|04.02.11 at 11:26 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Texas — Ummmm…
A Red Sox team that faces enormous expectations has started the year in decidedly disappointing fashion. The team has endured a pair of poundings in the first two games of the season, permitting nine runs in Friday’s opener and then getting walloped again in a 12-5 defeat on Saturday.
This is the first time since 1980 that the Sox have allowed at least nine runs in consecutive games to start the season. It also was the first time since 2005 that the team has dropped its first two contests of the season.
On Sunday, it will be up to Clay Buchholz to help the Sox avoid their first season-opening three-game sweep since they started the 1996 season in such a fashion against the Rangers en route to a five-game losing streak.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
—John Lackey was hammered in his worst start with the Red Sox. The Rangers collected nine runs on 10 hits in just 3 2/3 against him, mostly of the extra-base variety, as Lackey permitted three singles, three doubles, two triples and two homers, including a fourth-inning grand slam by former teammate Adrian Beltre.
The start set a new personal mark for the most runs he’s ever allowed as a member of the Red Sox, and was tied for the second most he’s given up in his career. As a member of the Angels, Lackey once allowed 10 in 2 2/3 innings against the Rangers in 2008, and he gave up nine in four innings to the Sox in 2003.
Lackey also became the first Sox pitcher since Luis Tiant in 1974 to give up a double cycle (at least two singles, doubles, triples and homers) in the same game. The seven extra-base hits he permitted represented a career high, eclipsing the standard of six that he had achieved on five separate occasions.
To complete the carnage, Lackey also had the second shortest outing of his Sox career, notching just one more out than he did in an eight-run, 3 1/3 inning debacle against the Rays last April.
—Carl Crawford continued his rough start with the Sox, grounding out to second, popping out to short and striking out against Rangers starter Colby Lewis. In two games, Crawford has yet to get a ball out of the infield, going 0-for-7 with four strikeouts, though he did walk in his fourth plate appearance on Saturday.
–The Sox missed on their early chances against Lewis and the Rangers, while the game was still competitive. The Sox were 0-for-6 against Lewis with runners in scoring position and 0-for-9 overall.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–With a two-run homer in the second inning and an RBI groundout in the fourth, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz made history. The three RBI gave him 1,004 as a DH in his career, one more than former record holder Edgar Martinez.
But of perhaps greater significance was simply the fact that he is off to a strong start through two games after enduring dismal Aprils in each of the last two seasons. He now has two homers through the first two Red Sox games of the season — something he didn’t do until the Sox’ 24th game of 2010, and until their 56th game in 2009.
—Adrian Gonzalez continued his strong start with the Sox. He went 3-for-5 with his first double as a member of the Sox, and he is now 5-for-9 in his first two contests. However, with a pair of runners on base in the top of the seventh and the Sox amidst an incipient rally, Gonzalez hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
—Jacoby Ellsbury likewise continued to impress. He went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer on a 92 mph fastball from right-hander Mason Tobin in the top of the seventh, and he also added a walk.
|04.02.11 at 9:16 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Texas — It was just one batter, but that was kind of the point.
On Friday, left-hander Dennys Reyes came into the game in the bottom of the seventh inning to face left-handed slugger Josh Hamilton. The result was not what the Red Sox were looking for, as Reyes walked Hamilton on four pitches.
While the ability to throw strikes is always a crucial trait for a reliever, that is especially true of a left-on-left specialist such as Reyes who is typically in the game for exactly one batter. Thus, Sox manager Terry Francona exhibited some dismay that Reyes did not attack the strike zone.
“If you’re a left-on-left guy, if that’s the only hitter you’re facing, yeah, the ability to throw where you want to right now is huge,” said Francona. “If he’s a situational guy and you’re bringing him into those situations where the game is on the line, you have to really trust him because the game can be won or lost right there.’
Though Reyes has now walked the first batter he faced in each of his last three outings (Friday’s opener and his final two exhibition appearances), Francona suggested that he anticipates the lefty settling into an ability to command the ball. Francona noted that sometimes it can be important to find opportunities for left-handed specialists to work full innings in order to get their mechanics and command in order.
