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Kevin Millar on MFB: ‘I don’t think [Red Sox are] nearly as good of a team as they were last year’

06.27.14 at 1:48 pm ET
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Former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar joined Middays with MFB on Friday to talk about the Sox’ struggles of late. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Kevin Millar

Kevin Millar

The Red Sox are 2-5 with three games left in their 10-game road trip and have fallen eight games back in the AL East. They appear to be running out of time to stay within contention.

“They’re not out of this thing, but they’re not in a great position,” Millar said. “I don’t think they’re nearly as good of a team as they were last year and a lot of things were going right. If they can go on some miraculous type of run, they’re going to have to.

“At the end of the day, the Red Sox had a special year last year. It was just in the cards. It’s what went on. They’re not as great as a club and that vibe isn’t there.”

Millar said the Red Sox aren’t physically tired after last season’s deep run, but they are failing to overcome the losses of players like Shane Victorino to injury and Jacoby Ellsbury to free agency.

“There’s a lot of things that have to go right to win a championship and there’s a lot of great things that go on during the year to win a championship,” Millar said. “Right now the Red Sox might be tired trying to catch that lightning in a bottle, and ultimately, yes, they did overachieve last year. And that’s OK. That’s what it’s all about.

“We overachieved in 2004. We weren’t better than the Yankees. We just overachieved with the heart of a lion. This is where the Red Sox have to look in front of the mirror in the front office like, ‘Who is this club? Where do we want to go for the future?’ Because I think this team is lacking some star power.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox-Yankees series preview

06.27.14 at 12:59 pm ET
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The Red Sox had a chance to reset after playing 36 games in 37 days, while going without an off day since June 5. It was an ugly start to the road trip, with the Sox dropping three of four in Oakland and two of three in Seattle, but they left Seattle on a positive note Wednesday, scoring five runs and holding on to win in a one-run contest.

Carlos Beltran (36), Jacoby Ellsbury and the Yankees ended a four-game skid with a win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday. (AP)

Carlos Beltran (36), Jacoby Ellsbury and the Yankees head into the weekend series with the Red Sox having lost four of their last five games. (AP)

Those one-run games haven’€™t seemed to be going the Red Sox’€™ way lately. They’€™re 13-17 overall in one-run games, but they dropped a couple of close games in Oakland (two were one-run losses, one was a two-run margin).

Clay Buchholz made his return on Wednesday in Seattle, which leaves the Red Sox with seven healthy and capable starters — a good problem to have. But their offensive reinforcements who are on the mend have hit road bumps; Shane Victorino has been shut down indefinitely due to discomfort in his back, while Will Middlebrooks has been dealing with swelling in his fractured finger.

The Red Sox own the worst OPS in the American League this month with a .653 mark, but rank sixth in the league with a 3.72 staff ERA in June.

The bad news for the Red Sox is that they sit eight games back of the division-leading Blue Jays. The good news is that no team has run away with the division, at least not yet. The Yankees occupy third place, remaining three games behind the pace, but just three games above .500 at 40-37.

The Yankees hit a four-game skid earlier this week, running into two hot divisional rivals as both the Blue Jays and the Orioles took two of three from New York. But the Yankees were able to salvage the last game of the set with the Blue Jays on Wednesday, as Hiroki Kuroda delivered a solid performance and the offense was able to come up with five runs, including three RBIs from Mark Teixeira and a four-run third inning.

“The whole dugout was excited about those four runs,” Teixeira told MLB.com. “It had been a while since we had a lead.”

The Yankees and the Red Sox have met seven times already this season, with the Yankees taking five of those contests.

Here are the pitching match ups for the three-game weekend set.

Friday: Brandon Workman (1-0, 2.88) vs. Vidal Nuno (1-4, 5.88)
Saturday: Jon Lester (8-7, 3.14) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (11-2, 2.11)
Sunday: John Lackey (8-5, 3.45) vs. Chase Whitley (3-1, 4.07)

WHO’€™S HOT: RED SOX

– Now over a month into Brock Holt‘€™s second stint with the Red Sox (and first in a starting role) this season, the 26-year-old still is batting .319 with a .353 OBP since May 17. He’€™s amassed an .809 OPS on the season, which ranks as second highest amongst Red Sox regulars. Not only is he 15-for-50 with four extra-base hits over his last 12 games, he’€™s played five different positions over that span and has looked solid regardless of where he’€™s playing.

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Garin Cecchini, run producer; Mookie Betts adds another position; Henry Owens, Joe Gunkel ridiculous; Trey Ball’s struggles continue

06.27.14 at 12:07 pm ET
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Garin Cecchini launched his first pro grand slam on Thursday. (AP)

Garin Cecchini launched his first pro grand slam on Thursday. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-3 WIN VS. NORFOLK (ORIOLES)

(BOX)

Garin Cecchini, back at third base on Thursday, launched a first-inning grand slam as part of a 1-for-3 day that also included a walk. While Cecchini’s overall numbers this year have looked modest (.263/.340/.343), he’s been a monster with opportunities to drive in runners. With runners on base, he’s hitting .320/.395/.410, marks that bump up to .393/.493/.536 with runners in scoring position and .625/.625/1.250 with two doubles and a homer in eight plate appearances with the bases loaded. The grand slam was the first of Cecchini’s pro career.

