Archive for June, 2012

A look back at the Red Sox career of Darnell McDonald

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

After spending three seasons in Boston, Darnell McDonald‘€™s time with the Red Sox may have come to an end  Saturday when he was designated for assignment to make room for the returning Josh Beckett.

McDonald was signed as a minor league free agent on Nov. 24, 2009, with Triple-A Pawtucket and made regular contributions with the Red Sox in 2010 when Jacoby Ellsbury went down with an injury. When Ellsbury returned, however, McDonald’€™s role was reduced and he played less and less over the course of his last two seasons.

During his time with the Red Sox, McDonald played in 234 games, batted .252, hit 17 home runs and drove in 67 RBIs. And despite not being a full-time player, the 33-year-old outfielder earned his share of memorable moments during his tenure with the Red Sox. Here is a list of some of those moments that Red Sox fans won’€™t soon forget:

‘€“ McDonald didn’€™t waste any time making an impact in a Red Sox uniform. On April 20, 2010, he made his debut against the Rangers as a pinch-hitter. Trailing by a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth and with Jason Varitek on base, he took Josh Reddick‘€™s spot in the order and cranked a two-run homer over the Green Monster to tie the game at six.

The game-tying home run marked the ninth time in Red Sox history that a player hit a home run in their first at-bat and the third time in the form of a pinch-hit.

McDonald wasn’€™t done, though. In the bottom of the ninth, with the game still tied and the bases loaded, McDonald came up again and lifted a high fly ball that hit the Green Monster just past the leap of Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and scored Kevin Youkilis from third for the walk-off victory. The team mobbed McDonald in short left field as he became the first player in club history to collect a walk-off RBI in his debut.

In the midst of a hot streak, McDonald kept it up the next day in his second game with the Red Sox, as he homered again in an 8-7 victory.

‘€“ On Aug. 17, 2010, McDonald feasted on an offering from Angels pitcher Jered Weaver and cleared a solo home run over the Green Monster seats. NESN cameras caught the ball’€™s trajectory as it sailed over and broke a car’€™s window in a parking lot across the street from Fenway Park.


Saturday’s Red Sox-Mariners matchups: Josh Beckett vs. Erasmo Ramirez

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Beyond the early-season incident of going golfing while nursing an injured lat, Josh Beckett‘€™s 2012 season has been one of extreme frustration, one full of wasted gem after wasted gem on the mound.

Beckett’€™s numbers imply anything but a resume worth of gems. He’€™s 4-7 with a 4.14 ERA and is 0-3 in his last three trips to the hill, but that doesn’€™t tell the whole story. In fact, in his last six starts, Beckett has pitched at least seven innings and produced four quality starts. And in his 12 total starts this season, only two can really be qualified as disastrous ones, and those occurred in the season-opener and May 10.

Since his last win on May 20, Beckett has lowered his ERA and allowed no home runs and just two walks across 29 innings over the course of four starts despite going 0-3 in them. On Saturday night, Beckett will look to build on that success and get back in the win column when he returns from the disabled list to take on a struggling Mariners team at Safeco Field. The right-hander was placed on the DL on June 16 with shoulder inflammation.

Historically speaking, Beckett is at his best when he faces the Mariners. He’€™s 7-1 with a 2.30 ERA in nine starts against them since becoming a member of the Red Sox in 2006. That includes his last start against them at Fenway Park on May 15, when he tossed a seven-inning shutout while allowing just four hits and collecting a season-high nine strikeouts en route to a 5-0 victory.

This season’€™s version of the Mariners may be one of the worst offensively that Beckett has seen in his career. The M’s rank 27th in batting average (.234), 29th in on-base percentage (.295) and 28th in slugging percentage (.366). Their best hitter statistically, Ichiro Suzuki, is hitting just .272 this season and they’€™re coming off of getting two-hit by Aaron Cook on Friday night.

Part of the reason that Beckett has been unsuccessful this season in finding the win column may be because of a lack of run support. In his seven losses, the Red Sox have scored a total of 12 runs, which is just 1.7 per game. They’€™ll try to turn that around against Erasmo Ramirez, who will make his fourth career start for the Mariners.

The rookie right-hander, who started the season as a reliever, is 0-2 with a 4.18 ERA. He made seven appearances before being sent down to Triple-A Tacoma in early May and then returned to Seattle on June 13 in a starter’€™s role. After two rough outings, the 22-year-old put together a gem on June 25 against the Athletics. He pitched eight innings, allowed just three hits, one run (earned) and struck out 10, but suffered the loss as the Mariners fell 1-0.


