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Saturday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Rubby De La Rosa vs. Jeremy Guthrie

09.13.14 at 8:43 am ET
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The Red Sox will play the third game of their four-game set with the Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium. Rubby De La Rosa will get the ball and pitch against Kansas City’€™s Jeremy Guthrie.

Rubby De La Rosa

Rubby De La Rosa

De La Rosa (4-6, 4.01 ERA) had trouble last Sunday commanding his pitches against the Blue Jays. As the Red Sox attempted to earn a home sweep over their division rivals, De La Rosa weaved in and out of jams in the third and fourth innings.

In the fifth inning, however, De La Rosa couldn’€™t escape trouble, as Toronto slugger Jose Bautista crushed a three-run home run over the Green Monster and on to Lansdowne Street. De La Rosa’€™s day was finished after he gave up the three runs and seven hits in four-plus innings.

De La Rosa said after the game that the 2-0 pitch to Bautista that landed near the MassPike was part of his command problems.

“Yeah, I missed that pitch,” De La Rosa said of the home run. “I tried to throw it away.”

Prior to his start against Toronto, the right-hander threw 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball on the road against the Rays, but he did not factor in the decision. De La Rosa’€™s month of August was an improvement after an abysmal July when he had an ERA close to six. Though he had a higher 1.76 WHIP, his ERA for August was 4.13.

He’€™s pitched well at Fenway Park this season, but De La Rosa has not had as much success on the road in 2014. His ERA is more than a run higher — 4.57 on the road compared to 3.47 at home — and his batting average against is .294 away from the confines of Fenway.

One of De La Rosa’€™ best starts this season came against Kansas City in late July. In seven innings, he allowed one run and five hits over seven solid innings. He walked four batters, but he worked around the major jams.

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Why you should have cared about Friday’s Red Sox game: Allen Webster turns a corner; Rusney Castillo makes his travel plans; Koji Uehara returns

09.13.14 at 12:07 am ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will be called “Why you should have cared,” looking beyond the final score — at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) — for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

Allen Webster

Allen Webster

KANSAS CITY — This undoubtedly was Allen Webster’s shining moment as a major league pitcher.

Not only did the Red Sox starter get out of a significant three-start rut — allowing just two runs over six innings in the Sox’s 4-2 win over the Royals Friday night — but he did so with something significant on the line. Webster, the pitcher who has had uneven results throughout his eight previous starts (6.47 ERA), was in control throughout almost all of his 83 pitches.

The difference this time around, besides the simple fact there were better results, was Webster’s command. For the first time this season, he walked just one batter, staying ahead of the struggling KC lineup throughout the night.

“A higher percentage of strikes tonight,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of his pitcher. “I thought he was ahead in the count a little bit more frequently, and he had a very good changeup against some left-handers to slow them down. With the exception of the one changeup that stayed up to [Eric] Hosmer (a two-run homer), he was efficient, he was powerful, and it was encouraging to see not only the number of strikes, but the overall command of the strike zone.”

OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT FRIDAY’S GAME:

— Rusney Castillo finally has his ticket to the big leagues.

The Cuban outfielder actually postponed his arrival with the Red Sox thanks to a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the ninth inning of the Pawtucket Red SoxInternational League championship series against Durham. The hit sent the teams into extra innings, where the PawSox ultimately claimed a 14-inning, 4-2 win.

The victory forced a fifth and decisive game, while also pushing Castillo’s arrival time with the Red Sox to Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Putting a bow on the season of Henry Owens

09.12.14 at 1:20 pm ET
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Left-hander Henry Owens allowed three runs in four innings on Thursday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Left-hander Henry Owens allowed three runs in four innings on Thursday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

On Wednesday night, Triple-A Pawtucket stood one inning from a commanding 2-0 lead in the Govrrnor’s Cup Finals against Durham. But a ninth-inning blown save served as a prelude to an extra-innings loss, and now, after a 4-3 loss in Durham on Thursday (box), the PawSox must win consecutive games in the park of Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate to win the best-of-five International League championship.

Among the prospect performances by the PawSox, there was little of note. Left-hander Henry Owens capped a brilliant 2014 campaign with an anticlimactic performance that bore resemblance to much of his work in eight year-ending Triple-A starts. He gave up just three hits in four innings, but included among those knocks were a pair of extra-base hits.

