|Red Sox minor league roundup: Making sense of Mookie Betts; Jose Iglesias returns; Franklin Morales sharp; Drake Britton becoming efficient||05.09.13 at 11:58 am ET|
The performance of second baseman Mookie Betts with Single-A Greenville this season looks unlike anything else seen in the minors in 2013.
The 2011 high school fifth-rounder, went 2-for-5 with a homer (his third of the year) and double, three walks, a steal and no strikeouts in the double header, in the process continuing his utterly fascinating debut in full-season ball. The 20-year-old is hitting just .184 but with a .390 OBP and .333 slugging mark, along with three homers and six steals, on the season. The disparity between average and OBP is something that has almost never been seen in the annals of major league history.
But Betts is performing as more than just a statistical anomaly. Since April 25, Betts is hitting .233 but with an astonishing .540 OBP (seventh-best in all of the minors in that span — and of the six played ahead of his, none is hitting less than .381) and .433 slugging mark and a minor-league best 20 walks (no one else has more than 14) with just five strikeouts in 50 plate appearances.
Betts is not a physically imposing player. However, though listed at 5-foot-9 and 156 pounds, he has some juice in his bat at times, as became evident when he crushed his homer on Wednesday.
“He’s worth watching,” said one NL talent evaluator. “He’s wiry strong, has got a little bat speed and strength, runs a little bit.”
At a relatively young age (20), Betts demonstrates an advanced approach, excellent knowledge of the strike zone and good bat control (hence the low strikeout rates). The Sox think he’s at his best when staying up the middle and hitting to the opposite field, though the team would also like to see him take some chances with more aggressive swings early in the count when he has good pitches to hit. Even so, Betts has shown consistently good at-bats, making him the most intriguing position prospect on the Greenville team thus far this year.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 WIN AT GWINNETT (BRAVES)
– Jose Iglesias returned to the PawSox lineup after being pulled in the middle of Saturday’s game for a manager’s decision and then sitting the next three contests. He went 1-for-5, and is now hitting .233/.273/.384 in Triple-A.
|Thursday’s Red Sox-Twins matchups: John Lackey vs. Kevin Correia||05.09.13 at 10:38 am ET|
John Lackey will close out the Red Sox’ series with the Twins on Thursday at 7:10 p.m., as Kevin Correia looks to continue his strong start for Minnesota.
Since returning from a biceps injury that sidelined him for most of April, Lackey has made two starts. He looked solid against the Astros on April 28, allowing one run on five hits over six innings as the Sox won, 6-1.
Things didn’t go quite as well his next time out, when Lackey needed 98 pitches to get through just five innings against the Rangers. He gave up three runs on six hits and three walks, allowing a home run, and the Sox lost 5-1, although Lackey’s pitching was less of a problem overall than the Sox’ lack of offense.
Over his three starts (totaling 15 1/3 innings, as he was lifted during the fifth inning of his first start with pain in his biceps), Lackey has 16 strikeouts and six walks, with a 1.44 WHIP and 3.52 ERA.
Lackey has made 15 career starts against the Twins, with a 1.25 WHIP and a 3.68 ERA. He’s struck out just 72 in 102 2/3 innings against Minnesota.
The last time he saw the Twins was on April 14, 2010. In his only outing against them in that season, he threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on seven hits and four walks.
Correia is with his third team in the last four years, and he’s been the Twins’ best starter early this season, with a 1.14 WHIP and a 2.83 ERA through his first six outings. He went at least seven innings in each of his first five starts before lasting only five in his most recent appearance, a 7-3 loss to the Indians.
Correia has never been an overwhelming strikeout pitcher — since 2011, he’s averaged fewer than five K’s per nine innings, and he’s fanned just 19 through his first 41 1/3 innings. But he’s kept his walks under control and worked efficiently this year, outside of his last start, when he threw 102 pitches through five innings.
Correia saw plenty of Stephen Drew when they were both in the NL West, as Correia pitched for the Giants and Padres while Drew was a Diamondback. Drew has a .278 OBP against him with one home run and three doubles in 54 appearances. (Another longtime National Leaguer, Ryan Dempster, has also come to the plate against Correia nine times, going hitless with three strikeouts.)
Of the Twins’ two biggest names, Lackey has handled Justin Morneau well, limiting him to two extra-base hits and a .286 OBP in 35 PAs. Joe Mauer has fared better against Lackey, hitting .435/.458/.696 with two homers in 24 PAs.
|Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan on D&C: ‘Clay Buchholz isn’t getting, to me, any sort of competitive advantage over his peers’||05.09.13 at 9:52 am ET|
Yahoo! Sports writer Jeff Passan joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to talk about the Clay Buchholz controversy. Passon published a piece Wednesday detailing how a large majority of pitchers throughout the majors use BullFrog brand sunscreen combined with powdered rosin to give them a superior grip on the baseball.
