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Closing Time: Justin Masterson, 6-run third inning lead Red Sox to series finale win over Phillies

04.09.15 at 10:16 pm ET
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Justin Masterson pitched six solid innings in the Red Sox' win Thursday over the Phillies. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Justin Masterson pitched six solid innings in the Red Sox‘ win Thursday over the Phillies. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

After their bats were silenced Wednesday night, the Red Sox bounced back Thursday by scoring six runs, although it just wasn’t in as exciting fashion as Monday’s five home runs on Opening Day.

Their six runs came on just one extra-base hit and poor Philadelphia defense (three errors), but it was more than enough to top the Phillies, 6-2. The Red Sox took two-of-three in the first series of the year.

The Red Sox got all the runs they needed in the third inning off Phillies starter David Buchanan — scoring six runs, all of them coming with two outs. Following back-to-back infield singles from David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval walked to load the bases. Shane Victorino then reached on an infield single, and picked up his first RBI of the season as Ortiz scored on the play. Ryan Hanigan walked on four pitchers forcing in a run — the second of the inning without a ball leaving the infield.

With the bases still loaded and two outs, Xander Bogaerts cleared the bases with a bloop hit to right field where Jeff Francoeur misplayed it into a triple. The Red Sox finished off the scoring with a Justin Masterson RBI single up the middle.

Masterson made his first appearance in a Red Sox uniform in 2,080 days (July 29, 2009) and gave the Red Sox their third straight good outing from their starting pitcher to open the year.

He picked up the win by going six innings, allowing just two runs and striking out seven.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Masterson pitched very well in his first start in a Red Sox uniform in more than six years. He went six innings allowing two runs on just three hits, while walking two and striking out seven on 95 pitches. The two runs both came in the third, the only inning where he had any issues. The seven strikeouts illustrated how in command Masterson was not just of his fastball and sinker, but his slider as well.

“I don’t even know what the strikeout totals were, but just being able to see that slider, being able to mix that slider in for strikes, is a really good equalizer for me,” Masterson said. “That really helped out, being able to mix in some sinkers, change that speed a little on those guys and have a little bit of command, it’s just good. It was tough for them.”

Here’s a look at what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ second win of the season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

— After doing nothing in the first two games, Bogaerts reached base five times. Besides his triple, he singled twice, reached on an error that could’ve been scored a hit, and walked. It was a much-needed confidence boost for the young shortstop, who followed up a tough spring training by being dropped to eighth in the batting order after just one game.

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John Farrell ‘leaning towards’ starting Joe Kelly against Yankees on Saturday

04.09.15 at 6:21 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

PHILADELPHIA –€“ The Red Sox are ready to alter their rotation for this weekend’s series in New York, with Joe Kelly looking like Saturday’s starter.

Manager John Farrell wouldn’t commit definitively to Kelly, but he’s clearly leaning that way after the right-hander came out of a side session on Wednesday feeling strong. The original plan had been for knuckleballer Steven Wright to start on Saturday, with Kelly getting a final tuneup start at Single-A Greenville.

“After his bullpen yesterday, it looks like he’€™ll be ready to go by Saturday,” Farrell said. “That obviously is a change, so there will be a roster move prior to that start time on Saturday. We’€™re leaning towards Joe Kelly starting on Saturday.”

Kelly opened the year on the disabled list with a sore biceps and is eligible to return on Saturday. After a 6-2 victory over the Phillies on Thursday, Kelly said he’s ready to go.

“My body and arm and everything is physically there,” Kelly said. “It’s just a matter of that one rehab start [in Greenville], trying to build pitches up, and being around 75 pitches my last time out, five up and downs, I should be able to get, I hope, to 90, and give the team a chance to win. After those 75 pitches and all those up and downs, my arm bounced back like it normally does. Then I went through my side session and everything checked out good. They felt comfortable letting me go and I felt comfortable.”

While Wright opened the season on the roster, Farrell said the club never officially ruled out Kelly for Saturday.

“Well, I think everyone involved, he and Joe, knew it was a possibility,” Farrell said. “We’€™d outlined that it was going to be Steven, prior to the bullpen that Joe threw yesterday, which was encouraging. Again, with another couple of games, we feel like Joe would be ready to start for us.”

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Red Sox lineup: David Ortiz, Shane Victorino return

04.09.15 at 3:22 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — With Phillies righty David Buchanan on the mound, David Ortiz returns to the lineup for the Red Sox, playing first base and hitting cleanup.

Also returning to the Sox staring lineup will be right fielder Shane Victorino, slotting in at the sixth spot.

