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Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Year after playing high school ball, 2014 first-round picks reflect on turning pro

05.08.15 at 4:33 pm ET
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Michael Kopech was drafted No. 32 overall of last years draft. (Rob Bradford/WEEI.com)

Michael Kopech was drafted No. 33 overall of last years draft. (Rob Bradford/WEEI.com)

Last year at this time, Michael Chavis and Michael Kopech were spending their days in high school classrooms, and playing baseball for their high school teams after school.

Now, after both being drafted in the first round by the Red Sox in the 2014 draft, they are professional baseball players getting paid to play the game they love. Both are with Single-A Greenville after spending last summer in the Florida Gulf Coast League.

“We do talk about how crazy it is that this time last year we were playing high school baseball,” Chavis said via phone. “During the summer, my birthday is August 11 and I was talking to him [last summer], and it’s funny we were playing down in Fort Myers together and I was saying last year we were playing in the All-American game against each other when he was on the West squad and I was on the East squad. It’s just crazy looking back at that and we’ve both gone through the travel ball circuit playing against each other. Now it’s a great experience and opportunity for us to play together.”

“It’s a great experience. I am glad I got to come to Greenville, as it’s close to home,” he added. “It’s kind of cool because we had a few days off a couple days ago and I got to go to my high school and play a high school game. It was crazy watching all my buddies playing high school ball and thinking that I am at the professional level. Just a few months ago I was playing high school baseball. It’s hard to wrap my mind around.”

Chavis, an infielder, was drafted No. 26 overall, while Kopech, a right-handed pitcher, was drafted No. 33 overall.

Kopech said being a professional is much different than playing high school and travel ball, but it’s something he’s always wanted to do and had his mind focused on.

“Yeah, it’s a little different,” said Kopech via phone. “Honestly, it’s what I always wanted. It’s what I always expected. It’s fallen into place. That’s how I think of it. It’s a dream come true, don’t get me wrong. It’s exactly what I expected. It’s fun though. I like going out there with good competition and trying to compete. It’s a lot of fun.”

The biggest difference for him now that he’s a professional, is he can’t just step on the mound and throw. He has to have a plan.

“You just always have to have an approach,” Kopech said. “High school hitters you could throw three fastballs, or some you could grow three breaking pitches. You can’t do that in professional baseball. You have to have an approach. Everybody can adjust. If you’re trying to compete and challenge a hitter, you have to be smarter than them.”

Both are having successful starts to their seasons, particularly Kopech. The 6-foot-3 hard-throwing righty is 1-2 with a 3.76 ERA. He’s struck out 17 hitters in 18 2/3 innings. He was also named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week earlier in the year.

Kopech has received a great deal of attention of late for his velocity, as he’s hit 100 mph on the radar gun. The 19-year-old feels the best he’s ever felt.

“Right now is the hardest I’ve ever thrown,” he said. “I am sitting 95-98, 95-99. Really physically I feel better on the mound. Mentally as far as confidence wise, I’ve always kind of had the same approach. I feel just as confident last year as I do this year. That is doing me well right now.”

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With David Ortiz suspended, Travis Shaw makes big league debut vs. Blue Jays

05.08.15 at 4:00 pm ET
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Travis Shaw

Travis Shaw

Travis Shaw will make his big league debut on Friday night in Toronto when the Red Sox take on the Blue Jays.

With David Ortiz serving a one-game suspension, Shaw was summoned to start at first base and bat ninth, with cleanup hitter Mike Napoli shifting over to DH.

The 25-year-old Shaw led all Red Sox minor leaguers in homers last year with 21. A ninth-round pick in 2011 out of Kent State, he is the son of former All-Star closer Jeff Shaw. He has gotten off to a slow start at Pawtucket this season, batting just .189 with two homers and a .556 OPS.

He gets the start because Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez has limited right-handers to a .122 average, but lefties are hitting .340 with a 1.076 OPS against him.

Shaw’s stay will likely be short-lived. Once Ortiz returns from his one-game suspension for bumping an umpire, the Red Sox will probably look to add an arm to their bullpen following the designation for assignment of right-hander Edward Mujica, with hard-throwing Matt Barnes the likely choice.

