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Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Never mind no-hitter, why 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball feels better than ever

04.23.15 at 10:18 am ET
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Why 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball is feeling better than ever. (Gail Oskin/Getty Images)

Why is 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball is feeling better than ever? (Gail Oskin/Getty Images)

Last Friday night was a big night for 2013 Red Sox first-round pick Trey Ball, as he threw six, no-hit innings with High-A Salem.

Selected No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft, and with High-A Salem two and a half years later, some have questioned the pick.

But the fact of the matter is Ball is just 20 years old. He was taken out of New Castle High School in New Castle, Indiana and until being drafted he wasn’t just a pitcher — he was a two-way player as a pitcher and an outfielder.

Friday’s performance showed the potential and talent he has, perhaps a glimpse into the future for what is to come.

“Honestly everything was [working],” Ball said via phone this week. “I had good fastball command. My off-speed stuff was working good to keep them off balance. The defense was outstanding on Friday. It was a good game.”

The 6-foot-6 left-hander didn’t allow a hit, while walking two and striking out five over the six innings against the Carolina Mudcats. It was Ball’s third career no-hitter. He threw one in high school and one with his travel team during his high school years.

Once drafted by the Red Sox Ball became exclusively a pitcher and learned “to pitch,” instead of just being a “thrower.”

“I think I’ve learned how to call my own game,” said Ball. “Learned how to actually throw all my pitches and all of them for strikes. Not just rely on my fastball. Instead of having one pitch, I now have three. I think that is the biggest difference so far.”

Ball wasn’t putting up the best of numbers until the second half last season with Single-A Greenville. Ball’€™s first half of the season wasn’t great with an ERA of 7.07 and allowing a .353 opponents batting average. Things started to click over his final 13 starts as his ERA dipped to 3.36 and his opponents batting average was down to .234.

The lefty said the biggest difference was he started feeling comfortable with all three of his pitches — fastball, curveball and changeup — not just his fastball.

“We spent most of last year working on that and I think it really started clicking towards the end of the second half,” he said. “I came into the offseason feeling strong and just continued to work on them.”

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Read More: brian johnson, deven marrero, jackie bradley, sean coyle

Mike Hazen on D&C: Despite worst starting pitching ERA in majors, ‘We believe in this rotation’

04.23.15 at 9:58 am ET
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Mike Hazen

Mike Hazen

Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to discuss the start of the Red Sox season, including the starting rotation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Through the first 15 games of the season the Red Sox starting rotation has the worst ERA in baseball at 5.71. Despite the poor start, Hazen says he and the rest of the organization believe in the five pitchers they have.

“We believe in this rotation,” Hazen said. “We believe in this rotation now. We believe in it moving forward. What changes, what updates, what things we need to do as the season unfolds that’s to be seen. These guys, for the most part, all have proven records over the course through their careers and moving forward. We think these guys are going to be pretty good.

“I know things haven’t at least from a rotation standpoint got off on the right foot necessarily, but it’s early in the season. We’re seeing it across the league — guys with other teams doing the same type of stuff. These are things we’re going to continue to monitor as we watch the club moving forward.”

With the struggles of the rotation, some have pointed to the number of promising pitching prospects in Triple-A, including Brian Johnson, Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez. Hazen said it’s too early to first panic with what they have at the major league level, but also rush these prospects to the majors.

“Again, we’re going to continue to watch this as it moves forward. It’s still way too early,” Hazen said.

Added Hazen: “Having that depth in Triple A — yeah, it’s great. We love having players down there that are going to come up and contribute. We know we’re not getting through the season with 25 men, we know we’re not getting through the season with 40 men. Year in and year out we’re going to be relying on the players not only outside the organization, but down in Pawtucket. It’s great to have guys in [Eduardo] Rodriguez, [Henry] Owens, [Brian] Johnson and [Matt] Barnes down there throwing well. But, they are still in Triple-A, they’re not in the big leagues. They’re going to probably go through that same transition.”

Hazen did say he believes all those players have a chance to make an impact at the big league level at some point this season.

Here are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

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Read More: brian johnson, mike hazen, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino

Thursday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Jake Odorizzi

04.23.15 at 8:20 am ET
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In the Red Sox‘ last game at Tropicana Field until June, righty Clay Buchholz will be tasked with handling the ball for Boston, facing off against Jake Odorizzi of the Rays.

