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Before Clay Buchholz could become an effective reliever, he realized he had this one big thing to learn

08.27.16 at 1:29 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz is ready to transition back to the bullpen. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz is ready to transition back to the bullpen. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz didn’t believe a situation existed that he hadn’t seen as a starter. Then he moved to the bullpen and realized he was missing a big one — learning how to enter a game with runners on base.

Through conversations with his fellow relievers, Buchholz has grown to appreciate the art of stranding runners who aren’t of his making.

And as he transitions back to the bullpen with the potential of becoming a factor in the eighth inning, Buchholz believes this knowledge will be pivotal.

“You start talking more baseball stuff from the bullpen’s perspective, rather than the starting perspective,” Buchholz said. “It actually allows you to learn a little more about what you’re doing in different situations. With runners on, you come into a game, what you have to do to keep that runner form scoring, and it’s not like going into a clean inning as a starter and setting up hitters for their second, third, and fourth at-bats. You’re going in to get them out at that point in time, and you can use all your stuff to do that. It’s a side of the game that I thought I knew a little bit about, but I never really did, because I was never really in the bullpen.”

As fellow reliever Brad Ziegler noted, entering a game with a runner on first is very different from walking the leadoff hitter.

“I’ve spent my whole career getting double play balls with guys on base,” he said. “That’s a lot easier to do whenever I’ve got into the feel of the inning a little bit. I let the guy on base, but I’ve already thrown four or five pitches at that point. It’s hard to go in and try to get a ground ball on the very first pitch.”
Buchholz has a better feel for this now, and is looking forward to pitching meaningful innings after being buried during his first stint in the pen.

“It’s all role-based in the bullpen,” he said. “I didn’t really have a role down there for an extended period of time. That’s probably harder than pitching in close games. If it’s a blowout game, [Craig] Kimbrel knows he’s probably not going into that game unless he hasn’t pitched in five or six games. But in the situation I was in, I’d probably be pitching in those games. It’s hard to pitch to major league hitters when you’re down a whole lot or up a whole lot, because one, two, three runs doesn’t really mean a whole lot, but you have to treat it as if they do. It’s easy to let down.

“But pitching in situations as far as having a role, you know when you need to be ready, and you can start preparing in the innings leading up to that. It’s fun to pitch when the game’s on the line. Everybody in here is a competitor, and everybody likes going out and having some situations that it’s going to help the team win a game.”

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Saturday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: David Price vs. Danny Duffy

08.27.16 at 7:35 am ET
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Saturday’s middle game of the Red Sox-Royals three-game series will feature David Price against left-hander Danny Duffy.

Price is 12-8 with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.227 WHIP in 27 starts, tied for the most starts in the majors. Price has been inconsistent this year, but in his last outing Monday against the Rays he delivered one of his best starts of the season. Against his original team, the southpaw threw eight innings, allowing no runs, two hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in a 6-2 Sox win.

“It felt good, for sure,” Price said (via MLB.com). “I made some good pitches. It’s a tough team for me to pitch against. Doesn’t matter if it’s here or on the road. It’s just tough.”

The 31-year-old is 3-0 in seven games (six starts) with a 2.01 ERA and a 0.873 WHIP against the Royals. Price last faced the Royals on May 18, pitching 7 1/3 innings and giving up two runs, five hits and one walk with five strikeouts in Boston’s 5-2 victory.

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Read More: Danny Duffy, David Price,

John Farrell ‘confident’ Red Sox’ recent struggles with men on base will change

08.26.16 at 11:40 pm ET
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The Red Sox have struggled with men on base of late, but manager John Farrell believes that will change. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

The Red Sox have struggled with men on base of late, but manager John Farrell believes that will change. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

The biggest issue for the Red Sox of late hasn’t been their pitching staff, rather their lack of timely hits.

The trend continued Friday night in the Red Sox’ 6-3 loss to the Royals where they went 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left a total of 12 men on base.

The top four spots in the order went 13-for-19, including Mookie Betts going 5-for-5, but the No. 5-9 spots went just 2-for-21 with 10 strikeouts.

“We continually do a great job of creating opportunities and I am confident this will turn,” manager John Farrell said. “I can’t say that we expanded the strike zone with men in scoring position or the bases loaded. [Ian] Kennedy challenged us and we came up empty with a number of scoring opportunities.”

With the loss, the Red Sox have now lost three straight games for the first time since July 27. They’ve also  dropped four out of their last six games, overall.

In those six games, the allusive key hit just hasn’t been there. In those games, the team is batting just .233 with runners in scoring position. Overall, going into Friday, they were batting .286 for the season.

Friday was also a good example of how players at the bottom of the order are hurting them as the top of the order has been getting on base (evident by Betts and Dustin Pedroia going 9-for-9), but some of the players in the bottom half haven’t been producing to drive them in.

