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Red Sox minor league roundup: The bigger picture for Allen Webster; Will Middlebrooks faces heat; Jamie Callahan bounces back; A triples machine in Greenville

04.24.14 at 11:41 am ET
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Right-hander Allen Webster had his best outing of the 2014 season on Wednesday. (AP)

Right-hander Allen Webster had his best outing of the 2014 season on Wednesday. (AP)

It would have been easy for the Red Sox to summon Allen Webster to the big leagues on Wednesday. They needed a pitcher capable of providing innings in case anything went off the rails with John Lackey, given that the team’s bullpen had been pushed to obscene (11 innings) lengths in the prior two days. Webster, whose day it was to start in Pawtucket, would have given the team the possibility of a significant workload if needed.

But the Sox resisted the temptation to do so, instead electing to bring up Alex Wilson for the day. The reason?

“Didn’t want to disrupt Webster’s starting rotation work there. We felt like a two-inning reliever is what we needed, which Alex has done,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters. “Familiarity with the role. That’s why Alex is here.”

The Sox are mindful of what occurred a year ago, when Webster got off to a spectacular start in spring training and then April in Pawtucket, but started to see his dominant early performance get derailed once he started shuttling up and down between Pawtucket and the big leagues. He seemed to struggle with the transitions, lost confidence along the way and went from a pitcher who looked like he was on the cusp of being a big league-ready starter to one who looked lost.

And so, Webster remained in Pawtucket this time, under different circumstances than the ones that had the Sox looking for opportunities to bring him to the big leagues last year. He’s struggled through four starts, permitting more walks (12) than strikeouts (11) in 20 innings. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: allen webster, carlos asuaje, jamie callahan, Will Middlebrooks

Red Sox 2013 first-rounder Trey Ball to join Single-A Greenville as Pat Light joins Salem

04.24.14 at 10:30 am ET
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Left-hander Trey Ball was taken by the Red Sox with the No. 7 overall pick (New Castle High School)

Left-hander Trey Ball was taken by the Red Sox with the No. 7 overall pick (New Castle High School)

Left-handed pitcher Trey Ball, the Red Sox‘ top draft pick (No. 7 overall) in the 2013 draft, will join Single-A Greenville today after opening the year in extended spring training, according to an industry source. The 19-year-old, who allowed five runs in seven innings in his five-game pro debut late last summer (before turning in a very impressive outing in the GCL playoffs), had been kept in extended in deference to the fact that the Greenville pitching staff is crowded with prospects, resulting in a paucity of innings to go around (Ball, Daniel McGrath and Ty Buttrey all opened the year in extended in part due to that bottleneck), and because the Sox wanted to do some work with Ball in extended on repeating his delivery and the angle and command of his fastball, as well focus on improving the consistency of his curveball and changeup, in extended before sending him out to compete for an affiliate.

He showed some solid raw materials this spring training, including a fastball that was up to 92 mph, aggressiveness in throwing that pitch for strikes, and gradual improvement during spring training in his secondary stuff. Still, given that he was a two-way player (center fielder and pitcher) in high school, Ball was far less experienced than other candidates for the Greenville rotation, resulting in the decision to let him acclimate to the five-day pitchers’ routine and work on his pitch development in extended to start the year. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: pat light, Trey Ball,

Mike Hazen on D&C: ‘Daniel Nava’s going to be back here hitting again’

04.24.14 at 10:05 am ET
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Mike Hazen

Mike Hazen

Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda‘€™s use of pine tar and other updates about the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Home plate umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis said after Wednesday night’€™s game that he had not seen the substance on Pineda‘€™s neck until Red Sox manager John Farrell alerted him to it.

“The manager doesn’€™t have to [alert the umpires],” Hazen said. “The umpire can certainly go out there and initiate it. I don’€™t think the umpires are staring at the starting pitcher on those types of situations.”

Wednesday’€™s incident marked the second time Pineda was caught with a foreign substance on his skin while playing the Red Sox this month.

