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Jonathan Papelbon: Philadelphia fans will never embrace me

04.09.15 at 1:22 am ET
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Jonathan Papelbon picked up his 326th career save Wednesday night. (Getty Images)

Jonathan Papelbon picked up his 326th career save Wednesday night. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA — He had just finished his somewhat bizarre post-game press conference when Jonathan Papelbon sat down in front of his locker, took a deep breath and attempted to soak in what could be classified as a microcosm of his entire tenure as a Phillie.

There was a solid four-out save (bringing him within five of tying the Phillies’ franchise record), the trademark celebration after securing the final out and then another uneasy session with the media.

This time the conversation with those asking the questions involved both the pitcher’s thoughts on the Phillies’ 4-2 win over the Red Sox, and pre-game comments made to the Boston Globe saying he still didn’t feel like a Phillie. (To read a transcript of that entire press conference, click here.)

Then, talking for a few more minutes with WEEI.com, he tried to clarify some of the clarification.

“It’€™s different organizations. Different philosophies. Different front office. Different coaches. Different everything,” said Papelbon of the Red Sox and Phillies. “There’€™s two separate entities. I intend on going to the Hall of Fame. If I go to the Hall, I want to go as a Red Sox. That’€™s what I feel like I feel like I am. I have a world championship ring with them.

“It’€™s like when you ask somebody where they’€™re from. Where are you from? I’€™m from Baton Rouge. I moved when I was 12, but I still feel like that’€™s where I’€™m from. That’€™s where my roots are. The same deal with the Red Sox.”

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Jonathan Papelbon’s somewhat bizarre postgame press conference

04.08.15 at 11:17 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — It was pure Jonathan Papelbon.

The Phillies closer comes on to get Hanley Ramirez to end the Red Sox‘ eighth-inning threat with a bases-loaded, warning track fly out before locking down his first save of the season in his team’s 4-2 win over the Red Sox Wednesday night.

The game was punctuated with a Papelbon strikeout, leading to the closer’s triple-pump celebration. And then came his his postgame press conference, much of which dealt with the pitcher answering questions about a pregame statement suggesting he still wasn’t comfortable living life as a Phillie.

Here is a transcript of the conversation:

What did you think of Hanley Ramirez‘s fly ball when it left the bat in the eighth inning?

“Third out of the inning.”

Did you think it was gone?

“No, did you?”

I thought it might have been.

“So you thought it was gone?”

I thought it was going to be close.

“Fair enough.”

Was your mindset any different getting a four-out save?

“Not really. I think for me everything stays the same and I go out there and try do a job, and when I’m called on nothing changes.”

Coming in there in a pressure situation, bases loaded, fans cheering you, does it make you any more like a Phillie?

“Other than, a what? What is a Phillie? A horse? That’s what it is? I feel like a horse, yeah. I feel like a horse. I felt like a horse tonight.”

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Closing time: Rick Porcello makes one big mistake, Red Sox bats go silent in 4-2 loss to Phillies

04.08.15 at 10:03 pm ET
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Rick Porcello delivers against the Phillies on Wednesday night. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Rick Porcello delivers against the Phillies on Wednesday night. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA –€“ On Monday, Rick Porcello signed an $82.5 million contract. On Wednesday against the Phillies, he reminded us that he’s not your prototypical $20 million pitcher.

While Phillies counterpart Aaron Harang toyed with the Red Sox, striking out in eight in 6.2 shutout innings, Porcello made one mistake, and it cost him dearly.

Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur crushed a hanging slider with two on in the sixth to break a scoreless tie and boost the Phillies to a 4-2 victory.

One game after blasting five homers in an 8-0 whitewashing, the Red Sox did nothing offensively on a cold, raw, wet night.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval provided virtually all of the team’s offense with a pair of singles (though he also made a costly throwing error that led to a run). One of the Red Sox‘ best chances to score came in the seventh, when Dustin Pedroia walked and Sandoval followed with his second single.