Here is the entire Red Sox‘ batting order, with Justin Masterson on the mound and hitting ninth:

Mookie Betts CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez LF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Shane Victorino RF
Ryan Hanigan C
Xander Bogaerts SS
Justin Masterson P

For all the matchups, click here.

Read More: David Ortiz, Shane Victorino,

Larry Lucchino on D&C: Rick Porcello’s contract extension shouldn’t come as surprise

04.09.15 at 9:34 am ET
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Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino joined Dennis & Callahan Thursday morning to discuss the open of the 2015 season, and also the recent contract extension of pitcher Rick Porcello. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Porcello inked a four-year extension for $82.5 million on Monday. The right-hander is 26 years old, and a major reason for the organization extending him now was to get a pitcher in his prime years, as opposed to signing a pitcher closer to age 30.

“I think it shouldn’t surprise you, we’ve been talking for really for years of the prime time [of] pitchers in their 20s,” Lucchino said. “There are a lot of very good reasons for this contract. We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out, as there are no guarantees in this game, but Rick has the right stuff in both personality and character and pitching. He has a track record. He’s a guy that our pitching evaluators and our health evaluators are very strong opinionated about. He is 26 years old. I would also say you might have to step back a little bit and look at the entire portfolio of contracts that we have.

“We don’t have many long-term contracts and with this four-year extension we will have Rick for five years and we gave up a very good player to get him in [Yoenis] Cespedes. We will have Rick Porcello around for some time and that will give us a longer term contract that balances out the portfolio of contracts so you just don’t have all short-term contracts or too many long-term contracts. We have a pretty healthy balance in our player contract portfolio.”

As part of announcing his extension on The Players’ Tribune website, Porcello had a number of positive things to say of the Red Sox organization, including their Winter Weekend at Foxwoods in January.

“I did read that and I did think that was a very thoughtful and positive piece,” said Lucchino. “In fact I made sure it was distributed to folks in our front office to get a sense of it because there was a lot about it that was positive — his general view of how much we care about winning, the steps we take to make sure our players can be at their best. It was one little footnote to it that we enjoyed — we had our Winter Weekend for the first time this year and it was at that Winter Weekend that Rick got to know some of his teammates and he made specific reference to it as a way that he saw how this organization is set up and the personalities of his teammates and got a sense of both comfort and confidence from that Winter Weekend. For us that Winter Weekend was an experiment in late January to bring some baseball fever to our fans and it was enormously successful. It had a very important team building element to it.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, Larry Lucchino, rick porcello

Thursday’s Red Sox-Phillies matchups: Justin Masterson vs. David Buchanan

04.09.15 at 8:17 am ET
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In the series finale between the Red Sox and Phillies, during which Boston will look to make up for its 4-2 Wednesday night loss, Justin Masterson and David Buchanan will take the mound for their respective clubs.

Though Masterson technically is a newcomer to the Sox, and one of the various additions the team made to the pitching staff in the offseason, he is not an unfamiliar face. The 6-foot-6 right-hander was chosen by Boston in the second round of the 2006 draft, but he was traded in July of 2009 to the Indians with Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price for Victor Martinez. Midway through the 2014 season Masterson was traded to the Cardinals for James Ramsey, and while in St. Louis he struggled.

Battling myriad injuries last season, Masterson recorded some of the worst numbers in his career. His ERA hovered around six for much of August and September, falling to 5.88 by his final start. In addition, on all but one of his pitches Masterson’s velocity fell. His sinker decreased from 91.1 mph in 2013 to 88.5 mph in 2014 and, similarly, his slider and four-seamer dropped by two and 2.8 mph, respectively.

“There was never really a point where everything was right,” Masterson said at the beginning of spring training. “I was trying to tough guy through it, which probably isn’t the smartest thing to do, but it’s a great learning experience.”

With health and a one-year, $9.5 million contract with incentives on his side now, the 30-year-old will look to get back to his prior form in doing what most of the Sox rotation this year is doing: getting batters to ground out.

And he’s been relatively successful so far. In six starts and 23 innings of work over the course of spring training, Masterson posted a 3-1 record and a 3.52 ERA. He issued 10 strikeouts but allowed batters to reach base on walks seven times, about once every three innings. The real test will come Thursday evening when he gets his first taste of regular season action in 2015.

Masterson has started two games against the Phillies, appeared in four and registered a 5.56 ERA in just 11 1/3 innings pitched against them. He has allowed 13 hits, five walks and seven earned runs, though he has nine strikeouts in that time as well.

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Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Even in Triple-A, Pawtucket Red Sox all about winning

04.09.15 at 8:00 am ET
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Garin Cecchini

Garin Cecchini

Most of the time the minor leagues is more about developing players rather than winning games, but don’t tell that to the 2015 Pawtucket Red Sox.

