|Health concerns for Ellsbury, Cameron||04.15.10 at 5:57 pm ET|
According to multiple reports, Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron will be checked in a Minneapolis hospital for an examination of the lower abdominal pain that kept him out of the lineup on Thursday. The team wants to rule out appendicitis (a condition that would require surgery and prevent Cameron from flying) before allowing him on a plane.
Meanwhile, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury told reporters after the Sox’ 8-0 loss to the Twins that he continues to experience “sharp pain” when trying to take a deep breath. He will be further examined in Boston on Friday.
Until either Ellsbury or Cameron can return, the Sox have only three outfielders on their roster: J.D. Drew, Jeremy Hermida and Bill Hall. That being the case, if both remain unavailable for the team’s return to Boston, a minor league addition would be expected.
Josh Reddick is the only Red Sox minor league outfielder on the 40-man roster. He was not in the starting lineup for Triple-A Pawtucket’s game in Buffalo on Thursday, but PawSox skipper Torey Lovullo told reporters that Reddick was out for a “mental break” following a 4-for-29 start to the season.
|Closing Time: Twins 8, Red Sox 0||04.15.10 at 3:52 pm ET|
The Red Sox had their chances early against Twins starter Francisco Liriano, but after the team stranded four runners (including three in scoring position) in the first two innings, they were overmatched by the Minnesota left-hander from that point on. Liriano tossed seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out eight, and the Twins lineup exerted steady pressure on the Sox pitching staff, collecting 15 hits in an 8-0 win. (Recap.)
The Red Sox mounted a scoring threat right out of the gate. With one out in the top of the first inning, Dustin Pedroia singled and Victor Martinez doubled to put runners on second and third with one outs. That brought cleanup man Kevin Youkilis to the plate.
Youkilis typically excels in such situations. In his career, he entered Thursday with a line of .453/.468/.726/1.194 and 117 RBI in 171 plate appearances. But on Thursday, Youkilis struck out on three pitches, the last a nasty slider that he swung and missed. Liriano got Adrian Beltre to ground out to escape the threat unharmed.
Had Youkilis and the Sox jumped on the Twins left-hander early, the game might have assumed another complexion. But with those early missed opportunities, Liriano had the opportunity to settle in and dominate.
What Went Right For the Red Sox
–Dustin Pedroia laced three singles, and now has four multi-hit games this year, tied with Jacoby Ellsbury for most on the Red Sox. While April has typically been the worst month of the season for Pedroia (entering Thursday, his career average, OBP, slugging and OPS were all lower in April than in any other month of the year), he’s been great thus far this year, hitting .405 with a 1.253 OPS.
–Scott Schoeneweis continued to show promise as a left-handed specialist. Most notably, he punched out Joe Mauer with two outs and a runner on second to end a threat in the sixth. Though Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel later lined singles off of him, he has struck out six of the 10 left-handers he’s faced (while allowing three singles). Schoeneweis did, however, give up a two-run homer to right-hander Michael Cuddyer on a towering flyball just over the left-field fence, a couple feet to the right of the foul pole.
–Bill Hall took a pair of walks from Liriano. Not only was he the only Sox hitter to take a walk, but the game marked the first time since last April 27 that Hall had as many as two free passes in a game. For a hitter who finished 2009 with a .258 OBP, that is somewhat encouraging.
–Ramon Ramirez got his first swing and miss of the season, getting a fastball past Nick Punto. The promise, however, was short lived, as Punto doubled on the next pitch. Ramirez did get a couple more swings and misses in the eighth inning, and was credited with 1.2 shutout innings.
What Went Wrong For the Red Sox
–The Twins jumped all over Tim Wakefield, collecting 10 hits and six runs (five earned) against him in 5.1 innings. Wakefield kept the Sox in the game through four innings, in which he limited Minnesota to a single run, but a mix of some bad luck (notably including a Denard Span bloop double down the left field line) and some knuckleballs over the middle of the plate did in the knuckleballer’s day.
–The defense was sloppy. The Sox committed three errors: one by Hall (making his first start in center since 2007) who overran a single, one by Victor Martinez (on a rushed throw to second, which he once again fired high and right) and one by Adrian Beltre.
The team was also hurt by a mental error from Martinez. With runners on first and second in the bottom of the sixth, Denard Span hit a run-scoring double. But Kubel stumbled while rounding third, leaving Span far off of second. Martinez hesitated, then threw behind Span at second. His throw there was late, and it allowed Kubel to race home with a run.
While Martinez has just one error thus far this year, he has performed poorly behind the plate.
–Adrian Beltre got into his second three-ball count of the season when he took a 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning. However, in a situation where a walk would have meant a run, he chased a fastball that might have been ball four, pulling an up-and-away fastball to shortstop for a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play. Beltre has now batted 34 times this year without a walk.
–J.D. Drew went 0-for-4 and struck out three times. While all of his at-bats came against left-handed pitchers, Drew has struggled throughout the early days of the season, hitting .143 with a .476 OPS and 13 strikeouts in 28 at-bats.
