Archive for August 6th, 2013

Red Sox pregame notes: Clay Buchholz takes step forward with successful bullpen session

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz

HOUSTON – Clay Buchholz seemingly took a significant step toward returning to the rotation, Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.

The Red Sox pitcher, who hasn’t seen game action since June 8 due to a trap/shoulder issues, threw off a mound for the first time July 14. The 27-pitch session was “night and day compared to” the tosses he executed in the bullpen in Oakland.

The plan for Buchholz is to now throw another bullpen Friday in Kansas City with greater intensity, having thrown at what he described as around 60-65 percent Tuesday.

“Just been awhile since I’ve thrown with any kind of intensity off a mound,” Buchholz said. “A little sore I guess from all the stuff we’ve been doing but it’s different than what I felt last time I went out.”

Neither Buchholz nor the Red Sox were willing to plan any sort of timetable beyond what is expected later this week. The bullpen Tuesday, however, did signal the start of building up the kind of strength needed to start thinking about returning to game action.

“That’s sort of what Dr. [James] Andrews said once you get to the point where you can get off the mound and it feels pretty close to normal,” he said. “That’s going to be what builds it up.”

“The biggest thing for me is what he stated after he completed the session. And that was, he felt nothing compared to his last bullpen session in Oakland,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We fully recognize that through the intensity that he’s going through there’s going to be some normal things that he feels just by reconditioning and getting back in shape. Today was a good step for him.”

ANKLE DOESN’T EXPECT TO SIDELINE LACKEY

Even though John Lackey was sporting a sizeable swollen left ankle, having sprained it during his start Monday night, the pitcher said he doesn’t expect it to affect his preparation for schedule Sunday start in Kansas City.

When asked if he has had to deal with an ankle injury this bad, Lackey quipped, “Not an ankle. I’ve pitched with an elbow a lot worst than that. Nah, it will be fine. In five days it will be fine.”

MORALES DEALS WITH PERSONAL ISSUE

Franklin Morales, who seemed on the verge of making a return to the major league club after a few impressive outings with Triple-A Pawtucket, has been scratched from his scheduled relief outing due to a personal issue.

“Franklin has been scratched because of a personal situation,” Farrell said. “Our thoughts are with him on that.”

Morales last pitched Wednesday, throwing 2 1/3 innings of perfect ball, striking out three in the process.In has last three relief outings, the lefty hasn’t allowed a hit or walk, fanning six in 4 1/3 innings.

Red Sox lineup: Ryan Lavarnway catching Steven Wright

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

HOUSTON — Ryan Lavarnway is back in the lineup, catching Red Sox starter Steven Wright, who makes his first major-league start, Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park. Lavarnway has caught all but 3 1/3 innings of Wright’s 12 1/3 big league innings this season.

Here is the Red Sox lineup against Houston’s Jordan Lyles:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Shane Victorino RF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Napoli 1B

Mike Carp LF

Stephen Drew SS

Ryan Lavarnway C

Brock Holt 3B

For all the matchups, click here.

Curt Schilling on M&M: ‘I think his entire career [Alex Rodriguez] has used performance-enhancing drugs’

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling

ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss the PED suspensions that were handed out Monday.

While 12 players accepted 50-game suspensions, Alex Rodriguez chose to appeal his 211-game ban and made his 2013 debut Monday night in Chicago, where the Yankees played the White Sox. Rodriguez met the media before the game but was evasive, refusing to answer direct questions about whether he again used PEDs.

“There’s two answers to, Did you cheat, did you take steroids, did you take HGH: No, or any other answer. And any other answer means yes,” Schilling said. “I know that there are a lot of legal issues, and hey, you don’t want to say this, and there could be some actual real-world legal implications, but no means no. And anything other than no means yes. That’s the world we live in.

“Twice yesterday they put him on the spot where he could have said, ‘I did not do this, these charges are false’ — which none of them have done. None of them have denied this.”

