Archive for May, 2011

Kevin Millwood: ‘Good opportunity for me’ in Red Sox system

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

PAWTUCKET, R.I. ‘€“ As he rehabbed from his elbow strain with a start for Triple-A Pawtucket Tuesday night, John Lackey certainly grabbed his fair share of headlines. But it may be a similarly veteran right-hander who will head the PawSox pitching staff for the longer haul.

Kevin Millwood, who appeared at Pawtucket’€™s McCoy Stadium for the first time in uniform Tuesday night, was signed by the Red Sox to provide the team with organizational depth at the starting pitcher position after Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka had already gone down with injuries. The 36-year-old, who had opted out of a contract with the Yankees on May 1 after failing to make the big club, said that when his agent told him Boston was on the line, he knew he had to listen.

‘€œWhen they called, it was a good opportunity for me,’€ Millwood said. ‘€œI was more than willing to stay at home and relax for the summer. When you get a team of this caliber that has some interest and will give me a chance, you’€™re in a better situation.’€

Millwood had made three starts in the Yankees organization (16 innings pitched, eight earned runs in those starts) before breaking ties with the club and signing with its rival on May 19. Since that day, he had been in Fort Meyers for extended spring training where he topped out at a 60-pitch throwing session before getting the call up to Triple-A, where he is expected to start Wednesday night.

That kind of experience brought a little ease to PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler.

‘€œHe’€™s been pitching over in [Yankees Triple-A affiliate] Scranton I know that,’€ said Beyeler. ‘€œSo he should be wound up, ready to go. He’€™ll throw five innings, 75-80 pitches and see how he does.’€

Millwood said on Tuesday that his best-case scenarios over the short term are relatively low while his goals for the 2011 season are quite a bit higher.

‘€œTomorrow just go out, throw the ball well and compete,’€ he said. ‘€œObviously in the long haul, it’€™d be end up in Boston and pitching well. Every outing I have here is going to help me in my way back.’€

As for exactly how he plans on reaching those scenarios rests solely on how he can perform for Pawtucket, beginning with that first fateful outing on Wednesday.

‘€œIt all depends on how I pitch here. Whatever happens, happens.’€

John Lackey: ‘Encouraged for sure’ by quality rehab outing

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — The last time John Lackey pitched in a Red Sox uniform, it was May 11 and he had allowed nine earned runs over 6 2/3 innings to raise his season ERA to 8.01. That poor performance coupled with a series of struggles in the season’€™s early going and perhaps some off-the-field issues as well caused the pitcher to exclaim, ‘€œEverything in my life sucks right now.’€

But the 32-year-old’€™s well-pitched rehab start with Triple-A Pawtucket Wednesday, along with his reaction afterwards, told a different story. Over 5 2/3 innings of work, Lackey allowed just one earned run on three hits while striking out four and not surrendering a single walk.

‘€œI felt pretty good,’€ Lackey said. ‘€œI felt like I had pretty good command considering it’€™s been a while since I faced some hitters. I was encouraged by it for sure. The elbow felt a lot better than it had been feeling.’€

The righty, who received a cortisone shot to help ease the pain on the elbow on May 16, even got a little jovial later when asked again about the health of his right elbow, which had been heavily wrapped in ice and bandages moments earlier.

‘€œMy elbow feels a lot better,’€ he said. ‘€œCortisone’€™s a beautiful thing, I guess.’€ (more…)

Closing Time: White Sox get better of Alfredo Aceves, Red Sox

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Alfredo Aceves‘ success story was derailed for the time being by the White Sox Tuesday night.

Aceves allowed six runs over the first four innings, leading to what turned out to be a 10-7 victory for Chicago over the Red Sox, who are now riding a theree-game losing streak. The righty came into the game carrying a 2.22 ERA in 13 appearances, including two solid starts. While the visitors didn’t come away with any home runs, they did produce 15 hits.

The Red Sox did mount somewhat of a rally with six runs in the final two innings, but Chicago reliever Chris Sale fanned Adrian Gonzalez with Drew Sutton on second to close out the game. It was the White Sox’ sixth straight win over the Red Sox at Fenway.

Here is more of what went wrong (and right) for the Red Sox …

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Aceves, who had only lost once in his 17 major league decisions, didn’€™t have much of anything going for him against the White Sox. The starter allowed four runs in the second inning, and then one each in the second and third, respectively. When it was all said and done, the righty allowed eight runs over five innings, boosting his ERA to 3.51.

Jed Lowrie, who was back in the lineup after being sidelined with a sore left shoulder, struggled on a back-hand play in the hole between shortstop and third base in the second inning via Brent Morel’€™s grounder. It was Lowrie’€™s eighth error of the season.

