|Wakefield’s Rotation Impact||09.23.09 at 2:50 pm ET|
Though Tim Wakefield‘s line on Monday ‘ five innings and five runs ‘ was his least impressive of his three second-half outings, it still carried value for the Sox. Amidst a stretch in which the Sox have 20 games in 20 days, Wakefield permitted the Sox to give their other starters an extra day of rest.
The potential payoff could come tonight, when Josh Beckett takes the hill. Beckett is 6-5 with a 4.73 ERA when pitching on four days of rest. He is 8-0 with a 2.23 mark when pitching with five days of rest.
Because Wakefield willed himself to take the mound on Monday, his teammates will have the extra day to marshal their strength. The Sox’ ability to slide Wakefield into the rotation, even if it is as a spot starter, impacts the pitching staff in a positive fashion during a time of the year when there is no rest for the weary.
‘That’s what we’re trying to do,’ Francona said. ‘We’re trying to not overdue him and also use it as an advantage for the other guys.’
Going forward, the Sox are hopeful that they will be able to use Wakefield again this year. While the pitcher will not slot into a regular rotation, the Sox will evaluate him in the coming days to determine when he might next take the mound. In a stretch in which the starters could conceivably have had to make four straight starts on four days of rest, Wakefield has already given his teammates one chance to enjoy the fifth day of rest, and there seems a decent chance that he will allow the group to do so once again before the season ends.
‘We’re going to kind of pick our spots with him. He’s aware of that,’ Francona said. ‘He can’t go every five days. That’s not realistic. But I don’t think he’s walking around looking worse, which is good. We’ve been through this a ton. We’ll monitor him all week. We’ll see how he reacts. We’ll check our other pitchers. We’ll try to fit him in where it works best for everybody.’
His teammates acknowledge the potential benefit of that contribution, at the same time that they recognize that Wakefield’s position — working not for a regular turn in the rotation, but instead for spot duty — is undoubtedly frustrating.
“It definitely helps everyone out to give them an extra day. I don’t think that’s what he wants. … If you asked him, he’d rather be not a spot starter but an everyday starter who can go out there and be relied upon,” said fellow starter Jon Lester. “He wants to be a guy relied upon every five days to pitch. For some reason this year, it just hasn’t worked out that way. He got unlucky with whatever happened with his back.”
Even so, as they watch Wakefield grind through physical pain to pursue any possibility of starting, the rest of the Red Sox have been able to appreciate what the pitcher is going through. Of course, Wakefield has long been something of an image of mound courage for his teammates.
“He probably knows I mean this in the right way, but it takes a lot of [guts] to go out there and do what he does. He goes out there and they know what he’s going to be throwing,” said Lester. “It takes a lot of [guts] to go out there and do that every five days and to throw it and trust it. I say that as a compliment.”
|Bullpen Blows One in Kansas City||09.22.09 at 4:07 am ET|
KANSAS CITY, MO. ‘ Tim Wakefield insisted that he was responsible for the Red Sox‘ 12-9 loss. But while the knuckleballer struggled with his command and faltered in the last of his five innings, he nonetheless entrusted a seemingly commanding 8-5 lead to the Boston bullpen.
In 2009, a three-run advantage (which quickly increased to four when the Sox tacked on another run in the top of the sixth) had almost always been a formula for a ‘W.’ In fact, almost any lead at that stage of the game had been sufficient to secure a victory, and with good reason.
The bullpen has been an unquestioned strength of the Sox throughout 2009. Boston’s relievers entered the series against Kansas City with an American League-best 3.59 ERA and having converted 71 percent of save opportunities, tied for ninth-best in the majors.
When leading after five innings, as they did on Monday, the Sox enjoyed a 67-9 record (.882) thanks to a group of relievers that newcomer Billy Wagner has described as the most talented bullpen group he’s ever seen.
For that reason, the rapid collapse of Boston’s bullpen on Monday proved startling. Though the relievers have been an unquestioned key to the Sox’ success this year, the struggles of a trio of hurlers raised questions about what shape the bullpen might take for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.
The sixth and seventh innings ‘ in which Sox relievers allowed seven runs on six hits and four walks ‘ were simply brutal.
