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Terry Francona on The Big Show: The next two weeks may not be easy for us

08.18.11 at 3:57 pm ET
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With all the injuries affecting the Red Sox, manager Terry Francona appeared on WEEI’s The Big Show on Thursday before the team took on the Royals and didn’t shy away from the tough stretch his team has in front of it.

“The good news is we played ourselves into a position where we’re right smack in the middle of this and that’s great,” Francona said. “We may have to fight here. The next two weeks may not be easy for us. OK, that doesn’t mean we can’t win but sometimes winning is harder than the other times.”

Click here to listen to the entire interview.

The Sox placed Kevin Youkilis on the disabled list with a sore back and called up Ryan Lavarnway from Triple-A Pawtucket. Francona said that Lavarnway would primarily be used a designated hitter. He’s in that role for Thursday’s game and hitting seventh with Dustin Pedroia hitting fourth and Carl Crawford staying in the sixth spot. Jed Lowrie will play third and hit second and Mike Aviles will play shortstop.

“His lower back’s been bothering him for a while,” Francona said of Youkilis. “We left him back when we went to the airport to Kansas City we sent him to MGH, got some testing done. He got a shot in that back. Hopefully that will alleviate some of the symptoms. He’s just been so beat up and when he got to the back part it kind of overwhelmed him. So hopefully two weeks down will really allow his body come back and we can have the Youk that we need for the stretch drive.”

David Ortiz is also out for about a week with bursitis in his right heel and the manager said he was hopeful it wouldn’t linger past that point.

“I think that’s a fair hope,” Francona said. “He’s in that boot for a couple of days. The doctors want to get the pressure off that heel, keep him out of his spikes for sure for a couple of days. He felt really good, which I think [the training staff] kind of warned him this might hurt for a couple of days and it didn’t really hurt him so I think that’s a good sign. The one thing we don’t want to do obviously is get him back too quick. Hopefully we’ll only lose him for a week. If that’s the case, we don’t have to DL him. If it gets longer than that then you got to think about doing that.”

As for Adrian Gonzalez, Francona said the first baseman been bothered by a stiff neck “on and off, probably for a month.”

“It just doesn’t let him get extended all the time,” Francona said. “He’s played a lot. Everybody this time of the year is a little beat up. It doesn’t mean you can’t play, but sometimes it cuts into your production. That’s just the way it is. Every team deals with it. When you go through a [week] where you get nine hits in the whole [series] that’s when people start talking about it and we probably deserve it. Tampa kind of had their way with us. Fortunately Jacoby [Ellsbury] hits that home run or we might not have won a game, so that’s the good news.”

More highlights on Francona’s appearance after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Davis Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, ryan lavarnway

Thursday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Josh Beckett vs. Luke Hochevar

08.18.11 at 11:57 am ET
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The Red Sox and Royals open a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium Thursday night at 8:10 p.m. ET. Boston will send ace Josh Beckett to the mound to matchup against Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar. While Beckett certainly has the advantage on paper, he was out-dueled by Hochevar in their last meeting, a 4-3 Royals victory on July 28 at Fenway.

Beckett (9-5, 2.40 ERA) broke a string of five-straight quality starts on Saturday against the Mariners, allowing five runs on eight hits in a 5-4 loss. The rough outing brought Beckett’s ERA above 2.30 for the first time since May 4, although his current rating is still third-best in the majors. The loss against Seattle marked just the third time in the last three months the Red Sox have lost one of Beckett’s starts. One of those losses came against Hochevar and the Royals, when Beckett allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits over seven innings.

August has been the right-hander’s worst month so far this season, as Beckett’s gone 0-1 with a 4.24 ERA. He’s given up five home runs in his three starts this month and has allowed eight runs on 20 hits in 17 innings. Beckett has excelled at home, but his ERA is 2.79 on the road, compared to 1.95 at Fenway Park. However, he’s holding opponents to a .188 batting average in away games, while Boston visitors are hitting .209 against him.

