|04.20.10 at 2:18 pm ET|
When the Red Sox signed Adrian Beltre, little thought was given to the acquisition cost beyond the dollars involved in Beltre’s one-year deal for a guaranteed $10 million. But there was another component to the move to get the third baseman that has, at least based on very early returns, been interesting to monitor.
In order to free up the resources for Beltre, the Sox dealt first baseman Casey Kotchman to the Mariners in exchange for Bill Hall, a player to be named (the Sox eventually landing minor-league right-hander Miguel Celestino) and cash to cover most of Hall’s contract (which proved a boon to the Red Sox in terms of their luxury tax calculation).
While the Sox had discussed the possibility of moving Kevin Youkilis to third base to have Kotchman serve as their everyday first baseman in 2010, Kotchman still seemed eminently expendable, and it came as little surprise when he was dealt to Seattle. Kotchman was viewed as an above-average defensive first baseman (though not as good as Beltre at third) but no better than a decent, bottom-of-the-order hitter.
Kotchman struggled badly (.218/.284/.287/.572) in part-time duty for the Sox, and had a .730 combined OPS for three times (Angels, Braves, Sox) in 2008 and 2009. Beltre was viewed as having more thump, representing a player who could potentially deliver average to above-average offense in addition to his stellar glove work.
Yet to this point, Kotchman has been something of a revelation for the Mariners, posting far better numbers than Beltre through the first 2+ weeks of the season:
Beltre: .295/.304/.364/.668, 0 HR, 6 RBI
Kotchman: .286/.367/.595/.963, 3 HR, 12 RBI
Kotchman has more walks (6) and extra-base hits (7) than he does strikeouts (4), suggesting that he’s been in a particularly good run at the plate. While this may be a mere early-season blip on the radar, it is also worth noting that Kotchman is at an age (27) when a breakout season is not inconceivable, particularly given the impressive 2007 season (.296/.372/.467/.840) on his resume in his age 24 season.
That said, it could well just be an example of small sample sizes. After all, before Kotchman went 4-for-7 with two homers in his last two games, Kotchman was hitting just .229/.317/.400/.717. Certainly, that offers a reminder that it would be premature to draw any conclusions about the relative merits of acquiring (or dealing) one player before the end of April.
|04.20.10 at 11:31 am ET|
If the Red Sox are going to get off this nasty five-game losing streak they will need Tim Wakefield to repeat his performance from his first start, rather than his second. Wakefield, despite not earning the victory, pitched a solid seven innings of two run ball in Kansas City, but hit a big thud in Minnesota, giving up six runs (five earned) in an 8-0 loss.
The Rangers and Wakefield are no strangers. The knuckleballer has appeared in 33 games (26 starts) against Texas, and he sports a not to kind 10-15 record with a 5.98 ERA in his career. New Ranger, Vladimir Guerrero, has feasted on the knuckleball in his career, as he has hit five homers off of Wakefield in 30 plate appearances. The rest of the Ranger lineup has been so-so vs. Wakefield, and most of their younger players have yet to face the veteran pitcher.
Rangers starter Colby Lewis has only appeared in five games (one start) against the Sox in his career. Lewis has pitched well in his first two starts, as he is 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA to begin this season. The Red Sox bats have been quiet, to say the least, but maybe a new opponent at Fenway Park can turn this slump around.
RANGERS VS. TIM WAKEFIELD
Michael Young (49 plate appearances) : .233 average/ .327 OBP/ .395 slugging percentages, 2 homers, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts
Vladimir Guerrero (30): .429/ .600/ .1.190, 5 homers, 9 walks, 3 strikeouts
Ian Kinsler (13): .154/ .154/ .385, 1 homer, 3 strikeouts
Ryan Garko (9): .143/ .333/ .143, 2 walks
Josh Hamilton (6): .333/ .333/ .333
David Murphy: 0-for-3, 1 strikeout
Nelson Cruz: 0-for-0, 1 walk
Chris Davis: 0-for-0, 1 walk
Never faced: Elvis Andrus, Joaquin Arias, Andres Blanco, Julio Borbon, Taylor Teagarden, Matt Treanor
RED SOX VS. COLBY LEWIS
Mike Cameron (17 plate appearances): .200 average/ .294 OBP/ .400 slugging percentage, 1 homers, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
David Ortiz: 2-for-5, 2 homers, 1 walk
Jason Varitek: 0-for-4, 2 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia: 0-for-2
Marco Scutaro: 0-for-2
Adrian Beltre: 1-for-1
J.D. Drew: 0-for-1
Jacoby Ellsbury: 0-for-1
Mike Lowell: 0-for-1
|04.20.10 at 9:47 am ET|
Mike Cameron will be placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with an abdominal strain. The 37-year-old outfielder missed Monday’s game due to discomfort similar to the kind he suffered through when passing kidney stones last week. Although the it was believed that there are further stones to be passed by Cameron, the possibility of that same ailment causing Cameron’s pain Monday was ruled out.
