Archive for July, 2010

Sox did not discuss moving Ellsbury

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

According to multiple major league sources, the Padres never contacted the Red Sox to discuss the availability of outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. In fact, according to one of those sources, no team contacted the Sox about Ellsbury, nor would the Sox have considered a deal for the 26-year-old barring what was characterized as a massive return.

Ellsbury, after playing three rehab games in the Gulf Coast League this week, played in his first rehab contest with Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles while playing center field. Ellsbury has played in just nine games this year, but is nearing a return to the Red Sox in his recovery from the broken ribs endured earlier this year.

“I can’t give you an exact timetable [for his return],” said GM Theo Epstein. “We want to make sure he’s ready to hit. Last time he came back, I think it took him a little while to get going with the bat and get his timing down. As much as we need him back here, we don’t want to rush him back here before he’s ready to hit. We’re going to be aggressive with it, day to day depending on how he feels and how ready he looks to come up and compete.”

Lowell in limbo: Still no update on roster status

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Following his team’s 5-4 victory over the Tigers on Saturday, Red Sox manager Terry Francona met with corner infielder Mike Lowell and general manager Theo Epstein to discuss the status of the 2007 World Series MVP.

Lowell has been on the disabled list since June 24 with a right hip strain. He recently concluded a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket in which he hit .500 with four homers in 22 at-bats. The Sox tried unsuccessfully to deal him at the trade deadline, but with no match to be had, the 36-year-old’s role on the club is murky. That said, Francona said that the team was not yet ready to announce a roster move involving Lowell.

“It’€™s certainly something that needs to be addressed,” said Francona. “We’€™ll probably talk about that a little bit more.”

Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Tigers 4

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Talk about just what the doctor ordered. The Red Sox stood just two outs away from another disappointing loss and having all of Red Sox nation talking about the big moves the Yankees made and the Red Sox didn’t. Then David Ortiz happened for the second straight game.

Ortiz doubled to left-center with one out in the bottom of the ninth to score three runs and lift the Red Sox to a dramatic 5-4 win on over the Detroit Tigers Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.

Miguel Cabrera drilled a long two-run homer over the Green Monster off Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first as the Tigers raced out to a 2-0 lead and built a 4-0 advantage before the Red Sox rallied with two in the seventh and Ortiz’s 18th career walk-off hit in the ninth.

Two new additions to the Red Sox roster made contributions as Ryan Kalish started in left for Jeremy Hermida, who went from being the starting left field to being designated for assignment just prior to the game. And Dustin Richardson relieved Matsuzaka in the seventh inning, taking the spot of Ramon Ramirez, who was traded to San Francisco at the trading deadline.

Hideki Okajima pitched a perfect ninth to earn the win while former Yankee Phil Coke gave up the game-winning hit and took the loss. The Red Sox, who have won four-of-five, go for the series win on Sunday afternoon.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

— Mr. Clutch is back. David Ortiz, one day after delivering a ninth-inning grand slam to help the Red Sox nearly pull off a ninth-inning miracle, did it again with the bases loaded, driving a Coke pitch to the gap in left-center to score three runs and help the Red Sox come away with a much needed emotional win – and lift.

Just two innings earlier Ortiz struck out swinging with the bases loaded on a nasty two-seam fastball from Ryan Perry that ended the Red Sox threat and kept Boston down by two.

And there were two huge statistical numbers working against the Red Sox.

Ortiz entered the at-bat 0-for-8 with three strikeouts against the nasty lefty, who Ortiz acknowledged afterward, “makes a living against lefties.”

The Red Sox were just 1-36 this season when trailing entering the ninth inning. All of that changed after Ortiz laid off a nasty breaking ball on the third pitch he saw and worked the count to 2-1. One pitch later, he put a perfect inside-out swing on a fastball and drove it to the gap for the game-winner.

— Another smashing debut for a rookie outfielder. Like Daniel Nava, Kalish recorded a hit in his first major league at-bat. The Red Sox were looking for energy from another outfield prospect and Kalish delivered. He finished 2-for-4 and scored the second run – his first in the majors – in the seventh on Darnell McDonald’s double to left.