Bouncing back from his shaky start against the Yankees, Buchholz tossed six innings of two-run ball against the Orioles on Saturday, fanning seven batters. The quality start Buchholz turned in would have been enough were it not for the lack of run support from his team in a 7-4 loss.

“Buch did a great job of keeping us close and keeping us in the game,” said teammate Brock Holt. “Made some big pitches when we needed it and got us out of some jams. He did his job. We just unfortunately weren’t able to put any runs on the board.”

With the outing, Buchholz lowered his ERA from 7.84 to 6.06 and is averaging 10.47 strikeouts per nine innings.

In 18 starts against Tampa Bay, Buchholz has a 2.45 ERA and an 8-6 record, posting a WHIP of .835. Ten of those starts took place at the Trop, where he has a 1.95 ERA through 64 2/3 innings, holding batters to a .178 average. His last outing in St. Petersburg was a complete game effort on Aug. 31 of last year. Buchholz threw nine innings and shut out the Rays, allowing just three hits and striking out six.

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Closing Time: Joe Kelly, bullpen let one slip away for Red Sox

04.22.15 at 10:20 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The ability to go deep into games continues to elude the Red Sox‘ starters, and it caught up with them once again Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.

Joe Kelly let a four-run lead slip away thanks to the Rays’ four-run sixth inning. And when Tampa Bay added two more off reliever Edward Mujica the following frame, the Red Sox found themselves with one of their most frustrating losses of the young season, a 7-5 defeat at the hands of Kevin Cash’s club.

The Red Sox have now allowed 15 sixth-inning runs, the most in the major leagues. Their starters have now gone eight games without going more than six innings, having gone six just once during that stretch.

The Sox bullpen has pitched 30 2/3 innings in that eight-game period, this time failing to save the day. First, Craig Breslow came on for Kelly with the bases-loaded and nobody out in the sixth and surrendered a two-run single to Brandon Guyer to tie the game.

Then Mujica let the Rays jump ahead for good in the seventh thanks to a run-scoring double play grounder and Jake Elmore’s solo home run. Elmore’s blast marked the 11th time a Rays player has hit a homer in his first at-bat with the organization.

(For a complete box score, click here.)

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Rays relievers Brad Boxberger, Kevin Jepsen and Steve Geltz. The trio combined to follow up Tampa Bay starter Nate Karns’ five-inning, five-run outing with three scoreless frames in which they combined to hold the Red Sox to one hit.

Here’s what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox‘ loss:

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Hanley Ramirez says he’s not ready to return to his base-stealing days

04.22.15 at 8:59 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Hanley Ramirez is making people remember he actually once stole bases … a lot of them.

One game after swiping his first base of the season, Ramirez set himself in motion again with two outs in the third inning Wednesday night at Tropicana Field. While there was no stolen base, the action on the basepaths allowed the left fielder to score all the way from first base when Mike Napoli‘s grounder went into center field.

So, does the recent baserunning activity suggest Ramirez is ready to return to the days in which he stole 51 bases in back to back seasons (2006-07)?

“No,” Ramirez said before Wednesday night’s game.

Why?

“They don’t want me to,” explained Ramirez, who totaled 14 steals with the Dodgers in 2014. “We’re just trying to stay on the field to play 150-plus games.”

Ramirez certainly has a different body type than he possessed when swiping bags left and right for the Marlins. But the instincts and inclination are still there, as has been evidenced the last two nights.

Heading into Wednesday, Ramirez had the ninth-most steals of any player since 2006 (262).

“Yeah, because I don’t like to be just standing at first,” said Ramirez when asked if he missed living life as a base-stealer. “I like to get in scoring position for those guys behind me. But at the same time you have to be smart. I just want to be on the field and save my legs.”

Before the game, Red Sox manager John Farrell discussed the possibility of utilizing those legs.

“We’ve only seen 14 games, so it remains to be seen,” said the manager when asked about the possibility of Ramirez stealing some more bases. “But you’re talking about an exceptional athlete. He got down the line really well last night once again on a swinging bunt. He advanced on a ball in the dirt. He’s an extremely talented guy, and we want to promote that. We want to not necessarily give him the green light, but we want to take advantage when matchups are favorable.”