The Sox also have to make a decision on outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who continues to feel the effects of a rib injury suffered in Minnesota on April 12. The Red Sox were to put the left fielder through a workout Tuesday in order to make a decision on whether or not to place Ellsbury on the disabled list, retroactive to when he left the lineup. Josh Reddick will be called up from Triple A Pawtucket, where he was hitting .179 with seven strikeouts and a walk. Another possibility was Darnell McDonald, who is hitting .341 with two homers and a .683 slugging percentage. CSNNE.com was first report the move.
|04.19.10 at 3:10 pm ET|
Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury missed his seventh straight game on Monday due to the bruised chest he suffered in a collision with Adrian Beltre on April 11. Ellsbury still wasn’t sure when he might be ready to return to the lineup, and was also unsure whether he’d have to be placed on the disabled list.
“I’d like to make a prediction [about a return date], but it’s kind of hard to tell. I wish it would have been a little bit quicker, but this is one of those things that needs rest,” said Ellsbury. “It’s hard to say [whether a DL trip will be needed]. I’m hoping that I’ll wake up tomorrow and feel a little bit better.”
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that Ellsbury will have an “aggressive” day on Tuesday to test the progress of his chest. He is still experiencing a sharp pain when he breathes deeply — something that Ellsbury said was limiting his workouts and any other work — but the Sox want him to try to swing more aggressively to see whether he is coming closer to a return to the lineup.
Ellsbury said that he has had some improvement. The soreness that he first experienced, which had been located across his ribs, is now isolated at the location of the impact.
“All of that other soreness has pretty much gone away. It’s just right where I took the hit on my chest, that’s where I still feel that sharp pain,” said Ellsbury. “You want to be out there and contribute, but it’s just a rough stretch right now.”
Meanwhile, the health of Mike Cameron remains an ongoing source of concern. He left for Mass. General this morning with a recurrence of the symptoms that led to a kidney stone being removed last Friday. But after doctors ruled out kidney stones, they are still trying to find out what is ailing the Sox’ centerfielder.
“He’s been [at the hospital] all day,” said Francona. “The CT-scan, we think, ruled out more stones. He’s in a tube now, they’ve got multiple doctors trying to figure out what’s going on. We don’t know. He’s been in there all day.’
The Sox have held off on putting Ellsbury on the disabled list to this point in part because Cameron returned so quickly to the lineup. Indeed, Francona said during the weekend that the Sox probably would have had to make a move had Cameron not returned to the lineup one day after having the kidney stone removed.
But now, with Ellsbury’s progress unclear and Cameron having endured his setback, the team will have to revisit the question of making a roster move to summon an outfielder from Triple-A.
“That’s something that [GM Theo Epstein] and I are going to talk about,” said Francona. “We’ve tried to do what we’ve thought was right the whole way. There’s a lot of uncertainty going on right now. We’ll probably continue to talk tonight. Hopefully we’ll get some more information pretty soon.’
Josh Reddick had appeared to be the most likely candidate for a call-up (indeed, he was in Boston on Friday), though because the Sox designated Ramon A. Ramirez for assignment on Friday, the team does have an opening on the 40-man roster should it choose to add Darnell McDonald.
|04.19.10 at 1:56 pm ET|
The Tampa Bay Rays earned the first four-game sweep of the Red Sox in franchise history, punctuating the weekend wraparound series with an emphatic 8-2 drubbing. The Sox were held to two or fewer runs in three of the four games against their AL East rivals, and were outscored by a 24-9 count.
John Lackey endured one of the worst beatings of his career. He got battered over his 3.1 innings of work, allowing eight runs on nine hits and a walk. It was just the fourth time in his career that Lackey had lasted four or fewer innings while conceding eight or more runs (last on Sept. 26, 2008, when he gave up 10 runs in 2.2 innings).
