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Why You Should Have Cared About Saturday’s Red Sox Game: A Derek Jeter sighting; Joe Kelly’s milestone; Garin Cecchini, Rusney Castillo look at home

09.27.14 at 4:13 pm ET
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Derek Jeter had an infield single in two plate appearances on Saturday. (Getty Images)

Derek Jeter had an infield single in two plate appearances on Saturday. (Getty Images)

The main event is Derek Jeter. All else represents a sideshow in the final weekend of the season, albeit a sideshow of intriguing relevance.

Jeter, in the lineup as the designated hitter, batted twice on Saturday before being pulled, punching out on a 99 mph fastball from Red Sox starter Joe Kelly and then beating out a chopper just to the left of second base for an infield hit, his 164th career safety at Fenway Park. The sight of Jeter pouring everything he had into a sprint from home to first represented a fitting emblem of the player, who now has just one remaining game in his career.

While many who were in attendance will take one of their last opportunities to see Jeter on the field as their lasting memory of the game, there were a number of elements beyond the retiring Yankees shortstop that held more lasting significance for the Red Sox in a 10-4 blowout win over the Yankees. Among them:

— Arguably the most significant development was the image of a thoroughly pounded Masahiro Tanaka exiting the field after pitching a season-low 1 2/3 innings and yielding a season-high seven runs (five earned) on seven hits while throwing just 25 of 50 pitches for strikes. As the Yankees try to make a decision about whether he’s healthy enough to avoid Tommy John surgery, and thus whether he’ll be ready to pitch in 2015, Saturday’s struggle represented a billowing red flag for the pitcher’s status entering next year, and hence the state of the Yankees rotation for next season.

— Tanaka’s counterpart, Joe Kelly, concluded his promising first two months with the Red Sox by delivering arguably his best start with the Sox. He featured a 99 mph fastball in his first inning of work, and was still working at that velocity in the seventh. He also showed a changeup that elicited swings and misses from left-handed hitters while once again getting plenty of outs (eight) on the ground. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox prospect Deven Marrero: ‘I want to be the Derek Jeter of the Red Sox’

09.27.14 at 1:00 pm ET
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Deven Marrero

Deven Marrero

It comes as little surprise to hear someone who grew up in the Jeter Generation once aspired to be like Derek Jeter. But some haven’t given up the dream of emulating the Yankees shortstop.

Deven Marrero, whom the Red Sox recognized on Sunday as their Defensive Player of the Year, was elated to be at Fenway Park on Saturday to witness the penultimate game of Jeter’s career. Marrero, a 24-year-old who was the Sox’ first-round selection in the 2012 draft and who concluded the year in Triple-A Pawtucket, suggested the proximity to the Yankees captain was little short of an inspiration.

“It’s awesome. That’s someone who I want to be. I want to be the Derek Jeter of the Red Sox. That’s my goal. He does everything right. He plays the game hard. He’s a champion. That’s all I want to be. To see him finish out like this is so cool. I really wish I could have played with him on the same field, but I just want to continue his legacy. I hope I can continue that in Boston,” said Marrero, who elaborated that his desire to be the Red Sox’ Jeter suggested an ambition “to be a champion. That’s what he is for the Yankees, a champion. He won all those championships and he was the captain. He set a good example for those who will come up behind him.”

Of course, Jeter’s legacy was forged on the basis of his all-around production and steadying defensive influence from a premium position. While Marrero has Gold Glove potential as a defender, his offense has lagged behind his glove. He enjoyed a spectacular start to the year in Double-A Portland, hitting .291 with a .371 OBP and .433 slugging mark, but after a solid start following a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, he slumped severely, hitting .210 with a .260 OBP and .285 slugging mark in 50 Triple-A games. He did experience some recovery during a solid PawSox postseason run, but the exposure to Triple-A pitching represented, more than anything, a lesson in adversity. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Joe Kelly vs. Masahiro Tanaka

09.27.14 at 9:53 am ET
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The Red Sox will play the second game of their series with the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, sending out Joe Kelly to face Masahiro Tanaka.

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

After not winning a single game with the Red Sox in the month of August, Kelly (5-4, 4.15 ERA) has won three of his four starts in September. He struck out five and allowed two runs in his latest victory against the Orioles last Sunday. Both runs came against him in a tough sixth inning, but Kelly recovered to pitch into the seventh inning.

Manager John Farrell said after the game that the right-hander’€™s perseverance during the sixth frame has been emblematic of Kelly’€™s latest starts.