For more on this weekend’s series with the Jays, here’s a series preview, as well as a look at Friday night’s matchups.

1. Mookie Betts CF
2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
3. Pablo Sandoval 3B
4. Mike Napoli DH
5. Daniel Nava RF
6. Allen Craig LF
7. Blake Swihart C
8. Xander Bogaerts SS
9. Travis Shaw 1B
Wade Miley, LHP

Source: David Ortiz loses appeal, suspended for game

05.08.15 at 2:40 pm ET
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According to a major league source, David Ortiz has lost his appeal regarding a one-game suspension. He will not be available for Friday night’s Red Sox game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Ortiz was appealing the suspension levied by Major League Baseball for making contact with home plate umpire John Tumpane. The confrontation was brought on after Ortiz engaged in an argument with third base umpire Jerry Meals in regards to a disputed checked swing.

The Red Sox designated hitter participated in a hearing in regards to the matter with representatives from Major League Baseball Monday.

Following the incident, Ortiz spoke to WEEI.com on what he remembered of the moment in question.

“I have to watch that video to see what point I touched him because I don’€™€™€™€™t remember, to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’€™€™€™€™t really remember. And I wasn’€™€™€™€™t even arguing with him. I was talking with the third base umpire. If it happened, I don’€™€™€™€™t know when it happened and I didn’€™€™€™€™t try that because trust me, I know. It might be one move that I made or whatever. But I don’€™€™€™€™t know.”

Red Sox-Blue Jays series preview

05.08.15 at 9:24 am ET
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Jose Bautista (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Jose Bautista is hitting just .198 this season, although he does have five home runs. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

After a nine-game homestand against three AL East opponents, the Red Sox head north of the border on Friday for the second series of the year against the Blue Jays. Both teams are struggling, as Toronto is 5-5 in its last 10, and Boston is 3-7.

The Red Sox sit in last place in the division with a 13-15 record that puts them two games behind the Yankees. Toronto is tied with the Orioles for third in the division, and holds a record of 14-15.

The Red Sox have dropped their last two series, being swept by the Yankees and dropping two of three to the Rays. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have won just three series on the year and lost two of three games in Fenway Park in late April when they last faced the Red Sox. Luckily for both teams, the division looks to be fairly evenly matched, so stringing together a few wins could mean capturing the top spot.

“I think the whole division is a complete mud bog,” ESPN’s Buster Olney said on Middays with MFB on Wednesday. “We still haven’t seen what’s going to define the division.”

The Blue Jays are coming off a series win against the Yankees in which Toronto’s pitchers allowed just eight runs through three games. This is welcome news for the Blue Jays, who have had similar struggles to the Red Sox when it comes to finding consistency on the mound. Even after the improved performance against New York, Toronto’s pitching staff ranks 28th in baseball with a 4.83 ERA, 28th with a 1.46 WHIP, and 27th with a .269 batting average against.

“We have not thrown the ball well from the rotation; we haven’t gotten innings out of the rotation,” Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters prior to the Yankees series. “Our offense has carried us, I think that goes without saying, but these guys are all capable of going on a run and getting a lot better.”

By comparison, the Red Sox pitching is 29th with a 4.86 ERA, 25th with a 1.39 WHIP, and 23rd with a .263 batting average against. In response to the poor start on the mound, the team dismissed pitching coach Juan Nieves on Thursday.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Wade Miley vs. Aaron Sanchez

05.08.15 at 8:22 am ET
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Wade Miley

Wade Miley

As the Red Sox cross the border into Canada to play the Blue Jays over the weekend, Wade Miley with get the start to open the series against Toronto right-hander Aaron Sanchez.

Miley was solid in his last outing for Boston, a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Yankees, lasting seven innings for the first time all season and giving up just three earned runs on seven hits. The start also was the first this year in which Miley did not issue any walks. Part of that had to do with his ground-ball out ratio, which was better than it had been so far in 2015.

“It was a lot better,” Miley said after the game Saturday. “Still got in some three-ball counts. Instead of trying to make too good of a pitch, 3-1, 3-0, I just needed to execute a pitch and get a ground-ball out rather than walk a guy.”

