|It’s official: Adrian Gonzalez has Monster pop||05.06.11 at 11:47 pm ET|
Until this week, it seemed fair to wonder whether the idea that Adrian Gonzalez had a made-for-Fenway swing was an act of wishful thinking by the Red Sox. The slugger has a reputation as one of the foremost opposite-field power hitters in the game, with a smooth, powerful stroke that is capable of launching balls on the outer half of the plate into the heavens.
But until this homestand, Gonzalez had never even scraped the Wall with a ball. But then, with the onset of May, he started to make himself at home in Boston.
On Monday, he clanged a three-run double off the Wall in left-center. On Tuesday, he crushed his first Fenway Park home run, a moon shot that landed in the back of the visitor’s bullpen.
But it was on Friday night — during a night that was otherwise dismal for the Red Sox, who suffered a 9-2 loss to the Twins — that his signature swing achieved the long-anticipated result. In the bottom of the fourth, Twins starter Scott Baker — who showed mid-90s velocity that he had never before unveiled, and certainly not sustained, against the Sox — elected to throw Gonzalez a 1-1 curveball.
It wasn’t a bad pitch. It was on the outer edge of the plate, perhaps even a touch off it, and it tumbled below Gonzalez’ knees. Yet the first baseman somehow managed to stay with the offering and get the barrel on it for an impressive wallop. The ball carried over the Green Monster and over the Monster Seats, saved from Landsdowne Street by the Sports Authority sign. Read the rest of this entry »
|Francona on umpire Joe West: ‘I thought he was out of line’||05.06.11 at 11:13 pm ET|
Manager Terry Francona and umpire Joe West have had their run-ins over the years. Of course, he’s not alone.
The crew chief of the umpiring group that is in charge of the Red Sox/Twins series is perennially ranked among the worst in the game. He has developed a reputation for drawing attention to himself, fueled by such deeds as hiring a PR firm to represent him and to promote his musical career.
On Friday night, West and Francona ended up butting heads (figuratively) after the Sox manager was ejected for arguing a balk call against Tim Wakefield in the top of the second inning. Home plate ump Angel Hernandez ruled that Wakefield took a step towards home, rather than stepping towards third base before turning around and picking Denard Span off first base for what appeared to be the third out of the second.
After the run-scoring balk was called, Francona ran out of the dugout to find out what the ruling was. He would soon be both disappointed and out of the game, based on the fact that a manager is automatically ejected for arguing a step-balk ruling.
‘I never did get an explanation,” said Francona. ‘I know the rule, but, to be honest with you, the way it happened, I got out there real quick because I was stunned. Angel said, ‘If you come out here,’ before I’d even talked, I was thrown out, so I figured I’d find out. It’s hard to sit there and not find out what happened in a play like that. I’ve seen Wake do that 30 times. …
“I got thrown out because I came out, and since I was already thrown out, I figured I could get an explanation, but Joe wouldn’t let me. … You’re not allowed to even ask, which is, to me, very silly. You get a run added. You think you’re out of an inning. I don’t understand why you can’t find out what somebody did. I understand if you go and scream at somebody, you get thrown out. But that seems like a bit of a silly rule.’
Francona was clearly dissatisfied. After Hernandez thumbed him out of the game, the Sox manager continued to pursue the home plate umpire in search of his explanation. West, in an attempt to separate Francona from Hernandez, charged in from his station at third base. (Umpiring crew chiefs, in fact, are instructed to separate uniform personnel who have been ejected from umpires following an ejection.)
“Joe, as we all know, always wants to be in everybody’s business,” said Francona. “That was me and Angel. Joe didn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t really appreciate what he did. I think he was wrong.’
West essentially appeared to be playing man-to-man defense, getting very close to Francona so that he could block the manager’s access to Hernandez. There was contact between the manager and crew chief, though it was not clear from replays whether that was initiated more by Francona or West. At the least, at one point, West appeared to be more or less hand-checking the Sox skipper.
Francona thought that West’s conduct was unacceptable.
‘He was grabbing me,” said Francona. “I didn’t appreciate that. I thought he was wrong. I thought he was out of line.’