Red Sox Minor League Roundup: The spinning wheel for Daniel Bard, Stolmy Pimentel comes back, Bryce Brentz and the BB

Saturday, June 30th, 2012



— There have been glimpses of promise for Daniel Bard during his time in Triple-A Pawtucket. But to date, they have disappeared almost as quickly as they’ve emerged, leaving the picture of a pitcher whose mechanics are not close to major league ready right now.

Bard had perhaps his worst outing since being sent back down to Triple-A, retiring just one of the six batters he faced after coming into the game for the top of the seventh inning against Charlotte, the Triple-A affiliate of the White Sox. Bard permitted a leadoff single and steal, and after getting a fly out, walked one batter, hit another, then walked two more to force in a pair of runs. He threw just nine of 26 pitches for strikes.

After nine minor league appearances, Bard has a 7.15 ERA with 14 strikeouts and eight walks in 11 1/3 innings.

“He just can’t repeat with consistency, which is why he’s here, and then you see the wheel start spinning and things kind of snowball,” PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler told the Providence Journal. “That’s the whole deal — trying to get that feel and that consistency to try to repeat.”

— In the first game of his rehab assignment with Pawtucket, Scott Podsednik went 0-for-3 with a walk while serving as the designated hitter.

Andy LaRoche, in his first game since signing with the Sox, went 3-for-4 with three singles and a strikeout.

Alex Wilson had a strong outing in relief of Bard. He inherited a bases-loaded, one-out jam and escaped by inducing a rare double play ball, then sailed through the next two innings, striking out three, walking one and allowing just one single. The 2 2/3 innings was his longest as a reliever.



— Outfielder Pete Hissey has been a dynamic performer since coming off the DL this month, and he continued a string of impressive performances by going 2-for-3 with a double and two steals on Friday. In 13 games this month, he’s hitting .333 with a .356 OBP, .500 slugging mark and .856 OPS along with four steals.

— Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel ended an eight-start winless streak, tossing six innings while allowing three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out four. It was his third straight outing in which he permitted just one walk. However, he also permitted a homer for the second straight outing.

Bryce Brentz continued his run as an on-base machine, going 2-for-4 with a walk. In his last eight games, he’s 10-for-25 (.400) with nine walks, good for a .559 OBP during that span.

Jeremy Hazelbaker went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a walk, a steal and four runs batted in. He’s driven in 19 this month after collecting 14 RBI in April and May combined. The 24-year-old is hitting .274/.371/.512/.883 with five homers in June.



— It is a testament to Brandon Workman‘s consistency in Salem this year that his yields of four runs and eight hits allowed both matched season highs. He worked six innings, walked one (his fourth straight outing of one or no walks) and struck out four while giving up his first homer in six outings. (more…)

Opinion: Is Daniel Bard a lost cause?

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Full disclosure: I was in the camp that believed moving Daniel Bard to the starting rotation was a risk worth taking. Potential upside, a good starting pitcher is more valuable than even a very good reliever, if it fails he can always go back to the ‘pen, all the same stuff you heard from everyone else supporting the move in the offseason.

Well, it turns out I was wrong, Ben Cherington was wrong and Daniel Bard was wrong.

Bard was a flop as a starter, a complete wipeout. In 55 innings pitched he allowed 32 earned runs (5.24 ERA), walked 37 batters, hit eight batters and struck out just 34 guys (he had never been below a K an inning as a reliever). The velocity was down and the command was nonexistent.

His final start — five runs, six walks, two batters hits in 1.2 IP against the Blue Jays on June 3 — was confirmation. Fair or not, enough of a sample size or not, Daniel Bard was going back to the bullpen. OK, the Sox sent him down to Pawtucket two days after the start in Toronto to “work things out,” with no comment on if he’d be a starter or reliever when he got back to Boston, but the ultimate conclusion was obvious.

When Daniel Bard returned, he’d be back in the bullpen. No question about it.

But after nearly a month in Pawtucket, the question has changed.

Has the failed conversion to starter ruined Daniel Bard?

One year ago, Bard was maybe the best relief pitcher in baseball, at least in the top dozen or so. A year ago today, he pitched a scoreless inning against the Phillies, completing a June that saw him allow no runs and four hits in 13.0 innings pitched. That was followed by another scoreless month in July.

This June? Bard has a 7.15 ERA in 11.1 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket, with eight walks and four batters hit.

