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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Jackie Bradley Jr., the new on-base machine

04.27.12 at 11:23 am ET
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Just two Red Sox affiliates played on Thursday, as both Pawtucket and Portland got a night off. …



— The Red Sox were in position to take Jackie Bradley Jr. with the No. 40 overall pick in the draft only because he struggled both in terms of performance and health as a junior for South Carolina. The MVP of the 2010 College World Series endured an offensive downturn in 2011, hitting just .247/.346/.432 with six homers, marks that were down quite a bit from his prior college performance, and he missed a significant chunk of the season after a mid-season wrist injury.

But his outstanding center field defense remained intact, and the team remained convinced that he was a center fielder with some decent pop (perhaps double-digit or so home run power) and a good approach at the plate, with a good chance to be a starting center fielder in the big leagues.

To date, he is more than living up to expectations. He has played stellar defense in Salem, showing tremendous defensive range, while offensively, he has given every indication to date that 2011 was an aberration. Bradley went 4-for-4 on Thursday, and has now reached base at least once in 16 of his 17 games, and at least twice in 12 contests. Though he hasn’t hit for much power yet (six extra-base hits, no homers), his approach has been tremendous. He is hitting .371 with a remarkable .476 OBP, and Bradley has now been on base 38 times thus far this year, most in the Red Sox system.

It has been, in short, a very impressive start.

Xander Bogaerts blasted his second homer of the year, and now has six extra-base hits in his last seven games, and his .523 slugging percentage in a league that tends to suppress power underscores his remarkably advanced ability to drive the ball against older competition at the age of 19.

— Starter Miguel Celestino allowed one run on five hits in six innings, walking none and striking out three. The big right-hander, acquired as a player to be named in the deal that sent Casey Kotchman to the Mariners in 2011, has shown an intriguing ability to use a mid-90s fastball to get plenty of bad contact. He had nine groundball outs on Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nuggetpalooza: Red hot stat nuggets for the Red (hot) Sox

04.27.12 at 9:34 am ET
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Lots of stuff going on with the suddenly hot Red Sox, who have won four straight. Here are a few things I noticed that you might not have:


* – David Ortiz is has nine hits in his last 10 at bats (with two walks) during the first three innings of games since April 17. For the season, he is a scorching 16-for-22 (.727) during innings one through three, easily the league leader (min. 15 such AB):

.727 – David Ortiz, BOS
.556 – Derek Jeter, NYY
.529 – Nate Schierholz, SF


* – The Red Sox have hit 23 home runs this season (in 18 games), one more than they hit during all of April last season (in 26 games). With four April games remaining, there is an outside chance that they could hit 30 for the first time since 2003. The April club record of 38 was set in 1997 (25 games).

Note this: The major league record for April home runs is, get this, 55, set by the 2000 Cardinals. They homered in 23 of their 25 April games that season and hit three or more dingers in nine of those. Just for good measure, they hit four more bombs in their first May game, giving them 59 homers in their first 26 games.


* – Boston’s bullpen has now allowed 41 earned runs in 54.1 innings so far this season, good for an AL worst 6.79 ERA. Here are the bullpen ERA’s broken down by starting pitcher:

Daniel Bard – 3.37 (2 ER/5.1 IP)
Clay Buchholz – 4.11 (7 ER/15.1 IP)
Josh Beckett – 5.79 (6 ER/9.1 IP)
Felix Doubront – 8.36 (13 ER/14 IP)
Jon Lester – 11.32 (13 ER/10.1 IP)

Note this: The 11.32 ERA put up by Red Sox relievers in Lester’s starts is the worst in the majors behind any starter this season (min. 10 relief innings), with Tampa Bay’s David Price (10.64) and the Angels’ Dan Haren (9.26) also not getting much help.

Note this too: Three MLB pitchers have had “perfect” bullpen work behind them this season (min. 10+ innings of relief in their starts): Colorado’s Juan Nicasio (12.1 IP), Baltimore’s Tommy Hunter (10.1 IP), and Cincinnati’s Mike Leake (10 IP).