After a largely dazzling year in which pitching into the seventh became a commonplace occurrence for him, Owens finished the season with back-to-back four-inning outings in the International League playoffs in which he permitted a total of eight earned runs in eight innings with six walks and 11 punchouts. Certainly, he was hit harder in Triple-A (where 19 of the 43 hits he allowed (44 percent) went for extra bases, including five for homers in 46 innings) than Double-A (30 of 89 hits (34 percent) for extra bases, with six homers in 121 innings), but it’s unclear whether that reflected the stiffer competition or the fact that Owens flew past his previous innings high of 135, jumping up 24 percent to a total of 168 between Double-A, Triple-A and the All-Star Futures Game. Owens did show the ability to get swings and misses in Pawtucket, with 10.8 punchouts per nine, but he finished the year with a cumulative 4.89 ERA in Triple-A. Read the rest of this entry »

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Source: Don’t count on Red Sox going after 2 high-priced pitchers

09.12.14 at 10:01 am ET
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Jon Lester and James Shields? Don’t count on it.

According to a major league source, the Red Sox‘ offseason plan doesn’t include going after two high-priced free agent pitchers. There will be, however, undoubtedly heavy interest from the team when it comes to acquiring one top of the rotation starter.

The idea of the Red Sox going after the likes of multiple top-tier free agent hurlers — such as Lester, Shields, Max Scherzer, or Ervin Santana — has been an intriguing one, especially after Sox chairman Tom Werner stated on Thursday’s Dennis & Callahan show, “I wouldn’t say that we have limitless money, but we’ve got a lot of money to spend and we’re determined to go into the free agent market and improve the team.”

Also making the idea that the Red Sox might go all-in on the free agent pitching market intriguing is the uncertainty when it comes to their current starters.

Clay Buchholz has reemerged as a candidate to be considered a top-of-the-rotation starter — totaling a 3.18 ERA and .202 batting average against in his last seven starts. But there remains significant uncertainty regarding the rest of the group. If the season ended today, Joe Kelly and Rubby De La Rosa most likely would be the only other two slotted in for the 2015 rotation.

It is believed that the Red Sox will be most aggressive when it comes to pursuing Lester, who is 4-3 with a 2.54 ERA since joining Oakland.  But the Sox also are known to have interest in Shields. The Kansas City righty — who will be 33 years old on Opening Day — won’t bring the price tag of the former Red Sox lefty, but he won’t be cheap. One executive recently surmised Shields could easily garner a five-year deal on the open market.

Shields would also be valued because of his familiarity with the American League East and his experience in leading a young pitching staff.

“He’s kind of in the prime right now of what he’s doing,” Shields’ former manager in Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon, recently told WEEI.com. “He takes such great care of himself. He’s so highly competitive. And the ancillary benefits to the rest of the staff are incredible because of the way he is.”

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Friday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Allen Webster vs. Yordano Ventura

09.12.14 at 8:20 am ET
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The Red Sox will play the second game of their road series against the Royals on Friday night, as Allen Webster will make the start against Kansas City’€™s Yordano Ventura.

Allen Webster

Allen Webster

Webster (3-3. 6.47 ERA), who has battled inconsistency this season, is looking to get some positive outings before the season concludes. After a four-inning start in which he gave up six earned runs against the Rays on Aug. 30, he settled down in his next appearance against the Blue Jays last Friday. The right-hander struck out five and surrendered just three runs in 5 1/3 innings, though he did not factor into the decision.

Webster pitched well in the middle innings after a rough first frame when he gave up three hits. However, he gave up a two-run home run to slugger Jose Bautista, ending his night. Webster said he made a mistake in locating his fastball when he gave up the homer.

“€œIf I had located my fastball instead of leaking it middle up where he just missed it the pitch before — he’s not going to miss that pitch twice,”€ Webster said. ‘€œYeah, he’s a good hitter.”

Vying for a spot in the 2015 rotation, Webster has not pitched more than 6 2/3 innings in a start this season in the major leagues. His sub-four ERA with Triple-A Pawtucket hasn’t translated to the Red Sox just yet, as he has a 7.39 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 16 career major league outings.

