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Junichi Tazawa starts the road back

04.11.11 at 9:51 am ET
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Red Sox right-hander Junichi Tazawa, who missed all of 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, pitched in a game setting for the first time since undergoing the procedure. In an intrasquad game in Fort Myers, the right-hander threw 27 pitches while facing eight batters, striking out three and not allowing a base runner. His fastball velocity registered as high as 89 mph — still below his low-90s velocity of 2009, but close to his pre-surgery form as he continues to build arm strength in his comeback.

The 24-year-old is currently on the 60-day disabled list. While he is likely to spend much of the year in the minors, he could end up providing the Sox with either bullpen or rotation depth later in the year. In his first (and only) professional season in 2009, he went 9-7 with a 2.55 ERA in 20 minor league starts at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, then went 2-3 with a 7.46 ERA in six big league appearances for the Sox.

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Nuggetpalooza: Sunday Night Nuggets!

04.11.11 at 9:39 am ET
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Lots of interesting stuff happened last night at a raucous Fenway Park, but most of it was Josh Beckett related:

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* – Some quick notes on Josh Beckett’s specific pitches last night (via Brooks Baseball): Beckett ended 13 atbats with his curveball last night, all against left handed batters, resulting in 0-for-13 with five strikeouts. He got one or two outs via his curve in all eight innings that he pitched… Beckett also threw 18 changeups, all to lefties, and found the strike zone on 11, resulting in 0-for-4 with one strikeout… In two starts, opponents are now 0-for-17 against Beckett’s curve, 0-for-11 against his changeup, and 7-for-31 (.226) with five of his six walks against his fastball… Overall, 81 of  Beckett’s 102 pitches last night were to left handed hitters.

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* – The YankeesCC Sabathia allowed 14 Red Sox to reach base last night, but allowed only one run. It was the first time in the majors since 2007 that a pitcher had allowed 14 or more baserunners and fewer than two runs.

Note this: The last time that a Yankee pitcher had such a start? Ron Guidry in 1982. The last time that an opposing pitcher had such a start against Boston? Baltimore’s Mike Mussina in 1993.

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* – Before taking the loss last night, Sabathia was 23-0 as a member of the Yankees when allowing one or zero earned runs.

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* – Last night, Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon combined to retire the first Yankees batter in all nine innings. It was the first time in 2011 that Sox pitchers have done it after it happened six times last year, four times in 2009, six times in 2008, and 10 times in 2007.

Note this: Not included above is last September 26, where Red Sox pitchers retired the Yankees first batter in each of the first nine innings, but allowed him to reach in the 10th inning. If you include that game, then it means that Red Sox pitchers have done it to the Yankees in three of the last nine games played between the two teams (and gone 2-1 in those games).

And this: The Red Sox have won three in a row and 14 of their last 19 when they’ve not allowed any leadoff batters to reach base.

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* – Beckett fanned 10 Yankees last night, the 11th time in his career (and sixth time as a Red Sox) that he’s struck out 10 or more in a game. Red Sox career leaders in double digit strikeout games:

72 – Pedro Martinez
68 – Roger Clemens
14 – John Lester

Note this: Beckett had not struck out 10 or more in any of his last 35 starts prior to last night.

And this: Beckett had fanned six through the first four innings last night. Prior to that, he had struck out six or more in just 10 of his last 22 starts.

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* – Boston now has seven RBI with the bases loaded in 2011, and Marco Scutaro has four of them. Since the start of last season, Scutaro is 9-for-16 with the bases loaded (.563), the third highest average in the majors in that span (min. 15 bases loaded AB):

.647 – Vladimir Guerrero (11-for-17)
.611 – Robinson Cano (11-for-18)
.563 – Marco Scutaro (9-for-16)

Hmmmm. All three in the AL East.

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* – Last night was just the fourth time since coming to Boston that Josh Beckett has recorded an eighth inning out in April. What’s more, he went more than seven innings last season only once.

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* – Beckett’s “game score” last night was 87, his second best mark since coming to Boston. The only better score (88) came in 2009 when he fired a three-hit shutout at Kansas City.

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* – What a change from Beckett’s recent history: Over last year plus this year’s first start, Beckett’s ERA in the first three innings was 3.74. His ERA from the fourth inning on: 7.49.

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* – After hitting just 24 line drives (the fewest in the AL) in their first eight games, averaging  just 3.0 per game, the Red Sox had nine liners last night. It was just the second time in their last 47 games that they’ve had nine or more line drives.