One last thing: In 2011, Red Sox relievers tossed 93.2 innings in relief of Beckett to the tune of a 1.72 ERA, the lowest behind any starter in the majors (min. 60 relief IP):

1.72 – Josh Beckett, BOS
1.89 – Chad Billingsley, LAD
1.98 – Tommy Hanson, ATL
2.11 – Jair Jurrjens, ATL

————————————————————————————————————— Read the rest of this entry »

Friday’s Red Sox-White Sox matchups: Daniel Bard vs. John Danks

04.27.12 at 6:41 am ET
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Daniel Bard entered the 2012 season eager to become a starting pitcher, and he got his wish through his first two starts of the year. But then the Red Sox bullpen imploded in an 15-9 loss to the Yankees last Saturday, and with the Boston relief staff ranking last in MLB as well as a rainout scratching Bard’s scheduled start Sunday, the Red Sox used Bard out of the bullpen earlier this week.

Bard is scheduled to return to the rotation on Friday when he starts in Chicago against the White Sox.

Bard is 0-2 in starts this season but holds a 1-2 record thanks to a win in his only relief appearance of the season, two-thirds of an inning in the eighth inning Monday against the Twins. Bard entered the game with the score knotted at 5 and the go-ahead run on third, and he forced a lineout to third, intentionally walked Justin Morneau, and induced a pop fly to help the Red Sox escape the inning damage-free.

Bard pitched well in his most recent start, a 1-0 loss to the Rays on Marathon Monday, scattering four hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings. Bard tossed a career-high 111 pitches, however, and he stayed in one batter too late, as he walked the final batter he faced to walk in the winning run.

The White Sox are a somewhat unfamiliar team for Bard, who has appeared in eight games against them, the third-fewest appearances for Bard against an American League opponent. Bard has a 1-0 record with a 2.08 ERA against Chicago. Bard’s most recent appearance against the White Sox was on July 31 of last season at U.S. Cellular Field. He entered the game in the seventh inning and held the White Sox to one hit over 1 1/3 innings while striking out one to help the Red Sox to a 5-3 win.

The White Sox will counter Bard with left-hander John Danks, who is 2-2 in four starts this season. The record is a tremendous improvement over last season, when Danks went 0-8 through his first 11 starts before earning his first win in June. Danks has yet to win in back-to-back starts this season, and he will be looking to do so when he takes the mound Friday.

In his last outing, a 7-4 win over the Mariners, Danks allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings of work while striking out six and walking four. The six strikeouts matched his season high.

The 27-year-old has made seven career starts against the Red Sox and has a 3-4 record with a 4.14 ERA against Boston. Only one of those three wins came at home. That one win was in his most recent start against Boston, an 8-2 decision on Sept. 30, 2010. Danks lasted six innings in that game, allowing two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out six. None of the Red Sox who had hits in that game still play for Boston.

Most of the current Red Sox have struggled in their careers against Danks. Nick Punto has the most experience of any Boston batter against Danks, as he faced the lefty often when Punto played for the Twins. Punto is 4-for-24 against Danks with an RBI, two walks and a strikeout. Mike Aviles is the only Red Sox batter with an average over .300 against Danks. He is 3-for-9 against Danks with a double, an RBI and a strikeout.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mother Nature, White Sox were no match for Felix Doubront

04.27.12 at 12:17 am ET
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CHICAGO — With the thermometer reading 39 degrees at first pitch Thursday night, Felix Doubront was not in his element.

The native of Venezuela had pitched a few years back in the cold of Portland, Maine, but nothing like this. And it didn’t go unnoticed by the Red Sox starter, who allowed a first-inning run for the first time this season.

So what did Doubront do? He adjusted.

“It was cold. I started feeling it,” he said of his fourth start of the season, this one coming against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. “My hands started getting cold. I got lazy with my front shoulder. I realized I had to work a little faster to get warm and make my arm speed up and get the release point right in front.”

Doubront figured it out well enough that he managed to earn the win in the Red Sox’ 10-3 victory over the White Sox, giving up three runs over six innings, while throwing a career-high 110 pitches.

“The first two innings, pretty good. One inning I started to open my front shoulder a bit. And the weather got me a little bit,” said Doubront, whose ERA dropped to 4.09. “I got lazy with my front shoulder and the ball was moving a lot. When my front shoulder opened, I couldn’t throw strikes. But I made adjustments and got into the sixth inning and that’s the most important thing.”

One of the last hurdles for Doubront to overcome is getting past the six-inning barrier, having now gone five and six frames two times apiece. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine explained that will come with a bit more experience, and a few more favorable calls.