Though he hasn’t faced an American League Central team this season, Webster’€™s first-ever start came against the Royals during April 2013. In that appearance, Webster scattered three runs and five hits over six innings. He did serve up two home runs, however, including one to Alex Gordon on the first pitch of the game.

“I felt comfortable from, well, not the first pitch, but once I got through that first inning, things started getting smooth for me,”€ Webster said after the game.

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Why you should have cared about Thursday’s Red Sox game: Hope for Will Middlebrooks, Clay Buchholz

09.11.14 at 11:38 pm ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will be called “Why you should have cared,” looking beyond the final score — at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) — for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

Will Middlebrooks

Will Middlebrooks

Stephen Drew wasn’t simply sent to the Yankees as some kind of Trojan Horse. The Red Sox recognized, even hoped, that he might help New York. But the team’s desire to see Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third down the stretch was so compelling that they were willing to aid an enemy with whom they had not dealt since 1997.

Bogaerts has rewarded that strategy. He has shown growing comfort both at shortstop and back in the batter’s box down the stretch, laying what both the player and the team hope will prove to be a springboard for greater success in 2015.

Middlebrooks has been another story. The third baseman entered Thursday hitting .173 with a .209 OBP and .218 slugging mark in 32 games since the trade of Drew, and marks of .182/.249/.260 on the year. He had gone 10 straight games without a multi-hit performance; he collected two hits (and no more than two hits) in five of his first 53 games.

Team officials still believe that the same player who made a splash in the big leagues in 2012 — delivering arguably the best rookie performance of any Red Sox position player since Dustin Pedroia — still is present, but is dormant inside the struggling third baseman. While belief in his potential remains present in the organization, however, the validation of that faith has been rare.

And so, nights like Thursday matter to those who seek evidence of Middlebrooks the producer. The 26-year-old went 2-for-4 with a double , a walk and an RBI. He managed to lay off breaking stuff off the plate away, manage his at-bats and hit the ball hard. The game marked his second of the year (first since May 1, when he had two hits and got hit by a pitch) in which he reached base three times.

It was the sort of contest that served as something of a reminder — in the same venue where Middlebrooks had one of his most dominant early-career performances, slamming homers down both lines and nearly driving a ball out to center near the start of his big league career in 2012 — from a player who has plenty to prove down the stretch in order to win a roster spot in 2015.

Middlebrooks and the Sox did some spoiling, beating the AL Central-leading Royals, 6-3.

OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT THURSDAY’S GAME Read the rest of this entry »

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Mookie Betts to play second down stretch as Brock Holt sent to concussion specialist

09.11.14 at 10:33 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia is out for the rest of the year. Brock Holt, after the persistence of symptoms (nausea and light-headedness) that were initially viewed as the flue, is now on his way to see a concussion specialist. And so, with second base in flux, Mookie Betts will move back to second base, the position where he’d spent nearly all of his professional career until this May when the Sox had him transition to the outfield.

Mookie Betts will shift to second base given the injuries to Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt. (Getty Images)

Mookie Betts will shift to second base given the injuries to Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The Sox had initially resisted the idea of moving Betts back to second based on their desire to give him consistent exposure to his new position. But that commitment was based on the expectation that Holt would be the everyday second baseman. With Holt sidelined, the team viewed moving Betts to second as a chance to get regular playing time in center for Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo. Manager John Farrell said that Betts, who took grounders with infield coach Brian Butterfield prior to Thursday’s game, could get a start at second as soon as Friday.

“With Pedey being done for the remainder of the year, we’ll look to get Mookie at second base going forward,” Farrell told reporters. “With Castillo coming, center field would be shared by Jackie and Rusney. … It’s based on the changes that have taken place to the roster. It was unforeseen. At the time, when Pedey went down, Brock was going to get the remainder of the reps at second, but with that being in question, this is a chance to keep Mookie on the field every day and get Jackie and Rusney on the field as well.”

Despite the fact that Betts will play second base to give the team an opportunity to offer playing time to Bradley and Castillo, Farrell said the Sox have not altered their outlook of the 21-year-old as someone who can patrol the outfield. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dustin Pedroia undergoes ‘successful’ surgery on left wrist

09.11.14 at 4:43 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced that second baseman Dustin Pedroia underwent “successful” surgery on his left wrist from which he is expected to make a full receovery. Pedroia informed WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that while he wasn’t certain of the timetable for a return to workouts, the surgery went “great” and he will be “back to normal soon finally.”

