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Shane Victorino collects first hit of rehab assignment, Will Middlebrooks hitless in Pawtucket

04.21.14 at 9:13 pm ET
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Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino, in the second game of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket, had an infield single in four plate appearances while playing seven innings. He also popped out twice and grounded into a double play, making the 33-year-old 1-for-7 in his rehab assignment from a hamstring injury. Victorino is also slated to play in Pawtucket one more time on Tuesday before he is re-evaluated for possible activation during the forthcoming Red Sox-Yankees series.

Joining Victorino in Pawtucket on Monday was third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who played in his first rehab game on the 16th day of his stint on the DL due to a Grade 1 calf strain suffered on April 5. Middlebrooks went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts and lined out to right. All three of Middlebrooks’ plate appearances came against highly regarded Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman, a hard-throwing starter. Victorino’s first three plate appearances came against Stroman while his fourth (a pop-out) came against left-hander reliever Rob Rasmussen.

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Red Sox insist Clay Buchholz’s arm strength, not health, is the issue

04.21.14 at 6:06 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz allowed six runs in just 2 1/3 innings as the Red Sox lost to Baltimore, 7-5. (AP)

Clay Buchholz allowed six runs in just 2 1/3 innings as the Red Sox lost to Baltimore, 7-5. (AP)

It wasn’t the worst start of Clay Buchholz‘s career, but it was close. And so, after the right-hander struggled through 2 1/3 innings in which he allowed six runs on seven hits in a 7-6 loss to the Orioles while regularly featuring a fastball that didn’t crack 90 mph, the question had to be asked: Is he dealing with any physical issues that are undermining his performance at the start of the season?

“He doesn’€™t speak of any [physical issues],” said manager John Farrell, who described his starter as featuring stuff that was “a little bit flat” on Monday. “In all the physical testing that we do with all of our pitchers, it doesn’€™t indicate any deficit. Nothing present physically.”

So what is it? Buchholz suggested he’s merely in the stretch of the season where he’s still working to build arm strength. That *could* be interpreted as a red flag, and given that Buchholz has endured significant injuries in two of the past three years (back in 2011, shoulder in 2013), it’s natural to ask whether the pitcher is healthy given the arm strength issues. The Sox acknowledge that reality at a time when he’s struggled to a 7.71 ERA through four starts. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mike Napoli, Clay Buchholz discuss pros, cons of baseball sleepover

04.21.14 at 4:30 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz (left) and Mike Napoli were roommates at Fenway Sunday night with mixed results. (AP)

Clay Buchholz (left) and Mike Napoli were roommates at Fenway Sunday night with mixed results. (AP)

There’s very little that can truly scare Mike Napoli.

Sleeping on the bottom bunk of bed that has a grown man and starting pitcher on top qualifies.

Monday was one of those truly bizarre days at Fenway, thanks to the unkind schedule-maker and MLB that had the Red Sox play a nationally televised night game on ESPN hours before the traditional 11:05 a.m. Patriots’ Day contest.

To compensate, and to help Napoli get added treatment on a sore left kneecap, the Red Sox provided a solution. Years ago, when the Red Sox renovated their clubhouse, they put aside a room designed to allow staff, players and coaches to sleep in, if needed.

Sunday night into Monday morning provided just such a scenario.

“There’s two bunk beds in there,” Napoli told reporters after Monday’s 7-6 loss to the Orioles. “Just a dark room, blankets, pillows, all the necessary things to sleep.

“I didn’t want to deal with all the traffic. Just being here was easier. I knew it was going to be an early morning, so just stayed here. We have a sleep room upstairs. It’s convenient.”

Of course, Napoli had a sore kneecap because Orioles reliever Darren O’Day drilled him in the bottom of the ninth.

“I mean, I could move my leg around and run. It was just a little sore,” Napoli said.

There were three Red Sox players who elected to take advantage and avoid Monday’s traffic into the Fens. Napoli, Monday’s starter Clay Buchholz and John Lackey. So that meant someone had to bunk up. With Buchholz starting, Napoli and Lackey decided to split the other.

“I was bottom. Had Lackey above me,” Napoli said, before confessing he was “kind of scared he was going to fall through, to tell you the truth.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, ESPN

Closing Time: Concerns mount about Clay Buchholz as Red Sox comeback effort against Orioles comes up short

04.21.14 at 2:27 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz allowed six runs in just 2 1/3 innings as the Red Sox lost to Baltimore, 7-5. (AP)

Clay Buchholz allowed six runs in just 2 1/3 innings as the Red Sox lost to Baltimore, 7-5. (AP)

Is Clay Buchholz injured or just struggling? And which would be worse?

Buchholz looked very little like the pitcher who customarily dominated when healthy enough to pitch last year. After two effiicient innings, his outing unraveled in the third, when he permitted six runs on eight hits. A year ago, he didn’t allow more than four runs in any of his 16 starts. Thus far this year, he’s permitted six runs in a pair of his four starts.

Statistically, Buchholz’s results have been atrocious. He is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA. Opponents are hammering him for a line of .375/.402/.568.

Yet it’s not just a matter of his results being bad. His stuff has also simply been different than in past years. His fastball velocity is down, as he came into the game averaging about 91 mph on his fastballs (four- and two-seam), about 2 mph off of where he threw it over the prior four seasons. His swings and misses on his four- and two-seam fastballs are also down by about half, from about one in every 12 pitches to one in every 25. (He didn’t have a single swing and miss on a fastball on Monday.) With the diminished power and greater vulnerability to his fastball has come a greater reluctance to use it — whereas he threw a fastball (either four- or two-seamer) almost every other pitch last year (a combined 49.4 percent of the time), this year, he’s using those primary offerings just over a third of the time (a combined 34.8 percent).

