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Pregame notes: Cameron headed to Pawtucket

05.09.10 at 6:20 pm ET
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Terry Francona met the media before Sunday night’s series finale with the Yankees and discussed a number of topics, including the status of Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury.

“Cam and Ellsbury are going to go out and do their stuff and then we’ll sit down with both of them — after BP– with the medical staff and try to get a little better handle on where we’re at.”

After meeting with Cameron the center fielder told the media that he will begin his rehab assignment with the Pawtucket Red Sox Monday night, serving as the team’s designated hitter. If all goes as planned he will play in the field Tuesday.

“I need to go see where I’m at, run around, dive, everything else. Kind of see what it feels like and see where I’m at and I have to be brutally honest with myself and be brutally honest with the staff,” he said.

“In my mind for a while, I guess the last week or so, something snapped in my mind as far as what day I was going to play. Basically the last few days generally let me know I can add a little bit more. Running-wise it’s pretty good. My steps are better. My steps are much better. Tomorrow will be a true test for me. I’ll go and really play the game, try and get some hits, dive head-first, but still be cautious to know I’m rehabbing, rehabbing trying to get back to the big leagues … I need to see where I’m at more than anything else, so I’ll try and go do it.”

Cameron has not played since April 18 with an abdominal strain and said the length of his rehab assignment will be based on his progress the next few days.

Francona was quick to note that Ellsbury is still behind Cameron in the rehab process.

Francona was asked how the diminished on-field role of veterans Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz has impacted their leadership in the clubhouse.

“Anytime there’s a change, sometimes it can be a little unsettling. Saying that, it’s our responsibility to get it settled and play good baseball. I don’t know that you can go 20 years and not have change. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable personally, but again our job, all the things we talk about, you gotta live it out.”

Boof Bonser pitched three innings for Pawtucket on Friday night, allowing just one run on three hits. He threw 44 pitches, and Francona said Sunday that he thought Bonser would throw somewhere in the 60-65 pitch range for the Triple-A club in his next start.

Ramon Ramirez said his right triceps felt much better Sunday after leaving the game with tightness Saturday. The reliever, who played catch prior to Sunday night’s game, noted that the problem with his arm didn’t crop until he entered the game.

Marco Scutaro, who played with Dallas Braden with the A’s, had this to say about the Oakland pitcher who threw a perfect game Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays: “You just don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s the beauty of this game. He knows how to pitch. I think any major league pitcher can do it if you throw the ball where the catcher asks for it.”

Red Sox vs. Yankees matchups, 5/9

05.09.10 at 4:35 pm ET
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After being battered by the Yankees in the last two games, the Red Sox will have Jon Lester on the mound as they try to avoid the sweep Sunday night.

Lester has turned things around as of late after his early struggles, winning his last two starts to bring his season record to 2-2 with a 3.93 ERA. He followed up an outstanding one hit, 11 strikeouts, no run outing in seven innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 28 by holding the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to just 1 run over eight innings in his last start.

Lester’s first start of the season came against New York, and he had his issues. Three walks hurt the left-hander’s cause as he allowed four earned runs in just five innings of work, squandering a 3-1 lead. That was a rare tough start against the Yankees for the Sox’ starter, however, as over the past three seasons he is 3-1 with a 2.80 ERA in seven starts vs. New York.

He will be opposed by A.J. Burnett, who is off to a great start in his second year in a Yankees’ uniform. The hard-throwing right-hander is currently 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA, good enough for sixth in the American League.

Arguably his worst start of the season, however, did come in the first series against Boston. Burnett lasted a season-low five innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits. But he has been dominant in his last two starts ‘€” much like Lester ‘€” allowing just one earned run and striking out a total of 12 batters in 15’€”1/3 innings in two victories over the Baltimore Orioles.

After some high scoring affairs the last two days (even if they were one-sided), this one could be a pitcher’s duel if these two starters continue their recent trends.