—Daniel Bard will not be available on Saturday after throwing 32 pitches on Friday.
–The Sox called for Adrian Gonzalez to steal second on Friday (the lumber-limbed Gonzalez’ second career steal) in part to take advantage of the Rangers’ shift against David Ortiz. With the third baseman shifted, Kevin Youkilis had a lead that would have allowed him to steal home easily had catcher Yorvit Torrealba thrown to second.
‘That’s why we ran,” said Francona.” They can’t defense that, the way they’re situated.’
Francona was asked if there was anything else the Sox could do to deter teams from shifting.
‘Well, besides asking them…,” he joked. “We stole second. I don’t know what else to do. They can play wherever they want. But if they want to swing that far over, they can’t defense the runner at third.”
–Francona said that he is undecided on his lineup for Sunday’s series finale against the Rangers. With a day game following a night game, it would be natural to give a day off to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but the Sox also have an off day on Monday, and the possibility of more off days in Cleveland depending on how a fairly miserable weather forecast plays out.
–On Sunday, Francona will be mindful that Clay Buchholz topped out at four innings in spring training, leaving him one inning behind his fellow rotation members in ups and downs. That said, Francona suggested that he would remain open-minded about how far into the game Buchholz will be allowed to pitch, basing his assessment on the pitcher’s effort level.
“If he pitches good, that won’t enter into it. I thought he was one inning less than everyone else,” said Francona. “Shoot, he might end up throwing a complete game but he was that one less than everybody else.’
|04.02.11 at 4:26 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Texas — Thanks to the dazzling talents in the Red Sox Media Relations Department, a few leftover notes from Opening Day:
—Tim Wakefield recorded the final out of the eighth inning for the Red Sox. It was just Wakefield’s second career Opening Day appearance, and his first since he took starting honors for the Pirates on April 6, 1983. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 18-year layoff between Opening Day appearances is the longest by a big leaguer since 1900. The previous record was held by fellow knuckleballer Joe Niekro, who went 13 years (1968, 1981) between Opening Day games.
Coincidentally, Charlie Hough was on hand (and had far-reaching praise for Wakefield), and it was Phil Niekro‘s birthday.
—Jon Lester‘s three homers allowed on Opening Day represented a career high. It also was the most homers allowed by a Sox pitcher on Opening Day since Dennis Eckersley was taken deep three times in 1980, and the most homers allowed on Opening Day by a Sox lefty since at least 1919. Lester also became the first Sox Opening Day starter not to punch out a batter since Bob Stanley (yup, that Bob Stanley) in 1987.
–After his solo homer on Friday, David Ortiz now has 1,001 career RBIs as a DH. He is second all-time among DH’s in RBIs, just two behind Mariners standout Edgar Martinez.
–In his 10th major league seasons, John Lackey will be making his first outing of the year against the Rangers for the seventh time. In his previous six season openers against them, he is 1-3 with a 7.11 ERA. He has made more starts (33) against the Rangers than any other active pitcher, forging an 11-12 record and 5.74 ERA against them. Lackey was 5-1 with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts against the AL West in 2010, with many of his starts coming in the second half. The big right-hander tends to be a slow starter, going 13-10 with a 4.79 ERA in his career in March/April, and a 3.78 ERA over the rest of the year.
|04.02.11 at 2:33 pm ET|
The Red Sox take on the Rangers Saturday night in Game 2 of a three-game set. Opposing them on the mound will be Colby Lewis, who has finally settled into a major league rotation after years of bouncing around. He spent three years with the Rangers from 2002-04, but he managed to go just 12-13 with a dismal 6.83 ERA in 44 games, including 33 starts. After undergoing rotator cuff surgery, Lewis spent most of the next three seasons in the minors jumping from the Tigers to the Nationals to the Athletics and finally to the Royals.