The collapse was set in motion by right-hander Manny Delcarmen, whose difficulties over nearly two months have raised questions about his role. Just 12 of Delcarmen’s 25 pitches on Tuesday were strikes. The right-hander gave up a leadoff double, and then after retiring the next two batters, sandwiched a pair of run-scoring doubles (by Billy Butler and Alberto Callaspo) around a walk.
All four of his baserunners eventually scored, marking the first time since Sept. 9, 2006 (also against the Royals) that the reliever had allowed four runs in a game. This latest stumble continued a startling trend that has flummoxed the Sox and, apparently, Delcarmen, who had left the clubhouse by the time it opened to the media following the game.
‘I understand what it’s like to go through one of those funks,’ said outfielder Jason Bay. ‘Everyone goes through them. It’s just not clicking. I don’t think [manager Terry Francona] will be hesitant to use him again because you know at any time he’s got that electric stuff and can put it together, and I think everyone has gone through it.’
Indeed, prior to Monday, Francona made clear how valuable Delcarmen can be if pitching effectively.
‘It would be great to get him back on that roll because he’s such a difference-maker in our bullpen,’ said Francona. ‘There’s a lot of things to like when he’s getting people out the way he can.’
But right now, Delcarmen’s results are not matching his talents, and his season has taken a rapid turn. On July 27, Delcarmen’s ERA stood at 2.15, and the pitcher was a pivotal bullpen contributor. In almost two months since then, Delcarmen now has an 8.84 ERA. He has allowed runs in 11 of 20 appearances.
Of course, the Sox still held a lead ‘ albeit a tenuous one ‘ when Delcarmen departed. But Daniel Bard continued the bullpen’s dismal night.
The right-hander had good stuff, and jumped ahead of the hitters he faced with an unsettling fastball-slider combo. But he could not put his opponents away.
Bard jumped ahead of Miguel Olivo, 1-2, but then lost him in delivering an eight-pitch walk. He then allowed a game-tying double to Alex Gordon when the Kansas City infielder blooped a ball just over the infield dirt down the left-field line. Finally, after jumping ahead, 0-2, against Yuniesky Betancourt, Bard’s 100 mph fastball was lined to right for a two-run single that gave the Royals an 11-9 lead.
‘I had two chances to put guys away,’ Bard lamented, ‘and didn’t execute a pitch.’
Bard now has a 7.36 ERA in 17 games dating to Aug. 4. After logging six straight scoreless appearances from Aug. 28-Sept. 15, he has now allowed runs in two of his last three appearances.
Wagner, following a pair of outings in which he hadn’t had a strikeout, once again displayed devastating swing-and-miss stuff on a night when he recorded all three of his outs via punchout. But he also emerged frustrated when, after striking out the first two batters he faced, he allowed a walk, run-scoring double (again by Butler) and walk to allow the Royals their 12th and final run of the night.
In 56 games since the start of 2008, Wagner had walked more than one batter just once, when he issued two free passes June 12, 2008, against the Diamondbacks. After Monday’s game, he was dismayed by his command struggles and his failure to keep the score intact.
‘I was terrible. You go get the first two guys out, then a lefty comes out and I think I got going too fast. I walked him. The pitch to [Butler] was a pretty good pitch, but I set myself up with the walk,’ said Wagner. ‘In my mind, that was a big inning. If you go out there and hold them to nothing, three-up, three-down, then all of a sudden we have less of a hill to climb. Instead of having to get four runs we might have to get three, or two to tie. It’s [very] poor.’
The entire Boston bullpen was left with similar laments on Monday. A group that is armed top-to-bottom with exceptional stuff endured one of its most stunning defeats of the season.
For now, it was merely one bad night that could quickly fade from memory if the group rebounds to its season-long form. Nonetheless, there was a lesson in the team’s defeat.
The Sox bullpen has a 5.25 ERA in September. Every member of the bullpen except for Jonathan Papelbon, Takashi Saito and Wagner has endured a sustained struggle at some point in the past month. Increasingly, the Sox are receiving reminders that even an immensely talented bullpen is subject to untimely struggles.