Red Sox vs. A.J. Burnett

David Ortiz (37 career plate appearances against Burnett): .250 average/.270 OBP/.611 slugging, 4 doubles, 3 home runs, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (37): .286/.459/.500, 2 home runs, 9 walks, 2 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (35): .241/.343/.345, 1 home run, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (33): .250/.364/.357, 3 doubles, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (30): .286/.333/.536, 4 doubles, 1 home run, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (27): .208/.296/.417, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (26): .316/.500/.579, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 6 walks, 1 strikeout

Mike Lowell (23): .200/.304/.250, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (23): .286/.348/.333, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Bill Hall (13): .182/.308/.364, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Jeremy Hermida (3): .000/.333/.000, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Burnett has not faced Darnell McDonald or Jonathan Van Every.

Yankees vs. Jon Lester

Derek Jeter (29 career plate appearances against Lester): .370 average/.414 OBP/.370 slugging, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts

Robinson Cano (25): .261/.280/.348, 2 doubles, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Nick Swisher (22): .188/.364/.500, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts

Alex Rodriguez (20): .263/.300/.684, 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Jorge Posada (17): .200/.294/.200, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Mark Teixeira (17): .235/.235/.412, 1 hme run, 5 strikeouts

Nick Johnson (6): .000/.167/.000

Curtis Granderson (2): .500/.500/.500, 1 strikeout

Lester has never faced Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner, Ramiro Pena or Randy Winn.

Gammons on The Big Show: Leave Buchholz in rotation

05.09.10 at 9:49 am ET
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Peter Gammons joined The Big Show on Friday to discuss the state of the Red Sox. He said that all three contending teams in the AL East ‘€” the Sox, Yankees and Rays ‘€” have issues they have to deal with, and the answers will be coming soon.

“All three teams have a lot of questions to be answered, between now and the July 1,” he said.  “I’m sure the Yankees will be saying, ‘Should we get Roy Oswalt?’ The Red Sox are going to be saying, ‘Should we take a chance on Lance Berkman?’ There’s a lot that may be decided in the next eight weeks.”

A transcript follows. To listen, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.

What do you do with Daisuke Matsuzaka, especially now that Tim Wakefield is just sitting in the bullpen?

They’ll probably give Daisuke four or five starts. Victor Martinez was saying to me that he couldn’t believe the difference in his fastball between the first and second inning. He said it picked up like four or five miles in velocity. Then he’s having a little more confidence throwing a few sliders, where in the first inning he had no confidence in his fastball that he was overthrowing every slider. How long do you go? I appreciate that he had a lot of time off, that he was hurt and didn’t pitch that much to get here. But there isn’t a lot of time in a division with Tampa and the Yankees to sit around and say, “OK. We are going to give him 10 starts.” But if he doesn’t start, what are you going to do with him? I think it’s one of the many questions that will be answered in the next month.

Wouldn’t it make sense to put Clay Buchholz in the bullpen?

I don’t think you take a 200-inning, second-year starter and put him in the bullpen. I don’t see that as a viable alternative. I think you have to go find a veteran reliever somewhere. They’re not going to challenge Tampa and New York if Buchholz isn’t good enough to make 30 starts on the season. He’s got the second best stuff on the staff. He’s got to be one of your top starters. To me, you just can’t take a guy out because the other guys can’t do the role. You can’t take him out. To me, you weaken yourself immeasurably if you take Buchholz out of the rotation.

If you go out and find somebody, what do you do with Wakefield and Matsuzaka?

That’s the problem. Wakefield has pitched out of the bullpen. Now the question is, at his age is it too late to ask him to go back? Just as it may be too late to ask him to go back and make 20 starts if his back is going to go. I think they have more of a chance of figuring out the bullpen thing. Either Wake or Daisuke is going to end up being the fifth starter, and then you move on from there. It is good that [Manny] Delcarmen is starting to throw a lot better, that home run last night was a joke. They are going to have to go get one more veteran reliever, because they don’t have minor leaguers that are going to come in and step up the way [Daniel] Bard did. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clay Buchholz, peter gammons, Red Sox, Yankees