Added Schilling: “I’ve talked to some people that were intimately involved and are intimately involved in this process. As late as Saturday, his camp was trying to get a ban of a hundred games. The people on the baseball side were incredulous, like, ‘Wait, what? You’ve seen what we have. There’s no way you’re getting out of this. Just take the punishment, shut your mouth and maybe you’ll get to play a little bit after this is over.’ Now I can’t imagine that they’re not going to go for the whole ball of wax.”

Schilling has been involved in his share of controversy during and after his playing career, but he made it clear he never cheated the game like these players have.

“I’m not talking from a place of perfection. Certainly I’m not,” he said. “I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my life. But I didn’t cheat. But I didn’t cheat. I didn’t take steroids, I didn’t take HGH. And he did multiple [times].

“I still believe, if you look at the body of evidence around [Jose] Canseco and BALCO and all the things that have come out in the last 10 or 15 years, the connections to Miami and the University of Miami, I honestly think he’s Jose Canseco. I think his entire career he has used performance-enhancing drugs.”

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Allen Webster getting back on track; Dan Butler’s amazing run; Blake Swihart streaking; Miguel Pena rolling; Jamie Callahan honored

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Right-hander Allen Webster has shown improved control in recent starts. (AP)

Right-hander Allen Webster has shown improved control in recent starts. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX:  5-4 WIN AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

Allen Webster‘s performance was not quite as impressive as his last one, in which he fanned 12 batters while allowing only one walk. He gave up three runs on six hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings, allowing his seventh home run in Triple-A while punching out four. The righty had gone four straight starts without giving up a home run. Since a 1 1/3 inning performance back on July 21, Webster hasn’t been dominant, but has looked like he’s getting back on track, allowing six earned runs in his last 18 innings, walking five while fanning 20.

Dan Butler‘s been on fire at the plate in the past couple weeks, and Monday night was no different. Butler drove in two runs with a double and his 12th home run of the season, a home run which put the PawSox on top in the 8th inning and was ultimately the game-winner. Butler is hitting a ridiculous .477/.540/.977 with six home runs, four doubles and 15 RBI in his last 12 games, raising his overall line to .283/.380/.513 in 67 games this season.

Will Middlebrooks went 1-for-3 with a home run, his ninth with the PawSox. Middlebrooks has hit safely in his last four games, but the home run was his first extra-base hit since July 25. In his last 10 games, Middlebrooks is hitting .205/.256/.282 with 10 strikeouts and three walks. Since returning to Pawtucket, Middlebrooks has compiled a .255/.301/.428 line in 35 games. (more…)

Dan Meyer on Mut & Merloni: For PED violators, ‘reward was too great for the risk’

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Former major league pitcher Dan Meyer, who made news Monday when he tweeted his frustration with losing out on a roster spot to a player who was suspended for PEDs, joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday morning.

Meyer, now 32, was attempting to earn a spot in the Phillies bullpen in the spring of 2011 when he was cut and fellow lefty Antonio Bastardo made the squad. Bastardo was one of the 12 players who accepted 50-game suspensions from MLB on Monday. That inspired Meyer, now out of baseball after being released by the Orioles in March, to send out his tweet that went viral.

 

“I wasn’t quite expecting that [attention],” Meyer said. “I’ve sent 150 tweets out in my life, and nobody ever responds. And then this one decides to totally take off.”

Meyer, a onetime minor league teammate of Lou Merloni, said many people have reached out to him to tell him they agree with his opinion.

“I’ve gotten an overwhelming response of support from guys,” Meyer said, adding: “I’ve had a lot of guys contacting me I haven’t talked to in years saying they really liked what I had mentioned, what I had said, and how people were thinking it and nobody was saying it.”

Meyer, a first-round pick of Atlanta in 2002 who spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the Braves (2004), Athletics (2007-08) and Marlins (2009-10), acknowledged that his failure to make the Phillies wasn’t due completely to Bastardo beating him out, but he noted that other players were affected as well.

“I didn’t necessarily go out and win that job, I didn’t go out and lose it. And that’s on me,” he said. “But there were other guys in camp that had great camps that were left-handed pitchers. How are those guys affected? You take one month of the big leagues away from them, you’re talking 40, 50 grand and good health insurance. That matters to a lot of people.”

