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Shane Victorino to undergo lower back surgery

08.05.14 at 12:53 pm ET
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Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino‘s injury-riddled season came to what seemed like an almost inevitable end, as the 33-year-old will undergo what is surgery on his lower back on Tuesday, the team announced. The procedure will likely end Victorino’s season. Dr. Robert Watkins, whom Victorino visited on Monday for a second opinion after an MRI in Boston identified the potential need for surgery on Friday, will perform the operation.

“‘€œI’m definitely disappointed, news that I didn’t want to get. Obviously I think we need another opinion, see where we’re at and we’re going to go from there,’€ Victorino said on Saturday. ‘€œObviously [the MRI] showed some signs of some things going on with my back that obviously it’s important for us to get a second opinion. We’ll go and see what happens and go from there.”

Victorino — who hit .294/.351/.451 in 122 games last year, even as he twice landed on the DL with similar injuries — played just 30 games between three stints on the disabled list due to hamstring and lower back injuries. He hit .268 with a .303 OBP and .382 slugging mark.

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Red Sox-Cardinals series preview

08.05.14 at 10:50 am ET
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This isn’t the World Series rematch either side was probably expecting at the start of the season.

The Red Sox and Cardinals meet Tuesday for the first time since the Fall Classic when they begin a three-game series at Busch Stadium. But instead of a matchup between two of Major League Baseball‘s best, this will be a meeting between teams going in completely different directions.

The contrasting outlooks was made clear last Thursday at the deadline when the two sides were trade partners. The last-place Sox sent starter John Lackey to St. Louis, which was looking to bolster its rotation for a playoff push, in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, who will make their return to their former home field this week.

“I’€™m definitely looking forward to it. It’€™s going to be fun,” said Kelly, who will make his Red Sox debut Wednesday. “But it’€™s just another ball game. You’€™ve got to go out there and be 100 percent locked in and just make pitches and try to get those guys out.”

The Red Sox are coming off yet another series defeat. This time they lost two of three to the rival Yankees at Fenway Park to sink further into the AL East cellar. The Sox are 14 games out of first place and 4 1/2 games out of fourth.

While the Cardinals haven’t looked as strong as they did a year ago, they’re still a threat in the National League. St. Louis has won three of its last four and took two out of three from the first-place Brewers this past weekend to move within a game of the division lead.

The Cardinals were lifted by their newest arm, Lackey, in Sunday’s win. The right-hander gave up two runs on seven hits over seven innings to help St. Louis to a 3-2 win.

“From the start, my arm felt good,” Lackey said after the game. “I started locating some balls better as the game went on.”

Here are the pitching matchups for the three-game set.

Tuesday: Rubby De La Rosa (3-4, 3.64 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (11-8, 2.98 ERA)
Wednesday: Joe Kelly (2-2, 4.37 ERA) vs. Shelby Miller (8-8, 4.14 ERA)
Thursday: Brandon Workman (1-4, 4.08 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (13-6, 2.26 ERA)


– Dustin Pedroia continued his impressive emergence at the plate against the Yankees over the weekend. The second baseman went 6-for-14 with four runs and four RBIs over the three-game series. Pedroia nearly drove in another in the ninth inning Sunday when he connected on a pitch from David Robertson that hooked left of the foul pole before clearing the Wall in left field. He’s now had five straight multi-hit games and seven in the last nine. Pedroia is hitting .400 (10-for-25) during this five-game multi-hit streak.

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Catching on: Blake Swihart’s accelerating development behind the plate

08.05.14 at 9:47 am ET
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. — There were two outs in the fifth inning and Pawtucket Red Sox lefty Henry Owens had just walked his second batter of the game on a 3-2 count in the midst of a bid for a no-hitter. Owens seemed momentarily frustrated with himself and began to wander around the mound. Emerging from his crouch behind the plate, catcher Blake Swihart called time and began a slow jog to the mound where he was met by a look of relief from Owens.

As he stepped onto the mound, Swihart flipped down his catcher’s mask and put his arm around Owens, comforting the pitcher, as the pair began to plan their attack against Elliot Johnson of the Columbus Clippers. The look of comfort was evident in Owens’ eyes as Swihart jogged to set up behind the plate.

As Owens went into his windup, there was an extra oomph behind each of his pitches. Johnson was quickly set down on a fly ball to left fielder Bryce Brentz. Swihart, walking toward the dugout, gave a fist bump to Owens in celebration of the shared success.

Swihart’s ability to relate and talk to his pitching staff has become a huge area of growth in the last year. Catcher Matt Spring, who has been Swihart’s teammate for two years, said that Swihart’s ability to talk to and work with a pitching staff has become a huge factor in the catcher’s improvement on the defensive end.

“He gets on the same page as his pitchers and has a really good working relationship with them,” Spring said. “That was one thing where there is usually a longer process, especially with how young he is. He asks questions all the time and he is always listening and he’s just done an incredible job of being able to run a pitching staff on a day-in, day-out basis. Obviously, at the plate, he’s been fantastic.”

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Tuesday’s Red Sox-Cardinals matchups: Rubby De La Rosa vs. Lance Lynn

08.05.14 at 8:06 am ET
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The Red Sox will kick off an eight-game road trip Tuesday when they take on the Cardinals in a three-game set at Busch Stadium. It will be the first time that the teams have played against each other since the 2013 World Series.

Boston will send Rubby De La Rosa to the mound Tuesday in the series opener against Lance Lynn.

It will be a series marked by reunions, as Joe Kelly, Allen Craig, John Lackey and A.J. Pierzynski will all be facing off against their former teams. Lackey was shipped to St. Louis Thursday in a trade deadline deal for Kelly and Craig, while Pierzynski signed with the Cardinals July 26 after Boston designated him for assignment July 9.

