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On heels of latest pitcher controversy, John Farrell wants MLB to approve substance for better grip

05.25.15 at 2:38 pm ET
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Brian Matusz, here being ejected from Saturday's game against the Marlins for having a foreign substance on his arm, is appealing is eight-game suspension. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Brian Matusz, here being ejected from Saturday’s game against the Marlins for having a foreign substance on his arm, is appealing is eight-game suspension. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS — With another major league pitcher getting suspended for the use of a foreign substance — Baltimore’s Brian Matusz, who is appealing his eight-game ban Red Sox manager John Farrell suggested there should be another look at the rules of baseball.

Talking to the media prior to his team’s series opener against the Twins at Target Field on Monday, Farrell said MLB might want to look for a new substance that helps the pitcher with his grip on the baseball that is considered legal.

“I would like to see an approved substance that pitchers can use,” Farrell said. “Because when we take a manufactured baseball and rub it with dirt, it’s going to create a slippery feeling to it. The mud residue leaves a film on it that you don’t necessarily feel a good, consistent grip. Unless you go to a ball like the one used in Japan where it’s got a tacky feel to it. But I’d like to see something that’s approved that everyone can use. I think if you poll any hitter, the hitter wants to know that the ball’s got a grip. The ball’s not going to get away from [the pitcher].”

Matusz, who was ejected from Saturday’s game against the Marlins for having a substance on his right arm, is the second MLB pitcher in a week to be disciplined for using an illegal substance on the baseball. The BravesWill Smith also was suspended eight games for using what he said was a combination of rosin and sunscreen — also on his right arm.

“I think any time the game loses players for eight to 10 games, I think it makes us as an industry look within,” Farrell said. “If a number of pitchers are putting themselves at risk and the belief is a widespread number of pitchers are using it, why would we not look to improve the game? Nobody wants to see pitchers sidelined.”

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Read More: Brian Matusz, Clay Buchholz, John Farrell, Will Smith

Red Sox lineup: Dustin Pedroia back in leadoff spot

05.25.15 at 11:44 am ET
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Dustin Pedroia will bat leadoff for the third straight day as the Red Sox open a three-game series against the Twins in Minneapolis with an afternoon tilt. Pedroia is 2-for-6 with a walk in the past two games, both Red Sox wins. Mookie Betts will bat second for the Sox.

Here is the lineup that will face Twins righty Ricky Nolasco, as Joe Kelly starts for the Sox.

Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Mookie Betts, CF
David Ortiz, DH
Hanley Ramirez, LF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Mike Napoli, 1B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Daniel Nava, RF
Blake Swihart, C

For the detailed pitching matchups, click here.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, mookie betts,

Live Blog: Follow action (tweets) as Red Sox take on Twins at Target Field

05.25.15 at 10:41 am ET
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Live Blog Red Sox vs. Twins
 

Monday Red Sox Farm Report: Travis Shaw shines in left for PawSox, Trey Ball victorious in shutout for Salem

05.25.15 at 10:19 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday:

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (24-21): L, 5-4, at Louisville (Reds)

–€” Left-hander Brian Johnson took the loss for the PawSox in a seven-inning effort. He walked none and struck out seven but gave up four runs on eight hits, including a solo home run to Chris Dominguez. A first-round draft pick in 2012, Johnson is 5-3 with a 2.92 ERA in nine starts with Pawtucket.

— Travis Shaw played left field for just the second time in his career and recorded two outfield assists, including one on a putout at home. Shaw went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double and two runs scored.

— Allen Craig went 2-for-4 with an RBI, recording his fifth multi-hit game for Pawtucket. Luke Montz went 1-for-4 with a two-run home run in the ninth inning.

— Mike Miller notched his first Triple-A hit with a single to center in the eighth inning. He came around to score on Craig’€™s double. Miller finished the day 2-for-3 with a walk and one run scored.

— Pawtucket was without utility infielder Jeff Bianchi, who was called up to Boston after the Red Sox placed Shane Victorino on the 15-day DL. Bianchi was hitting .302 in 17 games in Triple-A this season.

