|05.25.12 at 4:06 pm ET|
Appearing on Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning, former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci called the mess surrounding 38 Studios a “comedy of errors” while placing blame on Rhode Island’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) as well as Curt Schilling. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio page.
“It’s going to go deeper. There’s a lot of accusations with insider deals now, with people involved in government who wanted this thing to happen,” Cianci said. “Just yesterday all the employees were laid off. Curt Schilling, according to the governor, has not been forthcoming with financial information and it’s just been a comedy of errors and it’s just an awful thing for the state of Rhode Island.”
Cianci, who served four years in federal prison for racketeering and now hosts a radio show in Providence, said there was not enough vetting and research done on Schilling’s company, and the judgment to give 38 Studios the loan happened too quickly.
“Even today we don’t have the information that is necessary to make determinations as to what course of action should be taken,” Cianci said. “The [Rhode Island] governor was on my radio show the other day and he said that Schilling was stonewalling the whole process, number one.”
Cianci added he believes part of the problem came from a fascination that surrounded Schilling.
“There’s people that were enamored with him, with the industry, with the opportunity for a quick fix, and create an industry that frankly they thought could boost the financial prowess of Rhode Island,” Cianci said. “And they were all wrong.”
The former Providence mayor said the EDC originally approached the legislature with an idea for a $50 million loan, available to any business, to help create jobs. But the EDC had $75 million added to the loan for Shilling, without notifying the legislature, Cianci said.
“That was a gathering of fools in that legislature,” Cianci said. “They were voting for something that they thought was for all businesses, but it really was just for Schilling. That’s what people are mad at.” Read the rest of this entry »
|05.25.12 at 12:45 pm ET|
MLB Network Analyst Kevin Millar appeared on Mut & Merloni for his weekly Friday spot to touch on Adrian Gonzalez‘s power issues, Bobby Valentine‘s creativity and Daniel Bard‘s velocity. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Millar recognizes that Gonzalez’s power numbers are down, but he isn’t worried.
“You know that at some point he will hit his eight to 12 home runs, go off, hit .447,” Millar said. “The common players aren’t of capable of doing that, and the superstars are. … I’ll never forget Manny Ramirez would always tell me that it’s that one good month. You could go out and hit three home runs, two home runs, and all of the sudden you pop eight. All of the sudden you’re healthy. All of the sudden you have 13 or 14 home runs in that first half because of that good month.”
Added Millar: “[The home run drought] weighs on you. … It’s not fun when you’re going through it. And I know that Adrian can say all the right things he wants in the media. But he knows he has to hit more home runs. You’re paid to hit more home runs. You’re paid to hit higher. You’re not paid to have common numbers.”
Millar is comfortable with Valentine’s decision to move Gonzalez to right field, and he even praised the creativity.
“You have to give some credit to Bobby Valentine for getting creative and figuring out a way to make this work,” Millar said. “As much as we been on Bobby at times for some of his decisions, it’s pretty crafty right now. OK, [Will] Middlebrooks, we’ll leave him at third. We’ve got [Kevin Youkilis] coming back, we’ll put him at first. Adrian, tip your hat to him, I’ll move to right field.”
|05.25.12 at 12:32 pm ET|
Matt Barnes no longer leads the minor leagues in strikeouts. He’s “slipped” all the way to third with 70 strikeouts (though he ranks second among minor league starters in strikeouts per nine innings with 12.4, behind only Red Sox prospect Henry Owens, who has 13.1 punchouts per nine), and on Thursday, he fanned a career-low three batters while getting saddled with his first professional loss, coming up on the wrong end of a 1-0 pitcher’s duel.
Yet in some ways, the fact that Barnes has struck out just eight batters in 12 innings over his last two starts is arguably more interesting than some of the dominating punchout lines that he forged so regularly in his first seven outings of the year. After all, he’s still dominated in his most recent two outings, giving up just one run (0.75 ERA) while striking out eight and walking one.
