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Closing Time: Royals 12, Red Sox 5

05.28.10 at 10:23 pm ET
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The Red Sox continued their struggles with the Royals in a 12-5 loss Friday night after starting pitcher Tim Wakefield failed to make it out of the fourth inning after surrendering seven earned runs in the frame. The Sox drop their second game in a row to the Royals and are now 27-23 on the season. (For a look at the box score, click here.)

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–Wakefield’€™s night just came crashing down in the fourth inning. After bending but not breaking in the first three innings, he surrendered five straight singles, including Jason Kendall’€™s initial hit that just glanced off Wakefield’€™s glove. That string of hits brought the Royals to within one. Then, despite pulling to within just one out of getting out of a bases-loaded jam, Wakefield served up a juicy knuckleball that Yuniesky Betancourt sent over the Monster to make it 9-4 in favor of Kansas City. Sox manager Terry Francona pulled the veteran righty after just 3 2/3 innings, leaving the bullpen, and even outfielder Bill Hall, to take it the rest of the way on the mound.

–After that disastrous fourth inning, the Boston offense was never able to mount any kind of an answer. The Red Sox managed just four total baserunners from the fourth inning on after scoring five runs in the first three frames. No one would have counted out the Red Sox despite being down four runs after three-and-a-half innings, but the bats certainly did little to close that gap.

–Wild pitches can sometimes be the name of the game for the Sox when Wakefield takes the mound, but two errant tosses came at the worst possible time for Boston Friday night. Wakefield and Ramon Ramirez each had wild pitches with runners on third that allowed both runners to score. Wakefield’€™s came at a particularly bad time’€”it allowed Mike Aviles to cross the plate and tie the game at five apiece in the fourth inning.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Victor Martinez reentered the starting lineup in a big way, going 2-for-5 in his first start since injuring a toe Monday in Tampa. He seemed to struggle a bit running to second after a blast into the triangle in rightcenter in the first inning. So to make it easier on himself, he simply deposited a Kyle Davies offering into the Red Sox offering in right and jogged around the bases instead.

Scott Atchison was certainly solid in his relief of Wakefield. The reliever who was called up from Pawtucket before the game to replace Jacoby Ellsbury on the 25-man roster scattered four hits over 2 1/3 innings and didn’€™t allow a Kansas City runner to pass third base. He was the innings-eater the Sox needed after the bullpen was forced to go 5 1/3 innings after a short outing from Daisuke Matsuzaka Thursday night.

–On a night when the Red Sox announced they would be without their regular leadoff hitter Ellsbury for a little while longer, Marco Scutaro went 3-for-5 out of the top spot with a double and a run scored. That was his first multi-hit game since May 17 and just his third of the month.

Matsuzaka explains ‘lower body soreness’

05.28.10 at 7:27 pm ET
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Prior to the Red Sox game with the Royals Friday night at Fenway Park Daisuke Matsuzaka clarified what he meant when he referenced having “lower body soreness” throughout his Thursday night outing.

“It doesn’t happen that often. I just think it’s one of those days where your body feels a little heavier than normal. You feel a little bit lethargic,” Matsuzaka said through translator Masa Hoshino. “I think that’s what it was. But today I think because I relied a lot more on my upper body pitching in the game last night, I think my upper body is a little more tired than usual.

“It’s certainly not an injury. I wouldn’t even go so far as calling it fatigue. I think that can happen to any player, where you get out of bed in the morning and feel a little bit off. It just so happens yesterday was one of those days … my body just wouldn’t cooperate.”

Matsuzaka finished his latest start having walked eight batters over 4 2/3 innings, including five in what turned out to be a three-run fifth inning. Regarding the hurler’s final frame, Matsuzaka suggested that he didn’t feel any worse in the fifth than in his previous innings.

“I guess there’s nothing I can really point to in the fifth inning because the way I was feeling yesterday that could happen at any given time,” he said. “No matter what I tried things just weren’t’ falling into place for me and things weren’t going right. That just happened to be the time all it happened for me.”