“What I don’t understand about this whole this is the indignance that’s coming from [Buchholz] about it,” Passan said. “I suppose if he were to come out and say, ‘Yeah, I had sunscreen on my arm, and when you mix it with resin it makes a really tacky, glue-like substance that allows you to grip the ball better.’ And pitchers know that across baseball they do it. And hitters know that pitchers do it. And nobody seems to have a problem with it.”
Buchholz’ apparent method was revealed by Blue Jays radio analyst Dirk Hayhurst, and Toronto TV analyst Jack Morris took it further, accusing Buchholz of doctoring the baseball.
“Dirk Hayhurst is not a villain for pointing this out,” Passan said. “I think Dirk Hayhurst, frankly, gave us all a much better insight into the game. Jack Morris said something stupid. This isn’t a spitball. It’s just not. The hitters and the pitchers will agree that you do not get any weird movement based on using BullFrog plus rosin.
“But for Clay Buchholz to continue to go out about this and say there was nothing on his arm but rosin? Rosin is a powder. His arm looked like it was dipped in Soul Glo [hair product]. I mean, it was bad. And it was egregious. And that’s why all the pitchers with whom I spoke were like, you know what, if you’re going to cheat, at least be smart about it. And I use the word ‘cheat’ very loosely. Because it just probably really isn’t cheating at all.”
Passan said he does not expect that Major League Baseball will attempt to restrict pitchers from using sunscreen to get a better grip.
“Baseball considers sunscreen legal, it considers rosin legal. If the two happen to make a tacky substance that helps them hold the ball a little bit better, then I think Major League Baseball’s OK with that,” Passan said. “It’s one of these things that for years has been around. It just so happens that no one’s said it. Look, if you look back at Yu Darvish‘s near perfect game earlier this year against Houston, he’s going to his left arm all the time. People I think noticed that. But the oil slick on his arm just wasn’t nearly as evident as it was with Buchholz’.”
Added Passan: “I think the main point here is everybody uses this stuff. And so Clay Buchholz isn’t getting, to me, any sort of competitive advantage over his peers by using it.”
Asked why Buchholz has had so much success this season, Passan said: “Because he’s been really good. It has nothing to do with the stuff that’s on his arm. His stuff is nasty. And his stuff has a lot of natural movement to it. As long as Clay Buchholz is healthy and is around the strike zone, he’s going to be this guy. He just hasn’t been healthy and hasn’t been around the strike zone in the past.
“I just think that he’s at that age right now where he realizes that his career can veer one of two ways. It can go down the path of superstardom, and it can go down the path of had all the potential in the world and threw it away. I think John Farrell‘s return and I think Josh Beckett‘s exit has created this confluence that Clay Buchholz is turning into that star.”
|Jose De La Torre to become newest member of Red Sox bullpen||05.09.13 at 9:18 am ET|
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning that the team would be promoting reliever Jose De La Torre, replacing Allen Webster on the 25-man roster. The Sox still have to clear a spot off the 40-man roster in order to add the 27-year-old right-hander.
De La Torre has been impressive with Triple-A Pawtucket, totaling a 1.56 ERA in 10 games. Opponents are hitting just .089 against the reliever, who has struck out 17 and walked 10 in 17 1/3 innings. He last pitched Tuesday, and hasn’t allowed a run since April 11 (seven straight scoreless appearances).
This is the first major league call-up for De La Torre, who had previously been in the Mets and Indians minor league systems. He made an impression during this year’s World Baseball Classic, striking out 12 in just 5 2/3 innings while pitching for Puerto Rico.
|Ben Cherington on D&C: ‘Unfortunate and sad’ that David Ortiz faces questions about PEDs||05.09.13 at 9:12 am ET|
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning, after the Red Sox lost for the fifth time in six games with Wednesday night’s 15-8 setback vs. the Twins.
“We hit a little bit of a bump. And obviously last night was not our best night,” Cherington said. “[We've] got to grind through those and get back to playing better baseball, more crisp baseball, and executing. That’s what we had done for most of April. Just got to minimize this little rough patch and get past it.”
Asked to pinpoint the team’s main problem, Cherington pointed to the pitching staff.
“It all really comes back to pitching,” Cherington said. “When we’re executing and pounding the strike zone and sort of taking it to the opposing lineup, we’re a much better team and gives ourselves a chance to control the game and keep our lineup in the dugout and keep the lineup rolling, etc.
