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Red Sox vs. Indians matchups, 6/8

06.08.10 at 10:50 am ET
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When Tim Wakefield takes the mound against the Indians Tuesday night, he’€™ll look to throw the fifth straight quality start by Boston pitchers after Daisuke Matsuzaka extended the streak to four games with an eight-inning, no-run performance in Boston’€™s 4-1 win Monday. The Indians will try to get a quality start of their own from David Huff, who will be making his first start since taking a line drive to the head off the bat of Alex Rodriguez on May 29.

Wakefield (1-4, 6.02 ERA) will have a few issues of his own to deal with Wednesday. In his last two starts, he has allowed a total of 15 earned runs, causing his ERA to jump from 4.44 after an eight-inning shutout of the Phillies on May 23 to its current place at 6.02. In particular, Wakefield has struggled in the fourth inning. In the inning when most batters got to see the knuckleballer for the second time, opposing teams scored 11 of their 15 runs against Wakefield, including seven in the fourth inning alone in his last start against the Royals.

Luckily for him, the Red Sox elder statesman faces Cleveland Tuesday, a team he has performed very well against. He is 11-8 in his career against the Tribe with a 4.23 ERA. But he’€™s performed even better against this particular group of Cleveland players. No Indian with more than five career at-bats against him has a batting average better than .250. Cleveland designated hitter Travis Hafner has struggled the most against Wakefield’€™s knuckleball, going a team-worst 0-for-11 against the Boston starter.

Despite the Indians’ checkered past with Wakefield, at least some of the Cleveland hitters can claim to have seen him before. Most of the Red Sox cannot make the same claim about Huff, a pitcher only Marco Scutaro, Bill Hall and Mike Cameron, who were all free agent signings in the offseason, have faced. The Sox hitters, though, may not be the only ones worried about what’€™s coming at them, as Huff returns from the head injury caused by Rodriguez’€™ vicious line drive. It should be interesting to see how he reacts to his first live action since the incident.

Even though very few Sox hitters have faced Huff in the past, Sox fans should still watch for David Ortiz‘€™s at-bats against Cleveland’€™s lefty starter. Ortiz hasn’€™t gotten a hit in his last 17 at-bats and is just 2-for-23 so far in the month of June after being named the AL Player of the Month in May. Sox manager Terry Francona may be inclined to give Ortiz a day of rest and give right-handed batter Mike Lowell his first start since June 3.

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Read More: David Huff, Indians, Red Sox, Tim Wakefield

Red Sox tab Brentz, Ranaudo with sandwich picks

06.07.10 at 11:05 pm ET
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After they selected Ball State University’s Kolbrin Vitek with their first-round pick, the Red Sox used a pair of sandwich picks to take college players with high ceilings.

With the 36th overall pick, the Sox selected Bryce Brentz from Middle Tennessee University. Brentz hit .348 with a .440 OBP, .636 slugging mark and 15 homers in 46 games as a junior. While those numbers represented a slight drop from his 2009 numbers, when he set MTSU records for homers (28), average (.465) and slugging percentage (.930), the 21-year-old was still described by Baseball America as one of the top power-hitting bats in the draft. Brentz suffered a high ankle sprain in his junior season that he told the Sox did not affect his approach at the dish, but that he’d struggled while trying to regain his timing as he worked his way back into shape.

While the Sox said that there is no deal in place with Brentz, GM Theo Epstein said that there was a good chance that an agreement could be reached quickly. That prospect, in conjunction with the agreement with Vitek (an agreement that Epstein did not acknowledge), was encouraging to the GM.

“[Vitek and Brentz] have a chance to sign and get out quickly,” said Epstein. “It’s refreshing.”

Then, with the 39th pick, the Sox selected right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, a pitcher out of Louisiana State University. The Sox’ interest in the 6-foot-7 hurler was widely known. He entered the year as a consensus top-five overall draft pick after a dominating sophomore year that concluded with him claiming the win in the College World Series championship game, but his performance fell off in 2010 as he fought injury (a stress reaction in his right forearm) and then mechanical woes.

This year, he is 5-3 with a 7.32 ERA and while his strikeout totals remained high (54 in 51.2 innings), his walks totals also spiked (27). He has been impressive in recent outings, but because of medical concerns, his performance inconsistency and the fact that his advisor is Scott Boras, who will expect his client to receive a bonus commensurate with his skills when healthy, Ranaudo dropped to the sandwich round in the draft.