The Royals rank sixth in the league with a .267 batting average, but are hitting just .239 in 128 plate appearances vs. Beckett. Melky Cabrera has faced Beckett 44 times, mostly from his days in New York, and is hitting .308 with three doubles, three walks and a team-high four RBIs. Billy Butler has the only Royals home run off the right-hander, but he’s only managed two other hits in 17 matchups. Alex Gordon hasn’t performed much better, going just 2-for-10 with four strikeouts against Beckett.

Hochevar (8-9, 4.89 ERA) started August with two impressive outings, lasting seven innings and allowing just one run against the Orioles and Rays. However, he was knocked around a bit in his last appearance against the White Sox, who scored five runs on eight hits, including two home runs, through six innings.

Last month, the Royals won all five of Hochevar’s starts, despite the right-hander’s 5.93 ERA in July. Hochevar benefited from an offensive explosion, as the Royals averaged nine runs per game in those five outings. At Fenway Park on July 28, Hochevar held the Red Sox to two runs on six hits over seven innings while striking out six hitters and walking one.

The Red Sox have handled Hochevar well in his four-year career, hitting .333 in 92 combined plate appearances. David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek each have home runs off the Royals starter, and Ortiz is tied with Jacoby Ellsbury with a team-high 4 RBIs. Ellsbury is hitting .313 vs. Hochevar in 17 plate appearances with two triples and a walk.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Josh Beckett, Luke Hochevar, Red Sox, royals

Red Sox prospect Noe Ramirez aims to reach big leagues ‘as quickly as possible’

08.18.11 at 11:45 am ET
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Monday night at midnight was the deadline for all draft picks to sign with their respective clubs that drafted them back in June. Many players waited until the last day to sign, including the Red Sox‘ fourth-round pick, right-handed pitcher Noe Ramirez from Cal State Fullerton.

“It was antsy, I was real antsy,” Ramirez said, just hours after arriving in Boston and reporting to the Lowell Spinners, the short-season Single A affiliate of the Red Sox, on Wednesday. “I just stayed positive. I talked to Gary Brown, a prospect with the Giants who I played with in college. He was in a similar situation and I just talked to him and he said everything would be fine. This is just how this business is. Monday was antsy for me, but I just want to get out here. I am glad it is all over with, I just want to play baseball.”

The deal got done early Monday evening, with Ramirez getting a signing bonus of $625,000. The Major League Baseball recommended bonus for a player drafted No. 142 overall is $180,000, but Ramirez received more than triple that, which is a reflection that the Sox believe that his talent was in line with that of a second-round pick.

Ramirez acknowledged that he was a little surprised with where he went in the draft.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Ramirez said. “I am not thinking about that anymore. I got drafted my the Red Sox. This was one of my top choices honestly, it has a lot of history and tradition. I feel like this is a blessing. It is surreal.”

Scott Boras is Ramirez’ advisor and the 21-year-old is happy and feels secure having a guy like Boras representing him.

“It is pretty cool,” Ramirez said. “They take care of their guys. They have a lot of experience and know what they are doing. It is good to have. I have a lot of trust in him.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, noe ramirez, Ricky Romero,

New Red Sox Jackie Bradley ‘ready for the adventure’ of pro ball

08.17.11 at 11:12 pm ET
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Thirteen minutes.

That was the how close center fielder Jackie Bradley, the Red Sox’ fourth overall pick and the No. 40 overall pick in the 2011 major league draft, came to returning to the University of South Carolina for his senior season rather than signing to turn pro with the Sox.

“I was very close, 13 minutes I would say,” Bradley said, just hours after landing in Boston and reporting to the Lowell Spinners, the Red Sox’ Short-Season Single-A affiliate. “I think 11:47 was when I officially became a Boston Red Sox.”

The deadline for draft picks to sign was Monday night at midnight. Bradley signed for a $1.1 million bonus, which is an amount roughly in line with the slot recommendation for the No. 30 overall pick.