– Feats of Mookie: Diversifying. With Shane Victorino‘s rehab stalled by back stiffness, Mookie Betts played right field for the first time on Thursday. Though he bobbled a single, he recovered in time to throw out a runner trying to advance from first to third. At the plate, he went 0-for-2 but drew two walks, extending his streak of consecutive games reaching base by walk or hit since his promotion to Pawtucket to 22, with a line of .330/.422/.455 in that time. He also stole his seventh base in nine attempts since joining the PawSox. At a time when he may be days away from a big league callup, Betts displays surprise about his rocketing career trajectory.

– First baseman Travis Shaw went 2-for-4 with a double, giving him four extra-base hits in two days after he had just six in his first 27 contests following his promotion from Portland.

– Right-hander Matt Barnes allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings, allowing five hits (a solo homer and four singles), walking three and punching out five. Though the three walks were the most he’d issued in six starts, Barnes threw 69 of 102 pitches (68 percent) for strikes, and on the year, he’s showing improved control from a year ago, trimming his walk rate from 3.8 to 2.8 per nine innings. Since a two-start stumble in which he gave up 13 runs in 7 1/3 innings, Barnes has a 3.41 ERA in his last five starts.

– Outfielder Andres Torres joined Pawtucket from Lowell, going 0-for-3 while playing center field.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 9-4 WIN AT READING (PHILLIES)

(BOX)

– Left-hander Henry Owens proved human, allowing four runs on five hits (including a pair of two-run homers) in six innings. The four-run yield matched his total from his previous eight outings (spanning 51 1/3 innings). Read the rest of this entry »

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Dustin Pedroia on The Bradfo Show: ‘I started to feel better and the results weren’t there’

06.27.14 at 9:25 am ET
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Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia joined The Bradfo Show to discuss his adjustments at the plate this season. To hear the interview, go to The Bradfo Show audio on demand page.

While the numbers may say otherwise — he’s hitting .265/.338/.377 through 77 games this season — Pedroia said he’s a better hitter now than he was in his 2008 MVP season.

“I think that early in your career pitchers don’t know you as well,” he said. “They come at you with a lot of fastballs in the inner part of the plate to see if you can hit it. Obviously if you start hitting them they stop doing that.

“So I think there’s more thought into the way they approach hitters, not only me but other guys, too. You try to stay away with the scouting they have, you try to stay away from a guy’s power area. That eliminates a lot of mistakes that they make on the inner part of the plate. You’ve just got to be smart and wait for the pitch you want and drive it.”

In the middle of his eighth full major league season, Pedroia said the way pitchers throw to him differs each day, which forces him to adjust his approach based on what he’s up against.

“My first couple years in the big leagues, I think pitching is a lot better [now],” he said. “You see a lot of guys throwing harder. You take two strikes on the outer half, you don’t really want to be down 0-2 on a guy who throws a 100 mile an hour fastball because if he doesn’t throw it where you want, you’re going to strike out.

“So sometimes you’ve got to make adjustments and be looking to hit the ball the other way instead of trying to get your pitch in and do damage with it.”

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Friday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Brandon Workman vs. Vidal Nuno

06.27.14 at 7:13 am ET
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The Red Sox will kick off a three-game series against the Yankees Friday, sending Brandon Workman to the mound against Vidal Nuno.

Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman

The weekend series in the Bronx will be the first meeting between the clubs since the Yankees took two out of three games on April 22-24. Boston holds a 2-5 record against New York this season.

Workman (1-0, 2.88 ERA) will be making his first start since June 15, as the right-hander served a six-game suspension for throwing behind Rays third baseman Evan Longoria in a May 30 game.

In his last start against the Indians on June 15, Workman put his team in a good position to win, holding Cleveland to two earned runs while striking out seven over six innings of work. Despite Workman’€™s solid performance, the Red Sox were defeated by a score of 3-2.

“He’s growing. He feels more comfortable throwing his curveball, and he throws it in bigger situations,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said after the game. “He can bounce it, he can throw it for a strike, move it around and change speeds on you. So it’s nice if you have more than one weapon to get guys out with.”

While Workman has been a pleasant surprise for the Red Sox out of the starting rotation, the team has not capitalized on his performances this season, posting a 2-3 record in his five starts. The average margin of victory in those games has just been 1.8 runs.

Workman last faced off against the Yankees on Sept. 13, 2013, in a brief relief appearance, getting one out in the seventh inning before being pulled from the game. In four career appearances (zero starts) against the Yankees, Workman is 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA.

Nuno (1-4, 5.88 ERA) has not had much luck recently, as the southpaw has yet to earn a win since May 7. Nuno, who started the season in the bullpen before bumped up to the rotation on April 20, has struggled as of late, posting a 6.86 ERA in four starts this month.