He got his career back on track in Japan of all places, as he led the Japan Central League in strikeouts in both 2008 and 2009 while pitching for the Hiroshima Carp. Lewis returned to the Rangers last spring and earned a spot in the starting rotation. He went just 12-13, but he posted a solid 3.72 ERA and broke the 200-inning mark. Three of his starts came against the Red Sox, and he went 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in those outings. Lewis was great in the postseason, as he went 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts. He registered a 4.50 ERA without earning a decision in four starts this spring.
Current Red Sox are hitting a meager .194 against Lewis. No player has a better average than Carl Crawford‘s .286 against him. David Ortiz owns a .273 average with two home runs in 12 career plate appearances against the right-hander. Mike Cameron has a home run and five RBIs in 17 plate appearances against Lewis, but has managed just a .200 average.
Starting for the Red Sox will be John Lackey, who is something of a surprise No. 2 starter after a disappointing season last year. Although his 14 wins were tied for the second-most of his career, his 4.40 ERA was his highest since 2004. Lackey did finish the season with his best month of the year, though. He recorded a season-low 3.46 ERA in September, although he went just 2-3 in six starts. He had a pretty good spring training, going 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA in five starts.
|04.02.11 at 8:47 am ET|
ARLINGTON, Texas — Jon Daniels had an eventful first winter as GM of the Rangers when he took over control of the club’s baseball operations following the 2005 season. He unloaded Alfonso Soriano, acquired Vicente Padilla and made a couple of additional minor moves.
But there is unquestionably one trade that, more than five years later, he regrets. In December of 2005, he agreed to a trade (which was officially announced on Jan. 6, 2006) that sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Terrmel Sledge and pitcher Chris Young to the Padres in exchange for pitcher Adam Eaton and reliever Akinori Otsuka.
It was a move meant to bolster the short-term playoff hopes of the club. The Rangers had emerged as surprise contenders in 2004, when they went 89-73. They followed that by going 79-83 in the 2005 campaign.
Still, the team thought that if it could acquire some quality pitching, it had a shot of competing in an AL West division that did not feature any juggernauts. The Rangers had what most viewed as one of the best young position playing cores in the game, led by an infield that featured first baseman Mark Teixeira, shortstop Michael Young and third baseman Hank Blalock.
Gonzalez (whom the Rangers had acquired in a deal with the Marlins in 2003) was seemingly blocked at first by Teixeira. Though the young prospect — who served primarily as a DH while with the Rangers in 2005, in deference to Teixeira’s entrenched position at first — was open to playing the outfield, most in the industry expected that Texas would be forced to trade him.
And to a degree, they were right. The Rangers concluded that his greatest value to them was likely as a trade chip.
“I know that at the time, when Mark Teixeira was here, it led to a lot of clubs making an assumption that we would trade him, that we wouldn’t be able to keep both of them. We did get some inquiries on him [prior to the San Diego trade,” said Daniels. “We didn’t obviously project him to be the superstar that he’s become. Clearly, had we known that, we would have found a way to make it work. But we thought he was going to be a good player. At a young age, he was always a guy we thought would hit. The question was how much power. He’s matured into one of the better power hitters in the game, clearly.” Read the rest of this entry »
|04.01.11 at 9:02 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Texas — Carl Crawford could only acknowledge the obvious. His Red Sox debut — in which he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in a game that his team lost, 9-5 — was not exactly according to plan.
After all, Crawford had just four games in the previous three seasons with the Rays in which he struck out as many as three times. It wasn’t the most noteworthy demonstration of his talents.
“First day in a Red Sox uniform and we lost. I was hoping it would be one of those memorable moments, but it wasn’t,” Crawford said after the contest. “So you’ve just got to get ready to play tomorrow.”
Crawford, who signed a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Sox this winter, suggested that he “was probably pressing a little bit” in his debut. At the same time, he credited starter C.J. Wilson and the Rangers staff for pitching well in the opener.
“I think I was trying as hard as I could,” said Crawford. “It’s just one of those things. It was tough on me today. … It really wasn’t that bad, as far as the nerves and stuff. I just had a bad game today. I’m glad it’s over with and we can just keep going and play the rest of the games.”
