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Molina returns to Pawtucket

07.20.10 at 5:28 pm ET
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Catcher Gustavo Molina, who was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Sunday, has cleared waivers and will return to Triple A Pawtucket with the PawSox in the midst of a four-game series with the Toledo Mud Hens.

Molina, 28, went 1-for-7 in the four games he appeared in for the Red Sox. He was called up on June 29 due to the injuries of catchers Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek, but with the team carrying three catchers on Sunday (Dusty Brown, Kevin Cash), a backstop was expendable when the team called up pitcher Michael Bowden.

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Gammons: Rockies rejected offer of Lowrie for Iannetta

07.20.10 at 3:42 pm ET
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According to a tweet from Peter Gammons, the Rockies are not actively looking to move catcher Chris Iannetta. In fact, tweets Gammons, they rejected a proposed swap from the Red Sox of infielder Jed Lowrie for the catcher.

One reason as to why the Rockies may be leaning towards keeping the 27-year-old is that he could potentially play first base if incumbent Todd Helton, who has battled back and hamstring issues this season, doesn’t last in his return from the disabled list.

A native of Providence, R.I., Iannetta has a career batting average of .240 but an on-base percentage of .358. He has played in only 27 games this season and has spent time at the Triple A level. He has seven homers in 106 plate appearances this season, playing in 27 games and hitting at a .220 clip.

Lowrie, 26, has been rehabbing after missing the first half of the season with mononucleosis. The 45th overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft, Lowrie has has hit .235 with a .313 OBP in 113 games in the majors.

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Boxscore Breakdown: Late Monday Road Win!

07.20.10 at 10:05 am ET
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The Red Sox began their critical, 10 game, road trip on the right foot last night in Oakland. Here are a few things I noticed from the boxscore:

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* – Daisuke Matsuzaka has allowed 3 earned runs or fewer in 21 of 27 road starts since the start of the 2008 season (78%). That’s the 4th best percentage by an AL pitcher in that span (min. 25 road starts):

86.0% – Felix Hernandez
83.3% – Cliff Lee
78.1% – Roy Halladay
77.8% – Daisuke Matsuzaka
77.3% – Zack Grienke

That’s some pretty impressive company!

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* – Coming into last night, the Red Sox’ team ERA in Oakland since 2005 was 4.81, 2nd highest among AL teams in that span (Cleveland, 5.86).

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* – Monday’s game was Boston’s 31st one-run game this season, tied with Minnesota and Toronto for the 2nd most such games in the AL (Kansas City has played 32). The Sox are now 16-15 in those games. Last year, Boston played only 39 one-run games (22-17), the 4th fewest in the AL.

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* – The Red Sox had allowed 2+ earned runs in 15 straight games prior to Monday night (June 27 in SF). It was their longest such streak of the season and tied for the 2nd longest such streak by any AL East team this year (Baltimore, 28).

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* – Boston managed only 8 hits, their 6th straight game with 8 or fewer. Their longest such streak since 2000 is 7 games (done 3 times, last in 2006). It was also their 6th straight scoring 4 runs or fewer which is also one short of their longest such streak since 2000 (done 5 times, last time was July, 2009).

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* – Adrian Beltre had his 10th game of the season with 3 or more hits last night and the Sox are 9-1 in those games. Among the 16 players with 10 or more such games, only David Wright’s team (the Mets) have won more often as they are 10-1 when Wright gets 3+ hits. It should be noted that Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria has 9 such games and the Rays have won all 9.

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* – Sox reliever Daniel Bard got the final out in the 8th inning after falling behind 3-0. Going into Monday’s game, Red Sox pitchers had fallen behind 3-0 on 158 batters and retired only 33 of them, allowing a major league worst 1.609 OPS. Bard himself has now fallen behind 3-0 on 20 batters and retired 2 of them (17 walks, 1 hit allowed).

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* – Boston extended their streak with 2+ extra-base hits to 21 games last night, the longest current streak in the majors and four short of the longest of the 2010 season (Cincinnati, 25). The Red Sox have had only two such streaks of 30+ games since 1920: a 33-gamer in 1997 and a 40-gamer in 1998. The all-time longest streak with 2+ EBH is 49 games, by the 1937 Yankees.