Barnes has now made four starts in High-A since his promotion from Greenville. After he gave up one run on five hits (two doubles, three singles) while topping out at 98 mph on the stadium gun, he has a 2-1 record and 1.13 ERA along with 28 strikeouts and just two walks in Salem. He has worked exactly six innings in each of his four starts, filling up the strike zone with a relentlessness that belies his relative inexperience. He is second in the minors in ERA with a 0.71 mark, opponents are hitting .161 against him and he’s given up just one homer this year in 50 2/3 innings.
He has been overpowering in his debut, in a fashion that has little precedent in the Red Sox system. And the fact that he was as good as he was on Thursday, even on a day when he didn’t strike out batters, suggests that his abilities are not one dimensional. He is not just reliant upon the swing-and-miss; he is also capable of getting bad contact while working down in the strike zone.
“He got outs last night by location and pitch execution,” Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker wrote in a text message, who praised Barnes for attacking the lower half of the strike zone while also noting that Barnes was able to work the inner half of the plate effectively, while finding the right spots in which to mix in a handful of changeups.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 WIN VS. TOLEDO (TIGERS) Read the rest of this entry »
|05.25.12 at 8:53 am ET|
Lester is coming off consecutive starts in which he has grabbed victories, his latest coming against the Phillies last Saturday. Although he picked up the victory, the outing was subpar as he gave up four runs on eight hits, including a two-run home run to Freddy Galvis in the fourth inning that narrowed the Red Sox lead to 5-4. Lester settled down, however, and preserved the lead as the Red Sox ultimately won, 7-5.
Friday’s game against the Rays marks the fourth attempt for the Red Sox to climb past a .500 winning percentage this season. They have lost their previous three attempts, including a 4-1 loss to the Orioles on Tuesday. For Lester, it marks the first time he can claim a winning record in 2012 after a rocky start. He currently stands with a 3-3 record and a 3.95 ERA.
In 20 career starts against the Rays, Lester is 10-6 with a 3.91 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 122 innings. His last start vs. Tampa Bay came on Sept. 17, 2011, when he was saddled with a loss after pitching seven innings and giving up four runs on five hits. In 191 combined plate appearances against current Rays batters, he’s holding them to a .226 batting average. Arguably the most successful Rays batter vs. Lester is Carlos Pena, who has hit five home runs and batted .270 in 47 career plate appearances.
The Rays will counter with Alex Cobb, who won his only start of 2012 last Saturday in place of injured starter Jeff Niemann. He threw seven innings, struck out six and gave up two runs on six hits as the Rays beat the Braves, 6-2.
Cobb, who grew up a Red Sox fan (he was born in Boston but moved to Florida at the age of 2), will be making his first major league start at Fenway. The 24-year-old right-hander made his major league debut on May 1, 2011, but was sent back down to Triple-A Durham following that start. He went on to make eight more starts in 2011, and for his career, he owns a 3-2 record with a 3.42 ERA.
Cobb has never pitched against the Red Sox, but has faced Mike Aviles three times, striking him out once.
|05.24.12 at 4:13 pm ET|
It is every pitcher’s least favorite topic when analyzing performance: a drop of velocity.
But Thursday morning, while attending an event to celebrate the launch of Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary commemorative album at the Hard Rock Cafe, Daniel Bard took some time to elaborate on one of the chief discussion points hovering around the Red Sox these days — the perceived disappearance of the pitcher’s calling card velocity.
For the season, Bard’s fastball is averaging 93 mph, four mph less than a year ago. But where the concern lies is the inability to amp his max velocity to even where it was at the beginning of the 2012 season, having maxed out at 94 mph Sunday afternoon in Baltimore.
So why is the case? Bard admits to be looking for answers. But in the meantime he offers some explanations, debunking some myths surrounding the topic:
THERE ARE TIMES HE IS ACTUALLY TRYING TO HIT 100 MPH
The perception is that while there an acceptance the velocity is going to drop while living the life of a starter, he should at least be able to revisit his flame-throwing glory days on occasion. So why hasn’t that been the case?