For Bradley, the decision was based on the money and having both sides come together on an agreement.

“Just being able to meet inside the box to what I wanted the money to be,” he said. “That was all there was to it. Just meeting each other where we wanted to be, that’s all there was to it.”

Bradley’s family, especially his parents, played a vital role in the whole signing process.

“Definitely my family, but it was ultimately my decision,” Bradley said. “Me and my family talked and discussed things just like any other kid that talks to their Mom and Dad. It is no different. I wanted to talk to my parents and see what they had to say and what advice they could give me. They have a lot of maturity. It is something I will always do is go to my parents.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, jackie bradley,

Is Ryan Lavarnway about to get called up to the Red Sox?

08.17.11 at 10:17 pm ET
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The Red Sox are amidst a significant offensive drought, having just gone through three straight home games in which they managed just three hits in each contest — an unprecedented development in the franchise’s 111-year history. And with David Ortiz sidelined by bursitis for what the slugger hoped was “no more than a week,” the Sox are missing a major bat in the middle of their lineup. His absence has been felt. The Sox are also dealing with injuries to Marco Scutaro and Kevin Youkilis that have left their roster thin.

So, with Ortiz out, an obvious question emerged: Would the Red Sox consider calling up Ryan Lavarnway, the catcher who has been mashing all year in Double-A and Triple-A? After all, entering the day, Lavarnway was hitting .304 with a .386 OBP, .614 slugging mark, .999 OPS and 16 homers in 54 Triple-A games. He has 30 homers between Portland and Pawtucket this year in just 109 games.

According to a source familiar with the team’s thinking on Wednesday afternoon, the Sox were ready to consider such a move if one of their injured players would require a trip to the disabled list. The team would be unlikely to disrupt Lavarnway’s development as a player and catcher — and to shake up the roster — if a bat might be needed for just a couple days. But while acknowledging that Lavarnway still will require time to develop his defensive game, evaluators both inside and outside the organization have concluded that the 24-year-old is ready to face the highest level of competition as a hitter.

“I have no doubt he could go up [to the majors] and handle it offensively with his approach and swing,” farm director Mike Hazen said recently.

And, of course, the absence of Ortiz offers the perfect occasion for a potential call-up, since it could give Lavarnway a chance to DH while also working with catching instructor Gary Tuck and catchers Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

That being the case, it was noteworthy that Lavarnway — who was in the lineup and went 0-for-2 with a walk as DH on Wednesday — was lifted in the seventh inning for pinch-hitter Lars Anderson.

There is not yet official word about a call-up. Indeed, a team source suggested that Lavarnway’s exit from the Pawtucket game was precautionary. The team will evaluate its medical situation on Thursday to determine if anyone will land on the DL; if so, Lavarnway would seem the likely move. However, it would appear that a final determination hasn’t necessarily been made.

Even so, the fact that Lavarnway was removed from the game raises the intrigue about the possibility that he could soon be joining the Red Sox in Kansas City and making his big league debut.

For more on Lavarnway’s development this year, click here.

Read More: David Ortiz, ryan lavarnway,

Carl Crawford knows all about ‘starting from scratch’

08.17.11 at 7:15 pm ET
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Say this much, Carl Crawford has already proved he can overcome a hideous slump in a Red Sox uniform.

After all, he started the season batting .155 for the month of April. He had just a .234 mark heading into June. It appeared he was ready to break out in June before pulling his hamstring running out an infield grounder in an interleague game against the Brewers on June 17. He would miss the next month.

But he and the Red Sox had 142 million very good reasons not to give up on their star left fielder and so they were rightly rewarded when he found his groove immediately after a two-game rehab in Pawtucket.

When he came back, he came back on fire. He had two hits on July 18 in Baltimore, a stretch that began nice run to lift his average to .260 on Aug. 7, culminating with nine hits in 12 at-bats over three games against the Yankees.

