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Tuesday Red Sox Farm Report: Edwin Escobar shines in PawSox win; Josh Ockimey helps Lowell snap 6-game skid

08.25.15 at 10:24 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday:

Edwin Escobar

Edwin Escobar

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (50-80): W, 5-1, vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees)

— Edwin Escobar earned the win Monday with a seven-inning effort, his longest outing of the season. The 23-year-old left-hander allowed just one earned run on a fifth-inning solo homer and gave up a total of four hits. He walked one and struck six. Escobar improved to 2-2 on the season and now has a 4.76 ERA after four starts and 13 relief appearances.

— Right-hander Ryan Cook pitched the final two innings and allowed one hit and struck out four. The hit is the only one Cook has allowed through 7 1/3 innings over five games with Pawtucket.

— Shortstop Deven Marrero and third baseman Carlos Rivero led the Pawtucket offense with a pair of two-hit games. Marrero went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored and has now hit safely in his last six games. He is batting .251 on the year and has 26 RBIs. Rivero went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run scored. He is batting .262 through 14 games in a PawSox uniform.

— Second baseman Mike Miller went 1-for-3 with a walk and a two-out solo home run in the fourth inning. Right fielder Chris Marrero (Deven’€™s brother) went 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI.

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Tuesday’s Red Sox-White Sox matchups: Wade Miley vs. Jose Quintana

08.25.15 at 8:43 am ET
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Wade Miley

Wade Miley

In a battle of two southpaws, the Red Sox will challenge Jose Quintana and the White Sox on Tuesday with Wade Miley on the mound in the second game of a three-game set.

While the Red Sox rotation largely has been a revolving door in 2015, Miley has represented a calming force throughout the long season. He’s done exactly what the Red Sox paid him $6.5 million a year to do: eat innings and provide three to four quality starts a month. On the campaign, he’s 10-9 with a 4.41 ERA in 25 starts. He leads the staff in games started, innings pitched (147) and strikeouts (112).

Miley has performed admirably during the second half of the season. Since the All-Star break, he’s gone 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA and has prompted opponents to slash a measly .228/.294/.392 against him. One of the keys to his success has been his ability to draw ground balls, as he’s induced double digit ground ball outs in his last five outings.

Against the Royals last Thursday, Miley reached peak efficiency. He threw 114 pitches over seven innings, but 80 of them went for strikes, good for a 70 percent clip. His aggressiveness in the zone translated to success in the box score as well, as he gave up just one run on six hits without issuing a free pass, while striking out six. After Miley earned his 10th win of the season in a 4-1 affair, interim manager Tory Lovullo indicated that he could have let Miley pitch the eighth inning.

“Great outing for Wade,” Lovullo said. “Just an easy three-pitch mix. Quick, easy outs, and for me he deserved the right to go back out there for the eighth inning. Just keep him on a short leash. Didn’t want to extend him too far. I know his last outing he was [extended a little bit.] He has earned that right to go out there and get those extra outs, and tonight was a good night for him.”

Though stellar of late, Miley does not have fond memories of his last encounter with the White Sox. During that meeting on July 28, he went just 5 2/3 innings and allowed 10 hits and seven runs en route to a 9-4 loss.

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Deciphering why Joe Kelly has turned things around

08.25.15 at 12:46 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

So, Joe Kelly, what would you have changed about how you approached life with the Red Sox prior to this run you’€™ve found yourself on?

“I would have pitched better,” said the Red Sox starter after leading his team to a 5-4 win over the White Sox Monday night by allowing two runs on five hits over 7 1/3 innings.

There is obviously more to the equation, and it doesn’€™t include simply patterning his grooming habits after 1950’€™s actor Errol Flynn.

Prior to his current five-game winning streak, Kelly’€™s big league totals for the season was a 5.94 ERA over 12 starts. Since then he has managed a 5-0 mark and 3.03 ERA.

So, what’€™s the deal?

“I would have done what we’€™re doing now, mix pitches no matter who the hitter is, not just keep serving up heaters. I get a little heater happy,” Kelly explained. “If you’€™re not throwing off-speed for strikes it doesn’€™t matter. But I’€™ve been able to get it over for strikes.”

The win against the White Sox offered a perfect example of how Kelly has evolved.

The righty threw more offspeed pitches (slider, changeup, curveball) then fastballs, going to the hard stuff on just 47 of his 103 pitches. And when it came to setting up hitters, he followed the trend, throwing first-pitch fastballs to just 10 of the 27 batters he faced.

But perhaps the biggest piece of the equation that has benefited Kelly has been the consistency offered by catcher Ryan Hanigan.

