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Red Sox-Orioles series preview

04.24.15 at 11:38 am ET
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The Red Sox and Orioles split their four-game series last weekend at Fenway Park. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Red Sox and Orioles split their four-game series last weekend at Fenway Park. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Red Sox will make their first trip of 2015 to Camden Yards for a three-game weekend series with the Orioles starting Friday night. The two teams split their first series of the year at Fenway Park last weekend. Boston currently is in a three-way tie for first in the AL East, but the top and bottom spots in the division are separated by just two games.

Despite the division lead, the Sox have struggled on the mound and have not had the offensive consistency many expected at the beginning of the season. The pitching staff is ranked 23rd in the league with a 4.31 ERA, 13th with a 1.26 WHIP, and 11th with a .239 batting average against. No Red Sox starter has an ERA below 4.00, and Joe Kelly (4.08) and Clay Buchholz (4.84) are the only starters with an ERA below 5.50.

Boston’s bats have been able to win some games for the team, but have yet to live up to what was expected of them. They are tied for sixth in baseball with 77 runs and tied for 10th with 15 home runs, but there have not been enough base runners to expect this productivity to continue. The Sox are ranked 19th with a .230 team average and 18th with a .669 OPS. Just two Red Sox hitters (Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts) have averages over .263 and only three (Holt, Bogaerts, Ryan Hanigan) have OBPs of at least .350. Over the last seven days, just Holt and Hanigan have an average over .250.

Hanley Ramirez is tied for second in the American League with five home runs.

Shane Victorino is listed as day-to-day with hamstring tightness.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Miguel Gonzalez

04.24.15 at 6:43 am ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

Just days after they last saw them for the first time this season, the Red Sox are heading to Baltimore to face the Orioles at Camden Yards for another series with Baltimore. Boston will open with Rick Porcello on the mound against Miguel Gonzalez in a rematch of Sunday’s matinee at Fenway Park.

Porcello didn’t have to wait long before he was set to take on the team that put eight runs up on the board against him in his most recent start. Against the O’s, the righty lasted five innings, allowing 12 hits and surrendering three walks. Five of those 12 hits were for extra bases, including home runs from centerfielder Adam Jones, who had five RBI on the day, and second baseman Ryan Flaherty.

“I just didn’t execute pitches. I made a lot of mistakes and they hit pretty much every one of them,” Porcello said. “I left a lot of fastballs over the plate.”

The start bumped Porcello’s ERA from 3.86 to 6.63 on the year. Over the course of his career, he has a 5.13 mark exclusively against Baltimore in 10 starts for 59 2/3 innings. Porcello is also averaging 6.2 strikeouts per nine innings against the Orioles and has a WHIP of 1.475. His .313 opponent batting average against them is fourth-largest among teams who he’s played at least five times.

Miguel Gonzalez

Miguel Gonzalez

Gonzalez fared a little better than his Red Sox counterpart while in Boston, yielding three runs on five hits over as many innings. He walked four and struck out five in the win. Gonzalez isn’t a stranger to getting the better of the Sox, as he has a 5-1 record against them in seven starts, posting a 2.81 ERA in that time. The Red Sox hit a modest .254 against him, and they’ve struck out 31 times in 48 innings of play when he has the ball.

Each of Gonzalez’s three starts this year have come against AL East teams. His first outing, an April 8 game against the Rays, resulted in a loss despite the fourth-year pitcher only earning one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings. Jake Odorizzi and Tampa Bay shut out the O’s to make Gonzalez’s lone earned run costly enough to give him the loss. On April 14, Gonzalez welcomed the Yankees to Oriole Park, and he led Baltimore to a 4-3 win, a game where he gave up just one run in seven innings of four-hit, 10-strikeout baseball. In his third start, he defeated the Red Sox.

His 2.55 ERA ranks him 36th among starting pitchers in that category while his opponent batting average of .190 is 22nd in the MLB.

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Shane Victorino on hamstring injury: ‘It’s frustrating’

04.23.15 at 11:14 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Shane Victorino could ride out the early-season offensive struggles. But hamstring issues? That’s testing the outfielder’s patience.

After the Red Sox‘ 2-1 loss to the Rays Thursday night, Victorino explained that he was hopeful that his right hamstring would be healed enough so that he could make a return to the lineup sometime during the upcoming three-game series in Baltimore.