“I don’€™t know if that crew was made aware of the situation that happened last time,” Hazen said. “Maybe they weren’€™t, maybe they hadn’€™t. Obviously, our coaching staff was more aware of it after what had happened the first time. I’€™m sure they were watching for it a little more closely, so I think it’s more — had it maybe gone on for multiple innings, maybe the umpires would have looked at it, but I don’€™t think it’€™s the first thing you look at if I’€™m an umpire or whoever’€™s standing on the field. I’€™m watching the game.”

After Tuesday night’€™s 9-2 loss to the Yankees, the Red Sox optioned Daniel Nava to Triple-A Pawtucket. Nava was hitting .149 with a .240 OBP and a .269 slugging percentage at the time of the demotion.

“Unfortunately, I think it became more of an obvious thing as we went into it,” Hazen said. “Certainly what Daniel had done for us last year — this guy was one of the best hitters in baseball last year, and I don’€™t think that’€™s an overstatement given the skills he had at getting on base.

“Daniel’€™s been through this before. We took him off the roster last time, and he resurrected himself again. He’€™s too good of a hitter unless he’€™s hurt, which he’€™s not, or he’€™s forgotten how to hit, which he hasn’€™t. Daniel Nava’€™s going to be back here hitting again.”

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, daniel nava, Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Pineda

Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Felix Doubront vs. CC Sabathia

04.24.14 at 9:18 am ET
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The Red Sox will finish off their home series against the Yankees on Thursday, sending Felix Doubront to the mound against fellow southpaw CC Sabathia.

Through four starts in 2014, Doubront has struggled, going 1-2 with an ERA of 5.48 and a WHIP of 1.55, second worst among Red Sox starters and only better than Clay Buchholz. Doubront’€™s 15 strikeouts are the lowest among the team’€™s starting rotation.

The 26-year-old last played on April 19 against the Orioles, going 6 2/3 innings and giving up two runs on five hits, striking out a season-high seven batters and walking two. Doubront pitched well, throwing 70 of his 107 pitches for strikes and allowing one extra-base hit. While Doubront got a no-decision, the Red Sox won the game 4-2, despite his rough first inning.

“I don’t really know what happened [in the first],” Doubront said after the game. “I think I overthrew a couple balls and I was thinking too much, and I calmed down and I was trying to throw strikes and get quick innings, and I did.

“Just throw down in the zone [after the first], throw more breaking balls, just throw strikes. And they swing. They’re a team, if you’re throwing a strike, they’re going to swing. I went with that, just throwing my cutters down in the zone. Tried to get quick outs and that worked.”

Doubront’€™s last start against the Yankees came on April 13 in New York. The southpaw went 6 2/3 innings, throwing 101 pitches and allowing three runs on a season-high seven hits. The Red Sox lost, 3-2.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, C.C. Sabathia, felix doubront, New York Yankees

John Lackey bounces back, sticks through eight innings

04.24.14 at 12:33 am ET
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John Lackey knew what he needed to do tonight against the Yankees.

Following two sticky starts against the Yankees and Orioles where he allowed six runs over 5 2/3 and 5 1/3 innings, respectively, Lackey needed to turn in a strong performance to help save a taxed bullpen. Lackey needed to be the pitcher he was in his first two starts of the season, when he allowed a total of two earned runs over 13 innings pitched.

But Lackey wasn’t focused on turning around his own individual performance. Instead, Lackey focused in on putting forth a performance that would give the bullpen a rest and set up the rest of the pitching staff moving forward over the next couple of days.

Lackey did just that.

“I really wasn’t thinking about [turning things around],” Lackey said. “I was thinking about trying to give the bullpen rest, for sure. We’ve got some guys down there that have been worked pretty good the last week or so and we’re trying to give those guys a little bit of a breather and win a ballgame.”

Through his eight-inning outing, Lackey tarred the corners pitch after pitch with strikes, befuddling the Yankee lineup at the plate all night. The hurler struck out a season-high 11 hitters for his third win of the season. The outing marked his highest strikeout output since July 26, 2013 versus Colorado when he punched 12 Rockies.

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Joe Girardi, Michael Pineda, Brian Cashman react to ejection of Yankees starter due to presence of pine tar

04.24.14 at 12:26 am ET
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Following the Red Sox‘ 5-1 win over the Yankees, the majority of the conversation centered on New York starter Michael Pineda being ejected  in the second inning after being caught with pine tar on the right side of his neck.