Now, it remains to be seen what the fallout of the ejection will be. Major League Baseball will review the fracas to determine whether Francona, West or both acted in a manner that would warrant punishment. Francona’s parting gesture as he left the field — when he threw gum from his mouth in the direction of home plate, where Hernandez was stationed — will also gain scrutiny, as might Francona’s comments.
But ultimately, for Francona, the ejection was secondary to the 9-2 loss that was hung on his team at the end of the game.
“We lost,” said Francona. “That’s really what I care about.”
|Closing Time: Twins 9, Red Sox 2||05.06.11 at 9:50 pm ET|
The Twins seemed to represent a relatively easy mark for Red Sox pitchers. While Boston had gotten hammered, 11-0, on Thursday by the Angels, the Sox rotation had a sterling 2.33 ERA over a 19-game stretch. Meanwhile, Minnesota entered the night averaging 3.07 runs per game, making them the most anemic offense in the majors.
However, on Friday night, the Twins erupted for nine runs on 11 hits — with an assist from a dreadful defensive effort by the Sox. With Minnesota starter Scott Baker plowing through the Sox lineup, the result was a 9-2 Twins win that extended the Sox’ losing streak to three and dropped the team’s record on the year to 14-18, a mark that has them alone in last place in the AL East.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–A trio of defensive lapses proved costly for the Sox. In the top of the second, Tim Wakefield nearly escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam. But after striking out Alexi Casilla, a Denard Span smash right at Adrian Gonzalez appeared to skip just over the first baseman’s glove for a two-run single. The prolonged inning then resulted in a third run when Wakefield was ruled to have balked when picking off Span.
Then, in the top of the fifth inning, with the bases loaded and one out, reliever Alfredo Aceves nearly limited harm. He struck out Ben Revere, but then Drew Butera‘s hard grounder to short went off the end of Jed Lowrie‘s glove and into center field for a two-run error.
One inning later, Lowrie committed another gaffe. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s throw to second beat Trevor Plouffe, but the ball came loose as Lowrie attempted to apply the tag. Plouffe, who was credited with a steal, advanced to third, thus putting him in position to score when Alfredo Aceves balked.
–A lot has been asked of Tim Wakefield in recent days. He threw 76 pitches in a spot start on Sunday, helping the Sox to beat Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. On two days’ rest, he then made a 12-pitch relief appearance in Wednesday’s 13-inning marathon. And so it was fair to wonder whether fatigue played a factor in the 44-year-old’s poor performance on Friday night.
Wakefield threw 4 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs (six earned) on nine hits, striking out one and walking four.
Perhaps more disconcerting for the Sox, the outing continued a pattern of abbreviated outings by Sox starters. Josh Beckett threw 4 1/3 innings on Wednesday in an outing that was truncated by a lengthy rain delay; John Lackey then threw just four innings on Thursday in an outing that was truncated by ineffectiveness.
Lackey and Wakefield became the first Sox starters to allow eight or more runs in consecutive games since Pedro Martinez and Wakefield did the trick on Sept. 19 and 20, 2004.
–The Sox committed a pair of run-scoring balks. It was the first time since Oct. 2, 2001, that the team had been called for that infraction multiple times in the same game.
One of those balks not only resulted in a run, but also in the ejection of Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who may face discipline from the league after he came into contact with crew chief Joe West and threw his gum on the way off the field. (For more on that incident, click here.)
–It was an ugly game for Lowrie, who was charged with two errors and went 0-for-3 with a whiff. Lowrie has now struck out in seven straight games, and 13 times in his last 11 contests.
–Dustin Pedroia did not appear to benefit from a day off on Thursday. Though he walked, he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a double play ball. He is now 6-for-53 (.113) in his last 13 games. After striking out four times on Wednesday, Pedroia has struck out multiple times in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Adrian Gonzalez showed off why so many in the baseball industry thought that he would be a hand-in-glove fit with Fenway Park. On a Baker curveball that was down and way (out of the strike zone), the slugger managed to go down to get the pitch, generating enough loft to send the ball soaring off the Sports Authority sign in left field for his homer over the Green Monster.
–Jacoby Ellsbury had a pair of singles to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. However, he also got caught stealing for the fourth time this year.
