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Why you should have cared about Saturday’s Red Sox game: Steven Wright’s situation is starting to get interesting

09.13.14 at 11:02 pm ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will be called “Why you should have cared,” looking beyond the final score — at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) — for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

Steven Wright

Steven Wright

KANSAS CITY — Just about everything Red Sox-related Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium proved to be uninspiring for the visitors in their 7-1 defeat to the Royals.

Starter Rubby De La Rosa struggled. The offense was shut down by KC hurler Jeremy Guthrie. And even Matt Barnes, the rookie who had left such a positive impression in his major league debut hit a bump in the road while pitching the eighth inning (2 runs, 3 hits).

But then there was Steven Wright.

The knuckleballer did what he has done since joining the Red Sox, turn in a stellar performance. This time the outing included Wright throwing three shutout innings in which he allowed three hits while not walking a batter.

In three big league outings this season, Wright has allowed just one run over 12 innings (all in relief), striking out 12 and walking just one. This follows 100 innings in the minor leagues (between both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket), where he totaled a 3.42 ERA, striking out 72 and walking 23.

Suddenly, the 30-year-old has become an interesting option for a hardly-defined 2015 pitching staff.

“It’s definitely a little mechanical, the adjustments I’ve done over the course of the year,” Wright said. “But a lot of it is mental. Last year I was pitching away from contact, more swings and misses. This year I want …  every time I throw it, I want them to put in play, minus a couple times. Maybe 0-2 I’ll try to get a swing and miss but for the most part every time I throw a pitch I want it to be right down the middle and maybe they’ll mishit it.

“I definitely feel more comfortable than I was last year. I still have a lot to learn with the pitch but what I’ve done this year compared to what I’ve done last year I think I’m definitely going in the right direction.”

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Red Sox lineup: Mookie Betts makes his debut at second base

09.13.14 at 3:07 pm ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

KANSAS CITY — With Dustin Pedroia out for the season after undergoing hand surgery, and Brock Holt still recovering from a concussion, Mookie Betts will begin his stint at second baseman for the Red Sox Saturday night.

Betts, who came up through the minor leagues as a second baseman before transitioning to outfield just before his call-up earlier this season, will leadoff against Royals’ starter Jeremy Guthrie.

Here is the Red Sox lineup with Rubby De La Rosa taking the hill for the visitors:

Mookie Betts 2B

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Yoenis Cespedes LF

Daniel Nava RF

Mike Napoli 1B

Jackie Bradley CF

Will Middlebrooks 3B

Christian Vazquez C

Red Sox minor league roundup: Rusney Castillo makes his mark; Eduardo Rodriguez, trade deadline steal

09.13.14 at 12:24 pm ET
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Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez impressed in his Triple-A debut. (Lynn Chadwick / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez impressed in his Triple-A debut. (Lynn Chadwick / Portland Sea Dogs)

Evidently, Rusney Castillo is not afraid.

With Triple-A Pawtucket’s season down to its final strike, Castillo lined a 1-2 fastball up and away to right-center for a game-tying run in the top of the ninth inning, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 2-2 tie that ultimately translated to a 4-2, 13-inning victory for the PawSox that forced a winner-take-all Game 5 of the Governor’s Cup Finals against Durham (box).

Though Castillo went 1-for-6 with three strikeouts, he did not allow a previously poor game to snowball to the point where his pulse quickened in his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, instead going with a heater and lining it to a part of the field that he’s shown a penchant for using in his earliest days playing baseball. The Red Sox will hope that the contest offered the first demonstration of Castillo’s ability to contribute in meaningful situations, to be a winning player who can turn a crowd in an opponent’s park from frenzy to despondency.

As Castillo (who played all 13 innings on Friday) works to get physically ready to join the Red Sox in the big leagues, he is now 3-for-14 in his three games against Durham. Certainly, he made his third hit of the series count, giving the PawSox an opportunity in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Saturday.

Here is a look at Castillo’s crowd-silencing hit:

– One evaluator on Eduardo Rodriguez, the 21-year-old left-hander whom the Red Sox acquired at the trade deadline for left-hander Andrew Miller: “Steal of the trade deadline…I know Miller is doing great in Baltimore, but this kid will make that trade look real bad.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Saturday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Rubby De La Rosa vs. Jeremy Guthrie

09.13.14 at 8:43 am ET
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The Red Sox will play the third game of their four-game set with the Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium. Rubby De La Rosa will get the ball and pitch against Kansas City’€™s Jeremy Guthrie.

Rubby De La Rosa

Rubby De La Rosa

De La Rosa (4-6, 4.01 ERA) had trouble last Sunday commanding his pitches against the Blue Jays. As the Red Sox attempted to earn a home sweep over their division rivals, De La Rosa weaved in and out of jams in the third and fourth innings.

In the fifth inning, however, De La Rosa couldn’€™t escape trouble, as Toronto slugger Jose Bautista crushed a three-run home run over the Green Monster and on to Lansdowne Street. De La Rosa’€™s day was finished after he gave up the three runs and seven hits in four-plus innings.

De La Rosa said after the game that the 2-0 pitch to Bautista that landed near the MassPike was part of his command problems.

“Yeah, I missed that pitch,” De La Rosa said of the home run. “I tried to throw it away.”

Prior to his start against Toronto, the right-hander threw 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball on the road against the Rays, but he did not factor in the decision. De La Rosa’€™s month of August was an improvement after an abysmal July when he had an ERA close to six. Though he had a higher 1.76 WHIP, his ERA for August was 4.13.

He’€™s pitched well at Fenway Park this season, but De La Rosa has not had as much success on the road in 2014. His ERA is more than a run higher — 4.57 on the road compared to 3.47 at home — and his batting average against is .294 away from the confines of Fenway.