Closing Time: Yankees 14, Red Sox 3

05.08.10 at 7:12 pm ET
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The Yankees won their 13th game against the Red Sox in the teams’ last 15 meetings, this time beating the Sox 14-3, Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park. The game was delayed 1 hour, 14 minutes due to rain in the fifth inning. The delay, which came with two outs, the visitors leading 6-3, and a 2-2 count to Victor Martinez, cost New York starter CC Sabathia the victory. Highlighting the NY attack was Mark Teixeira, who belted three home runs (the last one off of outfielder Jonathan Van Every). It was the sixth straight win for the Yankees, who have out-scored their opponents 51-16 during the stretch. It marked the first time since 1997 that the Red Sox have started 15-16. (For a recap click here.)

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

- Beltre’s defenseAdrian Beltre was victimized by his seventh error of the season, throwing the ball wide of second on Randy Winn’s grounder in the third inning. Beltre has made 14 errors in his last two seasons, and last year actually suffered his seventh one day after this season (May 9). His seventh in ’08 came on May 13.

- Buchholz’ day didn’t go as plannedClay Buchholz suffered through his worst outing of the season, allowing six runs on nine hits over five innings. After getting through the first two innings without allowing a run, the Sox’ starter surrendere two in the third, one in the fourth, and three in the fifth. He threw 93 pitches and watched his ERA jump from 2.97 to 3.82.

- Substitution patterns: The Red Sox were still in the hunt — down by three — with two runners on and two outs in the sixth inning. With right-handed reliever Alfredo Aceves on the mound (having replaced Sabathia following the rain delay), Terry Francona chose to pinch-hit for Bill Hall with Jeremy Hermida, who was 2-for-5 in such situations this season. But before Aceves could throw a pitch he exited with an apparent back injury, giving way to lefty Boone Logan. Three pitches later, Hermida had struck out and the Sox’ threat was over.

- Ramon Ramirez‘ game/season: The Red Sox reliever started the seventh, facing Teixeira with the Yanks leading by three. After an initial 93 mph fastball, Ramirez served up an 85 mph changeup which Teixeira deposited in the right field stands for his second homer of the game. It was the ninth run allowed by the righty in 13 2/3 innings this season, a run total he didn’t reach until July 3 last season. Ramirez immediately left the game after the pitch to Teixeira with triceps tenderness in his pitching arm.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- The Darnell McDonald Experience: McDonald continued to be a killer against left-handers. First he hit .429 in 14 at-bats while with the PawSox against lefties, and then, coming into Saturday, the right-handed hitter notched six hits in 16 at-bats (.375) while with the Red Sox. Then, vs. Sabathia, McDonald deposited a 95 mph fastball over the left field wall for his third homer of the season (all against southpaws). McDonald also made a nice diving catch off a Teixeira sinking liner int he eighth inning.

- Van Every got his work in: Van Every, who pitched last 2/3 innings for the Sox against the Rays last April 30 (giving up a run and a walk), got his chance to return to the mound with the Red Sox trailing by nine in the ninth inning. Van Every’s appearance went as follows: Derek Jeter doubled off the center field wall; Brett Gardner struck out looking; Teixeira hit a monstrous blast over the left field wall; Kevin Russo flew out to right field; Robinson Cano grounded out to first base (with Van Every covering the bag).

Matsuzaka likes his fastball, not relieving

05.08.10 at 3:51 pm ET
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Speaking before the Red Sox‘ game against the Yankees Saturday afternoon Daisuke Matsuzaka said that despite two subpar pitching lines he is happy with the quality of his pitches thus far in his first two starts, specifically identifying his fastball as encouraging.

“When it comes to the fastball it’s really in the best place it’s been since I’ve arrived here,” Matsuzaka said through translator Masa Hoshino. “It’s a little frustrating to know how good my fastball is right now and not see the results I would like to see coming out of it. It’s all about not necessarily the pitches themselves, but how I go about using them.