“There’s been times in recent starts here where there’s a moment inside the game where there’s a real competitiveness that comes out of him,” Farrell said. “The last out he recorded in Kansas City against [Omar] Infante; today after it looked like we turned a double play and we don’t get it, he settles right back in to get the next hitter out. He’s able to rise to the moment and execute quality pitches.”

One of Kelly’€™s wins in this recent stretch came against the Yankees in the Bronx. He threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed five hits and three runs. Martin Prado’€™s solo home run was one of the few mistakes Kelly made in an otherwise good outing. Prado is the only Yankees hitter with an extra-base hit against Kelly.

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Why you should have cared about Friday’s Red Sox game: Sox owner John Henry’s state of disbelief; Steven Wright’s case for 2015

09.26.14 at 10:14 pm ET
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It becomes a bit harder to write this on a night where the Red Sox owner wrote this:

So, we’ll keep this brief:

Steven Wright

Steven Wright

The Red Sox entered the year a wealth of upper levels pitching prospects in Triple-A and Double-A. Assessments of the team’s rotation depth naturally centered around Henry Owens (Baseball America’s No. 2 Red Sox prospect entering the year), Allen Webster (No. 4), Brandon Workman (No. 8), Matt Barnes (No. 9), Anthony Ranaudo (No. 11) and even Brian Johnson. Virtually no one was talking about Steven Wright, who — despite a solid first impression in some big league call-ups — went unranked by the publication.

Wright will not — or at least should not — be overlooked entering 2015.

The right-hander made his first big league start of 2014 on Friday night in an eventual 3-2 Sox loss to the Yankees. Against a New York lineup that looked like it was straight out of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he proved effective, allowing two runs (none earned) on four hits (all singles) in five innings. He walked two and struck out four, his knuckleball moving well enough that he gave fits to both the Yankees lineup and catcher Dan Butler (two passed balls). In 21 big league innings, he has a 2.57 ERA with 22 strikeouts and four walks. Of all the prospects whom the Sox have cycled through the big leagues from Pawtucket over the final two months of the year, Wright’s ability to throw strikes while eliciting either swings and misses or bad contact has been the most consistent.

The net result? Wright will be in the conversation going forward for innings at the big league level in 2015. His ability to change speeds and throw strikes with his knuckleball suggests a pitcher who has a chance to contribute to the Sox rotation. He will not be overlooked in prospect circles, and certainly not in the Red Sox organization, for what he might be able to offer going forward.

“He’€™s in the right place,” said manager John Farrell, “an organization that embraces this type of pitcher.”

OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT FRIDAY’S GAME

— Rusney Castillo, to underscore that Thursday’s home run power was no fluke, went deep again, crushing a slider from right-hander Shawn Kelly onto Lansdowne Street. In 30 big league at-bats, Castillo is hitting .267 with an .813 OPS. He’s showing a surprising ability to get his bat on the ball given that he’s facing big league pitching for the first time and that he’s doing so after what amounts to a 16-month stretch without playing in games following his defection from Cuba, and he’s not merely making contact but showing an ability to drive the ball.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Derek Jeter: ‘If it was anywhere [but Boston], I don’t know if I’d play’

09.26.14 at 8:01 pm ET
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Derek Jeter celebrates his walk-off single Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. (Getty Images)

Derek Jeter celebrates his walk-off single Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. (Getty Images)

Derek Jeter acknowledged that he managed to claim little sleep on Thursday night, after he punctuated his career in New York with a ninth-inning walkoff single to right. The game — which he declared to be the last one he’ll play at shortstop — was a singularly emotional, draining experience, in which the Yankees captain found himself fighting back tears both in the clubhouse prior to the game and then again while on the field during the game.

“I can’€™t think of a better way to end my career at Yankee Stadium,” said Jeter. “You couldn’t have scripted it any better.”

He was so emotionally exhausted, and simply fatigued from the lack of sleep, that Jeter said that Friday marked the first time in his career that he asked for the night off. Yet he does not want his final, singular Yankee Stadium moment to be his last ever on a baseball field. Though Jeter has Friday night off, he plans to play as either a pinch-hitter or designated hitter during the series. Had the Yankees been playing somewhere other than Boston, Jeter suggested, he might have called it a career after New York. But under the circumstances, he wanted to have a last chance to play at Fenway Park.

