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Friday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Jon Lester vs. Miguel Gonzalez

07.04.14 at 9:50 am ET
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Weather-permitting, the Red Sox will open up a three-game series against the Orioles on Independence Day, sending Jon Lester to the mound against Miguel Gonzalez.

Lester (9-7, 2.92 ERA) was dominant in his last outing against the Yankees on Saturday, allowing an unearned run over eight innings while striking out six. Lester, who faced off against New York ace Masahiro Tanaka in a pitchers’ duel that lived up to the hype, earned the win in Boston’€™s 2-1 victory.

“I knew yesterday that Tanaka was pitching,” Lester said after the game. “I try not to pay attention to that. I’ve got to worry about how I’m going to go out and execute my game. Obviously, if you have a chance to hit, that’s a little bit of a different story. But I can’t worry about who I’m facing or anything like that. You’ve got to go out and worry about the nine guys who are in the lineup, not anything like that.”

Pitching in the last year of his contract with the Red Sox, Lester has posted a 2.92 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and a 3.97 K/BB ration – all career bests for the 30-year-old lefty.

Lester last faced off against the Orioles on March 31 during the 2014 season opener, holding Baltimore to two runs over seven innings while striking out eight. In 26 career starts against the Orioles, Lester is 15-4 with a 2.92 ERA.

Gonzalez (4-5, 4.56 ERA) struggled in his last start Sunday against the Rays, allowing eights hits and three earned runs while walking four over 4 2/3 innings.

Gonzalez, who recorded four quality starts in a row before being placed on the disabled list June 6 with strained right oblique, has yet to regain his form since his return. Over his last three starts, Gonzalez has given up 25 hits and 10 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Gonzalez said after the game. “It’s frustrating to come back and not able to have that success. But it’s a grind. The first half, we’ve got to keep working and hopefully finish strong.”

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Read More: Jon Lester, Miguel Gonzalez, Orioles, Red Sox

David Ortiz, Jonathan Herrera recall their Independence Days

07.04.14 at 1:28 am ET
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David Ortiz is celebrating his 20th year living in America in 2014. He became a US citizen in 2008. (AP)

David Ortiz is celebrating his 20th year living in America in 2014. He became a U.S. citizen in 2008. (AP)

While baseball may be America’s Pastime, Major League Baseball is certainly an international league. At the beginning of the 2014, 224 players — 26.3 percent of MLB rosters — were born outside the United States. The Dominican Republic led the way with 83 players while Venezuela was second with 59.

Many major league teams have baseball academies in a variety of countries as a way to unearth the international talent of tomorrow. The majority of players signed internationally don’t make it past the Dominican Summer League, where players get their first — and maybe last — exposure to professional baseball.

For those who don’t make the cut, the dream to play professional baseball in the United States is over. The select few who make it to the majors, however, are grateful for the opportunity to live the American dream. Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Mariners in 1992 at the age of 17, used to dream about the opportunity to live in the United States.

“I knew that it was a wonderful place and somewhere everybody wanted to live at,” Ortiz said. “You know how you always hear about the American dream? It’s something that everybody [wants to] be part of in one way or another.”

Jonathan Herrera, who was signed out of Venezuela by the Rockies in ’02 at the age of 17, remembers watching MLB games on television at home in Maracaibo, dreaming of one day being a player Venezuelans could cheer for.

“As a kid, your goal and you dream is to sign for any team in the big leagues and try to make the big leagues,” Herrera said. “That’s the goal for any kid at that age. You watch TV a lot and dream to be there one day.”

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Read More: David Ortiz, Jonathan Herrera,

Red Sox minor league roundup: What is happening to Matt Barnes?; Manuel Margot’s power surge

07.03.14 at 5:21 pm ET
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Matt Barnes has never matched the dominant performance he exhibited at the start of his pro career in two subsequent years. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Matt Barnes has never matched the dominant performance he exhibited at the start of his pro career in two subsequent years. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-7 LOSS VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Matt Barnes gave up four runs on six hits in just 3 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking two. His season has never seemed to get on track after he was shut down at the start of spring training games with shoulder discomfort; even though he’s been generating velocity, he’s rarely generated the kinds of swings and misses with his fastball in the strike zone that defined his prospect status in previous years.

