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Red Sox-Mariners series preview

08.22.14 at 11:15 am ET
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The friendly confines of Fenway Park have not been so friendly to the Red Sox lately.

Felix Hernandez

Felix Hernandez

The Sox came into their 11-game homestand last weekend feeling positive after a successful road trip but have stumbled yet again, getting swept in a four-game series against the Angels. The Sox were outscored 18-8 for the series and were one-hit by Halos starter Matt Shoemaker in 2-0 loss Thursday night.

The Red Sox are 2-6 through the first eight games of the homestand to fall to 56-71 for the season. They’re 18 games back of the first-place Orioles in the AL East and six games behind the Rays for fourth place.

While the Sox have been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball this season, the Mariners, who the Sox take on in a three-game series to close out the homestand, have been one of the game’s biggest surprises.

At 68-58, Seattle is just a half-game back of the Tigers for the final AL wild card spot, putting the M’s in contention for their first postseason berth since 2001. The Mariners dropped two of three to the Phillies this week but have won seven of their last 10.

Seattle’s emergence is due largely to its pitching staff, which leads all of baseball with a 2.93 team ERA. The Mariners, as expected, are headlined by ace Felix Hernandez, who leads the team is wins (13), ERA (1.99), strikeouts (197) and WHIP (0.87). However, Seattle also has been lifted by the emergence of unlikely studs Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Young, who both are having impressive years in their mid-30s.

The Sox were shut down by this staff when they dropped two of three in Seattle in the lone meeting between these teams June 23-25. The Red Sox scored just 10 runs in the series, which was less than the Mariners’ total (12 runs) in the first game alone.

Here are the probable pitchers for the three-game set.

Friday: Felix Hernandez (13-4, 1.99 ERA) vs. Joe Kelly (2-3, 4.67 ERA)
Saturday: Chris Young (12-6, 3.07 ERA) vs. Brandon Workman (1-7, 4.26 ERA)
Sunday: Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.57 ERA) vs. Allen Webster (3-1, 4.73 ERA)


– No one has been hotter than David Ortiz as of late. The slugger was 14-for-26 (.538) with five multi-hit games through the first seven games of the Sox’ 11-game homestand before being given a day off on Thursday. Ortiz has made his mark in the Red Sox’ record books during this stretch as well. On Saturday, he hit his 400th and 401st home runs in a Red Sox uniform, making him the third player in club history to reach that mark behind Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.Wednesday’s home run marked Ortiz’s eighth 30-home run season, tying him with Williams for most in Sox history.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Mariners matchups: Joe Kelly vs. Felix Hernandez

08.22.14 at 8:33 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

The Red Sox will close out their 11-game homestand when they host the Mariners for a three-game set at Fenway Park. Boston will send Joe Kelly to the mound against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez in the series opener Friday.

Kelly (0-1, 5.29 ERA) will be looking to rebound from a rough Fenway debut Sunday, as the righty gave up seven hits and seven earned runs while walking six in just four innings against the Astros.

“Plenty of stuff. Plenty of power. Plenty of action to his secondary pitches,”€ said Red Sox manager John Farrell when asked about Kelly’€™s outing after the game. “Just his command was not as its been in the first two outings for him.”

While Kelly has turned in both promising and discouraging outings during his brief Red Sox career, one recurring trend for the 26-year-old has been issues with command. Kelly has walked 13 batters in his last 17 innings of work.

Friday will stand as Kelly’€™s first career start against the Mariners.

The Red Sox certainly have their work cut out for them against Hernandez (13-4, 1.99 ERA), who has once again solidified himself as arguably the top pitcher in the American League this season.

Hernandez is the clear frontrunner to secure his second Cy Young Award this season, as the right-hander leads the league in ERA and WHIP (0.87) while ranking second in innings pitched (185 1/3), wins (13) and strikeouts (197).

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Video: Red Sox executives take ice bucket challenge

08.22.14 at 7:41 am ET
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A large contingent of members from the Red Sox front office, including chairman Tom Werner and CEO Larry Lucchino, took the ALS ice bucket challenge Thursday.

COO Sam Kennedy, speaking on behalf of the group, nominated the Pawtucket Red Sox, Liverpool FC and The Boston Globe to take the challenge.

David Ortiz was on hand to help douse the executives and other personnel with buckets of ice water.

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Sources: Red Sox seen as favorites to land Rusney Castillo

08.22.14 at 6:24 am ET
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Free agent outfielder Rusney Castillo is expected to be close to signing with a major league team. (Getty Images)

Free agent outfielder Rusney Castillo is expected to be close to signing with a major league team. (Getty Images)

According to sources with multiple major league teams that have been involved in the sweepstakes, the Red Sox are considered the favorites to land Cuban free agent outfielder Rusney Castillo. While one industry source cautioned that, as of late Thursday night, Castillo had not yet agreed to a deal with any team and remained in “active” dialogue with multiple clubs, multiple teams believe that the Red Sox may be close to a deal for the athletic, speedy outfielder.

Earlier this week, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington acknowledged that the Red Sox had worked out the 27-year-old (Cherington himself attended the workout) and had talked to him, but didn’t elaborate.