An example of when Bard was able to rear back and find that extra something came during the seventh inning of his May 8 start in Kansas City he fanned Brayan Pena on a 96 mph fastball, stranding runners on first and third while preserving a one-run lead. It was the last time the righty has touched 96 mph.
“That’s a good sign that it’s still there,” he said of the Pena at-bat. “But there is no reason I can’ t do that — and not necessarily sit at that velocity, but once an at-bat — there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to reach back for it. That’s kind of what we’re trying to figure out, what I’m doing mechanically differently that’s not allowing me to get up there. I’ll reach back 5-10 a game, trying to max it out. I’m just fighting myself mechanically right now.”
IT’S NOT LIKE HE PHYSICALLY CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE
Go back to Bard’s first start of the season, on April 10 in Toronto, and you’ll find 11 pitches which he threw 96 mph or better. That appearance also marked the only time in ’12 he has touched 98 mph (on first-inning fastball to Jose Bautista).
In the seven subsequent starts, Bard has hit 96 mph a total of 11 times.
When looking for the answer to this drop-off, the first thing that should be explored is the pitcher’s health. That, Bard said, is not a problem.
“I’m not sure what the difference is, quite yet. I went through a period probably three or four starts in where I was getting pretty sore, pitching in that cold weather which always makes you a little more sore,” he explained. “But honestly my body has felt great for the last three or four starts. It’s not really an excuse anymore. The body feels good. The arm feels good. Now it’s just a matter of finding what works. But I feel better than I have all year.”
ARM SLOT HAS BECOME A MAJOR ISSUE
As Bard explains it, the angle in which he is throwing the baseball has offered a dilemma.
“From inning to inning, even as a reliever, you’re trying to find an arm slot you’re comfortable with,” he said. “Even if it’s not perfect in the long run, you can make it work for an inning. You can do that as a starter, too, but it’s harder to do that throughout a game which is why I’ve been battling to find a slot. I throw more strikes from a higher slot at 90 or 91, and then there’s a lower slot I throw harder at. That goal is the happy medium, where I can be 93 and 94 with good command. It’s happen at times this year it’s been either at 90 with good command, or 95 where no idea where it’s going.”
When Bard’s arm drops down, that’s when some of the wildness has made an appearance, with the pitches often times finding themselves sailing to the top of the strike zone. Of the 146 pitches he has thrown 94 mph or better this season, 53 percent have found the zone. In comparison, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (who has thrown more 94 mph-or-better pitches than any pitcher in baseball), has hit the strike zone 57 percent of the time on his 233 96 mph-or-better offerings).
The Strasburg comparison is an interesting one due to the fact that he possesses the effortless delivery Bard has long been identified with, managing high velocity without altering mechanics. It’s a dynamic Bard is trying to rediscover.
“I’m trying to find that happy medium, I guess,” the Sox starter said.
RHYTHM MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT
The adjustments in going from reliever to starter have offered Bard a long list. But one important piece of the equation is figuring out how to bottle what went right and hold on to it for five days instead of just one.
“For me pitching is a lot about rhythm and having a consistent rhythm throughout your delivery,” Bard said. “The last few years with Gary Tuck we’ve used the beat system. Like from the stretch I’m three beats, and from the windup I’m four beats. You just want everything to be consistent and smooth. It’s just a matter of maintaining that. Sometimes it’s a little off and you have to fight through it, which seems to be the case the last couple of starts.
“When you find it as a reliever you feel it good one night and whatever those mental cues were that got you locked in that night you can use them again in two nights and everything kind of carries through. You try and simulate that with side sessions, but it’s just not the same. There’s a lot more time to think, more time to analyze everything. It’s not the same and that’s what I’m learning. Trying to find that consistency from outing to outing ‘ the physical aspects and the mental aspects.”
WHEN LOWER VELOCITY CAN ACTUALLY WORK
On Bard’s 131 pitches between 90-92 mph, hitters are totaling a .250 batting average. Conversely, from 93 mph and up the average escalates to .276. Not a huge difference, but proof that he can get hitters out with good command and movement.
