Archive for June, 2011

Closing Time: Jon Lester teams with Jason Varitek to power Red Sox past Phillies

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

PHILADELPHIA — It could have turned out to be a very uneven day for the Red Sox.

First came the news that Kevin Youkilis wouldn’t be available due to an injured left ankle (which was X-rayed, coming back negative). That led to a lineup that featured Darnell McDonald hitting second and Jason Varitek manning the No. 5 hole. And then, just before the series finale with the Phillies, outfielder Mike Cameron was designated for assignment by the Sox.

But thanks to Jon Lester, all the potential distractions meant little. The lefty starter allowed just two hits over seven innings, striking out five, walking two and not giving up a single run. The end result was a 5-2 win for the Red Sox, who head to Houston 2-6 on their current road trip.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox win …

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Lester was dominant, surrendering just two singles, to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, respectively. The lefty becomes the sixth big leaguer to notch 10 wins, with his ERA dropping from 3.66 to 3.43.

Jacoby Ellsbury showed his worth once again, notching a pair of hits, including an RBI single scoring Drew Sutton with the Red Sox’ second run. It was a welcome turn of events for Ellsbury, who came into the game just 2-for-21 on the road trip.

– Varitek accounted for the Red Sox’ third and fifth runs when he went deep to right field for his fourth and fifth home runs of the season. The two solo shots allowed the catcher to now hit safely in 16 of his last 20 starts. The game marked the first time since 2007 that Varitek had hit as high as the No. 5 spot in the order, being slotted just behind cleanup hitter Dustin Pedroia. It was also his 11th career multi-home run game.

– Sutton, who was subbing in for Kevin Youkilis due to the third baseman’s injured left ankle, came away with his fifth multi-hit game of the season. According to WEEI.com stat man Gary Marbry, he also became the 61st Red Sox player to have at least one RBI on his birthday, with Ted Williams leading the way with 13 birthday RBIs.

– The Red Sox were able to get Philly starter Cole Hamels out of the game after just four innings thanks to a line-drive off the bat of Adrian Gonzalez which bruised the pitcher’s right hand. (X-rays were negative.) Hamels, who now has the second-lowest ERA in the majors since last July 1, had only surrendered two hits without allowing a run before his departure.

“I hope this kid is OK, but Gonzy’€™s hit was’€¦ He was going right through us,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “That was probably our best way to get him out of there because he wasn’€™t going to leave anytime soon. Obviously, when you get to the bullpen before you want to, it gave us a chance.”

– Pedroia remained strong as a cleanup hitter, this time hitting his fourth career opposite field home run in the eighth inning. The blast over the right field was the only hit of the day for the second baseman, who is now 14-for-24 three homers in the No. 4 spot.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Bobby Jenks‘ struggled in his second appearance of the series, allowing a two-run homer to Ryan Howard in the ninth. The reliever recorded just one out, allowing two hits and a walk before giving way to Jonathan Papelbon.

– J.D. Drew couldn’t show the Philadelphia fans what was what, lining out to end the Sox’ half of the seventh inning after being booed robustly by the sellout crowd. Drew, who chose not sign with the Phillies after being drafted by Philly in 1997, came into the game hitting .338 in Citizens Bank Park (25-for-74, 5 HRs). Things only got worse for Drew in the next half inning as he failed to come up with a foul fly ball off the bat of Chase Utley, watching it bounce off his glove while siding near the stands.

Looking back at Mike Cameron’s time in Boston

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

The Mike Cameron era in Boston is over.

The Red Sox announced prior to Thursday’€™s game against the Phillies that they had designated the 38-year-old veteran outfielder for assignment. Despite spending just about a year-and-a-half in Boston, Cameron played in only 81 games because of an injury-riddled season in 2010 and his placement as a reserve this season. He amassed a .219 batting average with seven home runs and 24 RBI over that time.

Although the road ahead for Cameron is still yet to be decided, here’€™s a look back at the outfielder’€™s relatively short stay in Boston.

Dec. 16, 2009 ‘€“ Red Sox announce they have signed the three-time Gold Glove-winning Cameron in press conference at Fenway Park. The terms of the contract were for two years and $15.5 million. Cameron was signed to take over the outfield spot left vacant by Jason Bay‘s departure, and the move signaled a change in team philosophy to emphasize pitching and defense almost exclusively over offense. The Red Sox become the seventh team that Cameron has played for in his career.