Yet whether it’s fair to judge him based on his 2014 results or not, Barnes’ performance track record is trending the wrong way. He displayed singular dominance (0.34 ERA in five starts) when starting his pro career at a level that was low for his experience, and carried that excellence forward (1.37 ERA) through his first eight starts in High-A Salem. But in his final 12 starts of that year, he had a 5.74 ERA.

He followed that with a 4.13 ERA in 2013, when he made 24 of his 25 starts in Double-A Portland (though, notably, he led the Eastern League in strikeouts per nine innings) and he now has a 3-6 record and 4.85 ERA in Triple-A, with his strikeout rate dipping to 7.1 per nine innings (with a walk rate of 3.0 per nine innings).

In other words, his results have gotten steadily worse, not better, as he’s moved up the ladder — a potentially ominous sign. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: deven marrero, manuel margot, matt barnes, travis shaw

Kevin Millar on MFB: ‘If you’re going to deal Jon Lester, you better have something in place’

07.03.14 at 1:43 pm ET
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Kevin Millar

Kevin Millar

Former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar joined Middays with MFB Thursday to discuss the Red Sox‘€™ struggles this season, Mookie Betts‘€™ performance out in the outfield and Jon Lester‘€™s contract situation. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

While the Red Sox sit 8 1/2 games out of first place in the division, Millar said that it’€™s too early to raise the white flag, as an unstable AL East could give Boston a chance to get right back into the hunt for a playoff spot.

“€œThe problem is that this American League East is crazy,”€ Millar said. “The Rays were 15 [games] out June 10, now they’€™re 9 1/2 out. You can’€™t make this up. There’€™s not a team that you can go, ‘€˜Hah, they’€™re going to dominate.’€™ … With the Yankees now, they can’€™t hit. They’€™ve lost a bunch of games. They were looking like they were putting it all together. The Jays, you can’€™t rely on them. I mean, their offense is great and I get it, but you got to pitch at this level, so I don’€™t know what to do.

“€œIf I’€™m the Red Sox, you’€™ve got to win games. You got to beat the Cubs at home, they can’€™t do that. … You can’€™t give up either, because it can change in three weeks.”

Lester’€™s contract discussions with the Red Sox has become a hot topic recently, as ESPN’€™s Buster Olney said that the negotiations are drawing a lot of attention from within the Boston clubhouse -€“ something that Millar said isn’t the case.

“€œI don’€™t think that’€™s a distraction,”€ Millar said. “We’€™re talking about multi-million dollars, exciting times. I never thought that signing a four or five or six-year extension or contract is a distraction. That’€™s between the player, the agent and the team. Now, if Jon Lester is sitting around and going around like a little social butterfly in the locker room, of course that becomes a distraction. But that’€™s not what he’€™s doing. It’€™s a business.”

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Read More: Jon Lester, Kevin Millar, mookie betts, Red Sox

Listen to Trade Deadline Show, tonight, 10-midnight: Rob Bradford with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, baseball insiders

07.03.14 at 11:24 am ET
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hublogoRob Bradford will be hosting the first edition of this month’s Trade Deadline Show, sponsored by Hub New England Insurance. (Click here for more information.)

Bradford’s guests will include Toronto Blue Jays Alex Anthopoulos, Houston Chronicle Astros beat writer Evan Drellich, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier and other baseballl insiders.

Included in the discussion will be whether or not the Red Sox should be buyers and sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and it they are in the position to sell should Jon Lester and Koji Uehara become priorities to move.

The fun begins at 10 p.m. and runs until midnight.

 

Should the Red Sox explore trading Jon Lester

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Ben Cherington on D&C: ‘We know this is not where we want to be’

07.03.14 at 10:44 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to discuss the state of the team, Xander Bogaerts‘€™ severe slump and Jon Lester‘€™s future. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

All momentum that Boston generated from a series win against the Yankees in the Bronx was halted following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs at Fenway Park, including a 16-9 drubbing Wednesday. Boston sits 8 1/2 games behind first-place Toronto in the division and is just one game ahead of last-place Tampa Bay.

