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Red Sox president Sam Kennedy: Pitching David Price in home opener ‘100 percent John Farrell’s call’

04.10.16 at 10:32 pm ET
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Sam Kennedy

Sam Kennedy

Perhaps the controversy will have died down a bit by the time David Price takes the mound Monday afternoon, but ever since John Farrell announced the ace would be pushed back a day, letting Steven Wright make Sunday’s start, there has been buzz.

Was this a mandate from above, such as Red Sox ownership, to get Price the start in the home opener? Why would there be such a priority to make sure the No. 5 starter, Wright, stayed on his regular turn?

While appearing at the second annual WEEI Baseball Round Table at the Cathedral Station Sports Bar and Restaurant, team president Sam Kennedy offered his explanation as to how things transpired.

“Selfishly, as someone who will be at Opening Day, I’m excited to watch David Price in person. I think ownership and those in the front office weren’t sure what was going to happen, but it was 100 percent John Farrell’s call,” Kennedy said. “I think the thinking was that you had right-handers going against a right-handed lineup, and No. 2, the knuckleball hopefully works better in the [Rogers Centre] dome, and No. 3, you want to keep the rotation early in the year. It didn’t seem to be that big of a deal, but I understand it has become a big talk radio issue, and I understand that any time you have David Price going.

“[Kennedy and ownership] were at Fenway and we heard from Dave Dombrowski who was with the club that that was the decision they had made inside the clubhouse. I can assure you that was not a decision that was mandated by me or John [Henry] or Tom [Werner] or anybody else. That was a baseball decision and hopefully it will work out.”

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Closing Time: Steven Wright pitches well, but punchless Red Sox shut out by Blue Jays

04.10.16 at 5:19 pm ET
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Steven Wright wasn't the problem in Sunday's loss to the Jays. (Nick Turchiaro-USA Today Sports)

Steven Wright wasn’t the problem in Sunday’s loss to the Jays. (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

Not even David Price could’ve saved them.

The controversy all week over the Red Sox’ choice of starter for Sunday’s finale in Toronto was rendered irrelevant by Jays right-hander Marco Estrada, who combined with two relievers to shut out the Red Sox in Toronto’s 3-0 victory.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright got the start on Price’s regularly scheduled day to pitch, with the Red Sox opting to hold Price back a day for Monday’s home opener at Fenway Park. Wright certainly did his part, limiting the high-octane Blue Jays to six hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five, but the Red Sox could do nothing with the crafty Estrada, who went seven shutout innings, striking out eight.

“Outstanding job on his part,” manager John Farrell said of Wright. “Kept us in the game into the seventh inning. He minimized the damage as much as possible in the first, but after that first inning, he settled in and controlled and commanded the knuckleball very well. He used his fastball at times to get ahead in the count, to get back into counts. But we ran into an outstanding pitching performance by Estrada today.”

The Jays basically won this one by the time they recorded their first out on offense. Singles by Kevin Pillar and Josh Donaldson leading off, followed by a walk to Jose Bautista, loaded the bases with one out. Edwin Encarnacion hit a double-play grounder to short, but Dustin Pedroia threw away Xander Bogaerts’ relay, allowing Encarnacion to reach and two runs to score.

Wright escaped further damage and kept the Jays off the board the rest of the way, their only other run coming on a mammoth solo homer by Donaldson off of reliever Noe Ramirez in the eighth.

The Red Sox return to Fenway 3-2 after a successful season-opening road trip, however, having taken two of three from the Jays.

Closing Time note

Until Ramirez allowed Donaldson’s homer, Red Sox relief pitchers had held opponents to a .100 average (5-for-50), the lowest mark among big league bullpens.

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Sunday Red Sox Farm Report: Sam Travis delivers walk-off hit for PawSox

04.10.16 at 8:39 am ET
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Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday.

Sam Travis

Sam Travis

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (2-1): L, 3-1, Game 1 and W, 4-3, Game 2 vs. Buffalo (Blue Jays)

— First baseman Sam Travis (Boston’s No. 7 prospect at MLB.com) was the hero of Game 2 with a walk-off single ripped down the left-field line that gave Pawtucket a 4-3 victory. Second baseman Josh Rutledge led off the bottom of the seventh (the final inning as in standard minor league doubleheader formats) with a single to center and advanced to second with a stolen base. Catcher Christian Vazquez was then intentionally walked, bringing Travis to the plate for the finish.

Travis, 22, had also singled home a run in the fifth — a laced single to center on a 2-0 pitch that scored shortstop Marco Hernandez — to tie the game at 3 as Travis finished the nightcap 2-for-4 with two RBIs after going 1-for-3 with a run scored in Game 1. Selected by Boston in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Indiana University, Travis was named the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 after slashing .307/.381/.452 in 131 games split between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland.

