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Red Sox postgame notes: Some key stats from win over Rangers

04.07.14 at 11:42 pm ET
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John Lackey (AP)

John Lackey picked up the win Monday night. (AP)

Courtesy of the Red Sox media relations department:

RED SOX NOTES

The Red Sox snapped a three-game losing streak for their first home win of the season, 5-1, over the Rangers. With the win, the Sox avoided their first losing streak of at least four games since losing the final eight games of 2012 (Sept. 25-Oct. 3).

Monday marked the Red Sox‘€™ first win at Fenway Park since their World Series-clinching victory in Game 6 over the Cardinals on Oct. 30. John Lackey earned the win in both of those games. 

Lackey did not allow an earned run over seven innings of work. It marked the first time he held an opponent without an earned run over at least seven frames since May 24, 2013, vs. the Indians (seven IP, one run). He became the first Sox hurler to throw at least seven innings without an earned run this season (last Jon Lester, Aug. 19, 2013, vs. Giants). Lackey surrendered five hits and two walks while striking out five.

Jackie Bradley Jr. matched his career high with three hits (also June 1, 2013 at the Yankees). With RBI singles in his first two plate appearances, Bradley recorded an RBI on three consecutive hits dating back to April 3 at the Orioles. He became the first Red Sox right fielder age 23 or younger to have multiple RBIs in a game since Phil Plantier did it in 1992 (also 23).  Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Jackie Bradley Jr., John Lackey lead Red Sox past Rangers

04.07.14 at 10:17 pm ET
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THIS was the Jackie Bradley Jr. who set the world on its ear in spring training in 2013. THIS was the Jackie Bradley Jr. whom the Red Sox hoped to see this spring but who was nowhere to be found while Grady Sizemore exploded onto the scene.

Bradley had perhaps the best game of his major league career in the Red Sox‘ 5-1 victory over the Rangers on Monday, making the sort of two-way impact that established him as one of the Red Sox‘ best prospects in the less than three years since the Sox drafted him. He started in right field and made a pair of sensational catches, first getting a great jump on the way to an inning-ending sliding catch on what would have been a run-scoring hit by Donnie Murphy. Then, on a J.P. Arencibia launch toward the right field corner in the third, he got an amazing jump and ran in a straight line with his back to the plate and stuck out his glove in time to rob the Rangers catcher of extra bases.

But on this night, he changed the game not just with his glove but also his bat. In the bottom of the second, he got the Sox on the board (with their first lead of a homestand that is now four games old) by lining a two-out single to center on a 94 mph fastball from Texas starter Tanner Scheppers, just the fifth two-out hit with runners in scoring position by a Sox hitter this year. After the Rangers came back to tie the game in the top of the fourth, Bradley once again put the Sox ahead by lining a run-scoring single to left. He also added a bunt single in the eighth that contributed to a three-run rally that blew the game open.

This was the approach that the offensive approach that the Sox believe can make Bradley an excellent hitter — the ability to spray line drives from line to line with some gap power while forcing pitchers to throw strikes permitting him a chance to post strong batting averages and on-base numbers. Bradley didn’t show those abilities in the spring, when his swing often got long as he seemed intent on hitting for power. But now, at a more important time, with an unexpected season-opening job in the big leagues due to the injury to Shane Victorino, Bradley is displaying his considerable talents at a most opportune time for the Red Sox. The victory allowed the Sox to halt their three-game losing streak.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Bradley had his fifth career multi-hit game.

John Lackey delivered a second straight powerful outing to open the year, firing seven innings in which he allowed just one unearned run on five hits (four singles and a triple) while striking out five and walking two. Lackey is now 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA, 11 strikeouts and three walks in his two starts.

Grady Sizemore continued to show no hesitation on the field. The center fielder crashed head first into the padding at the wall in center field in an unsuccessful attempt to haul in Shin-Soo Choo‘s triple, and then made an impressive diving catch in the next inning. Sizemore went 2-for-4 with a double.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox notes: Shane Victorino’s return slowed; no timetable for Will Middlebrooks

04.07.14 at 7:37 pm ET
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Shane Victorino (AP)

Shane Victorino is battling a hamstring injury and a sickness. (AP)

The Red Sox have felt the absence of Shane Victorino early, and the team remains uncertain about when it will get its everyday right fielder back.