Despite Boston’€™s dire outlook at this point, Cherington expressed hope that his team can turn it around over the final 77 games of the season.

“€œIt’€™s sort of a combination of frustrated, disappointed and yet still very optimistic about where we’€™re going. … I think this series against the Cubs was a little bit of a microcosm of our season,” Cherington said. “Some of what’€™s happening, we can point to and explain and say, ‘OK, this part of the team needs to improve and this part’€™s not working,’ … Some of it’€™s just hard to explain.”

Added Cherington: “€œWe know this is not where we want to be. It’€™s going to get better. … So we’€™re just focused on that and everyone’€™s on board trying to do the same thing.”

In what has been a recurring theme this season, the Red Sox have struggled getting the timely hits that the 2013 squad thrived on all of last year. While the Sox broke out for nine runs Wednesday, they left 14 men on base. Cherington acknowledged that the Sox have not looked like themselves at the plate this season.

“It’€™s going to ebb and flow a little bit, our performances with runners in scoring position, every team does that year in and year out, even within a season,”€ Cherington said. “There’€™s certainly times when our at-bats, they just don’€™t look like Red Sox at-bats.”

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Read More: ben cherington, Jon Lester, Red Sox, xander bogaerts

‘Game changers’ Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, Mookie Betts bring youth, athleticism to Red Sox outfield

07.03.14 at 9:25 am ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

A year ago, the Red Sox outfield was an area of strength for the club. Jacoby Ellsbury and veteran Shane Victorino provided not only solid offensive output but often stellar defense in right and center field while Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes held down the fort in left.

Things are different in 2014. The offensive struggles of Red Sox outfielders have been no secret, but the outfield alignment could feature three rookies, including two players who have a total of 53 games worth of outfield experience between them.

However, the inexperience of Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt and Mookie Betts might not be a detriment to this Red Sox defense. In fact, the players bring some positives to the table.

“We feel like between Brock, Jackie and Mookie, when they play in the outfield we have three center fielders chasing the ball around,” said bench coach Torey Lovullo, alluding to the speed and athleticism of three. “They’€™re game changers. When those three guys are out there we feel like we have guys who can go chase the ball and execute a game plan as good as anybody.”

Defensive performance isn’t an easy thing to quantify, and there aren’t nearly as many statistics to analyze performance as there are for hitting and pitching. But the Red Sox outfield grades out pretty favorably when looking at the numbers. Prior to Wednesday night, the Red Sox actually ranked second in the majors in defensive runs saved for outfielders and third in ultimate zone rating (another defensive metric that attempts to quantify how many runs a fielder saved or gave up through their fielding performance). At least when it comes to those two metrics, the Red Sox outfield defense actually has been better this season than in 2013, when the outfield ranked fifth in DRS and eighth in UZR.

Bradley obviously deserves a lot of the credit for stabilizing the defense in the outfield. While his offensive performance has left something to be desired this season, he’€™s shown time and time again that his defense is major league ready and in fact makes him one of the better outfielders in the game. He’s saved about nine runs this season when going by DRS, which ties him for sixth amongst major league outfielders. Nava also has saved nine runs.

Not that the young outfielders have gone without making their share of mistakes. Betts, more so than Holt, has shown some vulnerabilities. On Wednesday night, the second baseman-turned-center fielder misplayed a ball off the wall in left-center when trying to back up Gomes. The ball bounced over his head and resulted in a triple.

“There are a lot of angles you have to take, so many different ways to go about getting balls. I had a couple of mishaps [Wednesday] but I’€™m still learning,” Betts said. “It’€™s more just getting used to this field because not all fields are like that. Some are just off the wall and in the gap and you go and get them but here, when they’re off the wall you have to play them at certain angles.”

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Read More: Brock Holt, jackie bradley, mookie betts,
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