|Daniel Bard: I have to ‘be careful and think about my career’||04.26.12 at 7:17 pm ET|
“I’m ready,” he said prior to the Red Sox‘ series opener at U.S. Cellular Field Thursday. “I guess I’m more flexible than maybe even I thought I was.”
Bard, who was skipped in the Red Sox’ rotation Sunday and moved to bullpen for a game, Monday, explained why there was hesitancy on his behalf in pitching as a reliever more than just the one time leading into his start. The Red Sox had originally thought it might be a possibility that the righty could throw out of the bullpen again during the Minnesota series, but Bard put the brakes on such an idea.
“The team was in kind of a desperate situation, or felt like they were, but at the same time I can’t risk my arm or my career to win one or two more games in April,” he said. “If I overdo myself right now and blow out in a month because I was trying to do too much, I’ll probably look back and say it wasn’t worth it.
“I understand their concern. I’m honored they think enough of me that I can do both, I guess. But at the same time I have to be smart about it and be careful and think about my career.”
Bard explained the source of his reluctance in being available out of the bullpen Wednesday, which was the scheduled day for his side session leading up to the pitcher’s third start of the season.
“If I went out and threw an eight-pitch inning it would be kind of a weird schedule and I wouldn’t get the work in I wanted to, in terms of throwing change-ups and stuff in the bullpen,” he said. “But what if I also go out and throw 35 pitches. I can’t do it, unless they want to call somebody up if that happens.
“It’s unpredictable. If I didn’t get the game on Wednesday I probably would have had to throw a bullpen last night after the game, which would have been kind of weird.
“We have good arms in the pen. We’re not going to have an eight ERA the whole year. It’s not going to happen. There are too many good arms. Me going down there isn’t going to change the world.”
Finally, when asked what role he thought he would be pitching in a month from now, Bard responded, “I’m going to prepare like I am until I’m told otherwise.”
|Closing Time: Red Sox hold off Twins to earn sweep||04.25.12 at 11:43 pm ET|
The Red Sox came away with their first series sweep of the season, winning their third straight game against the Twins at Target Field, 7-6, Wednesday night.
The Sox weathered some anxious moments, watching a six-run lead cut to one thanks to Minnesota’s five-run fifth inning. But Matt Albers would get the final two outs in the sixth, with Vicente Padilla (seventh), Franklin Morales (eighth) and Alfredo Aceves (ninth) all pitching scoreless frames in nailing down the Red Sox’ seventh win of the season.
The final moments weren’t without some anxiety for the Sox, however, with Aceves allowing the Twins to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Denard Span to pick up the save.
Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Sox’ victory:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
‘¢ Albers came up big in the sixth inning, getting Sean Burroughs to ground into an inning-ending, 6-3 double play. Albers had come on with one out and the bases loaded for the Twins, immediately giving up an RBI single to Trevor Plouffe. But with the bases still loaded, Albers came back to get out the inning, allowing the Red Sox cling to a one-run lead.
‘¢ Mike Aviles continued to impress, launching his fourth home run of the season in the second inning against Twins starter Liam Hendriks. The no-doubter to left field drove in three and gave the Red Sox an early 4-0 lead.
‘¢ Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued to find his way offensively, this time coming up with a two-run single in the third inning. The catcher has hit in four straight games to raise his batting average to .244.
‘¢ Dustin Pedroia notched his second three-hit game of the season, extending his hit streak to five games.
WHAT WENT WRONG
‘¢ Justin Thomas had a rough night, not only not retiring either of the two batters he faced in the sixth, but also hitting Twins first baseman Chris Parmelee in the head with a 93 mph fastball. After being attended to by the trainers, Parmelee left the game under his own power.
‘¢ For just the fourth time in 17 games, David Ortiz went hitless. The DH did draw a walk and scored a run.
‘¢ Clay Buchholz still hasn’t found his groove, this time needing 107 pitches to get through just 5 1/3 innings. The Sox starter finished having allowed five runs on 10 hits, striking out two and walking three. It was just the third time in his career the hurler has allowed 10 or more hits. Buchholz, whose ERA stands at 8.87, has given up at least five runs in each of his four outings this season.
|Closing Time: Red Sox’ bats help hand Josh Beckett his second win||04.24.12 at 11:13 pm ET|
Sox hitters pounded out 18 hits against Minnesota pitching on the way to a 11-2 victory over the Twins Tuesday night at Target Field. It was plenty for Red Sox starting pitcher Josh Beckett, who picked up his second win of the season while lowering his ERA to 4.56.