But Hanley Ramirez flew out to center at the end of a lengthy at-bat to finish Harang’s night, and Mike Napoli lined out to short, with Pedroia getting doubled off second to end the inning.

For most of the night until that point, Porcello looked like the pitcher the Red Sox had hoped to see when they extended him on Monday. He forced 11 groundouts vs. just two flyouts, kept the ball down, and seemed on his way to keeping the Phillies in the park.

But the winning rally showcased one of the drawbacks to relying on a sinkerballer who doesn’t record big strikeout numbers. After a Darin Ruf one-out walk, Philly’s Cody Asche singled on a grounder just out of Pedroia’s diving reach.

Francoeur’s homer followed, and that was it for the Red Sox. Porcello allowed six hits and three runs in six innings, striking out four and walking two.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Francoeur’s homer may have won it, but the Phillies wouldn’t have been in that position without the effort of Harang, a 14-year veteran coming off a 12-12 season with the Braves. Harang kept Red Sox hitters off balance and let the weather knock down a couple of long fly balls from Mookie Betts as the Sox failed to duplicate Monday’s performance.

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Somber David Ortiz says Marathon bombing verdict won’t bring victims back

04.08.15 at 5:52 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — David Ortiz memorably told a packed Fenway Park and rapt television audience, “This is our (bleeping) city,” in response to the Marathon bombings.

But defiance yielded to a somber acknowledgement of reality on Wednesday when Ortiz was asked for a reaction to the news that surviving bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been found guilty on all 30 counts in federal court.

“I don’€™t know, man,” Ortiz said. “What can I tell you? I mean, it doesn’€™t matter. It’€™s not going to bring those people who lost their lives back. It is what it is.”

Ortiz was in no mood to celebrate the conviction of a murderer who took the lives of four people, and had little to say on the possibility of Tsarnaev receiving the death penalty.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not a judge.”

Teammate Shane Victorino, however, was more pointed in his thoughts.

“Anytime the system finds a guy who committed, to me, an evil act, it’s a sad and a day we’€™ll all never forget, especially being an athlete,” Victorino said. “Individuals who lived in that city, people from that city people who were’€¦ things you look back upon. I’€™m very happy that was the verdict, he was found guilty. Obviously the sentencing on what is going to happen hasn’€™t been made, but I think for me it’€™s a happy day in regards to finding this individual who committed this sinful and evil act, guilty of all the charges he was charged with.”

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Steven Wright to get Saturday start against Yankees

04.08.15 at 5:25 pm ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

PHILADELPHIA — Prior to the Red Sox game against the Phillies Wednesday, John Farrell announced that Steven Wright would be getting the start against the Yankees Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

There was some thought that Joe Kelly might be able to make what will likely be his usual turn, but Farrell noted that the team is hoping to get the righty up to 95 pitches before entering the big league rotation. It’s expected that Kelly will pitch for Greenville Saturday.

It will be Wright’s third major league start, with his most recent one coming last Sept. 26 against the Yankees in which he allowed two unearned runs over five innings.

“I try not to think about it,” said Wright regarding making an April start in Yankee Stadium. “When you’€™re in the big leagues it doesn’€™t really matter who you’€™re pitching against. But it’€™s definitely exciting, especially this early on because I’€™ve never broke with the team before and I’€™ve only made two starts. It’€™s nice to get that first one under your belt, hopefully have a good outing and build off of that.

“For me, you go from the warm to the cold so with the knuckleball you’€™re just trying to get acclimated and trusting the movement and try not to do too much because you do get a little more excited when it’€™s your first outing. Just trying to hone that in and not overthrow. Just try and throw good knuckleballs in the strike zone.”

Wright hasn’t pitched in a game this early in the calendar year since 2013, having not pitched until late May last season due to injury.

The knuckleballer threw his bullpen session at Citizens Bank Park Wednesday, using the chilly weather to prepare for what will be a day game Saturday.

“It’€™s more chilly so the movement isn’€™t as sharp as it usually is when it’€™s warm outside,” Wright said. “That’€™s something when you go out there and throw your side for the game you take that all into consideration. Sometimes if it’€™s not moving as much, you subtract or add a little bit more, and if it’€™s moving too much then you make sure you’€™re not throwing them at the same speed.”