Victorino, who suffered a hamstring injury in the final game of spring training that resulted in his placement on the disabled list, was further slowed in his efforts to rehab by a nasty bout of the flu last week. Illness forced him to miss the visit to the White House and continued to afflict him into the weekend.

The reigning AL Gold Glover is finally improving to the point where he’s been able to commence exercise, but there’s a good chance that he’ll still be resuming the earliest stages of his return to baseball activities at the end of the coming week. That being the case, his return to the active roster appears likely to have been slowed by his illness.

“He was in earlier today for treatment, so the flu symptoms, those are slowing. … He’s started to do some cardio work, so we’re starting to get some physical activity back in the mix, but that’€™s been delayed because of how he’s felt from the flu,” said manager John Farrell. “We’re still trying to keep him away from everyone else for obvious reasons, but as we get through this week or toward the end of this week and not just the treatment but also the activity starts to ramp up, we’ll get a better read on a projected time for a rehab assignment.”

Meanwhile, there is no timetable yet for Will Middlebrooks‘ return as he continues to let his strained calf heal. While Farrell said the third baseman’s discomfort had diminished since he was placed on the disabled list on Sunday, it will be some time before he does anything more than receive treatment for the injured area.

OTHER NOTES

Farrell said that there were no concerns about Clay Buchholz‘s health in the aftermath of his poor outing on Saturday. Farrell said the issue was one of location rather than health.

– Farrell characterized shortstop Xander Bogaerts’ defense to date as being “probably a little bit more than we anticipated, and that’€™s not to say we had lower expectations of him. There was a ball yesterday that he gets caught a little bit in that five-six hole, went at it with his forehand when he probably could have planted and gone to the backhand. The range has been good. I think he’s playing very well.”

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For Ryan Roberts, ‘crazy journey’ ends with opportunity with Red Sox

04.07.14 at 6:33 pm ET
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Ryan Roberts (WEEI.com)

Ryan Roberts is entering his ninth season in the majors. (WEEI.com)

The past 12 days represented a new and unknown journey for Ryan Roberts.

The 33-year-old, entering his ninth season in the majors, found himself without a team to play for when Opening Day rolled around, having opted out of his minor league deal with the Cubs upon learning that he would not make the 25-man roster out of spring training. Falling out of the typical baseball routine presented a challenge and new experienced for the veteran Roberts.

“If I had to relate it best, I’€™d say, like, the Bud Light commercial where they pick the guy up and take him on a wild crazy night and journey. That’s kind of been my deal here,” said Roberts. “It’s been a crazy journey, an experience that I’ve never dealt with before. They’re long days…the  days sometimes go by really fast, but my days went by really slow. It’s been a learning experience.”

Roberts was trying to find the right opportunity, weighing different possibilities. But then, with the injury to Will Middlebrooks and the need for a versatile, right-handed hitter with experience at third base, the Red Sox saw Roberts as a good fit. The deal came together quickly between the two sides.

“[It came together] in a matter of 24 hours,”€ Roberts said. “€œI had opportunity to think about other places to go, and then all of a sudden, the best opportunity came up [in Boston].”

Roberts will be part of what manager John Farrell described as a platoon situation with Jonathan Herrera at third base, and with left-hander Martin Perez on the mound for the Rangers tomorrow, Roberts will get the start at the hot corner. Having played six different positions over the course of career, including every infield position, Roberts gives the Red Sox some much-needed versatility and a veteran presence off the bench.

“I’€™ve been fortunate to play everywhere, I feel comfortable everywhere on diamond,”€ Roberts said. “I’€™m not going to claim to be the best at any position, but I do feel comfortable. I make mistakes like everyone else…but I feel confident I can get the job done if needed.”

