to it. You can’€™t listen to it.”

Ortiz suffered a partial tear of a tendon sheath in his left wrist in May 2008. Prior to that injury, Ortiz had a career line of .298/.399/.603/1.002 with the Red Sox. Since then, he has a line of .246/.343/.473/.817.

MLB Power Rankings, 4/11

04.12.10 at 2:15 am ET
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1. Rays (14-5). DRaysBay: “Coming off his worst start of the young season, Price delivered arguably his best start ever.”

2. Yankees (12-6). River Ave. Blues: “I doubt [Vazquez] will miraculously round into form between starts, but he has to be better than yesterday, right?”

3. Phillies (11-7). The Good Phight: “While Rollins can’€™t be expected to break his career-long trend and keep walking at such a high rate when he returns, a bit more patience from Victorino, Polanco and especially Howard will be needed if the Phils plan to continue scoring at a league-best pace.”

4. Cardinals (11-7). Redbird Rants: “Forget about the score and the month and the stakes. These opportunities don’€™t come knocking often. The best of the era face off ‘€“ mano y mano. Lincecum’€™s arm vs. Pujols’€™ bat. Think about it.”

5. Twins (13-6). Nicks Twins Blog: “Slowey and Liriano have both given plenty of reason to believe they can develop into top-end starters.”

6. Giants (10-8). Frisco Fastball: “Ugh. That’€™s the only word I can find in my small vocabulary to describe last nights gem of a game. Well, I can find a few more, but, they’€™re not even appropriate on the raunchiest of porn sets.”

7. Tigers (10-9). Motor City Bengals: “Damon had three hits including two doubles. What’€™s more, he finally got rid of those horrid white shoes.”

8. Angels (10-10). Halos Heaven: “Hard to believe it sometimes, but Torii Hunter is 34 years old.”

9. Athletics (12-8). Athletics Nation: “Given the injuries that have already beset the A’s, and given the lineup on paper even on a good day, you have to be pleased with the first 20 games.”

10. Rockies (10-9). Rox Pile: “Jimenez is, obviously, the best pitcher in MLB right now, and I don’€™t expect him to slow down. Like the Babe, I’€™m going to call my shot: Jimenez WILL have another no-hitter this season.”

11. Padres (11-7). Friar Forecast: “As of this writing, the San Diego Padres are tied for the best record in the National League.”
12. Marlins (10-9). Fish Stripes: “Ichthyomancy is ready for Midnight Baseball.”
13. Blue Jays (10-9). Bluebird Banter: “I do consider Cito a good batting coach but it isn’t working with this group. But then I think that many of these guys couldn’t learn to hit no matter who worked with them.”

14. White Sox (8-11). Sox Machine: The first step in the Rios Acceptance Plan was all his responsibility.  He pretty much had to prove immediately that he wasn’€™t the absolute zero that bummed everybody out over the last two months of 2009.”

15. Cubs (9-10). Goat Riders of the Apocalypse:Right now, whether they are a good team or not, the Cubs are trending upwards.  The offense is getting hits, the pitching is holding back Chicago’s opponents, and the Cubs are playing well.”

16. Red Sox (8-11). Over the Monster: “If this was Tim Wakefield’s last regularly scheduled start, it’ll be a shame.”

17. Mets (9-9). Kranepool Society: “The Mets right now are playing the way Epstein had hoped his Red Sox would when he ran all his statistical analysis that told him pitching and defense is the way to go. Right now the Mets are fueled on that formula.”
18. Dodgers (8-10). True Blue LA: “Counting the playoffs, the Dodgers have won just six of their last 22 road games, and they have lost six consecutive series on the road.”

19. Rangers (8-10). Lone Star Ball: “16 games into the season, and we are already having folks suggest that theRangers need to drop Rich Harden from the rotation to make room for Derek Holland, who is pitching on the same schedule as Harden at AAA and who is tearing it up in the early going.”
20. Braves (8-9). Tomahawk Take: “There is not any one particular thing that is not working; it is a number of problems that has this team reeling.”

21. Astros (8-10). Crawfish Boxes: “Don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but what a difference a week makes.”

22. Nationals (10-9). Capitol Punishment: “Really, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but it’s fun to dream sometimes. And if nothing else, these last few games have let me dream back to ’05 — back when rooting for this team was all kinds of crazy fun.”

23. Mariners (9-10). U.S.S. Mariner: “These one run losses suck, but as long as the M’€™s continue to run out a JV line-up to accommodate the hugging DH tandem, it’€™s hard to argue that they deserve to win.”

24. Brewers (8-10). Brew Crew Ball: “Hopefully the Brewers are good and rested after their off day today.  Don’t get me wrong–there was a game today.  The Brewers just chose not to play.”

