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Monday Red Sox Farm Report: Rusney Castillo goes 2-for-5 in PawSox loss

05.02.16 at 11:26 am ET
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Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday.

Rusney Castillo

Rusney Castillo

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (11-13): L, 5-4, at Syracuse (Nationals)

— The PawSox fell to Syracuse in 10 innings Sunday as they were swept over the weekend. Trea Turner and Scott Sizemore both singled with one out, setting up the two-out, walk-off single for Jason Martinson. Turner beat leftfielder Rusney Castillo’s throw to the plate, delivering the Chiefs’ second walk-off win in 48 hours.

— Starter Sean O’Sullivan had a good outing as he went seven innings and allowed two runs on five hits, while walking one and striking out five. His ERA is now 3.00 on the year.

— Castillo had a good day at the plate going 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored. His average is now .246 on the year.

— Blake Swihart caught all 10 innings and at the plate went 1-for-5 with a double.

— Center fielder Ryan LaMarre paced the offense as he went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI to raise his season average to .362.

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Christian Vazquez heeds Chili Davis’ advice, hits longest home run of life

05.02.16 at 1:19 am ET
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As Jackie Bradley Jr. said after witnessing the event from a few feet away, while waiting in the on-deck circle, “One pitch in, one pitch out.”

It seemed simple. And maybe that’s why Christian Vazquez was able to hit Dellin Betances’ 97 mph fastball onto Landsowne Street to propel the Red Sox to an 8-7 win over the Yankees on Sunday night. It was a ball the catcher proclaimed was the longest home run of his young life.

For Red Sox hitting instructor Chili Davis, it certainly didn’t seem complicated. And that’s why he offered Vazquez some important advice before the youngster went up to face Betances with two outs in the seventh inning and the game tied.

“Just trying to get him aggressive,” Davis said. “Just basically said, ‘Hey, I don’t think this guy is going to respect you. He’s going to come right at you early. Let it go. Let it fire.’ Just trying to get him aggressive early in the at-bat, which he was. He got the first-pitch heater and he jumped on it.”

Two nights before, Ortiz had launched a two-run homer over the left field wall on the first pitch he saw from Betances. But that came on a curveball. This one was the very pitch the reliever threw Sunday night, and wasn’t going to be the same approach with the light-hitting catcher up.

“He’s not going to fool around,” Davis said. “David knew curveball was coming because that’s how he’s pitches David. But for someone like Christian, or someone he doesn’t really know or hasn’t done what David has done, what is he going to do? He’s going to try and get ahead.”

Said Ortiz: “There’s not guessing in this game. Every time I try to guess, I guess wrong. You pick what you think you can hit. If you don’t hit breaking balls you don’t pick breaking balls. If you don’t hit fastballs you don’t pick fastballs. … Let me tell you, whenever you step up to the plate with a bat, you have a chance. That was a 98 mph fastball. That [expletive] ended up on the moon.”

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David Price, John Farrell relive decision to get one more crack at Alex Rodriguez

05.02.16 at 12:51 am ET
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David Price finished his up and down outing in a positive fashion. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

David Price finished his up-and-down outing in positive fashion. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It was the moment David Price would want to remember on a night he probably would prefer to forget.

With the game tied, 6-6, and two outs in the seventh inning, Alex Rodriguez strode the plate for the Yankees. This was the batter who had already torched the Red Sox starter for a two-run homer and two-RBI double (both coming on fastballs) earlier in the Sunday night tilt.

So with Price sitting at 94 pitches, Red Sox manager John Farrell went to the mound to check on his starter. When the conversation was over, Farrell left in the southpaw.

It was a maneuver usually not executed by Farrell, who makes a point to only go to the mound if he is taking out the pitcher. The exceptions during the manager’s tenure are limited to Ryan Dempster and John Lackey, both coming in 2013.

“He asked me if I was going make three good pitches in that situation, and I told him, ‘Absolutely,’ ” Price said. “I appreciate him leaving me out there in that situation against a guy who’s hit the ball against me well twice that night, so it’s good.”

“I just wanted to check with him,” Farrell said. “We had [Junichi Tazawa] ready, but for a starting pitcher to work for those days in between each start, we’re in a tie ball game, he had every right to go out for that seventh. And like I said, his pitch count was still well in check. If there was a runner on, we’re probably making a move there against Rodriguez. In that spot, wanted to give him an opportunity to win and you know what, it worked out.”