Shane Victorino leaves game with right hamstring tightness

04.22.15 at 8:51 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The hamstring issues continue to linger for Shane Victorino.

The outfielder was forced from Wednesday night’s game at Tropicana Field in the fifth inning after experiencing right hamstring tightness.

Victorino had just come off the field gingerly after stealing second base in the fourth inning. He returned to his position for the home half of the frame, but was pinch-hit for by Allen Craig when his turn came up in the fifth.

After the Red Sox‘ 7-5 loss to the Rays, manager John Farrell said the team didn’t believe the injury would sideline Victorino for an extended period of time.

“€œHe’€™s got some right hamstring tightness on the stolen base. Given what he’€™s gone through, I got him off his feet,” said Farrell, adding, “€œIt’€™s not more serious, it’€™s day to day. He was scheduled for a down day [Thursday] so it’€™s likely he’€™ll be out and available but not in the lineup tomorrow.”€

It is the same hamstring that landed Victorino on the disabled list coming out of spring training last season. While the 34-year-old experienced some hamstring tightness this past stint in Fort Myers, it was nothing to keep him out for any extended period of time.

Before exiting Wednesday’s game, Victorino struck out looking and was hit by a pitch, putting his batting average at .143.

John Farrell explains why he isn’t going to bring in defensive replacements for Hanley Ramirez

04.22.15 at 8:02 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox were ahead by a run heading into the home half of the eighth inning. Hanley Ramirez had just made the first out when batting for the Red Sox earlier in the frame.

Yet there Ramirez was, still playing left field.

Red Sox manager John Farrell wasn’t blind to the fact that he was heading into the final two innings with a left fielder still trying to find his way (and confidence). Other options to play defense at the spot included Brock Holt, Allen Craig or Daniel Nava, all of whom are currently head and shoulders better in the outfield then the inexperienced Ramirez.

But the former shortstop remained, ultimately only having to track down a single in the left field corner to lead off the ninth inning in what finished as a 1-0 Red Sox win.

Wednesday, Farrell explained to WEEI.com why he kept Ramirez out there, and why that will probably be the case for the time being in similar situations.

“Part of it is he’s in a new position. I want to show him the confidence to bring him along, and I haven’t sat down and talked with him prior to and said this is what I’m going to do,” Farrell explained. “I feel like his athleticism allows him to be an average left fielder right now. So you might say why risk the outcome of the game? I think the benefit of not taking him out far outweighs, at least at this point and time, taking him out because of his continued growth and us showing faith in him in left field.”

Farrell hadn’t talked to Ramirez following the game in regards to the show of faith, and didn’t know if the prospect of replacing him even entered the outfielder’s mind. But is irrefutable that the subject would have gained steam if a move was made.

“I do know this — had the move been made, it clearly enters his mind at that point,” the manager explained. “He’s then saying, ‘Does he have confidence in me playing the position?’ We’re in a transition period. Opportunity has to be given for a guy to either grow or to determine we make the move.

“So in certain situations you’re taking a longer view instead of just the ninth inning tonight.”

Another part of the equation that has to be factored in is the kind of player we’re talking about. In this case, keeping the middle of the order hitter in the game, while having his psyche remain intact, would be a priority.

Farrell has implemented defensive replacements before early in the season, using Rajai Davis to come on late in games to roam the outfield. But the difference was that replacing Eric Thames is a whole lot different than taking out Ramirez.

“Opportunity has to be provided first, with trust shown and trust built,” Farrell said. “There has to be the ability to have that conversation more in ernest and give a head’s up that this might be coming. I’ll also say this: in a one-run game if we make the replacement and we give up the run, I’ve lost his bat. It’s a little bit different with a middle of the order bat. It’s different when you’re talking about a core offensive player.”

Red Sox lineup: No Brock Holt to begin game

04.22.15 at 2:51 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With Rays right-hander Nate Karns on the mound, the Red Sox will send out the American League version of their Opening Day lineup. Back in the batting order will be Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli, who each had the first game of the three-game series off.

Not in the lineup is jack-of-all-trades Brock Holt, who made two spectacular plays at shortstop in the Red Sox‘ 1-0 win over Tampa Bay Tuesday, but has gone hitless in two straight games for the first time this season. Holt is still hitting .414 with a .916 OPS.

