Archive for July, 2012

Closing Time: Red Sox get an assist from rain in washing away Tigers

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

For the first 2 2/3 innings of Tuesday night’€™s game at Fenway Park, Josh Beckett was in complete control of the Tigers. In fact, he was perfect, and it seemed as if the right-hander was well on his way to one of his better outings of the year.

But as the theme has carried on throughout Beckett’€™s disappointing campaign, it was not the case. After retiring the first eight Tigers in a row to start the game, Beckett wouldn’€™t record another out. He gave up an infield single, hit a batter and then walked a pair — the last one to force in a run — and was ultimately pulled after team doctors discovered he had a back spasm. On a rainy night at Fenway Park, boos showered on Beckett.

Luckily for Beckett, however, his teammates picked him up and caught opposing Tigers ace and reigning Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander on an off night in which he, like Beckett, struggled to command the baseball while fighting the conditions. The Red Sox offense put together a four-run outburst in the fourth inning to take a 4-1 lead they wouldn’€™t relinquish as the they beat the Tigers for their fourth consecutive win after the game was called due to rain in the sixth inning.

Though he allowed three walks, Clayton Mortensen relieved Beckett and pitched extremely well to help the Red Sox pull out the victory. The 27-year-old righty, called up Tuesday as roster filler after the Sox traded Matt Albers (with Craig Breslow still making his way across the country to Boston), pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and no runs. He picked up the victory — first first of the year — and exited the game in the sixth to a standing ovation from the fans.

The victory was the fourth straight for the Red Sox, who are now two games over .500.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

‘€¢ Beckett started the game exceptionally sharp, retiring the Tigers side in order in the first inning and second innings. First, he struck out Austin Jackson looking before forcing Quintin Berry and Miguel Cabrera into fly outs. In the second, Beckett generated three consecutive fly outs.

It was Beckett’€™s first clean first inning (no runs, no walks) since June 30 and the second straight game he hasn’€™t given up a run in the first inning. With the clean inning, he improved his 2012 first-inning ERA from 10.06 to 9.50.

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Ben Cherington on deadline: ‘I was hoping to do more’

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

In the end, the Red Sox made just modest tweaks to their team at the trade deadline. There is, of course, the potential for the acquisition of Craig Breslow to become a significant move, particularly if it frees Franklin Morales to show anything like the flashes he displayed in the rotation earlier this summer. But for now, even by the Sox’ admission, the activity level was modest.

“I was hoping to do more and do other things to help the team, but in the end, we’d prefer to not do things rather than make decisions that end up hurting us in the long run,” said Sox GM Ben Cherington. “We did feel empowered to do something bold. We just didn’€™t find something bold that made sense for us. We explored a lot of things that were bold and even maybe got close to a couple of things, but we just didn’€™t feel like there was anything of the big, bold variety that made sense for us right now.”

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Matt Albers: ‘I enjoyed playing’ with Red Sox

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

General manager Ben Cherington and the Red Sox didn’t make the blockbuster trade that some wanted to see before Tuesday’€™s 4 p.m. deadline, but that doesn’€™t make the deals they did make any less notable.

While management didn’€™t touch a starting rotation that has performed surprisingly underwhelming this season, they did make some adjustments to another area of the team’€™s pitching staff ‘€“ the bullpen. Reliever Matt Albers, along with spot starting outfielder Scott Podsednik were shipped out of Boston and out west to Arizona in exchange for Diamondbacks left-handed reliever Craig Breslow.

Talking with reporters in the clubhouse shortly after hearing he was traded, Albers offered no ill will toward the organization that dealt him, expressing nothing but good things about his now former teammates and excitement for the next stage of his career with the Diamondbacks.

‘€œI had a good time here. I enjoyed playing with these guys,’€ Albers said. ‘€œIt’€™s definitely the most talented team I’€™ve ever been on. ‘€¦ I had a lot of good memories playing in Boston.’€

In two seasons with the Red Sox, Albers contributed solid numbers out of the bullpen. In 104 innings, he racked up a 6-4 record with a 3.81 ERA. After a spotty 2011 season in which he went 4-4 with a 4.73 ERA, the right-hander was a much more reliable arm in his 39 1/3 innings with the team this season, putting up a 2-0 record, 2.29 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 40 appearances.

Manager Bobby Valentine had nothing but positive things to say about him, commending his development over the course of the year.

