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Red Sox notes: Fenway Park undergoes changes including new infield, more netting, TV’s in dugouts

04.11.16 at 12:14 pm ET
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The Fenway Park infield looks a little different this year. (WEEI.com photo)

The Fenway Park infield looks a little different this year. (WEEI.com photo)

If Fenway Park looks a little different on Monday, your eyes aren’t deceiving you.

During the offseason the Red Sox put down a new infield where there is less dirt and more grass. This was due to the number of events Fenway Park hosted over the winter. The base cutouts are significantly smaller and there is less dirt in the outfield.

Manager John Farrell said before the team did it there were conversations with Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts who expressed some ways to improve the surface, which is challenging to keep up with given the cold April weather.

“With so many events last year [at Fenway Park], we were in the position to put down a new infield,” Farrell said. “At the time there was some discussion that went on internally if there were adjustments that we would like to make. Typically this has been an infield where there’s so much expansive dirt or exposed dirt. We looked around Major League Baseball, saw some different styles and just wanted to put a little bit more grass in for continuity of a ground ball.”

In addition to the infield, there will now be TV’s in each dugout viewing the bullpens. This is something more and more fields are doing around the league given how tough it can be to see the bullpens from the dugouts.

“It’s something we added this year — both sides have it just to be able to see more clearly who is getting loose rather than call upstairs or try and figure out who in fact is the next guy getting ready,” Farrell said.

Finally, as expected there is new netting going from dugout-to-dugout to help with fan safety given the few incidents that occurred at Fenway Park last season.

“We recognize our fans want to be uninterrupted in the action, but our priority and I think Major League Baseball’s priority is fan safety,” Farrell said. “We’re seeing it in every ballpark with the netting that is there. I think like many changes that you see around the league, we’re going to get accustomed to the netting there. We saw a pretty scary thing here and I don’t think any of us want to see that again. We feel like this will remedy some of those potential issues.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

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Red Sox lineup: Brock Holt returns, Travis Shaw starts at 3B in home opener

04.11.16 at 10:08 am ET
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Brock Holt

Brock Holt

A day after being unavailable because of a bruised foot on Sunday, Brock Holt returns to the Red Sox lineup as he will start in left field in the home opener against the undefeated Orioles.

As expected, Travis Shaw will get the start at third base and Pablo Sandoval will be on the bench. Other than that it is a standard lineup with Blake Swihart catching starter David Price.

The Red Sox will be going up against right-hander Yovani Gallardo.

Here is the complete Red Sox lineup:

Mookie Betts, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
David Ortiz, DH
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
Travis Shaw, 3B
Brock Holt, LF
Blake Swihart, C
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
David Price, P

For an extensive look at the pitching matchups, click here.

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Monday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: David Price vs. Yovani Gallardo

04.11.16 at 9:10 am ET
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David Price

David Price

Red Sox ace David Price will look to move to 2-0 on the young season in Monday’s home opener at Fenway Park. He is set to face off against Orioles righty Yovani Gallardo.

Price started off his Red Sox career on the right foot last Tuesday, throwing six strong innings against the Indians on a cold day in Cleveland. He finished with two earned runs on five hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts. Outside of a rocky fourth inning, it was smooth sailing from the get-go.

“We had our ace out there, showing up, doing his job, holding the other offense down. That’s him,” Sox slugger David Ortiz said after the win. “That’s what Price always brings to the table. That’s why we got him this offseason. Happy to watch him do what he does out there. That’s what we always see from him.”

Price will be eager to face an Orioles team that he has enjoyed much success against in his career. In 19 starts vs. Baltimore he has a record of 8-4 with an ERA of 2.65 and 120 strikeouts.

Gallardo, signed to a three-year, $35 million deal as a free agent in the offseason, got off to a solid start with his new team as well, getting a win after allowing just two hits and one earned run over five innings of work in Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over the Twins. He walked three and struck out four.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter credited Gallardo with finding a way to win on a night when he didn’t have his best command.