Here is the Red Sox lineup — as John Farrell noted on his weekly appearance on the Dale and Holley Show Wednesday — with Joe Kelly on the mound for the visitors:

Mookie Betts CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez LF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Mike Napoli 1B
Shane Victorino RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Ryan Hanigan C

For all the matchups, click here.

Curt Schilling on D&C: Hanley Ramirez in ‘position to be embarrassed’ in left field

04.22.15 at 9:27 am ET
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Former Red Sox pitcher and current ESPN analyst Curt Schilling joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday to discuss the Boston Marathon and how the Red Sox look in the early weeks of the season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Among the topics discussed was Hanley Ramirez‘€™ defense. While the free agent acquisition leads the Sox with five homers and 12 RBI, his play in left field has not been promising after spending the vast majority of his career as a shortstop.

Schilling said Ramirez’ struggles are not for lack of trying and credited the 31-year-old for not making a stink out of his situation.

“It’€™s hard, and I’€™m not making excuses, but at this point in your career, bravo that he hasn’€™t said boo about moving,” Schilling said. “But he’€™s putting himself in a position to be embarrassed and playing as hard as he can play. There’€™s nothing you can do about that.

“There’€™s nowhere else in my mind to put him defensively, because, for me, left field in Fenway — and I say this because it’€™s the only word I can come up with — might be the easiest outfield position because there’€™s so much less ground to cover. You’€™ve got to figure out the wall, you’€™ve got to figure out angles and the ladder, but that doesn’€™t take that long. And you’€™ve got one of the best defensive coaches in the game in Brian Butterfield, so I’€™m hoping he gets that left field thing because I’€™m not sure there’€™s options there.”

Kirk Minihane then raised the point about average fielders such as Manny Ramirez succeeding in left field in Fenway Park.

“Manny was actually –€” when he wanted to be –€” was very, very good,” Schilling responded.

The Red Sox sit atop the AL East with a 9-5 record, making them the only team in their division currently above .500. Schilling said the first impression hasn’€™t surprised him, but that the team’€™s starting pitching hasn’€™t been where he’€™s expected it to be.

“I don’€™t feel any different,” he said. “The first three weeks, four weeks, first month, I always try to sort it out and look and decide. Their starting pitching, which I expected to be better, hasn’€™t been, which is something that’€™s probably a little worrisome.”

Four of the team’€™s starters have ERAs of 5.74 or higher, with Rick Porcello sporting a team-worst 6.63 mark.

“When you bring contact pitching into the American League East, I’€™ve always found it works less than you’€™d like it to,” Schilling said. “[Wade] Miley, he did alright last night, and Porcello, but it’€™s tough. It’€™s tough to be a guy who relies on defense to get outs in this division.”

Wednesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Joe Kelly vs. Nathan Karns

04.22.15 at 8:16 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

The Red Sox send Joe Kelly to the mound on Wednesday to face Nathan Karns in the middle game of a three-game set against the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Kelly leads all Red Sox starters in ERA (2.13), WHIP (0.711) and batting average against (.119). In 12 2/3 innings over two starts, Kelly has allowed just three runs and five hits while striking out 11 and walking four. He got the win against the Yankees in his first outing but was handed a no-decision against the Orioles last time out as the Sox scored just two runs until the bullpen was called on. Kelly and Justin Masterson are the only two Boston starters who have not been charged with a loss this season.

In the outing against the Orioles, Kelly threw 5 2/3 innings of two-run baseball, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out three. One of the hits was the righty’s first home run allowed, a solo shot to Caleb Joseph. He threw 118 pitches in the start after throwing 93 in seven innings in the outing against the Yankees.

“He had great stuff,” manager John Farrell said after the game. “€œThey did a good job of staying within the strike zone, not chasing some fastballs just off the edge. A number of foul balls that run the pitch, or run some deeper counts. I thought once he got into the fifth inning he started to use his curveball a little bit more to slow some hitters down. He still maintained his stuff throughout the 118 pitches thrown. Probably a little bit more than I would have liked to take him tonight but still he kept his power throughout.”

Wednesday will be Kelly’s first start against Tampa Bay.

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