Barring an at-bat off the bench on Monday, Tuesday will be the first time the 33-year-old will have faced live pitching in about 10 days. Roberts spent spring training with the Cubs, batting .237/.310/.342 with four doubles and an RBI in 18 games, but opted out of his minor league deal at the end of camp. Roberts was very close to making the cut with the Cubs, but they opted for youth with Mike Olt at third base. Though his spring training stats are rather lackluster, they’re not necessarily an indication of how Roberts was swinging the bat.

“I felt great [in spring training],” Roberts said. “Obviously, a lot of people look at numbers, and my numbers weren’€™t the best. But I would have at-bats where I saw seven or eight pitches and then I would line out. There were at-bats where I would just miss the ball by a hair…that happens in spring training. I just all around felt great. You always want the numbers to be higher, but in perspective of how I felt, I felt the best I ever have.”

Part of that related to an unexpected development: Roberts’ eyesight improved.

“Long story short, I had a stigmatism in both eyes. My left eye was 20/15, which was pretty good, and my right eye was 20/25,” said Roberts. “I went in in spring training this year, I did have contacts. I just couldn’€™t wear them. I had glasses, and didn’€™t really ever wear them. I went into spring training this year, my eyesight on my left is 20/14.2, my right eye was 20/14.3.”

Though Roberts represents a valuable asset for a club to have given his versatility and solid bat, he admits that he did entertain the thought that his playing days might be over as the days passed without a team to play for.

“It comes into your mind. I just trust that God will put me somewhere,” Roberts said. “If the door closed on baseball, I figured another would open. It didn’€™t close yet, and I landed with a championship team, and I couldn’t be more blessed.”

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Red Sox lineup: Jackie Bradley Jr. gets start in right field

04.07.14 at 3:33 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

With right-hander Tanner Scheppers on the mound for the Rangers, John Farrell starts Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field in the Red Sox‘ series-opener against Texas at Fenway Park Monday night. Manning left will be Daniel Nava, with Grady Sizemore back in center and hitting fifth.

(For all the matchups, click here.)

Here is the Red Sox lineup:

Daniel Nava LF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Napoli 1B

Grady Sizemore CF

Xander Bogaerts SS

A.J. Pierzynski C

Jonathan Herrera 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr. RF

John Lackey P

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Red Sox minor league roundup: A significant advantage in the American League East

04.07.14 at 1:22 pm ET
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Derek Jeter

The Yankees do not appear to have a homegrown successor to Derek Jeter

When Jacoby Ellsbury arrived at free agency, the Yankees blew away the field in bidding because they had to. They had nothing close to a prospect who was ready to step into the role of an everyday big league center fielder. The Red Sox, by contrast, had Jackie Bradley Jr. The Yankees spent a small fortune on Masahiro Tanaka because they had to, because they don’t have starting pitchers who are close to big league-ready. The Red Sox, by contrast, have a passel of prospects in the upper levels, with Brandon Workman (currently in the majors), Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes (when he comes off the DL) all in Triple-A or above and top pitching prospect Henry Owens not far away.

The roster dynamics of the division are largely a reflection of the state of not just developments at the big league level but of entire organizations. That being the case, to understand not just what happened this past offseason but what may transpire in future offseasons, it’s worth taking stock of the overall shape of player development systems of each of the American League East competitors. Such an exercise, at least at this moment in time (with the necessary caveat that perception can shift drastically in the span of a year or two), suggests a considerable advantage for the Red Sox in the division, explained Keith Law of ESPN Insider on WEEI’s Down on the Farm. (Podcast here.)

“I think they’re in the best shape of anyone in the division right now,” said Law. “They’ve got talent at every level. They’ve got position players coming. They’ve got some up-the-middle guys coming, which is the scarcest and most valuable commodity. They’ve got pitchers coming. They’ve got starters coming. They’ve got some relief depth coming. They’ve been pretty successful in the draft. They had changeover a couple of years ago on the scouting director side, and there’s been no interruption. The drafts have continued to be successful. They’ve been aggressive on the international side and it looks like that’s yielded some positive results as well. And they’ve got guys who are coming soon, which means either they can help the major league club — [Xander] Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. as soon as Grady Sizemore gets hurt again, which happens a lot — but they’ve also got guys close to the big leagues who have trade value for them, which is just as important. I imagine the Red Sox are going to get to July and they’re going to need something because everybody does. They have the assets to go and get almost anyone they want, because when you look at the other teams with comparably strong farm systems, a lot of them are also-ran teams, maybe the teams that are selling like the Astros and Cubs, so the Red Sox will not have a lot of competition if they’re trying to go out and land, say, a Jorge De La Rosa.”