–With Jacoby Ellsbury already out, Mike Cameron also proved unable to play due to a lower abdominal strain. If those two are unavailable, the Sox bench becomes extremely thin, without a desirable outfield backup behind the outfield combination of Jeremy Hermida, Bill Hall and J.D. Drew.
|Closing Time: Twins 5, Red Sox 2||04.12.10 at 7:14 pm ET|
It was a great day for the Twins, who opened their new ballpark with a solid 5-2 victory over the Red Sox. (Recap.) One-time Red Sox great bait Carl Pavano (traded back in ’97 in the Pedro Martinez deal) turned in six strong innings of one-run, four-hit ball. Counterpart Jon Lester, meanwhile, struggled, allowing four runs in five innings.
Lester nearly avoided harm in each inning, but ended up permitting all four runs with two outs.
The Sox now enter Tuesday’s off-day with a 3-4 record.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE SOX
–Jacoby Ellsbury avoided a serious injury
Though Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the lineup on Monday, he should not be sidelined for too long. Ellsbury suggested to reporters that he could be back in the lineup as soon as Wednesday.
–Dustin Pedroia is raking
Dustin Pedroia lashed a double (his second of the year), had a pair of line outs to center and added a sac fly in the eighth. He is now slugging .750 in the young season, and has driven in a team-high eight runs.
–David Ortiz drove a ball to the opposite field
In a promising sign for David Ortiz, he took a 90 mph fastball on the outside corner from Twins starter Carl Pavano and drove it to the wall in left-center. When left-fielder Delmon Young failed to corral it, it dropped for a run-scoring double, Ortiz’ third hit of the year.
However, it was a good news/bad news sort of day for Ortiz, who also struck out looking at a thigh-high Pavano fastball on the inside part of the plate and later struck out swinging on a slider from left-hander Brian Duensing.
He went 1-for-4, and is now hitting .136 with a .436 OPS.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE SOX
–Lester’s April Struggles Continue
It’s not as if Jon Lester was tattooed. Of the nine hits he gave up in five innings, just one (a Joe Mauer double down the left field line) went for extra bases. Some of the hits were of the bat-shattering variety.
Nonetheless, it was another instance in which Lester struggled with his location, something that has become a common theme of his April difficulties. Just 55 percent (59 of 107) of Lester’s pitchers were strikes, and he walked three batters, two of whom ended up coming around to score.
Lester has allowed 4.4 walks per nine innings in March and April, and 3.2 walks per nine innings from May through the end of the season. That helps to explain why the left-hander has a 5.08 career ERA in March/April, and a 3.50 mark in all other months.
–The Running Game
Nick Punto swiped a bag in the bottom of the second, making the Sox the first team in the majors to permit 10 stolen bases this year. The Twins went on to swipe another pair of bags, and the Sox have now allowed 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts.
Right now, the team is on pace to allow 278 steals this year. The only team to yield 200 or more steals since 1990 was the 2001 Red Sox, when the diabolical trio of Hideo Nomo (52 steals), Tim Wakefield (32) and Frank Castillo (27) led the charge for a team that opponents to steal 223 times.
|Ortiz denies wrist injury||04.12.10 at 5:33 pm ET|
Speaking to the Boston Herald, David Ortiz denied a report in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he was battling an injured left wrist. The initial report suggested that “[f]riends of David Ortiz say the Red Sox slugger’s left wrist is hurting, though he refuses to make excuses.”
Before Monday’s game, Ortiz told the Herald that injuries have not been to blame for his poor start. He entered Monday with a .111 average (2-for-18), and six strikeouts in his previous nine plate appearances.
“Don’t pay attention to that crap,” Ortiz said of the report of an injury. “I’m fine. If I’d have been raking they wouldn’t be saying that.”
“I just can’t pay any attention to any of this crap going on around me,” he added. “Just play the game. The game is hard enough for people to be talking trash about you and you paying attention to it. You can’t listen to it.”
Ortiz suffered a partial tear of a tendon sheath in his left wrist in May 2008. Prior to that injury, Ortiz had a career line of .298/.399/.603/1.002 with the Red Sox. Since then, he has a line of .246/.343/.473/.817.
|DeVoss shows what Red Sox almost had…||04.11.10 at 2:16 pm ET|
Not every player signs after being drafted. Each June, the Sox aim high in selecting players who have signability questions, with the expectation that they’ll some sizable piles of cash will convince some to turn pro and will leave others unmoved.
Last summer, among those signability questions, the one who came closest to signing but still enrolled in school was Zeke DeVoss. DeVoss is a tremendously athletic player who was taken in the 38th round, having slipped there because there seemed little chance that he would bypass college. The Sox nearly convinced him to change his made, and the two sides made significant negotiating headway before DeVoss ultimately decided to honor his scholarship commitment at the University of Miami. (While discussions were characterized by sources as having come “close,” they never advanced to the point where DeVoss took a physical for the club.)
DeVoss is off to a solid if unspectacular start for the Hurricanes. Entering today’s game, the center fielder is hitting .282/.367/.456 with a pair of homers and 11 steals. But on Saturday, he showed the kind of well-rounded tool set that were the basis of the Sox’ enthusiasm for him.