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Read More: jackie bradley jr., John Farrell, travis shaw,

Closing Time: Steven Wright struggles in 1st inning, Red Sox can’t convert chances once again in loss to Royals

08.26.16 at 10:25 pm ET
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Steven Wright didn't have his best stuff early on, but got it together. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Steven Wright didn’t have his best stuff early on, but got it together. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

The return of the Red Sox to Fenway Park and the return of Steven Wright to the mound didn’t go as either would have liked.

Wright allowed five runs in the first inning and the Red Sox struggled with runners in scoring position once again, as they fell to the Royals, 6-3 Friday night at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox have now lost three straight games for the first time since July 27.

The knuckleballer allowed two homers in the first to account for the five runs. Eric Hosmer took him over the Monster for a three-run shot, and then after a single, Alex Gordon also hit one into the Monster seats to give the Royals a 5-0 lead with only one out recorded in the game. Wright ended up by throwing 40 pitches in the inning.

“Yeah, I think I got a little antsy,” Wright said. “Too much adrenaline in that first inning. The walks killed me. I mean, you go out there and walk a couple of guys against a team like that, Hosmer gets one that gets out and I’m right there with three runs. If I would have been able to hold them to that, it would have been good, but I gave up the other home run. When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that’s a tough deficit to overcome for any offense, especially against a team like the Royals.”

To Wright’s credit, the knuckleballer settled in and didn’t allow a run after the first and just three more hits. He finished the game going six innings, allowing the five runs on seven hits, while walking three and striking out one. He threw a total of 95 pitches.

Afterwards, Wright said his shoulder felt good — perhaps not as strong as it once was, but he was able to find the right release point after the first inning.”

Junichi Tazawa allowed a home run to Lorenzo Cain in his second inning of work in relief for the sixth Royals run. Fernando Abad pitched the final two innings following Tazawa.

Once again, the Red Sox couldn’t do much with their chances as they left the bases loaded in the first, and first and third in both the third and fifth innings. They also had first and second with no outs in the ninth with David Ortiz up, but he hit into a double play. The Red Sox ended the game with runners on second and third.

The Red Sox’ first run came in the first inning when Mookie Betts drove in Dustin Pedroia with a single to left. They added another in the sixth when Pedroia singled home Brock Holt and another in the ninth when Betts had an RBI single.

Overall, they were 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

“We continually do a great job of creating opportunities and I am confident this will turn,” Farrell said. “I can’t say that we expanded the strike zone with men in scoring position or the bases loaded. Kennedy challenged us and we came up empty with a number of scoring opportunities.”

Betts led the offense with a 5-for-5 performance with five singles. The five hits were a career high.

Closing Time note

Ortiz’s double was the 625th of his career, which allowed him to pass Hank Aaron for 10th all-time.

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

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Read More: David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, mookie betts, steven wright

David Ortiz wears Aly Raisman’s Olympic medals before gymnast throws out first pitch

08.26.16 at 7:53 pm ET
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Two superstars in their respective sports were together Friday night at Fenway Park as USA gymnast Aly Raisman threw out the first pitch to David Ortiz.

Raisman, a Needham, Massachusetts native, helped the U.S. team win gold with impressive performances on the vault, balance beam and floor routine. Raisman won a silver medal in the individual all-around competition, while also winning silver again in the individual floor exercise.

Before throwing out the first pitch she let Ortiz wear all three of her medals.

Read More: Aly Raisman, David Ortiz,

Andrew Benintendi feels ‘pretty lucky’ after suffering knee injury Wednesday night

08.26.16 at 5:58 pm ET
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The Red Sox may have dodged a bullet with Andrew Benintendi's left knee. (Joe Nicholson/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox may have dodged a bullet with Andrew Benintendi’s left knee. (Joe Nicholson/USA Today Sports)

Things didn’t look good for Andrew Benintendi when he walked off the field Wednesday night in Tampa.

The Red Sox outfielder got his knee/ankle awkwardly caught in the turf trying to get back to second base on a ground ball to the infield in a game against the Rays.

It looked like it could potentially be a season-ending injury, but after a series of tests on Friday, it was learned he just has a knee sprain and the team is optimistic he can return this season.

“I am definitely fortunate,” Benintendi said Friday. “It looked a lot worse than it actually was. I feel pretty lucky.”

Benintendi is walking without the aid of crutches and just has a small brace to stabilize the knee.

“The more I walked on it, the better it’s felt over the last few days,” he said. “I am pretty positive about how it’s gone so far.”

Drafted No. 7 overall in last June’s draft, this is the first major injury he’s had to deal with as a professional and he admitted it’s hard not being on the field with his teammates.

“It’s tough,” Benintendi said. “I’ve only been up here for three weeks and I’d rather be out there playing obviously, taking fly balls during BP and playing, but it’s part of the game and unfortunate that it happened.”

In his first 21 games as a professional, the left-handed batter is hitting .324/.365/.485 with a home run and 10 RBIs.