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Red Sox lineup: Shane Victorino, David Ortiz start on bench

04.08.15 at 3:39 pm ET
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Daniel Nava

Daniel Nava

PHILADELPHIA — With Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang on the mound, the Red Sox will start Daniel Nava in right field, with Shane Victorino starting the game on the bench.

Victorino played well during the Red Sox’ Opening Day win, drawing a pair of walks and pushing the issue on the basepaths, while making a nice catch against the right field wall. Victorino is, however, 9-for-27 (.333) against Harang for his career, with Nava going 1-for-2.

Also sitting is David Ortiz, who comes into the game 5-for-11 with a home run against the Phillies starter. Mike Napoli gets the start at first base after entering Monday’s game as a defensive replacement.

Here is the Red Sox lineup with Rick Porcello on the mound for the visitors:

Mookie Betts CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Hanley Ramirez LF
Mike Napoli 1B
Daniel Nava RF
Ryan Hanigan C
Xander Bogaerts SS
Rick Porcello P

For all the matchups, click here.

Last starter standing: Justin Masterson won’t let contract uncertainty change approach

04.08.15 at 12:12 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Now that Rick Porcello is locked up for four years beyond 2015, the majority of the Red Sox starting rotation certainly looks like it will be around for a while.

Thanks to two team options, Clay Buchholz is under club control through 2017. Newly signed Wade Miley’s final club option is for the ’18 season. And Joe Kelly is heading into his first year of arbitration eligibility.

That leaves Justin Masterson.

The 30-year-old is slated to become eligible for free agency for a second straight offseason, currently playing under a one-year, $9.5 million deal with the Red Sox for ’15.

But even though he is now the only Red Sox starter to find himself in a contract year, don’t expect any of the kind of drama that often resides with such dynamic. Masterson has gone through this before, and he’s fully ready to experience it one more time.

“I think it’s based on the person,” Masterson said of how such a dynamic might affect someone in his position. “I think we all have different personalities. That was never even a concern for me. My time is my time, if it’s not, we’ll do something else.”

Heading into 2014, there was some thought that Masterson would be living the life of a pitcher primed for a huge payday. But after he experienced physical issues from the first day of spring training, contributing to a dip in velocity and effectiveness, the Indians’ only offer was for two years. Predictably, Masterson turned it down.

“It can affect people when they do that, but it’s also an easy out if a guy struggles or something happens to say, ‘That’s affecting him.’ It may or my not be. But that’s always an easy out when those things happen,” Masterson said of playing in a contract year. “Like last year for me, people saying, ‘The contract stuff must be affecting him.’ That didn’t feel good. You get that all the time. ‘You should have taken it.’ No. I would have actually felt worse if I had taken it because I knew I wasn’t feeling good. I just think it’s based off the person. But for some people it can make it hard to play.”

Masterson clearly is secure in his lot in life.

The righty has progressed well throughout spring training, lining up to get the start Thursday against the Phillies. And while Masterson is entering this contract year in a similar frame of mind as a year ago, there is one significant change in his world.

“The difference is that I feel better,” he said. “The same sentiment I had last year, playing hard and wanting to do well for my teammates, carries over to this year. Yeah, there’s something afterwards, but I want to do well because I care about these guys. We do our part and we win games. You do your part, everybody works hard, those riches, glory or whatever might come, comes later.”

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Buster Olney on MFB: Dustin Pedroia’s power biggest takeaway from Opening Day

04.08.15 at 11:58 am ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN’s Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on with Middays with MFB on Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox after their impressive start to the season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Sox opened the season with an 8-0 victory over the Phillies, hitting five home runs — two each from Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez.