The PawSox have eight players on the roster who appeared in a major league game in 2014, and have eight of the top 10 prospects the Red Sox system, according to Baseball America.

There is no question the team is talented, but that doesn’t mean much to third baseman and No. 10 ranked prospect in the Red Sox system, Garin Cecchini.

“It is,” he said of the team having a talented roster. “We look good on paper, but that doesn’t mean [expletive], you know what I mean? We just need to play. We need to play and help each other win. It doesn’t matter how you look on paper.”

Pawtucket has appeared in the Governors’ Cup three straight years — winning it in 2012 and 2014 — so the PawSox are no stranger to winning.

Even spending the past two Opening Day’s in the majors, Jackie Bradley is also putting a major emphasis on winning.

“I think we all want to win,” said Bradley. “That is always the main focus. Your mind set is to win and do your best. Ultimately we all want to play at the major league level.”

While Cecchini may come across as serious with saying it doesn’t matter what the team looks like on paper, he is arguably the most fun player on the PawSox team. As shown with the smile that never left his face when being called up to the Red Sox last year, Cecchini is a guy who loves playing the game and loves having fun.

“I like to have fun,” Cecchini said. “There is a place and time to have fun, like right now you can have fun. After a loss you can’t have fun. I like to have fun because you’re going to die one day and what are you going to look back on? Are you going to have fun in your life or are you just going to sit back and mope around?”

OTHER RED SOX AFFILIATES

— With all the top prospects in the system in Pawtucket, Double-A Portland doesn’t have as strong of a team as they’ve had in years past. The top prospect currently with the Sea Dogs is utility player Carlos Asuaje. With High-A Salem last year he hit .323 with an on-base percentage of .398. Portland may see their best players later in the summer with potential call ups from High-A Salem.

— Speaking of High-A Salem, the team opens the year with a loaded roster. 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball is coming off his first full year in the Red Sox’ organization and the tall left-hander drafted out of high school is poised for a breakout year. The same goes for 2013 second-round pick Teddy Stankiewicz. The right-hander went 11-8 with a 3.72 ERA with Greenville last year and is looking to build off that this year. After being drafted in the second-round of last year’s draft, first baseman Sam Travis only needed 27 games with Single-A Greenville to now open the year with High-A Salem. Travis hit .290 with three home runs and 14 RBI in those 27 games after being drafted out of Indiana University last June.

— Single-A Greenville is also filled with top prospects. First-round picks from last year, third baseman Michael Chavis and hard-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech headline the roster. Another name to keep an eye on is 18-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers. The No. 6 ranked Red Sox prospect according to Baseball America has tremendous power, which he showcased in the Florida Gulf Coast League last season.

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Read More: garin cecchini, jackie bradley, michael chavis, sam travis

Jonathan Papelbon: Philadelphia fans will never embrace me

04.09.15 at 1:22 am ET
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Jonathan Papelbon picked up his 326th career save Wednesday night. (Getty Images)

Jonathan Papelbon picked up his 326th career save Wednesday night. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA — He had just finished his somewhat bizarre post-game press conference when Jonathan Papelbon sat down in front of his locker, took a deep breath and attempted to soak in what could be classified as a microcosm of his entire tenure as a Phillie.

There was a solid four-out save (bringing him within five of tying the Phillies’ franchise record), the trademark celebration after securing the final out and then another uneasy session with the media.

This time the conversation with those asking the questions involved both the pitcher’s thoughts on the Phillies’ 4-2 win over the Red Sox, and pre-game comments made to the Boston Globe saying he still didn’t feel like a Phillie. (To read a transcript of that entire press conference, click here.)

Then, talking for a few more minutes with WEEI.com, he tried to clarify some of the clarification.

“It’€™s different organizations. Different philosophies. Different front office. Different coaches. Different everything,” said Papelbon of the Red Sox and Phillies. “There’€™s two separate entities. I intend on going to the Hall of Fame. If I go to the Hall, I want to go as a Red Sox. That’€™s what I feel like I feel like I am. I have a world championship ring with them.

“It’€™s like when you ask somebody where they’€™re from. Where are you from? I’€™m from Baton Rouge. I moved when I was 12, but I still feel like that’€™s where I’€™m from. That’€™s where my roots are. The same deal with the Red Sox.”

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Jonathan Papelbon’s somewhat bizarre postgame press conference

04.08.15 at 11:17 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — It was pure Jonathan Papelbon.