The Sox said that they viewed Ranaudo as one of the top players in the draft at the start of the year, and said that he looked strong again at the end of the year in the SEC tournament. Amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye said that the team “did a lot of homework on him,” and the team believed that his injury in the middle of the season had presented an opportunity.

“Without the downturn in his performance,” said GM Theo Epstein, “he’s probably not available to us in the sandwich round.”

The team suggested that Ranaudo might pitch in a summer league, something that could give both sides a better gauge of a fair value for his bonus number after this injury-interrupted season.

Epstein said that it remains to be seen how the negotiation might proceed with Ranaudo and Boras. Boras and his clients typically engage in a prolonged negotiation process. The Sox are not concerned about that possibility.

“It’s not everyday you can sign a player immediately after the draft,” said Epstein. “The good ones are sometimes worth waiting for.”

The Sox recognize that draft-day evaluations are often fruitless, and that the true measure of picks takes years to achieve. Even so, the team was excited at the prospect that it had found, in the words of Sawdaye, “three college players who can provide impact.” Epstein seconded that assessment.

“We feel,” said Epstein, “like we got three of the guys we wanted today.”

Read More: anthony ranaudo, bryce brentz, mlb draft 2010,

Red Sox use first-round pick on Kolbrin Vitek

06.07.10 at 8:54 pm ET
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With their first-round draft pick, the Red Sox selected second baseman/outfielder Kolbrin Vitek out of Ball State University. Vitek hit .361 with 17 homers and 16 steals en route to winning Mid-American Conference Player of the Year honors. The Sox had the 20th overall selection as compensation for the Braves‘ signing of Billy Wagner this offseason.

Vitek said that he and the Sox have already reached a verbal agreement for a signing bonus that represents “a fair number to them and a fair number to me.” A baseball source indicated that the agreement was for the Major League Baseball slot recommendation for the 20th pitch of the draft. A year ago, the Blue Jays signed college pitcher Chad Jenkins for the slot recommendation of $1.359 million at the No. 20 pick.

Vitek had great workouts for the Red Sox and Padres, and he was also scouted heavily by the Blue Jays, Rangers and Cubs. He is viewed as an advanced college hitter, with good bat speed and power potential. The Padres were close to taking him with the No. 9 pick of the draft, and would have selected Vitek had high school pitcher Karsten Whitson not been on the board at the pick.

One talent evaluator evaluated the 21-year-old as most likely to end up as an outfielder or third baseman in the majors. Vitek worked out for the Sox at Fenway Park over the weekend, where he took grounders at both third and short. He suggested that the Sox plan for him to play third, a position he last played as a sophomore in college.

The team has not yet talked with the player about where he will start his professional career, but with 2009 third-rounder David Renfroe preparing for a short-season assignment, there would seem a decent chance that he will debut in Single-A Greenville. Ball State teammate Jeremy Hazelbaker, a fourth-round pick of the Sox in 2009, spent almost all of his first pro season in Greenville.

For his part, Vitek was less concerned with where he will start his career than with the fact that he will start his professional career.

“It’s very exciting to join such a successful organization,” he said.

He suggested that his strengths are as a hitter, where he stays inside the ball and drives pitches into the gaps. He described his biggest challenge as re-learning how to play third base after having not played the position in his junior season.

While Vitek was announced as a second baseman, he was also Ball State’s top pitcher this year. He led the MAC with a 3.28 ERA this year, and had 60 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings of work.

Vitek is the second straight toolsy Ball State second baseman/outfielder selected by the Sox, following Jeremy Hazelbaker, a Sox fourth rounder in 2009. Hazelbaker was named the top position player for the Sox in the Fall Instructional League, and while his offensive numbers this year at Greenville are modest (.240/.339/.413), he has swiped 26 bases at this young stage of the season.

Read More: kolbrin vitek, mlb draft 2010,

MLB Draft, Picks 11-19: What it means for the Red Sox

06.07.10 at 8:47 pm ET
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–With the 12th overall pick, the Reds snagged Yasmani Grandal. Grandal was considered the best all-around catcher in the draft. The Red Sox drafted the catcher out of high school in 2007, grabbing him in the 27th round. But Grandal instead elected to fulfill his commitment to the University of Miami, and the decision apparently will pay off handsomely for the Boras client.