Kelly has routinely admitted he doesn’€™t like calling his own pitches, instead preferring to throw whatever pitch the catcher asks for. (When asked how many times he shook off Hanigan Monday night, he said, “One time tonight. I didn’t shake. I just looked in there until he called a different sign. Just once.”

Before, he relied on Yadier Molina to guide him. Now, with Hanigan back from his midseason injury, this has become the starter’€™s pitch-calling Sherpa.

“I like throwing what the catcher throws down and not really thinking too much out there,” said Kelly, who was throwing to the veteran backstop for the 10th time this season, now totaling a 4.29 ERA when teaming up. “I’m not trying to read too many swings or anything. Getting on the same page as Hanigan, him making me throw those offspeed pitches — otherwise, I wouldn’t be shaking to them. It’s a good mix. We have a good thing going right now. We’re on the same page. It’s fun to see him think back there. I’m throwing whatever he calls.”

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Closing Time: Joe Kelly, Rusney Castillo lead Red Sox past White Sox

08.24.15 at 11:22 pm ET
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Joe Kelly was in complete command on Monday night. (Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Joe Kelly was in complete command on Monday night. (Jon Durr/Getty Images)

One year ago on Sunday, the Red Sox signed Rusney Castillo to a record $72.5 million contract, the biggest ever given to a Cuban free agent. They spent most of the ensuing 365 days praying they hadn’t made a mistake.

Not even a month earlier, they had swung a pivotal trade, sending John Lackey to the Cardinals for right-hander Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig. When both acquisitions found themselves in Pawtucket this July, that deal looked like a bust, too.

A few more nights like Monday, however, and the team will be breathing easy.

With the Red Sox in full-on 2016 evaluation mode, Castillo and Kelly keyed a 5-4 victory over the White Sox and stated their case for the future.

Continuing a second-half resurgence that has put him in a position to lay claim to a starting job next season, Castillo provided virtually all of the offense with a double, homer, and five RBIs.

Kelly, meanwhile, shook off a solo homer in the first by White Sox slugger Jose Abreu to submit his best outing of the season. Reaching the eighth inning for the first time all year and just the second time in his career, Kelly limited the White Sox to two runs on five hits, and he was still throwing 97 mph fastballs in the seventh.

“Great outing for him,” interim manager Torey Lovullo said of Kelly before adding about Castillo, “he was dynamite.”

Add it together, and the Red Sox could feel good about two swing players who will have to earn their playing time moving forward. Monday night represented a step in the right direction, particularly after the trials each endured earlier in the season.

Kelly, for instance, opened the season in the Red Sox rotation before pitching his way right out of it and down to Pawtucket in late June.

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Red Sox pregame notes: Christian Vazquez on track to be ready by Opening Day, Dustin Pedroia update

08.24.15 at 8:12 pm ET
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Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

CHICAGO — The Red Sox have received another piece of good news for 2016: they’re cautiously optimistic catcher Christian Vazquez will be ready for Opening Day.

Sidelined since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April, Vazquez is expected to get some at-bats in Instructional League as he takes the next step in his recovery.

“Obviously he’s a very important piece to the puzzle moving forward,” said interim manager Torey Lovullo. “What we’re really concerned about right now is how he’s progressing. He’s going to take some at-bats in Instructional League, get into a little bit of a throwing program and then have some downtime that’s very typical of an offseason and than be ready for the year next year and that’s what we’re really excited about.”

While it’s possible that Vazquez will play winter ball, Lovullo said the plan would be for him just to hit. His repaired elbow isn’t yet ready to cut loose and throw.

As for the idea of Vazquez being ready for the opener, however, Lovullo embraced it.

“I think he will,” he said. “If there’s one guy we can bet on, it’s Christian. He’s really excited and eager to get things moving.”

In other pregame notes . . .

— Lovullo plans on Pablo Sandoval continuing to hit second behind Mookie Betts, hoping it will get him more fastballs in hitter’s counts. “I don’t really like to move guys around, and he’s getting comfortable there,” Lovullo said.

— Lovullo expects to stay away from closer Junichi Tazawa “for sure” after he threw 30 pitches and took the loss in Kansas City’s four-run ninth on Sunday.

— Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, sidelined since July 23 with a recurrence of a hamstring injury that had already kept him out for three weeks, is ramping up baseball activities, with Sept. 10 a soft target date for his return.

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Red Sox lineup: Brock Holt, Hanley Ramirez back in

08.24.15 at 4:21 pm ET
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CHICAGO — After missing some time due to an strained oblique muscle, Brock Holt returns to the Red Sox lineup in their series-opening game against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field Monday night. Holt hasn’t played since last Wednesday.