“Felix got his first win. That’€™s a great stepping stone. I think he’€™s a very good pitcher,” Valentine said. “[Thursday night]  he did what it took to get through the sixth and get us a win and get himself his first win. His stuff is very good. He’€™s just missing on that outside part of the plate. His ball is just running off a little at times where it’€™s getting his pitch count up. But the changeup, the fastball and the curveball are all plus pitches, I think. Once he starts getting a few more calls, he’€™s going to be a real good pitcher.”

Closing Time: Kevin Youkilis, Jarrod Saltalamacchia key Red Sox latest win

04.26.12 at 11:13 pm ET
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CHICAGO — The Red Sox continued their recent offensive onslaught, scoring six or more runs for a fifth straight game. This time the Sox used a grand slam from Kevin Youkilis and two homers by Jarrod Saltalamacchia to claim a 10-3 win over the White Sox Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Red Sox have now scored 43 runs over their last five games.

Earning the win on the mound for the Sox was starter Felix Doubront, who turned in another solid outing. The lefty allowed three runs on five hits over six innings, striking out two, walking three and throwing 11o pitches, putting his ERA at 4.09.

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


– Before the game, Bobby Valentine had this to say about Saltalamacchia: “He’€™s a good hitter. He wasn’€™t hitting into any luck at all. Every ball he hit hard early seemed to find a glove. Last night, he gets jammed, and he gets a two-RBI single. He’€™s feeling good about himself. He’€™s also hit some balls where he’€™s elevated some of the balls. The only gloves those could find are the gloves the fans have on. Salty has had good at-bats. For the majority of this season, his at-bats have been solid.” By the time Thursday night’s game was over, Valentine proved to be prophetic, with Saltalamacchia going deep twice for the third time in his career. Coming into the game, the catcher was hitting .471 with a 1.235 OPS over his past four games.

– Youkilis’ second career grand slam came with one out in the third inning, giving the third baseman two homers for the season. Youkilis’ 364-foot blast to right was quickly followed by Saltalamacchia’s first home run of the night. Youkilis finished with three hits, raising his batting average to .241.

Adrian Gonzalez notched his fourth first inning hit of the season after coming in having gone 3-for-15 (.200) in the initial frame. The single scored Mike Aviles, who led off the game with a walk and stolen base. Gonzalez finished 2011 hitting .370 in the first inning. Also of note was Aviles’ second first-inning steal of the season, and the free pass moved his first-inning on-base percentage up over .500.

– The Red Sox have now totaled 28 runs in the first three innings of their last five games. In their initial 13 games of the season, the Sox had managed a total of 22 in innings 1-3.

– The Sox had no problem with Phil Humber, who was coming off pitching a perfect game. The righty gave up nine runs over five innings, being forced to throw 115 pitches. It was the second time the Red Sox faced a pitcher coming off a perfect game, having done so when taking on David Wells of the Yankees after his historic start in 1998.

– Junichi Tazawa was stellar in relief of Doubront, pitching three scoreless innings to finish things off for the Sox.


– For the first time in four starts, Felix Doubront allowed a first inning run. The Sox starter needed 28 pitches to get through the first frame, allowing an RBI single from Paul Konkero in the process. Scoring the run was Adam Dunn, whom Doubront walked despite the fact the White Sox DH was hitting .100 against lefties this season, after going 6-for-94 vs. southpaws in 2011.

Daniel Bard: I have to ‘be careful and think about my career’

04.26.12 at 7:17 pm ET
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CHICAGO — After a somewhat upside-down week, Daniel Bard said all systems are go for his start Friday against the White Sox.

“I’m ready,” he said prior to the Red Sox‘ series opener at U.S. Cellular Field Thursday. “I guess I’m more flexible than maybe even I thought I was.”

Bard, who was skipped in the Red Sox’ rotation Sunday and moved to bullpen for a game, Monday, explained why there was hesitancy on his behalf in pitching as a reliever more than just the one time leading into his start. The Red Sox had originally thought it might be a possibility that the righty could throw out of the bullpen again during the Minnesota series, but Bard put the brakes on such an idea.

“The team was in kind of a desperate situation, or felt like they were, but at the same time I can’t risk my arm or my career to win one or two more games in April,” he said. “If I overdo myself right now and blow out in a month because I was trying to do too much, I’ll probably look back and say it wasn’t worth it.