April 4, 2010 ‘€“ Goes 2-for-3 with a run and a walk in Sox debut as the team defeats the Yankees 9-7 on Opening Day. Starts in centerfield while Jacoby Ellsbury slides to left. Neither would play more than 48 games in 2010 for the club.

April 20, 2010 ‘€“ Team puts Cameron on the disabled list for the first time with abdominal strain. Prior to injury, the new Sox centerfielder had a seven-game stretch in which he went just 2-for-17 at the plate, including five games when he had failed to get a hit, and also dropped an easy flyball in an eventual 6-5 loss to Tampa Bay on April 17. After a rehab stint in the minors, he returns to the big club on May 25 but would need days off the rest of the way to nurse the strain that had still yet to completely heal. (more…)

Red Sox/Phillies live blog

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Join Rob Bradford and others from Philadelphia as the Red Sox look to avoid a sweep

Red Sox/Phillies Live Blog

Sean Casey on M&M: Interleague play has ‘run its course’

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

MLB Network analyst and former Red Sox first baseman Sean Casey joined the Mut & Merloni show Thursday to talk about the Red Sox. To hear the full interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

With the league in the interleague portion of its schedule, Casey feels that maybe it’s time to get rid of interleague play all together.

“I think it’€™s run its course,” he said. “I think it’€™s time to go back to National League and American League and see each other in the World Series. I don’€™t love the schedule. I look back at times when I was in Cincinnati and we were playing the great Cleveland teams and we’€™re trying to fight St. Louis for first place, and they are playing Kansas City for six and we’€™re playing Cleveland for six, we go 0-6 and they go 6-0. I just say let’s go back to American League, National League and we will see each other in the World Series.’€

Casey also discussed Adrian Gonzalez playing at Fenway and how that has benefited him, David Ortiz‘€™s role during road games during interleague play, how he expects the Red Sox to approach the trading deadline, and the perception of J.D. Drew. A transcript of highlights is below:

How playing at Fenway has benefited Adrian Gonzalez:

That inside pitch he can go to left-center with it, that’€™s not easy to do with authority. He gets his hands inside the ball and is able to drive the ball to left-center off the wall. You go back to Petco [home of the Padres] and some of those balls are warning track, now they are off the monster. That is why he is hitting .356. ‘€¦ This guy is tailor-made, came out of the womb to hit at Fenway. It’€™s been impressive what he’€™s done.

(more…)

Minor Details: Salem Red Sox 2011 first half in review

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

In the coming days, the Minor Details podcast will examine the performances of prospects at the different Red Sox minor league affiliates in the first half of the 2011 season. For the first installment, the podcast is joined by Salem Red Sox broadcaster Evan Lepler.

Salem, the Red Sox’ Hi-A Carolina League affiliate, got off to a great start, going 16-5 in April. Since then, however, the team has endured a rough stretch, having gone 15-38 at the time of the podcast with Lepler, including a 1-19 home record at LewisGale Field. (Salem won its next two home games after the podcast was recorded.)

But, wins and losses are always secondary in the minor leagues to player development. And so, Lepler suggests that there have been plenty of interesting players of note to observe in Salem. Among them:

–2010 first-round picks Kolbrin Vitek, Bryce Brentz and Anthony Ranaudo;

–Struggling prospect Drake Britton, who entered the year having vaulted himself among the top pitchers in the system only to endure significant command issues and corresponding mound challenges;

Chris Balcom-Miller, the pitcher whom the Sox wanted to draft in 2009 before the Rockies pounced on him in the sixth round, but whom the team subsequently acquired in a trade for Manny Delcarmen;

–Unheralded yet intriguing prospects such as Jeremy Hazelbaker and Reynaldo Rodriguez (both of whom have been promoted to Portland as a result of their excellent early starts) and pitcher Chris Hernandez.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

Third time’s a charm: Red Sox draftee Miguel Pena’s journey to professional ball

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

When left-handed pitcher Miguel Pena was drafted by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft, it was not the first time Pena had been drafted by a major league team. In fact, it marked the third straight year that a team had selected the hurler.