— Rutledge, Hernandez and Vazquez combined to go 8-for-11 with four runs scored hitting in the top three spots of the PawSox order in Game 2. Hernandez tripled home Rutledge in the first with a shot off the left-center wall, and later came home on a Vazquez single past third base. Hernandez would add a double in the third as well, pulling one into right field and hustling in to second ahead of the throw.

Hernandez, a 23-year-old switch hitter, slashed .305/.330/.454 last season split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket as he finished with nine homers, 30 doubles and six triples in 114 games played. Hernandez was acquired by Boston from the Chicago Cubs as part of the return in the Felix Doubront trade in December of 2014.

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Sunday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Steven Wright vs. Marco Estrada

04.10.16 at 8:23 am ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

In the series finale on Sunday, Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright will take on Blue Jays righty Marco Estrada. Both pitchers will be making their first start of the 2016 season.

Wright was used as a spot starter for most of 2015, when he started nine games. He posted a record of 5-4 to go with a 4.09 ERA and 52 strikeouts. He may find himself in a similar role this season once Eduardo Rodriguez returns from injury. The 31-year-old earned the temporary fifth spot in spring training, when he struck out 19 and had an ERA of 2.77 over 26 innings. He will come into his first outing with some positive momentum, as he impressed in his final Grapefruit League start against the Blue Jays at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on April 1.

“I thought he was outstanding for the time on the mound,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after that game. “A high number of strikeouts. His knuckleball was really working inside a dome, which is what we’ve seen over time, it usually has extra action to it. That was the case tonight. He threw a number of curveballs, a pitch that he’s brought along this spring. A very good outing for Steven.”

Wright will once again have the advantage of playing in a dome on Sunday, this time in Toronto. While he has never started a regular-season game against the Blue Jays, he has been used out of the bullpen on two separate occasions. In seven innings of work, he has allowed three earned runs and struck out nine.

As for Estrada, he will be coming off the disabled list to make his first start on Sunday. He started the year there with a sore back but pitched in a minor league game on Monday where he gave up one run on three hits over five innings of work.

Last season was Estrada’s best yet. The 32-year-old from Mexico posted a record of 13-8 to go with a 3.13 ERA and 131 strikeouts, setting career bests in wins, ERA, WHIP and innings pitched. His only downfall has been through the long ball. In the past two seasons alone, Estrada has allowed 53 home runs.

In five games against the Red Sox, Estrada is 2-2 with a 4.95 ERA and 14 strikeouts.

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Closing Time: Rick Porcello, Red Sox rally to knock off Blue Jays, improve to 3-1

04.09.16 at 3:59 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts is greeted by teammates after scoring in the third on Saturday. (Dan Hamilton-USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts is greeted by teammates after scoring in the third on Saturday. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

The way the Red Sox are swinging the bats right now, their starting pitching is about as relevant as Pablo Sandoval’s belt.

It says something about the quality of their non-David Price starts that Rick Porcello’s six-inning, four-run performance against the Blue Jays on Saturday felt like a godsend. But it says even more about their offense that deficits of 2-0 and 4-3 didn’t last very long.

Porcello settled down after a rough start and the bats stayed red-hot as the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 8-4 and improved to 3-1 on the young season.

“With the lineup that we have, and the things that they’re doing right now, our job is to keep us in the game and pitch as deep as possible,” Porcello told reporters in Toronto. “That’s it. That being said, you face some tough lineups, it can be a challenge, but we’ve got a great lineup and really really good defense, and that’s to our advantage.”

The offensive stars were everywhere in this one, from Dustin Pedroia (3-for-5, 2 RBIs) to Rusney Castillo (2-for-4) to Hanley Ramirez (triple, RBI) to Brock Holt (another extra-base hit).

“It’s seemingly different guys every day,” manager John Farrell told reporters. “I thought Rusney matched up well with the knuckleballer today. He responds with two good hits, a couple of runs scored. Hanley, once again, we catch a break on a high bounce that goes over Jose [Bautista’s] head for a triple and a couple of runs. We score on another wild pitch. We were given some gift outs. I think [R.A.] Dickey’s knuckleball, I think that was the best I’ve ever seen, as violent as it was, and  we were able to put some innings together against him.”

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Pablo Sandoval breaks belt when swinging bat

04.09.16 at 1:45 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval finally got his start, but it didn’t start out the way he probably had hoped.

Hitting sixth in the Red Sox lineup Saturday afternoon against Toronto starter R.A. Dickey, Sandoval struck out in his first at-bat. But that was only part of the problem.

When fouling off a Dickey knuckleballer earlier in the count, Sandoval broke his belt, causing the third baseman to finish off his at-bat without his pant’s support system.

To make matters worse, Sandoval was charged with a throwing error when fielding his first chance at third in the bottom half of the second.

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Saturday Red Sox Farm Report: Henry Owens, Anderson Espinoza impress in 2016 debuts

04.09.16 at 10:30 am ET
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Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Friday.

Henry Owens

Henry Owens

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (1-0): W, 2-0 vs. Buffalo (Blue Jays). Next action Saturday vs. Buffalo.

