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Closing Time: Jarrod Saltalamacchia steals spotlight away from Victor Martinez

05.18.11 at 10:41 pm ET
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On a night that at first had many looking at the meaning of former Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez’s return to Fenway Park, it was the current Boston backstop that stole the show.

Following a Carl Crawford walk with two outs in the eighth inning, Jarrod Saltalamacchia smacked a 2-1 sinker from Detroit reliever Daniel Schlereth off the Green Monster in left-center to score Crawford from first.

Boston starter Clay Buchholz lasted seven strong innings, allowing just four hits, one walk and two hit bastmen while striking out seven and not allowing an earned run. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Detroit lefty Phil Coke was just as dominant with a line of seven innings, three hits, one walk and four strikeouts. It wasn’t until the eighth inning until a Boston base runner finally made it to second base.

Jonathan Papelbon nearly spoiled the late-innings drama after allowing a leadoff double to Martinez in the ninth but came back to retire the next three batters, including a strikeout of Alex Avila with one out and a runner on third. The save was his eighth in nine chances.

A rain delay in the top of the eighth threatened to halt the proceedings for some time but lasted only 26 minutes and thus giving Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard just enough time to return safely to the mound after throwing just one pitch before the delay. The delay did, however, chase Coke after he threw just 78 pitches in his time on the mound and seemed set to potentially go the distance.

Here’s what went right and went wrong for the Sox Wednesday night.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

–Buchholz put together arguably his best performance of the 2011 season Wednesday night. He allowed just seven baserunners in his seven innings and tied a season-high in strikeouts with seven. All of his pitches (fastball, cutter, curveball, changeup) were effective, especially the speed pitches early when he struck out Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore on all cutters and fastballs. Even though he earned just his second no-decision of the season, the lanky righty slimmed his season ERA to 3.42, the lowest it’s been after any game this season. Read the rest of this entry »

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Terry Francona on The Big Show: John Lackey ‘not trying to show anybody up’

05.18.11 at 6:36 pm ET
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Terry Francona

Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined The Big Show Wednesday afternoon to talk about the status of his team. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

The Red Sox have heated up and finally pushed their record over .500, but Francona is hesitant to put too much stock in the past week.

“I think you’ve got to be a little careful and use some perspective,” he said. “You can break it down into so many different things. Whether it was the 0-6 start or the 2-11 start. Or you can turn around and go, well, OK, after the 2-11 start, we’ve got the second-best record in baseball.

“So, that’s why I guess I always come back to our record is what it is, and that’s what we go by. You get too caught up in how things have gone the last four or five days, and that’s no good. It’s a long grind.”

On the negative side, John Lackey was placed on the disabled list after struggling on the mound and then making a comment to the media about how things in his life have not been going well. Asked if Lackey was given time off in part for off-field reasons, Francona insisted that’s not the case.

“Obviously, I was aware of that [comment],” Francona said. “And obviously, I was aware of it before. But when someone says something publicly, then you have to deal with it more publicly, I guess is the way to answer that. But no, this was completely elbow-related.

“I think the one thing that Lack felt like was when he got to the mound, it was sort of a refuge for him. Maybe not always the best refuge, because it wasn’t going as well as he wanted. As the week progressed, we knew we were going to get him checked out. It was a pretty big gray area. So, we kept him on his schedule. And then when we got all the facts, then we sat down. and we knew we had a plan in place if we weren’t going to pitch him, but once we started talking, and we talked more, and then we talked to Lack, we decided to take it out of his hands.

“I think if it was in September, we would have let him pitch through it. But because it’s May, and again, after talking to the medical people, I don’t think letting him pitch through it was going to help him get better and get to the point where we want him to get. So, we kind of took it out of his hands. That’s just the way it is.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adrian Gonzalaez, Boston Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Dustin Pedroia

Red Sox vs. Tigers Live Blog — May 18

05.18.11 at 6:32 pm ET
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It’s reunion day at Fenway Park, with old friend Victor Martinez back in uniform as a member of the Detroit Tigers against the Red Sox teammates with whom he played in 2009-10. Martinez’ son, Victor Jose, now in full Tigers regalia, was back at the ballpark as well.

For the latest from the game, join the WEEI.com live blog below.

Victor Martinez: Boston was ‘best time of my career’

05.18.11 at 6:21 pm ET
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If the Tigers’ May 18-19 spots on the Red Sox schedule weren’t enough of a sign that former Boston catcher Victor Martinez was making his return as an opponent, the scene on the Fenway Park field before Wednesday’s game certainly was enough. Martinez’s son Victor Jose, who was an institution in or around the Red Sox clubhouse during his father’s year-and-a-half with the team, was playing catch with D’Angelo Ortiz, the son of David Ortiz, just outside the infield tarp. Both were clad in miniature versions of their respective fathers’ uniforms: a gray Detroit 41 for Victor and a white Boston 34 for D’Angelo.

If both members of the Martinez clan had it their way, perhaps that game of toss would be played much more frequently and with similar attire between the two young hurlers. But for now, all the senior Martinez has are the memories of his time in the Hub.

“I don’t have any words to describe it,” he said from the Detroit dugout. “By far, it’s been the best time of my career.

“My wife, my kids, my family and myself, we did everything we could to come back. But that’s just part of the game. It is what it is. We’ve got to move on.”

Part of that moving on process was signing a four-year/$50 million contract with the Tigers in the offseason. (By comparison, the Red Sox were offering three years/$36 million or four years/$42 million.) Martinez, who hit .313 and had 28 home runs in 183 games over the length of his time in Boston, has to adjust to more than just a change of location in Detroit. His switch also calls for the player who has always considered himself a catcher to get more starts at designated hitter than ever before in his career. As has been well-documented by the Jorge Posada situation in New York, the transition from catcher to designated hitter can be difficult on a player.