Read More: Andrew Benintendi,

Reliever Heath Hembree optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Steven Wright

08.26.16 at 5:21 pm ET
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Heath Hembree

Heath Hembree

To make room for knuckleballer Steven Wright on the 25-man roster to start Friday night, the team optioned right-handed reliever Heath Hembree to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Hembree is 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 30 appearances over three major league stints this season. He allowed runs in each of his last two outings — Aug. 20 in Detroit and Aug. 24 in Tampa.

With the PawSox, Hembree has a 0.82 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 10 appearances, while converting all seven of his save opportunities.

Wright is 13-5 with a 3.01 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 22 starts this year. He will be making his first start since Aug. 8.

The Red Sox could afford to option a reliever as Clay Buchholz has been sent to the bullpen.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

Read More: heath hembree,

Red Sox lineup: Sandy Leon batting 6th, ahead of Jackie Bradley Jr. vs. Royals

08.26.16 at 5:05 pm ET
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Sandy Leon

Sandy Leon

Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon and his .369 batting average keep moving up the lineup.

Leon is batting sixth Friday night, which is ahead of Jackie Bradley Jr. as the Red Sox go up against Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy in the first of a three-game series.

Other than that, it’s a standard Red Sox lineup against a right-hander with Travis Shaw at third base and Brock Holt in left field.

Leon will catch Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright, who is making his first start since Aug. 5.

Here is the complete Red Sox lineup:

Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
David Ortiz, DH
Mookie Betts, RF
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
Sandy Leon, C
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Travis Shaw, 3B
Brock Holt, LF
Steven Wright, RHP

For an extensive look at the matchups, click here.

Read More: jackie bradley jr., Sandy Leon,

Red Sox ‘optimistic’ Andrew Benintendi can return this season, no structural damage besides knee sprain

08.26.16 at 4:50 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi

Andrew Benintendi

Friday was a good day for the Red Sox and Andrew Benintendi.

After suffering a knee injury Wednesday night in Tampa that looked season-ending at first glance, Benintendi went through a number of tests Friday, including another MRI, CT scan and X-rays and it revealed no structural damage other than the sprained left knee.

“When you think back and look at the video, this could have been much, much worse,” manager John Farrell said. “Lucky that the ACL is not involved, so we’re still optimistic that he can return this season.”

Benintendi is on the 15-day disabled list, but the team is hopeful he can return during the regular season.

“He will come back when he’s first available and optimistically we’re thinking that could be the regular season,” Farrell said.

The left fielder is walking around without crutches and just a small knee brace to keep the knee stable.

“It’s an interruption,” Farrell said. “He’s been quickly embraced by this team. … We’re gonna miss him. At the same time, I think we’ve gotten a lot of good news here today.”

In 21 games in the majors since being promoted from Double-A, he is batting .324/.365/.485 with a home run and 10 RBIs.

“In a very short period of time, in 20 games, or there about, he’s been a complete player,” Farrell said. “He’s shown good base running instincts with the exception of unfortunately the last time he was on the bases. He’s been a good defender in left field. I think he’s been at ease and very much under control and managed his at-bats well. There was an at-bat where he got a sacrifice fly the other night I believe the second inning the other night, which I believe was the second run of the inning where he is working a deep at-bat, a lot of foul balls, ends up a productive out with the sacrifice fly — there’s no panic in his approach that the plate. That’s pretty rare for a guy his age and his experience level.”

Read More: Andrew Benintendi,

Friday Red Sox Farm Report: Joe Kelly tosses another scoreless inning for PawSox; Mauricio Dubon 3-for-4 in Portland win

08.26.16 at 10:56 am ET
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Here’s a look a the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (68-63): L, 6-1, vs. Lehigh Valley (Phillies)

— Joe Kelly pitched a scoreless ninth inning, allowing one hit while recording all three outs on strikeouts. It was his eighth inning pitched without allowing a run. In 11 relief appearances with the PawSox since returning from a rehab stint with Lowell last month, Kelly has allowed one run in 14 innings while fanning 23 and walking just one. The right-hander has retired 23 of the last 27 batters he’s faced.

“My fastball command has been pretty good,” Kelly said (via MiLB.com). “Right now, I feel like I’m throwing the ball well and hopefully I keep doing it.”

— Right-hander Justin Haley started and went five innings, allowing three runs on five hits (two home runs) and two walks with six strikeouts. He’s now 7-5 with a 4.02 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) with Pawtucket. After left-hander Robby Scott pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, righty Kyle Martin went 1 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on a pair of home runs in the eighth.

— Second baseman Mike Miller hit an opposite-field home run down the right-field line in the third inning, his first homer of the season, for Pawtucket’s lone run. Miller finished the day 1-for-2 with a walk and now is slashing .245/.310/.309.

— Center fielder Rusney Castillo and catcher Christian Vazquez both went 2-for-4.

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Read More: Bobby Dalbec, Joe Kelly, joseph monge, josh pennington
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