Matsuzaka, who has allowed 12 runs over his 10 innings of work (all but one coming in two separate innings), has produced similar velocity on his fastball compared to his previous three seasons with the Red Sox, averaging 91.9 mph on the pitch (according to Fangraphs.com). He had been clocked at 100 mph once in the 2004 Olympics.

“The pitches themselves aren’t really that bad. I think it’s a matter of approach and figuring out what situations I need to improve in,” he said. “If you want to talk about the results or the performances, not at this point am I happy with them.”

In regards to the prospects of working out of the bullpen if the Red Sox ever decided to go that route, Matsuzaka explained that because of his inexperience in the role it might not be ideal. That last time he pitched out of the bullpen was in the 2004 Japan Series, coming on in relief after starting the previous game.

“I just have so little experience pitching in relief I just don’t know how long it would take me to get loose, I think it would be very hard to judge initially,” Matsuzaka said. “For that reason if you were to throw me in the bullpen right now I wouldn’t make that great of a relief pitcher.

“If that was to happen I think I would take whatever steps necessary to get prepared. I think it would really depend on the situation how I would be able to make that mental adjustment going into the game. For example —  if it was a situation where if I allowed any more of these runners to score and it will affect the outcome of the game if I hold these hitters, if it’s a big situation like that and I’m able to feel that adrenaline, that’s something you don’t really get to experience as a starting pitcher. If that was a case than I think I would able to make the proper mental adjustments.”

Matsuzaka also spoke on the differences of pitching with a better conditioned body, having lost 10 pounds since the beginning of last season.

“When I’m out there moving around I don’t feel any big difference. It’s not like I feel lighter or quicker on my feet out there,” he noted. “But according to my wife when she sees me my movements are a little different.”

Francona pregame: ‘We dodged a bullet’

05.08.10 at 2:11 pm ET
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Sporting a protective white, padded bandage on his left forearm, Jason Varitek will be available for action off the bench on Saturday for the second game of the series against the Yankees after getting crossed up on a pitch in the sixth inning Friday and taking a fastball off the forearm from Josh Beckett.

“He’s actually doing pretty well,” Francona said before Saturday’s game. “We actually checked with him last night but more telling certainly was this morning when he woke up. He’s got a pretty good bruise but he could be available if needed, which is good news.

“They were concerned about controlling the swelling and they did a pretty good job of that. I think we were pretty fortunate, we dodged a bullet there. Watching it, even live, I remember watching his reaction and watching the pitch, I thought that had a chance to [do damage]. 96 on the forearm can’t feel real good. It’s different getting hit like that than getting hit by a pitch when you’re hitting because you’re trying to get out of the way. There’s no give there.”

Meanwhile, Francona said he didn’t expect warnings to both teams before Saturday’s game after Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano were drilled by Josh Beckett on Friday night.

“No, and we took care of it anyway,” Francona said, before adding some tongue-in-cheek perspective. “We hit Tek. We took it out of their hands. That’s the ultimate respect.”

Jeter was hit in the left side on Friday with the bases loaded in New York’s six-run sixth while Cano was hit by a fastball on the inside of the left knee. Cano had to come out for a pinch-runner and was a game-time decision for the starting lineup while Jeter reported no lingering soreness and was in the starting lineup at short. Ramiro Pena was in the original lineup for the Yankees before Cano tested his injury.

After taking BP before Saturday’s game, Cano was put in the Yankees lineup and slotted in as the DH, batting fifth.

Read More: Jason Varitek, Red Sox, Yankees,

Red Sox vs. Yankees matchups, 5/8

05.08.10 at 10:28 am ET
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The disappointment for Celtics and Bruins fans will be on their minds for a few days, but the beauty of baseball is that the bad vibes can turn into good ones in a 24-hour period. However, there hasn’t been many good vibes when the Sox take on the Yankees lately.

Since dominating the Yankees in the first eight games last season, the Red Sox are 2-13 against their rivals. The Yankees have won the World Series, and now sit six games up on the Red Sox in the AL East standings this season. Needless to say, the Red Sox need that fortune turned around, and quickly.