Added Meyer: “If you played the game and you’ve dealt with the 5 a.m. minor league flights and you’ve gone thought the grind, you’ll see guys throughout your career that you go: How is this guy not in the big leagues? If that guy who is a clean player has one opportunity taken away from him from a player who was doing it the wrong way, is that fair? I think that’s one opportunity too many.”

Meyer said the punishment for violating the rule is not enough to dissuade many players.

“The risk-reward is just not equal,” he said. “You see guys who — 50 games for a chance at tens of millions of dollars? It’s worth it to try it for some guys. I don’t see what’s going to hold them back if they have the ability to do it. … I think something’s got to be harsher. The reward was too great for the risk.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Astros matchups: Steven Wright vs. Jordan Lyles

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Steven Wright

Steven Wright

After three major league relief appearances, the latter two of which were of the shutout variety and earned him wins, Steven Wright will get his first start in the big leagues Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park against right-hander Jordan Lyles and the Astros.

Manager John Farrell announced the rotation change Sunday. Wright is not replacing any of the other five starters, according to Farrell. Rather, it is in an effort to get the other starters an extra day of rest in a stretch featuring 17 games in 17 days for the Red Sox.

For Wright, a right-handed knuckleballer who came to Boston in the trade that sent former top prospect Lars Anderson to the Indians last July, getting the start will be nothing new. Indeed, in 19 games — all starts — with Triple-A Pawtucket this season, he owns a 3.89 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, numbers that looks considerably better given Wright’s hot July.

In 32 2/3 minor league innings, Wright owned a 2.20 ERA and 1.25 WHIP and threw a pair of complete-game shutouts. Mixed in that stretch were a pair of scoreless relief outings with the Red Sox when he went a combined 8 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and three walks while fanning five.

Count Farrell among those who have taken note of Wright’s improvements.

“Compared to what he was in spring training or what he was in spring training from a delivery standpoint, just repeating his release point, it’s much more consistent strikes,” Farrell said. “He’s starting to throw that knuckleball where he’s changing speeds on it, so to me in some ways he looks like a completely different pitcher from [his rough major league debut April 23], to what he’s been doing the last two outings. It’s a much-improved Steven Wright.

“Early on, when he would get into jams … he would just leap with his body. His body was out ahead of his arm too consistently. So when the inning would speed up on him, there was an inability or readiness to make those adjustments. He’s doing it now.”

Lyles (4-5), meanwhile, made his major league debut at age 20 in 2011 but has been generally unspectacular since then, and his 2013 campaign is no exception. He owns a 4.91 ERA — which would be his lowest total since arriving in the majors — and a 1.48 WHIP while fanning six batters per nine innings.

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Jonny Gomes: ‘Doesn’t make much sense that [Alex Rodriguez] is still playing’

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Jonny Gomes

Jonny Gomes

Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes told reporters in Houston on Monday that he was very much behind the penalties that Major League Baseball had levied on the players implicated in the Biogeneseis scandal. Indeed, Gomes said, he would support harsher penalties for first-time users than the current 50-game standard, and he expressed displeasure with the fact that Alex Rodriguez would be able to play while appealing his suspension that runs through the 2014 season.

“It doesn’t make much sense that he’s still playing,” Gomes told reporters of Rodriguez. “I don’t really care what the penalties are. If it’s first time caught, lifetime ban, it doesn’t affect me. I’m not doing steroids. I’m not trying to keep the penalties down because I’m thinking about doing it. … I don’t really care what the penalties are. I do think it should be steeper, but like I said the steeper the penalties go it still doesn’t affect me. I’m going to play this game out how I started, and that’s clean.”

Gomes said that he was uncomfortable with the idea that his Players’ Association dues might be going to pay for Rodriguez’s legal battle to appeal his suspension from MLB.

“We do pay dues that go to our union that pay for our union guys to battle for our insurance and our pension and travel around and make sure we’re doing OK. That’s where our dues go,” said Gomes. “I hope our dues don’t really go to his lawyer fees by any means.” (more…)