Here is what went right (and wrong) on a night the Sox picked up their sixth win of the season:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Beckett settled down after a 37-pitch first inning, in which the starter allowed a single, three walks and a run. The righty finished his night allowing two runs on three hits, striking out five and not walking a batter after the first frame. He threw 100 pitches (65 strikes). Also of note was Beckett’s fastball consistently hitting 93 mph.
– New centerfielder Marlon Byrd made his presence felt defensively, making nice diving catch off a shallow fly ball off the bat of Ryan Doumit to end the third inning. The out stranded runners at second and third with the Sox leading by four at the time.
– David Ortiz continued his torrid start, coming through with a two-run homer off Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn in the third inning. It guaranteed the DH his fourth straight multi-hit game.
– The other Red Sox home run went to Mike Aviles, who had the best offensive night of any of the visitors. For the first time this season he came away with four hits (having had three two previous games), with this game including Aviles’ third home run of the season. It was the sixth time in his career he has totaled four hits in a game, having last accomplished the feat on June 15, 2010. Aviles raised his average from .291 to .333.
– Along with Aviles, the only other Red Sox hitter to claim three hits was Adrian Gonzalez. It was the second time the first baseman came away with three hits this season, having tied with Michael Young for most games with three or more hits in 2011 (25).
– Other members of the Red Sox offense to claim multiple-hit games were Ryan Sweeney, Kevin Youkilis, and Byrd. For Byrd, his three hits in two games with the Sox equals his total for his 13-game season with the Cubs prior being traded to Boston.
– Scott Atchison continued to be perhaps the Red Sox’ most reliable reliever, this time pitching two perfect innings, striking out three. The righty, who has appeared in six games, dropped his ERA to 1.54.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Kelly Shoppach, who was getting his first start against a right-handed starting pitcher due to his numbers against Blackburn (8-for-16, 3 HRs), struck out three times after beginning his night with a second-inning double.
– Cody Ross, the hero in the series’ first game for the Red Sox, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
|Josh Beckett can’t understand the obsession with how hard he throws||04.24.12 at 11:43 am ET|
Josh Beckett doesn’t understand the fuss regarding his velocity (or perceived lack thereof).
‘I didn’t feel like I was throwing that slow the start before (appearance vs. Texas), but obviously it’s made a big deal out of,’ he said. ‘Sometimes I guess winning isn’t the most important thing, it’s throwing hard. When I was younger it was all about winning, now it’s about throwing hard. I’m confused.’
Beckett is perplexed because he doesn’t view what he is offering now in terms of velocity as all that different from what it was before.
And, according to Pitch FX (a tool that measures pitchers’ velocity), he is justified in his confusion.
In his most recent start, a seven-inning, three-run outing against the Rangers, Beckett’s fastball topped out at 93 mph and averaged 92 mph. They were the same measurements found both in his third start a year ago, as well as the game he classified as the best performance of his career ‘ a complete game, one-hitter against Tampa Bay on June 15, 2011.
‘I think every year that’s kind of how I am,’ Beckett explained. ‘I remember one year in A-Ball coming out of spring training I was 88-89 [mph], but by the end of the year I was back throwing at my normal velocity. Sometimes that’s the way it is. You can’t explain it. It is what it is. I don’t know if it’s scar tissue, or what.
‘No matter what, you still have to locate the ball. I felt like I did that in both these last two starts. I stayed out of the middle of the plate against the Rangers, that was it. I wouldn’t say I had pinpoint control, but I felt like I had pretty good control against the Rays. With the Rangers I just stayed out of the middle of the plate with the exception of one pitch.’
While the velocity hasn’t changed as much as some might think, other parts of Beckett’s game have been tweaked As FanGraphs’ Chris Cwik points out, it’s the use (and effectiveness) of his cutter that has been changed.
Beckett’s cutter, which he used 31 times against the Rangers, has been getting more ground balls and swings and misses than ever before. Add in the fact that the righty is now using two different types of changeups (one that was uncharacteristically clocked at 86 mph against the Rangers), and it’s clear some minor changes have been made.
It’s just that, according to the pitcher, velocity hasn’t (and won’t be) one of those alterations.
