|Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia explain what went wrong on costly pop-up||05.15.13 at 12:14 am ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It had already been a tough inning for John Lackey. The Red Sox starting pitcher, who carried a 3-0 lead into the fourth inning, had seen that advantage get flushed as an opportunistic Rays team rallied on the strength of four hits — including a check-swing double down the left-field line by Luke Scott.
With runners on second and third and two outs, Lackey’s outing stood in considerable peril. It was 3-3, and a mislocated pitch to Matt Joyce could mean two or even three runs.
But after a first-pitch swing-and-miss changeup, Lackey put a pitch right where he wanted it — a fastball that got on Joyce’s hands. Joyce popped it up a mile (“I hit it on the barrel — I hit it really well, just I hit it really high”), long enough that back down on earth below, trouble started brewing.
The footwork of Mike Napoli and Dustin Pedroia as they crept towards the ball was hesitant, uncertain and in Napoli’s case, a bit faltering. Ultimately, when the ball settled, it did so just behind Napoli and bounced on the ground; Pedroia hollered for Napoli not to touch it, to see if it might roll foul. But it stayed just inside the line, coming to a halt on the dirt of the basepaths.
Two runs scored, with the Rays claiming a 5-3 lead that ultimate provided the final margin of victory. Ballgame.
“It’s frustrating, for sure,” acknowledged Lackey. “I made a pitch, and I needed an out.”
Napoli took full responsibility for the miscue. He suggested that he didn’t lose the ball against the roof, and that instead, his problem was purely fundamental as opposed to visual. Read the rest of this entry »
|David Ortiz dealing with ‘a little bit of tightness’ in left oblique||05.14.13 at 11:50 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, following his team’s 5-3 loss to the Rays, confirmed a report on ESPNDeportes.com that he’s been hindered by “a little bit of tightness” in his left oblique. He suggested that he suffered the injury during the three-game series in Texas over the first weekend of May. While the injury is not as severe as a pull, it’s still affected his swing.
“I’m going to keep on playing with it. It’s not at a point where it gets any worse. Hopefully, it doesn’t get any worse. But yeah, it bothers me on some swings that I take,” explained Ortiz, who hit a three-run homer on Tuesday night that represented his first extra-base hit in a week and snapped a 1-for-19 stretch. “Like last week, I was watching some videos, outside pitches that I was kind of pulling, and when you get to the point where you want to drive the ball the other way and next thing you know you’re hooking the ball, that’s not normal, you know what I’m saying? That had a lot to do with it. Hopefully it gets better.”
Manager John Farrell said that he was “somewhat aware” of the condition, which is part of the reason why the team decided to have Ortiz rest during Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays — to create an opportunity for back-to-back days off with Monday’s off-day. Though he feels some discomfort, Ortiz — who is hitting .329 with a .365 OBP, .633 slugging mark and five homers in 20 games — suggested that so long as he’s physically capable of being in the lineup, he intends to remain there.
“I’ve got to play. I have enough time off,” he said. “It’s not at the point where you pull it, because if you pull it, then you’re definitely not going to be able to play. So I just come in early and treat it, then try to move forward.”
|Closing Time: John Lackey, Red Sox offense fall flat in loss to Rays||05.14.13 at 10:25 pm ET|
Sustaining arm strength over a full outing can be one of the biggest challenges facing pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery. And on Tuesday night, that challenge seemingly caught up with Red Sox starter John Lackey.
The right-hander appeared overpowering early, retiring the first seven batters he faced while exhibiting a 91-93 mph fastball and a sharp, biting slider that garnered swings and misses. But after Jose Molina rolled a grounder through the right side of the infield with one out in the third, things fell apart quickly for the right-hander. He escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third, but had no such luck in the fifth, when an array of well-placed hits (a check-swing bloop double to left, a lost-in-the-dome pop-up to first) resulted in a five-run yield. The contact wasn’t hard, but Lackey’s velocity dipped during the frame, as he was working at 89-91 mph.