“He’€™€™s a player we’€™€™ve seen and we’€™€™ve talked to, but we’re just one of several teams that have done that,” Cherington said Tuesday at Fenway Park. “There’€™€™s nothing more I can say.”

The 5-foot-9 Castillo is viewed as a player with elite speed that allows him to be a game-changer on the bases and also permits him considerable range in the outfield, where he can play center or right. He also shows the ability to impact the ball as a line-drive/gap hitter.

Castillo’s former teammate Yoenis Cespedes offered the following description of Castillo to WEEI.com earlier this month: “If he’€™€™€™s not a five-tool player, he’€™€™€™s a least a four-tool player. He’€™€™€™s very comparable to [Dodgers outfielder Yasiel] Puig. Obviously a different height and size, but very similar qualities.”

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Rubby untarnished: De La Rosa ‘strong’ in face of career-high workload

08.22.14 at 12:52 am ET
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Rubby De La Rosa didn’t try to hide the frustration of Thursday’s end result.

Rubby De La Rosa

Rubby De La Rosa

The right-hander gave the Red Sox a solid 6 2/3 innings, holding the Angels to two runs on eight hits and three walks on 111 pitches. But he took the 2-0 loss after being outdueled by Angels starter Matt Shoemaker, who tossed a one-hit shutout over 7 2/3 innings against an anemic and shorthanded Red Sox offense. There was only so much De La Rosa could do.

“I tried to do my best,” De La Rosa said. “I tried to push myself.”

All disappointment aside, it was another significant night for De La Rosa, who threw over 110 pitches for the third time in his last five starts.

This August has been unlike most for De La Rosa. This August, he said, he feels strong, maybe stronger than he’s ever been in his major league career. His 6 2/3 innings Thursday puts him at 78 innings pitched for the season, more than he’s ever tossed in his first three years combined. Add that to the 60 innings he’s thrown in Triple-A Pawtucket and he’s at 138 for the year, after never having surpassed 110 1/3 in his pro career entering 2014.

The closest he’s come to this year’s big league workload came in 2011, when he pitched 60 2/3 innings for the Dodgers — he pitched 40 innings in the minor leagues that season — before suffering a partially torn ligament in his elbow that required Tommy John surgery, which he underwent on Aug. 9, 2011. De La Rosa blew opponents away that season with his 100 mile-per-hour fastball, going 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA for the Dodgers and looking like a star on the rise.

All of that potential was seemingly in jeopardy.

“I have to make it back,” De La Rosa, then 22, said at the timeRead the rest of this entry »

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Will Middlebrooks: Hamstring ‘wasn’t 100 percent … but I was good enough to go’

08.21.14 at 11:35 pm ET
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Will Middlebrooks

Will Middlebrooks

Will Middlebrooks, out since Monday due to an injured hamstring, wasn’t scripted to be a part of Thursday’s game — or at least, not as early as the fourth inning, when he came in as the Red Sox third baseman. Manager John Farrell had said that Middlebrooks would be available off the bench, but his early entry became necessary when outfielder Yoenis Cespedes had to leave the game after the third inning due to what was described as a family medical emergency.

Mike Napoli was unavailable to play first, and David Ortiz had a scheduled full day off. With Allen Craig already in the game as DH, the team couldn’t put him at first base (moving Kelly Johnson to third) without losing its DH.

Enter Middlebrooks, who went to third base, with Brock Holt shifting from third to right field and Daniel Nava heading from right to left. The third baseman said that his hamstring was feeling “a little tight. Wasn’€™t 100 percent coming into the game but I was good enough to go. It was fine, just a little tight.”

And Middlebrooks ended up helping the Red Sox to preserve a measure of dignity, as his two-out, seventh-inning double to left off Angels starter Matt Shoemaker proved Boston’s lone hit in a 2-0 loss.

“As a guy on the bench you start getting loose around the sixth inning for a possibly pinch hit, maybe the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth inning,” Middlebrooks said of his rushed entry. “In the third it was kind of out of nowhere. I had to get as loose as I could and get out there to try to help us win.” Read the rest of this entry »

John Farrell: Yoenis Cespedes left game due to ‘family medical emergency’

08.21.14 at 11:12 pm ET
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Yoenis Cespedes left Thursday’s game after the third inning due to what the team deemed a “personal matter.”

Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

Red Sox manager John Farrell echoed similar sentiments after the game, saying the outfielder was removed from the game because of a “family medical emergency.”

“[It's] a personal matter that he’s dealing with and we’re hopeful he would be back in the lineup tomorrow, but that’s probably the most I can tell you right now,” Farrell said.

Farrell wouldn’t go into further details about Cespedes’ situation, opting to keep the situation private.

“I think at the appropriate time, if there are questions that Yoenis feels like he’s willing to answer — I think at this point we probably need to respect his privacy at this point,” he said.

Cespedes struck out in his lone plate appearance in the Sox’ 2-0 loss to the Angels Thursday. He gunned down Josh Hamilton at the plate in the first with a strike from left field off a single by Howie Kendrick.

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