When asked about the “lower body soreness” prior to Friday night’s game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, “‘€œI have lower body problems. I don’€™t know. That was the first I had heard of that. He had a good bullpen [session today]. He didn’€™t express that to us.’€

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Farrell on D&H: No knowledge of Daisuke injury

05.28.10 at 5:33 pm ET
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Friday afternoon, Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell called into Dale & Holley to talk about the pitching staff’€™s recent surge, Josh Beckett‘€™s rehab schedule, and Daisuke Matsuzaka‘€™s struggles against the Royals Thursday night.

“To go into the eighth inning with the game in hand that he had [against Philadelphia],” Farrell said, “we were anticipating something similar ‘€” certainly not a no-hitter ‘€” but to be a little more controlling the count than last night unfolded.”

A partial transcript of the interview follows. To hear the full interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Lately the pitching staff hasn’€™t been giving you a lot of problems, but after last night you must not have slept so well.

Yeah, seemingly right from the first inning, Daisuke was having a difficult time commanding within the zone. He worked himself into a couple of jams. He did a great job to get out of the fourth [inning], with the no out, bases loaded jam and no runs on the board. And really when you think about the total number of base runners he allowed, to keep the damage to three runs even though it was into the fifth inning, which is far short of what he’€™s been doing as of late, we were still in line late in the ballgame to win the game.

What do you think about Daisuke’€™s control issues over the course of the game?

Yeah, he battled himself, there’€™s no doubt about it. The stuff was equal to what he’€™s been pitching with. You look back five days ago in Philadelphia, against a very good fastball hitting team, and he threw the ball over the plate and he had some balls hit right at some people. To go into the eighth inning with the game in hand that he had, we were anticipating something similar ‘€” certainly not a no-hitter ‘€” but to be a little more controlling the count than last night unfolded.

Is Daisuke’€™s physical status better known, or is it something he’€™ll have to wait on until he gets to the park?

Probably going to have to wait until he gets to the park. You might be referring to something in his lower half. That’€™s probably the first we heard about it, so I don’€™t have any news in any way to give you on that. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Farrell, Red Sox, victor martinez

Red Sox notes: Ellsbury sent to DL

05.28.10 at 5:29 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced that the team had placed Jacoby Ellsbury on the 15-day disabled list in his pregame press conference Friday afternoon. Reliever Scott Atchison was called up to replace Ellsbury on the 25-man roster.

According to Francona, Ellsbury met with a thoracic specialist earlier in the day to discuss the rib injury that has plagued him since an April 11 collision with Adrian Beltre, and the developments from that meeting led to Ellsbury’€™s placement on the DL. He has played three games since his return to the lineup on May 22 but has not seen action since Monday.

The manager, however, was quick to say that Ellsbury’€™s trip to the DL may not be solely due to his ribs.

‘€œWhen he swings or when he does some things, even when he breathes, he’€™s got some sharp pain there,’€ Francona said. ‘€œHe was hit pretty hard. There’€™s a lot of trauma, not just to the ribs but to the soft tissue and all through his back. He’€™s feeling some pain so we’€™ve got to deal with it.’€

There appears to be no immediate timetable for Ellsbury’€™s return to his spot in centerfield, but Francona hopes he won’€™t have to wait too long.

‘€œI think the best we can say is we hope it’€™s quick, but [we] don’€™t know,’€ Francona said.

He added that Ellsbury is ‘€œprobably healing faster than a normal person, but the normal person doesn’€™t try to play centerfield and lead off.’€

With Atchison now up, the Sox have seven men in the bullpen, with six of those being right-handed relievers. Atchison last pitched in a Red Sox uniform on April 26 and had 6.10 ERA over seven appearances during his stay in the Boston bullpen.