“I understand their concern. I’m honored they think enough of me that I can do both, I guess. But at the same time I have to be smart about it and be careful and think about my career.”

Bard explained the source of his reluctance in being available out of the bullpen Wednesday, which was the scheduled day for his side session leading up to the pitcher’s third start of the season.

“If I went out and threw an eight-pitch inning it would be kind of a weird schedule and I wouldn’€™t get the work in I wanted to, in terms of throwing change-ups and stuff in the bullpen,” he said. “But what if I also go out and throw 35 pitches. I can’€™t do it, unless they want to call somebody up if that happens.

“It’€™s unpredictable. If I didn’€™t get the game on Wednesday I probably would have had to throw a bullpen last night after the game, which would have been kind of weird.

“We have good arms in the pen. We’€™re not going to have an eight ERA the whole year. It’€™s not going to happen. There are too many good arms. Me going down there isn’€™t going to change the world.”

Finally, when asked what role he thought he would be pitching in a month from now, Bard responded, “I’€™m going to prepare like I am until I’€™m told otherwise.”

Injury Report: Breaking down Jacoby Ellsbury’s shoulder injury

04.26.12 at 1:55 pm ET
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Rob Bradford is joined Dr. Daniel Quinn of Newton Wellesley Orthopedic Associates to discuss the injury sustained by Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Dr. Quinn explains exactly what the injury is, along with what Ellsbury now faces in terms of recovery time. (For more information on sports-related injuries, go to NWOA.com.)

Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Why Will Middlebrooks isn’t being promoted right now

04.26.12 at 9:31 am ET
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He did it again.

For the sixth time in eight games, Will Middlebrooks went deep, this time taking Yankees prospect Adam Warren deep to right-center in a display of the opposite field power that has been a hallmark of his emergence as a top prospect. The 23-year-old went 2-for-5 with that homer (his ninth of the season), and though he struck out three times (a season-high in strikeouts, and just the second time this year that he’s struck out more than once in a game), his numbers remain extraordinary.

Middlebrooks is hitting .377 with a .429 OBP, .729 slugging mark and 1.221 OPS along with nine homers and 27 RBI. His three strikeouts on Wednesday notwithstanding, he’s controlling the strike zone in impressive fashion, having walked seven times and punched out just 13.

All of this comes at a time when big league third baseman Kevin Youkilis has gotten off to a difficult start. After going 1-for-4 against the Twins on Wednesday, Youkilis is hitting .204/.267/.296/.563. Middlebrooks has almost as many homers (9) as Youkilis has hits (11).

And so, it has become a popular line of thinking to suggest that the Red Sox should call up Middlebrooks and let him displace the incumbent. How much thought have the Sox given to such a scenario?

“There’s been no talk of that,” said a team source this week. “None.”

Why not? A few reasons.

First, there’s the question of sample size and track record. Youkilis has a great one at the big league level, having been an above-average everyday player for six seasons while performing at an offensive level matched by only a handful or so of players over the last four years. If the slow starts of David Ortiz in 2009 and 2010 offered any lesson, it was that you remain patient with players capable of producing at an All-Star level. If Youkilis is able to rebound to perform at his more customary .900-plus OPS levels going forward, then the odds are that few players — whether Middlebrooks or anyone else — can match such an impact in the lineup.

Similarly, the incredible performance of Middlebrooks represents something that has occurred in a small stretch. Just as it would have been a mistake to judge him from his 16-game struggle in Pawtucket at the end of last year, when he hit .161/.200/.268/.468, it would also be premature to get carried away with what he’s done in 19 games this year. He has shown a great deal of progress, both in his command of the strike zone and in the fact that he is now maturing to the point where he’s adding pull power to his prior gap-to-gap power approach, but to promote him now might risk a challenging transition to the majors given the relatively limited number of plate appearances that the 23-year-old has had against the most advanced minor leaguers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Thursday’s Red Sox-White Sox matchups: Felix Doubront vs. Philip Humber

04.26.12 at 8:40 am ET
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Felix Doubront and the Red Sox have faced many challenges and setbacks in the brief 2012 season, but perhaps their biggest obstacle yet will be staring them down on the mound Thursday at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago — that is, perfection, as the Red Sox will be the first team to face White Sox pitcher Philip Humber since his perfect game Sunday against the Mariners.