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Red Sox-Twins series preview

05.25.15 at 10:10 am ET
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After starting the season 1-6, the Twins have had plenty of reasons to celebrate, going 24-12, including Sunday's 8-2 victory over the White Sox. (Jon Durr/Getty Images)

After starting the season 1-6, the Twins have had plenty of reasons to celebrate as they’ve gone 24-12, including Sunday’s 8-2 victory over the White Sox that had (from left) Shane Robinson, Eddie Rosario and Aaron Hicks floating on air. (Jon Durr/Getty Images)

After taking two out of three from the Angels over the weekend, the Red Sox leave the friendly confines to begin a three-game set with the Twins on Monday in Minneapolis.

The Red Sox are 5-5 over their last 10 games, and they sit at 21-23 on the season, good for third place in the cluttered AL East. They are 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Rays.

On the other hand, the surprise Twins are 25-18 and reside in second place in the AL Central, behind the Royals. They are 7-3 in their last 10 and 24-12 since their 1-6 start to the campaign.

The Twins are coming off of a five-game stretch in which they swept a two-game series from the Pirates and took two out of three from the division rival White Sox. Against Chicago, the Twins offense proved itself, beating last year’s AL Cy Young candidate Chris Sale for the second time this season Saturday, this time 4-3.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in here,” Twins starting pitcher Kyle Gibson said after the series-clinching 8-1 win Sunday. “We have been saying that even after the 1-6 start that we like our team and we like the leaders in here. And we fight. It’s what we do.”

With a largely young and unproven lineup, first-year manager and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor has molded the Twins into a potent run-scoring machine. Though they do not hit many home runs, they are the fifth-highest-scoring team in baseball this year, logging 4.58 runs per game. Meanwhile, the Red Sox score just 4.00 runs per game, the 21st-best mark in the majors.

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Read More: Brian Dozier, mike napoli, Mike Pelfrey, torii hunter

Monday’s Red Sox-Twins matchups: Joe Kelly vs. Ricky Nolasco

05.25.15 at 8:35 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

Coming off a series win at home against the Angels, the Red Sox start a weeklong road trip with a three-game set against the Twins on Monday. The Sox finally got a much-needed jolt from their offense in the final two games of the Angels series, and will look to continue the trend in Minnesota as they send Joe Kelly to the hill to go up against Ricky Nolasco.

Kelly enters his ninth start of the season with a 1-3 record and 5.13 ERA. The right-hander has had some tough-luck losses, and has pitched better, especially lately, than his record and ERA indicate. His FIP (a fielding-independent stat measured on the same scale as ERA) is a more reasonable 4.23.

Kelly, 26, has not recorded a win since his first outing of the season April 11, but his last two starts were good enough to merit victories had he gotten more help from his offense.

Kelly went seven strong innings in his last start and allowed just two runs on seven hits while striking out seven. However, he got just one run of support and took the 2-1 loss at the hands of the Rangers.

“After the third inning, he settled in. He used his curveball a little bit more,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said following Kelly’s outing Wednesday. “He started to elevate his fastball for some strikeouts. And on a night when he wasn’t completely healthy in terms of an illness he was dealing with, he threw the ball exceptionally well. He takes the one-hopper off the hand that really, after the initial sting went away, didn’t affect the way he threw the baseball. He got a couple of big strikeouts with men in scoring position. A well-pitched game.”

In his last two starts combined, Kelly has allowed just three runs in 13 1/3 innings and yet has ended up winless, recording a no-decision to go along with his loss to the Rangers.

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Wade Miley on fast track to leading Red Sox turnaround: ‘We’re playing a lot better right now’

05.24.15 at 6:19 pm ET
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Wade Miley was a picture of perfection early on against the Angels Sunday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Wade Miley was a picture of perfection early on against the Angels Sunday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Red Sox can only hope they copy the stunningly resurgent turnaround of Wade Miley.

The lefty has suddenly turned into the most reliable and consistent pitcher on staff. On Sunday, that encouraging trend continued when he allowed just four hits and one run over eight stellar innings in a 6-1 win over the Angels at a sun-splashed Fenway Park.

It was a perfect day for a game, and Miley gave fans a perfect start to their Sunday afternoon, retiring the first 14 batters he faced before walking Chris Iannetta on five pitches in the fifth. That was followed up by a single from C.J. Cron, who had been called back to hit after a pitch was ruled to have struck his bat by the umpiring crew.