– The Red Sox offense got little going against Chicago starter Phil Humber. The righy gave up rour runs on nine hits, striking out five and walking one over his 7 2/3’€“inning outing.  (Two of the runs came in the eighth inning, with three being charged after a David Ortiz homer against reliever Will Ohman.)

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Ortiz continued his excellence against left-handed pitching, taking Ohman over the left field wall in the eighth for his 12th homer of the season. The Sox DH came into the game with an .835 OPS against lefties, carrying a .278 batting average.

Jason Varitek was one of the few Red Sox to make a dent against Humber, putting the Red Sox on the board with a solo homer  into the Sox’ bullpen in the third inning. He finished with three hits, boosting his average to .235.

– J.D. Drew prevented what bad nightmare second inning for the Red Sox from being worse with a nifty sliding catch of Alexis Rios’€™ flare down the right field line.

Bobby Jenks got some rust off without allowing a run in returning to major league action since being taken off the 15-day disabled list, stranding two runners in his only inning of work.

Josh Reddick continued to impress since his promotion, launching a double off the left field wall in his first at-bat. The outfielder followed up the double with a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, finishing the night with a .556 batting average.

Red Sox Notes: Jenks hoping to earn his keep

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Bobby Jenks is optimistic that he will be a different pitcher in his return from the disabled list than he was before it.

The right-hander got off to a strong start for the Red Sox, tossing four hitless innings in as many appearances, before an abrupt plunge. In seven appearances from April 15 through May 1, he permitted 10 runs (nine earned) on 13 hits in just 4 2/3 innings, walking seven and striking out four in one of the worst stretches of his career.

That, in turn, led to Jenks’ trip to the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

“It was a solid two weeks, two plus weeks, that I was feeling this, thinking I could just keep throwing through it,” said Jenks. “Unfortunately we just didn’€™t catch it in time. …

“To get back feeling no pain, it was about a week and a half. It was a pretty good strain. Real close to a major tear. It was unfortunate.”

But Jenks, who was activated from the disabled list prior to Tuesday’s game against a White Sox club with whom he had spent all six of his major league seasons, suggests that he is now ready to contribute to the Sox bullpen, rather than to become a weakness in it. He allowed one run in two one-inning rehab appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket, and saw enough during those outings that he is confident that he will see improved results. (more…)

Red Sox vs. White Sox Live Blog, May 31

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Catch the latest from Fenway Park as the Red Sox try to snap their two-game skid. Adrian Gonzalez will try to put the finishing touches on one of the best months in recent franchise history.

Gonzalez has a major league high 41 hits in May, and is leading the American League with 31 RBI. He is the first Red Sox with at least 30 RBI and 40 hits in May since Jim Rice turned the trick in 1978. He also has more RBI in May than any Red Sox since Nomar Garciaparra drove in 33 in 1999. The last Sox hitter to drive in more than 31 RBI in any month was David Ortiz, who plated 35 in July 2006.

For all the latest from the game, which features Red Sox starter Alfredo Aceves against White Sox counterpart Philip Humber, jump into the live blog, below.

Red Sox vs. White Sox

For Carl Crawford, a welcome form of recognition

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

For all of April, the attention dedicated to Carl Crawford was difficult for the outfielder to stomach. After a seven-year, $142 million contract brought him to Boston in the offseason, he started his Red Sox career in dreadful fashion.

Paid to be one of the elite performers in the majors, Crawford was arguably the worst, at least in the batter’s box. By the end of the season’s first month, he ranked second-to-last in the majors in average (.155), last in on-base percentage (.204) and last in OPS (.431).

The climb back from that point has been long, but for his first time as a Red Sox, Crawford was able to show last week what one of his hot streaks looks like. And when the outfielder is locked in, he offered a hint that he can be as dynamic as nearly anyone in the game, a notion that was ratified when he was named the American League Player of the Week for May 23-29.

Over seven games, he hit .423 with two doubles, two triples, three homers and eight runs batted in. He had back-to-back four-hit games last Wednesday (against the Indians) and Thursday (in Detroit), the first time in his career that he has accomplished that trick. Though Crawford’s numbers for the season remain modest — a .232 average, .267 OBP and .630 OPS, along with four homers and seven steals — the offensive surge offered a hint that Crawford has now moved on from his early-season woes.

“I’€™m feeling a lot better. I’€™m feeling a lot more comfortable at the plate. Things are slowing down for me a lot. I feel like it’€™s definitely gotten better for me from the way I started off,” said Crawford. “Lately I’€™ve been playing more relaxed. First month or so, like you said, a lot of pressure on myself. Probably was pressing. Now it seems like things are easing up a little bit. Just hope I can continue to play well.”