“It’€™s frustrating. I was feeling good, feeling great and it’€™s basically more of the same,” Victorino said. “You work so hard and you feel so good out there, you’€™re doing everything, and then you go and steal a base and you feel it. You’€™re like, ‘€˜What? Where did this come from?’€™”

Victorino felt the right hamstring tighten up when stealing second in the fourth inning of the Red Sox‘ loss Wednesday night. It was the first time this season he had a re-occurence of the discomfort in the right hamstring, which had bothered him for most of the 2014 season.

“There were no signs. Zero,” he said. “That’€™s where the biggest frustration comes from. No signs. I would feel a lot better if there was a sign that suggested it was tight or I felt something in there. Nothing. I felt great. The saw him do a big leg kick and I thought I could take the bag. But then I feel it when I start to slide and dive and I’€™m like, ‘€˜What the heck?’€™ It’€™s definitely not what I felt last year. It’€™s in that same area, and that’€™s the part where my conscious is saying, ‘€˜Damn, again?’€™”

While Victorino is mindful that the discomfort is in the same spot as last season, he can take solace knowing the severity of the injury isn’t close to what he experienced in 2014.

“It definitely doesn’t feel [as bad as before,” he said. The right fielder later added, “I think I’€™ll be fine. My goal is that I would love to play this weekend. I’€™m hoping that it heals. It’€™s definitely not what I felt before, but it still worried me because it’€™s the same area.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox lose to Rays on Rene Rivera walk-off single

04.23.15 at 10:13 pm ET
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Anthony Varvaro

Anthony Varvaro

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — This time you couldn’t blame the starter. It was surely difficult to point fingers at the bullpen. Thursday night’s loss to the Rays was all about the Red Sox‘ offense (or lack thereof).

Sox hitters managed just three hits and three walks, none of which came off Tampa Bay relievers. It finally caught up to John Farrell‘s team as the Rays’ Rene Rivera rifled a shot down the third base line with one out in the ninth inning, scoring Gordon Beckham to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 win.

The game-winning single, which was just out of reach of a diving Pablo Sandoval, came off of reliever Anthony Varvaro, who started the home half of the ninth.

Clay Buchholz did his job, turning in an outstanding outing in his fourth time through the rotation. The Sox starter didn’t pitch past the sixth inning, but at least he survived the sixth inning (the frame Red Sox pitchers have given up more runs than any other club).

Buchholz allowed just two hits and a run in his six-inning stint, striking out 10 while walking three. He threw 104 pitches before being replaced by Alexi Ogando. In 11 starts at Tropicana Field, Buchholz now carries a 1.92 ERA.

“I thought Clay threw the ball outstanding tonight,” said Farrell, whose team lost their first series of the season. “There was quality stuff for the six innings of work. I thought he threw some pitches with some purpose in off the plate to keep some hitters honest. Four pitches for strikes. Made a couple of key pitches, particularly in the sixth inning. That’€™s been a little bit of a bump for us. But did his job.”

Perhaps most impressive, according to BrooksBaseball.com, Buchholz managed two strikeouts apiece on five different pitches — two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, cutter, changeup, and curveball.

“Best I’ve felt all year,” Buchholz said. “I felt that way warming up. Getting here today, I felt really good. My mindset was to build off the last time out. I just about had all of my pitches working the way I wanted to.”

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Rivera. It was his second career walk-off hit.

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox loss:

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One year later, David Ortiz has no regrets about White House selfie

04.23.15 at 9:12 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With all the fun and frivolity that came with the Patriots trip to the White House Thursday (click here for photos), it reminded some in the Red Sox clubhouse of their trip to meet the President last April.

That visit, of course, was defined by one photo: David Ortiz‘ selfie with President Barack Obama.

At the time, the moment seemed like a fun piece of the Red Sox‘ championship celebration. But as time went on, the designated hitter came under some criticism with many insinuating that he was paid by Samsung to execute the photo.

Ortiz insisted once again prior to Thursday night’s game at Tropicana Field that wasn’t the case, that this was simply a fan being a fan.

“I had fun. The world we live in, it is what it is,” said Ortiz of the post-selfie criticism. “Everything turns out to be news. I was simply taking a picture with him. Whenever somebody sees a celebrity, or sees me ‘€¦ They ask for a photo and I say, ‘€˜Fine.’€™ It turned out to be a big deal. I had no idea about anything that happened before, like with Ellen Degeneres. You can’€™t see people all doing the same thing. People love taking pictures. I love taking selfies. Now I’€™m the selfie master. … I was very surprised (about all the attention).”