Chris Sale went with the 13th overall pick to the White Sox. The left-hander is a product of Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, a school that just a few years ago had little significance in the draft landscape, but that has now become something of a factory for baseball talent. Because the Red Sox’ spring training facility is based in Fort Myers, the organization had plenty of opportunities to see Sale.

–A lot of prominent prospects remain on the board for the Sox at No. 20. The Sox will be able to pick from a number of players considered to have a high ceiling, among them LSU right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (more on him here), Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox and Ball State second baseman/centerfielder Kolbrin Vitek.

Read More: chris sale, mlb draft 2010, yasmani grandal,

MLB Draft, Picks 1-10: What it means for the Red Sox

06.07.10 at 8:08 pm ET
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Some thoughts and observations from the first 10 picks of the Major League Baseball amateur draft, and the early implications for the Red Sox:

–It came as no surprise that Bryce Harper was taken with the first pick, but it was unexpected that the 17-year-old phenom was announced as an outfielder rather than a catcher.

–The first New England product selected was Matt Harvey, who went with the seventh overall pick to the Mets. Harvey attended Fitch High School in Groton, Conn., before enrolling at the University of North Carolina. The right-hander, who is represented by Scott Boras, was considered a possibility to fall in the draft due to signability concerns. Some thought that he could be a candidate to fall to the Sox at No. 20, in the same way that another UNC product, right-hander Daniel Bard, was left on the board at pick No. 28 for the Sox in 2006. But the Mets moved quickly on Harvey, making him the second college pitcher taken in the draft.

–Former Red Sox second baseman Mark Loretta was at the draft as the representative of the San Diego Padres, one of many connections between the Padres and Sox. It is worth noting that the Sox turned down Loretta’s offer to re-sign with them for the 2007 season for $1 million because the team wanted to make sure that there was no temptation to take playing time from Dustin Pedroia in his rookie season.

Of perhaps greater significance to the Sox was the fact that the Padres (whose Assistant GM, Jason McLeod, used to be the amateur scouting director of the Sox) selected high school right-hander Karsten Whitson. The Padres were considered likely to draft Kolbrin Vitek, a second baseman and center fielder at Ball State University. The Sox have legitimate interest in Vitek, as evidenced by the fact that GM Theo Epstein reportedly scouted him at the MAC tournament.

As an aside to the Sox’ possible interest in Vitek: Vitek could become the second straight toolsy Ball State second baseman/outfielder selected by the Sox, following Jeremy Hazelbaker, a Sox fourth rounder in 2009. Hazelbaker was named the top position player for the Sox in the Fall Instructional League, and while his offensive numbers this year at Greenville are modest (.240/.339/.413), he has swiped 26 bases at this young stage of the season.

Read More: bryce harper, kolbrin vitek, mark loretta, matt harvey

The Red Sox, the draft and medical risk

06.07.10 at 5:27 pm ET
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Just about everyone and his or her mother has, at some point, suggested that the Red Sox are one of the most likely destinations for LSU right-handed pitcher Anthony Ranaudo. The 6-foot-7 hurler was the consensus best college pitcher in the draft entering the year, following a sophomore campaign in which he went 12-3 with a 3.04 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning against some of the top college competition. He was the pitcher of record in the championship game when the Tigers won the College World Series, and his mid-90s fastball, and he also graded as having an above-average curveball and a usable slider.

But in his junior year, he suffered a stress reaction in his right elbow (a precursor to a stress fracture) early in the season and was sidelined for a month. His mechanics fell out of whack when he returned, resulting in inconsistent performances. This year, he is 5-3 with a 7.32 ERA and while his strikeout totals remained high (54 in 51.2 innings), his walks totals also spiked (27).

He has been impressive in recent outings, but because of medical concerns, his performance inconsistency and the fact that his advisor is Scott Boras, who will expect his client to receive a bonus commensurate with his skills when healthy, Ranaudo will likely drop in the draft. The Sox, according to multiple sources and several industry publications, are extremely high on the pitcher’s potential. The team likes to shoot for the players who can make the biggest impact in the farm system, and certainly, prior to this year’s struggles, Ranaudo seemed like just such a pitcher.

But would the Sox pull the trigger on a pitcher who comes with medical risks attached?

Certainly, the Sox attach tremendous value to gathering medical information about every player whom they scout. As Sox GM Theo Epstein said last week, “the currency of the draft is information,” and medical information is one of the crucial components that the Sox have worked to refine over the past few years.