And Friday night was the bottom (to date, anyway) for Bard. He faced six Charlotte batters and gave up a single, recorded a fly out, walked a batter, hit a batter and then walked the next two before being yanked.

Twenty-six pitches, nine strikes.

Look, maybe Bard will figure it all out and be OK. But it’s fair to at least wonder if we are in Act I of another Steve Sax, Rick Ankiel or Chuck Knoblauch. Again, maybe something clicks and he’s the Bard of last summer, but haven’t seen this story enough times to at least have some pause? Are you convinced that Bard will be an elite major-league reliever again? Because right now — and I’m assuming he’s physically healthy, there’s no way the Sox would be trotting him out to pitch like this in Pawtucket if he was hurt — he’s a terrible minor-league reliever.

Right now, this story isn’t tracking much. We look at the box scores and shake our heads, but other issues are pressing. Plus this: The Sox bullpen has been terrific the last two months, so Bard hasn’t been missed all that much. But what happens if Matt Albers or Scott Atchison or Andrew Miller come back to what they’ve been before this season, which I hate to tell you isn’t exactly out of the realm of possibility? What happens when the 2012 Red Sox need Daniel Bard?

There’s no way to answer that. The Red Sox took a chance and it has backfired spectacularly and with ramifications that could last long past this season. The story just seems to get uglier and uglier with each outing. Because right now Daniel Bard finds himself lost in the tall grass. Others have been there and not found their way out.

Will Bard? Impossible to predict. It sure doesn’t look good, but I’ve been wrong about him before.

Closing Time: Aaron Cook cruises in masterful shutout effort

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

It wasn’t just a fluke.

Aaron Cook turned in a spectacular outing on Friday night in Seattle, blazing a complete-game shutout in just 81 pitches. He gave up just two hits (one of the infield variety, another a liner to the outfield), walked none, struck out two and threw 72 percent of his pitches (58 of 81) for strikes. It was an outing unlike any the Red Sox had seen in more than a decade. After all, the last time that the Sox received an outing of at least eight innings that required 81 or fewer pitches was in 1999, when Bret Saberhagen worked eight innings in 76 pitches.

But while the performance in the Red Sox’ 5-0 victory over the Mariners was unlike any other by a Boston pitcher in years, it was not unfamiliar territory for Cook. This was the sort of performance that, at his peak with the Rockies from 2007-09, defined him as one of the better pitchers in the National League. In 2007, he had a 74-pitch complete game; in 2009, he needed just 79 pitches for a complete-game shutout.

This is what a sinkerball can do when it is in peak form, eliciting feeble early-count contact that keeps a game moving at a blistering pace and, not only keeps a pitcher locked into his rhythm, but also denies an opposing pitcher the opportunity to catch his breath. Cook recorded 16 outs via grounder (with a pair of double play balls), facing just one batter over the minimum, as he claimed his second straight victory.


Will Middlebrooks snapped an 0-for-12 streak in a big way, breaking a scoreless tie with a solo homer to left field in the top of the fifth inning. He later added a single to finish with a 2-for-4 night. The contest was significant in underscoring that Middlebrooks is capable of pulling himself out of slumps, a trait that the Sox had seen once before in May and that ultimately helped convince the team that it was prepared to commit to the 23-year-old and trade Kevin Youkilis. On Friday, that faith was rewarded. (more…)

Friday’s Red Sox-Mariners matchups: Aaron Cook vs. Hector Noesi

Friday, June 29th, 2012

After spending 10 seasons with the Rockies, Aaron Cook has moved on to the Red Sox. He’€™s made just two starts this season in the wake of injured starters in the rotation, and on Friday night he’€™ll do it again as he takes the mound against the Mariners in the second game of Boston’€™s West Coast trip.

After spending the first month of the season in Pawtucket, Cook made his first Red Sox start on May 5 due to the absence of Josh Beckett, who missed that start due to a sore lat muscle, which led to the much-discussed incident in which it was reported that Beckett went golfing with the injury.

As it turned out, Cook may have liked to forget his start just as much as Beckett would like to have forgotten the controversy. Cook gave up seven runs (six earned) in 2 2/3 innings as he was quickly chased by the Orioles. He didn’€™t strike out anyone as the Orioles beat the Red Sox, 8-2.