Here are some of Law’s thoughts on other farm systems:

On the Yankees’ ability to provide homegrown depth to the big league team: “Not in a good place. Triple-A, they’re going to have extremely little. [In Single-A Greenville and below is] where it starts to get a little interesting. But I could say that for probably 20 other clubs around baseball. … They’re so young and inexperienced we can dream on those guys. By the time you get to Double-A, there’s been some separation between guys who aren’t going to be able to cross the chasm and guys who at least still have a chance. The Yankees have had a lot of trouble getting guys across that chasm in the last couple years.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox-Rangers series preview

04.07.14 at 12:27 pm ET
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After a rough weekend at Fenway, the Red Sox will look for their first win at home on Monday against the Rangers.

The Red Sox enter the series with a 2-4 record after being swept by the Brewers. The Red Sox are at the bottom of the AL East standings in the early going, with the same record as the Orioles. Being swept was quite a rarity for the 2013 Sox, who only lost three in a row to the same team once last season, and that sweep was at the hands of their upcoming opponents, the Rangers.

The Rangers head into the series with a .500 record after salvaging the last of a three-game set against the Rays on Sunday. Big things are anticipated from the 2014 Rangers, a club that pulled off one of the few major trades from the past offseason, sending second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit in exchange for slugger Prince Fielder. They also replaced the hole left by free agent Nelson Cruz by signing Shin-Soo Choo, one of the winter’€™s marquee free agents. Injuries have been an issue for the Rangers in the early going, with young shortstop Jurickson Profar tearing a muscle in his shoulder, an injury that will keep him off the field until late May or June. Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish also experienced minor injuries, and while Harrison is still recovering from offseason back surgery, Darvish is back in action for Texas. The biggest blow to the pitching staff may be Derek Holland‘€™s knee injury, which he suffered while playing with his dog over the winter. He’€™s not expected back until midseason. As if that all wasn’t enough, the Rangers also lost newly acquired catcher Geovany Soto to a torn meniscus.

The Red Sox are dealing with some injury issues of their own, with third baseman Will Middlebrooks hitting the DL with what was diagnosed as a Grade 1 calf strain. The power-hitting infielder will be replaced by utility infielder Jonathan Herrera as well as Brock Holt, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket prior to Sunday’€™s game. The Red Sox also added some infield depth early Monday morning, reportedly signing 33-year-old Ryan Roberts to a major league deal.

Middlebrooks’€™ injury is not good news for an offense that couldn’t get much going against Brewers pitching on Sunday. The Sox left a total of 17 runners on base in the series and went just 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The Sox will look to jump-start the bats against Rangers pitching on Monday to avoid losing four games in a row, something that hasn’t happened since September 2012.

Here are the matchups for the three-game set:

Monday: John Lackey (1-0, 3.00) vs. Tanner Scheppers (0-0, 15.75)

Tuesday: Felix Doubront (1-0, 5.06) vs. Martin Perez (0-0, 3.18)

Wednesday: Jake Peavy (0-0, 3.00) vs. Robbie Ross (0-0, 3.60)

 WHO’€™S HOT: RED SOX

– At times in 2013, it felt like Koji Uehara‘€™s season was too good to be true, and it’€™s forgivable that some may have had doubts about a repeat performance in 2014. But Uehara is picking up right where he left off. He’€™s only had one save opportunity, a save he secured using just seven pitches in the series finale in Baltimore, but the closer has been solid in all three outings so far this season. He tossed a flawless top of the ninth in what would be an extra-inning affair with the Brewers on a frigid Saturday night, striking out the side with 13 pitches. The 39-year-old’€™s devastating splitter looks as good as ever, and he’€™s out to prove his dominant 2013 was not just a fluke.

Read the rest of this entry »

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