Crawford dismissed the notion that his turnaround was as simple as a matter of the weather warming up. That may have been a factor in his slow start (after he spent the first eight seasons of his career roaming the indoors with Tampa Bay), but it would be too easy to use that as the sole explanation for his slow start.

“Playing in warm weather is definitely better than playing in the cold weather. It feels better to have the weather heat up a little bit,” said Crawford. “Weather was tough. [But] everything was tough. It wasn’€™t just the weather. It was a bunch of things. But you know, I never played in the weather for like months in. it was a little different. But just had to find a way to make adjustments because obviously I’€™ll be here for six more years.”

That being the case, the Sox can hope that the award — the fourth time that Crawford has been named AL Player of the Week — is a hint of what is to come, and that April will soon be viewed as an aberration.

Terry Francona on the Big Show: Not a tough call to keep Jon Lester in game

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined The Big Show for his weekly chat and talked about giving Jon Lester a few days off, John Lackey‘s return to the rotation and whether Jonathan Papelbon has matured this year.

There was also some roster moves to discuss as the Sox planned to activate Bobby Jenks from the disabled list in advance of Tuesday’s game with the White Sox. Michael Bowden was sent to Triple-A. Francona also said that Darnell McDonald was in the Pawtucket lineup on Tuesday.

Here’s highlights from the rest of the conversation:

What went into the decision to keep Lester on the mound going into the sixth inning on Monday?

This was not as difficult one as maybe was perceived after the game. He can go into the start of the inning, I think he was at 97 [pitches], he’s given up three runs. He can go into the next inning. We’ve got [Dan] Wheeler up to protect him, but we wanted Lester to get through the inning. As the inning unfolded we have a leadoff hitter, then a left-handed [batter], we certainly going to let him face him.

[Alexei] Ramirez is the next hitter who [was] going into the game 1-for-10 off Lester and hitting .203 off left-handers to boot. He ends hitting a ball about 110 feet down the right field line that falls inside the chalk, it’s two runs. We bring in Wheeler and it’s two more [runs] and it opens everything up to second-guessing which I understand. But for me that was not a tough inning. As long as Lester hadn’t given up a run that was his inning at least through Ramirez. Plus the fact going into the game that we knew he wasn’t pitching until next Tuesday so that gives him an extra three days.

He’s been pushed back three days. What’s the reason for that?

We have two days off coming up which is kind of rare. You don’t see too often and we want to get Lack into the rotation. He’s pitching tonight in Pawtucket. We’ll bring Lester back against the Yankees. It just seems like a good fit and it gives him a little bit of a blow, something I think he could actually use.

Is Lester relying on the cutter too much?

He even said last night that he didn’t command anything last night and it was pretty obvious to everyone. He was scattering balls all over the place and he thought the cutter was the one place he could go to get out of it, which he probably can. I think you run the risk when you throw that many. He’s too good, in my opinion. He’s got a fastball that’s 94, 95 with some sink. He’s got one of the best changeups in the game and a good curveball. Sometimes you’ve got to remind guys how good they are and not lose sight of their other pitches. (more…)

Tuesday’s Red Sox-White Sox matchups: Alfredo Aceves vs. Philip Humber

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

The Red Sox will take to the field Tuesday night as they take on the White Sox at Fenway Park in the second game of a three-game series. Alfredo Aceves (2-0, 2.22) will take to the mound for the Red Sox and be opposed by right-hander Philip Humber (3-3, 2.85). This will be Aceves’€™ eighth career major league start.

Aceves was working out of the bullpen to start the season, but with the recent injuries to John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka he has been inserted into the starting rotation. He has started two games, the first coming on May 21 vs. the Cubs, where had a no decision. Most recently he earned the win on May 26 over the Tigers. In that game he went six innings, allowing just one run and struck out six in a 14-1 Sox victory.

Combined between his work as a starter and a reliever Aceves has pitched 28 1/3 innings this year and has allowed eight runs and struck out 17. He has appeared in 11 games out of the bullpen.

Aceves has not had much experience against any of the White Sox hitters, as no one has faced him more than five times. He has fared well against the current White Sox hitters in the few matchups they have had, as they only have five hits in 27 total plate appearances.

Like Aceves, Humber hasn’€™t had that much experience as a starter at the big-league level. The former third overall pick has had  nine starts in 2011, already a career high after earning just two starts over parts of the previous five seasons. But that lack of experience does not necessarily mean a subsequent lack of success. Humber has tossed quality starts in each of his six starts, going 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA over that time.

A vast majority of the Red Sox roster has never stepped into the box against Humber. Utility man Drew Sutton (0-for-1 with a strikeout) is indeed the only Boston hitter to face the right-hander. (more…)

Jon Lester: ‘I stunk, there’s no other way to put it’

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced following his team’s 7-3 loss to the White Sox Monday night at Fenway Park that Jon Lester wouldn’t pitch again until June 7, allowing the lefty seven days of rest.