The Red Sox have not suggested that Buchholz is dealing with any kind of injury. It’s possible that he’s healthy and simply has yet to cut loose with his stuff — not unlike how, at the start of a 2012 season when he was returning from a back injury, he seemed cautious throughout April, with diminished results following, before he turned his year around in mid-May and dominated for most of the remaining 4 1/2 months of the year.

That history can give the Red Sox hope. Unless Buchholz is dealing with an injury, then given what they’ve seen so far in 2014 — particularly on Monday morning, when he got just three swings and misses among his 55 pitches, and put the Sox in a hole so deep that they couldn’t escape in a 7-6 loss to the Orioles — those are the sorts of silver linings to which the Sox must cling with a pitcher who is critical to what they hope to accomplish.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox minor league roundup: A strike-throwing machine in Salem

04.21.14 at 11:21 am ET
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With three of the Red Sox‘ four affiliates having Sunday off, this is the briefest of roundups…

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: OFF DAY

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: OFF DAY

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 10-8 LOSS AT WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX)

(BOX)

– Right fielder Kevin Heller maintained his status as a doubles machine in the first two-plus weeks of the season, going 1-for-3 with his eighth double of the year and a walk. The 24-year-old is now hitting .364 (third in the Carolina League) with a .481 OBP (tops in the Carolina League), .636 slugging mark (second in the Carolina League) and 10 extra-base hits (tied for the league lead). Heller already has more extra-base hits this year than he did last year (8) in 45 games between Single-A Greenville (35 games), High-A Salem (3 games) and Double-A Portland (7 games).

– On the one hand, right-hander Kyle Martin has been hit hard, as he’s saddled with a 5.68 ERA with opponents hitting .357 with six extra-base hits in 60 plate appearances against the 2013 ninth-rounder. On the other hand, he’s struck out just over one of every three batters he’s faced, punching out 21 and walking just two, and he has yet to permit a homer in 48 2/3 professional innings.

At the least, the fact that he’s been a strike-throwing machine suggests that, since he adjusted from a low arm slot to a more over-the-top delivery that made him a strikeout and groundball machine last year, he’s been able to repeat the delivery in a fashion that has allowed him to pour pitches into the strike zone. He posted a 1.25 ERA in his pro debut in Lowell and Greenville last year, allowing seven runs with 30 strikeouts and 10 walks in 36 innings. To date in Salem, his fastball has been flatter than it was last year, resulting in hard contact, but some Sox officials feel he has a chance to be an interesting sleeper pitching prospect given his ability, when his delivery is right, to work at the bottom of the strike zone with a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider.

– Right-hander William Cuevas, who had been off to a solid start (11 innings, three runs, 11 strikeouts, one walk in his first two starts), got shelled for eight runs on seven hits and a walk while recording just two outs. He allowed a pair of homers.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF DAY

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Red Sox vs. Orioles Patriots’ Day Live Blog

04.21.14 at 10:40 am ET
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Gut Morgen! (The most appropriate Patriots’ Day greeting imaginable.)

The Red Sox and Orioles are ready for the quick turnaround at Fenway Park, with first pitch on Patriots’ Day scheduled for just over 12 hours after the Red Sox walked off with their 6-5 victory on Sunday night. Clay Buchholz (in advance of starting on Monday), Mike Napoli (in order to receive treatment on his knee, which got hit by a pitch last night) and John Lackey all spent the night at the ballpark. Other players seemed to be waking up as they made it to the ballpark at a time unfamiliar since spring training.

“We’ll be there — I can’t say with bells on — but we’ll be raring to go,” said Sox manager John Farrell.

Follow all the Fenway Park action from this spectacular sporting day — with the latest news, pictures, updates and analysis from the pressbox — in the live blog below.

 

Red Sox Marathon Monday notes: Mike Napoli, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey have a sleepover, Napoli ‘a little sore’ but ready to go

04.21.14 at 10:25 am ET
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Whenever you can hear an injury from the dugout, you immediately fear the worst.

But John Farrell can breathe a little bit easier after Mike Napoli came downstairs from spending the night in the Red Sox clubhouse and reported he was good to go and bat cleanup for the Red Sox after taking a Darren O’Day pitch to the outside of his left kneecap Sunday night.

“A little sore but ready to go,” Farrell reported Monday morning. “He and a couple other guys spent the night here with the quick turnaround but we’re at full strength, ready to go today. That’s why it’s there. They’re taking advantage of it.

“The way he went down, it didn’t look promising. You could hear it from the dugout. It was clearly on the bone. But once he got some feeling back, while the soreness was there, he was good to continue. We were somewhat anxious to see how he was going to respond this morning. But walking around after the game last night, he was mobile. It remained loose so while there’s some soreness, he’s still ready to go.”

Joining Napoli in sleeping over at Fenway were Monday’s starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and fellow starter John Lackey. Did Farrell need to spend the night at Fenway, too?

“No, I didn’t. I have my own sleeping room,” Farrell quipped.

Farrell acknowledged Monday morning that the schedule “is what it is” and even showed some humor when one reporter asked if he could judge the mood of the clubhouse after such a short night.

“How do you feel this morning?” Farrell replied. “We’re on short rest but the game goes on and we’ll be there, I can’t say with bells on, but we’ll be raring to go.”

Brock Holt was penciled into the starting lineup as the leadoff hitter Monday, marking the fifth leadoff hitter the Red Sox have used this season.

“He’s had very good at-bats, both [against] lefties and righties,” Farrell said. “We’ve had a number of different guys in that leadoff spot. I recognize that. I think the priority becomes keeping some continuity, 2 through 6, which we’ve been able to do with this alignment. That’s where we are today.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Marathon, Boston Red Sox, Brock Holt
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