‘Live and learn,’ said Wagner. ‘You can’t go out there with just stuff. You have to have brains behind it and make quality pitches, not just throw stuff up.’
|Rays Regroup After Elimination From the Division Race||09.13.09 at 8:52 pm ET|
On Sept. 2, the Tampa Bay Rays remained convinced that they were one hot streak away from the postseason. And indeed, that might have been the case.
The reigning American League champs had just beaten the Red Sox in Tampa Bay to move within five games of Boston for the A.L. wild card lead. The team’s 72-60 record was the fifth-best in the A.L., superior to that of the Detroit Tigers.
But the roof of the Tropicana Dome caved in (figuratively, of course), starting the next night. Tampa Bay suffered a 6-3 loss to the Sox and Clay Buchholz that night, and from there, a spiral commenced that has yet to stop. Starting that night and running through Sunday, when they were swept in a doubleheader in Fenway Park, the Rays have lost 11 straight. Their offense has become feeble during that time, averaging 2.1 runs per game, in part due to the season-ending injury (a pair of broken fingers) suffered by A.L. home run leader Carlos Pena.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Rays starter James Shields.
And so, after they were swept, 4-0, in the nightcap, the Rays have been officially eliminated in the American League East race. The team technically remains in contention for the wild card, in which they now trail Boston by 11.5 games, but the fact that the team has already given away the division crown that it claimed with a 97-win season in 2008 served as a cause for remorse and reflection.
“People are going to look at this season at this particular juncture. There’s going to be a lot of false analyzing. The last two weeks have been tough, bad, horrid,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “Other than that, we had a bad April but we did catch up. We’ve just had a bad run right now that truly makes it look a lot worse than it is, or was. From our perspective, as we get into the wintertime, it’s going to be important and pertinent that we identify properly and put together for next year the team that’s going to win the division title, which I believe we will. Again, if you look at it right now, a know we’re a game over .500 and (have lost) 11 games in a row, but my goodness ‘ 11 days ago we were in pretty good shape.”
The Rays seem puzzled by the sudden yanking of the carpet from underfoot. The team believed that its roster featured the sort of talent that should keep it in the race until the end of the year. And so, compared to the first 10 seasons in the franchise’s history when losing was a foregone conclusion, this run without success has left a deeper wound.
“Everybody in the clubhouse is feeling the pain,” said Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. “(But) I love the team. I love the guys we have here. I definitely think that we were capable of doing it and still capable of doing it. If the team stays the way that it is next year, I still think we have a pretty good chance.”
|Post-Game Reaction: Dustin Pedroia Plays Powerball||09.13.09 at 4:32 pm ET|
Entering Sunday, Dustin Pedroia had exactly one career opposite-field home run, and that one almost deserved an asterisk. That oppo shot came against Joba Chamberlain and the Yankees last month in Yankee Stadium, a park that features a wind tunnel to right field.
And so no one — least of all Pedroia — expected the Red Sox second baseman to blast a ball into the visitor’s bullpen in right-center when he stepped to the plate with one out and a runner on third in the bottom of the eighth. Even so, with Joey Gathright (in as a pinch-runner for David Ortiz, who delivered a pinch-hit double to start the frame), Pedroia liked his chances.
“You definitely want to be up there in that situation. Infield’s in. I put the ball in play a lot, so hopefully something good happens in that situation,” Pedroia said after the Sox won, 3-1, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader. “I was just trying to hit the ball in the air. They’ve been pitching me away a lot. I just got a pitch up and drove it.”
Pedroia, ahead in the count 3-1, jumped out of his shoes at a 94 mph fastball from Rays starter Matt Garza. The ball was elevated, but even then, the Rays had a difficult time believing where it ended up.
“Pedroia hitting a home run to right field is the last thing you expected,” said Rays skipper Joe Maddon. “Most of the time when he goes to that side it’s a line drive. He just gets up and hits it in the opposite field bullpen. That’s their day when that happens.”
Not only did the homer (Pedroia’s 13th this year, and third in four games) give the Sox the win, but it also gave the diminutive second baseman bragging rights when he saw Ortiz back in the dugout.