Miley (4-4) has won each of his last three starts and is 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA in May. On Sunday he took just 45 minutes to race through four perfect innings. He needed just 35 pitches to get through four frames before a 23-pitch fifth. Where did Miley learn his fast pace?

“Probably college, my college coach was huge on that,” Miley said, referring to Southeastern Louisiana pitching coach Daniel Latham. “It’s kind of stuck with me.”

The Angels, who had never faced him before, were aiding the cause of Miley and catcher Sandy Leon by swinging early and often.

“They’re a pretty aggressive team and we kind of used that to our advantage and it worked out,” Miley said. “That’s the biggest thing, being able to throw the fastball. And what Sandy did, it felt like every time he put down a finger, it’s what I wanted to do. We were on the same page from the first inning on.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, wade miley,

Unique story behind bat Mike Napoli used in monster weekend series

05.24.15 at 5:49 pm ET
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Mike Napoli hit five home runs in six games this past homestand. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Mike Napoli hit five home runs in six games this homestand. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

By now everyone knows about Mike Napoli‘s monster homestand — batting .429 (9-for-21), with six runs scored, five home runs and 10 RBIs — but what many might not know is the story behind the bat he used.

Prior to Thursday’s game with the Rangers, the Red Sox first baseman had a fan who was on the field sign his bat — the same bat he used to go on a tear over the weekend.

“Sometimes there are kids in the dugout and I go up and have them sign my bat,” Napoli said. “It was kind of crazy, the first home run I hit the other day was where he actually signed it. It was pretty cool. I appreciate where he signed it.”

“It’s pretty cool,” he added. “Everyone is always asking for my autograph so I think it’s pretty cool to go up to a kid and say, ‘Hey, give me your autograph.’ They love that and they write their name on the bat in squiggle.”

After homering on Tuesday against the Rangers, Napoli really picked it up over the weekend against the Angels — the team that drafted him in 2000. He went 5-for-9 over the three games with four home runs and eight RBIs. With hitting a home run in three consecutive home games he became the first player to do so since David Ortiz did in June of 2012 and no one had done it in three straight days at home since Jason Bay in 2009.

The first baseman owns the Angels, as prior to Sunday’s game Napoli had the all-time best slugging percentage (.716) and OPS (1.163) against them.

“I think there’s always a personal incentive when you go up against your original organization regardless of how things play out over time,” manager John Farrell said. “That’s pretty common for most players.”

What was even more impressive was Napoli’s hot streak came out of no where.

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Closing Time: Mike Napoli homers again, Wade Miley throws gem as Red Sox take series over Angels

05.24.15 at 4:13 pm ET
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Mike Napoli hit his fifth home run of the homestand in the Red Sox win. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Mike Napoli hit his fifth home run of the homestand in the Red Sox win. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Dare we say the Red Sox have turned a corner?

Following an unimpressive start to the homestand, dropping three of the first four games with barely any life, the Red Sox won the last two games of the series against the Angels, capping it off with a 6-1 win Sunday.

Wade Miley gave the Red Sox their second exceptional start in as many games, as the left-hander went eight innings, allowing one run on four hits, while walking one and striking out two.

He didn’t allow a baserunner until two outs in the fifth when he walked Chris Iannetta and then the next batter, C.J. Cron singled to left following a review of whether a pitch was a hit by pitch or foul ball that hit the knob of the bat.

Miley ended his outing in style, getting a double play to end the eighth inning, with Mike Trout standing on deck.

“It comes down to fastball command,” manager John Farrell said. “Even when he’s got a couple of guys on base. He hasn’t overthrown as we saw maybe back in April. He’s turned things around personally this month, that’s pretty clear. But he’s back to a quick pace but a comfortable one for him and he’s commanded his pitches.”

Mike Napoli continued his monster homestand as the first baseman crushed a two-run home run in the second inning to dead centerfield. It traveled 451 feet. Napoli finished the homestand 9-for-21 with five homers and 7 RBIs, and for his career has owned the Angels as coming in to the game he had the best all-time slugging percentage (.716) and OPS (1.163).