Cook had a chance at redemption on Sunday, as he was called up a day before his start to replace Clay Buchholz, who had to miss his start due to a serious case of esophagitis. Cook, who was returning from the disabled list after receiving 11 stitches due to a gash on his left knee suffered on a play at home plate, made better in his second opportunity.

He pitched five innings, scattered six hits, gave up three runs (two earned) and struck out none as he earned his first Red Sox victory in a 9-4 win over the Braves. Now, with Buchholz still on the disabled list, the 33-year-old right-hander will make his third start with the team against the Mariners, a team he has never faced. He’€™s faced five different current Seattle batters, posting a combined .100 opponents batting average and striking out four in 20 combined appearances.

The Mariners will counter with Hector Noesi, a young pitcher who has had extreme difficulty finding success this season. In 15 starts, the 25-year-old is 2-9 with a 5.50 ERA. The Dominican hasn’€™t won a game since May 6, and is 0-6 in his last nine starts.

Noesi might be turning a corner after a fairly impressive outing last time out against the Padres. Despite taking the loss, Noesi pitched six innings and gave up only two runs (both earned) although he surrendered seven hits. He’€™ll go up against a Red Sox team that he’€™s faced off against twice as a member of the Yankees in his two-year big league career.


Where does Scott Podsednik fit in the Red Sox’ potential outfield logjam?

Friday, June 29th, 2012

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — At least Scott Podsednik is honest.

“You can’€™t help but think about it because of the amount of outfielders we have,” said the outfielder regarding whom might be the odd outfielders out when Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford return to the Red Sox. “But I’€™m going to be honest with you to tell you I’€™m in a place in my career that I’€™ve become a lot better at worrying about the things I can control and not worry about the things I can’€™t. That’€™s the fact of the matter. I’€™m going to go out and try and stay healthy and try and continue to play my game and help the Red Sox win games. When those guys become available, if I’€™m still with the Red Sox I’€™ll be extremely happy. If I’€™m with another club I’€™ll go and try and help them. I think a player can waste a lot of time and energy worrying about those situations you can’€™t control.

“Early in my career I used to read the papers and pay attention to the rumors and wonder if I was going to make a club or if I was going to get traded. You just wear yourself out thinking about that kind of stuff. I’€™ve just tried to make the adjustments and worry about what I can control.”

Right now, it’s not a dilemma that the 36-year-old has to be consumed with. He will be getting his first rehab assignment at-bats since going on the 15-day disabled list (groin), tonight with the Pawtucket Red Sox, serving as the team’s designated hitter.

But soon, it will become an increased topic of conversation.

Right now there is Daniel Nava (.313 batting average, .429 OBP, still with options), Ryan Kalish (.226 BA, .531 OPS, still with options), Darnell McDonald (.214 BA, .678 OPS, out of options), Cody Ross (.278 BA, .915 OPS, 11 HRs) with Ryan Sweeney, Ellsbury and Crawford currently on the disabled list. Another player in the outfield mix is utilityman Brent Lillibridge, who is out of options.

The good news for Podsednik, that based off his performance in 19 games with the Red Sox, he will be playing somewhere in the major leagues. The outfielder claimed multi-hit games in nine of his 16 starts, stealing six bases while totaling a batting average of .387 and on-base percentage of .409.

And, despite his recent setback, Podsednik stands by his declaration in Miami that this is as good as he has felt throughout his career. It’s a state that he continues to credit to the preparation put in with trainer Eric Minor in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I’€™m not surprised. I’€™ve trained really hard to put myself in this position,” he said. “I still feel like I have some gas left in the tank. I feel like I’€™m a young 36. I’€™m still running well to steal a base. So if I can manage my injuries and keep myself healthy I feel like I can help somebody.”

Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Progress for Anthony Ranaudo, Sean Coyle bouncing back, adversity for Matt Barnes

Friday, June 29th, 2012

A look at the action throughout the Red Sox‘ farm system on Thursday:



Junichi Tazawa had a dominant six-up, six-down appearance in which he struck out four. He snapped a streak of seven straight games in which he walked at least one batter, and 11 straight in which he’d permitted at least one baserunner. Tazawa now has 45 punchouts in 36 innings (11.3 per nine) this year.

Brandon Duckworth tossed seven shutout innings in which he allowed just two hits and no walks while striking out five. On the season, the 36-year-old is 7-1 with a 3.39 ERA. In his last five starts, he has a 1.52 ERA, 28 strikeouts and nine walks in 29 2/3 innings.