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* – The Red Sox have now won 21 of the last 25 games in which David Ortiz has driven in a run, but 3 of those losses have come since June 30.

Red Sox vs. A’s matchups, 7/20

07.20.10 at 10:01 am ET
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Monday night’s 2-1 win at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum certainly can qualify as one of the biggest wins of the season for the Sox, considering the importance of this 10-game West Coast road trip. With the Sox knowing they cannot afford to lose many more series in the second half if they want to hang with Tampa Bay and New York, beating Oakland could prove to be the perfect cure for a group plagued by injuries.

Tim Wakefield (3-8, 5.65 ERA) takes the ball Tuesday night, hoping to forget about his last two starts and prove he is capable of staying in the rotation for the remainder of the season. With Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz returning from the disabled list this week, the veteran knuckleballer could use a strong outing to solidify himself in the rotation, although it is unlikely he will stay put after Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s impressive outing on Monday. Wakefield has struggled of late, having gone only two innings his last outing against Texas — the shortest outing of the season for him — giving up eight hits and six runs en route to a 7-2 loss. The month of July has not been kind to Wakefield. So far this month he has pitched only 15 2/3 innings, giving up 14 earned runs to total a hefty 8.04 ERA.

The Athletics have a few hitters with some success against Wakefield in the past. Jack Cust, in 25 plate appearances, has an impressive .455 average to go along with three doubles and three RBI. Kurt Suzuki has a .400 average in 16 plate appearances to go with a double and two home runs.

Toeing the rubber for the A’s will be 26-year-old Dallas Braden. Since throwing the 19th perfect game in MLB history on May 9, Braden (4-7, 3.83 ERA) has struggled. That historic outing against Tampa Bay was his last win, as he has lost five decisions since. He does have an impressive numbers at home, compiling a 3-4 record and a 3.15 ERA. With Braden coming off the disabled list and having not pitched since June 22, it will be interesting to see how many pitches the A’s will afford the young left-hander. Read the rest of this entry »

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Beltre contemplates (sort of) the future

07.20.10 at 6:40 am ET
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Adrian Beltre authored yet another huge performance in his remarkable season with the Red Sox. The third baseman delivered one of his most crucial hits of the year, blasting a solo homer to deep left-center in the top of the fourth inning to provide the Sox with the margin of victory in their 2-1 win over the Athletics.

That was part of a three-hit night (Beltre’€™s team-leading 10th such game of the 2010 season) that improved the third baseman’€™s average to .333 with a .924 OPS, 15 homers and 58 RBI this year. The performance offered a reminder about how fortunate the Sox are that Beltre came to Boston this year.

The A’€™s, after all, were one of the teams that was most aggressive in its pursuit of the 31-year-old this offseason. Oakland made a multi-year offer to the third baseman, hoping to capitalize on his injury-induced struggles of 2009 to take advantage of a buy-low opportunity.

Beltre declined, instead taking a one-year, $9 million deal with the Sox that included a $5 million player option for 2011 (a cosmetic option whose primary purpose was to diminish the luxury tax hit of his contract).

Now, of course, he is positioned to cash in on his tremendous season with what will be ‘€“ barring a major injury ‘€“ more lucrative multi-year deals this coming winter. He is currently leading all big league third basemen in average (.333), slugging (.550) and OPS (.921). Yet Beltre insists that he has given little thought to what he will seek in his next contract.

‘€œI don’€™t think about stuff like that. Too early. I don’€™t see ahead. I don’€™t see behind. I’€™m not really thinking about that now,’€ Beltre said at the All-Star Game last week. ‘€œI took a chance to come here, one year instead of a multi-year contract, to have a chance to put a ring on my finger. That’€™s what I’€™m concentrating on this year. After that, whether we do or we don’€™t, I’€™ll make the decision then with my family, depending on the options we have.’€

Beltre’€™s uncertainty about his next contract goes beyond the marketplace. The third baseman acknowledges that he is uncertain how much longer he wants to remain in the game, even as some surprising milestones come into view.