‘It’s more consistent,’ said Beckett of his cutter. ‘I think it was just as good a few years ago, but now it’s consistently where I want to throw it. And that’s another thing that could drop my velocity down. My cutter is almost the same speed as my fastball. So if my fastball is 91 or 92, and my cutter is 90, some of the cutters may look like fastballs, too.
‘They are so close together. It’s not like my cutter is 85. My cutter is 88-91. I looked up there a couple of times two days ago and it was 91.’
|Decision time is closing in on Aaron Cook, Red Sox||04.24.12 at 12:58 am ET|
The starting pitcher, who has an opt-out in his contract if the Sox don’t promote him from Triple-A by May 1, continued to dominate during his stint with the Pawtucket Red Sox. Monday night at McCoy Stadium was Cook’s latest chance to impress.
The veteran righty allowed eight hits (7 singles and a double) and one unearned run while throwing 93 pitches (62) in his seven-inning outing against the Durham Bulls. And perhaps most impressive, just four of his 21 outs came in the form of fly balls.
So what now?
‘I’ll make a decision when I feel like it’s time to make a decision,’ he said after the PawSox’ seven-inning, 7-1 win over Durham. ‘I haven’t made a decision yet.’
Cook actually has two opt-outs, one that arrives a week from Tuesday, with another residing on June 1 if he chooses not to utilize the first go-round.
There was some talk that Cook was intent on having a decision made, one way or another, by the May 1 deadline. But he said after his latest start that isn’t necessarily the case.
‘Nope,’ said Cook when asked if he has shut the door on extending his stay in Pawtucket. ‘There’s no reason to.’
It was hard to envision Cook remaining in the minor leagues much longer after witnessing his fourth start with the PawSox. His ERA now stands at 1.33, and he’s seen his velocity amp up as high as 92 mph.
But it was the location of his sinker that meant the most Monday. It was a pitch that allowed for the Bulls’ first 13 outs to come on the ground.
‘He was throwing a little bit harder tonight than he normally does,’ said PawSox catcher Ryan Lavarnway. ‘Very consistent sinker, per usual. There’s not a lot to say. The performance pretty much speaks for itself. Pretty much everything he threw up there they were swinging over the top of or pounding into the ground, and that’s what you want to see from a guy who has his kind of stuff.’
Cook wouldn’t run into any serious trouble until his final inning, when he saw Nevin Ashley lead off with a double to the right-center field gap, which was followed by a walk to Jeff Salazar.
But, true to form, Cook induced a ground out to second, another grounder that PawSox second baseman Jon Hee botched (allowing for the visitors’ only run), a ground ball to first base and, finally, a line-out to left field.
Also of note was that twice Cook got out of innings with double play balls.
‘I think I’m right where I need to be,’ he said. ‘I’m getting deep into games, getting that fatigue factor. Our guys are scoring a bunch of runs, having some time to sit down and having a long time between innings. Everything you could possibly need to get ready I think was in that game today. I felt like the ball is coming out of my hand good, I’m commanding the strike zone and I feel like I’m where I need to be.
‘I feel healthy. I feel strong. I feel my velocity is starting to come up to where I want it to be. More than the velocity is the location of my pitches, and that’s really the evidence that I’m stronger that I’m able to locate.
‘I’m feeling like I’m doing what I need to do, and I feel like the sinker is sinking. That’s all I can ask for.’
|Closing Time: Yankees spoil birthday bash for Red Sox, Fenway Park||04.20.12 at 6:35 pm ET|
Other than Friday afternoon’s pre-game celebration, there was little jubilation in the 100-year-old Fenway Park, with the Red Sox dropping a series-opening, 6-2 loss to the Yankees. New York’s victory was powered by five solo home runs, two coming from Eric Chavez, with Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin rounding out the field.
Perhaps the most demoralizing aspect of the loss for the Red Sox was a third straight subpar by starter Clay Buchholz. The righty allowed six runs on nine hits over his six innings, throwing 103 pitches. Buchholz’s ERA now stands at 9.00.
To make matters worse for Red Sox’ manager Bobby Valentine, the day ended with a portion of the Fenway crowd chanting, “We want Tito!” (referring to former skipper Terry Francona, who got the loudest ovation in the pre-game ceremony).