Part of the fallout included senior White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer going on CBS’s Face the Nation and saying the White House lawyers were looking into the possibility of the photo being part of a company promotion.

Ortiz, however, said he was not contacted by the White House at any time regarding the matter.

“Nobody said anything to me,” the DH noted, saying the President was “super cool” with the whole experience. “I’€™ve got in on my phone. It was for me. I didn’€™t forward the picture to anybody. That was for me, personally. For David Ortiz.”

Ortiz still has the photo (which he says was his first-ever selfie) in his phone, although he recently added another self-portrait — one with Tom Brady.

“I was less nervous with Brady,” he said.

And, no, there were no reenactments of Ortiz’ selfie with the President Thursday when the Patriots paid their visit. (Although some of the players weren’t shy with their camera phones.)

Shane Victorino ‘doing great’ after hamstring issue

04.23.15 at 7:45 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox manager John Farrell sounded optimistic prior to Thursday night’s game at Tropicana Field that Shane Victorino’s right hamstring injury wouldn’t be sidelining the outfielder long.

“He’€™s doing great,” Farrell said. “He’€™s day-to-day. And before we get him back to the game we’€™ll get him through some running. Change in direction, some explosive work, just to test it out. He came into today feeling better than anticipated but still day to day.

“I think we’€™ll wait to see how he responds to the treatment and testing we put him through, but even [Wednesday] night he wanted to fight through it. But given all he’€™s been through there wasn’€™t going to be any additional risk taking.”

Victorino, who hadn’t experienced any setbacks with his hamstring since arriving in spring training this year, aggravated the leg muscle when stealing second base in the fourth inning of the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Rays.

After staying in for another half inning, Victorino was pinch-hit for by Allen Craig in the fifth.

“When you think back to the inning [Wednesday] night, he attempts to steal a base, has to spring back because there’€™s a ball in the air,” Farrell said. “Couple pitches later he’€™s off again. He’€™s running full-tilt but that might’€™ve been the first time he’€™s sprinted three times within a six-pitch sequence.”

While Daniel Nava was scheduled to start in right field Thursday even before the Victorino injury, Craig’s start in left field wasn’t necessarily part of the plan.

Farrell noted that the Red Sox wanted to use the series finale as an opportunity to get Hanley Ramirez off his feet after two straight games on the Tropicana Field turf.

“Our guys when they get in on the astroturf, they react a little bit differently,” the manager said. “He’€™s obviously been on the bases a lot, running continuously. But he’€™s been playing extremely hard and I think he’€™s feeling it and we want to stay ahead of it.”

Red Sox lineup: Allen Craig starting in left field; Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino sitting vs. Rays

04.23.15 at 3:24 pm ET
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Allen Craig

Allen Craig

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox will have a different look in the outfield in Thursday’s series finale against the Rays.

Allen Craig will start in left field, and Daniel Nava will start in right field. It was a scheduled day off for Shane Victorino, even though he injured his hamstring Wednesday night. Hanley Ramirez is also out of the lineup.

David Ortiz is the designated hitter, as he’s still appealing his suspension, and Brock Holt will get his second straight day off.

Sandy Leon will catch starter Clay Buchholz, as the Red Sox lineup goes up against Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

For an extensive look at the matchups, click here.

1. Mookie Betts, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
5. Mike Napoli, 1B
6. Daniel Nava, RF
7. Allen Craig, LF
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS
9. Sandy Leon, C
Clay Buchholz, RHP

Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Never mind no-hitter, why 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball feels better than ever

04.23.15 at 10:18 am ET
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Why 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball is feeling better than ever. (Gail Oskin/Getty Images)

Why is 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball is feeling better than ever? (Gail Oskin/Getty Images)

Last Friday night was a big night for 2013 Red Sox first-round pick Trey Ball, as he threw six, no-hit innings with High-A Salem.

Selected No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft, and with High-A Salem two and a half years later, some have questioned the pick.

But the fact of the matter is Ball is just 20 years old. He was taken out of New Castle High School in New Castle, Indiana and until being drafted he wasn’t just a pitcher — he was a two-way player as a pitcher and an outfielder.

Friday’s performance showed the potential and talent he has, perhaps a glimpse into the future for what is to come.

“Honestly everything was [working],” Ball said via phone this week. “I had good fastball command. My off-speed stuff was working good to keep them off balance. The defense was outstanding on Friday. It was a good game.”