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Pedro Martinez on MFB: Red Sox ‘obviously overachieved and we surprised everybody’ last year

06.26.14 at 1:47 pm ET
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Former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez  joined Middays with MFB Thursday morning to discuss Clay Buchholz‘€™s return, the pressure placed upon the Red Sox pitching staff this season and the promising pitching prospects in Boston’€™s farm system. To listen to the interview, go to the Middays with MFB audio on demand page.

Pedro Martinez had high praise for some of Boston's younger pitchers. (AP)

Pedro Martinez had high praise for some of Boston’s younger pitchers. (AP)

The Red Sox have received solid contributions from their pitching staff this season (3.78 team ERA), but the Boston offense has left much to be desired, placing 25th in baseball in runs scored. While the lack of scoring has put a considerable amount of pressure on Boston’€™s pitchers this season, Martinez said that he enjoyed getting the opportunity to pick up his club during his playing days with the Red Sox.

“That’€™s exactly your responsibility sometimes — to pick up your teammates,” Martinez said. “I was always looking for those moments where my team was desperate — doing whatever they could to score runs and they couldn’t — I took it personal and I wanted to go out there and post a shutout or limit the other team as much as I could in order to get those guys to bounce back or rest a little bit and in that way, everything will fall into place later.

“This is a reflection of what we went through last year. We obviously overachieved and we surprised everybody. … Now what happens is, the extra push that we had to actually achieve all those things, I think is reflecting on those guys. They’€™re a little tired. If you play in the big leagues, if you play ball, you can tell that the team is tired. … Some of the pitchers did not have enough time to recoup from the long season last year during the playoffs.”

Buchholz made his first start since May 26 Wednesday against the Mariners and looked far different from the player who posted a 7.02 ERA through his first 10 starts of the season. Buchholz earned the win against Seattle, allowing four earned runs while surrendering zero walks in 7 1/3 innings. Martinez said that Buchholz’s extended time off should be beneficial for the righty.

“€œBuchholz is the type of pitcher that will throw strikes when his mind is 100 percent there. I think the rest really helped him,”€ Martinez said. “Having a little time to regroup and actually refresh his mind, I think helped him out. … Even though he was pitching, his velocity was declining. His movement on the fastball was different. Everything was different. So I think this little time off helped him out. I just hope he continues to go the same way he went last night or maybe improve a little bit more as he goes.”

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Appreciation: Jack Lanzillotti leaves legacy of professionalism at Fenway

06.26.14 at 12:58 pm ET
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One thing was abundantly clear after working with Jack Lanzillotti for seven years: Every detail had to be perfect. If there were issues — and, inevitably, working in the world of electronics, there were — you had better be ready to defend yourself and your argument.

Jack Lanzillotti won a New England Emmy Award for a feature he produced on the Red Sox for NESN.

Jack Lanzillotti, who died Saturday at the age of 28, won a New England Emmy Award for a feature he produced on the Red Sox for NESN.

Jack was intelligent, of course, but he also possessed the ability to be bold while remaining sensitive of those around him. The 28-year-old, however, will never see 29. His future — which many envisioned as an executive with the Red Sox — is now a shattered dream.

Jack and his girlfriend, 27-year-old Jessica Campbell, were the victims in a two-car crash Saturday night. The two were walking along the corner of Beacon Street and Fairfield Street at 9:15 p.m. when an SUV allegedly ran a red light and hit another car, causing the SUV to flip.

Both passengers in the SUV walked away from the accident. Jessica Campbell was critically injured and died shortly after arriving at the hospital, while Jack Lanzillotti was pronounced dead at the scene. The people who caused the crash have their version of the story, I’€™m sure, but running that red light had its consequences. Jack and Jessica were killed, and nothing can change the fact they died a senseless, avoidable death.

Jack’€™s job at Fenway was manager of Red Sox productions and game operations, but his title hardly began to describe the work he performed at 4 Yawkey Way. He was responsible for any and all content on the seven electronic scoreboards at Fenway, and his fingerprints were all over the park.

Jack would come in early and work late, and he never minced words or opinions. His goal was simple: provide Sox fans with the best production possible. Though most eyes remain focused on the field, Jack saw nothing but opportunity in the area surrounding it. He wanted to bring every stat to life, introduce you to a situational split you’€™d never seen, remind you through a video during an inning break that, hey, Dwight Evans really had a rocket of an arm, there was more to Carlton Fisk‘€™s career than one memorable home run, and Johnny Pesky‘s .313 batting average with the Sox was something we shouldn’€™t forget.

Even if it took time — years in some cases — Jack was going to bring a new, innovative feature to Fenway. He was going to bring it to the Sox fans, whom he declared the smartest, most knowledgeable fans in baseball. Jack’€™s job was often thankless, but his bosses at Fenway knew how much the job meant to him. The next time you watch a game, don’€™t forget to take a glance at the scoreboards. Everything seems to work so perfectly, so flawlessly. Jack and his team are responsible for that.

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