Brock Holt

Brock Holt

Also re-entering the starting lineup will be left fielder Hanley Ramirez, who joins Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo in the visitors’ outfield.

Here is the rest of the Red Sox batting order against Chicago starter Jeff Samardzija, with Joe Kelly on the mound for Boston:

Mookie Betts CF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Travis Shaw 1B
Hanley Ramirez LF
Brock Holt 2B
Rusney Castillo RF
Ryan Hanigan C

For all the matchups, click here.

For a series preview, click here.

Red Sox-White Sox series preview

08.24.15 at 11:20 am ET
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Jose Abreu (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

Jose Abreu is having a strong second half at the plate, leading the rejuvenated White Sox offense. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

The Red Sox will continue their tour of the AL Central on Monday when they travel to Chicago to face off against the White Sox for three games.

Still inhabitants of the AL East cellar with a 56-68 record, the Red Sox have shown signs of life in the last two weeks. After scoring 45 runs in three games against the Mariners and winning a three-game series, the they repeated their performance against the Indians, taking two out of three against the Tribe, including a 6-4 win over reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber.

Strong pitching from Wade Miley and Henry Owens helped the Red Sox get off to a two-game advantage over the Royals during their four-game weekend set, and they tied a season-high by establishing a four-game winning streak. However, their good fortune eventually ran out when they dropped the third game of the series 6-3 and blew a two-run lead in the ninth Sunday to fall 8-6 and settle for a series split.

The key to the Red Sox‘ resurgence has been the timely hitting of the offense, which averaged 8.2 runs per game over the 10-game homestand. Multi-hit performances from the likes of youngsters Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Travis Shaw and Rusney Castillo have revitalized a lineup that had grown much too content with relying on the inconsistent bats of Hanley Ramirez (.254 AVG) and Pablo Sandoval (.259).

“These younger players have finally gained a little traction,” interim manager Torey Lovullo said of his young hitters on Saturday. “They’re starting to get a good feel for what it takes to be a major league player. Some of the players who have been here all year, some of the guys that are joining us, there’s really continuity, there’s a really good vibe that these young players create. They like one another. They get along on and off the field. You’re seeing that play out right now. I think that’s why we’re being so successful on the field. I think these guys are having fun playing and playing with a lot of energy and they’re really coming into their own.”

While the hitting has received a lot of the credit for the Sox’ recent success, and rightfully so, the pitching staff deserves a nod as well. Miley and Joe Kelly combined to toss 26 1/3 innings during the homestand, giving up just five runs between them while whiffing 23 batters. Overall, Sox starters turned in quality starts in seven of their last 10 contests.

The White Sox are in a nearly identical situation as the Red Sox. With a 58-64 record and a potential last-place finish in their division on the horizon, they also are evaluating where their organization stands in the wake of a wildly unsuccessful offseason.

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Monday Red Sox Farm Report: RHP Aaron Wilkerson tosses 7 shutout innings for Portland; LHP Daniel McGrath goes 6 scoreless for Salem

08.24.15 at 10:24 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday:

Pat Light

Pat Light

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (49-80): L, 4-2 in 10 innings, vs. Lehigh Valley (Phillies)

— RHP Pat Light walked three consecutive batters in the top of the 10th inning, on 3-0, 3-2 and then 3-1 pitches, leading to the go-ahead runs scoring on an ensuing two-bounce chopper to shortstop that Deven Marrero charged and fielded cleanly but bounced on the throw home, an error charged to Marrero (his 17th of the season) as the ball evaded catcher Humberto Quintero, allowing two runs to score.

Light (Boston’s No. 22 prospect at MLB.com) had not walked a batter in his two previous outings after walking 11 over a four-appearance span in early August.

“It’s been interesting because I’ve never had an issue with fastball in my career up to this point,” the 24-year-old told the Providence Journal. “I don’t have something to draw on from the past to help figure that out. I’ve just been missing a little, usually on my arm side. It’s been hit-or-miss. Sometimes I’ve been great with [the fastball] and sometimes not.”

The 6-foot-5 Light had allowed just two earned runs over his last 13 1/3 innings, although one of those was the go-ahead home run allowed in a Pawtucket extra-inning loss last Wednesday. Selected by Boston in the first round (37th overall) of the 2012 draft out of Monmouth University, Light has worked 29 2/3 innings with the PawSox over 22 outings, with 17 earned runs (5.16 ERA), 33 strikeouts and 26 walks.

