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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Price, Jon Lester,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poll: What should Red Sox do with Daisuke Matsuzaka?

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

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

57

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT WENT WRONG

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

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

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

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

WHAT WENT RIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Sox/Rays Live Blog

Johnny Damon returns to Fenway and shows his classic form

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hideki Okajima trying to work his way back to Boston

04.11.11 at 12:24 pm ET
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Reliever Hideki Okajima knew when he signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox this offseason that he was not guaranteed a roster spot. That didn’€™t make getting sent to Pawtucket to start the season any easier, though. When asked Thursday night how he felt upon being told of the decision, Okajima responded through a translator with a simple ‘€œdisappointed.’€

That said, Okajima recognizes that a call-up to Boston could be right around the corner if he pitches well in Pawtucket, which he has so far. He tossed a perfect inning in the season opener Thursday and followed that up with a one-hit scoreless inning Saturday.

‘€œIt’€™s all about results over here,’€ Okajima said. ‘€œSo I’€™ll do whatever I’€™m needed to and I’€™ll do everything that I’€™m told to do.’€

Okajima didn’€™t produce those results last season, when the former All-Star posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.72 WHIP in 56 appearances. Both of those were easily career worsts. In his first three seasons, he never had an ERA higher than 3.39 or a WHIP higher than 1.26. A poor spring training (5.14 ERA, 1.57 WHIP) didn’€™t help his cause.

‘€œI just felt that I had lost the battle at that point when I was told,’€ said the 35-year-old Okajima. ‘€œI had been preparing, of course, to start the season up in the majors. So I had been preparing that way, getting my body ready. But since I’€™ve been told, I’€™ve had to regroup myself, get myself ready again and start back from [square] one.’€

One of the things Okajima said he had been working on was ways to get right-handed batters out. Righties hit an eye-popping .340 off him last season. Okajima said part of the reason for his struggles could be that major league hitters are getting used to his stuff, meaning he needs to make some adjustments.

‘€œI’€™m sure the opposition has been studying me and the more they see me, the more they get used to me,’€ Okajima said. ‘€œSo my plan in preparing for this season, I was studying and developing pitches to attack right-handed batters. I was really looking forward to using that up in the big leagues, but since this happened, I’€™ll just have to try those out here and hopefully everything goes well and I can make it back up.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Arnie Beyeler, Hideki Okajima, Michael Bowden,

Red Sox-Rays matchups: Matsuzaka vs. Hellickson

04.11.11 at 10:47 am ET
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It’€™s safe to say no one was expecting the Red Sox and Rays to be a combined 3-15 entering Monday night’€™s series opener at Fenway Park. But after both teams started 0-6, they have found themselves looking up at the rest of the AL East in the early going. The Sox took a step in the right direction over the weekend, taking two of three from the Yankees, while the Rays dropped three of four to the White Sox.

Monday night’€™s pitching matchup pits Daisuke Matsuzaka against Jeremy Hellickson. They both enter the game 0-1 after similar first starts. Matsuzaka gave up three earned runs over five innings against the Indians and Hellickson gave up three earned over 5 2/3 against the Angels.

The 24-year-old Hellickson appeared in 10 games last year in his first season in the bigs, posting a 4-0 record and 3.47 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. One of those games came against Boston on Sept. 7. The right-hander came out of the bullpen and gave up three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings, but the Rays still won the game 14-5. Four current Red Sox had an at bat against Hellickson in that game, with Jed Lowrie, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Darnell McDonald all getting a hit and an RBI — McDonald’€™s of the home run variety.

Matsuzaka has much more experience against the Rays, but it’€™s rarely been a pleasant experience for the right-hander. He’€™s just 2-6 with a 5.09 ERA in 12 career starts against Tampa. Last year was even worse, as Matsuzaka struggled with the Rays more than any other team, going 0-2 with an 8.62 ERA in three starts.

Johnny Damon, Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman are all hitting .278 or better with a home run off Matsuzaka. John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach and Sean Rodriguez are all hitting .333 or better against Matsuzaka as well. B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce have also homered off Matsuzaka — Upton twice — but they’€™re both hitting below .240.

MATSUZAKA VS. RAYS

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
B.J. Upton 24 21 5 0 0 2 4 2 6 .238 .304 .524 .828 1 0 0 0 0
Johnny Damon 23 18 5 0 0 1 5 4 3 .278 .391 .444 .836 0 1 0 0 0
Ben Zobrist 16 12 4 0 0 1 4 4 4 .333 .500 .583 1.083 0 0 0 0 0
Matthew Joyce 15 8 1 0 0 1 1 5 0 .125 .533 .500 1.033 0 0 0 2 0
Casey Kotchman 14 10 3 0 0 1 2 4 0 .300 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 1
John Jaso 9 9 3 1 0 0 2 0 1 .333 .333 .444 .778 0 0 0 0 0
Kelly Shoppach 9 8 3 1 0 0 2 1 3 .375 .444 .500 .944 0 0 0 0 0
Dan Johnson 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .143 .000 .143 0 0 0 0 0
Sean Rodriguez 6 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Total 123 98 26 3 0 6 20 21 21 .265 .402 .480 .881 1 1 0 2 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/11/2011.

HELLICKSON VS. RED SOX

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Jed Lowrie 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Darnell McDonald 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 5.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Varitek 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 4 4 3 2 0 1 3 0 0 .750 .750 2.000 2.750 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/11/2011.
Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, darnell mcdonald, Jeremy Hellickson, Johnny Damon
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