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Sources: Wakefield headed to the bullpen

04.22.10 at 7:16 pm ET
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According to sources familiar with the situation, the Red Sox enter Thursday night’s game against planning to send Tim Wakefield to the bullpen when Daisuke Matsuzaka returns to the Red Sox’ starting rotation.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before his team’s series finale against the Rangers that Matsuzaka would be making his next start for the Red Sox after pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox in his last three appearances while on a rehab assignment. Francona, however, would not disclose when Matsuzaka would be making his first start this season with the Sox, saying the team still had to speak to all the parties involved.

Wakefield last pitched out of the bullpen in the 2004 American League Championship Series, earning the win in Game 5 against the Yankees after pitching three scoreless innings. For his career the 43-year-old has made 141 regular season appearances, going 10-13 with a 3.75 ERA and 22 saves. The knuckleballer served as the Red Sox’ closer 1999 season, saving 15 games.

Wakefield is currently 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA in three starts this season. Barring any unforseen circumstances Clay Buchholz, who got the start for the Red Sox Thursday night, will remain in the starting rotation. He enters the game against the Rangers with a 1-1 mark and a 1.80 ERA.

Is Buchholz pitching for a rotation spot tonight?

04.22.10 at 5:48 pm ET
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With the impending return of Daisuke Matsuzaka to the rotation, and Terry Francona’s insistence that the Red Sox will not use a six-man starting staff, someone will be moving to the bullpen.

And it doesn’t take a baseball IQ of 180 to know that Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey are going nowhere.

So the question is: Will it be Tim Wakefield or Clay Buchholz?

Francona was asked on Thursday afternoon if the return of Matzuaka to the rotation will help the bullpen depth. The manager evaded the question, but it wouldn’t be hard to conclude that a power arm like Buchholz could be a nice option in the sixth and seventh innings for the Sox. With Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez struggling there is clearly a need for another quality pitcher in the bullpen.

But has Buchholz done anything to lose his spot on the staff? Through two starts he has battled control issues (six walks in 10 innings pitched,) but his ERA is just 1.80. Wakefield has an ERA of 6.38, and his knuckeball only makes things more difficult for Victor Martinez (witness the nine steals by the Rangers on Tuesday night.)

It’s hard to image Wakefield playing a key role in the bullpen, but perhaps Francona sees an advantage to keeping Buchholz in the rotation and moving the 18-year veteran to a long-relief spot.

One would assume that a good start from Buchholz tonight makes Francona’s decision an easy one, but a stinker from the 25-year-old could mean the odd man out is anyone’s guess.

Francona: Dice-K ‘in the rotation’

04.22.10 at 5:10 pm ET
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Terry Francona confirmed Thursday afternoon that Daisuke Matsuzaka will join the starting rotation when he is activated from the disabled list.

“Dice will pitch for us. We will insert him in the rotation,” Francona said.  “Johnny [Farrell] and I have not got with him yet. When he pitches and how we get there, we’ll sit and talk to Dice. We’ll get to it. There’s a little bit of time before he pitches. So we want to just make our rotation work with the off day coming up. We want to make it work. I do want to talk to him first.”

Matsuzaka has made three rehab starts, inluding a start Wednesday for Triple-A Pawtucket. He allowed three earned runs in 5.2 innings on the mound against Leigh Valley.

Francona ruled out the possibility of a six-man rotation for the Red Sox.

“Doing too many starters an injustice,” Francona said. “In the summer months when you are running into a long stretch, you might be able to do something like that. But I don’t think that’s something that will work right now.”

Red Sox vs. Rangers matchups, 4/22

04.22.10 at 12:06 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz has two career starts vs. the Rangers in his career ‘€” one good, one not so good. In 2008, Buchholz pitched six innings of five-hit shutout ball in a 8-3 win on Apr. 21. In 2009, he gave up three earned runs in four innings in a 3-1 loss on July 22.