“We have a good process that we work on with our medical staff here. They’€™ve refined the process. We all refine the process every year,” said Sox director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye. “Four years ago I couldn’€™t sit here and say we’€™re as comfortable with the process as we are today.”

But in practical terms, what has that meant? How have the Sox approached prominent draftees who were either medical or performance risks in recent years?

–The closest comparable player to Ranaudo to come out in the draft in recent years was Kyle Gibson, a right-hander out of Missouri who was viewed as a top five or top 10 pick in the 2009 draft before a stress fracture in his right forearm. His velocity dropped during his junior year as a result of the injury, and so, too, did his draft stock.

He remained on the board until the Twins selected him at No. 22 overall, six picks before the Sox made Reymond Fuentes their first-round draft choice.

According to sources familiar with the Sox’ thinking last year, the team did not expect Gibson to fall to them at No. 28. (Indeed, it was a draft day surprise that he was still on the board at 22.) But the Sox were comfortable enough with the pitcher’s medicals to be prepared to consider the talented right-hander had he gotten to their pick.

That would not have been a guarantee that the team would have taken Gibson over Fuentes — a player whom the Sox loved, and who is currently enjoying a terrific first year of pro ball for Single-A Greenville, hitting .275/.321/.401/.723 with three homers and 19 steals (without a single caught stealing). Still, the Sox’ willingness to consider Gibson (who is enjoying a spectacular pro debut, with a 7-2 record and 2.27 ERA in Hi-A and Double-A for the Twins this year) offered some indication that the team was not averse to taking a player who was deemed a medical risk by some clubs if his talent justified an early selection.

–The Sox did take another player who fell from the top of the 2009 draft. Right-hander Kendal Volz was considered one of the top college pitchers entering the 2009 season thanks to a strong performance for Team USA, but his velocity slipped as a junior, and his mechanics got worse over the year. He went 3-7 with a 4.50 ERA, and both his strikeout and strikeout-to-walk numbers took a hit. The Sox took him in the ninth round and signed him for $550,000. This year, he’s 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA for Greenville.

–In 2008, the Sox were very interested in taking right-hander Alex Wilson, even though he’d missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. The Cubs ended up taking the pitcher in the 10th round, but he didn’t sign and re-entered the draft in 2009. Then, the Sox took him in the second round and signed him for the slot bonus of $470,000. In High-A Salem this year, Wilson is 2-1 with a 3.40 ERA and an excellent 50:15 strikeout:walk rate in 55 innings.

–In 2006, the Sox drafted left-hander Kris Johnson one year after he’d undergone Tommy John surgery. He’d pitched in the 2006 season for Wichita State, forging a 4.86 ERA in his recovery year. The Sox were hopeful that they’d get an undervalued pitcher once his stuff played back up to its pre-surgery form, but his curveball — a potentially above-average swing-and-miss offering before the procedure — has never returned with the same bite. In some respects, though Johnson (who is having a decent season this year in Triple-A Pawtucket, with a 4.32 ERA that represents significant improvement on his 6.35 mark of 2009) may reach the majors, it seems unlikely that he will give the Sox the return for which they hoped when they drafted him as a first-round sandwich pick (40th overall).

Read More: anthony ranaudo, kyle gibson, mlb draft 2010, reymond fuentes

Bonser activated, Papelbon on bereavement list

06.07.10 at 4:42 pm ET
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The Red Sox on Monday activated LHP Boof Bonser from Pawtucket and placed Jonathan Papelbon on the bereavement list. Bonser had a 6.34 ERA in nine rehab games with Triple-A Pawtucket this year, but he allowed just one run in his final three appearances, a span of 14 innings. The team did not disclose a reason for Papelbon being placed on the bereavement list. A player put on the bereavement list must miss a minimum of three games.

The Factors – Week Nine

06.07.10 at 2:16 pm ET
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Here are the Week Nine Factors, along with some bonus, inherited runner nuggets!

* – LEADING OFF INNINGS – The .408 average and .463 OBP by the Red Sox are both weekly highs this season.    Boston’s .232 leadoff OBP allowed was also their best week.  The Yankees allowed 6 leadoff homers last week.

This week’s opponent, Cleveland, has a .215 leadoff average this season, last in the majors.  They’ve allowed a .381 leadoff OBP, which is also last.