— Oki’s redemption – at least for one game. Hideki Okajima came out in mid-week and tried to explain why he didn’t talk about his implosion last Sunday in Seattle that cost the Red Sox the chance at a series win against the Mariners. On Saturday, he silenced the Tigers when the Red Sox needed him most, throwing a perfect ninth inning and earning his fourth win against three losses.

Jed Lowrie and Darnell McDonald. Both had huge contributions in the clutch. McDonald went 2-for-4 with his two hits coming in his final at-bats. He doubled home Kalish in the seventh to make it, 4-2. He opened the rally in the ninth with a hustle infield single to deep short, beating the throw with a head-first slide. After Marco Scutaro flew out to left, Lowrie pinch-hit for Eric Patterson in the ninth and drilled a double to left-center to move McDonald to third.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

— Matsuzaka and his opening statement. The right-hander wouldn’t make a great criminal attorney the way he has trouble in making an opening argument. He allowed a one-out walk to Will Rhymes in the first and got Brennan Boesch to foul out to third before leaving a 1-0 pitch right over the heart of the plate for Cabrera, who crushed his 26th homer of the season over the Monster in left. 2-0 Tigers.

Matsuzaka allowed eight hits and four runs over six-plus innings but was saved from his fourth loss of the season when Ortiz bailed him out in the bottom of the ninth.

— No one in Fenway was more relieved to watch Ortiz’s ball find the gap in left-center than Bill Hall. He was thrown out on a very, very poor base-running decision to try and stretch a single to a double in the seventh, with none out. Instead of a huge rally, the Red Sox had to settle for a runner on third and one out, leading to just two runs and left skipper Terry Francona gnashing his teeth in the dugout.

Adrian Beltre and the double-dip. Maybe nit-picking here after the sensational season he’s had but he hit into two double plays in his first two at-bats as the Red Sox couldn’t solve Max Scherzer.


Epstein: ‘Empty feeling’ after not making deals

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said that, yes, there was a bit of an “empty feeling” after his front office had worked feverishly in hopes of achieving an upgrade prior to this trade deadline season, only to make two moves that added nothing to the major league club.

“In past years, we’€™ve been able to make trades that immediately impact our big league team and that’€™s a really satisfying feeling. Other years we haven’€™t been able to and come away with a bit of an empty feeling,” said Epstein. “Today is more the latter. It’€™s not the end of the story. We have August. We have a team that has the ability to get really hot as we get healthy and play our way right back to where we want to go. We have the ability to add in August as well and get contributions from our internal solutions.

“That’€™s not the whole story,” Epstein added, “but if you ask me are we frustrated that we weren’€™t able to help this team today, yeah, we are.”

In the end, rather than add a big league reliever, the Red Sox subtracted one, dealing away Ramon Ramirez to the Giants for a Double-A reliever.

The team also acquired a player who represents a potential project in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a catcher with significant upside but who had fallen out of favor in the Rangers organization, resulting in a buy-low opportunity for a player whom the Sox had liked for some years. But while Epstein said Saltalamacchia could impact the Sox in the short-term, the greater likelihood is that his impact — if any — will be felt in future big league seasons.

Even so, Epstein made clear that the front office believes firmly that the Sox can get hot and reach the playoffs this year. The team will continue to explore the possibility of August reinforcements for a group that has the potential, according to Epstein, to turn on the jets down the home stretch.

“I want to be clear that we still think we have the ability to make the postseason,” said Epstein. “We have to get really hot. And as we get healthier we start to see the team on the field that can get really hot. We were healthy in April, and didn’t play up to our capabilities. That was a real frustration around here. Now that we’re getting healtier, we get our team back on the field, there’s a feeling in that clubhouse and in our front offie that we have the ability do what we didn’t do in April, and that’s run off a bunch of wins in a row. And that’s what it’s going to take to make up this ground. We still have a feeling that that has a good chance of happening. That’s why we’re going to continue to be aggressive looking for help in August.”

The team, which entered today trailing the Yankees by 7 1/2 games in the AL East and the Rays by 6 1/2 games in the wild card, was willing to sacrifice some of its better prospects (though perhaps not its top-tier minor leaguers) in pursuit of that goal. When they did not match up with other organizations on either outfielders or relievers, the Sox instead decided that they would pursue their upgrades internally.

