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Closing Time: Dempster, Red Sox continue home pitching woes in blowout loss to Indians 05.23.13 at 10:46 pm ET
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Ryan Dempster threw just three innings while allowing four runs on Monday. (AP)

Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona and his Indians team looked very much at home at Fenway Park while the current Red Sox squad looked completely out of sorts in a lopsided 12-3 contest.

Cleveland teed off against Sox starter Ryan Dempster and relievers Clayton Mortensen and Alex Wilson. With the 12 run (11 earned) yield, the Sox now have a 4.33 ERA at Fenway Park — a mark that ranks 10th among the 15 American League clubs, and that represents a stark departure from the team’s AL-best 3.45 road ERA. The result has been felt in wins and losses: The Sox are a somewhat modest 13-11 at home and 15-9 on the road. They’ve lost six of their last seven at Fenway, and for the first time since 2006, yielded 12 or more runs in consecutive home games.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Starter Ryan Dempster turned in his third straight poor start and his second straight in which he a) struggled to find the strike zone and b) failed to go as many as five innings. Indeed, the 35-year-old logged a season-worst three innings while permitting four runs on five hits (one double, four singles) and four walks. He did strike out four.

In his last two starts, Dempster has now walked 10 batters in just 7 2/3 innings. This marks his first back-to-back outings of four-plus walks since 2011. Over his last three starts, he’s permitted 15 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings (10.66 ERA), with his ERA climbing from 2.93 to 4.69 in that time. Read the rest of this entry »

Will Middlebrooks leaves game with lower back spasms 05.23.13 at 9:17 pm ET
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Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks was replaced by Pedro Ciriaco prior to the top of the fifth inning with what the Red Sox described as lower back spasms. Middlebrooks had been 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts on Thursday.

The 24-year-old has been dealing with discomfort as a result of a separation of his ribs from the cartilage connecting them to the sternum earlier this month as a result of a collision with catcher David Ross, but the suggestion of back spasms represents a new malady. In his last three games (including Thursday), he’s 0-for-10 with one walk and five strikeouts, bringing his line for the season to a .201 average, .234 OBP and .408 slugging mark.

More on the situation as information becomes available.

Terry Francona on return to Fenway Park: Closure not required in return to Fenway Park 05.23.13 at 7:56 pm ET
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Indians manager Terry Francona navigated his way through the visitor's dugout at Fenway Park on Thursday. (AP)

The event did not represent closure. Terry Francona said that he achieved that some time ago.

Nor did his arrival in Fenway Park some sort of exercise in the distinctly German undertaking of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, a coming to terms with the past. After all, Francona returned to Fenway Park several times last year, whether to take part in various celebrations (the Fenway centennial, the 2004 World Series team’s eight-year reunion) or to broadcast games for ESPN.

The idea of heading to a different clubhouse and a different dugout at Fenway Park than the one he occupied for eight seasons did not jar Indians manager Terry Francona. Still, as he prepared to wear the uniform of a club other than the Red Sox at Fenway for the first time since 2003, he acknowledged — and welcomed — the fact that there would be an unfamiliar element injected into his experience at the oldest ballpark in baseball.

“Every game I’ve ever been here, I’ve never rooted against the Red Sox. Now I will be [doing so] like crazy,” Francona said from the visitors’ dugout on Thursday afternoon, prior to his team’s game against the Red Sox. “You know what, it’s kind of nice. I came in today early because I knew it would be a busy day, seeing a lot of people you know. Whether you come in the ballpark and make a right or a left, those people are still the same. I got a chance to visit with a lot of people, which was fun. And go to our clubhouse. That’s part of probably why it’s making this easier to come back because I’m so proud of who I’m with now and what we’re trying to do that it probably makes this trip a little easier for me.”

Francona suggested that, after arriving in his hotel at 5 a.m. and waking up three hours later, he hadn’t had the time or energy to experience a wave of emotions about his return to familiar territory. After all, he acknowledged that he had long ago achieved closure on his time with the Red Sox — thanks in no small part to the year he spent away from the dugout in 2012 as an analyst for ESPN — and he’s fully committed to his new undertaking as manager of a surprising Indians team that has zoomed out to a 26-19 start that has Cleveland atop the AL Central.

“I kept talking about getting perspective. I have no perspective. When we lose, it kills you. When we win, I’m happy. And I don’t think that’s ever going to change,” said Francona. “Every game means the same to me in Cleveland as it ever did here. The goals are exactly the same, it’s to win the game we’re playing. but I like where I’m at. Maybe for where I’m at in my life and baseball, this is a really good place for me. I’m really comfortable with where I’m working and who I’m working with. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to have challenges because we are. But I am enjoying the idea of tackling them with the people I’m with. … Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox notes: David Ortiz’s durability ‘better than expected,’ David Ross nears return 05.23.13 at 6:28 pm ET
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David Ortiz

It was an entertaining sight and accomplishment that hinted at a more significant truth.

On Wednesday night, David Ortiz stole a base. And, in fact, the recorded a career milestone, swiping third for the first time in his career, inspiring general delight in his team.

“It was a 3-2 count, put runners in motion, and with his speed, he outright stole it,” deadpanned Red Sox manager John Farrell.

But the fact that Farrell could implement a running play with his 37-year-old DH pointed to a more significant development than just a steal of third. As they planned for the 2013 season, the Red Sox remained generally optimistic about the prognosis for Ortiz as he returned from his Achilles injury. Even though they understood that he might not be ready on Opening Day, the team thought that he’d be ready to go fairly early in the season.

Yet even when on the active roster, the team expected that the type of injury from which he was returning would require some concessions. If he ended up, for instance, needing to sit a day a week, the team was prepared for such a turn of events.