It will be yet another tough task in a season full of struggles, as the Red Sox sit at 7-10 and the cellar of the American League East. However, the Sox have won their last three games and will look to continue that steak as they move from Minnesota to Chicago. In their effort to continue their recent winning ways, the Red Sox will be aided on the mound by a pitcher in Doubront who has been something of a pleasant surprise in what has thus far been a disappointing season for the team.

Through three starts, Doubront has a 3.94 ERA, along with 20 strikeouts to seven walks, although all three of his starts have resulted in no-decisions. The left-hander is coming off what might have been his best outing of the season, going six innings and giving up one earned run with seven strikeouts, though he ultimately had nothing to show for it as the Red Sox surrendered a 9-0 lead heading into the sixth inning to lose 15-9 to the Yankees on Sunday.

Doubront has never pitched against the White Sox or in U.S. Cellular Field in what is now his third MLB season. In career road games, he has been less than stellar, going 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 11 games, only one of which has been a start. That start came in his first start this season on April 9 against the Blue Jays, a game in which he threw five innings and gave up two earned runs.

In addition to never having faced the White Sox in his career, Doubront has never faced a single hitter in the White Sox lineup. Through 17 games in the 2012 season, the White Sox have proven to be a fairly average offense, ranking eighth among American League teams in batting average with the team batting .248.

Humber, the third overall pick in the 2004 MLB draft, has bounced around to four teams since debuting with the Mets in 2006, but he’s coming off the signature moment of his career as he threw the 21st perfect game in major league history against the Mariners.

That performance came in his second game of the season. In his first start, Humber wasn’t quite perfect, but he did have an impressive outing as he went 5 1/3 innings and gave up only one earned run with seven strikeouts against the Orioles. However, as with Doubront against the Yankees, the White Sox squandered a late lead by giving up six runs in the ninth inning, eventually losing 10-4. For the season, Humber is 1-0 with a 0.63 ERA, 16 strikeouts and three walks in two outings.

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Closing Time: Red Sox hold off Twins to earn sweep

04.25.12 at 11:43 pm ET
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The Red Sox came away with their first series sweep of the season, winning their third straight game against the Twins at Target Field, 7-6, Wednesday night.

The Sox weathered some anxious moments, watching a six-run lead cut to one thanks to Minnesota’s five-run fifth inning. But Matt Albers would get the final two outs in the sixth, with Vicente Padilla (seventh), Franklin Morales (eighth) and Alfredo Aceves (ninth) all pitching scoreless frames in nailing down the Red Sox’ seventh win of the season.

The final moments weren’t without some anxiety for the Sox, however, with Aceves allowing the Twins to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Denard Span to pick up the save.

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


‘€¢ Albers came up big in the sixth inning, getting Sean Burroughs to ground into an inning-ending, 6-3 double play. Albers had come on with one out and the bases loaded for the Twins, immediately giving up an RBI single to Trevor Plouffe. But with the bases still loaded, Albers came back to get out the inning, allowing the Red Sox cling to a one-run lead.

‘€¢ Mike Aviles continued to impress, launching his fourth home run of the season in the second inning against Twins starter Liam Hendriks. The no-doubter to left field drove in three and gave the Red Sox an early 4-0 lead.

‘€¢ Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued to find his way offensively, this time coming up with a two-run single in the third inning. The catcher has hit in four straight games to raise his batting average to .244.

‘€¢ Dustin Pedroia notched his second three-hit game of the season, extending his hit streak to five games.


‘€¢ Cody Ross was forced to leave in the fifth inning after experiencing left knee soreness. Ross, who had notched a hit, RBI and run in three at-bats, was replaced in left field by Darnell McDonald.

‘€¢ Justin Thomas had a rough night, not only not retiring either of the two batters he faced in the sixth, but also hitting Twins first baseman Chris Parmelee in the head with a 93 mph fastball. After being attended to by the trainers, Parmelee left the game under his own power.

‘€¢ For just the fourth time in 17 games, David Ortiz went hitless. The DH did draw a walk and scored a run.

‘€¢ Clay Buchholz still hasn’t found his groove, this time needing 107 pitches to get through just 5 1/3 innings. The Sox starter finished having allowed five runs on 10 hits, striking out two and walking three. It was just the third time in his career the hurler has allowed 10 or more hits. Buchholz, whose ERA stands at 8.87, has given up at least five runs in each of his four outings this season.

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