25. Diamondbacks (8-10). Venom Strikes: “It has been hard to watch the Dbacks bullpen blow save after save.”

26. Indians (8-10)Indians Confidential: “Sunday was like a fight where the Indians were hit with jab after jab after jab until they simply couldn’€™t answer the bell.”

27. Reds (8-11). Redleg Nation: “The Reds are great now, right? This win changes things, doesn’€™t it?”

28. Pirates (7-11). Raise The Jolly Roger: “It really has been an unbelievably miserable six days for the Bucs.”

29. Royals (7-11). Royals Review: Do you wanna talk about the details or the big picture? Four years into the Moore regime, and they’re still the bumbling Royals.”

30. Orioles (3-16). Camden Chat: “For a team that’s found so many ways to lose over the course of the season, to see them finally find a way to scratch out a win was heartening.”

Red Sox vs. Twins matchups, 4/12

04.11.10 at 6:01 pm ET
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Yes, they are going to be playing outdoor baseball in Minnesota this season. And the Red Sox will be the first team to officially test out the new digs at Target Field (the St. Louis Cardinals did make a visit at the end of spring training) when they open a three-games series with the Twins Monday afternoon.

Jon Lester will be making his second start of the season against a lineup laden with lefthanded hitters. The Sox starter struggled against the Yankees, allowing four earned runs and walking three through five innings in a no-decision. Lester faced Minnesota once last season on May 26, taking the loss in a 5-3 game after going six innings and allowing five runs (all in the fifth inning) while walking three. In that one, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau delivered the big blow with a three-run shot that gave Minnesota an insurmountable lead.

Lester has made two other starts against the Twins in 2008 and struggled in each, giving up five runs (3 earned) in 5.1 innings in one and five earned in 7.1 innings in the other. That history is not a good sign considering that the Minnesota’s lineup is much improved this season ‘€” the traditionally small-ball Twins have mashed an MLB-best 10 homers in their first seven games.

Carl Pavano will get the honor of pitching the opener at Target Field for Minnesota. The well-traveled righty looked great in his first start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, holding them to just one earned run and striking out six through seven innings. The Sox saw Pavano once last season before he was dealt from Cleveland to Minnesota, when he helped the Indians earn a 3-2 victory by holding the Red Sox to two runs through six innings despite some control issues, as he finished with three walks and hit one batter.

That was a rare good showing from Pavano against the Sox. His career record vs. Boston in six starts is 2-3, with an ugly 7.07 ERA. The Twins and their fans will be hoping for a better showing than that as they would love to usher in the Target Field era with a victory. But the Red Sox will be looking to play the role of spoiler and get their third straight win to move back over .500.

Red Sox vs. Carl Pavano

Adrian Beltre (30 plate appearances vs. Pavano): .276 average/.300 OBP/.571 slugging, 2 triples, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (16): .308/.400/.538, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Mike Cameron (13): .077/.077/.077, 4 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (12): .364/.417/.545, 2 doubles, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (11): .545/.545/.636, 1 strikeout

Jason Varitek (11): .400/.455/.500, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

David Ortiz (10): .571/.600/1.143, 1 home run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (4): .667/.750/2.000, 1 double, 1 home run, 1 walk

Bill Hall (3): .667/.667/2.000, 1 double, 1 home run, 1 strikeout

Dustin Pedroia is hitless in three at bats against the Twins starter. Pavano has never faced Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis or Jeremy Hermida.

Twins vs. Jon Lester

Delmon Young (21 career plate appearances vs. Lester): .158 average/.190 OPB/.158 slugging, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Brendan Harris (19): .444/.444/.722, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 2 strikeouts

Joe Mauer (10): .222/.300/.222, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Justin Morneau (10): .444/.500/.778, 1 home run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Michael Cuddyer (6): .333/.333/.500, 1 double

Jason Kubel (6): .000/.167/.000, 1 walk

Nick Punto (6): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout

Denard Span (6): .500/.667/.500, 1 walk

Alexi Casilla (5): .000/.400/.000, 2 walks

Jim Thome (3): .667/.667/.667, 1 strikeout

Lester has never faced the Twins two new starting middle infielders in shortstop J.J. Hardy and second baseman Orlando Hudson. He has also not seen backup catcher Drew Butera.

Closing time: And about that Red Sox offense

04.11.10 at 5:38 pm ET
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All of a sudden the panic that ensued following Friday night’s Red Sox loss at Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City has subsided. Not only did the Sox claim their first series of the season with an 8-6 win over the Royals, Sunday afternoon, but carried a fair share of optimism heading into their three-game set in Minnesota this week.