“If there’€™s anywhere to play besides New York, I guess it’€™s only fitting that it’€™s here in Boston because of all the games that I’€™ve played here, the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees. If you can’€™t do it in New York, this is the next-best place, I guess. … I’€™m playing here because I have respect for this rivalry, for Boston, and the fans. If it was anywhere else I don’€™t know if I’€™d play,” said Jeter. “My plan was always to play here. I wanted to take something from New York, that’€™s why I said it was my last time playing shortstop. I have the utmost respect for the Red Sox organization and their fans here. I would love to come and play here one last time.”

Jeter said that he had lunch and spent a bit of time outside in Boston on Friday, and that his reception was pleasant, welcoming. That, he noted, represented a dramatic change in his history in the city.

“People were just saying congratulations on the career and that I’m a Red Sox fan, I hate the Yankees but I respect you. It was brief. I wasn’t outside much because I hadn’t slept much. I tried to stay in. When I was walking here through the stands, there were fans cheering, which was kind of different,” said Jeter. “I remember coming here in the All-Star Game in ’99 and the car that was dropping us off went to the wrong entrance. I was out of the car walking to the stadium and I thought they were going to kill me, they were all over me. So it’s funny how things have changed. … I think after they won, it sort of — I don’t want to say they softened up, so don’t say they softened up, but I think they’ve become a little bit kinder. And thank you for that.”

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Jacoby Ellsbury: ‘I’ve loved my first season in New York’

09.26.14 at 6:28 pm ET
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Jacoby Ellsbury‘s season is winding down in anticlimactic fashion. His first year in New York is ending not only without the promise of a playoff appearance, but also with Ellsbury sidelined by a hamstring injury.

Ellsbury’s year has been solid if somewhat short of his career norms. He’s hit .271 with a .328 OBP and .419 slugging mark, a bit down from his career line with the Red Sox of .297/.350/.439, though he did hit 16 homers (the second highest total of his career) and steal 39 bases, making him one of the premier power/speed combinations in the game, in 149 contests. Though Ellsbury characterized his season as ultimately disappointing based on the imminence of its conclusion for the Yankees, he also suggested that the transition from the Sox to the Yankees — in the first year of his seven-year, $153 million deal — had gone as well as he could have hoped for.

“I think a lot of my goals are team goals. Obviously it’s not a good feeling not to make the postseason,” said Ellsbury. “I know a lot of guys are going to work hard in the offseason from day one, try to get better. From a personal standpoint, I’m always setting the bar high for myself, always trying to improve. That’s going to be no different this offseason, but from a team standpoint, it’s something, yeah, you don’t want to experience again. When you do win, it’s the best feeling. You want to feel that again.”

As for his adaptation to New York, Ellsbury said that his first year with an organization other than the Sox had gone as smoothly as he could have hoped.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Ellsbury. “I like that comfort. I’d never been anywhere else. I like the, I always wanted to play for one team. It obviously didn’t work out that way. But this has been an unbelievable season in the sense of, the guys walking in the clubhouse, I’ve loved my first season in New York. I loved everything about it. I’m excited about the future. I’m excited about the next, at least, six years.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Kevin Millar on MFB: Derek Jeter ‘cannot not play’ this weekend at Fenway

09.26.14 at 12:58 pm ET
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Kevin Millar

Kevin Millar

MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar joined Middays with MFB on Friday to discuss whether Derek Jeter should play in his final series this weekend at Fenway Park. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Following Thursday’s walkoff single against the Orioles in his emotional final game at Yankee Stadium, Jeter said he will serve as designated hitter but not play shortstop when he faces the Red Sox this weekend.

Some have said Jeter should allow Thursday’s dramatics to go in the history books as his final sendoff and skip the Sox series. Millar does not agree.

“The one thing Derek knows is he’s got class. And he knows how important it is for him to play in this series,” Millar said. “I get you, it’s a great argument, it’s a great debate. Last night, storybook, you just ride off into the wind. The best thing for him would be if they won the World Series. … At the end of the day, it’s important for the fans, it’s important for the ownership of the Red Sox, it’s important for Red Sox Nation.

“It’s just, the rivalry. He cannot not play. So he’s going to do DH some, get out and they can say goodbye to him also. But that’s my point, is that: Get out there and appreciate this, because it’s over after Sunday. And then there’ll be another shortstop, they’ll go out and sign Hanley Ramirez or whoever their next generation’s going to be. … But we get a chance to see Derek Jeter, pretty cool, one of the greatest to ever play the game.”

Added Millar: “I think Jeter’s chapter he wrote, it’s already signed, sealed, delivered, that book’s closed. Now this is just a favor, a favor for the Red Sox fans and this rivalry over 20 years to play these next three days.”

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