|Red Sox notes: A more cautious approach with Shane Victorino; why Ryan Lavarnway is up||04.25.13 at 7:16 pm ET|
When Shane Victorino suffered back spasms last Saturday that forced him to exit the game, he missed both ends of a Sunday doubleheader but by Monday appeared no worse for the condition as he returned to the Red Sox lineup. However, when he experienced a recurrence of the symptoms during his sixth-inning at-bat on Wednesday, forcing him out of another game, a need for a more conservative approach became apparent.
Thus, Victorino is out of the lineup on Thursday, and there’s a good chance that, regardless of how he’s feeling, he won’t be able to play on Friday, either.
“We won’t even consider putting him in the lineup until he’s symptom-free, and even then, it might be best -served to give him one additional day after that. We’re going to go on when he’s free and clear of the symptoms,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “He’s day to day. He’s still got some low back stiffness, and obviously held out because he’s unable to go today, but how long this takes, we’re hopefully it’s only a couple of days, but given the fact that he’s had this within a week, we’ve got to be a little more cautious this time around.”
GM Ben Cherington said that a trip to the disabled list for Victorino “hasn’t even been discussed.”
OTHER RED SOX NOTES
– The decision to option Alfredo Aceves after Wednesday’s Red Sox game created a free roster spot for the Sox to play with until the anticipated return of starter John Lackey from the disabled list on Sunday. With Victorino out, it might have been natural to think that the Sox would have called up an outfielder to fill in.
However, the two outfielders on Pawtucket’s 40-man roster — Jackie Bradley Jr. and Alex Hassan — weren’t considerations for a call-up. It has been fewer than 10 days since Bradley was sent down to Triple-A, and so he’s not yet eligible to be recalled unless a member of the Sox lands on the DL. Hassan, meanwhile, is on the DL in Pawtucket. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox GM Ben Cherington on Alfredo Aceves: ‘Ultimately, it’s going to be up to him’||04.25.13 at 5:53 pm ET|
Can Alfredo Aceves remain a part of the Red Sox organization? Does the team need to trade him, or can he continue to offer value to the team with whom he signed in February 2011, delivering one brilliant season out of the bullpen, one wildly erratic year as a closer (who ultimately lost that job) and one mysterious start to the 2013 campaign?
“Yeah, I think he can [remain valuable to the Sox],” said Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. “He’s got to pitch better. I don’t think this was an evaluation off a three-week sample. It goes back to last year. He just hasn’t performed well enough for a significant period of time now. We know he has performed well in the past, he’s capable of performing and he’s talented enough to do that. But he’s got to get back to doing the things that made him good. Besides that, there’s nothing else to it. He just has to pitch better. Once he pitches better, then there will be better options for him. But right now he’s got to pitch better.”
Cherington echoed the sentiments of manager John Farrell that the decision to demote Aceves was entirely based on performance issues rather than clubhouse mien or commitment to the team. (“This was not about a lack of effort,” said Cherington. “He’s a hard worker.”) He also agreed that Aceves’ role (starter vs. reliever) has not been at the heart of his struggles in 2012 and 2013, given that they’ve occurred in different capacities.
So why not give up on him? Cherington pointed to the fact that Aceves has enough of a track record as an impact arm — not just with the Sox in 2011, but also as a dominant late-innings presence in 2009 with the Yankees — that the team wants to work with him in Triple-A to try to get him back on track to be a useful contributor to the team. Read the rest of this entry »
|John Farrell: Decision to send Alfredo Aceves to minors ‘performance-based, solely’||04.25.13 at 4:19 pm ET|
Red Sox manager John Farrell said that the decision to send right-hander Alfredo Aceves to Triple-A Pawtucket was based only on the pitcher’s results on the mounds. With the 30-year-old in possession of an 8.66 ERA in five appearances (three starts) this year, after finishing last season with a 9.27 ERA in 12 appearances (22 1/3 innings), questions about his off-field conduct did not play a role.
The decision, Farrell said, was “performance-based, solely — not just in the outings this year, but going back last six weeks, eight weeks last year, this was strictly performance-based,” said the manager. “He’ll start [in Pawtucket]. He’s just got to gain consistency. He’s healthy, and when he’s been consistent, such as the five innings in Cleveland, he pitched very well. The capability is there, yet we’ve got to get him back on track, not just inning to inning but outing to outing.”
Given the fact that there are inconsistencies on an inning-to-inning basis, Farrell was asked why Aceves will be stretched out as a rotation depth option in the minors rather than prepared for a potential bullpen job — returning, perhaps, to the role in which he became such an impactful contributor to the Sox in 2011. Farrell suggested that need played a considerable part in it.