Other than those two outings, Buchholz is a fresh new face to this Ranger lineup. Buchholz will need to make this third outing vs. Texas a good one, especially with a decision on Daisuke Matsuzaka’s future coming up fairly soon.

Ranger’s starter C.J. Wilson has made 12 appearances against Boston, but he has never made a start. That will change with tonight’s start. In his 10.2 innings of work against the Sox he has a 2.53 ERA, striking out 12 in the process.

Wilson is pitching well this year, despite being winless. The lefty sports a 2.08 ERA this season, but only has received two runs in two games from the offense.

The Red Sox have now won two games in a row, and sit at 6-9 on the season.

RANGERS VS. CLAY BUCHHOLZ

Vladimir Guerrero (9 plate appearances): .444 average/ .444 OBP/ .444 slugging percentage, 0 homers, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts

Josh Hamilton (6): .000/ .000/ .000, 2 strikeouts

Ian Kinsler (6): .200/ .333/ .800, 1 homer, 1 strikeout

Michael Young (6): .500/ .667/ .750, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

David Murphy: 3-for-4

Elvis Andrus: 1-for-2

Nelson Cruz: 1-for-1, 1 walk

Taylor Teagarden: 0-for-2, 1 strikeout

Never faced: Joaquin Arias, Andres Blanco, Julio Borbon, Chris Davis, Ryan Garko

RED SOX VS. C.J. WILSON

Victor Martinez (13 plate appearances): .182 average/ .231 OBP/ .273 slugging percentage, 0 homers, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (12): .400/ .500/ .800, 1 homer, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (8): .143/ .250/ .143, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

David Ortiz (7): .143/ .143/ .143, 2 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (6): .333/ .333/ .333, 2 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (5): .000/ .400/ .000, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Kevin Youkilis: 0-for-2, 1 walk

Dustin Pedroia: 2-for-2

Jason Varitek: 0-for-1

Never faced: Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida, Josh Reddick, Darnell McDonald

So, is Daisuke ready for the majors?

04.22.10 at 11:59 am ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka made it through his third minor league rehab outing, Tuesday, and for the most part the vibe remained encouraging in regards to Red Sox righty.

Through three starts for the Pawtucket Red Sox this is what Matsuzaka has accomplished: 16.2 innings, 11 hits, four runs (3 earned), 13 strikeouts an just one walk.

But for perhaps the most insightful analysis regarding Matsuzaka’s most recent start for the PawSox we turn to the excellent blog of Pawtucket Red Sox radio broadcaster Dan Hoard, ‘Heard It From Hoard.’ He writes:

Perhaps the most encouraging sign was his control.  For the second straight start, Matsuzaka did not allow a walk and he’s gone 12.2 innings since issuing his only free pass of the season.

“I thought he threw the ball very well,” PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur told me after the game.  “I saw decent command of the fastball for the third straight outing.  He commanded the cutter very well and stayed down in the zone.  The curveball was a very good pitch for him today.  He could get ahead of hitters when it looked like they were looking for the fastball and he also used it to some of the lefties today – backdooring the curveball for strike three.  I was just impressed with his ability to go out there and throw strikes.  They’ve got good hitters on this team and that’s what they’re going to need up there in Boston.  He’s got all the talent in the world and I think it’s coming back.”

In all, Daisuke threw 66 of his 99 pitches for strikes.  Here’s a closer look at how well he commanded all four of his pitches:

70 fastballs/cutters (45 strikes)

13 curveballs (10 strikes)

11 changeups (8 strikes)

5 sliders (3 strikes)

His fastball velocity was typically in the 89 to 91 mph range.

“Velocity does not make a pitcher – it does help – but it does not make a pitcher,” Sauveur said.  “What we saw was a guy out there pitching.  I’m very, very happy with what we’re seeing right now.  I don’t know if he’s going to get another start down here, but everything is going forward right now.”