“I was kind of joking with (Ortiz) because he hit the top of the fence,” admitted Pedroia.
It was a remarkable feat of strength (perhaps a prelude to a Festivus-inspired airing of grievances) for a second baseman whose performance continues to defy his frame.
“That little guy’s got some pop. He’s unbelievable to watch when he’s firing on all cylinders,” said Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz. “They’s why he was MVP last year. He can play the field and just flat-out hit.”
|Buchholz Continues to Dazzle||09.13.09 at 4:22 pm ET|
It was a day on which Clay Buchholz had his full complement of pitches — mid-90s fastball, slider, curveball and especially a Bugs Bunny changeup that Rays skipper Joe Maddon described as “devastating.” The 25-year-old Red Sox starter was pitted against a Rays pitcher with equally nasty stuff in Matt Garza, but once again, it did not matter.
Buchholz has gone toe-to-toe in hard-luck losses against Cy Young candidates CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander, and has led his team to victory against Roy Halladay and Garza. In short, he has held his own against the sort of elite pitchers who will dot the match-up lines in October, and has shown that he can give the Red Sox a chance to win regardless of the opponent. And so, there is a growing air of confidence for the Sox when Buchholz takes the mound, something that he would surely do as the team’s third starter in the postseason.
“Right now, he’s clicking on all cylinders. As a pitcher, if you can go out there and do that, you’re going to be successful,” said Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon after Buchholz allowed one run on five hits in seven innings, getting a no-decision in Boston’s 3-1 win. “He’s taken a load on his shoulders and said, ‘I want to be the guy ‘ I want to be the guy in this rotation.’ You’ve got to love that about him. You have to love the way he’s gone about his business.”
The last two postseasons, Buchholz has been somewhat deflated while watching from home. In 2007, the Sox shut him down due to shoulder fatigue. In 2008, he had been banished to the minors and Arizona Fall League, and wasn’t a consideration for a postseason spot.
This year, the pitcher is now unbeaten in his last six starts, going 4-0 with a 3.00 ERA, and he has posted four straight quality starts. He is getting stronger as the drumbeat of October grows louder, and can now nearly taste the opportunity that awaits him should the Sox make the playoffs.
“That’s where every pitcher wants to be. Every team wants to be in October, playing, trying to get to the World Series and win a championship,” said Buchholz. “As of right now, I like (matching up against top starters). It’s a fun place to be out there whenever everything’s going good…You know who you’ve got and you know it’s going to be a well-pitched game on their side for sure. It makes you concentrate a little bit more maybe going out there and telling yourself, ‘OK – let’s make some pitches here because that guy flat out doesn’t give up many runs.
“It definitely worked in my favor today, not taking anything away from (Garza). He’s one of the best pitchers in the game.”
That Buchholz could position the Sox to take a late-inning victory against a hurler with such a pedigree — especially a noted Sox slayer like Garza, the winner in Game 7 of last year’s ALCS — is a testament to the growing notion that the Sox have increasing reason to feel bullish about the shape of their rotation.
“He’s worked a ton, and continues to get better. The stuff he has, if he continues to get better, it’s going to be very impressive,” said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “He’s been great for a while. Obviously, if he keeps it going, we’ve got a pretty good pitching staff.”
|Details of Sunday’s Day-Night Doubleheader||09.11.09 at 11:02 pm ET|
The Red Sox offered the following press release about the postponement of Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, which will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Sunday:
The Red Sox tonight announced that the postponement of this evening’s game with the Tampa Bay Rays will be made up as the opener of a day-night doubleheader, Sunday, September 13 at 12 noon.
Fans holding tickets to the regularly scheduled night game for TONIGHT, Friday, September 11, may use those tickets for the 12 noon game on Sunday. The gates at Fenway Park will open at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday. The decision to move tonight’s game to Sunday, September 13, was made due to the current forecast for Saturday, September 12, that calls for rain during the daytime hours. At this time, the 7:10 p.m. game tomorrow will be played as scheduled.
The start of the regularly scheduled game between the Red Sox and Rays on Sunday, September 13 has been moved from 1:35 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The gates at Fenway Park are expected to open 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first game for that contest.