But then came the latest road trip. He went 4-for-22 in Minnesota and Seattle. He came home and went 0-for-9 with three strikeouts against the tough Tampa Bay trio of James Shields, Jeff Niemann and David Price.

‘€œYeah, it’€™s tough to generate offense when you have three guys coming in pitching as well as they did in this series. They did a good job of pitching their game,’€ Crawford said.

All of a sudden, here come the questions again after four hits in 31 at-bats to drop his average to .249.

‘€œI was feeling good and this series, for some reason, I just wasn’€™t myself, whatever the reason was. I struggled this series. I guess I’€™ve just got to go back and watch some video and start from scratch again.’€

But then asked to clarify what he meant by starting “from scratch,” Crawford explained that he just needs to simplify things at the plate.

‘€œNot scratch, but you know, trying to simplify things and get back to the base of everything and just kind of go from there. sometimes you get out of whack a little bit and you’€™ve just got to make those little adjustments to get back to where you were at.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, David Price, james shields

Joe Maddon: The longshot Rays are still in it in the AL East

08.17.11 at 6:50 pm ET
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The standings reveal a daunting reality for a Tampa Bay Rays team that has won the AL East in two of the last three years. Even with their two victories in three games over the Red Sox in Boston, the Rays are still nine games behind the Yankees in the division and eight behind the Red Sox in the wild card.

Nonetheless, Tampa Bay has not given up. They remain convinced that they have an opportunity to climb back into the race. The basis of their faith is simple: They have the sort of dominant starting pitching that no one else in the division can claim.

David Price tossed eight shutout innings to conclude a three-game stretch in which Tampa Bay starters delivered two complete games and allowed five runs in 25 innings, good for a 1.80 ERA. On the year, Rays starters — despite their residence in the perilous American League East — have a 3.56 ERA that is second in the American League to the Angels (3.49).

The Red Sox? Their rotation has a 4.13 ERA that ranks eighth in the AL. The Yankees have a 3.78 mark that ranks sixth, and their starters aside from CC Sabathia are rarely capable of working deep into games.

And so, the Rays believe that their rotation of Price (3.59), James Shields (2.83 ERA), Jeff Niemann (3.29), Jeremy Hellickson (3.22) and Wade Davis (4.60) is capable of allowing Tampa Bay to go on the sort of roll that can wipe out even a huge deficit.

“The possibility of a really good run is there because of [the pitching]. Obviously we’€™d like to see the offense be a little more contagious and produce more runs. … If we could just get a little clumpy [on offense] for a couple weeks, pitch like this, we can go on a run,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “Leaving this place, our guys know that we can beat the Red Sox. We know we can beat the Yankees. And vice-versa ‘€“ they know that, too. so now it’€™s up to us to go out there and prove we belong in the playoffs again this year. We talked about it a lot in spring training: Prove it. I think we have a chance to prove we belong in the playoffs again this year. It’€™s not an easy shot, but believe me, I’€™m not giving up, and I believe our players aren’€™t giving up, either.”

The Rays have seven games left against the Sox and six remaining contests against the Yankees. Tampa Bay has taken six of 11 from Boston this year and five of 11 from the Yankees. Insofar as they have remained on a level playing field against the two teams in front of them, Tampa Bay feels like it still has a shot.

“I really believe to a certain extent we do rise above against this team and the Yankees. I don’€™t want that to be the case. I want us to rise above against everybody. But, there’€™s no question, when you play in this venue or the new Yankee Stadium, that venue, it should draw the best out of you. It should. Whatever your best is, it should pull it out of you,” said Maddon. “That’€™s what I think happens to us. I love that about our guys. We’€™re not intimidated by either place. We enjoy the moment in both places. That’€™s why I’€™m saying, man, if the pitchers stay hot like this and we put the offense together, it’€™s been done before.”

Read More: Joe Maddon, pennant race, tampa bay rays,
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