Crawford’s teammates, meanwhile, were quick to dismiss the left fielder’s poor first game. While Crawford became the first Sox player to strike out three times on Opening Day since Jason Varitek in 2008, and the first to whiff three times in his Sox debut since Julio Lugo in 2007, no one saw any reason to panic about the performance of the multi-talented outfielder.
“He’s going to come back and have a great season. One day doesn’t mean anything,” said Adrian Gonzalez, who was 2-for-4 in his Sox debut. “[Wilson] is pretty tough. It’s one of those things. [Crawford] will bounce back.”
“I guarantee you, he’s going to have more good days than a day like today,” said David Ortiz. “You know what Baseball God is? Sometimes he makes things happen just to show the world that this ain’t easy. Not to Him, because He knows it’s not easy. Just to the whole world.”
ON THE SUBJECT OF ORTIZ… Read the rest of this entry »
|04.01.11 at 7:39 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Texas — Well, so much for 162-0.
While the Red Sox have been identified by virtually every pundit as the odds-on favorite to reach the World Series, they endured an Opening Day bout of humility from the defending American League champs. After the Sox tied the contest, 5-5, in the top of the eighth inning, the Rangers sent nine men to the plate in the eighth, plating four runs to claim a less-than-close 9-5 victory over the Sox.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
—Daniel Bard was impaled by the Rangers’ claws and antlers. The Sox’ relief standout was brought into the contest in the bottom of the eighth, after the Sox had tied the contest in the top of the inning. Instead, he quickly spit the bit, issuing a one-out walk to Mike Napoli and permitting a single to right by Yorvit Torrealba before pinch-hitter (and former Sox prospect) David Murphy drove a good pitch (a 96 mph fastball down and away) down the left-field line for a two-run double. Bard also allowed a run-scoring double to light-hitting shortstop Elvis Andrus and another to reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton.
The game marked the first time that Bard had allowed as many as three extra-base hits in the same game as a major leaguer. His four-run yield also matched a career high.
—Jon Lester, usually one of the most dominant pitchers in the majors, had little on the mound on Friday. His fastball velocity was typically in the low-90s, sitting around 92 mph, on a day when, for just the second time in his career, he didn’t strike out a batter. Lester went 5 1/3 innings while allowing five runs on a career-high three homers.
—Carl Crawford had a dismal debut for the Sox, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts while missing badly on a number of his cuts. Crawford became the first Red Sox since Jason Varitek in 2008 to strike out three times on Opening Day, and the first since Julio Lugo in 2007 to whiff three times in his Sox debut.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—David Ortiz had a rough day against Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, but he rebounded against one of the toughest left-handed relievers in the game. With the Sox trailing, 5-4, in the top of the eighth inning, Ortiz jumped on an 89 mph fastball that Darren Oliver left up and out over the plate. Ortiz crushed it to straightaway center field for his first homer of the season, as well as his first ever longball against Oliver. (Ortiz had been 2-for-14 in his career against Oliver.)
The blast was significant. Had Ortiz gone a punchless 0-for-4 and been retired in all his at-bats by left-handers, the now-familiar cycle of April scrutiny might have been quick to gain steam, especially with right-handed alternatives on the bench. But with the homer, Ortiz — who did not hit his first homer of last year until his 12th game of the season, and who didn’t launch his first until he was 36 games into the 2009 campaign — bought himself some time to get his season off to a more normal start.
—Jacoby Ellsbury carried his tantalizing spring into the first contest of the season. He went 2-for-3 with a walk and a double (against Wilson, no less — a pitcher who allowed just five extra-base hits to lefties all of last year) while stealing a base.