–Francona also discussed the return of Victor Martinez to the starting lineup after he hurt a toe Monday. With Tim Wakefield taking the hill Friday night, Martinez’€™s return came at a perfect time for Francona.

‘€œVictor said he was OK to go today. We’€™ll certainly keep an eye on him, but with Wake pitching, it’€™s a convenient time for him to be available.’€

–Also on the injury comeback trail is Josh Beckett, who went on the DL with a lower-back strain last Thursday. Beckett threw a side session with Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell overlooking and did well according to his manager.

‘€œHe ended throwing 22, 25 pitches,’€ Francona said. ‘€œWhere that leads, we hope it’€™s good. If there’€™s any hesitancy, we’€™re going to be cautious with him. I think we need to be. I think the good news is he was able to throw a side. That’€™s good. But we don’€™t want this to turn into something it shouldn’€™t so we’€™re going to keep a close eye on him.’€

However, Francona was hesitant to give a specific time when Beckett would throw another side session, saying that the team needed to continue to observe the ace before making any further decisions.

–Continuing on the injury theme, Francona discussed the ‘€œlower-body problems’€ that Daisuke Matsuzaka mentioned to the press after his four-run performance over 4 2/3 innings Thursday night. Farrell had mentioned earlier on the Dale & Holley show that Matsuzaka’€™s comments were the first time he had heard anything of an injury, and Francona echoed that remark in his press conference.

‘€œI have lower body problems,” Francona said. “I don’€™t know. That was the first I had heard of that. He had a good bullpen [session today]. He didn’€™t express that to us.’€

Ellsbury: We knew I wasn’t 100 percent

05.28.10 at 5:24 pm ET
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Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was placed back on the disabled list before Friday’s game with the Royals and said he and the team were on the same page about coming back last weekend but doing so worsened his sore ribs.

“Basically, I tried to played with a level of discomfort, knowing I wasn’t 100 percent and doing so worsened my condition,” said Ellsbury, who said he saw a thoracic specialist on Friday who told him that he will need to be at a further level of healing when he returns to action.

[Click here to listen to Ellsbury explain his condition that landed him back on the disabled list Friday.]

“I guess way it looks now I came back too soon. With the way I felt and the way medical staff felt, we felt it was time to go. But we knew I wasn’t fully healed.” Ellsbury said.

The following is the full transcript of Ellsbury’s pre-game meeting with the media:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: disabled list, injured, Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox

Red Sox vs. Royals matchups, 5/28

05.28.10 at 2:48 pm ET
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After losing the opener of a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals Thursday night and seeing their five-game winning streak disappear in the process, the Boston Red Sox look to get back on a roll against Kyle Davies tonight at Fenway.

Tim Wakefield, who is 1-2 with a 4.44 ERA on the season, will go for the Sox. Wakefield pitched tremendously in his last outing against the National League champion Phillies, going eight strong innings to earn his first victory since last July. Although he has been unhappy with his back-and-forth roll as a middle reliever and starter, he has continued to show how invaluable he is to this organization. With Daisuke Matsuzaka struggling again last night and Josh Beckett on the disabled list, the Sox have been in need of good, solid starting pitching. The 43-year-old knuckleballer has 190 career victories, which is good for third among active pitchers.

The Red Sox, who have won or split the season series against Kansas City in eight of the past nine years, hope to keep the Royals’ league-leading offensive attack grounded.

The Royals counter with Davies, who will try and stop a Red Sox offense that has been fairly dangerous all year. Davies has allowed two earned runs or fewer in three straight outings, and is currently 3-3 with a 4.53 ERA. The 26-year-old righty will look to follow up an impressive outing from Brian Bannister, and take control of an important four game series. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Kyle Davies, Red Sox, royals, Tim Wakefield

Forget April panic: Sky’s the limit for Sox

05.28.10 at 11:10 am ET
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Oh, how things have changed around Red Sox Nation the last few weeks.

