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Monday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Tim Wakefield vs. Brad Bergesen

07.18.11 at 10:35 am ET
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The Red Sox continue their six-game road trip Monday when they travel to Camden Yards to face the Orioles. This will be Boston’€™s second trip to Baltimore this season, with the Orioles taking two of three from Boston back in April. That was April, however, and the Red Sox are a much-improved team since then, having won their last six against Baltimore.

Tim Wakefield will look for win No. 199 when he takes the mound for the Red Sox, who have won Wakefield’€™s previous two starts. Wakefield won his last start, giving up three earned runs in seven innings against the Blue Jays on July 6. Camden Yards has always been good to Wakefield, who is 7-5 with a 3.80 ERA there.

The Orioles counter with Brad Bergesen, who is 1-6 with a 5.65 ERA this season. Bergesen lost his spot in the starting rotation after losing against the Athletics on May 28. Since then, Bergesen has been used primarily as a long reliever. Bergesen has been inconsistent in that role, giving up three runs or more in three outings (11 runs in 5 1/3 total innings) and pitching multiple-inning shutouts in four others (8 2/3 total innings). Bergesen is 2-3 lifetime against the Red Sox with a 3.06 ERA.

Wakefield will catch a break Monday thanks to Vladimir Guerrero going on the DL with a broken hand. Guerrero has five home runs and nine RBIs against Wakefield, most on the Orioles. Nick Markakis is second with two home runs and five RBIs, but Markakis is also a .185 career hitter against Wakefield. Derrek Lee has also had success against Wakefield, going 4-for-7 with two doubles and three walks. Nolan Reimold is 2-for-5 with a double in five appearances but has also struck out twice.

Adrian Gonzalez has had Bergesen’€™s number in their short history together, going 4-for-4 with a walk in five appearances. Gonzalez has doubled twice and driven in three. Boston’€™s 1-2 punch of Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia also has had success: Ellsbury bats .364 with two doubles against Bergesen, and Pedroia bats .357. Carl Crawford picked a good pitcher for his return to the majors, having gone 4-for-10 with a home run against Bergesen. J.D. Drew is a .333 hitter against Bergesen, has homered twice and driven in four.

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Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Brad Bergesen, Tim Wakefield

Trade Deadline: Pirates reportedly interested in Athletics’ Conor Jackson, Josh Willingham

07.18.11 at 9:39 am ET
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Just a half-game behind the Brewers, the Pirates are looking to add offense to a pitching rotation that already leads the NL Central in lowest ERA. The Pirates may try to find that offense in Oakland, ESPN’€™s Jerry Crasnick tweeted Sunday. Specifically, they’€™ve asked about first baseman Conor Jackson and left fielder Josh Willingham.

Jackson is batting .249 with just 3 home runs and 27 RBIs, but the Pirates’€™ Lyle Overbay, their only healthy first baseman, is only performing slightly better, batting .240 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs. Jackson is tied for seventh among AL first basemen with 23 walks, with a .323 OBP that is better than Overbay’€™s.

Willingham would provide the Pirates with some power, batting .244 with 12 home runs, and 46 RBIs. He ranks second among AL left fielders in home runs with a minimum of 250 plate appearances, is third in RBIs and third in slugging at .434.

Left field is another position where the Pirates only have one healthy player: Alex Presley. While Presley is an on-base machine, batting .343 with a .400 OBP in 16 games, he’€™s hit just one home run this season and driven in nine.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Alex Presley, Conor Jackson, josh willingham

Trade Deadline: Orioles lock up shortstop J.J. Hardy

07.18.11 at 9:37 am ET
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The Orioles agreed to an extension with shortstop J.J. Hardy late Saturday night, according to The Baltimore Sun’€™s Jeff Zrebiec on Twitter. Fox Sports’€™ Ken Rosenthal tweeted Saturday that the deal is worth $22.25 million over three years, with a limited no-trade clause that would let him block a trade to eight teams of his choice each year.

Hardy is currently batting .278 with a .335 OBP. He has been the most consistently productive shortstop the Orioles have had since Miguel Tejada batted .300 in 2007.

Hardy’€™s 13 home runs and .490 slugging rank him third among AL shortstops with 250 plate-appearances. He also leads all shortstops in the MLB with a career .994 fielding percentage and just two errors. His 5.01 range factor ranks him second in the AL.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Baltimore Orioles, J.J. Hardy, Jeff Zriebec

Jose Iglesias looking to rebound in second half

07.18.11 at 2:15 am ET
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Jose Iglesias is regularly referred to as ‘€œthe shortstop of the future’€ for the Red Sox. But the estimated date of his arrival may have shifted.

In only his second professional season since defecting from the Cuban junior national team, Iglesias has struggled at Triple-A Pawtucket. Before suffering a concussion on July 3, Iglesias was hitting .227 with a .275 OBP, .245 slugging mark, .519 OPS, four doubles and 27 RBIs in 248 plate appearances.

No one questions that Iglesias has a stellar glove that can change games. That being the case, it is his offense that will ultimately determine what kind of big league impact the 21-year-old might have in the majors, and when he might be ready to compete at the highest level.

Despite Iglesias’ poor numbers, PawSox hitting coach Chili Davis expects a stronger performance in the second half of the season based on what he saw in the weeks preceding the player’s injury.