Hence, the team made the decision to shift Felix Doubront to the bullpen for the rest of the season in hopes that he (along with Michael Bowden, who is eligible to be recalled on Aug. 2) can serve as part of the solution to an area of team weakness this year. Likewise, rather than paying a handsome premium for an oufielder, the Sox decided to turn to up-and-coming prospect Ryan Kalish in hopes of boosting both their outfield offense and defense.

Some of the points made by Epstein:

–The Sox do not yet have an announcement regarding Mike Lowell. Epstein hoped to sit down with the corner infielder following the game.

–The Sox thought they had made the sort of proposals to make a deal. The GM suggested that the club was aggressive in its offers in recent days.

“In the last couple days, we made aggressive proposals. We weren’€™t sure if we wanted to go all the way, and we did, and the other teams considered it, and in the end decided to hold on to their guy,” said Epstein. “We had three or four of those scenarios, where we thought that if we offered X, Y and Z, we’€™d definitely get this guy, and we didn’€™t. So we didn’€™t get that part of it done.”

–The Sox were aggressive in exploring the market for middle relievers, but the team was not going to part with some of the top prospects in its system to address that need and acquire a player who might contribute 20 innings or so. Unlike the 2009 deadline, when the Sox dangled elite prospects such as Clay Buchholz in return for players such as Adrian Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay, this year, the Sox weren’t as willing to part with elite prospects.

“If you look at the trade market in general, last year we were talking about guys who were 10-time All-Stars if not Hall of Fame type talent. And this year on the market, it was a different mix,” said Epstein. “We were talking more about middle relievers, and guys like this. That’s the nature of it. This year is not as talented. Are we going to give up our best or second best prospect for what might amount to a marginal upgrade? Probably not in any year. That doesn’t have to do with where we are in the standings.”

–Epstein said that the trade market did not match up well with the Sox’ needs. The top players moved were starting outfielders, and there were also first base/DH options to be had. The Sox required neither.

What the team did need was relievers, and once a pitcher like Washington closer Matt Capps was traded to the Twins for a highly regarded catching prospect such as Wilson Ramos, the bar was set at a place above which the Sox wanted to go in order to reinforce their ranks.

“[The trade market] was deep in starting pitchers, deep in bats, DH-type bats, pretty thin in relievers, pretty thin in outfielders. We were on the wrong end of that supply and demand dynamic this year, because we needed relievers and outfielders,” said Epstein. “If we wanted to be competitive in that market, we needed to pay high prices. I think we thought we were going to get something done, and we were disappointed in the end that we couldn’€™t.

“The teams that did trade their closers, per se, I think did really well. The prospects that they got back kind of set the market, that the other teams that had legitimate, impactful relievers, were going to not move them unless they got a similar type of impact back, and I think that’€™s why you see them not get moved.”

–As for the relief market behind the closers, Epstein noted that there were several relievers moved, but the Sox were focused on those who were elite, rather than on a buy-low pitcher who might be able to help down the road.

“A lot of relievers were moved. A lot of the guys we were in on were relievers who we felt would have been clear, obvious, definite upgrades for us, guys who would have come right into the mix and represented upgrades, guys we could have put in behind [Daniel] Bard and [Jonathan] Papelbon and helped this team immediately,” said Epstein. “We weren’€™t necessarily in the market just for a reclamation project or somebody that we sort of hoped would help us.”

–The team will remain aggressive in August. Though in order for the team to be convinced to invest significant resources in a trade during the waiver period, the club will need to get hot, something that Epstein believes it is capable of doing once healthy.

“I think we have the resources, both in prospects and dollars, to reach out in August, if appropriate, to help this team. Helping the 2010 team is definitely a goal for today,” said Epstein. “Along with doing some things for the future, the primary goal is helping the 2010 team, we weren’€™t able to do that, so that’€™s a disappointment, and something that remains a goal going into August, especially if we get off on the right foot, the way we expect to play in August. We need to have a big August to get where we want to go, if we do get off on the right foot, we can find the right player, certainly.”

–Epstein said that the team determined that Kalish represented as much of an outfield grade as whatever might be available on the trade market.