This team was left for dead after struggling out of the gate in April. There was talk on whether the Sox would be buyers or sellers come trade deadline. The blame game went from Theo Epstein to Terry Francona. So who gets the credit now that the Sox have played much better baseball during the month of May?

It amazes me that fans in Boston put themselves through the emotional roller coaster that is a baseball season year in year out. Haven’t we seen this before? A player struggles through the first month. Fans call for his release or benching only to see that player turn things around and finish with a very productive year.

The problem this year was that it wasn’t just one player, it was the team as a whole. There is no question that, as a group, the Red Sox underperformed out of the gate. But just like a proven player who has his early season struggles, you had to believe that they would turn it around.

This winter we all had a lot of fun mocking the phrase “run production.” What did it mean? Was this Theo’s way of telling us that this team was not going to score runs and had to win games 2-1 or 3-2? Or was he saying something that we’ve all known for years, that pitching and defense wins championships? Why did we all get so caught up in Theo using another way of stating the obvious?

The Tampa Bay Rays have gotten off to an historic start. Can anyone tell me why? Pitching, that’s why. The Red Sox went 9-4 through the toughest stretch of the year playing the best teams in baseball. Can anyone tell me why they were so successful? Pitching, that’s why. There was no way that this Sox starting rotation was going to remain at the bottom of the AL in ERA. At the end of April, this staff had an ERA hovering just under 6.00. I guarantee you that by the end of the year, this rotation’s ERA will be below a 4.00. If anything, we should be excited because the best is yet to come.

John Lackey will be better. Josh Beckett will get healthy and be better. Daisuke Matsuzaka may not be as good as he was against Philly, but I don’t think he’ll be as bad as he was last night against the Royals either. Jon Lester will continue to roll because thats what we’ve come to expect from the “ACE” of this staff. Clay Buchholz has finally lived up to the billing, although I am still a little concerned about him getting through his first full season in the big leagues.

It’s just a matter of time before this rotation settles in and becomes exactly what we thought they were at the beginning of the season, the best rotation in baseball.

As for this offense, I think it has been a pleasant surprise. It was the talk of the town this offseason. “This lineup won’t score enough runs to win.” So far this season, the offense has been the least of this club’s concerns.

It was easy to be critical at the beginning of the year. Individuals weren’t playing up to their potential. David Ortiz got off to another bad start. J.D. Drew was struggling. Victor Martinez wasn’t himself. We even got on Adrian Beltre because he wasn’t hitting enough home runs, even though he finished the month of April hitting .338. But just like this team’s starting rotation, we should have realized that in time, all of those players would become the hitters that we think that they are.

So why do we do this to ourselves every year? When are we going to realize that a baseball season is a six-month marathon, not a sprint?

Championships are not won in April. They are won in October. If a career .300 hitter is hitting .250 for the first half of the season, that tells me that he is going to hit close to .350 for the remainder of the year. That’s just the way it is. This Red Sox team has enough guys on this roster that have already proven themselves in this league. It’s just a matter of time. For some players, that time has already come. For others like Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Victor Martinez and Jacoby Ellsbury, the sky’s the limit for the next four months. Sit back and enjoy.

Delcarmen answers the questions

05.28.10 at 10:54 am ET
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In spring training, the Delcarmen Watch was in full effect. On a near-daily basis, updates and answers would be sought about the Manny Delcarmen‘s velocity and stuff.

Delcarmen’s 2009 season had ended miserably, as his 8.59 ERA from July 28 through the end of the year was the worst in the majors. That performance was attributed in large part by both the pitcher and the Red Sox to the fact that he was fighting elbow soreness that he did not mention to the team’s training staff. His mechanics fell out of whack down the stretch, resulting in his poor performance.

His fastball, a mid- to high-90s offering for most of his major league career, sat in the low-90s at the end of last year. And this spring, it was in the high-80s to low-90s. Though Delcarmen insisted that he was healthy (an assessment with which the Sox agreed, based on the arm strength he was showing in his long-toss sessions), the questions about where his once-explosive stuff had gone were nearly constant.