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Closing Time: Christian Vazquez goes deep to help put Red Sox in 1st place

05.01.16 at 11:26 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez and Christian Vazquez celebrate the catcher's two-run homer, Sunday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez and Christian Vazquez celebrate the catcher’s two-run homer Sunday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Christian Vazquez decided to go all David Ortiz on Sunday night.

Two games after Ortiz jumped on a first-pitch slider from Dellin Betances for a game-winning home run, Vazquez executed a similar feat. On Betances very first pitch of the game — a 97 mph fastball — the Sox catcher launched his second career home run over the left field wall for a two-run, seventh-inning game-changer.

The Vazquez home broke open a tie game, helping hand the Red Sox an 8-7 win — and series sweep — over the Yankees. It was the first time the Sox swept the Yanks since Sept. 13-15, 2013.

With the Orioles losing to the White Sox, the Red Sox find themselves with sole possession of first place in the American League East, improving to 15-10. It also marks the first time the Red Sox are five games over .500 since 2013.

The Vazquez wallop helped ease the anxiety left behind by another subpar Fenway Park outing by starter David Price.

The starter’s ERA now stands at 6.14 after he allowed six runs on eight hits over seven innings. It was the third time Price has allowed five or more runs this season, having given up 21 runs in 22 2/3 innings at Fenway Park.

“I don’t know if he’s feeling like he’s got to overthrow, but the pitches are elevated a little more than we’re accustomed to seeing, and even five days ago in Atlanta when he was in the bottom of the strike zone so consistently,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Tonight is a tough night to pitch. I think both starters had a difficult time with feel and grip of the baseball. I think when you look at his body of work to date in this ballpark, there’s been more pitches elevated than we’ve typically seen, even on the road.”

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Red Sox notes: John Farrell talks urgency surrounding Clay Buchholz; Henry Owens to make next start

05.01.16 at 6:44 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

Clay Buchholz is winless on the season. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

The question was in regard to how Red Sox manager John Farrell viewed his team’s first month of the season, one that it finished at 14-10.

But within the answer, the Red Sox’ biggest uncertainty to date was surfaced: Clay Buchholz?

“Finished better than we started,” said Farrell of his club’s first month. “I think the biggest thing is the guys in our lineup have developed that trust in one another. I the fact that we’ve added to the depth of power arms in our bullpen. We still have room for improvement, we know that. We’ve got to get Clay going, particularly. He’s an important part of our rotation, an important part of this team. We’ve got to get him on track. But this last turn to two turns through the rotation has been more consistent, we’ve been able to give our guys in the bullpen a little bit more regular rest. But there’s some elements to our offense that have been very, very encouraging. The all-field approach and the way we’ve run the bases has been very consistent.”

As Farrell noted, getting Buchholz going would seem to be of the utmost priority considering the rest of the starting rotation’s ERA is a full run better on days the righty doesn’t pitch.

The Red Sox are 0-5 in games started by Buchholz, who has allowed five runs in four of his five outings. The righty’s ERA stands at 6.51.

“I can’t say that it’s a glaring thing from a mechanical standpoint,” Farrell noted. “There are times when we’ve seen Clay execute pitches with a greater conviction to the pitch. There are other times where maybe he’s pitched away from contact maybe a little bit too much, and not attacked the strike zone. To me, there comes a point, or an attitude on the mound, that’s got to be prevailing.”

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Sunday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: David Price vs. Nathan Eovaldi

05.01.16 at 7:55 am ET
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David Price

David Price

Red Sox ace David Price will get his first taste of the team’s rivalry with the Yankees on Sunday night when he faces off against righty Nathan Eovaldi in the series finale.

Price has had an up-and-down start to the season, but despite some shaky outings he has not suffered a loss. His record sits at 3-0 with a 5.76 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. In his last outing on Tuesday against the Braves he looked sharp, going eight innings and allowing two runs on six hits. He walked two and tied his career high in strikeouts with 14.

“I don’t care about strikeouts,” Price said after the game. “I just want to go out there and pitch as deep as I can into games. … I just executed whenever I was ahead.”

In 31 appearances (30 starts) against the Yankees, Price is 13-7 with a 4.04 ERA and 1.299 WHIP. He has walked 62 and struck out 173 in 191 2/3 innings.