“We were looking to upgrade the trade market and when it was clear that wasn’€™t going to materialize, we decided rather than putting someone like a Ryan Kalish in a deal that we would regret some day, with the way his development is going, he’€™s ready for a trial here at the major league level,” said Epstein. “He brings a lot of energy, brings an advanced approach to the plate, brings a solid all-around game. Those are things that we could use right now.”

There is no set duration for Kalish’s first trial in the big leagues. But the team views him as a useful contributor for however long he will be up.

“Just trying to spark the team a little bit with a young guy that we feel that is just about ready and that way we won’€™t make trade we’€™ll regret. I think Ryan is as good as some of the guys we could have acquired in this outfield market,” said Epstein. “We’re not looking at him as a savior. He’s here because of the things he brings to the table, his overall game, his advanced approach at the plate, the energy and intensity that he plays with. … He’s a good baseball player.”

–The team does not have a timetable for the return of Jacoby Ellsbury.

“As much as we need him back here, we don’t want to rush him back here before he’s ready to hit,” said Epstein. “We’re going to be aggressive with it, day to day depending on how he feels and how ready he looks to come up and compete.”

–The team has long coveted Saltalamacchia, having pursued the switch-hitting catcher both when he was with the Braves and again after he went to the Rangers in the trade for Mark Teixeira. Saltalamacchia, once considered an elite prospect, has endured a number of struggles, but Epstein said that the Sox viewed this as a chance to buy low on a player with significant potential at a position of need.

“We’€™d scouted him heavily this year. He was obviously a guy we’€™d liked a lot in the past who came with a really heavy price tag in the past. He’€™s someone we hope we’€™re buying low on right now as he’€™s battling a few different issues,” said Epstein. “Obviously, he had the health issue where he had the surgery on the thoracic outlet syndrome this past winter. He had a difficult recovery from that. and then he battled some throwing issues earlier this year, but didn’€™t take time off, really battled through them.

“We had scouts in there very recently on him, actually right up until the deadline. He’€™s throwing the ball back to the pitcher fine, throwing to the bases pretty well. We feel like he’€™s a classic guy with a high ceiling who needs a change of scenery. He’€™d kind of been butting heads with the organization over there a little bit. He’€™s a guy we think we can work with to unleash that potential.”

–Epstein spoke enthusiastically about reliever Daniel Turpen, the 23-year-old reliever whom the Sox got from the Giants in exchange for Ramirez. Turpen throws from an “almost sidearm” low arm slot and has what Epstein called “the makings of three above-average pitches.”

“There’s a chance given service time and some other things that there might be some turnover in the pen and he’€™s someone who can be part of the solution looking ahead. Maybe not this year, but looking at our future bullpen,” said Epstein. “He’€™s a performer that comes from a difficult arm angle, keeps the ball on the ground and throws strikes. We like his demeanor and the three-pitch mix.”

Turpen has a 4.09 ERA in Double-A this year, and a 2.69 mark in his four pro seasons.

Some fact and fiction from the Red Sox’ trade deadline

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone and the Red Sox came away with some pieces that could help in the future in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and pitcher Daniel Turpin. They also promoted outfield prospect Ryan Kalish, along with reliever Dustin Richardson, while also starting the process of integrating Felix Doubront into the bullpen.

There were a grouping of players, however, which the Sox felt like might immediately have an impact on the 2010 club which ended up being deemed not worth the investment.

A handful of potential late-inning relievers were in the Sox’ sights as the trade deadline’s final minutes ticked away, a group that included Seattle’s Brandon League, along with Scott Downs of Toronto and Kerry Wood of the Indians. What wasn’t available, despite reports, were the kind of closers who might have warranted giving up top prospects. Both Kansas City’s Joakim Soria (who had the Red Sox on his list of teams he would have to approve a trade to) and Florida’s Leo Nunez were for all intent and purposes unavailable.

As for outfielders, the Red Sox’ top priority was David DeJesus up until the news that the Kansas City outfielder was being forced to undergo season-ending surgery on his right thumb. Philadelphia’s Jayson Werth also was high on the Sox’ list, but approximately five days ago the Phillies decided they were going to hold on to the outfielder.

Sox acquire catcher Saltalamacchia for two minor leaguers

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

The Red Sox acquired catcher Jarrod Salatalamacchia from the Texas Rangers in exchange for minor-league right-hander Roman Mendez, first baseman Chris McGuinness, a player to be named and cash considerations.