Delcarmen was bemused.

“I thought it was pretty stupid,” said Delcarmen. “I told everyone, ‘€˜The velocity is going to come back. Give it time.'”

A couple months later, the velocity is indeed back. In one of his best outings of an excellent 2010 season, Delcarmen retired all six batters he faced on Thursday, blitzing through two scoreless innings in just 21 pitches. He struck out two, and featured a 94-95 mph fastball that he complemented with a swing-and-miss changeup (as well as a curveball that he used just once).

He dropped his ERA to 1.88. He is allowing opponents a microscopic .127 batting average, the lowest mark in the American League (min. 50 plate appearances). Though his strikeout numbers are down this year (14, against 12 walks, in 24 innings), he has been as effective now as he was for a roughly two-year stretch from 2007 until late-July of last year, when his 2.65 ERA placed him among the top 10 in the American League during that span.

Delcarmen said that the turning point came late in spring training, when sat down with pitching coach John Farrell to examine video comparing his mechanics in 2007 and 2008 to his delivery this spring.

“It was completely different extension, getting my arm out. Now, I’€™ll feel it if I short-arm it a little bit. I’€™m able now to recognize it and get it back to getting it out,” said Delcarmen. “Little by little, the velocity came back and it’€™s helped all my pitches out. … Right now, [the fastball] is 93, some days 94, 95. But as long as I’€™m hitting my spots and my ball isn’€™t flat, I don’€™t care how hard I’€™m throwing.”

The right-hander suggests that he feels immensely better now than he did during the final days of 2009. There has been relief and exhilaration in his renewed ability to unleash the baseball without hesitation. He is no longer forced to short-arm the ball because he no longer feels pain when he extends his elbow.

“I feel normal,” said Delcarmen. “I’€™m not afraid to reach back and let go.”

With the return of his fastball has come a return of both Delcarmen’s effectiveness and the trust that the team places in his ability to navigate the middle innings. He is once again viewed by the club as a stabilizing element on the bridge to closer Jonathan Papelbon, and whereas the team tried to hide him from pivotal late-game situations at the end of last year and beginning of this season, Delcarmen is once again being asked to record key outs when the Sox have a chance to win.

‘€œHe’€™s in a very good stretch right now. He’€™s pitching ahead in the count, he’€™s pitching with a lot of confidence,’€ said Farrell. ‘€œHe’€™s got three pitches he can go to at pretty much any time. Most importantly, he’€™s throwing his fastball to both sides of the plate. As he does that, he’€™s gaining confidence each time out and he’€™s gaining responsibility as well.’€

Read More: manny delcarmen,

The (almost) perfect Stolm

05.28.10 at 10:00 am ET
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It was not the start to the season that Stolmy Pimentel wanted. The 20-year-old, one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox system, is pitching at an advanced level for his age, having been assigned to the High-A Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League. But after consistent excellence in his first three minor league seasons, Pimentel struggled out of the gate in Salem.

He had a 5.02 ERA through his first seven starts of the season, and an unimpressive 20-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His fastball command, one of his strengths en route to a 3.41 ERA in his first three minor league seasons, could benefit from refinement.

But Pimentel’s season has taken a striking turn of late. On May 15, he threw six perfect innings in Salem, striking out four. Then, after allowing three runs in 5.1 innings in his next outing, he fired six no-hit innings on Thursday night, permitting just one walk and striking out six. That no-hit effort gave Pimentel a three-start stretch of games in which he had a 1.56 ERA and 15-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“He’s been very good after a rocky start,” said Sox assistant GM Ben Cherington. “[He's had] better fastball command, and his velocity ticked up a little bit. He’s been very good.”