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* – The Red Sox used their eighth different batting order in nine games this season, which is on pace for their most ever in a season, set last year:

143 – 2010 (no batting order was used more than five times)
141 – 2004 (no order was used more than four times)
140 – 2000
136 – 2001

In 1984, the Red Sox used only 42 different lineups and the exact same one was used in 66 different games that season!

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Dustin Pedroia ‘wills’ Red Sox to important win

04.11.11 at 1:13 am ET
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With the Red Sox offense spinning its wheels, Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro were the two who jumpstarted the engine Sunday night in a 4-0 blanking of the Yankees at Fenway Park.

It’s not that the Red Sox ripped the cover off the ball. After all, they left an amazing 16 runners on base. But when it mattered this weekend, with the Red Sox desperately needing to take at least 2-of-3 to regain some momentum after an 0-6 start, it was Pedroia who really produced.

The 2008 AL MVP had three hits in each game, finishing 9-for-13 with four runs scored. The Red Sox improved to 2-7, four back of Baltimore in the AL East.

“The way I think about it, we’€™re four games out of first place with 153 to go,” Pedroia said. “That’€™s a long-ass way away. I’€™m not very smart, but it looks doable. What do you think? Arizona State education, it paid off.

“We’€™re just going to come out and play. In like the sixth inning, I was looking up at the [standings] board out there. We’€™re four games out now with 153 to go. That’€™s the reality of everything. Everybody knows what type of team we have. The expectations, everyone told us how good we were and we went to Texas and they punched us right in the mouth. We’€™ve go to respond to it. The best we can do is go out there and play.”

Scutaro reached base all four times and had the game’s biggest hit after his teammates failed time after time with runners in scoring position. Scutaro, who drove in two with a bases-loaded double in the seventh, couldn’t agree more with Pedroia’s read of the situation.

“It’s contagious,” Scutaro said. “When you hit, it gets contagious. When you get in a slump, it’s contagious, too. There’s too much talent on this team not to win a lot of games. Losing streaks, we’re going to have it sooner or later, maybe in the middle of the season. It’s 162 games. Unfortunately, we got it in the beginning so that kind of makes it look a little worse. We just got to pray to stay healthy. If we stay healthy, we’ll be fine.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek

Closing Time: Red Sox 4, Yankees 0

04.10.11 at 11:08 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona often talks about how he wants “Beckett to be Beckett.” On Sunday night against the Yankees, that wish was granted.

Josh Beckett was as good as he has ever been as a member of the Red Sox. Against a stacked Yankees lineup, he was simply overpowering. He tossed eight shutout innings, allowing just two harmless singles while striking out 10 (the 11th double-digit strikeout game of his career, and first since July 27, 2009).

It marked the first time as a member of the Red Sox that Beckett had ever punched out at least 10 while not giving up a run. But even that failed to encapsulate his overpowering performance.

He recorded 24 outs. Of those, 10 came via punchout, and another 11 were via groundball. The Yankees could barely touch him, and when they did, they could produce nothing but the weakest of contact.

With Beckett at his best, he gave the Sox not only a 4-0 victory, but also their first series win of the year — against the Yankees, no less. The performance was as encouraging a sign as the Sox have seen all year.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–For a starting rotation that desperately needed some cause for optimism, Beckett delivered in spades. The right-hander was overpowering while working primarily with a variety of four- and two-seam fastballs (the pitch that starts at a left-hander’s belt buckle and sweeps back over the plate, a signature of Beckett’s 2009 success) as well as a hammer curve and mixing in enough changeups and cutters to unbalance the Yankees.

The contest marked just the fifth time in Beckett’s Red Sox career that he has thrown eight or more shutout innings, and just his sixth game since joining the Sox in 2006 with 10 or more strikeouts.

Dustin Pedroia remained red hot on the Sox homestand. He collected three hits in all three contests against the Yankees, going 9-for-13. He became the first Red Sox since Kevin Youkilis in 2009 to collect at least three hits in three straight games. The record such streak for the Sox is four straight games of 3+ hits, achieved six times since 1919 — most recently by Edgar Renteria in 2005.

Marco Scutaro, who had a day off on Saturday, enjoyed a terrific game, reaching in all four of his plate appearances, including three against CC Sabathia. Scutaro had a single and two walks, but his biggest hit came in the bottom of the seventh, when he ripped a bases-loaded, two-run double into the left-field corner against Joba Chamberlain.

Scutaro is now 9-for-16 with the bases loaded as a member of the Sox. On Sunday, he bumped up his OBP from .182 to .308.