Here is what went wrong for the Red Sox in their ninth loss (4-9) of the season:
WHAT WENT WRONG
– The five home runs surrendered by Buchholz marked the second time in his career he has allowed as many in a game, having given up five on Sept. 29, 2009 against Toronto. It was the 15th time since 1918 that a pitcher has given up five home runs and finished having allowed five earned runs.
– Dustin Pedroia made his first error of the season, dropping a Derek Jeter pop up to start off the game. Jeter would come around and score on an Alex Rodriguez single. It took until May 1 before Pedroia made an error last season.
– The Red Sox didn’t draw a single walk. It marked the second time this season the Sox didn’t earn one free pass, having managed the feat on three occasions in 2011.
– The Sox, who finished the day with three starters hitting under .200 (Jason Repko, Jarrod Saltalmacchia and Kevin Youkilis), went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– The Red Sox scored their second run with one out in the fifth inning when Mike Aviles’ low line-drive to right field was lost in the sun by Nick Swisher. The play resulted in a double and Cody Ross scoring.
– David Ortiz got the Red Sox on the board in the second inning with a solo home run, marking the second time this season he has gone deep. Both of the designated hitter’s homers this season have come on cutters.
– The celebration honoring Fenway’s 100th anniversary. Other than not singing ‘Happy Birthday’ the pre-game festivities, featuring 225 former players on the field, was met with rave reviews.
|Bobby Valentine is having to adjust to a whole new (Twitter-driven) world||04.19.12 at 9:49 am ET|
Few want to understand the reality of Bobby Valentine’s situation. When you have a team that is 4-8, and immersed in a bout of early-season chaos, hearing that the manager’s grasp of his world is a work in progress is tough for some to digest.
But that is undeniably the case.
It’s easy to see what is Valentine’s biggest challenge when it comes to getting grip on the on-field conundrums. The bullpen — figuring out whom to use, and not use, when and where — remains an unsettled proposition. Deciphering what’s right and wrong in that respect, however, is something a baseball man like Valentine has managed before and will manage again.
No, there is another challenge that Valentine has been encountered which might be the most difficult to maneuver around.
“The thing I think surprised me, I haven’t managed here in the States in 10 years and I think there’s a difference in the deliverance of information,” Valentine said.
According to the manager, this revelation was brought to the surface just a few days ago, thanks to the media torrent that ensued after Valentine’s comments regarding Kevin Youkilis. The sound bite was surfaced Sunday night, and by 9 a.m. the next morning he was clarifying not only the initial statement, but a flurry of reaction that had washed over the 24-hour news cycle in the hours leading up to the morning press conference.
“I probably realized it the whole time, but it jumped on me that this is the world we’re living in,” Valentine said. “It’s cool.”
But is it really?
“Sure,” he explained. “It’s another step. When we talk about the good players, they’re the ones who adjust. Adjust during an at-bat. Adjust during a season. To be good at life you have to keep adjusting. When you start going into the grave is when you stop adjusting. So I’ll have to adjust.”
|Mike Napoli continues to be the toughest of outs for the Red Sox||04.19.12 at 12:04 am ET|
After the Rangers’ 6-3 win over the Sox Wednesday night, Napoli is now hitting .358 (24-for-67) with 10 homers and 24 RBI in 20 games against the Sox since the start of the 2010 season. The catcher, who launched a two-run blast against Josh Beckett in the fourth inning, has also homered in eight of his last 12 games against the Red Sox.
The punctuation this time around for Napoli came in the form of a two-run double in the eighth inning, giving the Rangers a four-run lead they would never look back from.
“Guy seems like he hits .700 against us lifetime,” said Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis of Napoli, whom the Red Sox won a waiver claim on during the 2010 season but couldn’t work out a trade to secure his services. “He’s a good hitter and think he loves facing us for some reason. He’s always hot when he’s facing us. Hopefully when we play him next time, he’ll be cold. He jumps on the train and he got going. He’s a good player.”
For Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, Napoli continues to be a thorn in his side. Of the six hits the catcher has against Beckett, four are homers (including two postseason blasts).