The Red Sox send Clay Buchholz up against CC Sabathia, depending on how the weather cooperates in Boston on Saturday.

The two went head-to-head last season on Aug. 8, with Sabathia getting the better of Buchholz, but not by much. Sabathia gave up two hits and zero runs in 7.2 innings of work, but Buchholz ‘€”despite six walks’€” didn’t back down, tossing six innings of two run baseball.

That young right-hander went 6-2 the rest of the way after that loss to the Yankees, and maybe gave him the confidence to pitch at the big league level.

Buchholz hasn’t had many ups-and-downs against major league hitters this season. He is 3-2 with a 2.97 ERA in five starts, and he will need to step up big to keep the Yankees ‘€”and the Rays ‘€” in sight.

The book on Sabathia ‘€” like Jon Lester ‘€” is to get him early in the season, because once he gets going, he’s not going to be stopped. The Red Sox got to the burly left-hander on Opening Night, but unlike Lester, he righted the ship in the month of April.

Sabathia sports a 4-1 record with a 2.74 ERA in six starts this season, and is coming off a strong eight-inning performance against Baltimore.

David Ortiz was in the lineup on Opening Night against Sabathia, and with Mike Lowell only hitting .262 with seven strikeouts against the Yankees ace, one might wonder who gets the nod. Ortiz does have two homers against Sabathia in his career, and a long ball off possibly the Yankees best pitcher could silence a lot of critics.

A win on Saturday, weather permitting, will help ease the mind of Boston sports fans, but a loss could prolong the funk a little bit longer.

YANKEES VS. CLAY BUCHHOLZ

Robinson Cano (8 plate appearances): .375 average/ .375 OBP/ .400 slugging percentage, 1 strikeout

Alex Rodriguez (8): .250/ .250/ .625, 1 homer, 1 strikeout

Curtis Granderson: 0-for-5, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Derek Jeter: 2-for-7, 1 strikeout

Jorge Posada: 0-for-4, 1 walk

Nick Swisher: 0-for-2, 2 walks, SAC bunt

Mark Teixeira: 1-for-2, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Never faced: Brett Gardner, Nick Johnson, Ramiro Pena, Randy Winn

RED SOX VS. CC SABATHIA

David Ortiz (31 plate appearances): .241 average/ .290 OBP/ .483 slugging percentage, 2 homers, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (23): .368/ .478/ .368, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk

Kevin Youkilis (22): .350/ .409/ .550, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (19): .263/ .263/ .316, 7 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (19): .059/ .158/ .059, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (18): .125/ .222/ .375, 1 homer, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (16): .071/ .125/ .143, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (16): .214/ .313/ .286, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (12): .250/ .250/ .333, 6 strikeouts

Bill Hall: 1-for-6, 2 strikeouts

Never faced: Jeremy Hermida, Darnell McDonald

Pedroia and Cano are second to none

05.08.10 at 9:01 am ET
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Derek Jeter knows a thing or two about being compared to another player on his archrival.

Throughout the late 90s and early part of the 2000s, his name always came up with Nomar Garciaparra when there would be discussion of the best shortstops in the game. There were many times when Jeter would either be coming into or leaving Fenway Park through the concourse and run into his friendly rival and break out the ‘NOOOOMMAAAAAHHH’ chant – Jeter’s way of paying Garciaparra the ultimate compliment.

Did Jeter care about or even pay attention to the comparisons with Nomar?

‘€œWell, I’€™m not facing him, he wasn’€™t pitching against me,” Jeter said. “People can write what they want to write. I always knew Nomar was a great player, so I looked at it as a good thing. It wasn’€™t like I ran home to see what he was doing.’€

Now, Jeter’s double play partner is being compared to another Red Sox star. Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia are being talked about as two of the best young second basemen in the game because of their respective abilities to do it all.

Just ask Jeter.

‘€œWell, both can play,” Jeter said. “They are different guys, but the thing that stands out that is similar is that they enjoy playing and you like to see that. I saw that with Dustin and I see it with Robbie every day.