The Red Sox added another run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly from Dustin Pedroia, bringing in Brock Holt, who hit a ground rule double to open the inning. Sandy Leon had a perfect sacrifice bunt getting him to third.

They added three more insurance runs in the eighth when Napoli ripped a two-RBI double off the Green Monster and the next batter, pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval, delivered an RBI single.

“Having people on base when you’re hitting and feeling good, it’s a good feeling driving in runs and [being able to] contribute,” Napoli said.

Koji Uehara pitched a 1-2-3 ninth in a non-save situation.

As a team the Red Sox have now hit home runs in 18 of their 22 home games, which ties the Astros for most in the American League.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Miley. The left-hander was exceptional, as he gave the Red Sox their second straight outstanding start. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

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Read More: Dustin Pedroia, mike napoli, wade miley, xander bogaerts

Red Sox notes: Mookie Betts gets second look, Mike Napoli hitting with ‘clear mind right now’

05.24.15 at 2:15 pm ET
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Mike Napoli went deep twice in the Red Sox' win Saturday over the Angels. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Mike Napoli went deep twice in the Red Sox‘ win Saturday over the Angels. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Sometimes bad luck can lead to good things.

In the case of the Red Sox, Shane Victorino leaving Saturday’s game against the Angels (and subsequently landing on the disabled list) opened a new opportunity for John Farrell and Mookie Betts. Specificially, it allowed Farrell to see what Betts looks like hitting behind Dustin Pedroia and it gave Betts a chance to hit between Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez in the order. Sunday marked just the second time this season Betts has batted in the No. 2 hole.

Betts went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in Saturday’s 8-3 win.

“I think it’s one of those things where hey, it worked, I’m not going to change it [with] as much change as we’ve been going through,” Farrell said. “Mookie put three swings on balls [Saturday] night as we’ve seen in a number of other games. He was given a little bit of heads up before the game started, be on-call here because you don’t know how far or how deep in the game he might be needed. It was unfortunately quick in this case. He put up three quality at-bats in the meantime. Credit to him.”

Then there’s the scorching hot Mike Napoli. He obliterated another pitch Sunday afternoon, launching a pitch from lefty Hector Santiago five rows deep to the bleachers in straightaway center for his fourth homer in three games and fifth homer on the six-game homestand. Saturday, he crushed a pair of homers of nemesis C.J. Wilson, including a two-run bomb to left that cleared the Monster and traveled an estimated 450 feet.

“It’s more timing,” Farrell said of Napoli‘s resurgence. “It’s not so much trying to take an approach to one side of the diamond because when the timing is accurate, they’re seeing pitches more clearly and they’re able to react to where pitches are on the plate. You see [Saturday] where in a 3-2 count, Nap gets a fastball on the inside part of the plate that he turns on. When they’re in a good hitting position, there’s a great ability to react to where balls are located in the zone.

“I can’t say there’s a different effort level in the swing. He’s a guy that’s going to impact the baseball and drive the baseball. That’s his calling card as a hitter his whole major league career. So in those [hitter’s] advantage counts, now that his timing is more consistent and more what he’s been accustomed to. He’s just in a better position to drive the baseball. Sometimes, whether it’s a pitcher or hitter, body mechanics can get disrupted by thoughts. More than anything, he’s hitting with a clear mind right now.”

With Victorino going on the disabled list Sunday, the Red Sox brought up infielder Jeff Bianchi from Triple-A Pawtucket. Farrell said there was no consideration to bring up Jackie Bradley Jr. since the organization felt he needed more regular playing time.

“At this point, he needed to get some regular at-bats,” Farrell said of Bradley, who was expected to travel to Louisville and be ready to play Sunday evening against the Bats, the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate.

Farrell also said righty Justin Masterson continues to make good progress after being disabled with right shoulder fatigue/tendinitis on May 14.

“He threw a bullpen [Friday],” Farrell said. “A pretty intense bullpen. He’ll have at least one more and we’ll probably get a total of three bullpens before we send him out on a rehab assignment but he’s making strong progress in terms of the intensity of the throws, the volume of throws. We don’t have a targeted date for his first rehab assignment but that’s coming in the near future.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia, justin masterson, mike napoli
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