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Closing Time: Mike Napoli, David Ortiz make sure Orioles know who they are in Red Sox win

04.02.14 at 9:50 pm ET
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Mike Napoli and David Ortiz led the Red Sox' offensive charge Wednesday night. (AP)

Mike Napoli and David Ortiz led the Red Sox‘ offensive charge Wednesday night. (AP)

BALTIMORE — Mike Napoli made a name for himself Wednesday night.

A day after President Barack Obama mispronounced Napoli‘s last name, the Red Sox first baseman gave the world a second chance to familiarize itself with the moniker. Napoli starred in the Sox’ 6-2 win over the Orioles, knocking in four runs via a two-run homer and single that scored a pair.

(For Napoli’s comments on the presidential mispronunciation, click here.)

The Red Sox starting pitcher did his job for a second straight game, this time with John Lackey doing the honors. The righty held the Orioles to just three hits over six innings, throwing 90 pitches. The righty struck out six and walked one.

Here is what went right (and wrong) for the Red Sox in their first win of the season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

David Ortiz launched a two-run homer in the third inning against Baltimore starter Ubaldo Jimenez, landing on Eutaw Street past the right field fence. The home run marked the first time he has rounded the bases since hitting his only spring training home run on March 10. He has now hit four homers April 2 or earlier in his career.

– Napoli broke a 2-2 tie by launching the Red Sox’ second two-run shot of the day, this one clearing the center field fence with two outs in the fifth inning and Daniel Nava standing on first. The homer came with two strikes, a count on which he hit eight homers in 2013 while carrying just a .622 OPS.

Xander Bogaerts continued his solid start, getting on base three times via a pair of walks and a single. In his first seven at-bats, the rookie had reached five times.

Dustin Pedroia continued to swing a hot bat, carrying over from the final week of spring training. On Wednesday night the second baseman notched four hits, scoring on both Ortiz’s homer and Napoli’s seventh-inning single. Pedroia also made the defensive play of the night, diving for a J.J. Hardy grounder up the middle and springing up in time to throw out the baserunner.

– The Red Sox once again didn’t let the Orioles starter get past six innings, this time driving Jimenez from the game after six, after 96 pitches. Monday, Baltimore starter Chris Tillman lasted just five innings.

– The Red Sox relievers — Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara — all did their part, combining for three shutout innings following Lackey. Uehara — who allowed two baserunners (error, infield single) — picked up his first save.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Nelson Cruz did some damage for a second straight game, this time hitting his home run the opposite way, over the right field fence, to tie the game at 2 after four innings. Cruz was the difference-maker in Monday’s season opener, breaking a 1-1 tie with a seventh inning solo blast off Jon Lester.

– After a standout performance in the opener, Grady Sizemore came back down to earth a bit. The center fielder went 0-for-4, stranding a pair. Also going hitless for the Red Sox were Will Middlebrooks and Jonny Gomes.

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David Ortiz says selfie was not part of promotional ploy

04.02.14 at 5:52 pm ET
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David Ortiz takes a photo with President Barack Obama Tuesday. (AP)

David Ortiz takes a photo with President Barack Obama on Tuesday. (AP)

BALTIMORE — David Ortiz said it wasn’t planned.

The Red Sox designated hitter said the “selfie” he took with President Barack Obama — which has gotten almost 40,000 retweets — was not part of any promotional plan.

“€œIt was right at the moment when I gave him the jersey and he asked to take a picture now or whatever, so I said, ‘Oh, wait a minute, let’€™s see if I can get away with one.’ I was lucky that I did,” Ortiz said. “It was fun. I think it was something I’€™m never going to forget. People went crazy about that. You don’€™t get to see that every day. It wasn’t promotional or anything like that. Who knows you’€™re going to be able to take a picture with the President, a selfie? How many people can guarantee that? It’€™s something you don’€™t even have to talk about.”€

There was some talk that Ortiz had struck a deal with Samsung, the company that makes the phone he took the photo with, to take the shot. But the DH insisted that while he does have a business relationship with the company, the moment wasn’t orchestrated.