Eovaldi is 1-2 through four starts with a 4.38 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. In his last outing on Monday against the Rangers, however, he was dominant. He went seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits, and even took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning. The 26-year-old Texas native walked two and struck out six as the Yankees went on to win 3-1.

“In the fifth inning. I realized I had [a no-hitter] going on. Once it’s over with, it’s over with,” Eovaldi said following the outing. “And I just want to try to go as deep in the game as I can. … When it was hit, I thought it was an out. But with the shift, the ball made it through.”

Added Mark Teixeira on Eovaldi’s performance: “We saw tonight what we saw toward the end of last year, and we’d love for that to continue. Uncomfortable swings. You can tell how good a guy is and how good his stuff is by the reaction of the hitters. They’re swinging at pitches in the dirt or they’re swinging at pitches over their heads because it’s just an uncomfortable at-bat.”

In three career starts against the Red Sox, Eovaldi is 2-0 with a 4.24 ERA and 1.412 WHIP. He has walked two and struck out seven in 17 innings.

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Closing Time: Rick Porcello turns in another ace-like performance, Red Sox trounce Yankees

04.30.16 at 10:40 pm ET
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Rick Porcello improved to 5-0 with his win Saturday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello improved to 5-0 with his win Saturday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello has officially changed the conversation.

The pitcher who was viewed as an underachieving, overpriced starter for much of 2015 is performing along the lines of what the Red Sox had hoped when signing him to a four-year, $80 million extension.

The latest opportunity for Porcello to prove his worth came Saturday night when the Sox starter went at least six innings for a major league-best (among active pitchers) 13th straight start.

When it was all said and done, the righty had gone seven shutout innings, leading the Red Sox to a 8-0 win over the Yankees at Fenway Park. The performance improved Porcello to 5-0 while lowering his ERA to 2.76, the lowest it has been as a member of the Red Sox.

It is also the first time Porcello has claimed an ERA below 3.00 after the first month of the season. With his six strikeouts and one walk, he has now fanned 36 while issuing just six free passes. He has also totaled a 2.03 ERA in the four starts the pitcher has teamed up with catcher Christian Vazquez.

With the victory, the Red Sox will go into May at 14-10. The Yankees, conversely, dropped to 8-14, their worst start after 22 games since 1991.

The offensive highlight for the hosts came with the game seemingly locked up, with David Ortiz hitting his fifth homer of the season for the Red Sox’ fifth run, in the seventh inning.

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Joe Kelly reveals origins of current shoulder issue goes back 7 years

04.30.16 at 8:09 pm ET
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Joe Kelly revealed the origins of his shoulder issue goes back to college. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports0

Joe Kelly revealed the origins of his shoulder issue goes back to college. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports0

Joe Kelly, with help from Red Sox physical therapist guru Dan Dyrek (the man who has helped prolong the careers of both Larry Bird and David Ortiz), has seemingly gotten his shoulder issue under control.

Kelly, who has started throwing off a mound, deciphered that the right shoulder impingement was a product of weakened muscles around his labrum. Now he executes the prescribed strengthening exercises two times a day, a routine he said has already paid off.

“My arm feels really, really good,” said the Red Sox starter, who hasn’t pitched since exiting from his April 19 start in the first inning. “All of the discomfort, and the little bit of pain I had, has pretty much subsided and gone.

“Every time I reached back to throw a pitch, I didn’t have that discomfort. I’m just trying to get that strength back so it doesn’t happen again. Just trying to get all the muscles around the shoulder stronger because they were pretty weak. They were over-compensating and making that impingement.”

But there has been another discovery.

As it turned out, this isn’t the first time Kelly has had to deal with this injury, with his previous approach to dealing with it far less productive.

It was seven years ago, while pitching his final stretch with Cal State-Riverside, that he felt the same sort of sensation. And because of a combination of a lack of information, and the impending Major League Baseball draft, responded in a potentially dangerous manner.

“I had one in college, pretty bad. Same thing,” he said. “I got a bunch of painkillers, and I got a bunch of anti-inflammatories, mixed them together, told my head coach, and told the trainer.”