He was drafted out of high school by the Nationals in the fifth round of the 2009 draft and then in 2010 by the Padres in the 13th round following his first year at San Jacinto Junior College. He did not sign with either team because of money issues with his contract.

‘€œI initiated what I wanted for money [with every team] way before the draft and I am a man to my word and for me to have that under-slot [bonus offer] thrown at me [by the Nationals and Padres], it really hurt my family and I,’€ Pena said. ‘€œI am not going to let it affect me on or off the field though.’€

The drafts each of the past three years have been somewhat unpredictable and surprising for Pena.

‘€œI was surprised coming out of high school, you know, fifth round, that’€™s pretty high,’€ Pena said. ‘€œBut, I was more shocked when I went down to the 13th round [in 2010], but I knew there were some off the field issues. This year I kind of knew the Red Sox were going to take me. I was really close with the area scout back in Texas and it was somewhat surprising but I was very pleased with the round I went in. It really meant a lot to me.’€

After not signing with the Nationals in 2009 he enrolled at San Jucinto Junior College (where Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte both played) and pitched there in 2009. Pena posted a 14-2 record with a 2.51 ERA in his freshman year and then was drafted by the Padres in the 2010 draft, and went on to play in the Cape Cod League that summer.

Pena played for the Falmouth Commodores and only appeared in three games, all of which he started. He did tally 21 strikeouts in only 16 2/3 innings.

There were some off-field issues for Pena that summer on the Cape, reportedly with his host family, which played a role in him not getting the amount of money he desired from the Padres, and therefore not signing.

(more…)

Little drama to be found in the Red Sox big switcheroo

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

PHILADELPHIA — Prior to the Red Sox‘ 2-1 loss to the Phillies Wednesday night, Adrian Gonzalez reiterated (numerous times) that the media was making way too much of the switch that put David Ortiz at first base, and the Sox’ everyday first baseman in right field.

‘€œI’€™m playing right field,” Gonzalez said. “What do you want me to say?”

After manning the position for the first time since winter ball in 2005, there was even less to add.

Gonzalez wasn’t forced to track down any balls in right field (only being forced to jump for a Chase Utley fly ball in the eighth inning that was just out of reach), and Ortiz came across just one chance at first base — a slow roller in the fourth inning off the bat of Dominic Brown.

Offensively, the move didn’t translate into any sort of drama, either. Gonzalez had one of the Red Sox five hits, while Ortiz went 0-for-4. While Gonzalez had little to say about the new venture — which, according to Ortiz, won’t be making a repeat performance Thursday — the DH-turned-first baseman offered his thoughts on the challenges.

“To be honest with you I was thinking about defending myself out there,” Ortiz quipped. “You’ve got tons of lefties coming to hit so you don’t want to get caught with a rocket hit right at you when you’re thinking about hitting … Yeah, I came out of it alive. That’s a good thing.”

Before the game, Ortiz even made a plea to a fellow first baseman, Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard.

“I had a little chat with him before the game,” he said. “I told him I have a family waiting for me at home. He said, ‘Alright Papi, we’ll try and stay way from there.”

Closing Time: John Lackey can’t lead the Red Sox past Phillies

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

PHILADELPHIA — John Lackey sent a message Wednesday night, it just wasn’t strong enough to hand the Red Sox a much-needed win.

The much-maligned starter held the Phillies to just two runs on six hits over 7 2/3 innings, but the end result with still be another Sox defeat with the Phils coming away with a 2-1 win at Citizens Bank Park. It pushed the Red Sox to just 1-4 on their current road trip, and now puts them at 2-6 over their last eight games.

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox loss …

WHAT WENT WRONG
– The addition of David Ortiz to the lineup didn’t accomplish what the Red Sox had hoped, which Philly starter Vance Worley holding down the majors top offense. The righty, who had allowed just one run over his previous 11 innings, allowed one run on five hits over seven innings. He threw 116 pitches. Ortiz went 0-for-4.

– Ibanez continued his mastery of Lackey. Ibanez, who came into the game 19-for-54 against the Sox starter, came away with three hits and two RBI, including the go-ahead solo home run in the seventh.