The Red Sox never held a lead in the four-game set. Their 4-9 record leaves them a stunning six games out of first place barely two weeks into the season.
The Sox were still in the game, trailing 1-0, with two outs and Rays runners on first and third in the top of the third inning. But after Carl Crawford stole second, Evan Longoria ripped a two-run double to left, which was followed quickly by a walk and three-run homer into the Red Sox bullpen by B.J. Upton off of Lackey. The rout was on.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
Nothing. The work of relievers Scott Atchison (2.2 scoreless innings) and Ramon Ramirez (2 scoreless innings) or the two-run homer by Jeremy Hermida could do little to diminish the ugliness at Fenway Park.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
Everything. More specifically, the Red Sox endured shortcomings in all three primary facets of the game:
–Pitching: Lackey was assaulted by the Rays. Entering the contest, he had allowed 10 hits and two runs in 12.2 innings. He nearly matched those totals in just 3.1 innings on Monday. The hits were not of the cheap variety, either: of the eight hits he conceded, five were for extra bases. The Rays were on everything that the pitcher threw, collecting four hits on fastballs, three on curves and two on cutters.
–Defense: The Sox outfield suffered greatly in the absence of both Mike Cameron (kidney stones) and Jacoby Ellsbury (ribs). Hermida kicked a single for an error, and Bill Hall was also initially charged with an error on a ball off the Wall in left-center that ricocheted past him. The ruling was later changed to a triple (from a double and an error), but it continued a rough stretch of games for the defense. The Sox have now committed nine errors in their last five games.
–Hitting: The Sox are now a remarkable 0-for-32 with runners in scoring position dating to last Wednesday’s game, and have been hitless in five straight contests in those situations. Rays starters had a 2.36 ERA in their four starts, while the Tampa Bay bullpen posted a 1.46 mark in 12.1 innings.
In five games starting with their shutout loss to the Twins on Thursday, the Sox are now hitting .196/.261/.341/.602.
|04.19.10 at 12:40 pm ET|
With the Red Sox trailing the Rays, 8-0, in the fourth inning, it brings to mind another thrashing that the Sox endured on Patriots’ Day. Certainly, Chris Woodward — who enjoyed a cameo as the Sox’ shortstop last season, and who is now playing in Tacoma, the Triple-A affiliate of the Mariners.
Woodward has 33 homers in his 10-year career, but none are anywhere close to as memorable as the one he hit against the Red Sox on April 21, 2003.
Woodward had the good fortune to step to the plate at about noon. Sox starter John Burkett was enduring a terrible outing, trailing 5-0 in the top of the third. With a runner on first and a 1-1 count, Woodward stepped into the box.
Around the time he did so, the Boston Marathon commenced, an event that was announced by a formation of F-16s that journeyed from Hopkinton to Boston. The jets thundered over Fenway as Burkett delivered his pitch, and continued to offer a resounding soundtrack as Woodward blasted a two-run homer over the Green Monster. It seems almost impossible that another homerun will ever be so boldly announced.
‘That still goes down as the coolest moment in my career,’ Woodward said last August. ‘That was kind of surreal. I was getting ready to call time out because I could hear them coming, but Burky was so quick (to the plate). He came set, so I figured I just have to wear it. I hear them right as he’s letting go of the ball. I hit it, and I was screaming, ‘Get up!’ I couldn’t even hear myself screaming as I was rounding first.
‘My teammates were all shocked when I got to the dugout. They were like, ‘I can’t believe you just did that.’ That goes down as the coolest thing I’ve ever done in baseball.’
|04.19.10 at 10:04 am ET|
Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron was scratched from today’s lineup after arriving at Fenway Park and exhibiting symptoms similar to those he endured last week, when he was diagnosed with kidney stones. Cameron was moving slowly when he entered the clubhouse and dressed, and after consulting with the team’s medical staff, he was taken to Mass. General to see whether he may once again be facing kidney stones.
“Cameron was in there, and then as the morning progressed, he was showing similar symptoms to the other day. I guess there’s a chance that he’s passing more,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “He’s really struggling. I think as the night progressed last night, his back got sore, his front got sore, he’s really feeling it. So we’ve got to get him looked at.”
Cameron is off to a slow start this year, hitting .233/.361/.333/.694. He has also had some troubles in the outfield while adjusting to a new park and a new set of hitters.
Part of those struggles, Francona suggested, represent a normal period of adjustment, and part of them reflect on the 37-year-old’s health. Cameron said in recent days that he began to feel discomfort during Wednesday’s game, and there is a decent likelihood that the stones contributed to his performance struggles.