“We were in a tournament so it was pretty good to hide from the scouts,” Kelly continued. “I had 1 1/2, two weeks off. But there were a bunch of blowouts so there was never a save situation, so when scouts and teams started asking my coach, he said, ‘Look, there wasn’t a save situation and I didn’t want to pitch him.’ Then they asked how I couldn’t pitch for a 1 1/2 weeks, so he said I had been throwing bullpens just to kind of cover for me. But I got shut down for 12 days and then when my pain went away I was only throwing 15-20 pitches. If I threw anything over 20 my coach was yanking because either I blew the save or wasn’t in a good situation. So it was pretty easy to hide, bounce back and recover because there was only 15-20 pitches of straight fastballs.

“It was obvious not the right thing to do because we weren’t fixing the problem, we just masking it. We weren’t trying to get my arm stronger.”

The ailment never completely went away, but, as Kelly pointed out it was, “nothing that painkillers or anti-inflammatories couldn’t fix.”

This time around, with each passing start, the discomfort became more and more of an issue.

“Every time I threw the ball I felt it and it was in the back of my head, thinking about what was going on,” Kelly said. “It kind of got worse and worse and worse and worse. In between starts it would build back up to get pretty close to what I thought was normal and then I would go out and start and it would set me back a little bit. The recovery was longer, longer and longer.”

Now, however, he believes they have found a permanent fix.

“Just knowing in the back of my mind, every time I go back, knowing mentally it’s not there instead of waiting for it to come back was big,” said Kelly of his recent throwing sessions. “I was waiting for the next pitch when it was going to show up, and it didn’t show up.”

Henry Owens was tipping his pitches, so his teammates came to the rescue

04.30.16 at 7:06 pm ET
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Henry Owens

Henry Owens

It wasn’t the only problem in Henry Owens’ debut this season, but it certainly didn’t help.

As it turned out, part of the pitcher’s problems when giving up three runs in 3 1/3 innings during his April 24 outing in Houston was due to pitch-tipping.

With runners on second base, Owens was offering an easy view of what pitch he was about to throw. That, in turn, led to the Astros baserunners signaling in what offering was coming to the hitter.

“CY [Chris Young] first saw it, and then mentioned it to [Clay] Buchholz and he brought me in and we saw video,” Owens said. “This was directly after my outing. We just watched and you could say I was better off just showing [the baserunner]. It was that obvious. So I just changed how I came set.”

Owens worked on correcting the problem in the days leading up to his start against the Yankees, Friday night. And while the results (6 innings 2 runs) were certainly more encouraging, he admits there’s still a ways to go.

It’s why he is scheduled to be joining Young before Sunday night’s game to keep work on hiding his pitches.

“[Friday] night we looked at videos to see. Coming set, there are still a couple of things,” said Owens, who explained he had never previously been identified as a pitch-tipper. “It’s something you don’t necessarily want to think about when you’re trying to execute a pitch. I came a long way in the last five days because we looked at video yesterday and it was really hard to see. Just from Houston to there it was better, and we’ll work on it [Sunday].

“These are elite baserunners out there, especially in the AL East. There are a lot of guys who get advantages. It’s something I’ll work on.”

Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Michael Pineda

04.30.16 at 8:00 am ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello will look to remain perfect on the season when he goes opposite righty Michael Pineda and the rival Yankees at Fenway Park on Saturday night.

Porcello has a sterling 4-0 record through four starts, with a 3.51 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. In his most recent outing Monday against the Braves, he only needed one run of support to get a win for his team. He threw 6 1/3 shutout innings, allowing just four hits. He walked two and struck out six as the Red Sox won the game 1-0. He looked dialed in and comfortable on the mound from the first pitch.

“It feels good that I’m not out there searching for something and trying to make an adjustment during a game,” Porcello said after the win.

In 11 career starts against the Yankees, Porcello is 5-4 with a 3.66 ERA and 1.248 WHIP. He has struck out 48 and walked 16 in 71 1/3 innings pitched.

Pineda is off to a rocky start in 2016, as his record sits at 1-2 through four starts to go with an ugly 6.95 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. His last time out on Sunday against the Rays was his worst start of the season. He allowed seven earned runs on 10 hits, four of which were home runs. He walked one and struck out nine as the Yankees went on to lose 8-1.

“There were some balls that were middle,” Yankees catcher Brian McCann said of Pineda after the game. “He made some pitches, and then he left some out over the plate.”

In seven starts against the Red Sox, Pineda is 4-3 with a 4.86 ERA and 1.081 WHIP. He has 38 strikeouts to go with just three walks in 37 innings of work.

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