The Sox expect to activate John Lackey on Sunday to rejoin the rotation as a fifth starter. Aside from Aceves, the only other viable starting depth options on the 40-man roster are Allen Webster and knuckleballer Steven Wright. (Rubby De La Rosa and Franklin Morales are not yet stretched out enough for big league starts; Drake Britton is in Double-A and not ready for big league action.) Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Keury De La Cruz’s tempo; Sean Coyle’s powerful return; Garin Cecchini’s hot streak||04.25.13 at 11:18 am ET|
Outfielder Keury De La Cruz collected his second walk-off hit of the year, pulling a double to right-center in the bottom of the ninth inning, as part of a 2-for-4 day in which he also walked and stole a pair of bases. De La Cruz, who seemingly drove at least one ball to (or over) the fences per game in Fort Myers during spring training, now appears to be heating up after a slow start. He has five extra-base hits in his last four games, a span in which he’s 6-for-16 with three walks.
The cluster of walks and extra-base hits is likely more than just a coincidence. De La Cruz, 21, is one of the most aggressive swingers in the Red Sox system, appearing to come out of his cleats at times while going after fastballs. While that sometimes gets him in trouble and leaves him prone to swing and miss, when he controls his effort level and zones in on pitches, his bat speed is such that he can generate plenty of pop with a more relaxed cut.
Perhaps that explains the disparity between De La Cruz’s numbers when hitting with the bases empty as opposed to with runners on base. So far this year, he’s hitting .176/.243/.294 with 12 strikeouts in 37 bases-empty plate appearances. With runners on base, that line shoots up to .306/.350/.528 with seven strikeouts in 40 plate appearances. With runners in scoring position, he’s been even better, hitting .346/.400/.654 with six strikeouts in 30 plate appearances.
When De La Cruz plays under control, his talents are considerable — as evidenced by the fact that he became the first 20/20 player in the Red Sox system since 2005 last year, as a 20-year-old. The performance with runners on base suggests that the corner outfielder possesses the ability to do so; the question he must continue to answer in the lower levels is how consistently he can find the right pace to his game.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: RAINED OUT AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)
– Catcher Ryan Lavarnway will be called up to the Red Sox on Thursday, with Alfredo Aceves being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Lavarnway gives the Red Sox an extra right-handed bat at a time when Shane Victorino‘s availability could be in question in the immediate term after he experienced tightness in his lower back for the second time in five days. Read the rest of this entry »
|Larry Lucchino on D&C: Red Sox’ success ‘an early vindication’ of front office’s offseason approach||04.25.13 at 10:53 am ET|
Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss Saturday’s emotional pregame ceremony at Fenway Park, the possible closer controversy that lies ahead, and many more important topics from early in the season.
The Sox sit atop the American League East at 14-7, and one of the most memorable victories was on Saturday against the Royals. In that contest, Daniel Nava hit a game-winning home run in the eighth, hours after the ceremony honoring the victims and heroes of the Boston Marathon bombings and manhunt.
“We talk a lot about the importance of Fenway Park as a community meeting place and the importance of a baseball team in bringing a community together, a sense of unity and connection and connectedness,” Lucchino said. “All of that came together last Saturday in a beautifully orchestrated event. I call it a ceremony because I think it was a celebration of those who passed away — at least a recognition of them, a moment when people could remember them and also celebrate the first responders and the action that we all took so much pride in last Thursday and Friday.”
The Sox front office and management focused this past offseason on bringing in good clubhouse players, but also ones who could perform in Boston. This was a sharp contrast to a year earlier, when they brought in highly touted stars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford who turned out to be awkward fits in Boston.
“It is in some sense an early victory, an early vindication of all of that approach,” Lucchino said. “Just as I said to you guys before, we were never trying to get the coolest guys in the class to form a fraternity in the clubhouse. What we were trying to do is get good teammates who could perform in the crucible that is Boston and make this team likable but also good. Talent is always a part of it. But Ben Cherington and his staff made a concerted effort to consider the personalities — there should be a noun for teamsmanship — the kind of people we were getting. That’s proven to be at least part of the very successful start.”
There have been a number of factors in the team’s early season success. The offense has been led by new acquisitions Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, new manager John Farrell seems to be succeeding greatly in his return to Boston, and David Ortiz is back and playing well. Lucchino, though, said that the pitchers’ success has been the key.
“For me, it starts with pitching,” Lucchino said. “The key to this team this year was going to be pitching. We knew we had a bulked-up bullpen. We knew we had some depth and some talent in that bullpen, and of course that’s one of the keys to winning baseball in the modern era. … But the revival of the starting rotation is really I think probably [the] most important factor among those that you cited — the leadership that they provide, the sense of momentum that they provide when they take the field and just the quality of their stuff. The stuff may not be contagious, but the winning is contagious and the example that they set at the top of the rotation is contagious, and baseball is, after all, a game about pitching.”
Since Joel Hanrahan‘s hamstring injury, Andrew Bailey has stepped into the closer’s role and pitched very well. With Hanrahan due to come off the disabled list soon, a closer controversy may await the Red Sox.
“I think that there will be a controversy, yes,” Lucchino said. “I think the fans and the media will be fascinated by this question. But as I just said a minute ago, without you posing the question, is that it’s not such a bad thing to have a couple of closers. Hanrahan goes down and Bailey is ready to step in without missing a beat.”
|Thursday’s Red Sox-Astros matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Philip Humber||04.25.13 at 9:42 am ET|
Clay Buchholz and Philip Humber both throw right-handed, but that’s just about where the similarities end between the two pitchers this season. Buchholz will start for the Red Sox, Humber for the Astros, at Fenway Park on Thursday at 6:35 p.m.