‘€œThey both play hard and both look like they are having a good time. Well, not just look like ‘€“ they are having a good time.’€

“There’s two outstanding second basemen in this series,” added Yankee manager Joe Girardi. “Both of them do a lot, a lot of things right, offensively, defensively, running the bases. They’re both exciting players to watch so I’m sure there are a lot of comparisons.”

Before getting drilled on the inside of the left knee on Friday night by a Josh Beckett fastball, Cano was off to the best start of his career, hitting .355 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs.

‘€œWhy is he off to a big start? Because he can hit,” Jeter said. “That’€™s the bottom line. I don’€™t know ‘€“ baseball’€™s funny. Sometimes you get off to good starts, sometimes you get off to poor starts. Robby can hit. This isn’€™t the first time he’€™s hit. To be honest with you I don’€™t know why people are so surprised by it. The guy hit .340 before. He might have a few more home runs right now, but, other than that, he’€™s been hitting for years. Nothing new.’€

Pedroia, who started slowly in both his 2007 Rookie of the Year campaign and his 2008 MVP season is off to the best start of his career as well, batting .291 with seven long balls and also 21 RBIs.

But even Pedroia had huge praise for his counterpart on the Yankees.

“He’s on another level man,” Pedroia said of Cano. “He’s fun to watch. I’d definitely pay to go watch him hit and the way he plays the game. I think everyone’s seen it. The first weekend at our place, the way he swung the bat, it’s pretty impressive. He hits any pitch. There’s really not a flaw in his swing. He hits any pitch to any part of the field. It’s pretty fun to watch.”

Except, of course, if you’re the opposing pitcher.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, Robinson Cano, Yankees

Sabathia on Martinez: ‘I definitely believe in him’

05.08.10 at 6:03 am ET
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Victor Martinez was supposed to have the night off on Friday. But a sixth-inning injury to Jason Varitek necessitated Martinez’€™ entry into the game in the top of the seventh frame.

Martinez continued his May surge at the dish. He went 2-for-2, singling sharply in both of his at-bats, and is now amidst a modest five-game hitting streak that has brought respectability to his season. After hitting .238/.307/.325/.632 with five extra-base hits in April, he is now at .360/.407/.560/.967 in May.

Of late, he is making it appear that questions about whether his looming free agency is affecting his performance might be misguided. Of course, at least one player already felt certain that Martinez would not allow questions about his future to cloud his 2010 season.

‘€œNot a chance. No. I don’€™t think so at all,’€ Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia ‘€“ who first encountered Martinez in 1999 when the two were teammates in the New York-Penn League ‘€“ said of the possibility that his close friend could be affected by his uncertain contract status. ‘€œHe got off to a slow start, but you look at his numbers at the end of the year, they’€™re going to be just like they have been every year. He’€™ll hit. That’€™s one thing you can count on him doing ‘€“ he’€™s going to hit.’€

Sabathia also said that concerns about Martinez’€™ defense were misguided. He noted that Martinez faced questions in Cleveland about whether he should remain at catcher, particularly after a 2006 season in which he threw out just 18 percent of would-be base stealers.

The catcher responded by working tirelessly. The next year (2007, when Sabathia threw to Martinez in 32 of 34 starts en route to a Cy Young), Martinez ended up throwing out 32 percent of attempted base thieves.

‘€œHe had a tough year [in 2006]. People said maybe he shouldn’€™t be catching,’€ recalled Sabathia. ‘€œHe worked his butt off all offseason, came back in and was great. He was great that year. He’€™s one of those guys who you can’€™t tell him that he can’€™t do something, because he’€™s going to work to prove you wrong.

‘€œI don’€™t see him having a problem getting behind the plate and catching anybody,’€ Sabathia added. ‘€œI definitely believe in him.’€

Read More: C.C. Sabathia, victor martinez,

For Beckett, a flop like no other

05.07.10 at 11:30 pm ET
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Josh Beckett could not recall an outing like it in his career. Nor could pitching coach John Farrell conjure such a meltdown by a pitcher with whom he has worked for four seasons.