— Left-hander Henry Owens was dominant in his 2016 debut as he went six shutout innings, allowing just one hit while walking three and striking out eight to pick up the win in the PawSox’ 2-0 win. He threw 92 pitches and 55 strikes. This is a good sign for Owens to get off to a good start after a somewhat shaky spring.

— Anthony Varvaro pitched two shutout innings in relief allowing just one hit and struck out four and then Health Hembree pitched the ninth to earn the save.

— Christian Vazquez, who has opened the year on the Red Sox’ disabled list, played all nine innings behind the plate and went 1-for-2 at the plate with a double. He also had two walks and a strikeout.

— The offense was provided by Allen Craig who doubled home Justin Maxwell in the second inning and then Sean Coyle hit Pawtucket’s first home run of 2016 with two outs in the seventh inning. They could have had even more offense, but went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Craig went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts, while in his Triple-A debut, Sam Travis went 0-for-3 with a walk.

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Red Sox lineup: Pablo Sandoval, Rusney Castillo get starts

04.09.16 at 10:19 am ET
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Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval

TORONTO — It was going to happen sooner or later: Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo are in the starting lineup.

Red Sox manager John Farrell is jugging the batting order a bit heading into his team’s second game of a three-game set at Rogers Centre, giving Sandoval the start while moving over Travis Shaw to first and Hanley Ramirez to designated hitter. David Ortiz gets at least the start of the game off.

Castillo gets his first start of the season in center field, with Jackie Bradley Jr., who dropped to .200 after going 0-for-4 Friday night beginning on the bench. It will mark his first at-bats of the season.

“To get everybody on the field, get everybody involved in a ballgame on this first road trip,” said Farrell when asked about the approach against Toronto starter R.A. Dickey. “Dickey’s kind of an unusual matchup for us and I think there are certain types of swings that have felt, over a course of time, that have played better against a knuckleballer. It’s an opportunity for Rusney to get into center field, put Panda on the field as well, who’s swung the bat in a limited number of bats but at least he’s swung the bat decently against Dickey. This keeps everybody involved.”

Here is the Red Sox lineup with knuckleballer Dickey on the mound for the Blue Jays and Rick Porcello starting for the visitors:

Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Travis Shaw 1B
Hanley Ramirez DH
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Brock Holt LF
Rusney Castillo CF
Blake Swihart C

For the pitching matchups, click here.

Saturday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Rick Porcello vs. R.A. Dickey

04.09.16 at 9:12 am ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

In the second game of the season’s first weekend series, the Red Sox will have righty Rick Porcello on the hill for his 2016 debut. He will be opposed by Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

The 2015 season was a forgettable one for Porcello. Before he even made his first start with the club, the Red Sox signed him to a four-year, $82.5 million extension. Along with the high price tag came high expectations, and Porcello certainly did not live up to them. In one of his worst seasons statistically, he went 9-15 with a career worst 4.92 ERA and 149 strikeouts.

His spring training brought more cause for concern, as he struggled to find consistent success and had a several rough outings. Red Sox manager John Farrell echoed this in an interview after Porcello was hit hard by the Orioles in a Grapefruit League matchup.

“He’s capable of better,” Farrell said on March 28. “He has shown that. We need Rick to pitch to his strengths, which are continually worked on. He’s working at it to continue to refine it and gain that consistency. We need him to be a little bit more consistent.”

In 11 career starts against the Blue Jays, Porcello is 4-7 with a 5.29 ERA.

Dickey and Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright originally were to match up on Saturday, which would have been the first time in 16 years that two knuckleballers started against each other, but Thursday’s cancellation in Cleveland caused the Sox to tweak the pitching schedule.

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Closing Time: Red Sox complete improbable comeback against Blue Jays

04.08.16 at 10:51 pm ET
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Brock Holt celebrates his grand slam Friday night. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Brock Holt celebrates his grand slam Friday night. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

TORONTO — The roof was closed. The stands were full. The home-opening ceremony took place. It all suggested Friday night might be something out of the ordinary.

It was.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, when the dust settled John Farrell’s club had come away with an improbable, come-from-behind, 8-7 win over the Blue Jays, spoiling Toronto’s home opener at Rogers Centre.

After Josh Donaldson’s grand slam drove Red Sox starter Joe Kelly from the game with nobody out in the fourth inning, giving the Blue Jays a five-run lead, it appeared the story had been told. Not so fast.

Six unanswered Red Sox runs, and some lock-down relief ultimately changed everything.

Kelly’s outing was undeniably the most discouraging aspect of the night for the Red Sox, with the two starters not named David Price (Buchholz and Kelly) currently combining for a 15.43 ERA.

(To read more on Kelly’s start, click here.)

The most memorable hit for the Red Sox also was easily identified, with Brock Holt bringing his club back into the mix with a sixth-inning grand slam off Toronto reliever Jesse Chavez. The homer was a line drive down the right field line that narrowly cleared the wall.

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