— Marrero (Boston’s No. 10 prospect at MLB.com) had plated both Pawtucket runs earlier in the game with his sixth home run of the year, a deep drive over the billboards and out of the ballpark in left field on a 3-1 pitch in the third inning. Marrero, 24, is slashing .248/.308/.344 over 90 games this year in Triple-A and has had two stints in the majors where he appeared in just six games and hit 1-for-7 in his limited at-bats. Since his last stint in Boston, Marrero has batted leadoff in 12 consecutive games, the first such games of his Triple-A career, and has hit .308 (16-for-52) with hits in 11 of the 12 contests.

— RHP William Cuevas allowed a two-run homer in the top of the third inning but pitched his third quality start in his fourth Triple-A try, finishing with a no-decision final line of: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO (108 pitches, 69 strikes). The 24-year-old Cuevas had walked the leadoff batter in the third prior to the long ball, and did so again to start the fourth but recovered to limit the damage as he retired the final eight batters he faced. Promoted to Pawtucket on Aug. 4, the 6-foot Cuevas was an Eastern League All-Star this year with Double-A Portland where he held opponents to a .233 average and allowed just four home runs.

— LHP Robby Scott pitched three scoreless innings of relief, retiring the first 10 batters he faced before allowing back-to-back singles in the ninth and stranding them with an infield pop out. Scott, 25, struck out three and walked none and has not allowed a run over his last nine innings pitched, with six hits allowed, seven whiffs and no walks over that span.

— RHP Jonathan Aro was recalled to Boston on Sunday for the third time this season, with RHP Matt Barnes optioned back to Pawtucket.

Aro, 24, had returned to Pawtucket on Aug. 1 and made six Triple-A appearances over that span, allowing five earned runs (including two home runs) in 12 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. The last five outings from Aro have been multi-inning appearances, with his last on Wednesday a three-inning scoreless relief spot.

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Monday’s Red Sox-White Sox matchups: Joe Kelly vs. Jeff Samardzija

08.24.15 at 9:10 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

For Monday’s series opener between the Red Sox and the White Sox in Chicago, Boston will send Joe Kelly to the mound to face Jeff Samardzija.

Kelly has turned a corner recently as he is in the midst of a four-game winning streak and owner of a 1.56 ERA in his last three starts. Over those 17 1/3 innings, the righty has kept batters slashing .250/.324/.422, giving up 16 hits and striking out 16 while walking seven. His latest start was a six-inning effort that yielded just one unearned run in an otherwise scoreless outing for him. Kelly threw 57 of his 100 total pitches for strikes and fanned three while walking as many. That start, a 6-4 win over the Indians on Wednesday, helped improve his season ERA to 5.37 and his record for the year to 6-6.

“Just trying to keep hitters off balance, not necessarily keep pounding fastballs away,” Kelly said after his appearance Wednesday. “I’ve been throwing some offspeed pitches for strikes, and that’s definitely helped, especially with guys on base.”

Kelly’s first and only start of his career against the White Sox came earlier this season on July 27, his second start back after returning to the rotation. Lasting just 3 1/3 innings, he allowed four earned runs on seven hits with no walks and a pair of strikeouts. Of those seven hits, two were doubles and two were triples, and the 27-year-old gave up three of his earned runs, though four total were scored, in the the top of the first inning. Because of the abbreviated start, Kelly has a 10.80 ERA vs. the White Sox but did not earn a decision as the Red Sox managed to tie the score and even take the lead after their starter exited. They still ended up losing, though, 10-8.

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Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox deny reliever battling fatigue despite rough August stretch

08.23.15 at 6:52 pm ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

While the team and Junichi Tazawa may not be acknowledging it, it appears the Red Sox reliever is battling some fatigue.

Tazawa allowed four runs on six hits in the ninth inning blowing the save in the Red Sox‘ 8-6 loss to the Royals Sunday at Fenway Park. The right-hander has thrown 68 1/3 and 63 innings each of the last two seasons and already has thrown 53 this year.

Including Sunday, Tazawa has allowed nine runs in eight appearances in August. Going into the month he had allowed 14 runs over 46 appearances.

“I feel fine. Fatigue is not a factor,” Tazawa said through a translator.

Interim manager Torey Lovullo said he didn’t think fatigue has been a factor either.

“Not really,” Lovullo said. “I think when you look up there and see he’s throwing his fastball in the mid-90s, he’s locating his fastball, he’s able to throw secondary quality stuff, I don’t see much wear and tear on him at all. He wants to go out there and compete and he just didn’t get the job done today.”

Last year, Tazawa had an ERA of 2.61 in the first half of the season and 3.24 in the second half. It’s much of the same this year, as he posted a 2.58 ERA in the first half and his second half ERA currently stands at 6.97.

Another possible reason for the struggles is a change of role, as Tazawa is currently the Red Sox‘ closer with Koji Uehara out for the season.

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