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Red Sox minor league roundup: How scouts view Anthony Ranaudo; Christian Vazquez feels he’s ready; Blake Swihart, Manuel Margot punctuate impressive June

07.01.14 at 12:13 pm ET
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Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo continued a dominant run with seven shutout innings on Monday. (Jillian Souza/PawSox)

Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo continued a dominant run with seven shutout innings on Monday. (Jillian Souza/PawSox)

A year ago at this time, right-hander Anthony Ranaudo was receiving accolades for a Double-A breakthrough that had netted him a spot in the All-Star Futures Game. By the start of July, he’d made 15 starts, going 8-2 with a 2.68 ERA. Opponents were hitting under .200 against him, he was striking out just over a batter an inning and just over three batters for every walk, looking like the player who had been the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization from the time that he signed after being drafted in 2010 through spring training of 2012 (before the emergence of 2011 draftees like Henry Owens and Matt Barnes, or the breakthrough by fellow 2010 draftee Brandon Workman).

This year, though receiving less attention in Triple-A (at a time when Owens was named to the Futures Game and looms as the clear top pitching prospect in the Sox system), Ranaudo’s results have been even more impressive. The 6-foot-7 right-hander continued a run of dominance unmatched in his career on Monday, pouring in seven shutout innings while giving up three hits (two doubles and a single), walking two and punching out five. There was some hard contact that resulted in outs, but by and large, Ranaudo continued a nearly seven-week run of putting up zeros.

Monday marked the fifth time in nine starts that he did not allow a run in a start. During that run, he’s 6-2 with a 1.13 ERA (the third best ERA in the minors over that time) while holding opponents to a .173 average. His strikeout totals have been largely modest (7.1 per nine during the stretch, 7.6 per nine on the year), but he’s been increasingly aggressive throwing strikes (3.1 walks per nine during the run, compared to 5.2 walks per nine in his first eight starts — and 1.7 walks per nine in his last five starts) and he’s been more consistently down in the strike zone with a fastball that has typically been around 92 mph but getting up to 93 or 94 mph within outings. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, blake swihart, christian vazquez, gerardo carrizalez

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Cubs matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Edwin Jackson

07.01.14 at 12:03 pm ET
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The Red Sox continue their three-game series against the Cubs on Tuesday night when Clay Buchholz opposes Edwin Jackson.

Buchholz (3-4) made his return to the rotation last Wednesday after being sidelined with what was called a hyperextended knee for the last month. Given how poorly he pitched prior to his trip to the disabled list, Buchholz was strong in his first game back against the Mariners. He gave up four runs on seven hits and had no walks in 7 1/3 innings in a 5-4 Red Sox win. The right-hander went at least seven innings for just the second time this season, and he threw 55 of his 76 pitches for strikes.

“I think there wasn’t a whole lot of thought going on out there. He was in the flow of the game,” manager John Farrell said after the game. ‘€œThere was a good feel for all four pitches he was throwing. No hesitation on his part. That’€™€™s a sign of confidence and a good frame of mind on the mound with that tempo.”

Tuesday will be Buchholz’s first career start against the Cubs. He’s pitched twice against National League opponents in 2014 and struggled in both games. He is 0-1 with a 14.72 ERA in interleague play this season.

Like Buchholz, Jackson (5-8, 5.22 ERA) has had his share of struggles this season. The righty has lost three of his last four starts and has only gone six full innings once since May 23. Jackson was especially bad in June, going 2-3 with a 6.23 ERA in 26 innings pitched.

Jackson took another loss last Wednesday when he gave up four runs on six hits with four walks and two strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in a 4-1 loss to the Reds.

“It’s a tough lineup and they’ll make you work,” Jackson said of the Reds after the game. “I thought for the most part I could contain them until the sixth inning, and then they busted it open. … You still have to get that first batter. It always jump-starts the inning when you get that leadoff guy on.”

Tuesday will mark Jackson‘s 13th career appearance against the Red Sox, but his first since Sept. 28, 2010, when he was a member of the White Sox. He took a no-decision in that outing after giving up three earned runs over seven innings in a 5-4 White Sox win. Jackson is 2-4 with a 5.49 ERA against the Red Sox.

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, edwin jackson,

Mookie Betts on D&C: ‘I wasn’t really expecting to get a call this year’

07.01.14 at 10:58 am ET
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Recent Red Sox call-up Mookie Betts joined Dennis & Callahan to discuss his major league debut. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

Betts has played in two big league games since making his Red Sox debut Sunday night against the Yankees. He has a hit, scored a run and walked in six big league at-bats. He said he hasn’t noticed any major differences compared to the minor leagues so far.