“We feel good about our team and where it is. We just hit a bit of a rough patch. We had to use a lot of our bullpen over the weekend in Texas and then certainly Monday [vs.] Minnesota. It was a bit of a scramble to get through the last two days. Hopefully as we move forward over the next few days we’ll get a chance to reset the bullpen, kind of get the pitching staff back on track from a workload standpoint and get going. So, it just goes back to pitching. But the same guys are there, and we’ve just got to get back to executing.”
With some key injuries in the bullpen, the Sox have had to juggle the roster. Cherington said another pitcher will be called up from Pawtucket for Thursday’s game.
“We’ve had to dip into the Triple-A depth even a little bit more early in the year than we hoped,” Cheringtons aid. “But we’ve got some guys throwing well there. We’ll have another guy in there tonight — Jose De La Torre will get his crack in the big leagues. He’s been throwing the ball really well and has been throwing the ball really well for over a year now in Triple-A. He’s a talented pitcher. It’s just an opportunity for other guys to step up.”
Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy this week questioned David Ortiz about performance-enhancing drugs after the designated hitter returned from the disabled list and got off to a tremendous start. Cherington defended his slugger and noted Ortiz’ offensive skills have remained consistent for years.
“I was disappointed by it,” Cherington said. “And I don’t mean toward Dan specifically. But just generally, it seems as if when a player who happens to be in his 30s is still performing at a high level, there’s this sort of automatic suspicion. I sort of looked at it yesterday and thought about it. David’s been one of the most consistent and durable players in the big leagues over the last several years, even counting the fact that he missed some time last year. His performance when he’s been out there has been remarkably consistent, including the power numbers.
“So, if he had started this year, let’s say over the first 10 games or so hitting .300 with some power instead of .400 with some power, would anyone be saying anything? And then once you sort of take that into account and recognize that every good player goes through a streak during the year where they hit .400 and then every good player also goes through a streak during the year where they hit .200 over 10 games, and that’s how they end up at .300 at the end of the year. David would be the first to tell you he’s probably not going to end the year hitting .400. But we fully expect him to end the year being one of the best hitters in the league and a huge part of the middle of our lineup.
“It’s disappointing to me because of the hot start he’s got to face that question, when, as he said yesterday, when he didn’t get off to a good start a couple of years ago, he’s got to face questions the other way. It’s a disappointing thing. I guess we understand in the big picture where those questions come from. But, as David said, he’s part of a program as every player on our team is, every player in baseball is. It ought to take a little bit more than a hot streak to raise that question, in my opinion.”
Asked about the possibility of some players beating MLB’s drug testing, Cherington responded: “All I know is that the program’s in place, it’s a strong program. There’s a lot of testing. Every player in baseball is tested, including ours. They don’t know when it’s going to come. It happens during the offseason, it happens during spring training, it happens during the season. And there’s clearly penalties for testing positive. If a player tests positive, then that player has to be accountable for that, take responsibility for that, and there are penalties.
“But until that point, it seems unfair — it’s unfortunate and sad almost that David has to deal with that and we have to hear about it without any evidence other than a player just doing well on the field.”
|Closing Time: Red Sox tied for first place after blowout loss to Twins||05.08.13 at 10:52 pm ET|
Allen Webster isn’t ready to be the Red Sox’ savior quite yet.
In his second major league start, Allen Webster was roughed up all over the place in what resulted in a 15-8 Twins victory over the Red Sox on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. It was the Sox’ sixth loss in their last nine games. They now are tied for first place in the American League East with Baltimore (21-13).
Webster allowed eight runs on six hits, walking three in just 1 2/3 innings. He was followed by Felix Doubront, who proceeded to allow six runs on 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings. The starter threw 54 pitches, while Doubront made 105 pitches in relief.
After the game, Webster was informed he would be returning to Triple-A Pawtucket.
After striking out the first batter of the game, Jamey Carroll, Webster proceeded to issue two walks before Justin Morneau‘s ground-rule double. Trevor Plouffe followed with a sacrifice fly, which was followed by Ryan Doumit‘s two-run homer to give the visitors a 4-0 lead after the first half-inning.
“I can’t say it was just because of some emotion that took him out of his game,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Webster. “Right from the start, just the inability to establish a given pitch to a certain area to get a strike when needed. And when he got behind in the count, then he’s obviously at a disadvantage. Against this team, if there isn’t a secondary pitch to command behind in the count, we saw tonight what they can do.”