“€œI did take a lot of pictures at the White House, but it wasn’t like anything on purpose,” he said. “I went around just like everyone and took pictures. I signed a deal with Samsung a couple of months ago and they supply me with phones and all that stuff. The photo with the President was … once-in-a-lifetime moment. How did I know he would let me take a picture with him?’ ”

And about the day and meeting the president?

“€œWe were talking about it afterward. I think it was super cool the way everybody at the White House was, how friendly,” Ortiz said. “The person we see on TV, the person we all know, to see how humble and how cool he was, was a great experience. It gets no better.”

 

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Mike Napoli wants to clarify that we have not been saying his name incorrectly

04.02.14 at 4:14 pm ET
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Mike Napoli (AP)

Mike Napoli didn’t mind the president’s mispronunciation of his name. (AP)

BALTIMORE — Mike Napoli was not offended, but he did want to clear things up.

“To clarify, it’€™s pronounced ‘NAApoli,’ not ‘NapOHli.’€™ But I chuckled about it,” he said.

What the first baseman was referencing was President Barack Obama‘€™s mispronunciation of his last name while delivering Tuesday’€™s speech at the White House.

(To hear the audio of the speech, click here. The Napoli reference is at 5:35.)

“I was like, ‘Oh, damn!’ in my head,” Napoli said of the moment. “Then I heard some of the boys chuckle a little bit and have some body movement.”

While the president’€™s recognition made the headlines — resulting in a flood of text messages to the infielder — Napoli said there was so much more to take away the day.

“It was cool,” Napoli said. “When you’€™re with the President of the United States, standing behind him, and he’s talking to people about our season and what happened last year. It was cool. It was cool to be inside the White House and see all the security and everything you have to do to get in.

“I think I liked going to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] better. It interested me. All those people … got to see a couple of patients and we tried to brighten their day a little bit. It was a long day, but it was cool to go to Walter Reed. That was probably the best part of my day.”

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Red Sox lineup: Jonny Gomes gets start in left field against Ubaldo Jimenez

04.02.14 at 3:00 pm ET
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Jonny Gomes

Jonny Gomes

BALTIMORE — The Red Sox made one change Wednesday from their Opening Day lineup, inserting Jonny Gomes in left field (where Mike Carp had started Monday).

Gomes is hitting .417 with two homers in 17 plate appearances against Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Other members of the Sox’ lineup who has had success against the Baltimore righty include Daniel Nava (3-for-6) and Mike Napoli (3-for-4). (For a complete list of tonight’s matchups, click here.)

Here is the Red Sox’ lineup for Game 2 of the three-game set:

Daniel Nava RF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Napoli 1B

Jonny Gomes LF

Grady Sizemore CF

Xander Bogaerts SS

A.J. Pierzynski C

Will Middlebrooks 3B

John Lackey P

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Buster Olney on M&M: ‘Middle ground is apparent’ for Jon Lester extension

04.02.14 at 2:33 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN MLB insider Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about Jon Lester‘€™s contract negotiations and other Red Sox and MLB news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington recently said that the Red Sox and Jon Lester‘€™s representatives were “going to hit the pause button” on contract talks. Olney sees a happy medium for both sides, but he indicated Lester will have to be the one to seal the deal.

“I don’€™t think they’€™re close, but I think the middle ground is apparent,” Olney said. “I think the Red Sox‘ comfort level is probably four years, [$20 million]-something a year and I think Lester is probably looking for six years, probably [$20 million]-something a year. And the middle ground is going to be somewhere in five years and $110 million, $115 million, $120 million, whatever number they come upon. And they’€™re both going to have to go out of their comfort zones.”

Added Olney: “It’€™s going to be because Jon Lester makes it happen, the way that Dustin Pedroia made it happen last year. The Red Sox, philosophically, are not going to box themselves in.”