— The Red Sox signed Andy LaRoche, who requested and was granted his release by the Indians last week. He played 46 games for Triple-A Columbus, hitting .234 with a .331 OBP, .372 slugging mark and .704 OPS, playing 30 games at third base and 10 more at shortstop. In 403 career big league games (most recently, two score with Oakland last year), he’s a career .226/.305/.337/.642 hitter. LaRoche already owns a place in Red Sox history, having been part of the three-team deal with the Pirates and Dodgers that resulted in the departure of Manny Ramirez at the 2008 trade deadline and the arrival of Jason Bay in Boston, a deal that Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington suggested this winter still costs him sleep.



Anthony Ranaudo allowed just two runs in five innings, though he had three walks (his fourth straight start with at least three free passes) while striking out three. In eight starts, he now has a 6.23 ERA along with 27 strikeouts and 26 walks. Still, while the end result of Thursday’s start was not dominance, it did contain a dominating stretch, as Ranaudo delivered four scoreless innings out of the gate before permitting both of his runs in the fifth on a pair of walks and a pair of hits.

“This is something that I needed, something positive,” Ranaudo told the Portland Press-Herald. “I was pretty much able to command the zone and be aggressive the whole game. … This is definitely something to build off.” (more…)

Nuggetpalooza: A few notes from the Red Sox’ loss late Thursday night

Friday, June 29th, 2012

* – The Red Sox scored 10 runs on Wednesday on the final game of a homestand and then were shut out by the Mariners to kick off their road trip. It’s the second straight time they’ve been shut out on the first road game immediately following a 10+ run outburst at home. The other came on Sept. 10, 2010, at Oakland, when the Red Sox managed only three hits.

Note this: Boston is now 6-13 in the first game of a road trip since the start of last season. The good news is that the Red Sox are 10-4 in the game following being shut out since the start of 2011, averaging 6.2 runs and hitting 20 homers in those 14 games.

* – Seattle’s Felix Hernandez struck out 13 Red Sox on Thursday night, marking the second time this season that an opposing starter has fanned 13+, joining the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg, who whiffed 13 on June 8. It’s the first time that two starters have struck out 13 or more against the Red Sox in the same month since August 1974, when the Angels’ Nolan Ryan fanned a ridiculous 19 on the 12th and the Twins’ Bert Blyleven rung up 14 on the 30th.

Note this: Prior to this month, no opposing starter had struck out 13 or more against the Red Sox since 2006, when Johan Santana, then of the Twins, did the trick.

* – The Red Sox were held without an extra-base hit Thursday for the fourth time this season. Only one team has at least one extra-base hit in every game this season: The Washington Nationals, who are currently at 78 games and counting. It’s their longest such streak since moving back to Washington.

* – Boston lost despite allowing just six total bases (five singles and a double). It was their second loss this month despite six or fewer total bases allowed (2-1 vs. Baltimore on June 6) dropping their record to 4-3 in such games this season. Prior to this season, they had won 94 of their previous 100 such games, dating back to 2007.

* – Franklin Morales‘ outstanding start: 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, and no runs allowed, added up to a (Bill James) game score of 79. Prior to last night, the Red Sox had won 37 of their last 38 games in which their starter had posted a game score of 79 or better, dating back to 2008. The only other loss was Jon Lester’s 1-0 loss in Cleveland during the Red Sox’  April swoon last season.

Have a great weekend! It’s supposed to be 100+ here in North Carolina today and for the three after that.

Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Zach Stewart’s debut; steps forward for Daniel Bard, Carl Crawford; a triples machine in the Dominican

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

A quick look at Wednesday’s minor league action…



— Newly acquired Zach Stewart enjoyed a successful debut in the Red Sox organization after being traded by the White Sox in the deal that moved Kevin Youkilis to Chicago. Stewart logged 5 2/3 innings in which he permitted one run on six hits (all singles). He did not walk a batter and struck out four, retiring 12 in a row in one stretch. He did not allow a run until there were two outs in the sixth. According to the Providence Journal, he worked at 89-91 mph during the outing.

Daniel Bard did not allow a baserunner for the first time since he was sent to the minors. He pitched a three-up, three-down seventh inning, getting a strikeout and two groundballs, while throwing seven of 10 pitches for strikes.

Ryan Lavarnway continued his ridiculous June with a 3-for-4 night that included a double. He now ranks second in the International League with a .320 average, just behind league leader Steve Pearce (.321). Lavarnway is sixth in OBP (.405), 11th in slugging (.489) and 10th in OPS (.894). (more…)