“It’s definitely a different scenario,” Martinez said. “It’s a challenge. It’s not easy. It looks easy to just go out there and have four at-bats, five at-bats. But you have to do a lot of stuff to keep yourself warm. That’s the hard part of being a DH.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Daisuke: Injury is worse than expected, but surgery not a ‘concern’

05.18.11 at 6:09 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka said that he started to feel the discomfort in his right elbow against the Mariners on April 29, a start that he had to leave due to cramping in his forearm. But, the pitcher added, it “was not a big enough deal to stop from pitching.”

Even so, the right-hander ended up making concessions to the injury. He received extra rest following the Mariners start. He ended up making an appearance out of the Sox bullpen in a 13-inning loss on May 4 against the Angels, and then made his first start in nine days on May 8. He pitched well enough to earn the victory, allowing four runs in six innings, but even so, his stuff wasn’t anything like the overpowering arsenal that he’d featured in his final two starts before the Mariners game, when he allowed a combined two hits in 15 innings.

Matsuzaka, through a team translator, acknowledged that his feel on the mound had changed, and that he’d changed his pitching style to accommodate his injury. (That might help to explain the steady decline in velocity that he experienced over the last three weeks, as well as the dramatic loss of command he experienced on Monday, when he allowed seven walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Orioles. Details on those red flags are here.) Even so, he was surprised when an MRI revealed a sprained ulnar collateral ligament (the so-called Tommy John ligament) as well as a strain to his common flexor mass.

“When I heard the result of the MRI, the condition was worse than I expected,” said Matsuzaka. “If I continued this pitching, I wouldn’t help the team. That’s how it turned out.

“In general, I could [withstand] the pain and still continue to throw before. At this point, it’s difficult to throw with this pain,” he went on to acknowledge. “I usually have a high tolerance, but this time it’s hard for me to keep throwing.”

Matsuzaka said that he is not “[concerned] about” the possibility of surgery. A team source confirmed that, while one can never say with 100 percent certainty that any pitcher will avoid surgery, in this instance, the club and pitcher are both confident that rest and rehab will suffice to allow Matsuzaka to avoid going under the knife.

So, Matsuzaka and the club remain hopeful that he will be back and able to help the club at some point. It simply remains to be seen when that will be. The pitcher won’t be allowed to throw before his re-examination in two weeks, and he will require as much time to rebuild arm strength as he spends not throwing, according to manager Terry Francona. That means at least four weeks until he is able to pitch again in a rehab setting, and quite possibly longer.

Because it will be two weeks before he is re-examined — during which time Matsuzaka cannot even pick up a ball — he may seek a second opinion of his condition. Even so, the pitcher expressed his disappointment that, for the sixth time in four years, he will land on the disabled list.

“After this injury, I can’t really help the team winning, so I feel regret,” said Matsuzaka. “But I can’t really do anything for now, so all I can do is focus on this treatment and rehabilitation and do what I can do for now.”

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Jim Leyland’s comments draw similarities to Red Sox plights

05.18.11 at 5:02 pm ET
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The Red Sox and Tigers are supposed to be two different teams, each with their own set of problems, right? Well if you listen to Detroit veteran skipper Jim Leyland, you may find the two teams, who find themselves as opponents for a two-game set on Wednesday and Thursday, have more in common than their nearly similarly mediocre 22-19 (Detroit) and 21-20 (Boston) early-season records.

Take bullpen problems.

Both the Sox and the Tigers signed relievers Bobby Jenks and Joaquin Benoit respectively to similar multiyear contracts in the offseason to serve as the potential set-up man in the eighth inning. Jenks got two years/$12 million while Benoit received a deal for three years/$16.5 million.

But after early-season struggles for both hurlers, the exact role for each appears to be much more in the air than either team could have hoped. Jenks is currently on the disabled list with right bicep problems, but the injury came after he had allowed four earned runs in his last three outings to balloon his season ERA to 9.35.

Benoit, who posted a 1.34 ERA in a one-year deal with Tampa Bay last season, similarly saw his ERA jump to 7.98 after his last appearance in which he allowed three earned in just one inning of work.

Luckily for Boston manager Terry Francona, he has Daniel Bard to fall back on as another set-up man. Leyland does not have that luxury.

When talking about his eighth-inning options before Wednesday’s game, the 20-year manager says he can only decide on a case-by-case basis after demoting Benoit.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t really tell you anything. We’ll go by feel.” Read the rest of this entry »

Daisuke likely out at least a month

05.18.11 at 4:24 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka (right) is expected to miss at least a month due to his injured elbow. (AP)

Red Sox Medical Director Dr. Tom Gill issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon in regards to right-handed pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka:

“Daisuke experienced tightness in his elbow during his last start. His examination is consistent with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, and strain to his common flexor mass. An MRI was obtained which confirmed these exam findings. He will be re-examined in two weeks.”

After the statement, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Matsuzaka won’t throw at least until his exam in two weeks, and added that it’s “probably ambitious he will throw then.” He added that the Sox are somewhat relieved to have diagnosed the injury at a time when it remains “manageable,” before getting more serious.

The ulnar collateral ligament, of course, is the Tommy John ligament — the same one that has resulted in hundreds of pitchers requiring surgery that has cost them more than a year on the mound. For now, the Sox seem to think that rehab will suffice to get Matsuzaka on the mound, but it won’t be anytime soon.

“We’ve got to let him have some time down, and then let him, when he pitches again, let him go out there and feel where he’s free and easy, where he doesn’t have to guard against anything, so he can think about pitching and not his arm,” said Francona. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Terry Francona, Tom Gill,
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