Both Sunday games will be broadcast on NESN and WEEI.
Tonight’s Red Sox game versus the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park was postponed due to rain and the forecast for continued steady rain, heavy at times, throughout the evening. The game was officially called after one-third inning of play.
Based on the forecast information that was available at the time from the Red Sox private weather service, Meteorlogix, the gates were opened and the game started as scheduled. The forecast indicated that play was possible and every effort was made to get the game in.
The decision to postpone tonight’s game came at the direction of the umpires, in consultation with Major League Baseball and the Boston Red Sox, after reviewing the revised long-range forecast. As this is the Rays’ final trip to Fenway Park this season, every effort is being made to complete a full series of games this weekend.
This is the second postponement for the Red Sox this season, both at Fenway Park.
|Saito Set To Earn An Extra $500,000||09.11.09 at 1:38 am ET|
As noted by the Boston Herald, Red Sox reliever Takashi Saito — who has pitched in 49 games this year — will trigger a $500,000 bonus when he makes his next appearance of the season. The right-hander has pitched in 49 contests this year. His contract calls for bonuses of $500,000 when he reaches 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70 appearances. Saito has already secured $5 million this season between his base contract and active roster bonuses.
Saito has seemed to grow stronger as the season has progressed. A year ago at this time, Saito was trying to return to the majors to see if he could avoid Tommy John surgery and continue to pitch. After two months on the sidelines last summer, Saito returned to Los Angeles and forged a 4.76 ERA in six appearances.
This year, nearly one year out from his Sept. 15 return to the majors, the Red Sox are benefiting from his best stretch of 2009. Saito is on a run of 11 straight scoreless appearances (spanning 10.2 innings), and has struck out 13 while allowing eight hits and three walks in that time. Opponents have a .545 OPS during the run, which dates to Aug. 6.
The Red Sox hold an option on Saito for the 2010 season that will be based on his earnings this year. The reliever told the Herald that he hopes to return to Boston next year.
“I’m really happy being in a Red Sox uniform. Not every team in baseball can be in our competitive situation,’ Saito told the paper. ‘So I’m really happy about it and proud of being here. I believe the best thing is to return to the team next year but that’s not something I can control.”
|The Daisuke Report||09.10.09 at 4:18 pm ET|
The Red Sox wanted to stretch out Daisuke Matsuzaka, and to give the right-hander a minor-league rehab outing in which he had the opportunity to build both his pitch count and his innings load. Mission accomplished.
On Wednesday, Matsuzaka delivered an impressive outing for Single-A Salem in the opener of its Carolina League playoff series against the Winston-Salem Dash. The pitcher threw 89 pitches in logging 6.2 innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out seven while walking one. According to Salem Red Sox manager Chad Epperson, the pitcher showed a fastball that sat at 91-92 mph and topped out at 93, which he mixed adeptly with a cutter, slider and changeup.
“He was impressive. Overall, it was a solid outing,” Epperson said by phone. “He got out there in the first two innings and was trying to get the mix of his pitches and get a feel for them. And then in the third inning, he found the feel for his cutter and fastball and it was fun to watch. It was like, ‘Wow.’
“His two-seamer, on righties, kind of beat them to the spot, allowing for some weak contact and tardy swings. I thought he threw the cutter very well in to lefties. His secondary stuff was good. He threw some good sliders, some good changeups. I think (all his pitches) came into play in his strikeouts. His stuff moves so much. I do know his cutter was an effective pitch and his fastball, he got some tardy swings.”
Matsuzaka, who turns 29 on Sunday, was making his fourth and final rehab outing. He has been out since mid-June while building shoulder strength and working on his overall conditioning in what amounted to a second spring training. Now, after his most recent outing, it sounds like he is ready to return to the majors in hopes of contributing to the rotation down the stretch and perhaps into the postseason.
Whether he will actually be able to do so, and salvage a season in which he is 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA, remains to be seen. Though expectations should be measured for a pitcher who last performed in the majors three months ago, Matsuzaka has now positioned himself to the point where he has an opportunity to help at the major-league level.