The 6-foot-6 left-hander didn’t allow a hit, while walking two and striking out five over the six innings against the Carolina Mudcats. It was Ball’s third career no-hitter. He threw one in high school and one with his travel team during his high school years.

Once drafted by the Red Sox Ball became exclusively a pitcher and learned “to pitch,” instead of just being a “thrower.”

“I think I’ve learned how to call my own game,” said Ball. “Learned how to actually throw all my pitches and all of them for strikes. Not just rely on my fastball. Instead of having one pitch, I now have three. I think that is the biggest difference so far.”

Ball wasn’t putting up the best of numbers until the second half last season with Single-A Greenville. Ball’€™s first half of the season wasn’t great with an ERA of 7.07 and allowing a .353 opponents batting average. Things started to click over his final 13 starts as his ERA dipped to 3.36 and his opponents batting average was down to .234.

The lefty said the biggest difference was he started feeling comfortable with all three of his pitches — fastball, curveball and changeup — not just his fastball.

“We spent most of last year working on that and I think it really started clicking towards the end of the second half,” he said. “I came into the offseason feeling strong and just continued to work on them.”

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Mike Hazen on D&C: Despite worst starting pitching ERA in majors, ‘We believe in this rotation’

04.23.15 at 9:58 am ET
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Mike Hazen

Mike Hazen

Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to discuss the start of the Red Sox season, including the starting rotation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Through the first 15 games of the season the Red Sox starting rotation has the worst ERA in baseball at 5.71. Despite the poor start, Hazen says he and the rest of the organization believe in the five pitchers they have.

“We believe in this rotation,” Hazen said. “We believe in this rotation now. We believe in it moving forward. What changes, what updates, what things we need to do as the season unfolds that’s to be seen. These guys, for the most part, all have proven records over the course through their careers and moving forward. We think these guys are going to be pretty good.

“I know things haven’t at least from a rotation standpoint got off on the right foot necessarily, but it’s early in the season. We’re seeing it across the league — guys with other teams doing the same type of stuff. These are things we’re going to continue to monitor as we watch the club moving forward.”

With the struggles of the rotation, some have pointed to the number of promising pitching prospects in Triple-A, including Brian Johnson, Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez. Hazen said it’s too early to first panic with what they have at the major league level, but also rush these prospects to the majors.

“Again, we’re going to continue to watch this as it moves forward. It’s still way too early,” Hazen said.

Added Hazen: “Having that depth in Triple A — yeah, it’s great. We love having players down there that are going to come up and contribute. We know we’re not getting through the season with 25 men, we know we’re not getting through the season with 40 men. Year in and year out we’re going to be relying on the players not only outside the organization, but down in Pawtucket. It’s great to have guys in [Eduardo] Rodriguez, [Henry] Owens, [Brian] Johnson and [Matt] Barnes down there throwing well. But, they are still in Triple-A, they’re not in the big leagues. They’re going to probably go through that same transition.”

Hazen did say he believes all those players have a chance to make an impact at the big league level at some point this season.

Here are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

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Read More: brian johnson, mike hazen, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino

Thursday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Jake Odorizzi

04.23.15 at 8:20 am ET
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In the Red Sox‘ last game at Tropicana Field until June, righty Clay Buchholz will be tasked with handling the ball for Boston, facing off against Jake Odorizzi of the Rays.

Bouncing back from his shaky start against the Yankees, Buchholz tossed six innings of two-run ball against the Orioles on Saturday, fanning seven batters. The quality start Buchholz turned in would have been enough were it not for the lack of run support from his team in a 7-4 loss.

“Buch did a great job of keeping us close and keeping us in the game,” said teammate Brock Holt. “Made some big pitches when we needed it and got us out of some jams. He did his job. We just unfortunately weren’t able to put any runs on the board.”

With the outing, Buchholz lowered his ERA from 7.84 to 6.06 and is averaging 10.47 strikeouts per nine innings.

In 18 starts against Tampa Bay, Buchholz has a 2.45 ERA and an 8-6 record, posting a WHIP of .835. Ten of those starts took place at the Trop, where he has a 1.95 ERA through 64 2/3 innings, holding batters to a .178 average. His last outing in St. Petersburg was a complete game effort on Aug. 31 of last year. Buchholz threw nine innings and shut out the Rays, allowing just three hits and striking out six.

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