–Aceves spared the Sox bullpen. Recalled from Pawtucket before the game, he contributed 4 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out two and walking two to drop his ERA for the year to 2.13.
|Red Sox pregame notes: As the bullpen turns…||05.06.11 at 7:06 pm ET|
One comes in, one goes out.
The Red Sox made their official move to add Alfredo Aceves to the roster on Friday. In order to do so, they will designate Scott Atchison for assignment before the game so that he can be optioned to Pawtucket via major league waivers. Technically, another team could claim Atchison, but there’s a sort of working understanding among major league teams that players will not be claimed who have options remaining, and so it is a procedural technicality en route to sending the reliever back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
After Atchison logged 3 2/3 innings on Thursday, the Sox needed to replace him with a fresh arm. In Aceves, who was pulled from his scheduled start for the PawSox on Thursday, they found that man.
“We kind of did what we didn’t want to do with Atch, which is bring him up for a day and then send him back but I think we felt it was the safest thing to do for our staff. He gave us so much, which we appreciate,” said manager Terry Francona. “At the same time, he wasn’t going to pitch for awhile. Unfortunately for Atch, he’s the guy we can do it with. He’ll be back.”
Aceves will be available in the bullpen. This is his second call-up of the season. He had an impressive stretch in the majors in April, forging a 2.25 ERA and holding opponents to a .179 average (6-for-28) in six appearances, but he was sent back down to Pawtucket in order to stretch him out for the rotation.
“It is a business,” said Aceves. “Back and forth, you don’t know where you’re going to be.”
The right-hander said that he is comfortable with any role, and that he didn’t face a transition in moving between the rotation and bullpen.
“I’m a pitcher,” said Aceves. “That’s what I do. It doesn’t matter if it’s as a starter or a closer or a reliever.”
–One byproduct of the Red Sox rotation shuffle in the aftermath of Wednesday’s 13-inning game: The Sox will have Clay Buchholz pitch on Saturday on four days’ rest, then turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka on Sunday (almost a week and a half removed from his previous start on April 29), Josh Beckett on Monday (four days’ rest) and, finally, have Jon Lester pitch on six days’ rest on Tuesday.
Once Wakefield was re-inserted into the rotation, the Sox wanted to use the opportunity to give Lester an extra breather — something that the team has now been able to accomplish with each of its starters at this young stage of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
|PawSox outfield injuries mounting: Linares to undergo surgery while Kalish improving||05.05.11 at 6:40 pm ET|
It has been a rough stretch for the Red Sox‘ minor league outfield depth. Ryan Kalish has been out for the last two weeks while trying to rehab from a partial tear of the labrum in his left shoulder. Meanwhile, an MRI revealed that fellow PawSox outfielder Juan Carlos Linares tore ligaments in his ankle when he slid hard into second base earlier this week; the 26-year-old will require surgery, and his return date is unknown at this time. And a third Pawtucket outfielder, Josh Reddick, had to leave Tuesday’s game after being hit by a pitch on the finger during a bunt attempt. However, it appears that he avoided serious harm, as Reddick is back in the PawSox lineup on Thursday.
For Kalish, who is rehabbing from a partial tear of the labrum in his left shoulder, the progress is measured in increments. After all, after he suffered the injury (or rather aggravated a pre-existing injury that is believed to date to his high school career) while diving for a ball in the outfield while playing for Triple-A Pawtucket, Kalish was restricted from virtually all activities, including running, since the Sox did not want him to pump his arm while allowing the injury to heal.
That being the case, he remains at a fairly early stage of the rehab process. But, at this point, the Red Sox are more than happy to note that incremental progress is progress nonetheless.
The 23-year-old has been re-examined in recent days and has been cleared to resume some physical activities. Most notably, just under two weeks after he suffered the injury, he is working out again. The more significant tests of his shoulder — and ultimately, the determination about whether he can rehab or will require surgery — have yet to come. But Kalish has responded well to the initial elements of a conservative rehab route.
“He’s been re-examined in the last few days and everything is moving in a very positive direction. He’s making steady improvement everyday, so we’re feeling pretty good about the rehab process right now. But he hasn’t done anything too crazy at this point,” said Sox farm director Mike Hazen. “He’s progressing well. We’ll see what happens once he starts doing activities.”