The much-scrutinized Red Sox offense finished their three-game set in KC having scored 19 runs. This time the Sox finished with 12 hits, led by Dustin Pedroia’s four and three from Adrian Beltre, who is now hitting .400. (Note: The Red Sox did suffer a setback when Jacoby Ellsbury was forced to leave the game with what appeared to be an injury to the left side of his chest after colliding with Beltre going after a foul ball. The team classifies it as a contusion of the ribs, and Ellsbury said after the game he would be fine. ‘€œIt’€™s sore, but I’€™ll be fine,’€ he said to reporters.)

Key moment: Jumping out to a four-run lead out of the gate in the first inning, taking some of the pressure off of Clay Buchholz, who hadn’t pitched in a real, live game in nine days.

What went right for the Red Sox

Not letting Meche breathe: Gil Meche (who was coming off shoulder issues) came out of the gate with superior stuff — a fastball that reached 97 mph and a potentially devastating curveball. But, in the end, a lack of command killed the pitcher who is in the fourth year of a five-year, $55 million deal, with the Red Sox seeing 35 pitches in the first inning on the way to scoring four runs in the initial frame. By the time Meche’s line was complete, he had surrendered seven runs on eight hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings, having thrown 88 pitches.

– Pedroia can hit the high-inside fastball: And, evidently, everything else. Most notably, Pedroia took a high-inside fastball from Meche and snuck it inside the left field foul pole for his team-leading third home run of the season. Pedroia, however, was also able to show his versatility by lining two singles into center and one into right. (All of Pedroia’s singles this season have gone to center or right.) The second baseman contributed to a top of the order that certainly carried its weight, with Ellsbury and Victor Martinez each coming away with two hits apiece. Ellsbury now has multi-hit games in four of his last five starts.

Manny Delcarmen showed encouraging signs: Delcarmen offered some optimism for the middle of the Red Sox’ bullpen, going two hitless innings. The righty’s fastball sat at 94 mph, and touched 95 mph, which was more velocity than the Red Sox had seen from Delcarmen throughout spring training. He also mixed in seven changeups out of 27 pitches. It was certainly better than his middle-relieving teammate Ramon Ramirez, who continued his struggles by allowing three runs on three hits while not getting a single out in the eighth.

What went wrong for the Red Sox

– The jury is still out on Bill Hall at shortstop: With Marco Scutaro getting the day off (last seen giving J.D. Drew a neck massage with a rolling-pin-type contraption in the Sox dugout), Hall was presented the task of playing a position he hadn’t manned in the major leagues since 2006. On his first chance Hall committed a fielding error on Alberto Callaspo’s one-out pop up in shallow left field, allowing Scott Podsednik to score the Royals’ first run. As for the rest of his chances, Hall acquitted himself well enough, with one throw that was a bit wide, but otherwise no major issues.

Clay Buchholz has had better outings: The final line wasn’t terrible: 5IP, 2ER, 7H, 2BB, K, 94 pitches, 59 strikes. But Buchholz did walk somewhat of a tightrope for much of the afternoon, throwing first-pitch strikes to less than 50 percent of his 24 batters faced (11). Buchholz allowed at least one batter to reach in each of his five innings. To be fair, other than a simulated game Buchholz’ exposure to live hitters in the last eight days had been nil.

– Not the best of times for David Ortiz: Ortiz not only went 0-for-4, but struck out for all four of the outs (although the third punch-out came on a pitch well outside the strike zone). One thing to note is how many pitches Ortiz is seeing, with the designated hitter seeing 30 pitches in his five at-bats. Ortiz entered the day having seen more pitches per plate appearance than any other Red Sox (4.80), well ahead of any other member of the lineup.

DeVoss shows what Red Sox almost had…

04.11.10 at 2:16 pm ET
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Not every player signs after being drafted. Each June, the Sox aim high in selecting players who have signability questions, with the expectation that they’ll some sizable piles of cash will convince some to turn pro and will leave others unmoved.

Last summer, among those signability questions, the one who came closest to signing but still enrolled in school was Zeke DeVoss. DeVoss is a tremendously athletic player who was taken in the 38th round, having slipped there because there seemed little chance that he would bypass college. The Sox nearly convinced him to change his made, and the two sides made significant negotiating headway before DeVoss ultimately decided to honor his scholarship commitment at the University of Miami. (While discussions were characterized by sources as having come “close,” they never advanced to the point where DeVoss took a physical for the club.)

DeVoss is off to a solid if unspectacular start for the Hurricanes. Entering today’s game, the center fielder is hitting .282/.367/.456 with a pair of homers and 11 steals. But on Saturday, he showed the kind of well-rounded tool set that were the basis of the Sox’ enthusiasm for him.