In three Triple-A starts, Daisuke was utterly dominant as he posted a 1.62 ERA, an opponent batting average of .186, and a 0.72 WHIP.

So is he ready to win in the AL East?

“That’s a tough question,” Sauveur said.  “I can give you my opinion.  He’s got three games under his belt in Triple-A.  Is that definitive enough to say, ‘Yes, he’s ready.’  I don’t know, but I can tell you he looks very good, and compared to what he showed me last year when he came down, a lot has improved.”

McDonald glad to make overdue impact

04.22.10 at 12:16 am ET
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Maybe it’s the two-syllable name that makes certain players far more conducive to having a chant accompany their appearances, whether hometown heroes or rival villains. Roger. Darryl.  Nomar. Manny. Papi.

Darnell?

Surprising as it is, that was the case in the at-bats following Darnell’s fourth-inning homer that both extended a Sox lead and made him the first player since Sam Horn in 1987 to homer in each of his first two games with the Red Sox.

“I definitely didn’t expect that,” Red Sox outfielder and former first-round pick Darnell McDonald said after the second day of his trip from career minor-leaguer to Fenway favorite. “It’s unbelievable. I’m honored and I definitely appreciate it. These are the best fans in the world.”

McDonald also had a crucial assist on a play that kept Julio Borbon from crossing the plate on a Michael Young sacrifice fly. All of this a night after homering and providing the walkoff double for Tuesday night’s 7-6 victory. The 1997 first-rounder that never stuck in the bigs is finally in the spotlight and he’s soaking up every second, as difficult as it may be in these conditions.

“I don’t think anything can prepare you [for Fenway Park],” McDonald said. “I’ve played Winter Ball in Venzuela. It’s similar, but these are the best fans in the world and I appreciate the applause and stuff. It definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.”

As for the personal accomplishments and etching his name in the record books with Horn, the enthusiastic McDonald is both flattered and humble, excited and focused.

“When you mention Sam Horn, man, to be honest with you I’m just going up there and trying to put a good swing on the ball,” McDonald said. “I’ve been fortunate to get some good pitches, like the ball today. I didn’t know if it was going to get out, but I knew I hit it good. My approach is just going up there and seeing how many times I can put a good swing on the ball.”

The 26th overall pick in ’97 by the Orioles, McDonald never quite panned out, as he didn’t reach the Majors until 2004, in which he played 17 games with Baltimore and hit just .156 with no homers. He finally hit two in Cincinnati last season, but what took him 47 games a year ago has taken him just two in Boston. Even so, the personal accomplishments aren’t a priority for McDonald. With the Red Sox struggling to keep up in the AL East early on, McDonald will continue to feed off the positive energy at Fenway, but more importantly the back-to-back walkoff wins.

“It sure beats losing,” McDonald said. “I’m happy that I’ve been here two days and we’ve won two games.”

Read More: darnell mcdonald,

Closing time: Red Sox 8, Rangers 7

04.21.10 at 11:02 pm ET
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The Sox hit homers on Wednesday, but for the second night in a row it was a ball in play that proved decisive in a walkoff victory.

Kevin Youkilis made the Red Sox 8-7 winners with a double to center in the 12th inning of a game that was a bit of a disappointing affair prior to extra innings. The additional frames saw solid pitching from the likes of Jonathan Papelbon, Neftali Feliz, and Hideki Okajima,prior to Dustin Nippert surrendering the walkoff double that scored Marco Scutaro.

The Red Sox got far from Josh Beckett’s best performance early on, though the team got seven innings on a night in which they provided a homer for each stolen base allowed (a nice way of looking at it, right?). Though Mike Lowell’s second-inning blast took just a small stop atop the Sports Authority sign on its way out of Fenway, the biggest launch of the Sox’ three early homers came from J.D. Drew, who turned an 81 mile-an-hour curve on a 2-2 count into hit his first grand slam since 2008 with the Sox down 4-1 in the bottom of the third. Darnell McDonald extended his 15 minutes of overdue fame with a shot of his own an inning later.