One of De La Rosa’€™ best starts this season came against Kansas City in late July. In seven innings, he allowed one run and five hits over seven solid innings. He walked four batters, but he worked around the major jams.

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Why you should have cared about Friday’s Red Sox game: Allen Webster turns a corner; Rusney Castillo makes his travel plans; Koji Uehara returns

09.13.14 at 12:07 am ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will be called “Why you should have cared,” looking beyond the final score — at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) — for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

Allen Webster

Allen Webster

KANSAS CITY — This undoubtedly was Allen Webster’s shining moment as a major league pitcher.

Not only did the Red Sox starter get out of a significant three-start rut — allowing just two runs over six innings in the Sox’s 4-2 win over the Royals Friday night — but he did so with something significant on the line. Webster, the pitcher who has had uneven results throughout his eight previous starts (6.47 ERA), was in control throughout almost all of his 83 pitches.

The difference this time around, besides the simple fact there were better results, was Webster’s command. For the first time this season, he walked just one batter, staying ahead of the struggling KC lineup throughout the night.

“A higher percentage of strikes tonight,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of his pitcher. “I thought he was ahead in the count a little bit more frequently, and he had a very good changeup against some left-handers to slow them down. With the exception of the one changeup that stayed up to [Eric] Hosmer (a two-run homer), he was efficient, he was powerful, and it was encouraging to see not only the number of strikes, but the overall command of the strike zone.”

OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT FRIDAY’S GAME:

– Rusney Castillo finally has his ticket to the big leagues.

The Cuban outfielder actually postponed his arrival with the Red Sox thanks to a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the ninth inning of the Pawtucket Red SoxInternational League championship series against Durham. The hit sent the teams into extra innings, where the PawSox ultimately claimed a 14-inning, 4-2 win.

The victory forced a fifth and decisive game, while also pushing Castillo’s arrival time with the Red Sox to Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Putting a bow on the season of Henry Owens

09.12.14 at 1:20 pm ET
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Left-hander Henry Owens allowed three runs in four innings on Thursday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Left-hander Henry Owens allowed three runs in four innings on Thursday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

On Wednesday night, Triple-A Pawtucket stood one inning from a commanding 2-0 lead in the Govrrnor’s Cup Finals against Durham. But a ninth-inning blown save served as a prelude to an extra-innings loss, and now, after a 4-3 loss in Durham on Thursday (box), the PawSox must win consecutive games in the park of Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate to win the best-of-five International League championship.

Among the prospect performances by the PawSox, there was little of note. Left-hander Henry Owens capped a brilliant 2014 campaign with an anticlimactic performance that bore resemblance to much of his work in eight year-ending Triple-A starts. He gave up just three hits in four innings, but included among those knocks were a pair of extra-base hits.

After a largely dazzling year in which pitching into the seventh became a commonplace occurrence for him, Owens finished the season with back-to-back four-inning outings in the International League playoffs in which he permitted a total of eight earned runs in eight innings with six walks and 11 punchouts. Certainly, he was hit harder in Triple-A (where 19 of the 43 hits he allowed (44 percent) went for extra bases, including five for homers in 46 innings) than Double-A (30 of 89 hits (34 percent) for extra bases, with six homers in 121 innings), but it’s unclear whether that reflected the stiffer competition or the fact that Owens flew past his previous innings high of 135, jumping up 24 percent to a total of 168 between Double-A, Triple-A and the All-Star Futures Game. Owens did show the ability to get swings and misses in Pawtucket, with 10.8 punchouts per nine, but he finished the year with a cumulative 4.89 ERA in Triple-A. Read the rest of this entry »

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Source: Don’t count on Red Sox going after 2 high-priced pitchers

09.12.14 at 10:01 am ET
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Jon Lester and James Shields? Don’t count on it.

According to a major league source, the Red Sox‘ offseason plan doesn’t include going after two high-priced free agent pitchers. There will be, however, undoubtedly heavy interest from the team when it comes to acquiring one top of the rotation starter.

The idea of the Red Sox going after the likes of multiple top-tier free agent hurlers — such as Lester, Shields, Max Scherzer, or Ervin Santana — has been an intriguing one, especially after Sox chairman Tom Werner stated on Thursday’s Dennis & Callahan show, “I wouldn’t say that we have limitless money, but we’ve got a lot of money to spend and we’re determined to go into the free agent market and improve the team.”

Also making the idea that the Red Sox might go all-in on the free agent pitching market intriguing is the uncertainty when it comes to their current starters.

Clay Buchholz has reemerged as a candidate to be considered a top-of-the-rotation starter — totaling a 3.18 ERA and .202 batting average against in his last seven starts. But there remains significant uncertainty regarding the rest of the group. If the season ended today, Joe Kelly and Rubby De La Rosa most likely would be the only other two slotted in for the 2015 rotation.

It is believed that the Red Sox will be most aggressive when it comes to pursuing Lester, who is 4-3 with a 2.54 ERA since joining Oakland.  But the Sox also are known to have interest in Shields. The Kansas City righty — who will be 33 years old on Opening Day — won’t bring the price tag of the former Red Sox lefty, but he won’t be cheap. One executive recently surmised Shields could easily garner a five-year deal on the open market.

Shields would also be valued because of his familiarity with the American League East and his experience in leading a young pitching staff.

“He’s kind of in the prime right now of what he’s doing,” Shields’ former manager in Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon, recently told WEEI.com. “He takes such great care of himself. He’s so highly competitive. And the ancillary benefits to the rest of the staff are incredible because of the way he is.”

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