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Larry Lucchino on D&C: Red Sox have backup plan for starting rotation

04.30.15 at 9:48 am ET
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Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino joined Dennis & Callahan Thursday morning to talk about the Red Sox, specifically the starting rotation, and also touching on his possible involvement in Boston 2024. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Red Sox’ starting rotation has an ERA of 5.75, the worst in baseball. Four of the five starters have ERA’s over 5.16, with Wade Miley having the highest at 8.62. Lucchino said although it’s too early to make any changes, the team does have a backup plan.

“Of course there is because it’s a long season,” said Lucchino. “You have to have some potential help from your pitching in Triple-A in every season. I think we have some pretty good arms down there and Pawtucket is actually leading the league, part because the pitching has been quite effective down there. There’s that backup plan and then there is another backup plan.

“There’s an old saying, ‘I don’t cross tie my shoes without a backup plan.’ There has to be a backup plan. Third, of course is to acquire some pitching down the road when the opportunity comes for trades. That’s not really generally the case in April.”

Clay Buchholz has an ERA of 5.76 and is coming off a 2 2/3 inning performance Tuesday night when he imploded in the third inning allowing five runs after he was spotted a 4-0 lead. Lucchino is remaining optimistic.

“I’m actually optimistic about Buchholz and I am not known for my optimism in general,” said Lucchino. “I watched him the other night and I was amazed at the movement on his pitches. He has great stuff. Some would say that he left his pitches over the middle of the plate too often and apparently that was the case because he was hit pretty hard. I think if you just watch his pitches and you see what he can do, you wouldn’t want to give up on a player, a pitcher with that kind of talent, that kind of stuff.

“It does come down to stuff, both pitching stuff and the right stuff in your head and your body. I think he’s shown in the past that he has it and I think it would be terribly wrong to give up on Buchholz.”

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, Larry Lucchino,

Why 2nd inning in Rick Porcello’s gem vs. Blue Jays was the difference

04.29.15 at 10:43 pm ET
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Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox a start Wednesday that can hopefully turn their season around. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox a start Wednesday that the team hopes can turn its season around. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Between the second and seventh innings, Rick Porcello retired 13 straight Blue Jays hitters en route to going seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball in the Red Sox‘ 4-1 win Wednesday night.

It was an impressive start that the Red Sox desperately needed, but Porcello said that stretch wasn’t even the biggest of his outing — it was allowing just one run in the second inning.

“My back was against the wall right there,” Porcello said. “We were able to get a big double play. [Dustin Pedroia] made a great play to turn it. That was huge. To me getting out of it with just one run was the difference. We were able to go ahead when Hanley [Ramirez] hit the home run and put some runs up there. I was able to settle down and get some quick outs and get deep in the game.”

After striking out the side after a lead-off walk in the first inning, Porcello allowed Kevin Pillar to open the second inning with a double. Michael Saunders, the next batter, reached on an error by Porcello as he couldn’t step on first base when he was receiving a flip from Mike Napoli. He then hit Dalton Pompey to load the bases with no outs.

Catcher Josh Thole hit a liner that Xander Bogaerts couldn’t handle, but Mookie Betts alertly was able to force Saunders out at third base with Pillar scoring on the play. Porcello was able to get out of the inning with just the one run when he induced a 4-6-3 double play started by Pedroia.

The offense carried the momentum over to the next half inning when they put up three runs — a David Ortiz RBI single followed by a two-run Ramirez homer. The Red Sox’ pitching staff’s nemesis has been shut down innings, so the third inning was particularly important for Porcello, especially struggling in the second and throwing 38 pitches after two innings.

Porcello responded in a big way with a 1-2-3, 11-pitch inning, which set the tone for the remainder of the game.

“A quick inning and getting back in the dugout was huge,” he said. “To keep the momentum and our offense on their pitcher it’s kind of one of those things where you know you just scored some runs and you want to go out there and throw up zeros.”

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Read More: John Farrell, rick porcello, Ryan Hanigan,

Closing Time: Led by Rick Porcello’s gem, Red Sox beat Blue Jays

04.29.15 at 8:53 pm ET
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Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox just what they needed in Wednesday's win. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox just what they needed in Wednesday’s win. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Desperately needing a good start from a starter, Rick Porcello stepped up and delivered.