These are the peaks and valleys that characterize pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery. At times this year, Lackey has featured his best stuff in a Red Sox uniform. Yet there will be moments like Tuesday night where he ultimately looks like he’s swimming upstream against an opposing lineup.
Unfortunately for the Sox, Lackey’s struggle came at a time when the team has been able to provide little leeway to its pitching staff. After the Sox plated three first-inning runs, they were silent over the next eight frames. The result was a 5-3 loss that left the team 2-9 in its last 11 games.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
• Lackey gave up season highs in earned runs (5) and hits (9) while matching his shortest outing of the year (4 1/3 innings). He required 84 pitches (55 strikes). He didn’t give up as much hard contact as his line would lead one to believe — six singles, three doubles — but his stuff declined quickly once he went to the stretch. He also seemed to struggle to find common ground with catcher Ryan Lavarnway on several occasions in the third and fourth innings, resulting in numerous mound visits and a dripping pace.
• After the Sox plated three first-inning runs against Rays starter Matt Moore (while making him throw 30 pitches), they failed to sustain their offense. Moore did not give up another run and ended up working six innings in which he struck out eight and walked two. The Sox had just one hit after the first inning. They have now lost their last five starts against left-handed pitchers, with David Price slated to take the mound against them on Wednesday.
|Red Sox notes: Andrew Bailey takes a step forward, uncertain outlook for David Ross, Shane Victorino is intact||05.14.13 at 7:17 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey took a significant step forward in his return from a sore right biceps, throwing a 25-pitch bullpen in which he used his full array of pitches. It was his first session throwing off a mound (rather than on flat ground) since he landed on the DL on May 6.
The right-hander suggested that physical concerns about the injury that resulted in a DL stint are now behind him, and that he is simply focused on getting ready to pitch in big league games.
“I felt good the last few days, and the other day after I long tossed and threw off flat ground I knew we were kind of over the hump,” said Bailey. “Now it’s just getting back to a baseball mode.”
Barring a setback, Bailey will pitch a simulated game against some Sox hitters on Thursday. The team will use that appearance to gauge whether he’s ready to be activated or if he’ll need to pitch a game on a minor league rehab assignment.
“You don’t want to go out there with the game on the line and not be sharp because you’re just coming off an injury and you end up costing the team a game. Obviously being baseball sharp is just as important as being healthy. I think depending on how Thursday goes and how I feel, we’ll make that decision,” said Bailey, who suggested he’d need no more than one rehab appearance in the minors, if that. “Obviously we still got a couple days to go, right now I feel great and I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Manager John Farrell seconded Bailey’s positive impressions of his bullpen session, though he noted that there could be value in a rehab appearance.
“It’s going to be somewhat sterile here at 2:30 in the afternoon on Thursday. To take it for a test run, I would think [a rehab assignment] would be helpful and to answer any questions that Andrew might have when he steps on with the adrenaline within a given game,” said Farrell. “The one thing that he’s been great about in this situation is giving the feedback on how he feels and having input into the overall plan going forward and so far it’s been positive and he’s responded to every progressive step favorably.”
For his part, Bailey suggested that the bigger picture is promising — chiefly, that even though he had to miss two-plus weeks, he expects to look like the same pitcher who was so dominant (1.46 ERA, 20 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings) prior to his injury.
“I’ve said it a number of times — they brought me over here to do a job last year and I missed a hell of a lot of time. A couple days already obviously — 15-day DL, that sucks — this year, but the way I was throwing the ball, I’m confident I can get back to that and do that for the remainder of the season,” said Bailey. “I think it’s especially important now, with Joel [Hanrahan] gone, I get back and do my thing.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox lineup: Shane Victorino and Ryan Lavarnway get start against Rays||05.14.13 at 3:32 pm ET|
Shane Victorino is back in the lineup and Ryan Lavarnway gets his his first start of 2013 Tuesday night when the Red Sox meet the Rays in Tampa.