* – AFTER 0-1 COUNTS – The Sox put up a .281 average after falling behind last week, their best week of the season.  The 16 extra base hits was also their best week.  YTD, Boston has a .420 slugging percentage following 0-1 counts, the highest in MLB:

.420 – Boston Red Sox
.404 – Cincinnati Reds
.386 – New York Yankees

Boston’s pitchers have allowed just a .196 average following 0-1 counts.  They join the Blue Jays (.194) and Rays (.196) as the only teams in MLB allowing a sub-.200 average after getting ahead 0-1.

* – AFTER 1-0 COUNTS – The good:  Boston’s offense hit .367, walked 28 times, and generated a, OPS of 1.132 last week after getting ahead.  All were the best single week of the season for the Red Sox.  Also, the pitchers fell behind just 36.8% of the time last week, the 2nd best percentage in the AL:

34.5% – Detroit Tigers
36.8% – Boston Red Sox
38.9% – Seattle Mariners

The bad:  The .342 average allowed was the 2nd highest week by the Sox and their 68 doubles allowed after 1-0 counts is the most in the majors.

Clip & Save:  The Indians allowed a .429 average and 1.248 OPS last week after falling behind 1-0.

* – AFTER 0-2 COUNTS – The .304 average by the Red Sox offense after getting in an 0-2 hole was by far the best in the majors as no one else topped even .270.  I found it interesting that despite the huge difference in offensive firepower between the two clubs, the Indians have 6 HR after 0-2 counts, while the Red Sox have just 5.

* – FULL COUNTS – For the 7th straight week, Red Sox hitters walked at least as many times as they struck out on 3-2 counts. 

Cleveland has an .871 full count OPS, 72 points higher than Boston’s, thanks to 121 full count walks (2nd in MLB).  Boston has 92 walks on 3-2.

Boston pitchers have walked 119 batters on 3-2 counts, the most in the majors.  Meanwhile, Cleveland’s beleaguered staff has posted a .555 OPS-against on 3-2 counts this season, the best in the majors.

* – GROUNDBALLS – We know that a groundball that gets through with 2 outs and RISP generally means a run will score.  Well, since May 10, the Red Sox have been pretty ridiculous at preventing those hits, leading the AL by allowing just an .088 average:

.088 – Boston Red Sox (3-34)
.143 – Kansas City Royals (5-35)
.158 – Los Angeles Angels (6-38)

And who trails the AL in that same span?:

.333 – New York Yankees (11-33)
.313 – Minnesota Twins (10-32)
.278 – Toronto Blue Jays (10-36)

* – LINE DRIVES – Marco Scutaro has 44 line drives this season, the most on the Red Sox.  Dustin Pedroia is second with 40. 

Also, among players with at least 25 line drives this year, Jeremy Hermida sports the 3rd lowest average in the majors:

.500 – Casey Kotchman, SEA (16-32)
.526 – Alcides Escobar, MIL (20-36)
.536 – Jeremy Hermida, BOS (15-28)

Hermida has just 1 hit over his last 6 line drives since May 27.

Detroit rookie CF Austin Jackson has 16 games with multiple line drives this season, which leads the majors.  Adrian Beltre has 13 such games, placing him in a tie for 4th.

* RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION – The Sox had 24 hits with RISP last week and their .277 average on the year leads the AL. Sure makes that 4 for 42 in Week 2 seem a long way off, doesn’t it?

Boston’s pitchers have allowed a .137 average with 2 outs and RISP this season in the 8th inning or later, 2nd lowest in the majors:

.128 – Detroit Tigers
.137 – Boston Red Sox
.160 – Philadelphia Phillies

It was .190 last season, best in the AL and 4th best in the majors.

This won’t surprise you much:  With 2 outs and RISP, the Red Sox have hit .159 (14-88) in games they’ve lost this year and .357 (55-154) in games they’ve won.