And even though Jonny Gomes‘ first-inning grand slam and Stephen Drew‘s RBI single gave the Sox a one-run lead heading into the second, the combination of Webster and Doubront teamed to allow seven runs in the second, paving the way for the Minnesota rout.
Doubront is scheduled to make his next start, with Webster heading back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
“Our plan had been, and still remains, that Felix would take that turn,” Farrell said. “We stated that yesterday. We tried to be as clear as we could with the guys involved, both Allen and Felix, just to get through these two days so there was no confusion if Felix got up last night, or if he didn’t get in was he going to pitch and make that start today. So just from a communication standpoint we tried to be as clear as possible over these two days. But we haven’t come off that initial plan, which is Felix starting the next time through.
“Once again, physically everything checks out. He doesn’t complain or state any tightness or physical limitations. But still, even with stuff might be a little bit reduced for what we’ve known him for, we’ve got to pitch accordingly. That is to still locate. Every time they showed a replay it seemed like a ball found the middle of the plate, even when he was ahead in the count. The finish and the lateness to the stuff is not as sharp as we’ve seen, but that’s the plan right now.”
Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox loss.
WHAT WENT WRONG
• David Ortiz‘ 27-game hit streak came to an end, making him two games shy of reaching Johnny Damon‘s 29-game stretch in 2005. Dom DiMaggio holds the team record, hitting in 34 straight games in 1949. Ortiz finished going 0-for-5, dipping his average from .414 to .381. After the game, the designated hitter spiced things up via Twitter:
End of my hitting streak tonight the season stil going and l hope Dan shaugnessy is a happy man now… Not more 426 enjoy it✌
— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) May 9, 2013
• Pedro Ciriaco made his third error in the last two games, whipping a high throw on Josh Willingham‘s ground ball to lead off the seventh inning. Ciriaco was getting the start at third base in place of the injured Will Middlebrooks.
|Clay Buchholz: Sunscreen, rosin controversies ‘doing me an injustice’||05.08.13 at 8:51 pm ET|
Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz can’t understand the continued controversies directed his way, especially considering none of them have emanated from either his team or its opponents.
“I’ve gotten texts from a bunch of guys saying, ‘Man, it’s been fun watching you pitch this year. Don’t worry about what anybody says,’ ” he told WEEI.com prior to the Red Sox’ game against the Twins on Wednesday night.
First came the comments from Toronto television analyst Jack Morris and radio host Dirk Hayhurst regarding the accusation that Buchholz was doctoring baseballs during the starter’s May 1 start against the Blue Jays. It was later revealed that the action in question was Buchholz putting rosin on his left forearm (instead of using the actual rosin bag) in order to get a better grip on the baseball.
Now, Buchholz has been identified in a Yahoo! Sports column Wednesday as a potential example of a pitcher using a mix of BullFrog sunscreen and rosin to enhance his grip.
“I’ve used it in the past, but that wasn’t on my arm at any time this season,” Buchholz said of the sunblock product. “Day games, you put sunscreen on. That’s what you do, you put sunscreen on.”
The article states that while Buchholz had declined comment to Yahoo! Sports through a team spokesman, a source close to the Red Sox confirmed in the story that almost all of the team’s pitchers rely on the sunscreen mix.
Buchholz, who hadn’t seen the column until late Wednesday afternoon, seemed genuinely perplexed by the ongoing conversation.
He explained that even after the start against the Blue Jays, his routine of using the rosin on his left arm didn’t change. Buchholz also said that he has not been contacted directly by either Morris or Hayhurst.
The righty turned in a solid performance Monday, striking out nine while allowing four runs over six innings. Buchholz began Wednesday with the fourth-best ERA in the majors (1.60), while having tied Felix Hernandez for the most innings (50 2/3).
“If it’s not a big deal to the guys who are hitting, and they’re not complaining about it … Rosin is on the back of the mound to get a grip on the ball. That’s what it’s used for,” he said. “If people find ways to get a grip on the baseball … If nobody has ever touched a Major League Baseball, most of the time it’s really slick for the simple fact they rub it with that mud and when it sits in a bag all of it feels is like a ball of dust. If it’s going to your mouth and wiping it off to get a grip on the ball, or going to your arm because you have rosin on your arm, or put the rosin on your arm, that’s what it’s meant for.
“Rosin or anything sticky on my arm isn’t going to make you throw a pitch where you want to throw.”
Part of the frustration for Buchholz revolves around the timing of the accusations, which coincide with one of the best runs of the pitcher’s career.
“To have somebody I’ve never talked to say that I’m out there cheating is sort of doing me an injustice,” he said.
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