A big part of making the lower velocity fastball work so well is offering the hitter a more difficult look. As Bard explained it, the key is extension. It isn’t dissimilar to what made Jonathan Papelbon’s fastball appear to jump the last five feet for much of his Red Sox career.
“If I get good extension out front I could hit 91 but get a swing that looks like it’s 97,” Bard said. “A 91 mph fastball thrown from the ear, short-armed, with no extension is a lot easier to hit than one with extension that’s coming at you.”
It’s all part of the equation. Now it’s up to Bard to uncover the final answers.
|05.24.12 at 3:52 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — It is typically a less-than-glamorous position to occupy. But in the last week, Che-Hsuan Lin has turned defensive excellence into an international phenomenon.
The outfielder has long received raves for the way he’s played outfield — primarily center field — while coming up through the ranks of the Red Sox farm system. He has great instincts for the ball, both in his jumps and his direct routes to exactly where the ball will fall to the earth, and the closing speed to roar across the outfield to vacuum an inordinate number of fly balls. Of course, there are those who would suggest that his ability to track balls is second only to the howitzer that is attached to his right shoulder.
“He’s got a cannon of an arm,” said Daniel Nava, who has played with Lin in three of the last four seasons in the minors. “He’s one of the best [outfielders] I’ve seen. He takes some routes on the ball that are pretty impressive. How he catches balls and the arm strength he has, arm strength and accuracy is pretty impressive. … He’s got one of the best [arms] I’ve seen.”
A number of those skills have earned Lin the international limelight in recent days. While with Triple-A Pawtucket, he made a pair of spectacular catches — one against the wall in center field, another while racing across right field and diving — against Hideki Matsui, thus ensuring that he would earn plenty of attention from the significant Japanese media contingent tracking the international superstar.
“When I was playing defense out there I didn’t think about who he is,” Lin explained through translator Mickey Jiang. “I got a good jump that day and I tracked that ball down and luckily I caught that ball.”
When the Red Sox called him up to the big leagues on Sunday, it commanded the attention of a Taiwanese media following, which stayed with Lin through the series in Baltimore and talked with him on a daily basis. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.24.12 at 11:03 am ET|
With closer Andrew Bailey working his way back from a thumb injury, Remy said Bobby Valentine should not be so quick to move Aceves from the closer spot if he is still pitching this well when Bailey returns.
‘The Bailey thing is down the road quite a bit,’ Remy said. ‘He is not even close right now. So many things can happen between now and then. But if it was today, I don’t think you would see a move.
‘I don’t think you would see Aceves move out of that spot because he has been so good.’
Aceves had a rocky start as fill-in Red Sox closer, failing to get a single batter out in his first two appearances and blowing a save in the process. However, he has bounced back well from the early season struggles and has converted his last nine save opportunities to give him 11 on the year.
‘He is really smart,’ Remy said. ‘He is a guy that when you are expecting certain pitches, you don’t get them from him.’
One thing that stands out to Remy is Aceves’ ability to succeed in longer save situations. Three of Aceves’ last four saves have been four-out saves.
‘The amazing thing to me is how durable he is,’ Remy said. ‘He can come in and pitch every day. He can get four outs for you. He can get six outs for you if you need it. And then he can come back and pitch the next day.’
|05.23.12 at 9:06 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — Adrian Gonzalez took some fly balls in right field in spring training, but he did not play a single inning there during Grapefruit League competition. Daniel Nava got in a few big league games near the end of camp, but otherwise spent the entire spring residing in minor league camp, a vantage point from which it was fair to wonder if he would ever again play a day in the majors. Scott Podsednik seemingly had a tenuous hold on a baseball career while in Phillies camp, awaiting an assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Che-Hsuan Lin was among the first Red Sox cuts in spring training.
To expect any of them to make significant contributions as outfielders in Baltimore on Wednesday would have defied probability. To see all of them do so? Impossible.