The 26-year-old went seven innings, allowing just two hits leading the way to a 4-1 Red Sox win over the Blue Jays Wednesday night. The Red Sox took 2-of-3 in the series.

Prior to Wednesday’s game, the Red Sox bullpen had thrown 15 combined innings in the last three games and the team has called up four relievers from Pawtucket since Sunday.

After allowing a run in the second inning, the right-hander settled in nicely, as he retired 13 straight batters from the end of the second inning to the first batter of the seventh.

“He gave us exactly what we needed,” manager John Farrell said. “Seven strong innings. Turns it over to the bullpen with [Junichi Tazawa] and Koji [Uehara] doing their job. As much as we talked about the starter setting the tone, Rick certainly did that tonight. Beyond Rick, you go back to the third inning, which was really the difference in the game, Mookie [Betts] makes a great catch in center field. [Hanigan] starts the inning off with a long, quality at-bat. Hanley does what he’€™s been doing all month.”

Porcello finished the night going seven full innings, allowing one run on two hits while walking two and striking out six. He threw 99 pitches and it was his first start this season that he didn’t allow a home run.

Koji Uehara picked up the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz provided the Red Sox all the offense they would need in the third inning. Ortiz had an RBI single, which put the Sox on the board and tied the game. Then Ramirez’s two-run home run, which held up as the game-winning RBI.

The Red Sox added an insurance run in the seventh on an RBI single by Betts.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Porcello. He gave the Sox a start they desperately needed. It was just the fifth time in 22 games a Red Sox starter has recorded an out in the seventh inning.

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

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Read More: David Ortiz, hanley ramirez, rick porcello,

Ben Cherington on pitching woes: ‘Definitely focus internally first’

04.29.15 at 5:18 pm ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Don’t expect to see Cole Hamels in a Red Sox uniform anytime soon.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is not ready to explore alternatives to his beleaguered starting rotation, but if the club reaches that point, it will focus internally before entering the trade market.

Red Sox starters entered Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays with the worst ERA in the big leagues (6.03), but Cherington told WEEI.com that now is not the time to make changes.

“Right now, [we’re focused on] the five guys we have here,” he said. “Keep running them out there, and getting better. The first step is just to help our guys — they have to help themselves, they’re a part of it — but get them closer to pitching to what they’re capable of doing. If they do that, they’ll win games.”

It hasn’t been there for the Red Sox as a staff. They’ve allowed a league-high 118 runs, and their starters are the primary culprits. Clay Buchholz is 1-3 with a 5.76 ERA, followed by Rick Porcello (1-2, 6.48), Joe Kelly (1-0, 4.94), Justin Masterson (2-0, 5.16) and Wade Miley (1-2, 8.62).

That has led to speculation that Cherington might engage the trade market earlier than usual, with Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels pitching better, Philadelphia reportedly dispatching former manager Charlie Manuel to Single-A Salem to evaluate outfielder Manuel Margot, and the Red Sox clearly in need of a boost.

Cherington reiterated that the Red Sox aren’t thinking trade at the moment.

“More time,” he said when asked how much longer he could stick by his starters. “I don’t have an exact date, but more time.”

If the Red Sox do reach a point where they need to make a change, Cherington made it clear that they’ll look to Triple-A Pawtucket first, where left-handers Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez are pitching well.

“Definitely focus internally first,” he said.

Red Sox roster moves: Tommy Layne recalled, Dalier Hinojosa selected; Jackie Bradley optioned, Anthony Varvaro designated

04.29.15 at 4:03 pm ET
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Tommy Layne

Tommy Layne

For the fourth straight day, the Red Sox made a roster move affecting their bullpen.

Wednesday the team recalled reliever Tommy Layne and selected Dalier Hinojosa, while optioning Jackie Bradley back to Triple-A Pawtucket and designating Anthony Varvaro for assignment. Varvaro was designated for assignment in order to get Hinojosa onto the 40-man roster.

Bradley Jr. was up for Tuesday’s game, but didn’t get into the game. The bullpen has thrown 15 innings over the last three games, so the extra arms were needed.

“Obviously we needed the ability to have not only fresh arms but another pitcher that’€™s capable of multiple innings and that’€™s where Hinojosa comes into the mix,” manager John Farrell said.

It is Layne’s second stint with the team this year after throwing 4 2/3 innings in the first week of the year and allowing three runs. He was optioned when Koji Uehara returned for the home opener.