With Pineda’s April 10 start against the Red Sox still fresh in most everyone’s mind — with the righty having been seen with a glob of pine tar on his wrist before removing the substance in the fifth inning before the Red Sox could act — there was little room for interpretation.

After the ejection, Yankees manager Joe Girardi, Pineda and New York general manager Brian Cashman didn’t question the ruling, or the objection made by Red Sox manager John Farrell. Here is what they had to say:

GIRARDI

Did you know he had it on?: “I did not. He did not have it on when the game started. I guess from what I understand he had a hard time gripping the ball and put it on in the second inning. Obviously that’€™s a problem and we’€™re going to have to deal with the circumstances and Michael’€™s going to have to deal with it and we’€™ll get through it.”

Did you see it on him? “No, I did not, I never saw it on Michael, so. I didn’€™t look at Michael. Gerry told me he did, said he had something on his neck and I just said, ‘€˜OK,’€™ got Phelpsie ready and worried about trying to keep the score the same.”

Michael Pineda is examined for pine tar by home plate umpire Gerry Davis. (AP)

Michael Pineda is examined for pine tar by home plate umpire Gerry Davis. (AP)

What about the April 10 game? “Obviously we have discussions with all our pitchers on things they’€™re dealing with, that’€™s what we do. We don’€™t ignore situations, we handle situations and something Michael chose to do after the first inning, he had a hard time gripping the baseball. Conditions are not conducive to gripping a baseball. Unknown to us he put it on and went out there.”

Surprised at his judgement?: “I mean, it’€™s a young kid. I don’€™t think he’€™s trying to do anything to cheat, I think he’€™s trying to just go out there and compete. It’€™s unfortunate it happened but like I said we’€™ll deal with it we’€™ll get through this, it’€™s a little bump in the road and we’€™ll be all right.”

Upset?: “I’€™m not going to get mad at him. The kid’€™s doing the best he can, he’€™s trying to compete, and that’€™s what he’€™s trying to do. I don’€™t think he’€™s trying to get an edge on anyone. He’€™s a young man that’€™s been through a lot, been through a lot of rehab and has worked his tail end to get off to this start and he made an error in judgment.”

Where do you go from here?: “It’€™s something we have to deal with. There are other things that are going to come up in the course of the year that we’€™ll find a way to get through it.”

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Red Sox reaction to Michael Pineda: ‘Something has to be said’

04.24.14 at 12:06 am ET
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John Farrell had no choice Wednesday night at Fenway Park. There was no room for looking the other way from the greasy skin of Michael Pineda this time.

After watching the Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda blatantly used pine tar on his hand in a 4-1 win on April 10 at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox manager said he had no choice but to call for home plate umpire Gerry Davis to inspect the right side of Pineda’s neck in the second inning Wednesday at Fenway Park.

What Davis found was an obvious streak of pine tar used by the pitcher to gain an advantage on the grip of the baseball. The blatant use of pine tar represented an obvious violation of rule 8.02 (4) of applying a foreign substance to the ball and Pineda was immediately ejected. After being warned by MLB after his previous violation in New York, Pineda faces an almost certain suspension of at least eight games from Major League Baseball for the latest infraction.

John Farrell explained his case in detail after Boston’s 5-1 win Wednesday night:

“In the second inning it looked from the dugout that there was a substance on his neck,” Farrell said. “You could see it, I could see it from the dugout. It was confirmed by a number of camera angles in the ballpark, and given the last time we faced him, I felt like it was a necessity to say something.

“I fully respect on a cold night you’re trying to get a little bit of a grip. But when it’s that obvious, something has got to be said.”

Farrell continued: “I can say our awareness was heightened, given what we’ve seen in the past, and it was confirmed today.”

Farrell was asked if he fears the Yankees retaliating and asking umpires to check Red Sox pitchers on the mound. Clay Buchholz was accused by Toronto broadcasters early in the 2013 season of using suntan lotion for the same purpose.

“We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Farrell said. “I don’t know that. As obvious as this was, I felt like he needed to be checked at the time.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, Michael Pineda, New York Yankees
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