– The Red Sox were put in a tough position in the seventh inning when with the game tied at 1-1, two outs and Josh Reddick at first base, John Lackey was scheduled up. The starter had only surrendered one run on five hits, while having thrown just 77 pitches. Wanting to keep Lackey in the game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona let the pitcher hit, resulting in an inning-ending ground out to shortstop. It also led to Lackey facing Ibanez in the first at-bat in the next half inning.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Lackey dominated for much of the night, holding the Phillies to just the two runs before giving way to reliever Franklin Morales in the eighth. Take away his last outing and since coming off the righty has now given up 13 runs in 27 2/3 innings (4.22 ERA), striking out 20 and walking four since coming off the disabled list.

– Lackey, who went 2-for-5 last season in interleague play, helped his own cause in the fifth inning by launching a double to center field, scoring Josh Reddick. Prior to coming to the Red Sox the starter had just one hit in 30 at-bats.

– Reddick continued to remain red-hot, claiming his fourth multi-hit game in just 13 big league appearances this season. His second hit of the game resulted, a single to right field, allowed the Sox to get on the board.

Live Blog: Red Sox, John Lackey look to rebound against Phillies

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Red Sox/Phillies Live Blog

Bobby Valentine on The Big Show: Lackey ‘the only whipping boy right now’

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Former manager and ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine joined The Big Show Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

As Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced earlier on The Big Show, Adrian Gonzalez will start in right field Wednesday night against the Phillies and David Ortiz will get the start at first base. This will be Gonzalez’s second career start in right field, and Valentine recognized the risk of the move.

“They’re looking for some more offense, and this is a team that allows its pitchers to relax knowing that they’re going to put up a crooked number. This is a way to try and do that,” Valentine said. “I think that it is risky, as everyone knows and as Terry mentioned. I mean, my goodness, you’re putting your MVP candidate in a foreign place where he doesn’t really know the field that well. He’s going to be chasing after fly balls. I’m sure he told him to just pick it up on one hop or if necessary, two hops and throw it on in and drive in a couple.”

On the lack of production from the bottom half of Boston’s lineup in interleague play:

“It’€™s not really a pray (situation), but you hope to turn it over,” Valentine said when asked jokingly if he would pray in that situation. “And the challenge there is not necessarily to score a lot of runs with the bottom of the lineup, but to get it turned over, not hit into double plays. Have situations where it’€™s at least one batter at a time so three innings later you can get back to your guys that give you a chance to hit. And hopefully they get some men on base.”

On the decision to either keep or remove John Lackey, who’s holds a 7.36 ERA, from the starting rotation:

“Once again that’€™s a turnover situation,” Valentine said. “He either needs to turn over that fastball or turn over that starting role to somebody else. It’€™s kind of unfortunate in that Daisuke [Matsuzaka]‘€™s no longer there so he’€™s the only whipping boy right now. You can’€™t bring Daisuke back. He went under the knife. Right now he’€™s got to do what is at least partially what’€™s expected of him and that is keep his team in the game.”

On second-year outfielder Josh Reddick, who is hitting at a .414 clip:

“I don’€™t know what I think yet,” Valentine said. “I’€™ve only seen him about 10 at-bats. He’€™s different for sure. He’€™s a little freer than the other guys.”

Valentine offered his thoughts on interleague play.

The National League game should be played in the American League city and the American League game should be played in the National League city, just so the fans of those cities kind of get to see what the other game looks like up close and personal,” Valentine said. But, frankly this DH thing was a three year experiment that’€™s gone 35 years now. And usually these experiments end after a few years, three, ten, a couple decades. This is going on a little too far I think. And I think if in fact they’€™re going to realign, like they say they are, and if in fact they’€™re going to have a two 15-team leagues, I think they should play one brand of baseball.”

On which brand of America’s pastime he prefers:

For me, it’€™s the pitcher in the lineup only because it is a different game,” Valentine said. “It’€™s more fun.  When I say you have to turn the lineup over, in the American League city you’€™re not thinking about turning the lineup over. You’€™re thinking about getting guys out so your boys can get up and you don’€™t care where you’re starting in the lineup because usually you have a 1-through-9 situation that’€™s going to be part of your offense. When you have that pitcher hitting, it turns into a whole different part of the game that I like, where you can think a little and try to make things happen instead of just what I think happens often in the American League, just watching things happen.”