–Though it happened before the game, the Sox and pitcher Clay Buchholz described a four-year contract extension (which includes a pair of option years and could keep the right-hander in Boston through 2017) as a win-win. For more on why and how the deal was consummated, click here. For complete details of the deal, click here.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The Red Sox continued their dismal performance with runners in scoring position. One day after they went 1-for-17 in such situations, the Sox were a meager 3-for-13 with such opportunities. While that was enough for them to win, they will find it hard to sustain success on nights when they strand 16 (!) runners.

–The Sox, in fact, proved innovative in their efforts to squander. The Sox very nearly wasted their best scoring opportunity of the day on a base runner’s interference call. In the bottom of the third inning, with the bases loaded and no outs, David Ortiz hit into a tailor made double play. Rather than concede the two outs, Kevin Youkilis slid into Derek Jeter without making any effort to touch second. Youkilis was called for interference, which meant that both he and Ortiz were called out, and the remaining base runners were ordered to return to second and third. The Sox did manage to salvage a single run when Mike Cameron followed with an infield single, but in the absence of Youkilis’ play, the Sox might have been in position to score more than one run in the inning.

Carl Crawford continued his struggles. Though he hit two balls authoritatively — flying out to the warning track in left-center, and smashing a grounder into the glove of Robinson Cano with the Yankees infield drawn in — Crawford went 0-for-5 to conclude a three-game set against the Yanks in which he went 1-for-15 out of the leadoff spot. He still has yet to collect his first extra-base hit since coming to Boston.

Read More: carl crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett, marco scutaro

Terry Francona on Carl Crawford: ‘I don’t see any panic’

04.10.11 at 10:42 pm ET
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The struggles of Carl Crawford continued Sunday night in front of a national TV audience as he failed to get a hit in his five at-bats to lower his average to .132 on the season, including 1-for-15 in his first series against the Yankees as a member of the Red Sox.

“When he gets on base a bunch and starts creating havoc, he’s going to feel fine,” Sox skipper Terry Francona said. “Until that happens with a lot of guys, they’re searching a little bit. We had extra hitting [Sunday], that’s the best way I know how to remedy things like that. He went out there and hit. That’s what you do. It’ll fall into place.”

Will Francona say anything?

“I don’t think we pull him aside and tell him anything,” Francona said before Sunday night’s game. “I think in the normal course of a day’s events, you have your conversations and try to stay consistent. I think players smell when you’re telling them something you don’t normally tell them.

“It’s human nature but everybody is a little bit different. Everybody talked when Jason Bay came, how well he did and how he handled it. The fact that in his first game, he hit a ball off the wall, helps. You can’t just press a button and get hits or we all would. I think everybody is different.”

Between Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, it was Crawford whom many figured would have a more difficult time early on in Boston trying to adjust to the attention of signing a seven-year, $142 million deal in the winter.

“I think he is very conscientious but I don’t see any panic or anything like that,” Francona said. “This guy’s been playing a long time and he’s been playing in this division.”

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, jason bay

Terry Francona: Mike Cameron shows again why ‘he’s as professional as you can be’

04.10.11 at 9:39 pm ET
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Once again Sunday night, Mike Cameron showed that while he may not be the spectacular player he was a decade ago he can still deliver when Terry Francona needs him.

Following a what looked like a devastating 4-6-3 double play on an interference call on Kevin Youkilis at second base – keeping Dustin Pedroia at third – Cameron chopped a grounder into the new Fenway dirt and beat out Eric Chavez‘s throw to first, scoring Pedroia and giving Josh Beckett and the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.

The reason Cameron was even in the lineup to begin with was Francona’s decision to sit the struggling Jacoby Ellsbury against Yankees lefty ace C.C. Sabathia. Cameron was 8-for-16 lifetime against Sabathia while Ellsbury had just one hit in 13 ABs.

“I wanted to get Cam in there and Ells hasn’t had a lot of success,” Francona said before the game. “One through nine, against a guy like Sabathia, you’re not going to have nine guys who’ve really had their way with him. He’s one of the better pitchers in the game but I wanted to get Cam’s bat in there.

I know he’s trying to. He’s doing it as professionally as possible. I don’t want him to sit very often because he’s a big part of what we’re doing. Cam’s about as professional as you can be.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, C.C. Sabathia, Eric Chavez, Jacoby Ellsbury

Red Sox live blog: Marco Scutaro bases-loaded double breaks it open for Sox

04.10.11 at 8:13 pm ET
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Join Rob Bradford, Alex Speier, Mike Petraglia and others in following the Red Sox‘ series finale against the Yankees from Fenway Park.