Hinojosa signed with the Red Sox in 2013 as an international free agent and spent last year with Pawtucket. The right-hander went 3-5 with a 3.79 ERA in 41 games. This season he’s thrown 7 1/3 innings and allowed three runs. It’s his first taste of the big leagues.

“The stuff that he has, the power in his arm, the breaking ball that he possesses,” Farrell said. “What we needed was another right-hander to matchup against right-handed hitters and that’€™s where he comes into the mix to us.”

Varvaro, who was traded to the Red Sox this offseason, has thrown 11 innings his year and allowed five runs, while walking six. It wasn’t necessarily anything he did poorly, it was just a matter of necessity and making a roster move for a fresh arm.

“We’€™re trying to get a number of guys on track,” said Farrell. “To single any one pitcher out is probably not the right approach given the work that we’€™ve had with the group of guys here. Again, Anthony’€™s strength has been against left-handed hitting in the past. The fact that we’€™ve got three left-handers in the bullpen, the fit was to go the direction we are.”

The Red Sox now are carrying 13 pitchers and 12 position players, one more pitcher than usual.

For more Red Sox news, check out weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Anthony Varvaro, dalier hinojosa, jackie bradley, tommy layne

Red Sox lineup: Mike Napoli returns, Brock Holt stays in right field

04.29.15 at 2:08 pm ET
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After missing two games with an illness, Mike Napoli returns to the Red Sox lineup in the series finale with the Blue Jays Wednesday night.

Brock Holt gets his third straight start in right field with Shane Victorino on the disabled list.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval comes into the game swinging as hot of a bat as anyone in the league, as he’s 6-for-7 over the last two games.

Ryan Hanigan will catch Red Sox starter Rick Porcello as the Red Sox lineup will go up against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

For an extensive look at the matchups, click here.

1. Mookie Betts, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Hanley Ramirez, LF
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
6. Mike Napoli. 1B
7. Brock Holt, RF
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS
9. Ryan Hanigan, C
Rick Porcello, RHP

Read More: Brock Holt, mike napoli,

Buster Olney on MFB: Red Sox ‘more equipped than any other team’ to make a deal

04.29.15 at 1:23 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday to talk about potential solutions to the Red Sox‘ pitching woes as well as news around baseball. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

While Red Sox starters have turned in a 6.03 ERA on the year, Olney said that an even more concerning number has been coming out of the staff.

“It’s the ratio of innings between the starters and the bullpen,” he said. “Any miles you’re running early in the season is inevitably going to take its toll, and as of this morning the starters have thrown 112 innings and the bullpen has thrown 80. That’s an unbelievable ratio and workload early in the year for these guys.”

The only reason Olney said this is not a worst-case scenario is because the other teams in the AL East are facing struggles of their own. That in itself gives Boston a better chance to work out the kinks and gives the Sox some breathing room before crunch time.

“When you look at the way the rest of the division is playing out, at least they don’t have a Kansas City Royal team, a Detroit Tiger team running away, creating a big hole,” Olney said. “There are five teams dealing with various issues. That would be a worst-case scenario if you actually had a couple teams spreading away from the pack, but I think it’s part of the reason why the Red Sox probably have a little bit more time to deal with this, to give Buchholz, to give Wade Miley a couple more turns through the rotation to see if they’re going to make things better.”

For Olney, the most readily available solution for the Sox is to take a trip down to Pawtucket and give pitching prospects like Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez a chance to show their stuff in the majors.

“I know [the Red Sox] love the work that those guys showed in spring, and I just talked to an evaluator this morning with another team who said to me, ‘We love Rodriguez.’ They think Rodriguez might be one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, so those are two nice options for them to consider moving forward,” Olney said.

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Why Phillies’ potential interest in Red Sox top prospect Manuel Margot adds intrigue to Cole Hamels situation

04.29.15 at 11:37 am ET
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Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels

In times like these, Red Sox fans should take note of all the travel plans for every top Phillies talent evaluator.

That’s why the Philadelphia Daily News report suggesting Charlie Manuel (now an adviser for the Phillies) will be venturing down to Salem, Virginia, to take a look at Red Sox top prospect Manuel Margot offers some intrigue.

According to major league sources, the Phillies’ demands for pitcher Cole Hamels remain extremely uncomfortable for those seeking to deal for the lefty. But with teams — such as the Red Sox — suddenly finding significant concerns in their starting rotations, Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro’s strategy of waiting for the right deal might pan out.