—Adrian Gonzalez was impressive in his Sox debut, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles that drove in three runs. His hits came against Wilson, a pitcher who allowed just five left-handers to claim multi-hit games in all of 2010. Gonzalez also stole a base, just the second time in his career that he’s swiped a bag.
|04.01.11 at 6:51 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Texas — Retired pitcher Charlie Hough describes himself as having been in the second tier of all-time knuckleballers. Hall of Famers Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm represent royalty when it comes to the pitch’s practitioners, but Hough classified himself as being a touch behind them, a pitcher who was “pretty good” in a career that spanned 25 years and yielded a 216-216 record and 3.75 ERA while lasting until the right-hander was 46 years old.
But while Hough has not pitched in 17 years, he remains connected to the game in a meaningful way thanks to Red Sox right-hander Tim Wakefield. Hough recalled working with Wakefield back in 1992, when the young Pirates pitcher was getting ready to pitch in Triple-A. It took Hough little time to realize that Wakefield would soon be taking the baton as the next generation of knuckleballer, though even he had no idea that Wakefield would take the baseball world by storm that year, going 10-3 with a 3.06 ERA in Triple-A before notching an 8-1 record and 2.15 ERA in the bigs for Pittsburgh (as well as 2-0 in the Braves).
Ever since their meeting 19 years ago, Hough has maintained an interest in a pitcher who is carrying on a little-understood tradition.
“I probably follow him more than he knows,” said Hough, who threw out the first pitch — yes, a knuckleball, albeit one that Hough joked had no action on it — at the Rangers’ home park. “I saw him when he was I guess just learning to throw a knuckleball. I remember speaking to him and he had a little microphone in his hand, a little tape thing in his hand when we talked about learning to throw it. He was already throwing it. He already knew how.
“The first time I spoke to him, he was in street clothes so I didn’t see him throw it. I threw it 10 feet with him,” Hough continued. “Then when I saw him pitch, I said, ‘Yeah, he’s gonna pitch.’ I didn’t know it was going to be as fast as it was. I saw him in spring ‘92, and that’s the year he won a couple games in the playoffs, beat the Braves in the playoffs a couple of times. It’s one of those things. When you got it, it works. If you don’t throw it right, it doesn’t work. But what a career.”
Hough is familiar with the career stage at which Wakefield currently finds himself. He knows the increased soreness that comes with being on the mound — the knees, the back, the shoulder — while trying to pitch into his mid-40s, all of which makes it more challenging to repeat a delivery and sustain success.
Even so, he cautioned those who would dismiss Wakefield’s potential contributions to the Sox this year.
“Being a great competitor, he keeps coming back. Every year, it seems like the Red Sox have him out of the rotation, and at the end of the year, he’s their big winner,” said Hough. “Timmy’s on a great team right now. He’s not in the rotation, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. He might win 15 games.”
If such a prediction were to come to fruition, it would allow Wakefield to achieve a couple of historic marks. The 44-year-old, who has 193 career wins and 179 with the Sox, would surpass 200 victories for his career, and would also pass all-time franchise victories leaders Cy Young and Roger Clemens, currently tied with 193.
While the odds of such marks have grown longer as Wakefield nears the end of his career, Hough will be among those rooting for his one-time protegee to make history.
“I hope he catches those guys. I hope he passes them,” said Hough. “He’s had just an incredible career. To do what he’s done in Boston, throwing a knuckleball in that ballpark, I can’t imagine doing it,” said Hough. “He’s kind of a landmark there in Boston. He goes with the Wall, I think, doesn’t he?”
|04.01.11 at 4:58 pm ET|
Youkilis — one of the top hitters in the American League over the past three years — amassed dreadful numbers in Grapefruit League play. He hit .175 with a .238 OBP and .211 slugging mark, walking just four times while punching out 15 times in 57 at-bats in big league exhibition games.
Was Youkilis concerned before leaving Fort Myers, perhaps wondering whether he was rusty after surgery to repair a torn adductor muscle in his hand cost him the final two months of last year? Hardly.