The loss was Miley’€™s third this season to just one win, but had more to do with the two runs of support he got from his team than his actual performance on the mound. His ERA on the year was lowered over a point from 8.62 to 7.15, still the worst in the rotation, but an improvement.

Miley has only faced the Blue Jays once in his career, a campaign in 2013 when he went just 1 2/3 innings and allowed five earned runs on as many hits. He gave up a home run, walked two and struck out three for an ERA of 27.00.

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Read More: Aaron Sanchez, wade miley,

Juan Nieves on dismissal: ‘I wasn’t surprised’

05.07.15 at 3:17 pm ET
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Juan Nieves

Juan Nieves

Nobody would have blamed Juan Nieves for being shocked when informed by Red Sox manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington after Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Rays that he was being dismissed as pitching coach.

It was just more than one month into the season, and Nieves had served in the position two years earlier when helping guide a Red Sox pitching staff to the world championship.

But, when reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Nieves noted the news didn’t take him off guard.

“No, I wasn’t surprised. They know me,” he said. “We were not pitching well and had a below-average month. I understand the decision that was made. I’m accountable for them.”

During a conference call with the media Thursday, Farrell insinuated that the key element when formulating the decision was Nieves’ inability to get production out of the starting pitchers.

The Red Sox starters carry the second-worst ERA in the major leagues (5.54), with their starting pitcher not having made it through the fifth inning seven times this season.

“We were not very good at all. We showed flashes, and I hope they pitch better. We showed some flashes, but we were not good enough,” Nieves said.

“I just think we had great communication with the guys. I thought the guys communicated really well among themselves. Of course they come from different places, not unlike the previous group that was here before. They knew what they were getting themselves into, with us having a rough year the year before. But these guys worked really with each other. They had great communication with me. It just took a little bit longer.”

Nieves also said there were no philosophical differences that led to the dismissal.

“The attacking is the most important thing,” he responded regarding the approach needed by the Red Sox’ pitchers. “Every starter had their own ways of pitching. Of course they’re a little different in a lot of ways. It was a combination of things.

“I think one of the things that mattered the most was they were adapting to a new stage and a new scene. Obviously, it took a little longer than normal.”

In the end, Nieves’ message was of no hard-feelings and no regrets.

“[Cherington and Farrell] were very respectful,” he said. “It’€™s not because of lack of work or lack of preparation. It just didn’€™t happen.”

Ben Cherington and John Farrell on decision to fire pitching coach Juan Nieves: ‘We needed to make a change’

05.07.15 at 3:14 pm ET
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Juan Nieves

Juan Nieves

Five weeks into a season that has seen the entire Red Sox pitching staff woefully underperform even its modest expectations, the club on Thursday fired pitching coach Juan Nieves in a move that general manager Ben Cherington described as necessary.

John (Farrell) and I simply got to the point where we felt that, in order to continue to push forward and make improvements, we needed to make a change and have a different voice in that particular position,” Cherington said on a conference call.

Nieves, 50, helped the team win a World Series in 2013 in his first year on Farrell’s staff, but this year Red Sox pitchers have been a disaster. Their staff ERA of 4.89 ranks last in the American League, as does their abysmal starters ERA of 5.54.

While both Cherington and Farrell acknowledged the problems run deeper than coaching, they also suggested that Nieves wasn’t able to reach this rotation like past ones.

“What it comes down to is focusing on the rotation, probably the most important — not to overlook any other person on staff — because the rotation pitches the bulk of the innings, quality required, stability needed, whether or not that same connection was made with the current group to bring about the consistency of performance,” Farrell said. “As Ben stated, there’s a number of things that go into this, but the ability to maintain the consistency or effect change when needed or adjustments that are required that’s typical with any pitcher, that wasn’t the same as we saw, that you referenced previously, two years ago.”

There’s no word yet on possible replacements or if the Red Sox will have someone in place in time for Friday’s game in Toronto. Cherington said it was more important to make the right choice than to rush to fill the position.

“We have a very small list of people in mind, and beyond that I can’t say,” Cherington said. “That does include at least one internal and one external candidate. But beyond that, I can’t say if there are more at this time.”