The unraveling of Beckett in the sixth inning of his team’s 10-3 loss to the Yankees (recap) was stunning. The Sox’ starter, after all, had been in possession of what Farrell considered “the best stuff he had in any one of his starts” this season, an explosive fastball, a cutter that tied Yankees left-handed hitters in knots, a curveball that elicited awful swings and misses.

The right-hander opened the game by striking out the side in the first, and punched out five of the first six Yankees hitters he faced. Beckett had made just one mistake through the first five innings of the game, a hanging curveball to Nick Swisher. But even then, he remained in a taut pitchers’ duel with Yankees hurler Phil Hughes, and with the Sox down just 3-1, it would have been nearly impossible to forecast what happened next.

In the sixth inning, Beckett ran completely off the rails. He began to misfire pitch after pitch, by significant margins.

“I’€™ll tell you, he started out the game as good as we’€™ve seen him, probably better. He established all his pitches for strikes. A lot of swings and misses on all his pitches. He threw his breaking ball, fastball down, with really good life,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “It went south as fast as it could. As good as he was commanding, all of a sudden it was gone.”

He gave up an inning-opening double to Alex Rodriguez, but then a cutter smashed into the back knee of Robinson Cano, who ended up having to leave the game. Beckett crossed up catcher Jason Varitek for a passed ball (later ruled a wild pitch) to put runners on second and third and, after striking out Swisher, the Sox elected to intentionally walk Brett Gardner to load the bases and create a force situation.

The move backfired because Beckett simply could not regain his command. He walked catcher Francisco Cervelli to force in a run, got ambushed by Randy Winn, who smoked a first pitch for a run-scoring single to left, drilled Derek Jeter in the left shoulder to force in another run, then allowed a pair of run-scoring hits by Marcus Thames and Mark Teixeira.

“Just had no idea where the ball was going. Hit Cano with a cutter and Jeter with the bases loaded with a sinker in. Tried to throw the ball too hard,” said Beckett. “I had an idea where it was going, it just wasn’€™t going where I wanted it to go. It just, when you try and overthrow like that your delivery gets all messed up. You’€™re not worried about execution, that’€™s what you should be worried about.’€

Farrell suggested that Beckett appeared to lose his release point. Though he had never seen Beckett’s command abandon him so quickly, he suggested that it was “not alarming,” and that, presumably, the problem can be fixed.

Even so, Beckett was left to rue a season that he described as, um, something that rhymes with “pity.” He has produced just three quality starts in seven outings, and his ERA now sits at a bloated 7.46. This is not the performance that the Sox expected from a pitcher whom they call their ace, and whom they are paying to fulfill that title.

“[The season has] been inconsistent,” said Farrell. “He’€™s had some games where he’€™s pitched well, very Josh Beckett-like, and some other games that haven’€™t quite gone the same way.”

The nine runs that Beckett allowed matched a career high, and he’s managed to cluster several of the worst starts of his career into recent outings. Though it appeared that he might be on the right track when he turned in seven innings of two-run ball against the Orioles on Sunday followed by the first few innings on Friday, his final line suggested a pitcher who has been a significant disappointment this year.

Beckett has allowed seven, eight, two and nine runs in his last four outings, good for a 10.48 ERA. And yet his stuff was electric, resulting in a Jeckyl-and-Hyde sort of historical oddity: he became the first Red Sox pitcher to allow nine runs in a game in which he struck out eight batters since Red Ruffing accomplished the feat in 1928.

The Sox are now 4-3 in Beckett’s seven starts, but their wins have often come in spite of, rather than because of, him. (In fairness, the team has suffered losses in two of his three best outings this year.) Among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched this year, Beckett’s 7.46 ERA is the third worst in the majors. There is no hiding from his struggles, and Beckett made no attempt to do so.

“It’€™s very disappointing,” said Beckett. “Guys are out there playing their [butts] off and I’€™d like to be part of wins and not losses. And unfortunately I’€™ve had my fair share of those.’€

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