Buchholz is off to the best start of his career, with 29 strikeouts, 11 walks and just three earned runs allowed through his first 30 innings. He’s gone seven innings in two of his starts and eight in the other two, compiling a 1.00 WHIP and 0.90 ERA and picking up wins in all four games.
His best start was his next-to-last one, when he struck out 11 and shut out the Rays over eight innings on April 14. He fared just fine last time out, though, when he allowed two runs on eight hits and struck out six to help the Sox beat the Royals, 4-3, on Saturday.
Buchholz, who grew up not far from Houston, has never faced the Astros before in his seven-year career. Unsurprisingly, the rebuilding Astros have struggled early in their move to the AL West, with an AL-worst 6-14 record. They’ve won just one series on the road, taking two of three from the fourth-place Mariners in Seattle.
At age 30, Humber already is with his fifth team, having joined the Astros this offseason after they selected him off waivers from the White Sox.
His last outing was one he’d likely rather forget. Against the Indians on April 20, Humber gave up eight runs on eight hits and a walk as nine straight hitters reached base. He retired just one batter before he was removed from the game. Cleveland went on to win 19-6.
Before that game, Humber had a 2.89 ERA through his first three starts, striking out eight, walking four and allowing 17 hits in 18 2/3 innings.
In four career starts against the Red Sox, Humber has a 7.33 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, with 19 runs on 29 hits in 23 1/3 innings. Of the current Boston players who have seen him, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has hit him well, with two home runs, a double and a .375 OBP in his eight PAs.
Between the Astros’ youth and the fact that this is their first year in the American League, only two current Houston players have ever faced Buchholz before. Carlos Pena, the only one who’s seen him with any frequency, has a .182/.250/.303 line against him in 36 plate appearances, with a home run and eight strikeouts.
|Series Preview: Astros make rare visit to Fenway to take on Red Sox||04.25.13 at 6:12 am ET|
The Houston Astros will come to town on Thursday to kick off a four-game series against the Red Sox, Houston’s only trip to Fenway in their first year in the American League. The Astros come into the series with an AL-worst 7-14 record, while the Red Sox are the league’s best at 14-7 after defeating the Oakland A’s on Wednesday.
Houston has only won two of their first seven series, but they’re coming off a series victory against Seattle, putting up 13 runs against Joe Saunders and the Mariners.
This is only the fourth regular season meeting between the Red Sox and the Astros in the teams’ histories, but that will change now with Houston joining the American League. The last time the Sox played the Astros, they swept a three-game series in July of 2011 in Houston. It’s been much longer since the ‘Stros have come to Fenway; the last time they were in Boston was for a three-game set in 2003, a series that the Red Sox also swept.
Here are the pitching matchups for the upcoming games:
Thursday, 4/25: Clay Buchholz vs. Phil Humber
Humber, who threw one of the three perfect games in 2012, is off to a rough start, this year, leading the majors with four losses. He’s coming off one of the worst starts of his career in which he recorded only one out, giving up eight runs on eight hits in the 19-6 routing by the Cleveland Indians, ballooning his ERA to 6.63. Buchholz, meanwhile, is leading the American League with a 0.90 ERA in four starts, allowing only 19 hits in his 30.0 IP. Buchholz gave up two runs in eight innings to the Royals in his last start on 4/20, bringing his season total up to only three runs allowed.
Friday, 4/26: Ryan Dempster vs. Erik Bedard
Bedard has struggled thus far in 2013, making three starts and allowing eight runs in 11.2 IP. He’s 0-1 but did earn a save in the Astros’ first game of 2013 against Texas, going the final 3 1/3 innings. Dempster will face off against Bedard, making his fifth start of the year and coming in 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA. In his last outing he became the first Sox starter to allow more than three runs in a game, giving up four runs on six hits in seven innings against the Royals.
Saturday, 4/27: Felix Doubront vs. Brad Peacock
The Red Sox will get their first look at 25-year-old right-hander Peacock Saturday. Peacock is in his first full season in the majors, going 1-2 in four starts with an ugly 7.50 ERA, allowing six home runs already on the year. Doubront will get the ball for the Red Sox, looking for his 3rd win in four chances. Doubront pitched into the seventh inning in his last outing, allowing 3 runs on 3 hits to the Oakland A’s in the series opener.
Sunday, 4/28: TBA vs. Bud Norris
It’s very possible that John Lackey will make his return to the Red Sox rotation in time for his next scheduled start on Sunday, but the team will have to reevaluate after he throws a bullpen session on Thursday. If Lackey cannot go on Sunday, the Red Sox will have to make some moves since Alfredo Aceves, who had been starting in Lackey’s spot was optioned to Pawtucket after the game on Wednesday. Houston ace Norris will take the mound for the Astros; Norris is 3-2 with a 4.13 ERA,, and is coming off a five-inning outing against the Mariners in which he somehow allowed only one earned run on eight hits and two walks.
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