“The only differences, you have better stadiums, better lighting and obviously you have a little better pitching,” Betts said. “But it’s pretty much all the same as far as the game. It’s still 90 feet, still have to throw across the plate. I thought it was going to be this big, huge difference and it’s really not.”

Betts got the call-up after just 23 games with Triple-A Pawtucket. After starting the year in Double-A Portland, Betts said he wasn’t even expecting to make it to the majors this season.

“I didn’t really have a target date. I wasn’t really expecting to get a call this year, so it was a huge surprise for me,” he said. “I didn’t really have a target date. I was more concerned with going to big league camp next year and trying to turn some heads at that point.”

Normally a second baseman, Betts was forced to play the outfield in order to have a spot in the Sox’ lineup with Dustin Pedroia occupying second.

“Center field has also been a place I’ve kind of enjoyed playing,” Betts said. “That or second base, but second base is obviously blocked, so center field is fine.”

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Read More: Dennis & Callahan, mookie betts,

According to leaked report, Astros wanted Xander Bogaerts for Bud Norris in 2013

07.01.14 at 5:27 am ET
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Bud Norris

Bud Norris

When the Red Sox needed a starting pitcher at the trade deadline in 2013, Astros pitcher Bud Norris was one of the top pitchers on the trade market. So Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington asked about the cost to acquire Norris.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow wanted Xander Bogaerts, one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

According to the leaked contents of the Astros’ online database acquired by Deadspin, the Astros eyed Bogaerts when the Sox inquired about what it would take to acquire Norris. According to the transcripts, Luhnow texted Cherington that it would take Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr. or Garin Cecchini to “get in the conversation” for a deal to deliver Norris to Boston.

Cherington countered by offering Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero, which represented a rather significant drop-off in prospect quality. Cherington told Luhnow that he would not consider trading Bogaerts, Webster, Bradley or Cecchini but would let him know if the circumstances changed.

As hindsight shows, nothing changed from Boston’s perspective. Cherington told Luhnow on July 29 that he believed that the team had enough depth to make an appealing package for Norris. Luhnow then inquired about lefty Henry Owens and Matt Barnes. According to the documents, Cherington did not reply to the message, and Norris became an Oriole.

The Red Sox soon thereafter traded for  Jake Peavy, giving up Jose Iglesias and Francellis Montas.

To read the entire leaked report, detailing the Astros’ front office conversations last year, click here.

Read More: Astros, Bud Norris, xander bogaerts,

Jake Peavy frustrated with umpire’s call on fourth inning, two-out walk prior to HR

07.01.14 at 5:23 am ET
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Jake Peavy threw well on Monday, but a fourth inning two-run home run was all the offense the Cubs needed. (AP)

Jake Peavy threw well on Monday, but a fourth inning two-run home run was all the offense the Cubs needed. (AP)

The count was 3-2 and Jake Peavy was just one strike away from striking out the side in the fourth inning. To that point in the game, Peavy had regained some velocity on his fastball that was not present in his past couple of outings. Peavy felt good on the mound, confident that he would turn in a start that would give the Red Sox a chance to win.

Peavy pumped a 91 mph fastball to Cubs batter Welington Castillo right on the outside corner, over the white of the plate, and most importantly, right where Peavy and catcher David Ross wanted the pitch. Peavy waited for home plate umpire Chris Conroy to punch out Castillo.

He waited and waited.

The punch-out from Conroy never came and Castillo walked down to first base. Peavy walked around the mound, frustrated with the call on what he thought should have been strike three.

Eight pitches later, Peavy left a cutter over the heart of the plate and Nate Schierholtz deposited the ball into the Red Sox bullpen in right field to swing the game 2-0 in favor of the Cubs. Considering how Cubs starter Jake Arrieta was throwing and how much the Red Sox offense has struggled to generate runs, Schierholtz’s home run was all the offense Chicago needed.

Schierholtz’s blast marked the 17th home run this season off Peavy, who is tied for most home runs allowed in the American League with David Price of the Rays. The righty has allowed home runs in all but three of his 17 starts in 2014. Peavy said that the high home run total is inherent with his desire to have an aggressive game plan with each start.

“I’m going to be aggressive and throw the ball over the plate,” Peavy said. “I shouldn’t say that I don’t mind giving up home runs. You don’t ever want to. Not many of them have been like the [Kyle] Seager [three-run home run in Seattle]. If you give up one or two, as long as they are solo shots, no more than a two-run home run, you have a good chance of keeping your team in the game. It’s frustrating, and I relive the pitch [to Schierholtz] over and over. I wish that I had thrown something different and wish I had located it and things could have been different.”