Here is the team’s announcement:

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia today underwent a successful first dorsal compartment release and a tenosynovectomy of his left wrist.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Matt Leibman at Newton-Wellesley Surgery Center in Wellesley, MA.

Pedroia is expected to make a full recovery.

Koji Uehara on the return of his split: ‘It’s still not there’

09.11.14 at 11:55 am ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara has been through this before, that doesn’t make it any easier.

Talking prior to the Red Sox‘ series finale against the Orioles Wednesday, Uehara admitted that while he is familiar with the realities that come with the kind of stretch he finds himself on — having experienced such a downturn in 2011. But he also noted that doesn’t guarantee any quick fixes.

“It’s still not there,” he said through a translator regarding the life on his split-finger fastball.

Uehara threw an extended bullpen session Tuesday, having still not pitched in a game since Sept. 4. In his last six outings — starting Aug. 16 — he has totaled a 19.29 ERA (10 runs, 4.2 innings), with opponents hitting an even .500.

“It’s more mental,” Uehara explained. “Once I go up against the hitter I might be able to get it back, but that’s something I’ll have to do in a game.”

The timing of Uehara’s issues with the Rangers were eerily similar, although not as striking as his current plight. In ’11, his first hiccup came on Aug. 17 and extended to Sept. 11, encompassing a 7.71 ERA in nine appearances (6 runs, 7 innings).

The good news for Uehara is that the results were altered dramatically over his final seven outings in ’11, not allowing a run and just one hit. Still, even with the improvement, the righty didn’t feel his problems had been totally resolved by the time the regular season came to an end.

It’s why he remains somewhat skeptical regarding the current timetable.

“I think there are some similarities,” he said, citing that the stretch in Texas was also not related to any physical issues. “I feel like it might be a little bit difficult to be completely there by the end of the season because in Texas I finished off in kind of a bad way. So we’ll see.”

As for reclaiming his role as a closer by season’s end, or worrying about what the results might mean to his impending free agency, Uehara said he isn’t getting sidetracked for such issues.

“To me it’s not too big a deal to become a closer. I just want to be healthy and finish out the season,” said Uehara, who then added, “Right now I don’t think about who I’m going to be playing for. I’m just going to do my best and see what happens in free agency.”

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner on D&C: ‘We’ve got a lot of money to spend and we’re determined to go into the free agent market and improve the team’

09.11.14 at 10:01 am ET
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Red Sox chairman Tom Werner joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning and promised that ownership has “a lot of money to spend” and is “determined” to restore the team to competitiveness after the disastrous 2014 season is over. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

“Last year, as we all know, was just a dream. This year is a nightmare,” Werner said. “It’s been painful. I was at the game yesterday and it was just not a good experience for the fans, it wasn’t a good experience for the players, it wasn’t a good experience for me. The only thing I can take from it is we are determined to get back to being in first next year. But this has really been a nightmare this year.”

Werner assured that ownership will spend the money needed to help return to the team to the top.

“This is the first year that we have not been competitive around Labor Day,” he said. “The one thing that I think that trade that we made with the Dodgers [in 2013] gave us was extreme flexibility. We know we have to add some front-line talent. We spent some time over the last few weeks talking about exactly what we can do to improve. I think that our trades at the end of July attacked the fact that we had a lack of offense. I think [Yoenis] Cespedes is a key player for us going forward. I think our signing of [Rusney] Castillo is good. But we know we need some front-line pitching talent.

“I wouldn’t say that we have limitless money, but we’ve got a lot of money to spend and we’re determined to go into the free agent market and improve the team.”

Asked what can be learned from this season, Werner pointed to the failures of the rookies.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s very difficult to repeat, but I think that we probably put a bit more stock in our younger players performing at the level we expected them to,” he said. “I know it’s always difficult to break a few rookies into your lineup. And we certainly didn’t get the offense all through the lineup that we expected this year, except for a couple of key players like David Ortiz. The players underperformed.

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t see encouraging signs. I see that [Xander] Bogaerts, the last couple of weeks I was just reading he’s batting about .360, Mookie Betts has certainly shown signs of being a terrific major league player, and Brock Holt. But I think we probably put too much stock in the replacements that we expected to come out and perform.”

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