“I made one big mistake, the pitch to Napoli,” Beckett said. “Ultimately it was bad for me and bad for the team. It kind of put us in a little bit of a hole.”
|Closing Time: Mike Napoli, Rangers hand Red Sox another loss||04.18.12 at 10:13 pm ET|
The Texas catcher’s two-run home run in the fourth inning gave his team the lead for good on the way to the Rangers’ 6-3 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The defeat handed Beckett his second loss of the season even though the Sox’ starter turned in a strong performance, allowing the three runs over seven innings. The starter retired the final 12 batters he faced, finishing up at 110 pitches.
Napoli capped his night with a two-run double against Red Sox reliever Franklin Morales in the eighth inning, giving the Rangers a four-run lead. The catcher is batting .358 with 10 homers and 24 RBI in 20 games against the Red Sox since the start of 2010.
The game ended when Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s line-drive with runners on first and third was caught by first baseman Brandon Snyder, who proceeded to double up Ryan Sweeney, who was running on the play.
It marked the eighth time in the last 10 meetings at Fenway between the teams that Red Sox have come out on the short end, having been out-scored by a combined 76-32.
Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox’ eighth loss of the season:
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Napoli continued his success at Fenway Park, taking Beckett over the left field wall for a two-run homer in the fourth inning. It was just the sixth hit against Beckett for the Texas catcher, with four of them clearing the fence. Hit was the ninth homer for Napoli at Fenway, who entered the game with a 1.023 at the home of the Red Sox.
– Mike Aviles was picked off for the second time this season. This time coming after the shortstop had led off the third inning with a single. Aviles did swipe his first bag of the season (in his first attempt) in the first inning.
– After Kelly Shoppach got into scoring position via a one-out double, representing the game-tying run, Darnell McDonald grounded to shortstop while Nick Punto — who was pinch-hitting for Jason Repko — struck out.
– Morales had his roughest outing of the season, allowing three runs on two hits and three walks in 1/3 innings.
– The Red Sox weren’t able to do much damage at all against Texas starter Derek Holland, who allowed two runs on four hits over seven inning, striking out seven and walking three. Holland, who finished throwing 102 pitches, dropped his ERA to 3.10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Kevin Youkilis hit his first home run of 2011, a two-run blast over the center field portion of the left field wall. It was Youkilis’ first home run since August 14, 2011.
– Darnell McDonald made a big defensive play in the third inning, gunning down Elvis Andrus, who was trying to stretch his line-drive off the left field wall into a double. It limited the damage in what became a one-run frame for the visitors.
– Beckett’s velocity was ratcheted up a tick, with the starter’s fastball living at 93 mph.
– For just the second time in Aviles’ career he drew two walks.
– Ryan Sweeney came through in the ninth inning again, notching an RBI single. The outfielder, who came in as a pinch-hitter for McDonald, is now 5-for-5 this season in the ninth.
|The day Josh Hamilton hit a ball 549 feet (and it wasn’t in Fenway Park)||04.18.12 at 8:05 pm ET|
Josh Hamilton’s home run Tuesday night will be remembered for some time. Any time a player hits a ball 469 feet, up into the Fenway Park right field stands, it tends to stand out.
But, compared to Hamilton’s longest home run ever hit, the blast off Mark Melancon was nothing.
That was because he hit it … brace yourself … 549 feet.
“When I was in high A ball in Bakersfield, I hit a ball that went out of sight at nighttime,” Hamilton said prior to the series finale between the Red Sox and Rangers Wednesday night. “There was a dirt canal behind the field and it rained previously and it stuck in the side of the canal. We went out and measured it and it was 549. It was cool.”
As for home runs Hamilton has hit in the major leagues, the one Tuesday night wasn’t the longest. That came on June 27, 2010 in Arlington, Texas, with the outfielder taking then-Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt 485 feet. (According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest home run ever measured belonged to Mickey Mantle, who hit one 634 feet on Sept. 10, 1960.)
“It was a weird swing because it was almost like I got a little bit fooled and just swung the bat a nice 70-80 percent, just barreled it up and hit it perfectly on the bat,” Hamilton said. “It was one of those where it’s like a good golf swing, you don’t feel it when you hit it but it’s crisp and good. You see the trajectory of where it was going and I was a little shocked. It was probably as good as I could hit it.”
And what about Hamilton’s thoughts as to if anybody could actually reach the red seat in right field, where Ted Williams supposedly hit the ball 502 feet?
“I don’t know. Maybe if the conditions are right,” he said. “If you hit a fastball like I hit the curveball, it would add some distance to it, obviously. That’s why it’s legend-type material.”
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