“I think he’s probably a tougher kid than people realize, also. I haven’t had what he’s going through, but when you talk to people that do, they say it’s agonizing. And he’s out there playing,” said Francona. “I don’t think, physically, that he’s felt great the past week. He’s been in Minnesota, it’s a new ballpark for everybody. Fenway certainly is, for him. So yeah, I don’t disagree with [the idea that he's adjusting defensively]. We haven’t been on the field very much ‘ I’m not making excuses, but … yeah, I’m sure he is.”
Cameron was replaced in the lineup by Bill Hall, who will play center field and bat eighth.
|04.19.10 at 7:47 am ET|
The Rays have come into Fenway Park and dropped the Red Sox into the depths of the AL East. It’s early, but a 1-5 record to begin the season against division opponents is a cause for concern, especially if the Rays finish off the four-game sweep.
This is where John Lackey needs to step up and right the ship. Lackey has been the sharpest starter for the Sox this season, and for fans’ sake, the hope is he can be as sharp in the morning as he is as night. If Lackey was still in Los Angeles, his start on Monday would begin at 8:05 in the morning.
In day games, Lackey is a career 31-20 pitcher with a 3.71 ERA. The better news is that Lackey is a career 9-2 with a 3.07 ERA in 12 starts vs. the Rays, but his last start against the Rays resembled the ones that his fellow Red Sox starters have thrown up in the last two starts (five innings, eight earned runs).
While Lackey has some experience vs. the Rays, the Red Sox will face a relatively unfamiliar foe in Jeff Niemann. Niemann, a commanding 6-foot-9 presence on the mound, has only faced the Sox once in his career when he was roughed up last season to the tune of six runs (five earned) in his three innings of work on May 5.
RAYS VS. JOHN LACKEY
Carl Crawford (34 plate appearances): .394 average/ .394 OBP/ .576 slugging percentage, 1 homer, 1 strikeout
Carlos Pena (28): .217/ .357/ .478, 2 homers, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts
Dioner Navarro (18): .118/ .111/ .176, 4 strikeouts
B.J. Upton (17): .125/ .176/ .188, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts
Jason Bartlett (13): .208/ .208/ .615, 1 strikeout
Kelly Shoppach (9): .167/ .333/ .167, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Willy Aybar (6): .500/ .667/ .1.250, 1 homer, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
Gabe Kapler (6): .200/ .200/ .800, 1 homer, 1 strikeout
Evan Longoria (6): .200/ .333/ .400, 1 walk
Reid Brignac: 1-for-3, 1 strikeout
Pat Burrell: 1-for-3, 1 strikeout
Ben Zobrist: 2-for-2, 1 walk
Never faced: Sean Rodriguez
RED SOX VS. JEFF NIEMANN
Marco Scutaro (11 plate appearances): .091 average/ .091 OBP/ .091 slugging percentage, 3 strikeouts
Adrian Beltre (8): .286/ .375/ .286, 1 walk
Jacoby Ellsbury: 0-for-3, 1 walk
Bill Hall: 0-for-3, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
Jeremy Hermida: 0-for3, 1 strikeout
J.D. Drew: 1-for-2, 1 strikeout
Mike Lowell: 1-for-2
Victor Martinez: 0-for-2, 1 strikeout
David Ortiz: 0-for-1, 1 walk
Dustin Pedroia: 1-for-1, 1 walk
Kevin Youkilis: 0-for-1, HBP
|04.19.10 at 1:56 am ET|
The sight was intriguing, to say the least.
For an outing, in a way, it was as if Bard was the starter for the Sox. And he was entirely impressive in that capacity.
The right-hander blazed his way through two innings, requiring just 17 pitches (16 strikes) to plow through his outing. He certainly looked like a pitcher who could remain in the game and maintain his effectiveness against the formidable Rays lineup.
Bard said that the outing felt entirely like one where he was entering from the bullpen. He began warming up only when the game resumed in the bottom of the ninth.
Still, the mere sight of him as the first Sox pitcher to the hill inspired an interesting hypothetical. Particularly given the gains that Bard made on his changeup in spring training, could Bard imagine a return to starting?
‘I’m open to it. But I’m worried about this year,’ said Bard. ‘This year, we’ve got plenty of starting pitchers. Could it be something we address down the road? I don’t know. I’m not that concerned about it, but I wouldn’t rule it out.’