KEY PLAY

As easy as it is to say the walkoff double was the play of the game, it was Marco Scutaro’s single past shortstop with one down in the 12th that halted the Rangers’ bullpen’s batters retired streak at 18 and put the winning run on base.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

The other DH didn’t disappoint: Whatever is going on with David Ortiz can’t be counted on to go away any time soon. Francona said prior to the game that he isn’t sure whether Ortiz will be sat for multiple games at a time, but it was refereshing to see his replacement show some power in the form of Mike Lowell. In addition to Lowell’s screamer over everything, he scored Kevin Youkilis in the bottom of the fifth with a wall-ball single and walked in the bottom of the third.

Darnell remained the talk of the town: What if McDonald were to add another day’s worth of excitement to the script? A day after being the walkoff hero in the Sox’ 7-6 victory, McDonald became the first player since Sam Horn in 1987 to homer in each of his first two games with the Red Sox. He also had the assist in an exciting play at the the plate when Julio Borbon tried tagging and scoring from third in the top of the fourth. After McDonald caught Michael Young’s fly ball, he rifled it in to Jason Varitek, who struggled in coralling the ball but did a good enough job of blocking the plate with his left leg to get Borbon, who slid past the plate. Furthermore, chants of “Darnell! Darnell!” filled the park in the bottom of the eighth prior to McDonald flying out to center and the crowd was even louder in the 11th. Yes, he was retired in both opportunities he had to end it, but did anyone see this shot of life coming from McDonald?

Drew showed signs of life in a big way: If Hamilton hadn’t hit his seventh-inning homer to tie the game, J.D. Drew would be getting some attention in the “Key Play” area. Not only was his grand slam key for getting the Sox back in the game at the time, but it perhaps set one of the team’s more important bats back on track. Francona spoke before the game of how frustrated Drew was and that he, as usual, was simply expressing it differently. A grand slam that gives the home team a lead in a rough stretch is just one of many ways of indicating a turnaround from a guy who entered the night hitting .133 on the season.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

[New way to phrase that the Red Sox can’t stop bases from being stolen]: Add three more steals onto that league-worst total. Andrus’ steal in the second helped him later score on a Josh Hamilton single, though neither of Julio Borbon’s two steals proved costly to the Red Sox. All three attempts warranted a throw, though Varitek’s attempts proved to be futile. It may not have been nine again (thankfully), but a night after getting to play the Wakefield card, the excuses begin disapearring when the guy on the mound is hitting 94 miles an hour consistently.

Beckett had bookend struggles: The ace appeared to have just come from a lesson with John Burkett on how to get off to a rough start, but after allowing six baserunners and four runs through the first two innings, Beckett figured it out for the better part of his outing. After retiring eight in a row from the fourth inning to the sixth, the wheels came off once again for Beckett, who served up a game-tying three-run shot to Josh Hamilton with one down in the seventh. The innings are a plus, but six earned (a Youkilis error put Borbon in the seventh) and five walks aren’t pretty any way you slice it.

Uncharacteristic blunder proves characteristically costly: Time and time again late errors are a thorn in the side of the winning team. It was the case for Youkilis in the seventh when he picked up a Julio Borbon grounder down the first baseline in the seventh and threw it into right field. Holding the ball wouldn’t have done much better as he would have still crossed the plate on the Hamilton shot, but Youkilis’ throw was well-wide of the covering Dustin Pedroia’s outstretched glove.

Read More: darnell mcdonald, David Ortiz, J.D Drew, Jason Varitek

Francona pregame hits

04.21.10 at 7:17 pm ET
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On having Varitek catch and Lowell DH:

‘€œWe’re trying to strike some balance and put a lineup out there that will win.