On Tuesday, CC Sabathia did not look like his previous dominant self, pitching six innings and giving up eight runs on six hits. While Olney concedes that he did look bad, he noted that Sabathia can make it work based on what he saw in spring training.

“I think early on, yesterday, CC Sabathia was absolutely terrible,” Olney said. “And I talked to some scouts this morning about it and they were like, ‘Oh my god, he was in the middle of the plate, he wasn’t throwing hard.’ … He did have times in spring training like he — it looks like he’€™s been able to start to figure out how to pitch with less stuff. But man, he was terrible yesterday.”

Miguel Cabrera signed a reported eight-year, $248 million contract extension last week with two years left on his deal. Many were puzzled by the large investment in the 30-year old, whom Olney sees as an offensive player only.

“He already is kind of a glorified DH,” Olney said. “€œWe just saw David Ortiz get the highest salary for a DH, $16 million. They’€™re going to pay him twice that. And that’€™s why people all around baseball are scratching their heads about that deal.”

Added Olney: “€œEveryone thinks he’€™s a great player, but they do think at some point he’€™s going to be worth a lot less than what they’€™re going to pay him.”

While there haven’€™t been any major issues with instant replay so far, Olney said the system can improve by removing the manager’s ability to challenge and having an automatic review for close calls.

“€œWhy are the managers even part of this,” Olney said. “Why have a challenge system? Why not just have something in place, an official, or a fifth umpire and a crew is involved and if there’€™s a mistake, they can correct it.”

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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: John Lackey vs. Ubaldo Jimenez

04.02.14 at 8:18 am ET
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After falling to Baltimore on Opening Day, the Red Sox will send John Lackey to the mound against Ubaldo Jimenez on Wednesday as Boston continues its three-game series with the Orioles.

Lackey heads into his first start of the season in a vastly different light from last year. Instead of taking the mound for the first time in a year after going under the knife for Tommy John surgery, Lackey will get the nod with his last start having come the day the Red Sox clinched their World Series title. During that late-October start, Lackey gave up just one run on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings en route to Boston’s 6-1 championship win.

“I just feel healthy, more than anything,” Lackey said. “There was more confidence not having to worry about how I felt physically. I just had to worry about executing pitches.

“For the most part last year I felt good. It was something [where] I didn’t have to deal with a whole lot of extra treatment and get into a normal routine and perform. I don’€™t know if you ever figure everything out, totally. You’€™re always still learning. But I feel I’m in a good place physically, and when I’m healthy I feel like I know how to pitch.”

The 35-year-old righty heads into Wednesday’€™s game after one of the worst spring trainings of his career as he gave up 13 earned runs over 18 2/3 innings for a 6.27 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. After giving up five earned runs in back-to-back appearances this spring, though, Lackey finished out March by blanking the Twins for 6 1/3 innings.

The last time Lackey faced off against the Orioles was on Sept. 19, 2013, when he hurled a complete game. The veteran pitcher gave up just one run — a solo home run by Adam Jones – on two hits while fanning eight batters during the start. Lackey, overall, carries a 13-5 record with a 3.35 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP against Baltimore.

Unlike Lackey, who is in his fifth season with Boston, Jimenez is making his first start with his current team after he signed as a free agent with Baltimore in February. The 30-year-old Jimenez spent the previous three seasons with the Indians.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league affiliate roster analysis: Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox

04.01.14 at 1:58 pm ET
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Anthony Ranaudo (AP)

Anthony Ranaudo (AP)

The Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox roster:

Pitchers

Drake Britton

Rubby De La Rosa

Chris Hernandez

Rich Hill

Dalier Hinojosa

Jeremy Kehrt

Tommy Layne

Anthony Ranaudo

Chris Resop

Brayan Villarreal

Allen Webster

Alex Wilson

Catchers Read the rest of this entry »

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