Bard, of course, began his professional career in disastrous fashion as a starter. He went 3-7 with a 7.08 ERA while walking 78 in 75 innings in 22 starts in 2007.
Following that season, the hard-throwing right-hander went to the Hawaiian Winter Baseball League. There, he got his career back on track while pitching out of the bullpen.
When Bard dominated in relief in the minors in 2008, the Sox decided that they didn’t want to tamper with success. Even though, all things being equal, the team prefers to develop top pitchers as starters and not relievers, the team did not want to jeopardize a bird in hand.
The conservative approach was understandable. That said, Bard believes that the gains he has made since 2007 would allow him to succeed regardless of role.
‘My struggles as a starter in the minor leagues had more with mechanics and the general mentality of pitching,’ said Bard. ‘Everything kind of happened to click with me along with the move to the bullpen. So people were like, ‘He’s a better reliever than a starter.’
‘But I changed so many little things about the way I pitched ‘ how I prepare, and I’ve learned so much about the game, about pitching since then ‘ that I think it would translate over to starting as well. But I’m not too concerned about it right now.’
Indeed, Bard has said on many occasions how much he enjoys life in the bullpen: the adrenaline rush, the attacking approach, the game-on-the-line circumstances.
But is there an element of starting that he misses?
‘Not really. It pays a little better, is the only thing,’ Bard chuckled. ‘I do like coming out of the ‘pen. I think I could adjust back to starting if I had to, but I’m really not thinking about that right now.’
|04.18.10 at 6:58 pm ET|
Jon Lester pulled few punches after getting tagged for seven runs on seven hits in six innings in a 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. (For a more complete look at what took place in Boston’s 7-1 loss to the Rays, click here.) Now 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA this year, the 26-year-old made clear that he views his results in his first three starts to be unacceptable.
“I don’t know what I have to do, I just have to be better,” said Lester. “I have to be better and it’s unacceptable. I’m letting the rotation down, I’m letting the bullpen down. After last night, I have to do a better job and go deeper in that ballgame. I have to give them a blow and I didn’t do that. Most importantly, I’m letting the team down with how I’m throwing the ball right now. I need to pick it up and kick myself in the [expletive]. I don’t know what else I need to do but I’m going to figure it out and everything’s going to ride on from there.’
Lester gave up a pair of two-run homers, one to Carlos Pena (who now has five homers against Lester, more than any other hitter) on a first-pitch fastball in the second inning and another to B.J. Upton on a full-count fastball.
But it was Lester’s three walks (all of which came around to score) and inability to put batters away when ahead in the count that the pitcher and his team found particularly troubling. Upton’s at-bat offered a good example: the Rays center fielder was behind, 1-2, before fouling off a pitch and then watching a pair of fastballs miss the zone. Then, with the count full, Upton could sit on a fastball that he launched atop the camera well beyond the center field bleachers.
“These guys are too good hitters to let them back into the count,” said Lester. “I think I was 1-2 to B.J. and I end up throwing basically some [expletive] pitches to him and he gets back into the count where he feels comfortable and I become predictable and he hits it out.”
Pitching coach John Farrell agreed with that assessment, noting that Lester frequently got ahead of Rays hitters only to let them work their way back into deep counts in which they could sit on fastballs. Of the seven hits that the southpaw permitted, six, Farrell said, were on either fastballs or cutters. Farrell suggested that between the inability to put Tampa Bay hitters away and the concession of free passes, a lot of the damage done against his protegee was “self-manufactured.”
“It was a first pitch to Pena. You tip your hat in that situation,” said Farrell. “The other hard contact, the other base hits off hard, power type stuff, came after he had been up in the count and worked the count full or deep to then, I’m not going to say backed himself into a corner, but relied on that approach.”
Thus continued what is becoming a familiar trend. Lester has a 2-6 record and 5.46 ERA in March/April, a pattern that he had been hoping to avoid this year.
To date, he has failed to do so. To the contrary, through three starts, he is off to the worst start of his career. Yet as disappointing as the start has been, the Sox remain optimistic that the pitcher’s outstanding arsenal — on dramatic display in the first inning on Sunday, in which he struck out the side against the Rays on 16 pitches — will soon equate to a reversal of misfortune.
“He’ll get himself turned around. He’s run into this the last couple years for whatever reason,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “Once he gets on a roll, he’s showed what he can do. We just want him to start soon.”
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