Beltre now has 265 career homers, putting him just behind Brooks Robinson (268) for No. 19 in baseball history among third baseman. (For the full list, click here.) Beltre’€™s relative youth suggests a reasonable possibility that he could join the very short list (Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Chipper Jones and Darrell Evans) of third basemen to hit 400 or more homers in their careers. With 1,813 career hits, he would even appear to have at least a remote chance of 3,000 career knocks.

But the idea of a place in baseball annals serves as little motivation for Beltre when considering how long he wants to play.

‘€œI don’€™t play for goals. I don’€™t play for numbers. I don’€™t care about numbers,’€ said Beltre, who has remained on the field despite a painful left hamstring injury. ‘€œThis game takes a lot out of you. I’€™m a family man. Thank God, I’€™m financially OK. When this game starts getting tougher and you start realizing that you need more time with the kids, to see them growing up, you might hang it up sooner. Who knows?

‘€œIt’€™s not easy to say I’€™m going home, and then you go home and miss the game. It’€™s a tough call. For now I’€™m OK, but I don’€™t know for how long I’€™m going to play.’€

For the Sox and Beltre alike, the future is a less pressing consideration than the fact of the third baseman’s ongoing presence in the lineup. And on Monday, he offered a reminder of how fortunate the Sox are by giving a glimpse in Oakland of what could have been for the A’s.

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How much is too much for the Red Sox?

07.19.10 at 4:13 pm ET
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The last quarter century of franchise history offers little promise for the Red Sox.

After 92 games, the Sox own a 52-40 record. That is their worst mark at this stage of the year since 2005, but even so, it is better than the record that the Sox featured at this stage of the season in both 2005 (50-42) and 2004 (51-41), two years in which the club reached the playoffs, one of which ended with a World Series title.

Injuries aside (and obviously, that is a big element of the 2010 Red Sox to set aside), the problem facing the Sox is not so much their performance to this stage of the season as it is their competition. Even a healthy team would find it challenging to erase the deficits that now confront the Sox.

The idea that the Sox can overcome their 6 1/2 game deficit to the Yankees in the American League East or the three games by which they trail the Rays in the wild card is not unrealistic, but it is unlikely, at least based on a review of franchise history of the last couple decades.

During their current run of playoff appearances in six of the last seven years, the Sox have spent most of their time leading the pack rather than trying to catch it. In their playoff seasons, the largest deficit that the team has overcome after the 92-game marker of the season has been two games, a deficit by which the Sox trailed the A’s in August 2003.

Indeed, the last time that the Sox were able to surmount a pennant race deficit of at least three games took place in 1988. That year, the firing of manager John McNamara after 85 games and his replacement by Joe Morgan resulted in immediate results. Still, though the Sox won the first seven games under Morgan, they were still five games back in the division through 92 games. They kept winning, went up by six games and then ultimately held on to win the division by a single game.

Of course, the Morgan Magic Sox were able to reach the playoffs in no small part because they were playing in a division of mediocrity. That year, Boston claimed the American League East with a mark of 89-73.

This year’s Sox have been playing better baseball to this point of the year than their 1988 predecessors. As things stand, the Sox are on pace to win 92 games. Moreover, it is somewhat misleading to suggest that the recent playoff teams highlight the difficulty of the Sox’ task. Instead, the teams that have made the postseason a standard element of the season under GM Theo Epstein have been so good that they have almost never faced second-half deficits of more than a couple games.

And there are recent examples of other clubs that have overcome significant deficits in the final 70 games of the year to reach the postseason. The 2009 Twins, for instance, wiped out a seven-game deficit in September (thanks in no small part to a Motor City meltdown by the Tigers). The 2008 Phillies benefited from a September collapse by the Mets in climbing out of a 3 1/2 game hole in the season’s final weeks. The 2007 Colorado Rockies wiped out a 4 1/2 game hole in the final couple weeks of their season to claim the wild card.