The Phillies closer comes on to get Hanley Ramirez to end the Red Sox‘ eighth-inning threat with a bases-loaded, warning track fly out before locking down his first save of the season in his team’s 4-2 win over the Red Sox Wednesday night.

The game was punctuated with a Papelbon strikeout, leading to the closer’s triple-pump celebration. And then came his his postgame press conference, much of which dealt with the pitcher answering questions about a pregame statement suggesting he still wasn’t comfortable living life as a Phillie.

Here is a transcript of the conversation:

What did you think of Hanley Ramirez‘s fly ball when it left the bat in the eighth inning?

“Third out of the inning.”

Did you think it was gone?

“No, did you?”

I thought it might have been.

“So you thought it was gone?”

I thought it was going to be close.

“Fair enough.”

Was your mindset any different getting a four-out save?

“Not really. I think for me everything stays the same and I go out there and try do a job, and when I’m called on nothing changes.”

Coming in there in a pressure situation, bases loaded, fans cheering you, does it make you any more like a Phillie?

“Other than, a what? What is a Phillie? A horse? That’s what it is? I feel like a horse, yeah. I feel like a horse. I felt like a horse tonight.”

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Closing time: Rick Porcello makes one big mistake, Red Sox bats go silent in 4-2 loss to Phillies

04.08.15 at 10:03 pm ET
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Rick Porcello delivers against the Phillies on Wednesday night. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Rick Porcello delivers against the Phillies on Wednesday night. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA –€“ On Monday, Rick Porcello signed an $82.5 million contract. On Wednesday against the Phillies, he reminded us that he’s not your prototypical $20 million pitcher.

While Phillies counterpart Aaron Harang toyed with the Red Sox, striking out in eight in 6.2 shutout innings, Porcello made one mistake, and it cost him dearly.

Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur crushed a hanging slider with two on in the sixth to break a scoreless tie and boost the Phillies to a 4-2 victory.

One game after blasting five homers in an 8-0 whitewashing, the Red Sox did nothing offensively on a cold, raw, wet night.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval provided virtually all of the team’s offense with a pair of singles (though he also made a costly throwing error that led to a run). One of the Red Sox‘ best chances to score came in the seventh, when Dustin Pedroia walked and Sandoval followed with his second single.

But Hanley Ramirez flew out to center at the end of a lengthy at-bat to finish Harang’s night, and Mike Napoli lined out to short, with Pedroia getting doubled off second to end the inning.

For most of the night until that point, Porcello looked like the pitcher the Red Sox had hoped to see when they extended him on Monday. He forced 11 groundouts vs. just two flyouts, kept the ball down, and seemed on his way to keeping the Phillies in the park.

But the winning rally showcased one of the drawbacks to relying on a sinkerballer who doesn’t record big strikeout numbers. After a Darin Ruf one-out walk, Philly’s Cody Asche singled on a grounder just out of Pedroia’s diving reach.

Francoeur’s homer followed, and that was it for the Red Sox. Porcello allowed six hits and three runs in six innings, striking out four and walking two.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Francoeur’s homer may have won it, but the Phillies wouldn’t have been in that position without the effort of Harang, a 14-year veteran coming off a 12-12 season with the Braves. Harang kept Red Sox hitters off balance and let the weather knock down a couple of long fly balls from Mookie Betts as the Sox failed to duplicate Monday’s performance.

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Somber David Ortiz says Marathon bombing verdict won’t bring victims back

04.08.15 at 5:52 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — David Ortiz memorably told a packed Fenway Park and rapt television audience, “This is our (bleeping) city,” in response to the Marathon bombings.

But defiance yielded to a somber acknowledgement of reality on Wednesday when Ortiz was asked for a reaction to the news that surviving bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been found guilty on all 30 counts in federal court.

“I don’€™t know, man,” Ortiz said. “What can I tell you? I mean, it doesn’€™t matter. It’€™s not going to bring those people who lost their lives back. It is what it is.”

Ortiz was in no mood to celebrate the conviction of a murderer who took the lives of four people, and had little to say on the possibility of Tsarnaev receiving the death penalty.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not a judge.”

Teammate Shane Victorino, however, was more pointed in his thoughts.

“Anytime the system finds a guy who committed, to me, an evil act, it’s a sad and a day we’€™ll all never forget, especially being an athlete,” Victorino said. “Individuals who lived in that city, people from that city people who were’€¦ things you look back upon. I’€™m very happy that was the verdict, he was found guilty. Obviously the sentencing on what is going to happen hasn’€™t been made, but I think for me it’€™s a happy day in regards to finding this individual who committed this sinful and evil act, guilty of all the charges he was charged with.”

Read More: David Ortiz, Shane Victorino,
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