The switch-hitting DeVoss went 2-for-4 with a homer. But that was far from his signature moment of the day. For that, one would point to his outrageous over-the-shoulder diving catch, which can be found at about the 1:40 mark of the clip below. The Sox anticipated such feats last summer, when DeVoss was among the top “ones who got away” from a draft class that nevertheless appeared rich on promise in spring training this year.
|The free-swinging start of Adrian Beltre||04.10.10 at 11:42 am ET|
On the one hand, Adrian Beltre has five hits in his first 15 at-bats, good for a .333 average that suggests a nice start to his Red Sox career – particularly given that he played a key role in the Sox’ only win of the year. But beyond that, his offensive approach has seemed a curious one.
It is not just that Adrian Beltre has yet to take a walk in his 16 plate appearances this year. He hasn’t come close.
He has yet to reach a three-balls count this year. In his fourth at-bat in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Royals, he lined a single into center on a 2-0 pitch – just the second time he’s gotten to a two-balls count this year.
Here is the rather amazing breakdown of the counts when he put a ball in play thus far this year:
0-0 count – 3
0-1 count – 3
0-2 count – 1
1-0 count – 2
1-1 count – 1
1-2 count – 4
2-0 count – 1
2-2 count – 1
Beltre is now averaging just 2.69 pitches per plate appearance, third fewest in the majors.
It is, of course, far too early to make sweeping assessments of what kind of a hitter he is, and whether this has simply been an unusually aggressive period. J.D. Drew, after all, had not walked in the first three games of the season against the Yankees. Beltre’s 3.77 pitches per plate appearance in his career is actually slightly more than the big league average (3.75) during his time. It is also important to note that he has been making repeated solid contact, with multiple warning track flyballs that have offered a glimpse of his power potential.
Even so, his on-base percentage has been below league average in 10 of his 13 seasons in the majors. And thus far — again, in an incredibly brief sample of games — he has shown a willingness to expand the strike zone with an aggressive approach that has been atypical for the Red Sox lineup under Theo Epstein.
It has also been noteworthy to see where Beltre has hit the ball on the field. He has put 14 balls in play this season, and all but two of those have been either up the middle or to the opposite field.
While there was some expectation that he would benefit significantly from relocating from Safeco (a frustrating environment for right-handers) to Fenway, Beltre suggests that his best power stroke is gap to gap. He crushed a flyball just in front of the bullpen in right-center during the Yankees series. The ball might have been off or over the wall in other parks, a reminder that his new home does not guarantee an offensive boost.
Beltre reflected on that fact in his interview on Friday’s pre-game show.
“Normally, when I’m going right, my balls are right-center to left-center. According to Fenway, that’s not probably the best spot. Hopefully this summer, those balls I hit to the wall might be a little farther than that.”
|Closing Time: Royals 4, Red Sox 3||04.09.10 at 11:21 pm ET|
It was a night that would have been a celebration of Tim Wakefield. The Red Sox starter raced through five shutout innings to start the game and, after permitting back-to-back homers in the bottom of the sixth, rebounded to deliver a crisp 10-pitch seventh to entrust a 3-2 lead to his bullpen against the Royals.
Yet Hideki Okajima, back in Kansas City — the site of his big league debut, where he allowed a homer on the first pitch he ever threw in a major league game — failed to help Wakefield secure his 176th career win as a Red Sox. Instead, he permitted the first batter he faced (David DeJesus) to hit a double. That set in motion a Royals uprising that resulted in Rick Ankiel’s game-winning two-run single to center off of Daniel Bard, sent the Sox to a 4-3 loss and amplified questions that are quickly forming about the Boston bullpen.
Key Play of the Game
Though Bard’s 98 mph heater shattered his bat, Ankiel fisted a single into shallow center with runners on second and third and two outs in the bottom of the eighth to turn the Sox’ one-run lead into a one-run loss. It was the second straight game in which a Sox opponent won in its last at-bat.
What Went Right for the Sox
–Wakefield was efficient and dazzling, going seven innings and allowing six hits and a walk while striking out six. Aside from the back-to-back homers he allowed with two outs in the sixth to Ankiel (who went 4-for-4) and Billy Butler, Wakefield was tremendous. He threw 96 pitches.
–JD Drew hit a colossal shot to center, a two-run homer for his first round-tripper of the season.
–Mike Cameron reached base three times, collecting a pair of singles and a walk.
What Went Wrong for the Sox
–The bullpen again struggled, allowing a pair of runs in an inning. The Sox bullpen has recorded every one of the team’s decisions this year, going 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA.
–The absence of reliable middle relief options may be taking an early toll. Though the Sox have had a pair of off days, it is noteworthy that Bard has appeared in all four games thus far. Still, his stuff was excellent, as he recorded a key strikeout of Butler with one out and a runners on first and third before giving up the game-winning hit on a nasty fastball to Ankiel.
–The Sox lineup continued its futility with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-8 in such circumstances.
–David Ortiz got ejected for arguing a third-strike checked swing. Though he served a double to left against a shift, he had a pair of strikeouts in going 1-for-3, and the ejection seemed a display of mounting frustration.
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