Red Sox/Yankees Live Blog

Breaking down the Buchholz contract terms

04.10.11 at 6:04 pm ET
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Here is the breakdown of the four-year, $29.945 million extension that the Red Sox signed with Clay Buchholz:

Signing bonus: $1 million

2012: $3.5 million
2013: $5.5 million
2014: $7.7 million
2015: $12 million

The 2016 club option is for $13 million (with a buyout of $245,000), while the team option for the 2017 season is for $13.5 million (with a $500,000 buyout). The 2017 option increased to $14 million if Buchholz finishes either first or second in Cy Young voting during the contract.

The signing bonus and buyout of the 2016 option bring the value of the first four years of the deal to a guaranteed $29.945 million.Coupled with the $550,000 that Buchholz is making this season, Buchholz would be guaranteed $30.495 million from 2011 through 2015.

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Red Sox, Buchholz agree on four-year, $29.945 million extension

04.10.11 at 4:36 pm ET
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According to multiple Major League Baseball sources, the Red Sox have agreed to a four-year, $29.945 million extension with pitcher Clay Buchholz that will take effect in 2012. The extension includes two club options. (For year-by-year contract details, click here.) The 26-year-old wouldn’t have been eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season; with the deal, he will remain with the Sox through at least 2015, with the options covering the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.

Last season Buchholz went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA. The Sox starter has made two starts this season, the latest one coming Saturday afternoon with Buchholz surrendering five runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Buchholz told WEEI.com in February that he was open to a deal along the lines of the five-year, $30 million pact that Jon Lester signed with the Sox at a comparable stage of his career in 2009.

‘€œI think that would definitely be a base model for it ‘€” numbers-wise, security reasons, I think every player with less than three years of service time, that’€™s what they strive for,’€ said Buchholz. ‘€œI’€™m not saying I’€™m as good as Lester or I deserve what he got, but just from the other guys who signed their deal in the past year or so with the same service, I think that’€™s definitely a good starting point if there ever was one.’€

By waiting until the start of the season to sign a four-year, $30.5 million deal (on top of the pitchers $550,000 salary for 2011), the Sox will save in the vicinity of $1.6 million over what they would have had to pay in luxury taxes had they agreed to a five-year deal in the $30 million range with Buchholz in spring training.

The agreement was first reported by FoxSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi.

Red Sox vs. Yankees matchups — Beckett vs. Sabathia

04.10.11 at 2:43 pm ET
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In 2007, there was a lively debate about the best pitcher in the American League. John Lackey went 19-9 and led the junior circuit in ERA with a 3.01 mark for the Angels. Josh Beckett led the majors in wins, going 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA for the Red Sox. But it was CC Sabathia who won the Cy Young that year (with Beckett finishing second and Lackey third), on the strength of a season in which he went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA while logging a startling 241 innings for the Indians.

That said, the Sox and Beckett were more than happy to see the Cy go to Sabathia, who appeared to run out of steam in the postseason. Beckett, meanwhile, was dominant in pitching the Sox past both Lackey’s Angels and Sabathia’s Indians en route to the World Series.

Since then, it has been a tale of paths divergent. Sabathia was traded in the middle of the 2008 campaign to the Brewers, and then signed a seven-year, $161 million deal with the Yankees before the 2009 campaign. In three-plus years since he won the Cy, Sabathia has cemented his credentials as one of the top handful of pitchers in the game, performing at a level that has been both extraordinary and consistent. He has a 57-25 record and 3.04 ERA, and his durability and dominance has been matched during that span only by Roy Halladay.

Lackey has enjoyed success, though of a more modest variety. He has a 38-20 record and 4.20 ERA. He missed stretches of both the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and whereas Sabathia sustained his place as one of the game’s best pitchers after relocating to the American League East, Lackey has found the going tougher now that he resides in Boston. Beckett, though an All-Star in 2009, has endured periods of struggles with his performance on the mound and his health. Sabathia has logged more than 200 additional innings over Beckett.

So, the argument since 2007 about the identity of the best pitcher since that season has been fairly one-sided. All the same, the Sox will hope that, for a night, Beckett can balance the scales a bit. Beckett will take on Sabathia on Sunday night, at a time when the Sox are getting anxious for wins.

Sabathia is 4-1 with a 3.04 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 14 walks in eight starts against the Sox as a member of the Yankees. Beckett, meanwhile, is coming off a 2010 campaign in which he suffered his greatest misery at the hands of the Yankees, against whom he went 1-2 with a 10.04 ERA in five starts, which included the back injury that he incurred on a slippery Yankee Stadium mound.

Here’s a look at how Beckett has fared against the Yankees and at how Sabathia has handled the Red Sox. Of note: one would expect to see Mike Cameron in the lineup against his former teammate Sabathia, : Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: C.C. Sabathia, john lackey, Josh Beckett, mike cameron
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