RED SOX LINEUP
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Shane Victorino RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jonny Gomes, LF
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Stephen Drew, SS
Ryan Lavarnway, C
John Lackey SP
|Red Sox minor league roundup: The Anthony Rizzo void leaves long-term questions at first||05.14.13 at 1:21 pm ET|
Throughout the Red Sox organization, news of the seven-year, $41 million deal between the Cubs and first baseman Anthony Rizzo was cause for considerable celebration. The 23-year-old’s fan base with his former organization remains strong, with ties that run deeper than usual for a player who has left the organization given the connection between the Sox and Rizzo’s family that was formed over the course of his treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008.
Now five years removed from those months of treatments, Rizzo has continued to build upon the considerable promise he showed as a member of the Red Sox organization, when he slammed 25 homers between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2010.
Through 38 games this year, he’s hitting .277 with a .348 OBP, .527 slugging mark and nine homers in 38 games — looking very much like the future middle-of-the-order force that he projected to be when the Sox sent him to the Padres following the 2010 campaign (along with Casey Kelly, Reymond Fuentes and Eric Patterson) for Adrian Gonzalez.
The Sox’ opinion of Rizzo — as a person and player — never waned, but with Gonzalez slated to man first base through 2018, there seemed no place for the sweet-swinging left-hander. And so, a potential future middle-of-the-order slugger seemed to represent an acceptable cost of business for a player who was expected to deliver elite production more immediately.
But with Gonzalez now having been spun off to the Dodgers, Rizzo’s absence is felt more acutely in an organization that lacks a clear-cut long-term option at first. Mike Napoli is signed through this year, not beyond. Both Daniel Nava and Mike Carp can play first, and both are under team control for a number of years to come (Nava through 2017, Carp through 2016), but it remains to be seen what the two of them look like over a broader sample of games, and whether either could emerge as an everyday option at a position that requires considerable offensive production.
Put another way: While there’s a chance that the team could turn to any of those three beyond 2013, none of the three current Sox first basemen represents a clear-cut answer at the position for years to come, at least at this point. And beneath them, in the minors, there isn’t a prospect who obviously fits that description, either.
In Triple-A, the Sox have players such as Brandon Snyder and Mark Hamilton who could offer serviceable depth to the big league team, but for whom (at ages 26 and 28, respectively) something more than that seems unlikely.
In Double-A, the team has a pair of players who offer intrigue in Travis Shaw and Michael Almanzar. Shaw displays both plate discipline and an offensive approach that the organization loves, working deep into counts, letting the ball travel, driving pitches to the opposite field in left-center. The 23-year-old has considerable raw power, though it’s translated only sporadically to games. He projects as a more likely source of doubles and solid OBPs than middle-of-the-order slugging. And, at 23, it’s worth noting that he’s the same age as Rizzo, with Shaw hitting .231/.369/.364 in the Eastern League while Rizzo is comfortably enmeshed in the heart of the Cubs lineup in the big leagues.
Also in Double-A, Almanzar (primarily playing third base) is off to the best start of his career, hitting .303/.380/.492 with five homers in 32 games. Still, given that this is the first time in years that the 22-year-old has merited legitimate prospect status, and that he’s a career .249/.301/.366 hitter in the minors, it’s difficult to say that he’ll emerge as the long-term answer at first.
Perhaps there will come a time in 2014 or 2015 when the presence of Xander Bogaerts leads the Sox to feature the impressive 20-year-old and Will Middlebrooks on opposite corners of the diamond, most likely with Bogaerts at third and Middlebrooks at first. Both players have the power profiles for the two corners, though, of course, there’s also a reasonable chance that Bogaerts reaches the big leagues as a shortstop and Middlebrooks stays at third. Further down, with third baseman Garin Cecchini dominating in High-A, in two or three years, there’s potential for further crowding on the corners that could ultimately be resolved by one player moving to first (though in the case of both Cecchini and Bogaerts, there are those who believe that if they are to move from their current positions, they are better suited for the outfield than a different infield position).