But the Red Sox have found themselves defying the laws of probability while dealing with their rash of outfield injuries. With seven outfielders on the disabled list, their depth has been decimated. And so, players who seemed unlikely candidates for duty in the outfield were conscripted.
A bit of play in right field during the interleague schedule seemed realistic for Gonzalez, but no one would have forecast the injuries to so many outfielders (Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Sweeney, Cody Ross, Darnell McDonald, Jason Repko) that he would be in right field in an American League park. Lin seemed likely to be spending most of the year in Pawtucket, working to refine his plate approach. Perhaps a September call-up would be realistic.
Nava? It would have been difficult to forecast his return to the majors, given that there were nine healthy outfielders in big league camp ahead of him on the depth chart. And Podsednik was off the radar completely, as he was in another organization.
But there were both Podsednik and Nava, creating an impact from the bottom third of the lineup. Both went deep, with Nava giving the Sox their first lead at 3-2 when he blasted a solo shot in the sixth inning and Podsednik delivering a single to score in front of a Kelly Shoppach two-run homer and then later delivering a vital insurance run of his own with a solo homer — his first since 2010 — in the eighth. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.23.12 at 4:06 pm ET|
For the fourth time this season the Red Sox are at .500, as their 6-5 win over the Orioles Wednesday improved their record to 22-22. They have yet to have a winning record this season, but they will have their chance to finally go above .500 when when they return home to face the Rays at Fenway on Friday.
All in all, it was the bottom third of the lineup who did the most damage for the Sox on Wednesday. Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik (who was making his first big league start since 2010) and Kelly Shoppach all homered for Boston, and the trio accounted for four of the team’s five RBI on the day. The other RBI came from the No. 6 batter in Will Middlebrooks.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a sacrifice fly from Chris Davis, but the Sox tied it in the top of the second when Podsednik grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. Nick Johnson hit the first of two homers on the day by sending an offering from Daniel Bard over the right field fence, but Middlebrooks’ double to left in the top of the third tied it once again.
Nava gave the Sox a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning with his second homer of the season, and Shoppach made it 5-2 with a two-run homer off Luis Ayala that scored Podsednik. Johnson would make it a one-run game in the bottom of the sixth by blasting his second homer of the game — this time a two-run shot off Andrew Miller — but the Sox were able to hold onto the lead and withstand an eighth-inning rally from the Orioles thanks to solid relief work from Rich Hill and Podsednik’s homer. Though Vicente Padilla stumbled in the eighth inning and allowed a run to make it a one-run game, Alfredo Aceves was able to come in and record the four-out save.
Bard tossed 5 1/3 innings for the Red Sox, earning the win on a day in which he allowed five hits and two earned runs. He walked four and struck out two while also hitting a batter and allowing the solo shot to Johnson. The Sox got to Baltimore starter Jake Arrieta for eight hits and four runs (all earned). Arrieta walked three and stuck out two in addition to allowing Nava’s homer.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Hill was lights-out in his brief appearance Wednesday. The Milton native came in to begin the bottom of the seventh inning and struck out both Luis Exposito (swinging) and Xavier Avery (looking) before being lifted in favor of Vicente Padilla. While Hill certainly looked sharp enough to face Robert Andino, Padilla was able to pick up where Hill left off by striking Andino out looking. The eighth inning was a different story for Padilla though, as he walked Nick Markakis and allowed a double to Adam Jones before being chased from the game by a Wilson Betemit sacrifice fly that could have done much more damage (see below).
– While Podsednik’s day didn’t get off to the best start, it ended up being a very good one for the veteran outfielder. Podsednik’s second at-bat as a member of the Red Sox had the potential for a big payoff, as he came to the plate with nobody out and the bases loaded in the second inning. Unfortunately for the Sox, Podsednik grounded into a double play that scored Kevin Youkilis but served as a wasted opportunity, as it would be the Sox’ only run of the inning.
Podsednik, who also had a sacrifice bunt in the game, did pick up his first hit of his Red Sox career when he lined one into right field with two down in the top of the sixth inning. He ended up scoring on Shoppach’s two-run homer, but the highlight of the day for the 36-year-old came when he hit a breaking ball from Darren O’Day to right field for a solo homer.