———————————————————————————————-

Finally, I thought this was worth a mention:

* – The Red Sox bullpen has been very good at stranding inherited runners lately.  Since May 20, Sox relievers have inherited 17 runners and none have scored.  They’re the only bullpen in the majors that has not allowed at least 4 inherited runners to score in that span.  Here are the AL leaders:

 0% – Boston Red Sox (0-17)
21% – Chicago White Sox (6-28)
25% – Minnesota Twins (4-16)
27% – New York Yankees (4-15)

The Red Sox 17-game streak without allowing an IR-S is their longest since at least 2007. They’ve got a ways to go to match the longest such streaks in the majors in that time:

30 – Chicago White Sox (ended 6/29/08)
30 – San Diego Padres (ended 5/23/07)
27 – Philadelphia Phillies (ended 9/9/09)
25 – New York Yankees (ended 7/25/08)

Prior to May 20, the Red Sox allowed 24 of 66 (36%) to score.  In the AL, only the Angels (50%) were worse in that span.

Here’s a clip and save for this week’s series against the Indians:  Cleveland’s bullpen was great at stranding IR’s early in the season (through May 20), allowing just 10 of 75 (13%) to score.  Since then, they’ve allowed 11 of 25 (44%) to score.

Red Sox vs. Indians matchups, 6/7

06.07.10 at 12:18 pm ET
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Sunday afternoon, the Red Sox were primed to sweep the Orioles, the last-place team in the AL East. They were able to come back from a one-run deficit in the top of the ninth to send the game into extra innings, but a walk-off RBI single by Nick Markakis allowed Baltimore to grab a 4-3 win in 11. One day after the tough-luck loss, Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Sox will face the tough luck-loser of a near perfect game, Fausto Carmona and the Indians, the last-place team in the AL Central.

Carmona (4-4, 3.53 ERA) has been the Indians’ workhorse, lasting at least six innings in all but one of his starts (he pitched five innings in a 4-0 win against the Royals on May 12). The 26-year-old right-hander had a fantastic start to his season, winning three of his first four starts while posting a 2.96 ERA, but lately things haven’€™t been going his way. Carmona has lost his last three starts, with the most recent one a 3-0 loss to the Tigers, the game in which Armando Galarraga nearly pitched the third major league perfect game in a month if it weren’€™t for umpire Jim Joyce‘€™s blown call at first base. Galarraga shut down the Indians offense and overshadowed Carmona’€™s excellent performance. In his first complete game in two years, Carmona gave up two earned runs on nine hits and walked none on only 96 pitches.

If Carmona’€™s statistics show a sharp divide between a good and a bad season, Matsuzaka’€™s statistics show a sharp divide between good and bad starts. Since the beginning of his season a month ago, Matsuzaka (4-2, 5.49 ERA) has wavered between every start:

‘€¢ May 1 (Orioles, L) ‘€“ 4 2/3 innings, 7 runs (6 earned), 7 hits, 3 walks
‘€¢ May 6 (Angels, W) ‘€“ 5 1/3 innings, 5 runs, 5 hits, 3 walks
‘€¢ May 11 (Blue Jays, W) ‘€“ 7 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, 0 walks
‘€¢ May 17 (Yankees, ND) ‘€“ 4 2/3 innings, 7 runs, 9 hits, 3 walks
‘€¢ May 22 (Phillies, W) ‘€“ 8 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 4 walks
‘€¢ May 27 (Royals, L) ‘€“ 4 2/3 innings, 3 runs, 2 hits, 8 walks
‘€¢ June 2 (A’€™s, W) ‘€“ 6 2/3 innings, 3 runs, 10 hits, 0 walks

The Red Sox hope that Matsuzaka can buck the trend and pick up another win. He has done well against the Indians, pulling a 2-1 career record against them. Of the eight current Indians who have ever faced the Japanese pitcher, none have gone beyond second base and five have yet to get a hit off him. Travis Hafner has had the most success, getting two doubles, but pay special attention to Jhonny Peralta ‘€” he has yet to get on base in nine plate appearances against the 29-year-old righty.

For the Red Sox, their experienced hitters have had the most success off Carmona. Expect to see David Ortiz continue his recent offensive explosion as he has a .500 average against his fellow Dominican, with a home run, a double and four RBI. Jason Varitek also stands to continue strong against Carmona; he has a .500 average of his own with a double and two RBI.

This will be the first game of a four-game road series for the Sox against the Indians before they return to interleague play, starting with a nine-game homestand.