“He’s a guy who’s going to add and subtract. I think he’s a guy who’s kind of evolved and knows who he is and who he isn’t,” Showalter said. “A guy who keeps you in the ball game and gives you a chance to win it if you catch it and score some runs. On a given night, he’s carrying a little extra stuff, get a little deeper in the game. He’s a pitcher and he doesn’t give in in counts and knows when to pitch backward.”

After spending his first eight big league seasons with the Brewers, Gallardo played the 2015 season with the Rangers. The 30-year-old from Mexico finished with a record of 13-11, a career-best 3.42 ERA and 121 strikeouts.

In four career starts against the Red Sox, Gallardo is 2-2 with a 4.35 ERA and 14 strikeouts.

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Monday Red Sox Farm Report: Christian Vazquez reaches in 9-of-12 plate appearances

04.11.16 at 4:19 am ET
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Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday.

Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (2-2): L, 9-1 vs. Buffalo (Blue Jays)

— Catcher Christian Vazquez continued his hot start at the plate on his rehab assignment with the PawSox, going 3-for-4 Sunday with three sharply hit singles (two up the middle, one to the opposite field) and another hot shot that required a diving stop at first base. Including his three walks so far this year, Vazquez has now reached base in 9-of-12 plate appearances.

The 25-year-old Vazquez missed all of the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last April. Vazquez served as the DH on Sunday but caught games in Pawtucket both Friday and Saturday and, per reports, fielded and threw well.

“I’m feeling great,” Vazquez told the Providence Journal before Sunday’s game. “I don’t want to rush it. Day-by-day, it’s coming. … I’m close to 100 percent. I’m getting there.”

Vazquez saw time in the majors in 2014, throwing out 15-of-29 would-be base stealers while committing five errors in 54 games. The Red Sox have until April 28 to option Vazquez or bring him back to the big leagues.

— Other than Vazquez, who drove in the team’s lone run of the game in the first inning, the Pawtucket offense struggled with just seven total hits and one extra base-hit (a double from left fielder Allen Craig). Shortstop Marco Hernandez (Boston’s No. 13 prospect at MLB.com) went 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored, while first baseman Sam Travis (Boston’s No. 7 prospect at MLB.com) cooled off with an 0-for-4; Travis was also charged with an error in the field as he was unable to backhand a grounder to his right in the third inning.

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Red Sox president Sam Kennedy: Pitching David Price in home opener ‘100 percent John Farrell’s call’

04.10.16 at 10:32 pm ET
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Sam Kennedy

Sam Kennedy

Perhaps the controversy will have died down a bit by the time David Price takes the mound Monday afternoon, but ever since John Farrell announced the ace would be pushed back a day, letting Steven Wright make Sunday’s start, there has been buzz.

Was this a mandate from above, such as Red Sox ownership, to get Price the start in the home opener? Why would there be such a priority to make sure the No. 5 starter, Wright, stayed on his regular turn?

While appearing at the second annual WEEI Baseball Round Table at the Cathedral Station Sports Bar and Restaurant, team president Sam Kennedy offered his explanation as to how things transpired.

“Selfishly, as someone who will be at Opening Day, I’m excited to watch David Price in person. I think ownership and those in the front office weren’t sure what was going to happen, but it was 100 percent John Farrell’s call,” Kennedy said. “I think the thinking was that you had right-handers going against a right-handed lineup, and No. 2, the knuckleball hopefully works better in the [Rogers Centre] dome, and No. 3, you want to keep the rotation early in the year. It didn’t seem to be that big of a deal, but I understand it has become a big talk radio issue, and I understand that any time you have David Price going.

“[Kennedy and ownership] were at Fenway and we heard from Dave Dombrowski who was with the club that that was the decision they had made inside the clubhouse. I can assure you that was not a decision that was mandated by me or John [Henry] or Tom [Werner] or anybody else. That was a baseball decision and hopefully it will work out.”