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Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross, jake peavy, John Farrell

Near no-no before Fenway fans gave Jake Arrieta ‘goosebumps’

06.30.14 at 11:48 pm ET
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Jake Arrieta hasn’t always had great memories of pitching in Fenway but he’s always loved the fans and the environment. On Monday, he nearly made Fenway Park history.

Before giving up a clean single to right field to Stephen Drew on a misplaced 2-2 fastball, Arrieta was a mere four outs away from becoming just the fourth opposing pitcher to no-hit the Red Sox at Fenway since it opened in 1912 and the first since Detroit’s Jim Bunning in 1958.

“The tension kind of builds there as the fifth and sixth innings kind of approach and then it kind of subsides a little bit,” said Arrieta, who brought a perfect game into the seventh last week against the Reds at Wrigley Field. “The space around me [in the dugout] kind of increases, naturally. But yeah, another special night. It’s special to do it in this ballpark, to do something like this last week in Wrigley and then to do it here, in these two parks is pretty special.”

Arrieta finished with a career-high 120 pitches over 7 2/3 innings, picking up the win in a Cubs’ 2-0 blanking of the Red Sox Monday night.

“Most parks will have it somewhere on the board or on the Jumbotron so you sort of know,” Arrieta said. “During each inning, I might glance I have this many more to work with, and I knew the leash was going to be lengthened a little bit because of the situation. It felt like just any other day really as far as the body goes. I didn’t have to hit so I had a little more in the tank.

“We won and that’s obviously the biggest thing from tonight. We can all kind of enjoy. It was fun, a lot of fun.”

Arrieta was given a rousing standing ovation as he came off the mound immediately after losing his no-hitter in the eighth. There was still a game to be won. But that didn’t keep the fans from appreciating the effort of the right-hander.

“Something like that in Fenway is pretty rare for an opposing team so yeah, I got some goosebumps there and that’s kind of why you play this game, for moments like that. I’m just very thankful to be a part of something like that and to get another win feels good.”

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Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta

Closing Time: Jake Arrieta loses no-hitter, wins game against Red Sox

06.30.14 at 10:10 pm ET
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Cubs starter Jake Arietta took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Monday night. (AP)

Cubs starter Jake Arietta took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Red Sox on Monday night. (AP)

The month of June has mercifully come to an end for the Red Sox.

It was a month which saw the team go 12-16 and average just three runs per game (84 runs in 28 games), by far the worst in the American League. The trend continued Monday night as it took until the eighth inning for the Red Sox to get their first hit against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta in a 2-0 loss to Chicago.

It was the eighth time the Red Sox were shut out this season and the 11th time in the last 16 games when the team failed to score more than two runs.

“There’s a combination of factors to that,” manager John Farrell said when talking about his team’s inability to put together a string of good offensive games. “Acknowledging [Jake] Arrieta tonight, but yeah, anytime we seemingly start to put together quality performances back to back it’s been difficult to extend. You can’t pinpoint any one reason, it is a little frustrating particularly where we are with our record and our status or place in the division trying to get some momentum going. Credit a solid performance tonight.”

Arrieta entered the game with a 0-3 record and a 5.90 ERA in six career appearances against the Red Sox, but he dominated them from the outset. No stranger to flirting with history, the Cubs right-hander also took a perfect game into the seventh inning of his last start against the Reds.

This time the no-hitter was spoiled by Stephen Drew, whose single to right with two outs in the eighth did the job. It came on Arietta’s 120th pitch. Arrieta tossed 7 2/3 innings, allowing just two baserunners (a hit and a walk) while striking out 10.

The loss spoiled what was a solid outing from Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, who allowed two runs over six innings (a two-run homer), which normally would put the Red Sox in a good position to win if not for Arrieta’s brilliance. Peavy is 1-7 on the year with a 4.82 ERA and has only left the game with a lead in two of his starts.

“It’s frustrating losing,” said Peavy. “You don’t want to lose, and when you made the mistake to cost your team to win, it hurts. Little things like we talked about, we talked about with a number of guys. Little things, you get that called third strike [on a 3-2 pitch in the fourth inning] and you’re in the dugout, the game could have played out differently. The way it’s been going on my day, obviously you don’t get the call, then on the next pitch you give up a two-run home run that decides the game. You just have to clean that up.”

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox’ loss.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

The Red Sox continued their month-long struggles at the plate as it took them until one out in the fifth inning to get their first baserunner, a one-out walk from Mike Napoli, and two outs in the eighth inning for their first hit when Drew lined a sharp single to right. They scored three runs or less in 19 games in the month of June.

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