It was the sort of progress that Hazen described as “very small steps.” Ultimately, much more will be required of the outfielder if he is to resume his season.
“We’re talking about getting this guy back to throw and hit, which is a lot more violent than just moving around athletically, but we’re getting there,” said Hazen. “We’ll see. There’s still a lot of tests to go, but the fact that the tests are moving in this direction is positive.”
At the time of the injury, the Sox said that they would shut Kalish down for two to three weeks before re-evaluating him to determine whether he might resume baseball activities. That remains the plan.
In essence, the team and player are trying to gauge how serious his tear is, with three possible outcomes. Read the rest of this entry »
|Francona: Drew ‘battling the strike zone’||05.04.11 at 6:09 pm ET|
It represented a low-point in the recent struggles of J.D. Drew. On Tuesday, the outfielder went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, two of them looking. After one of those, he had a brief conversation with home plate umpire John Hirschbeck to express displeasure with the call.
The moment was revealing on multiple levels. First, it showed a hitter who has simply struggling at the plate. In his last nine games, Drew is 4-for-28 (.143) with a .429 OPS and seven strikeouts. On the year, he has struck out 22 times in 91 plate appearances, or roughly once every four plate appearances. That, in turn, suggests a persistence of some of the issues that left him so frustrated in 2010, chiefly with the way balls and strikes are being called.
‘A lot of offspeed he’s been out in front of. I think he’s still battling the strike zone a little bit,” said Sox manager Terry Francona, who has Mike Cameron in the lineup in place of Drew in deference to those struggles. “He’s pretty stubborn. He’s got a pretty good eye. If he doesn’t think he can hit it, he’s not going to swing. There’s been a lot of offspeed that he’s been out in front of that, when he’s good, he bangs the ball off the left-center field wall. That’s when he’s really locked in. Hopefully, that’ll come soon.’
Plate discipline and strike zone recognition, of course, is part of Drew’s life blood. It is an essential component of why he was such a desirable player for the Sox — he knows the pitches he can drive, and he lays off pitches that cannot, particularly if they’re not in the strike zone.
That trait can be a mixed bag.
‘When he’s hitting, it’s good. When he’s not, not,” said Francona. “He has a great eye, and I don’t think he feels like he can handle things that aren’t strikes. Saying that, sometimes, knowing you’re right but making outs’¦ Some of it is knowing umpires and things like that. There’s a lot that goes into it.’
Drew will be back in the lineup on Thursday against Joel Pineiro, against whom he is 2-for-11 in his career. Against Wednesday’s Angels starter, Ervin Santana, Drew is 4-for-23 (.174) in his career, while Cameron is 2-for-2.
|Closing Time: Red Sox 7, Angels 3||05.03.11 at 9:52 pm ET|
If it had been the World Cup, it would have felt like the Red Sox had been condemned to the group of death: On three consecutive days, they had the unenviable assignment of facing three right-handers who can each lay claim to the title of the best in the American League.
It would have been something of a triumph for the Sox to claim a single victory across those three contests. Yet remarkably, the team claimed its third straight victory Tuesday night against the trio of elite starters thanks to a mix of tremendous starting pitching and timely hitting in a 7-3 victory that pulled Boston within a game of .500.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Jon Lester cost himself consideration as a top contender for the Cy Young award in each of the last three seasons with slow starts to the year. Not so in 2011.
Lester continued his strong start with a tremendous effort, logging seven innings in which he allowed just one run on six hits and one walk while striking out 11. He threw 93 pitches and 66 strikes, but the Sox made the decision to end his day both because they had Daniel Bard in the bullpen and in apparent deference to the fact that the left-hander a) had thrown at least 108 pitches in each of his previous five starts, and b) was starting on four days’ rest, something that he likely will have to do again in his next start.
The outing marked the 15th time in Lester’s young career that he has reached double-digits in punchouts. He featured a dominant cutter (6 swings and misses) as well as a fastball that he could throw for strikes at will. Of his 40 four-seamers, a remarkable 80 percent were strikes as the 27-year-old improved to 4-1 on the year. Read the rest of this entry »
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