Thus far, that hasn’t been necessary. When he returned from the DL in mid-April, Ortiz had a pair of scheduled days off in his first four games back. Since then, he’s played in 25 of the Sox’ last 27 contests, getting one day off to rest and another to permit soreness in his intercostal to calm down. He hasn’t needed to make any concessions to his Achilles. In the process, he’s exceeded the amount of time for which the team expected him to be on the field — not just in terms of the frequency of his availability, but also with the intensity of his play.

“Once we got past that first 10 days of activity when he returned to us, the consistency of daily activity has probably exceeded our initial thoughts. He’s responded physically in a good way coming out of every game,” said Farrell. “It’s not because he’s just jogging to first and coming back to the dugout. He’s been running the bases quite a bit and he’s in a good place physically. the overall durability has been a little bit better than expected this year.”

Of course, there is a potential danger in using a player aggressively in the early stages of his return from injury when he is feeling healthy. In 2009, for instance, the Sox used Mike Lowell heavily in the early stages of the season following offseason hip surgery. His production ultimately dropped off the table.

Given that, Farrell was asked, how do the Sox guard against overusing a player who is feeling good but may require some management of a condition that does have some physical aftermath? Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox lineup: Shane Victorino remains out, Mike Carp in left field 05.23.13 at 3:16 pm ET
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Outfielder Shane Victorino remains out for a third straight game due to his strained hamstring. In his absence, the Red Sox will feature Daniel Nava batting second and playing right field, with Mike Carp getting his fifth start of the month and his first since May 17. He will play left field and bat ninth against Indians starter Zach McAllister. Carp is 1-for-4 with a homer and walk in five career plate appearances against McAllister.

For a complete look at batter vs. starting pitcher matchups, click here. For complete team coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

RED SOX LINEUP

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Daniel Nava, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Stephen Drew, SS
Mike Carp, LF

Ryan Dempster, SP

Ben Cherington on D&C: In-season contract talks with Jacoby Ellsbury unlikely 05.23.13 at 9:52 am ET
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Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is is hitting .249/.318/.340. (AP)

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, in an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show, said that the Red Sox have talked at various points with outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury about the possibility of something other than a one-year deal. However, each time, the team and player elected to agree to a one-year contract that avoided an arbitration hearing but that kept Ellsbury moving on a path towards free agency after the 2013 season. And now, in a season where Ellsbury has shown some recently promising offensive signs (reaching base in six of his last seven plate appearances) but has mostly struggled en route to a .249/.318/.340 line, Cherington suggested that the Sox expect that the team will not engage in contract talks with the 29-year-old until after the season.

“Because Ellsbury has gone through arbitration the last three years, there’s been an opportunity to talk to [agent Scott Boras] and Jacoby each of those years in the winter before spring training or early in spring training about his status. And each of those years we’ve signed a one-year deal and settled his arb case before it went to a hearing.
But during those talks, you talk about a lot of things. You talk about other options, other contract options, other sorts of scenarios,” said Cherington. “We’ve had those conversations. It’s just, in this case, we agreed before the season that we would defer it until the end of the season. That’s our expectation right now. You never say never. Things can change. But our expectation is we pick up the conversation after the season.”

As far as Ellsbury’s struggles, the GM suggested that there is reason to believe that the center fielder is in line for a turnaround.

“It’s a combination of things, and some of this is speculation, but we’ve seen a lot of lefties already early in the year. … He’s been a little bit unlucky on balls in play — hit some balls right at people,” said Cherington. “There’s nothing really alarmingly different in the underlying numbers — the strikeout percentage and the swing-and-miss rate. He’s still compact. He’s still doing a lot of things that he’s always done well. He’s healthy, the bat speed is there, the tools are there — he just looks to me like a guy who’s going to get hot at some point and we’ll stop talking about it. By far, the best outcome for all of us is for Jacoby to feel good, be productive in the leadoff spot. That helps him, helps us win games and I still think that’s going to happen.”

Whereas Ellsbury’s track record — and the similarities between the aforementioned underlying fundamentals this year and in previous seasons — gives the Sox optimism, the struggles of Will Middlebrooks — hitting .203/.236/.413 this year — are different. He doesn’t have the same established big league track record spanning multiple seasons, and he’s enduring a spike in his strikeout and swing-and-miss rate.

Still, Cherington expressed optimism that the 24-year-old will work his way through an early-career player development struggle to become a steady, meaningful contributor. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury, justin masterson, Scott Boras, victor martinez
Rubby De La Rosa scratched due to intercostal injury 05.21.13 at 12:29 pm ET
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Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa was scratched from his scheduled Tuesday start. (AP)

PAWTUCKET — Red Sox right-hander Rubby De La Rosa was scratched from his scheduled start on Tuesday in Triple-A Pawtucket due to what manager Gary DiSarcina characterized as a left intercostal injury incurred while playing catch on Monday. DiSarcina suggested that the injury did not appear to be serious, but noted that the precise duration for which the hard-throwing prospect will be sidelined remains unknown. Yeah, he came up yesterday, with…he played catch and on the last throw he kind of tweaked his side muscles, so he’ll be down today, Hernandez will fill in.

“He’s feeling better today, to what level or degree, I don’t know. It just happened yesterday, I think he said it happened on his last throw. Any time a pitcher feels something in his intercostal area, you don’t want to send him out there. I think it was on his left side, actually, so his pull side,” said DiSarcina. “It’s no biggie, just sit him down for this start, reevaluate him … It won’t set back Rubby too much.”

Left-hander Chris Hernandez will make the spot start in place of De La Rosa. De La Rosa, 24, is amidst a stretch of 18 innings without permitting an earned run, a stretch during which he has 22 strikeouts and eight walks. On the year, he has a 3.65 ERA with opponents hitting just .180 against him in eight starts.

Read More: rubby de la rosa,
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