‘€œAll things considered, having Tek catch tonight makes sense. He’€™s been swinging the bat great to boot, and I wanted Mike Lowell to face this guy.’€

On Martinez:

‘€œIt was a difficult night and that will be the hope. That’€™s what we’€™re always trying to do. Let him have a good work day where you don’€™t have the game hanging over your head. ‘€¦ This way you can work and kind of take a breath.’€

‘€œI think he cares a lot. There’€™s no getting around it. We all do. It’€™s been a tough stretch, but we’€™ll find out how tough we are.’€

Will defensive struggles hurt him offensively?
‘€œI think he swung the bat good last night. I think that as a catcher, I think they’€™re always going to lose at-bats. There’€™s no way around it. If they’€™re any good at what they do, because they’€™re babysitting the pitcher, there’€™s things that go into it, just the wear and tear of a long game, those things all enter into it. But yeah, I think anyone who cares about their staff, it’€™s always part of the game. I guess that’€™s why what Mauer does is so extra special offensively because of the grind that they go through. Not just the physical grind but the mental grind.

‘€œI don’€™t think you’€™ll ever hear a pitcher second-guess or not want to throw to him, which is a tell-tale sign. They all enjoy his enthusiasm and he works hard to run the game right.”

‘€œIt’€™s probably a little bit of everything. Wakes a special breed and that was kind of the perfect storm last night. He’€™s rushing, and when he rushes he’€™s going high on the arm side, which we all see. At the same time, when Wake’€™s pitching, you can’€™t come and get the ball. It has to come to you or he’€™s going to end up chasing it.’€

On David Ortiz:

‘€œHe went out today and extra hit, and actually swung the bat good. He’€™s trying to get his base where he can stay back, because his hands are following his body.
‘€œYou can’€™t talk about having a loop in your swing or not getting the pitches or whatever, but he really wants to try to stay on that back leg so he can start driving the ball to left-center. I f he feels that he can drive the ball to left-center, he’€™ll cover more of the plate.’€

Like last year?

“Yeah, there’€™s a lot of similarities. When you see somebody check-swinging, they’€™re in between.”

Will he have multiple games off?

‘€œWe’€™ll see, I honestly don’€™t know. We’€™ll see. I don’€™t know if it makes a lot of sense to make the lineup out at 4 o’clock the day before, but we’€™ll see how it goes.

‘€œWe haven’€™t really had a roster for about a week where we could do much of anything. We’€™re a little bit behind the eight ball, and last night we were too.’€

On his dealings with Ortiz:

‘€œHe didn’€™t fight me on it. I wouldn’€™t expect anybody, when we pinch-hit for them to come back and high-five us. He’€™s been an unbelievable player here. I just want him to know that we care about all of our players and we try to do what we think is right for our team, that’€™s basically what it is.’€

On Manny Delcarmen:

‘€œFrom the very first pitch it was noticeable. His arm swing was a little longer, a little cleaner. The ball came out with a lot more crispness.

‘€œIt’€™s hard to be excited when you’€™re losing, but that was a very exciting part of the game because it was very noticeable the way he threw the ball.’€

On J.D. Drew:

‘€œKind of like David, he’€™s got his body out a little bit ahead of him. J.D.’€™s got some of the best hitter’€™s hands you’€™ll ever see, but when their hands come forward, there’€™s not a lot left to do anything with the ball.

‘€œI’€™m sure he’€™s not happy, but he handles things very well. I think he’€™s been frustrated. Everybody shows it differently.’€

Read More: David Ortiz, J.D Drew, mike lowell, Terry Francona

Remy on D&C: Sox ‘still have their issues’

04.21.10 at 3:01 pm ET
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NESN analyst Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning to discuss the Red Sox‘ recent troubles. Remy said that Tuesday night’s walk-off win over Texas was a much-needed victory for the Sox. “They needed to win desperately, because it was getting pretty ugly around there. Hopefully it can carry on, but they’ve still got their issues. There’s no question about that.”