“Yeah, the timing of it is a little funky in that regard,” Craig said when discussing his return. “It’s going to be fun to go in there and play against my former teammates and go back to St. Louis. I’m just going to go and play my game and just play.

“I think it’s still sinking in, just being in the clubhouse and seeing a lot of faces and putting the names to faces and that type of stuff. It’s cool to be on this side of the clubhouse and get to know the guys who I played against last year in the World Series.”

De La Rosa (3-4, 3.64 ERA) was solid in his last outing against the Blue Jays on July 29 at Fenway, allowing three runs over six innings of work in what was a 4-2 Blue Jays victory.

“I thought Rubby gave us an opportunity to win,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He pitched with some men on base. With the exception of the 3-1 changeup to [Anthony] Gose that doesn’t get to the spot for the two-run double on his part, I thought he gave us a solid, solid effort, and we had probably three opportunities where we had multiple men on base, and the timely hit was elusive.”

De La Rosa will be looking to correct his struggles on the road Tuesday, as the 25-year-old righty is 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA in four starts away from Fenway Park this season — a far cry from the 1.97 ERA that he has compiled in five home starts.

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No laughing matter: Henry Owens makes his mark in Triple-A debut

08.04.14 at 11:51 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Henry Owens is a master of first impressions, and not just for what he does on the mound.

The first word that several teammates use in describing the Red Sox‘ top pitching prospect is goofy. The pitcher created an unshakable early memory for catcher Blake Swihart at the 2010 Aflac All-American Game, at which Swihart remembers seeing a lanky Owens run out to the mound, pick up the rosin bag and, instead of using it for its intended purpose, chuck it across home plate, rosin flying in the wind.

“That guy,” Swihart said pointing at Owens, “is an absolute goofball.”

On the mound, Owens does everything but goof around.

In his Triple-A debut Monday night for the Pawtucket Red Sox, Owens dominated the visiting Columbus Clippers. He carried a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings before an infield single to Indians top prospect Francisco Lindor broke up the bid. He ended up delivering 6 2/3 innings, striking out nine (including the first four batters of the game), walking three, hitting one batter and allowing no runs.

Owens, who threw 70 of his 100 pitches for strikes, displayed a fastball that sat around 89 to 93 mph, a changeup that came in 77-79 mph and a curveball that was 69-72 mph. The 22-year-old displayed strong command of all three pitches and had the Clippers lineup guessing all night.

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Sources: Red Sox to promote Heath Hembree, Corey Brown

08.04.14 at 6:16 pm ET
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According to multiple sources, the Red Sox are planning to call up reliever Heath Hembree and outfielder Corey Brown for the upcoming road trip to St. Louis.

While the corresponding roster moves have yet to be announced, pitcher Steven Wright most likely will be sent down to Pawtucket in order to make room for Hembree.

The move to make room for Brown on the roster is a little more complicated. Logical solutions could be to place Allen Craig, who hurt his left ankle running in his Red Sox debut on Friday, on the disabled list, or to send Mookie Betts back to Pawtucket.

Hembree was acquired in the trade with the Giants for Jake Peavy. Hembree made his major league debut in 2013, pitching nine games, allowing no runs, walking two and striking out 12 in 7 2/3 innings pitched. Hembree appeared in two games for the PawSox, going 1 2/3 innings, allowing one hit, walking two and striking out four.

Brown has displayed the ability to hit for power for Triple-A Pawtucket, hitting 16 home runs and knocking in 39 runs while hitting .226/.294/.452 with 14 doubles. In his last 10 games, Brown is hitting .278/.333/.694 with three home runs, five RBIs, two doubles and two triples. The 25-year-old played in parts of three seasons in the majors with the Nationals, hitting .175/.250/.400 with two home runs, four RBIs and three doubles in 45 plate appearances in 36 games.

Brown is not on the 40-man roster,  but the team has one open spot after its non-waiver trade deadline deals.

To read more about Hembree, click here.

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Johnny Damon on MFB: ‘I think [Yoenis] Cespedes is going to tear it up here’

08.04.14 at 1:31 pm ET
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Former Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon joined Middays with MFB on Monday from the Red Sox Foundation charity golf tournament at Belmont Country Club to discuss the addition of Yoenis Cespedes, Jackie Bradley Jr.‘€™s struggles at the plate and Boston’€™s outlook going forward. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Damon, who played in the spacious O.co Coliseum while with the Athletics in 2001, said that Cespedes should thrive in a smaller ballpark such as Fenway.

“It’€™s a very hard ballpark to hit in, especially if you have a whole bunch of night games,” Damon said. “It was the first time that I was playing for another team besides the Royals, and just getting used to a different team, a different division. It made it tough. I think Cespedes is going to tear it up here. It looks like a great trade for both teams right now. I think it’€™s a positive.”

Even though Bradley has been a Gold Glove candidate in center field this season, his stellar play defensively has been negated due to his inability to produce offensively. Damon said that Bradley, whose average has dropped to .218 due to an 0-for-24 hitless streak, will need to make big strides in his approach at the plate in order to hold on to his starting role with the club.

“Well, as you see right now, there’€™s a whole bunch of players who are hitting .220 and .230. … For the Red Sox, your center fielder probably has to go out and hit .270, Damon said. “He’€™s very fast, lay down a couple of bunts every now and then, bring the defense in and then you can start slapping the ball by them, and once you start getting that confidence, you can grow a lot by doing that, but also you can prolong your career.”

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