Red Sox vs. Fausto Carmona

Marco Scutaro (18 career plate appearances against Carmona): .389 BA/.389 OBP/.389 SLG, 2 strikeouts

Adrian Beltré (8): .250/.625/.250, 3 walks

David Ortiz (8): .500/.500/1.000, 1 HR, 1 double, 4 RBI, 2 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (8): .167/.375/.333, 1 double, 1 walk

Jason Varitek (7): .500/.571/.667, 1 double, 2 RBI, 1 walk

Kevin Youkilis (6): .000/.500/.000, 3 walks, 1 strikeout

Mike Lowell (3): .333/.333/.667, 1 double, 1 RBI

Jeremy Hermida is 0-for-3 and J.D. Drew is 0-for-4 against Carmona. Mike Cameron, Bill Hall, Víctor Martínez, Darnell McDonald and Josh Reddick have never faced the Cleveland starter.

Indians vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka

Travis Hafner (9 career plate appearances against Matsuzaka): .375 BA/.444 OBP/.625 SLG, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Jhonny Peralta (9): .000/.000/.000, 3 strikeouts

Mark Grudzielanek (4): .000/.250/.000, 1 walk

Luis Valbuena (3): .667/.667/.667, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Trevor Crowe (2): .500/.500/.500, 1 RBI

Matt LaPorta is 0-for-3 with a strikeout while Russell Branyan and Shin-Soo Choo are 0-for-3 with 2 strikeouts against Matsuzaka. Jason Donald, Shelley Duncan, Austin Kearns, Lou Marson and Mike Redmond have never faced the Boston starter.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, fausto carmona, Indians, Red Sox

What to make of John Lackey

06.07.10 at 12:58 am ET
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During the winter, the Red Sox signed the biggest free agent pitcher on the market in John Lackey for five years and $82.5 million. We heard whispers of possible deals for Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez, but both deals would have meant that the Sox would have had to part with many of their prized possessions in the minor leagues. If they decided to make the deals, the Sox would then have to sign both to long-term deals. It was a move that the Sox were obviously not comfortable with.

Simply put, moving forward, signing Lackey was the healthiest thing to do for this organization.

But who is John Lackey? Is he the guy that shut down the Sox last year in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, or is more like the John Lackey that we have seen so far this year this year?

Lackey is currently 6-3 with a 4.72 ERA on the year, but over his last six starts he’s 3-2 with a 5.50 ERA. Keep in mind, other than Sunday’s start against Baltimore, he has gone up against teams that have been playing good baseball (Toronto, Detroit, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Oakland). But Red Sox Nation, as they often do, look at the money the Sox payed and expect him to be better. I think that its safe to say that we haven’t seen the best of John Lackey. In looking at his previous three years in Anaheim compared to this year, there are a few glaring differences …

BB/9    H/9    WHIP    K/9

2007 2.1         8.8        1.210       7.2
2008 2.2         8.9        1.231       7.2
2009 2.4         9.0        1.270       7.1
2010 4.3        10.7       1.663       5.2

You can come to your own conclusions but keep in mind that the AL West is not the AL East, especially this year. The Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays are in the top four in all of baseball in runs scored. But is that the only difference?

After Lackey’s start against Oakland, I talked to A’s second baseman Mark Ellis, who has 66 career plate appearances against he big righty. “He didn’t have that explosive fastball. The curveball also wasn’t as tight as I had seen it in the past. He always had that 95 mph, four-seemer in the tank when he needed it and today I didn’t see it, he pitched at 90-91,” Ellis said.

So what does Ellis think is wrong? “Nothing, I’ve seen this before. If I faced him five times a year, he’d have his good stuff for three of them and then the other two would be like what I saw from him last night. But even though he doesn’t have his best stuff, he grinds it out and gives his team a chance. He battles.”

Thats the John Lackey we’ve seen thus far. Nothing has come easy. He’s “battled” his way through the first two months of the season.

But John Lackey will continue to compete because all he wants to do is win, at any cost. Sometimes those emotions get in his way. As we’ve all seen this year, Lackey can be very emotional on the mound whether its reacting to a call he didn’t like or showing displeasure when one of his teammates make an error behind him. The first one happens, then second one shouldn’t. I talked to Lack about that and he swears that he’s not trying to show anybody up, but lets just say this, it doesn’t look good. Showing up Darnell McDonald is one thing, but when you slam your glove to the ground after a Dustin Pedroia error … not good.

I understand that fans are trying to put their finger on exactly what they have in John Lackey. I can tell you this from my own experience, you haven’t seen his best yet. I loved the signing back in the winter, and even though so far this season he has underachieved in some fans’ minds, when it is all said and done, you will love the signing too. Just give it some time.

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