– As Alex Speier noted on twitter, Nava now has his first multi-homer season of his career. His solo shot to right to give the Sox a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth was his second dinger of the season and third of his major league career. Nava did not homer again in the 2010 season after blasting a grand slam in his first major-league at-bat.
– If there was concern about how Adrian Gonzalez could field the right field position, he took another step toward silencing those concerns in the bottom of the fourth inning. Gonzalez made a nice catch on a foul ball hit by Davis, pulling off the backhanded grab just a couple of feet before running into the wall in foul territory.
Gonzalez’ catch wouldn’t be the most critical to come in right field Wednesday, however. Che-Hsuan Lin, who came in previously as a pinch-runner for Youkilis an was moved to right field, saved the Red Sox’ bacon in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out and runners on second and third, Lin made diving catch on a ball hit by Wilson Betemit. While the play scored Markakis, it forced Jones to stay put at second. Had the ball fallen in, Jones likely would have scored and tied the game.
– After Shoppach was unable to throw out Xavier Avery stealing second with a throw that bounced in the bottom of the second inning, Bard was able to get Avery on the same at-bat. Bard spotted Avery breaking for third and lobbed the ball to Youkilis, who tagged the baserunner on the head to end the inning.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– The season-long walkathon for Bard continued, as he walked four Orioles in five innings on Wednesday. He now has 29 walks on the season compared to 28 strikeouts. Bard took over the team lead from Clay Buchholz (27 walks) in free passes Wednesday. In addition to walking four batters, Bard also hit Ryan Flaherty in the bottom of the second inning following Johnson’s homer. His lone strikeout of the game came in the bottom of the fifth inning, when he got Andino with an 0-2 breaking ball. He also struck out Jones, the final batter he faced in the bottom of the sixth inning.
– David Ortiz cost himself a base hit in the top of the third inning by not running hard out of the batter’s box. With nobody out and Dustin Pedroia on second inning, Ortiz grounded one into shallow right field that Flaherty, playing second base in the shift, could only knock down. Because Ortiz didn’t turn the jets on in time, Flaherty was still able to recover and throw him out at first. Ortiz went 0-for-5 with a strikeout on the day.
– Youkilis was thrown out at the plate to end the third inning after Middlebrooks lined a double into left field. The hit drove in Dustin Pedroia, but Youkilis, who was coming from first base, slowed up as he turned the corner from third base. He picked up the pace when he finally realized that third base coach Jerry Royster had been waving him home the whole way, but it was an easy play for Avery, whose throw made it Exposito well in advance of Youkilis.
|05.23.12 at 12:28 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — While imminent major league need played a part in the decision to move pitcher Alex Wilson from the rotation to the bullpen in April, the Red Sox, according to multiple team sources, believe that the pitcher’s future is in the bullpen. He has achieved the developmental goals that the team had in mind for him as a starter, foremost, the development of a changeup and the opportunity to learn how to mix pitches.
The landscape of team needs has shifted from what it was when Wilson was moved into the Pawtucket bullpen. The team now seemingly has a wealth of strong relief options, not just at the major league level (where the team has been tremendous over the last month, with a 1.70 ERA during the current stretch of 19 games in 19 days), but also in Triple-A, where Mark Melancon, Clay Mortensen and Junichi Tazawa (all of whom, unlike Wilson, are on the Red Sox 40-man roster) are all dominating. Meanwhile, the team’s rotation depth is suspect, particularly with both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Cook on the disabled list.
Yet even at a time when the need for starters is perhaps more acute than it is for relievers, the Sox have no plans to shuttle Wilson between roles. Instead, the organization will remain committed to his development as a reliever, anticipating that his long-term big league future will be in that role.
In nine relief appearances (each with at least two days of rest), Wilson is 3-0 with a 3.29 ERA, 16 strikeouts and six walks in 13 2/3 innings. The 25-year-old was 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA in three starts this season before his move to the bullpen.
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