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Closing Time: Steven Wright pitches well, but punchless Red Sox shut out by Blue Jays

04.10.16 at 5:19 pm ET
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Steven Wright wasn't the problem in Sunday's loss to the Jays. (Nick Turchiaro-USA Today Sports)

Steven Wright wasn’t the problem in Sunday’s loss to the Jays. (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

Not even David Price could’ve saved them.

The controversy all week over the Red Sox’ choice of starter for Sunday’s finale in Toronto was rendered irrelevant by Jays right-hander Marco Estrada, who combined with two relievers to shut out the Red Sox in Toronto’s 3-0 victory.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright got the start on Price’s regularly scheduled day to pitch, with the Red Sox opting to hold Price back a day for Monday’s home opener at Fenway Park. Wright certainly did his part, limiting the high-octane Blue Jays to six hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five, but the Red Sox could do nothing with the crafty Estrada, who went seven shutout innings, striking out eight.

“Outstanding job on his part,” manager John Farrell said of Wright. “Kept us in the game into the seventh inning. He minimized the damage as much as possible in the first, but after that first inning, he settled in and controlled and commanded the knuckleball very well. He used his fastball at times to get ahead in the count, to get back into counts. But we ran into an outstanding pitching performance by Estrada today.”

The Jays basically won this one by the time they recorded their first out on offense. Singles by Kevin Pillar and Josh Donaldson leading off, followed by a walk to Jose Bautista, loaded the bases with one out. Edwin Encarnacion hit a double-play grounder to short, but Dustin Pedroia threw away Xander Bogaerts’ relay, allowing Encarnacion to reach and two runs to score.

Wright escaped further damage and kept the Jays off the board the rest of the way, their only other run coming on a mammoth solo homer by Donaldson off of reliever Noe Ramirez in the eighth.

The Red Sox return to Fenway 3-2 after a successful season-opening road trip, however, having taken two of three from the Jays.

Closing Time note

Until Ramirez allowed Donaldson’s homer, Red Sox relief pitchers had held opponents to a .100 average (5-for-50), the lowest mark among big league bullpens.

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Read More: Blue Jays, David Price, Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

Sunday Red Sox Farm Report: Sam Travis delivers walk-off hit for PawSox

04.10.16 at 8:39 am ET
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Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday.

Sam Travis

Sam Travis

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (2-1): L, 3-1, Game 1 and W, 4-3, Game 2 vs. Buffalo (Blue Jays)

— First baseman Sam Travis (Boston’s No. 7 prospect at MLB.com) was the hero of Game 2 with a walk-off single ripped down the left-field line that gave Pawtucket a 4-3 victory. Second baseman Josh Rutledge led off the bottom of the seventh (the final inning as in standard minor league doubleheader formats) with a single to center and advanced to second with a stolen base. Catcher Christian Vazquez was then intentionally walked, bringing Travis to the plate for the finish.

Travis, 22, had also singled home a run in the fifth — a laced single to center on a 2-0 pitch that scored shortstop Marco Hernandez — to tie the game at 3 as Travis finished the nightcap 2-for-4 with two RBIs after going 1-for-3 with a run scored in Game 1. Selected by Boston in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Indiana University, Travis was named the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 after slashing .307/.381/.452 in 131 games split between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland.

— Rutledge, Hernandez and Vazquez combined to go 8-for-11 with four runs scored hitting in the top three spots of the PawSox order in Game 2. Hernandez tripled home Rutledge in the first with a shot off the left-center wall, and later came home on a Vazquez single past third base. Hernandez would add a double in the third as well, pulling one into right field and hustling in to second ahead of the throw.

Hernandez, a 23-year-old switch hitter, slashed .305/.330/.454 last season split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket as he finished with nine homers, 30 doubles and six triples in 114 games played. Hernandez was acquired by Boston from the Chicago Cubs as part of the return in the Felix Doubront trade in December of 2014.

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Sunday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Steven Wright vs. Marco Estrada

04.10.16 at 8:23 am ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

In the series finale on Sunday, Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright will take on Blue Jays righty Marco Estrada. Both pitchers will be making their first start of the 2016 season.