Right now, the Cardinals (losing Adam Wainwright), Yankees (injury to Masahiro Tanaka), Rangers (without Yu Darvish), Dodgers (Brandon McCarthy out for the season), and Mets (something to put them over the top) all would be considered candidates for Hamels’ services.

Then there’s the Red Sox, who are attempting to preach patience with their starters but carry a rotation with the worst ERA in the majors by more than half a run (6.03).

The Red Sox, according to a source, have let the Phillies know where they stand in regard to the price they’re willing to pay for Hamels. Outfielder Mookie Betts and catcher Blake Swihart are two players the Sox are not comfortable putting in the conversation.

That’s why the Phillies’ potential interest in Margot is intriguing.

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Read More: Cole Hamels, manuel margot,

Curt Schilling on D&C: Clay Buchholz ‘not going to be a [No.] 1, that’s just not going to happen’

04.29.15 at 9:29 am ET
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ESPN analyst and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling joined the Dennis & Callahan show on Wednesday to talk pitching and offer his opinion on what’s going on with the Sox rotation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

For a team that scores as many runs as it does, clocking in at second in the league with 109, the Red Sox‘ run differential is concerning. Boston has a minus-nine in that category, having given up the most runs in the majors at 118. It also has the worst ERA for starting pitchers, a hefty 6.03. While there were reservations about stocking up on middle-of-the-rotation guys to fill out the staff, Schilling said even these results were unprecedented.

“That’s one of those ‘nobody saw it coming’ kind of things,” he said. “I don’t know what to say, I can’t explain it in a way other then they just pitched poorly, but — and I hate to beat a dead horse — but we were talking about No. 1s in spring training, we were talking about the lack of a true one and for me this is one of the things a [No.] 1 prevents.”

Schilling reiterated that having an ace or a clear No. 1 keeps teams in general from skidding and floundering down the line.

“When you have a Pedro [Martinez], you don’t go on five-game losing streaks, your starters don’t go four or five games in a row throwing five innings or less,” he said. “They change the bar and they set the bar and they stop things from happening, and generally you get imitation being the sincerest form of flattery where guys that are pitching against him and with him are trying to match and compete instead of trying to get through the fifth.”

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, Curt Schilling,

Wednesday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Rick Porcello vs. R.A. Dickey

04.29.15 at 8:24 am ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello will make his fifth start of the season on Wednesday at home against the Blue Jays. Veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will take the mound for Toronto.

Much like the rest of the Red Sox rotation, Porcello (1-2) has gotten off to an inconsistent start to 2015. His lone win came on a four-run, eight-inning gem against Washington in his second start of the year. Since then, Porcello allowed eight runs in five innings against the Orioles and four runs in six innings, also against Baltimore. His ERA has climbed to 6.48 and his WHIP has jumped to 1.44, both second worst among Red Sox starters behind Wade Miley. He already has allowed six home runs and has a batting average against of .277, both worst among Boston starting pitchers. The 26-year-old has shown that he can pitch like an ace when he has his best stuff, but the Red Sox would like to see that much more consistently.

In his last outing against Baltimore, Porcello allowed four runs on six hits and two walks while striking out seven through six innings. He gave up a home run to Jimmy Paredes and received a no-decision, as the Red Sox mounted an eighth-inning comeback to get the win.

The most concerning stat for Porcello in his last outing may be the ground ball to fly ball ratio. For a pitcher who relies on getting outs on balls in play instead of strikeouts, Porcello would like to see more than three balls put on the ground as opposed to 12 in the air. Before his most recent start against Baltimore, Porcello spoke about his pitch selection, specifically about mixing in his rising four-seam fastball with his signature sinker.

“There’s a balance and there’€™s a fine line between throwing it the right amount and throwing it too much, you can get away from what I do best and what my strength is, which is throwing the sinker,” Porcello said. “The thing is I have the ability to throw a good four-seamer and generate some swings and misses. It’€™s just a matter of picking the right spots.”

In eight career games against Toronto, Porcello is 2-5 with a 4.70 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, 15 strikeouts and 12 walks. He has allowed four home runs to the Blue Jays in 44 total innings.

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Read More: R.A. Dickey, Red Sox, rick porcello,
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