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This just in: Josh Beckett did not change his home warm-up routine

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

After all the hullabaloo stemming from observations by both Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure that Josh Beckett’s first-inning problems may be a product a warm-up regimen that is typically five-10 minutes earlier than the opposing pitcher, Beckett had this to say …

“I’ve pretty much always been on the same exact schedule,” he said. “I usually start long-tossing at [6]:32 [p.m.]. I do a little stretching at :25 to :27. Then on the bullpen mound at :40. That’s a non-issue.”

But, judging by his warm-up routine Tuesday night, nothing changed.

Beckett started his long-tossing at 6:33, before moving to the bullpen, where he began his throwing at 6:40. The righty finished the process at 6:56. Meanwhile, Justin Verlander began his bullpen throwing at about five minutes after his Red Sox counterpart.

Trade Deadline: Yankees acquire Casey McGehee from Pirates

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

With the injuries to corner infielders Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira in recent weeks, the Yankees acquired a corner infielder at the trade deadline, dealing Chad Qualls to the Pirates for Casey McGehee.

McGehee, 29, is batting .230 with eight home runs in 92 games with the Pirates this season. The former Brewer became expendable when the Pirates acquired Gaby Sanchez, as Garrett Jones and Sanchez can fill McGehee’€™s role at first base.

In 2010 with the Brewers, McGehee had his best season, batting .285 with 23 home runs and 104 RBIs. McGehee struggled in 2011 though, batting .223 with only 13 homers and 67 RBIs.

For a Pirates team that just dealt away successful relief pitcher Brad Lincoln for outfielder Travis Snider, Qualls can fill a spot in the bullpen. The right-hander had a 6.14 ERA in his eight games with the Yankees after being traded from the Phillies on July 1.

With the trade of Qualls, the Yankees have called up Joba Chamberlain from his rehab appearance in Double-A Trenton. Chamberlain has not pitched in the majors since June 5, 2011. Since then, the right-hander has gone through Tommy John surgery, an appendectomy, a dislocated right ankle and a torn right MCL.

Trade Deadline: Rangers move ahead of Dodgers, Yankees to acquire Ryan Dempster

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The speculation around Ryan Dempster finally came to an end just seconds before Tuesday’€™s non-waiver trade deadline. The Rangers swooped ahead of the Dodgers and Yankees to acquire the 35-year-old right-hander while sending two minor leaguers — third baseman Christian Villanueva and right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks — to Chicago.

Dempster is only 5-5 this season, but he has a 2.25 ERA and 83 strikeouts through 16 starts with the Cubs, who are sitting in fifth place in the NL Central. While the two-time All-Star never pitched a game with the Rangers in his 15-year career in the majors, he was originally selected by Texas in the third round of the 1995 draft.

The Rangers used this acquisition to help bolster a rotation that has been hurt by injuries this season. Neftali Feliz, who was moved to the rotation this season, is on the 60-day DL due to a sprained ligament in his right elbow. Texas also recently lost Colby Lewis to a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow that will keep him out until next season.

Villanueva, 21, has spent this season with High-A Myrtle Beach, where he was batting .285 with 10 home runs and 19 doubles in 100 games. Baseball America ranked Villanueva as the No. 100 prospect before 2012.

Like Villanueva, Hendricks has been playing in Myrtle Beach this season. The 22-year-old starter is 5-8 this season with a 2.82 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 20 starts.

Frankly, the Craig Breslow deal is largely about Morales

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The Red Sox completed exchanged complementary players with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday, acquiring left-handed reliever Craig Breslow from Arizona in exchange for right-hander Matt Albers and outfielder Scott Podsednik. In a vacuum, the deal looks like one in which the Sox moved a surplus piece (Podsednik, stashed in Triple-A) while swapping a right-hander who is having a good year with a left-hander who is doing the same.

Albers has a slightly better ERA than Breslow (2.29 vs. 2.70), but Breslow has better peripherals (foremost, his strikeout rate) to suggest that his performance might be more sustainable. Even so, the acquisition of a left-hander by the Sox is likely the undercard to what could be the most impactful development of the trade.

With the addition of another left-hander to join Andrew Miller in the Red Sox bullpen, the Sox are now free to shift left-hander Franklin Morales back from the bullpen to the rotation, where he had a spectacular cameo earlier this summer. The 26-year-old is 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA, 9.5 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings this year. In five starts, he was 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA, 10.6 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings.

He showed an electrifying starter’s arsenal. In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, one Red Sox team official surveyed the landscape of available starting pitchers and said simply, “There isn’t a starter out there with better stuff than Franklin Morales.” (more…)