The switch-hitting DeVoss went 2-for-4 with a homer. But that was far from his signature moment of the day. For that, one would point to his outrageous over-the-shoulder diving catch, which can be found at about the 1:40 mark of the clip below. The Sox anticipated such feats last summer, when DeVoss was among the top “ones who got away” from a draft class that nevertheless appeared rich on promise in spring training this year.

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Closing time: Red Sox were battery-charged in win

04.10.10 at 10:18 pm ET
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The Josh Beckett-Zack Greinke showdown lived up the hype, and the Red Sox‘ starter got the upper-hand. The Red Sox jumped all over Greinke with two runs in the fifth and two in the seventh, while Beckett allowed just three runs over seven innings as the Sox avenged their Friday night loss with an 8-3 win over the Royals Saturday night in Kansas City. (Click here for a recap.)

What went right for the Red Sox

The subs produced: Mike Lowell, Jeremy Hermida, and Jason Varitek had one at-bat this season between them coming into Saturday night. There appeared to be little rust on any of them, however, with the trio going a long way to making their presence felt. Lowell supplied a single while making a few stellar plays at third base, Hermida followed up his pinch-hit single Friday night with a solo homer to get the Sox on the board, and Varitek (hitting lefty) followed Hermida’s long ball with one of his own for back-to-back home runs in the fifth. The catcher then added to his output with another homer, this one coming in the ninth.

– Speaking of Varitek: It should be noted that both of the captain’s homers came from the left side of the plate, usually the side of the dish he wouldn’t be called upon to bat from. Both also came on off-speed pitches, the first a curveball and the second a changeup. By the way, Varitek had hit three homer sin Kauffman Stadium back on May 20, 2001.

– Beckett was Beckett: A sign that Beckett was more on this game than in the season debut against the Yankees came when he hit his spot with two curveballs in striking out Royals’ leadoff hitter David DeJesus in the first inning. The Sox’ ace was able to use all of his pitches, turning in what was an extremely economical outing until hitting a rough spot in a 32-pitch seventh inning. He only had four strikeouts and five swings and misses, but kept the ball down, as was evidenced by 12 of his 16 outs coming on the ground.

What went wrong for the Red Sox

Offensively, not much: Going up and down the lineup, the Red Sox got  production from a lot of different places. The only Sox starter not to manage to claim a hit off Greinke Victor Martinez. Dustin Pedroia would have also gone hitless if not for his ninth-inning homer.

Almost a disaster: David DeJesus’ liner back up the middle in the seventh scored Chris Getz to bring the Royals within a run, but that wasn’t the problem. The real anxiety was due to where the ball tracked, which was right of the back of Beckett’s head. While the ricochet changed the ball’s direction, it didn’t alter Beckett’s path, as he finished off the frame without even a visit from the trainers. “I was thinking about how many runs they were going to score. It didn’t hit me that hard,” Beckett told reporters after the game.

They’re still running: Getz had gotten in position to score on DeJesus’ single after stealing second off Beckett and Varitek. The bizarre part about the play was that Varitek didn’t try at all to come out of his crouch. Even with the emphasis on controlling the running game in spring training, the Sox already lead the majors with seven stolen bases against (with one caught stealing). It bears watching.

Five things we learned on ‘Daisuke Day’ in Pawtucket

04.10.10 at 5:50 pm ET
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The second game of the season for the Pawtucket Red Sox added a little more excitement for fans of the major league club. Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox oft-injured starter, made his 2010 pitching debut with positive results. The right-hander pitched five solid innings in Pawtucket’s 1-0 win over Rochester on Saturday afternoon.

Matsuzaka surrendered only two hits, walked one and hit two batters while striking out three in his debut.

The questions still come up as to what will happen to Matsuzaka when he is healthy and ready to pitch for the Red Sox, but this was a first step and a positive one for a former 18-game winner in the major leagues.

Matsuzaka said he came out of the outing without any discomfort and said that he feels very good after throwing in live game action.

Here are five things we learned from Saturday’s game.


Neck and back issues have hampered Matsuzaka early this season, and it was important to see if he could locate a fastball with consistent velocity. For all accounts the results were encouraging. Matsuzaka was playing in the 88-91 mph range consistently through his five innings and topped out at 93 once while touching 92 a few times.

“I felt I had good feel on the ball out there today,” Matsuzaka said. “I think the best part about today was my fastball command. … The feeling that sort of left over on my fingers after making those pitches felt pretty good in terms of velocity.”

Matsuzaka admitted that his secondary pitches were not up to par yet.

“My fastball was good but my slider and change-up weren’t that great today,” said Matsuzaka, who missed some spots with his offspeed pitches in the fifth, which resulted in one walk and two hit batsmen. “I think I really need those pitches to come along to put a better ball game together.”

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