The Sox have long been interested in the 25-year-old Saltalamacchia, attempting to acquire him in deals with the Atlanta Braves (Boston balked when told that it would take Jon Lester to make the deal) and the Rangers. The switch-hitting catcher has was placed on the 15-day disabled list shortly after opening day due to stiffness in his back. He’s had just five big league at-bats this year, collecting one hit.

He required surgery over the offseason to correct Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and when he returned, he experienced problems throwing the ball back to the pitcher. But he is now healthy, and Sox GM Theo Epstein said that he has been throwing both to the pitcher and to bases reasonably well.

He has been in Triple-A since returning, hitting .244/.326/.445/.771 in 63 games for Oklahoma City. The Sox have optioned him to Triple-A Pawtucket. The Sox are hopeful that he may be able to tap into his significant potential with a change of scenery.

In 240 career big league games, he is a .251 hitter with a .313 OBP, .388 slugging mark, .701 OPS and 23 homers in 874 plate appearances. Though his recent numbers have been unimpressive, he is considered a potentially above-average bat for a catcher, though there have been questions about his ability to stay at catcher for the long term.

Mendez is the highest ceiling prospect whom the Sox are moving. Mendez, who turned 20 on Sunday, was dominant in his U.S. debut in 2009, producing a 1.99 ERA and striking out 47 while walking eight in the Gulf Coast League.

This year, however, he has struggled. He started the year at Single-A Greenville, but that assignment was short-lived after he got off to an 0-2 start with an 11.40 ERA, striking out 18 and walking 10 in 15 innings. He was sent to extended spring training and then reassigned to the Lowell Spinners, for whom he is 2-3 with a 4.36 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 19 walks in 33 innings.

Mendez, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, features a big arm, occasionally touching the mid-90s with his fastball while still working to develop a secondary arsenal. The development of a secondary arsenal could make him an impressive starting pitching prospect, though at the least, his fastball suggests the potential of a late-innings reliever.

McGuiness is an advanced hitter whom the Red Sox described as being “Youkilish” when they drafted him out of The Citadel in the 13th round in 2009. He was hitting .298/.416/.504/.920 with 12 homers and 46 RBI in 78 games for Single-A Greenville this year.

Ramon Ramirez traded to Giants, Richardson recalled

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

The Red Sox announced that right-hander Ramon Ramirez has been traded to the Giants. In exchange, the Sox will receive minor-league reliever Daniel Turpen.

The Sox had talked with the Mets over recent weeks about trading the right-hander to New York, but a major league source said that the two sides had not matched up. The Mets were interested in Ramirez, whom they viewed as a good buy-low candidate, and the two sides had discussed a swap of the Sox reliever for Rod Barajas before the catcher went on the disabled list. The two sides also discussed Ramirez for a prospect, but could not match up.

Ramirez was 0-3 with a 4.46 ERA in 44 appearances for the Red Sox this year, though he had been better of late. He had a 2.86 ERA since June 5, a period during which opponents are hitting .216 with a .622 OPS against him. He has struck out 17 and walked seven in 22 innings during the run.

In 2009, he was 7-4 with a 2.84 mark in his first season in Boston. The 28-year-old was originally acquired from the Royals after the 2008 season in exchange for outfielder Coco Crisp.

Turpen has been pitching for Richmond in the Double-A Eastern League, where he had a 4.09 ERA, 42 strikeouts and 19 walks in 50 2/3 innings. In four minor league seasons since being taken in the eighth round of the 2007 draft, he has a 2.69 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 220 2/3 innings.

“There’s a chance given service time and some other things that there might be some turnover in the pen and he’€™s someone who can be part of the solution looking ahead. Maybe not this year, but looking at our future bullpen,” said Sox GM Theo Epstein. “He’€™s a performer that comes from a difficult arm angle, keeps the ball on the ground and throws strikes. We like his demeanor and the three-pitch mix.”

With Ramirez gone, the Sox recalled left-hander Dustin Richardson from Triple-A Pawtucket. Richardson has a 2.57 ERA in 13 big league appearances (spanning just seven innings) this year. He was 3-0 with a 3.19 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket this year.