Those problems were certainly on display despite the victory, and probably the most noticeable was keeping the opposition from running wild on the basepaths. The Rangers had a club-record nine steals in the first five innings with Tim Wakefield on the mound, and Victor Martinez has had his problems keeping runners in check behind the plate. “Last night was just a combination of both he and Wakefield not being able to throw out runners,” Remy said. “With Martinez it is just mechanical problems; everything he is throwing to second base he is getting underneath and it is going sailing high on him. So he has to make some adjustments back there like getting his elbow up and getting some accurate throws there.”

The other hot topic from the first game of the Rangers series was Terry Francona’s decision to pinch hit for David Ortiz. With two lefties on the horizon, Ortiz is likely to be on the bench with Mike Lowell as DH. But the bigger issue will be how he reacts to being lifted on Tuesday. “There comes a point where you have to make a move. They did that last night with the pinch-hitting role,” Remy said. “Even I was stunned when I saw it. I was not surprised, but I was like, ‘Wow, this is kind of a turning point.’ You probably won’t see him in the lineup tonight and probably not tomorrow night either because they have two lefties going. How he’s going to react? I don’t know. When he has time to think about it, I hope he takes the high road.”

Added Remy: “I still think it is going to get better for him. I actually thought he had a decent series against Tampa Bay. I thought it was the best series that he had even though a lot of the results weren’t there. He drove a ball hard to the opposite field off the wall, he hit a couple of balls hard to first base. My feeling was that that was some of the best at bats that he has had. Then he comes back last night and looks bad in the first couple of at-bats and is pinch hit for. It is a very touchy situation because [Francona] loves to protect his players, but on the other hand he wants to win games.”

Remy also touched on the injuries in the outfield. He said that Jacoby Ellsbury’s absence has been a big hindrance to the Sox lineup, as it has lost the leadoff hitter. “With Ellsbury they tried to hold out because they thought they would have him longer playing than if they put him on the DL, but that didn’t work out,” he said. “So they have a patchwork outfield out there now and it makes a big difference because with Ellsbury out, he is their leadoff guy, their ignitor. He is the guy at the top of the lineup who kind of makes things go, and with him out they have had to put [Marco] Scutaro up there and it is not the same lineup. And all those things add up to losses, and that is what they have been getting.” Read the rest of this entry »

Francona on D&H: Stick with Vic at catcher

04.21.10 at 2:18 pm ET
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Terry Francona called into the Dale & Holley Show on Wednesday for his weekly segment on the state of the Red Sox. Aside from the come-from-behind win last night, the Sox have been struggling, and the Red Sox manager said it isn’t just one thing.

“Sometimes it’s different every day, and I think that’s why teams get into problems,” said Francona. “It’s not just one thing. It’s an inconsistency. One day it might be defense. One day it might be a bullpen guy. One day it might be a bad start. One day it might be a baserunning error. That’s why you try to play the game correctly all the time, because you don’t know what the score is going to be at the end of the game.”

Francona also talked about his decision to pinch hit for David Ortiz on Tuesday, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return to Boston and the new call-ups who paid immediate dividends.

A transcript follows. To listen to the interview, click here.

You’ve got to feel good for Darnell McDonald last night.

How about that. On a night when we are scrambling going into the game, we are scrambling during the game, and this kid comes right out of the hotel and hits the home run to tie the game, hits the ball off the wall to win the game. You could see the joy on everyone’s faces. It wasn’t just for us. It was for him. It was a lot of relief and a lot of excitement.

How did you decide to call up McDonald?

Again we had [Josh] Reddick because they were starting a right-hander and we knew with the lefties coming McDonald would be next if [Jacoby] Ellsbury couldn’t do it. As we watched Jacoby during the afternoon we were ready for this because we thought it was a possibility. We didn’t want it to be. As the week progressed we thought there was a chance it would happen so we got him ready. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, darnell mcdonald, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury
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