There were a few reasons for his cavalier attitude. First, those numbers didn’t include an exhibition game against Northeastern, when he hit a homer, or a minor league camp game against John Lackey and other Sox pitchers at the end of spring training, when Youkilis felt like his swing got locked in as he drove the ball to center and right. Secondly, he felt that he was victimized on a number of strikeouts by bad calls. Third, he noted that he is of a mind that the perfect outcome in spring games is a good, hard lineout.
“Spring training is a tough gauge,” said Youkilis. “Me, personally, I like getting out, lining out in spring training. The old saying, they’ll even out, I feel like they’ll fall more in the year. You want to hit line drives right at people, go right back to the dugout, conserve your energy for the year. I don’t get as mad [in spring training] as I do during the season.]”
Finally, there was an issue of approach. Youkilis, and perhaps most significantly, there was the matter of approach. Youkilis takes a different approach to his plate appearances in spring training than he does during the regular season. The third baseman is more concerned with process than results in spring. He acknowledged that he would rather get rung up on a called third strike during the spring than crush a first-pitch fastball.
“I’m not a big fan of feeling hot. I don’t want to be swinging well the whole spring training, because then you don’t get a sense of when you’re going bad, how to change it,” said Youkilis. “There’s two sides to it. Some guys need the confidence and reinforcement that they’re doing well. But sometimes that’s a false sense of how you are.
“I can go out and swing at a first-pitch fastball down the middle, but that’s not going to do anything to figure out when a guy is throwing two-seamer in, curveball, slider. Swing at the first pitch, you get a good result. But in spring training, I try to see as many pitches as possible. I want to see the really good pitches: the changeups, the sliders, the curveballs. I want to see every kind of pitch. So when you get to the season, you’re used to seeing it. That’s one of the misconceptions about spring training. Just because a guy hits .400 in spring training doesn’t mean he’s going to have a real good year. Just because a guy hits bad in spring training doesn’t mean he’s going to hit bad during the year.”
It took all of three regular season pitches for Youkilis to give a sense of why he feels that way. He stepped to the plate in the top of the first inning of Opening Day against the Rangers with a runner on third and two outs and promptly laced a 92 mph fastball from starter C.J. Wilson on a 1-1 count into the right field corner for a run-scoring double. He then scored on an RBI single by Adrian Gonzalez.
Thus began the start of games that count for the Sox third baseman.
|04.01.11 at 2:05 pm ET|
Former Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman died early Friday morning of congestive heart failure at the age of 82, the Red Sox confirmed Friday afternoon. Gorman had been ill for almost a year before passing away at Massachusetts General Hospital with his family by his side.
“All he wanted to do was make it to Opening Day,” nephew Tom Dougherty told the media.
Gorman, a Rhode Island native, served as Red Sox GM from 1984-93 and remained in the team’s front office after he was replaced by Dan Duquette. Gorman was elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2002.
‘Lou Gorman was a giant in our industry,’ Sox GM Theo Epstein said in a statement. ‘During half a century in the game, Lou impacted and helped so many people in countless ways. We’ll dearly miss this good, humble man who leaves an unmistakable legacy on the Red Sox and Major League Baseball.’
Added team president/CEO Larry Lucchino: ‘Lou Gorman was first and foremost a gentleman: kind, warm, decent, and positive. He treated everyone with dignity and saw each person he encountered as a potential friend. I will deeply miss sitting and watching Red Sox home games with Lou, learning from his wisdom and character. They just don’t make them like Lou Gorman. That is not a clichÃ©; it is a historical fact.”
MLB commissioner Bud Selig also offered his praise. “I had a wonderful friendship with Lou Gorman, a great gentleman, for decades,” Selig said. “A Navy man who became a baseball man, Lou guided the front office of the Seattle Mariners from their inception and later helped build the farm system of the New York Mets in the early ’80s. The native New Englander then led the ‘Olde Towne Team,’ highlighted by the 1986 American League pennant for his beloved Red Sox.
“Lou was a perpetual optimist, a wonderful storyteller, and a contributor to many outstanding baseball causes, such as the Red Sox Hall of Fame and the Baseball Assistance Team. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Lou’s family and his many friends and admirers throughout the game of baseball.”
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