All the same, it is fair to suggest that it is unusual for a club to climb out of such holes. Indeed, the examples of the last few years all featured relatively mediocre clubs or races in which 90 wins were enough to claim a playoff victory. This year, the Sox face a somewhat more imposing challenge given how much they trail the front-runners by and the quality of their competition.

That does not rule out the possibility of a comeback for the Sox, particularly if the club can return to full health in the relatively near future. The Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report gives the Sox a 33 percent chance of a coveted October spot.

All the same, a team that will look for any piece of promise it can get amidst a particularly gloomy stretch of the season might consider raiding a warehouse for 22-year-old Morgan Magic T-shirts.

Rumor: Red Sox again make push for Iannetta

07.19.10 at 2:22 pm ET
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With the top catchers in the organization slowly working their way back to action, the Red Sox are looking for solid replacements behind the plate for the future.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Red Sox have contacted the Rockies again about Chris Iannetta. Rosenthal writes that the Rockies are reluctant to make the move unless they can acquire someone who can help them in the tight NL West. The Red Sox, on the other hand, can’t sacrifice enough talent to push the deal across.

WEEI.com’s Alex Speier first reported in May that Boston could have drafted the 27-year-old Rhode Island native back in 2004, and since then the Sox contacted Colorado several times about him.

Over his five-year career, Iannetta has a .240 batting average with 47 home runs, 168 RBI, 155 walks and 267 strikeouts. He has been much hotter this season, hitting five home runs in his last 32 at-bats since returning to the club from Triple-A Colorado Springs.

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Catcher Butler emerges from backup to prospect

07.19.10 at 1:53 pm ET
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He could have quit after spending his redshirt freshman year at the University of Arizona riding the Mendoza Line and being relegated to the backup catcher position, but he stuck with the program.

He could have thrown in the towel after injuring his throwing elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery a mere 15 games into that same freshman season, but he fought through it.

No one would have blamed him if he decided to call it a career when he wasn’€™t drafted in his junior year with any of the 1,521 picks from the 30 teams in the 2009 MLB Draft, but he decided to prove them all wrong by playing in the Cape Cod League.

Playing with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and the Brewster Whitecaps in 2009, Dan Butler got the chance that he needed. In 28 games, Butler batted .246 with a .379 on base percentage and a .333 slugging percentage, solid numbers in a pitcher-dominated league.

It was his prowess behind the plate, however, that most impressed his Whitecaps manager, Tom Myers.

‘€œHe could call a great game and he led our pitching staff,’€ said Myers.

His strength on both sides of the ball led to an appearance in the Cape League All-Star Game at Fenway. Butler didn’€™t do too much in that game, but the tenants of Fenway, the Red Sox, took notice of him and when there was a shortage of catchers with their low-A team in Lowell four days later, Butler was brought in to fill the gap.

Again, Butler struggled in Lowell, maintaining a .178/.261/.282 line in 24 games, but adversity was nothing new. He just needed to take what he had been given and reverse the circumstances. Read the rest of this entry »

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Law on D&H: Few big trades before July 31

07.19.10 at 1:38 pm ET
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ESPN and Scouts Inc. baseball analyst Keith Law talked to Dale & Holley Monday morning about the upcoming trade deadline and how there are few quality players being put on the trade market by the teams who are most likely not going to make the playoffs this season. Teams like Baltimore, Kansas City and Houston, with a few exceptions, just don’t have the parts that buyers are looking for before the July 31 trade deadline.

“Maybe some spare parts, a bench player, but not the sort of thing that’s going to get the fans of any contending team excited,” Law said. “Unfortunately, some of these selling clubs are looking at the market, saying, ‘Wow, there’s not a lot on the market that we can get for our player,’ and that just puts a further drag on the trade market. So, I’m not a psychic, I can’t tell you for sure, but I just don’t feel like there’s going to be a lot of major trade activity between now and the end of the month.”

As for the Red Sox, Law said that he believes the Sox have a chance to get back to the playoffs if their injured players can come off the disabled list soon enough. If not, they may be looking up at the Yankees and Rays come season’s end.