The announcement comes after Lester turned in one of his worst outings of the season, a 5 2/3-inning appearance in which he was charged with seven runs and allowed a total of 14 baserunners.

(To see what went wrong, and right, in the Red Sox’ loss, click here.)

“I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I don’t need to go out there and figure things out,” said Lester, who saw his ERA go to 3.94 after the loss. “I just think it was one of those deals I got a little ahead of myself working east to west instead of north to south. I threw the ball up in the zone and that’s what’s going to happen when you do that. I don’t need to throw an extended bullpen, or anything like that. It will be nice to get an extra day, we’ve been going pretty hard at it these past couple of go-rounds. It will be nice. Hopefully it’s not going to go the other way and be too much. Give the body a break, come back on Tuesday and just try and go after it again and see what happens.”

Frnacona talked about perhaps an over-reliance on the cutter by Lester, who was driven from the game by an two-run bloop single from Alexei Ramirez on the starter’s 127th pitch. It was the second-most pitches the lefty has thrown in his career. According to MLB.com, the starter threw the pitch 43 times.

“He’s gotten in a little bit of a mode where his cutter is so good, but he’s throwing a lot of them. We’ve got to get him back to where he’s establishing his fastball, changeup, breaking ball, and using the cutter to put people away,” Francona said. “It’s getting to the point where it’s more and more ‘€¦ it is a great pitch, but he’s throwing a lot of them. We’ll go back to the drawing board a little bit and have a good side with [pitching coach] Curt [Young].”

Lester pointed out that one of the reasons he used his cutter so much was due to a lack of feeling for any of his other pitches.

“It was the only pitch I could throw for strikes,” he said. “I had to throw it. I had no command of my fastball. I threw a couple of decent changeups and I think I threw one curveball for a strike just because I got a checked swing at it. It was really the only pitch I could command so we had to use it.”

Asked if this outing compared with some of his other May starts in which he struggled, Lester said, “No. It’s completely different. Those games guys just got away from me, or I threw a dumb pitch at not the right time. Tonight I didn’t have a feel for anything. I stunk. There’s no other way to put it ‘€¦ Three runs, I need to do a better job of at least keeping us in that ballgame. I just flat-out didn’t get it done tonight.

For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Closing Time: Jon Lester, Red Sox stumble against White Sox

Monday, May 30th, 2011

All of a sudden, Jon Lester looks mortal.

The lefty surrendered seven runs in just 5 2/3 innings, paving the way for a 7-3 win for the White Sox over the Red Sox in the teams’ series-opener at Fenway Park Monday night. The outing pushed Lester’s ERA to 3.94, the highest its been this late in the season since July 5, 2009.

Lester was coming off an encouraging, six-inning outing in which he didn’t allow a run. But, with this performance, the Opening Day starter has now totaled four starts in which he has allowed five runs or more, having managed the feat a total of six times last season.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Lester had to work harder than normal to get through 5 2/3 innings, throwing 127 pitches, the second-most in his career. The lefty came into the game having tossed 201 in his previous two starts, giving him 328, two shy of the threshold put in place by the Red Sox for their starters over three starts. The lefty was ultimately driving from the game on a bloop, opposite field single by Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez. He finished giving up his seven runs on eight hits, four walks and two hit-batsmen. It marked the seventh time in Lester’s career he has given up at least seven runs.

– Dan Wheeler continued his struggles, coming on for Lester with two outs in the sixth inning and promptly giving up a two-run single to Carlos Quentin. The righty had gone two straight outings since coming off the 15-day disabled list without allowing a run, but with the Quentin hit has now let five of his seven inherited runners to score.

– According to WEEI.com stat man Gary Marbry, the Red Sox have now lost their last 10 games when their starter has allowed 14 or more runners. Lester allowed 14. Marbry pointed out that the last two times a Sox starter has hit the 14-runner mark in less than six innings came in 1992 with Joe Hesketh, and an Oil Can Boyd outing in 1984.

– The final four batters in the Red Sox’ lineup — Carl Crawford, Drew Sutton, J.D. Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia — went hitless. Crawford’s average against left-handers fell to .108 after striking out vs. Matt Thornton with two runners on in the eighth.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Adrian Gonzalez launched his 10th homer of the season in the first inning against White Sox starter Jake Peavy, marking the first time the first baseman had gone deep since May 14. Gonzalez also flashed his glove, saving multiple runs when he dove and snagged a two-out sharp grounder off the bat of Paul Konkero with the bases loaded in the eighth.

Dustin Pedroia, who had at least one RBI in four of his last six games after not totaling one in 17 straight games, helped the Red Sox draw even with a two-run single back up the middle, tying the game at 3-3 in the third inning.