Salem manager Kevin Boles was also Pimentel’s manager in Greenville a year ago, when the young right-hander went 10-7 with a 3.82 ERA and 7.9 punchouts per nine innings. Boles suggests that Pimentel has shown tremendous progress this season, particularly amidst his recent run of excellence.

“I think he’€™s been able to make adjustments from inning to inning. [The six no-hit innings on Friday] night was a perfect example. He was missing his fastball down in the zone. He actually spiked his fastball a few times,” said Boles. “Normally, from what we saw in years prior, last year, he wouldn’€™t be able to make those adjustments in game. It would usually take until the next outing. Now what he’€™s doing is, he’€™s able to make those adjustments from hitter to hitter. The process has been fun to watch. He doesn’€™t lose his composure. He maintains solid mound presence. He’€™s starting to get the ability to make adjustments from batter to batter, which is fun to watch.”

Boles cited several other improvements by Pimentel this season. Among them:

  • A slight improvement in a changeup that was already established as the pitcher’s out-pitch.
  • A more consistent curveball that still rates as Pimentel’s third-best pitch, but that the pitcher is able to better utilize for strikes early in counts, and to use to expand the zone when he is ahead in the count.
  • Maintaining his stuff and controlling the running game while working effectively out of the stretch. (It is, however, worth noting that Pimentel is allowing a .207 average to opposing hitters with the bases empty, and a .271 mark with runners on. That said, for obvious reasons, he has done very little pitching with runners on base in two of his last three outings.)
  • Heightened confidence and mound presence.
  • An improved between-starts routine, as his already strong work ethic has only gotten better.
  • Trusting in the game-calling of his catchers, thus maintaining a crisp pace on the mound, something that had been an issue last year when Pimentel would often shake off his signal callers and step off the mound. (Pimentel’s recent outings have featured Ryan Lavarnway behind the plate.)

The right-hander has been working with a 92-94 mph fastball, and his curveball has shown improvement from a year ago, giving him two effective secondary pitches (along with his swing-and-miss changeup) in his recent outings. Overall this year, opponents are hitting just .229 against him (after hitting .290 against him a year ago, in Low-A Greenville) and his groundball rate has ticked up, as he is recording 1.69 groundouts per flyball out (after having a 0.88 ratio in 2009).

Considering that he is the fourth youngest pitcher in the league, there is plenty to be impressed with. Pimentel is now 4-2 with a 3.72 ERA, continuing his steady progression through the Sox’ system. Though he was unheralded at the time he signed with the Sox, receiving just a $25,000 bonus out of the Dominican in the summer of 2006, his steady year-to-year progression, three-pitch mix and terrific pitcher’s frame have established him as one of the top pitching prospects that the Sox have. His recent performances have done nothing to detract from that status.

“He wants to be a major league pitcher,” said Boles. “He wants to be a quality major league pitcher, and I think he wants to be one of the better pitchers to come through our system. He’€™s driven, takes a lot of pride in what he does, and his focus is the major leagues. It’€™s fun to work with guys who have his drive.

“He’€™s been taking it to another level this year. It’€™s been fun to watch this last month. It’€™s been pretty interesting to see how he’€™s developed. Things have happened pretty quickly this year,” Boles added. “The scouting department has done a tremendous job, and this is a great example of it. Seeing him these past couple of years, how he has developed physically and mentally and the fact that he’€™s still just 20 years old, our scouting department, they have definitely done a great job getting us quality players with tools who have the makeup, too, and want to become major league ballplayers.”

Read More: ryan lavarnway, Stolmy Pimentel,

Brown goes downtown for PawSox walkoff win

05.28.10 at 9:25 am ET
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Catcher Dusty Brown connected on a three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Pawtucket Red Sox past the Norfolk Tides, 5-4, Thursday night.

Reliever Scott Atchison, just demoted from Boston, gave up all four Tidewater runs, but Brown sent the fans home happy when he homered off Kam Mickolio.

Read More: dusty brown, Pawtucket Red Sox, scott atchison, Tidewater Tides
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