“If the Red Sox can get healthy in reasonably short order and get their A lineup and A rotation back together in the next couple weeks, then I do think they’ll end up making the playoffs’€ Law said. ‘€œI think they’re one of the two best teams in the division. However, we just don’t know. Injuries are just too wild of a variable to say that with any certainty. Looking at the injuries and honestly how bad the Red Sox luck has been in the injuries department this year, it seems like there’s a realistic chance that they don’t get that A lineup back in time, that they don’t get everybody off the DL in time to hang with these two clubs.”

What follows are some highlights of that interview. To hear the interview in its entirety, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

You got to see Red Sox draftee Anthony Ranaudo pitch down at the Cape League recently. What did you think of this kid?

Just for background, coming into the spring Ranaudo, who was a right-handed pitcher at LSU, was the second-best guy in the draft. Bryce Harper, the catcher from Nevada, was the clear one to me, and I thought Ranaudo was the clear two. He hurt his elbow, missed about three weeks in the middle of spring, came back, never had surgery or anything, but wasn’€™t the same guy until about the second half of May. He finished really strong but was kicked out of the first round because of the price tag and elbow issues. So the Red Sox, obviously a team willing to spend money in the draft, hopped in the sandwich round and figured they’€™d just watch him on the Cape over the summer.

I saw him the other day. He was very impressive, hit 94 I think six times in the first inning, sat at 90-93 the rest of the day, which is where he’€™ll pitch. He showed an above-average curveball, didn’€™t really use the changeup, although he didn’€™t need to. He’€™s just kind of overmatching kids at this level. The biggest thing for me is he has this big, durable body that hides the ball really well. I’ve seen him from behind the plate four times now dating back to high school. I just don’t pick the ball up real well out of his hand. Usually if I don’t, I’m behind the hitter. The hitter has even less time than I do to pick the ball up so there’s a pretty good chance the hitters won’t pick the ball up as well. To me, I don’€™t know what’€™s in his elbow exactly, but he looks healthy. This is a guy I saw last year before the elbow problems at the end of his sophomore year.

I think he’€™s in line to get that top-five, top-ten overall bonus that he’€™s looking for before the draft, and my guess is that the Red Sox will work something out to sign this guy. It’€™s really in both sides best interests to get a deal done on August 15 or 16, which is the deadline. Read the rest of this entry »

Report: Red Sox draftee Ranaudo concludes dominant summer on Cape

07.19.10 at 1:31 pm ET
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According to multiple reports, Red Sox draftee Anthony Ranaudo has left the Brewster Whitecaps after a dominant stint in the Cape Cod Baseball League. The news was first reported by thecollegebaseballblog.com, and confirmed by the Cape Cod Times.

Ranaudo, whose draft stock dipped this year due to injuries and struggles on the mound at Louisiana State University, turned in a dominant performance for Brewster this summer. Ranaudo was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, striking out 22, walking seven and allowing just seven hits. That performance fulfilled his summer ambitions, as expressed to WEEI.com shortly after he was drafted.

‘€œIt’€™s a new start for me. Honestly, I feel like I’€™m in midseason form right now,’€ said Ranaudo. ‘€œI told my dad the other day after my start, I wish I had five or six or seven more starts. Hopefully I can get that under my belt in the Cape, really develop some more and show the Red Sox that I’€™m still the same pitcher I was last year, still the same talent, and go from there.

‘€œThe strides I made at the end of the season were significant. I feel like I’€™m pitching the best I pitched for a long time,’€ he added. ‘€œHopefully I can go to the Cape, prove myself more and show the baseball world that I’€™m still the same pitcher and still the same talent that I was entering the season and all of last year.’€

Ranaudo was taken in the supplemental first round by the Red Sox with the team’s third pick, and the No. 39 overall choice. While such a pick has a recommended slot value of close to $850,000, Ranaudo — who was viewed as one of the top five or 10 draft-eligible players at the start of 2010 — is expected to seek money more in line with a top 10 pick.

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