At this juncture, none of the players whom the Sox have at first base at any level below Double-A profiles as a future everyday big league first baseman. That could change, but in all likelihood, there’s going to be a gap of some years before the Sox feature a homegrown first baseman. And given Rizzo’s performance to date and age — he’s one year younger than Middlebrooks — it’s more unlikely still that the team has a homegrown amateur who thrusts himself into his offensive class.
The Sox were able to undo the major league component of their fateful offseason of 2010-11, shedding Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and the enormous financial constraints that both presented. And the team acquired high-ceiling prospects in Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa who contribute to the team’s best homegrown pitching outlook in years.
But without Gonzalez, the absence of Rizzo is felt, and likely will continue to be for some time to come.
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday night:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-1 LOSS AT CHARLOTTE (WHITE SOX)
– Through Franklin Morales gave up a solo homer, he had an impressive rehab appearance, allowing just the one run on two hits while striking out four and walking none in three innings. He also picked a runner off of first base, got three groundouts (and one flyout) and threw 30 of 48 pitches for strikes (63 percent). Read the rest of this entry »
|Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: John Lackey vs. Matt Moore||05.14.13 at 12:16 pm ET|
The Red Sox will look to get back to their winning ways behind John Lackey as they take on the Rays on Tuesday night. Lackey will be matched up against the undefeated Matt Moore, who will be looking for his seventh win of the season.
Lackey may have just a 1-3 record, but he has been solid for the Red Sox. The 34-year-old comes into his fifth start with a 2.82 ERA and 24 strikeouts and seven walks in 22 1/3 innings pitched. Though not at 100 percent strength yet, Lackey has been going deeper into games, throwing a season-high 102 pitches in seven innings his last time out.
Lackey was not as bad as his line indicates in his last start against the Twins on Thursday. The right-hander cruised through his first four innings before allowing a triple to Oswaldo Arcia and an RBI double to Aaron Hicks. But it was his error with one on and two out in the sixth on a tailor-made double play ball that led to four unearned runs that the Red Sox couldn’t get back. Lackey ended up going seven innings, allowing five runs (only one earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out eight.
The Rays are no strangers to Lackey, who has faced them 19 times in his career, owning a 12-6 record and 4.09 career ERA against them. The Rays have given the starter a bit of trouble in the last four years, however. Since 2009, Lackey has allowed 35 earned runs in 43 1/3 innings, good for a 7.27 ERA over his last eight games against Tampa Bay. Many of the current members of the Rays lineup have good numbers against Lackey: Ben Zobrist, Luke Scott, Yunel Escobar, Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez all are batting above .300 in their careers against the Sox righty.
Moore has had an impressive start to 2013 and is one of only four pitchers to already win six games (Clay Buchholz, Yu Darvish and Justin Masterson are the others). Moore, who is only in his second full year as a big leaguer, comes into Tuesday with the sixth-lowest ERA in the American League (2.14) and has struck out 43 batters in 42 innings. The lefty was outstanding in the month of April, winning all five of his starts and finishing the month with a 1.13 ERA. Moore has also had the luxury of great run support from the lineup, as the Rays have scored an average of 6.49 runs behind him.
If there’s one complaint the Rays might have about Moore, it’s that he hasn’t been very economical. Moore has only reached the seventh inning in two of his seven starts, yet he has thrown over 100 pitches in each outing. He threw five frames in his last start, against Toronto, allowing two runs on six hits and four walks while striking out two.
The 23-year-old Moore has only made two starts and one relief appearance against the Red Sox in his career, and he is 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA vs. Boston. He’s allowed 15 hits and 10 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings while fanning 15 Sox hitters.
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