Wright was used as a spot starter for most of 2015, when he started nine games. He posted a record of 5-4 to go with a 4.09 ERA and 52 strikeouts. He may find himself in a similar role this season once Eduardo Rodriguez returns from injury. The 31-year-old earned the temporary fifth spot in spring training, when he struck out 19 and had an ERA of 2.77 over 26 innings. He will come into his first outing with some positive momentum, as he impressed in his final Grapefruit League start against the Blue Jays at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on April 1.

“I thought he was outstanding for the time on the mound,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after that game. “A high number of strikeouts. His knuckleball was really working inside a dome, which is what we’ve seen over time, it usually has extra action to it. That was the case tonight. He threw a number of curveballs, a pitch that he’s brought along this spring. A very good outing for Steven.”

Wright will once again have the advantage of playing in a dome on Sunday, this time in Toronto. While he has never started a regular-season game against the Blue Jays, he has been used out of the bullpen on two separate occasions. In seven innings of work, he has allowed three earned runs and struck out nine.

As for Estrada, he will be coming off the disabled list to make his first start on Sunday. He started the year there with a sore back but pitched in a minor league game on Monday where he gave up one run on three hits over five innings of work.

Last season was Estrada’s best yet. The 32-year-old from Mexico posted a record of 13-8 to go with a 3.13 ERA and 131 strikeouts, setting career bests in wins, ERA, WHIP and innings pitched. His only downfall has been through the long ball. In the past two seasons alone, Estrada has allowed 53 home runs.

In five games against the Red Sox, Estrada is 2-2 with a 4.95 ERA and 14 strikeouts.

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Closing Time: Rick Porcello, Red Sox rally to knock off Blue Jays, improve to 3-1

04.09.16 at 3:59 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts is greeted by teammates after scoring in the third on Saturday. (Dan Hamilton-USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts is greeted by teammates after scoring in the third on Saturday. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

The way the Red Sox are swinging the bats right now, their starting pitching is about as relevant as Pablo Sandoval’s belt.

It says something about the quality of their non-David Price starts that Rick Porcello’s six-inning, four-run performance against the Blue Jays on Saturday felt like a godsend. But it says even more about their offense that deficits of 2-0 and 4-3 didn’t last very long.

Porcello settled down after a rough start and the bats stayed red-hot as the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 8-4 and improved to 3-1 on the young season.

“With the lineup that we have, and the things that they’re doing right now, our job is to keep us in the game and pitch as deep as possible,” Porcello told reporters in Toronto. “That’s it. That being said, you face some tough lineups, it can be a challenge, but we’ve got a great lineup and really really good defense, and that’s to our advantage.”

The offensive stars were everywhere in this one, from Dustin Pedroia (3-for-5, 2 RBIs) to Rusney Castillo (2-for-4) to Hanley Ramirez (triple, RBI) to Brock Holt (another extra-base hit).

“It’s seemingly different guys every day,” manager John Farrell told reporters. “I thought Rusney matched up well with the knuckleballer today. He responds with two good hits, a couple of runs scored. Hanley, once again, we catch a break on a high bounce that goes over Jose [Bautista’s] head for a triple and a couple of runs. We score on another wild pitch. We were given some gift outs. I think [R.A.] Dickey’s knuckleball, I think that was the best I’ve ever seen, as violent as it was, and  we were able to put some innings together against him.”

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Pablo Sandoval breaks belt when swinging bat

04.09.16 at 1:45 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval finally got his start, but it didn’t start out the way he probably had hoped.

Hitting sixth in the Red Sox lineup Saturday afternoon against Toronto starter R.A. Dickey, Sandoval struck out in his first at-bat. But that was only part of the problem.

When fouling off a Dickey knuckleballer earlier in the count, Sandoval broke his belt, causing the third baseman to finish off his at-bat without his pant’s support system.

To make matters worse, Sandoval was charged with a throwing error when fielding his first chance at third in the bottom half of the second.

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