Farrell made it clear that firing Nieves won’t magically fix a flawed rotation.

“I think the situation we’re in is because of overall performance,” he said. “That’s not to say that Juan is the sole reason for that. There’s a number of things, as we’ve talked about on this call, that go into it. And yet we feel like the best way to change things going forward for the performance of our guys is to make a change in this role.

“You’re always finding ways to connect with individuals, and that changes based on the current performance of an individual. You’re dealing with different mindsets, different points in time. When things are going well, is there more of a receptive mindset from a given pitcher than times when there’s struggle, and how is that received? Again, it goes back to the group that pitches the greatest number of innings, the bulk innings, that’€™s the focal point of the pitching staff, and that’€™s the rotation.”

Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves dismissed

05.07.15 at 12:37 pm ET
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Juan Nieves

Juan Nieves

After opening the season 13-15, with team ERA of 4.86, the second-worst in the majors and worst in the American League, the Red Sox announced Thursday they have dismissed pitching coach Juan Nieves.

Nieves had great success with the team prior to this year. He joined the Red Sox organization as major league pitching coach on November 7, 2012. In 2013, his first year as a major league pitching coach, he oversaw the pitching staff that helped Boston win its eighth World Series championship. That year, the staff posted a 3.79 ERA, the lowest mark for the club since 2002.

Prior to joining the Red Sox, Nieves spent 14 years coaching in the Chicago White Sox organization, including the final five years as bullpen coach for the big league club.

The team did not announce a replacement.

For more Red Sox news, check out weei.com/redsox.

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Source: Edward Mujica designated for assignment

05.07.15 at 10:23 am ET
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Edward Mujica

Edward Mujica

According to a major league source, the Red Sox have designated reliever Edward Mujica for assignment after a year and just over a month with the team.

While the corresponding move isn’t yet clear, it’s worth noting Matt Barnes was scratched from his start on Wednesday with Triple-A Pawtucket and pitched out of the bullpen instead.

He is eligible to be recalled, as he’s been in the minors 10 days after being sent optioned.

Mujica has a 4.61 ERA in 13 2/3 innings this season. When acquired from St. Louis before last year, he was expected to be the backup closer for Koji Uehara, but this season he was often the first reliever out of the bullpen looking to eat up innings.

Alex Speier of the Boston Globe was first to report the news.

For more Red Sox news, check out weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Edward Mujica, matt barnes,

Justin Masterson attempts to adjust, results ‘close, but not close enough’

05.07.15 at 12:46 am ET
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Justin Masterson needs to be more of a ferris wheel instead of a carousel when it comes to pitching.

That’s how the Red Sox right-hander put it after his sixth start of the year, and his first loss, as the team dropped a 5-3 contest to the Rays on Wednesday night.

Following three innings of one-run ball, the game started to get away from Masterson. In the first at-bat of the fourth inning, he gave up a home run to Evan Longoria. Then he issued a pair of walks, both on just four pitches. With the bases loaded, Masterson and Co. were able to find a way out of the inning courtesy of a double play.

The only thing that took a more significant hit than the scoreboard was his pitch count.

The fifth inning was similar, but did not tip in favor of the Sox as much as the previous one had. Masterson surrendered another couple of walks and a couple of base hits, including a broken-bat single that scored two runs.

What had been working well in the early goings of the game, like forcing players into hitting double-play balls, was proving difficult moving forward.

“The first part was great,” he said. “First three innings. The fourth, pitched through it, and fifth was just kind of the culmination of I just couldn’t make the adjustment out there to get back into throwing strikes. Close, but not close enough.”

Masterson said he felt different, that something was off, but it wasn’t something he had necessarily had a problem with before.

“I just felt like I was rotating more …” he said. “Which is never a good thing, when I’m already a rotational guy, to add more rotation to it is not good, but it’s something I hadn’t dealt with yet this year, so at least we’re not repeating what we’ve been doing.

“A little bit there I felt like I was in the re-filming of Major League. I could hear ‘Ball four, ball eight, ball 12, tried the corner and missed!'”

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Read More: John Farrell, justin masterson,
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