“The fact that Pedroia hit for power to me was the thing that jumped out,” Olney said. “Because I know all of last year — and look, nobody engenders more respect around baseball than Dustin Pedroia does, and people love the way he plays, but I heard it from a lot of people, whether it was scouts or other players, they wondered if Dustin was ever going to get back to being able to hit for any kind of power, because he’s had so many nagging injuries — wrist, hands, the whole thing — and that was a great sign on the first day that he was able to do something.

“When you’re playing the Phillies right now it is a little bit Christians and the lions situation because they are really bad. But that’s a great start for them.”

The much-maligned Clay Buchholz pitched like a No. 1, allowing no runs and just three hits through seven innings.

“We’ve seen it in the past, he’s certainly capable of pitching really well,” Olney said. “And you’re right, it’s a good sign, it doesn’t matter who you’re facing. You can only compete against the guys who are in front of you. … Everything that I saw, he looked in command. Most of the time you liked the tempo, which I always thought was a barometer when you watch Buchholz is how quickly is he working between pitches. The faster he works, the better it seems he is; the slower he works, the more uncertain he seems to be. The other day he seemed like he was very comfortable.

“It’s a great first sign from a team that needs, let’s face it, contributions from all ends of their rotation.”

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Curt Schilling on D&C: Rick Porcello extension stresses ‘Red Sox are all about length of contract’

04.08.15 at 10:09 am ET
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ESPN analyst and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling joined the Dennis & Callahan show on Wednesday to talk about Rick Porcello’€™s four year, $82.5 million contract extension, pitching and the importance of the health in the lineup. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Porcello is scheduled to make his first start of the season on Wednesday night, but the Red Sox were kind enough to give him a four-year extension on Monday. For a player like Porcello, who is regarded as a ground ball pitcher, the defense behind him becomes a huge part of his success or failure. Though that can create some uncertainty about his performance going forward, Schilling said teams have been making moves to adjust to this.

“Defensively you have to catch the balls,” Schilling said. “The challenge for me is there’s a lot of coin flip to a guy that relies on defense to win. You can go out there and throw great and give up 15 hits in a game as a ground ball guy if the balls aren’t hit at people, but nowadays with the amount of advanced scouting and defensive positioning, teams are turning that into a science.”

While $20 million a year is no joke as a contract, Schilling noted that, although Porcello might garner relatively less on the market, the Red Sox are doling out extra to keep that contract on the shorter side.

“I think it’s another move that just reinforces the Red Sox are all about length of contract,” he said. “I think that the four years was the reason it was [$]20 [million]. He goes on the market, I think he ends up looking at five, six, seven [years] for 16, 17, 18 somewhere in there, but you pay to short that money.”

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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Phillies matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Aaron Harang

04.08.15 at 8:24 am ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

After a day off following Monday’s opener, the Red Sox will send newcomer Rick Porcello to the mound against Aaron Harang of the Phillies.

Porcello — who signed a four-year, $82.5 million contract extension Monday — came to Boston in a trade over the winter after having a good year with the Tigers in 2014. Last season he made 31 starts, going 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and 129 strikeouts. Porcello, 26, continued his recent success with a good spring training, pitching 14 innings over four starts while posting a 2.57 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and 11 strikeouts against just three walks.

Historically, Porcello has pitched to contact and has not relied on strikeouts to retire batters; for his career, he has a strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio of just 5.5. To be most effective, he would like to see most of the balls in play put on the ground instead of in the air. In his six MLB seasons, his ground out to air out ratio is 1.61. In 2014, that ratio dipped a bit to 1.42, so Porcello will look to improve on that performance starting Wednesday.

Porcello’s last spring start was last Thursday against the Twins. He pitched four innings, allowing one run on five hits while striking out three and recording 1.14 ground outs for every air out. Porcello received a no decision in that game, as the Red Sox did not score until plating seven in the sixth.

“I think the most important thing is the arm and body feel really good, so I’m definitely on the right track,” Porcello told reporters after his outing. “It’s definitely one of those things where it never really ends throughout the course of the season. There’s always maintenance and tweaking to be done, but I feel good about the foundation being built this spring and I’m ready to go.”

Wednesday will mark Porcello’s first career start against the Phillies.

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