Iglesias had just one extra-base hit and five walks in the first two months of the season. In June, Davis suggested, Iglesias showed signs of progress in a month in which he walked five more times while hitting three doubles.

‘€œThe difference I saw from the month of May to June and going into this month before he got hurt, was I saw a guy that started trusting his swing more,’€ Davis said before last Saturday’€™s game against Buffalo. ‘€œHe became more confident at the plate. I think he was getting beat a lot in April and early May, getting tied up a lot. He was more of a defensive hitter. I see a kid now who’€™s ready to become more of an offensive hitter.

‘€œOne of the big signs is he’€™s taking pitches now that he used to swing at. And he’€™s getting pitches to hit and he’€™s hitting the ball hard. And he’€™s not just swinging at the ball, he’€™s swinging through the ball. He’€™s trying to hit the ball hard somewhere. So I guess the biggest change I see is just more confidence, more assurance that, you know, he can play here.’€

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Read More: Arnie Beyeler, chili davis, concussion, jose iglesias

Closing Time: Red Sox claim a victory, reclaim an ace

07.18.11 at 1:55 am ET
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The Red Sox survived an exhausting contest in St. Petersburg to claim a 1-0 victory in 16 innings. But the win was only the second-most significant development for the Sox.

After all, in the days leading up to the All-Star break, the concerns for the Red Sox about their rotation were mounting at an alarming rate.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was out for the year with Tommy John surgery. John Lackey‘s dismal first half raised even more concerns at the back of the rotation. Clay Buchholz‘s trip to the disabled list had gone from brief to indefinite. He was joined there by Jon Lester in the final days of the first half.

And then, there was the cherry on top: Josh Beckett, the team’s first-half ace, suffered a mild hyperextension of his left knee on the final Friday of the first half, and persistent soreness prevented the right-hander from pitching in the All-Star Game.

There are still plenty of questions about the state of the Sox’ rotation, but apparently one team concern can be crossed off the list. Beckett, in his first start since the July 8 knee injury, was nothing short of dominant against the Rays. While there were times when Beckett would look at his plant leg as if to check either his footing or the condition of his knee, none of that affected what the right-hander brought to the mound.

With a heavy reliance on a fastball that he was able to locate precisely to the corners, Beckett stifled the Rays for eight shutout innings. Though he earned a no-decision for his efforts — on a night where, rather unbelievably, there were eight innings left to pitch after the starter’s exit — Beckett’s outing was huge for the Sox, re-establishing an anchor at a time when many parts of their rotation have been adrift.

Beckett allowed just one hit — a first-inning infield single by Evan Longoria — and promptly retired the last 22 batters he faced. The right-hander did not walk a batter, and in fact went to three-ball counts on just three Rays hitters.

Beckett threw 106 pitches, the last one a 93 mph fastball for a swing and miss by Sean Rodriguez for his sixth punchout of the night. Beckett punctuated that at-bat — and his outing — with a fist pump, a fiery show of emotion for a pitcher who needed little time to suggest that any concerns about the Sox can be focused elsewhere.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–Beckett continued his mastery of the AL East. In eight starts against divisional foes this year, Beckett is 6-0 with a 1.61 ERA.

Dustin Pedroia served as the lone engine of the Sox’ offense, collecting three of Boston’s five hits. Most significantly, with two outs and runner on the corners in the top of the 16th inning, he lined a single to right to plate the only run of the game. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz

Trade Deadline: Red Sox interested in Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda, but he won’t play for East Coast team

07.17.11 at 8:15 pm ET
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FOX Sports’€™ Ken Rosenthal said in a video Saturday that the Red Sox may be looking for pitching rotation help from the Dodgers’€™ Hiroki Kuroda. However, after speaking with two East Coast team executives, MLB.com’€™s Peter Gammons wrote Sunday that Kuroda would not waive his full no-trade clause to play for an East Coast team.

A 36-year-old right-handed pitcher from Japan, Kuroda is 6-11 with a 3.13 ERA this year with the Dodgers. He has held opponent batters to a .249 average and .298 OBP.

Kuroda has played in only three games ever against the American League, going 1-2 with a .306 ERA. He has never faced an AL East team or played at an AL East park.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Hiroki Kuroda, Ken Rosenthal, Los Angeles Dodgers

Trade Deadline: Rockies want four players from Yankees for Ubaldo Jimenez

07.17.11 at 8:14 pm ET
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The Rockies have asked the Yankees for four minor league players ‘€“ including top pitching prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances ‘€“ in exchange for 27-year-old right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, SI.com’s Jon Heyman tweeted Sunday. Jimenez is 5-8 with a 4.08 ERA this year, but is a past All-Star, World Series starter and Cy Young candidate.

The other two players asked for are Triple-A catcher Jesus Montero and right-hander Ivan Nova, who is 8-4 with a 4.12 ERA for the Yankees. Heyman tweeted that the Yankees would trade Montero, who’s hit .288 with just seven home runs in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but that’s as far as they are willing to go.

Banuelos is considered one of the elite pitching prospects in the game. He’s 3-3 this season with Double-A Trenton, with a 3.64 ERA and almost a 2-to-1 strikeout-walk ratio. Betances has had an even more productive year for Trenton, going 4-3 with a 2.62 ERA. He strikes out more than twice as many batters as he walks, and averages 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

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