“Overall, it was just like the organization wanted to draw it up,” Epperson said. “Get the pitch count up there, (build) his innings, and they have a decision to make.”
|Red Sox announce signing of defensive whiz Iglesias||09.08.09 at 7:15 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced the signing of Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias to a four-year Major-League contract that is to begin in 2010, and added the shortstop to the 40-man roster. The deal was for $8.25 million, with the shortstop receiving a $6.25 million bonus (spread over four years) and annual salaries, starting in 2010, of $500,000 per season.
Iglesias is considered an elite defender, having drawn some scouting comparisons to Ozzie Smith and other Gold Glove-caliber shortstops. There are, however, questions about his offensive ability. This is from a Full Count post on the Red Sox’ international amateur shortstop signees in July:
(Iglesias) is considered a very athletic player with good speed who plays dazzling dazzling defense. Even so, there are questions about his ability to hit enough to justify an investment along the lines of the Sox’ rumored offer. He has shown little power in his Cuban career, though he was very young for the competition while playing in the Cuban National Series.
Dayan Viciedo, a 19-year-old power hitting third baseman whom the White Sox signed to a four-year, $11 million deal out of Cuba this offseason, played in several international tournaments with Iglesias. At the Futures Game in St. Louis, Viciedo offered the following scouting report on his former teammate and countryman:
‘He’s a very good fielder in particular. You can put him anywhere,’ said Viciedo. ‘He can play third, short and second. He’s a very good player.’
Asked about Iglesias’ hitting, Viciedo paused to consider his answer.
‘He defends himself,’ said Viciedo.
Iglesias defected while playing at a tournament in Canada last August.
That said, one international scout for an American League club suggested that his team, like the Sox, believed that Iglesias might have legitimate offensive ability. The scout suggested that Iglesias has the hand-eye coordination that could project to make him a viable No. 2 hitter.
Iglesias, 19, is slated to play for the Arizona Fall League beginning in October. He played 75 games for los Vaqueros de La Habana of Cuba’s major league Serie Nacional during the 2007-08 season, batting .322 (101-for-314) with 11 doubles, four triples, 39 RBI, 51 runs scored and 17 walks. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Iglesias was 17 years old when that season began. A right-handed hitter, he posted a .329 (81-for-246) average against right-handed pitching. A native of Havana, Cuba, Iglesias established residency in the Dominican Republic before signing with the Red Sox. in the
|Red Sox Call Up Bowden||09.05.09 at 12:34 pm ET|
With Junichi Tazawa having pitched 3.2 innings on Friday, the Red Sox summoned right-hander Michael Bowden from the minors to serve as an insurance option who can provide long relief should Tim Wakefield struggle to provide innings on Saturday. This is Bowden’s third call-up of the year; he has a 15.75 ERA in his two prior appearances, one of which was successful (2 shutout innings against the Yankees), the other of which was a disaster (2 innings, 7 runs).
Bowden (4-6, 3.13 ERA in Triple-A this year) is a native of the Chicago area, and so the opportunity to join the Red Sox in U.S. Cellular Field represents a homecoming of sorts for him.
Here is the release from the Red Sox announcing his call-up:
The Boston Red Sox recalled right-handed pitcher Michael Bowden from Triple-A Pawtucket. Bowden will wear No. 64 and be available for today’s game against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. With today’s move, the club’s active Major League roster is at 32 players.
The announcements were made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.
For Bowden, 22, it is his third stint with the Big League club this season after combining to allow seven runs over 4.0 innings in two relief appearances for Boston earlier this year. Over 24 starts with the PawSox this season, he went 4-6 and at the time of his promotion ranked 4th in the International League with a 3.13 ERA (44 ER/126.1 IP). The right-hander was 1-1 with a 1.96 ERA (5 ER/23.0 IP) over his final four starts.
Selected by Boston in the supplemental round (club’s fifth pick) of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Bowden has appeared in three career Major League games (one start). He made his debut with the Red Sox in a start on August 30, 2008 against the White Sox. In 106 career minor league games (103 starts) over parts of five seasons in the Boston organization, he is 33-25 with a 3.15 ERA (186 ER/532.0 IP), 477 strikeouts and 153 walks.
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