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Observations from Red Sox’ 4-2 rain-shortened loss in Disney: Mookie Betts (HR) shines, Clay Buchholz (12 hits) spotty 03.27.15 at 4:58 pm ET
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Mookie Betts homers in the fourth inning Friday against Atlanta starter Julio Teheran. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Mookie Betts homers in the fourth inning Friday against Atlanta starter Julio Teheran. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The stormy weather that ended Friday’s game here at Disney was appropriate because the day for the Red Sox featured the thunder and lightning of Mookie Betts and bleak results from Clay Buchholz in a 4-2 loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium.

Betts registered his first two walks of the spring in his first two plate appearances, swiped his first base, connected for his first homer that actually cleared the wall in his third appearance before being retired minutes before the rain halted the game at 3:28 p.m ET.

Betts is now hitting .487 (19-for-39) with a gaudy .923 slugging percentage and a .512 OBP in 13 games. Betts got an inside fastball from Julio Teheran in the fourth inning and laced a homer over the wall in left for his second homer of the spring, and his first that cleared a wall.

“I don’t look at it any different than any other day,” Betts said of his continued spring tear. “I just had to do a couple more things but it’s always nice to be able to do those things and be able to affect the game in many different ways. That’s kind of the way I look at it, being able to affect the game in different ways.

“I’m pretty comfortable. I’m not going to go out and stress or anything. I feel like the year of being able to play last year got me kind of comfortable this year. Now, I’m just going in and playing and I feel like I’m just settling in with the guys.”

“He seemingly is on-time all the time at the plate,” Farrell said afterward. “He’s never seen the guy before. Second pitch is a line drive base hit. He takes a lot of good pitches off the plate to stay in command of the count for the base on balls. Obviously, the two-run homer, he’s done it a few times where guys try to pound him in and he’s so quick in there that he’s capable of that. But it’s been very exciting to see. It hasn’t been against pitchers that might not be seen during the regular season at the major league level. He’s facing some of the better pitchers that are going to be pitching this season.”

Betts’ only miscue actually ended an inning as he misjudged a fly ball with the bases loaded and two outs. Phil Gosselin took a full swing at a Buchholz pitch but the ball didn’t carry. It was headed for the grass of shallow center when Betts broke back on the swing. But Betts used his speed and quickness to sprint forward and make a diving catch.

“Plays like that are rare,” Betts said of his play from center field. “Just to get one play like that I feel like I’ll be able to do something different next time and maybe the same thing happens but as long as I catch it, that’s the main thing.”

“Full swing, he’s reading the ball of the bat and he breaks back but he recovers,” Farrell said. “Maybe made the play a little bit more difficult than he needed to but an out’s an out.”

As for Buchholz, he had the roughest outing of the spring, ten days removed from his expected start on Opening Day in Philadelphia. The Red Sox starter threw 96 pitches against the Braves and allowed 12 hits and four runs over five-plus innings, getting pulled after Kelly Johnson launched a long homer to right-center off him to open the sixth.

“He gave a lot of hits,” Farrell said. “There’s a couple different ways you can look at it. One, he made some big pitches as he had men on base quite a bit today. I thought his stuff and the definition to his pitches, were better than the line score. Now, granted there were 12 hits on the board that he gave up. I thought he had a number of opportunities where he was ahead in the count where he could’ve done a better job of finishing hitters off, particularly expanding the strike zone down on top of the plate for some chase.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, A.J. Pierzynski, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox
Red Sox release A.J. Pierzynski 07.16.14 at 3:40 pm ET
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One week after they designated catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment, the Red Sox announced that they had released the 37-year-old.

Pierzynski, signed by the Red Sox this offseason to a one-year, $8.25 million contract with the hope that he would offer solid offensive production against right-handed pitching while serving as a one-year placeholder to permit prospect Christian Vazquez to conclude his development in the minor leagues, hit .254 with a .286 OBP and .348 slugging mark in 72 games. That offensive struggle, according to GM Ben Cherington, was at the heart of the team’s decision to release Pierzynski and call up Christian Vazquez in the final days of the first half.

Pierzynski is now a free agent.

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Ozzie Guillen: ‘Sad about’ A.J. Pierzynski getting designated for assignment 07.15.14 at 7:21 pm ET
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MINNEAPOLIS — When Ozzie Guillen managed A.J. Pierzynski from 2005-11, two clashed frequently while together in the White Sox clubhouse. Yet Guillen ultimately appreciated what Pierzynski offered his team, and so given his feelings about Pierzynski’s value, the former manager — in Minneapolis as a TV commentator for the All-Star Game — said that he was not expecting to see his former catcher released by the Red Sox last week.

“I am [surprised] because I don’t know the reason. That’s up to them, the reason,” said Guillen. “A.J., when I was with him, I think he did a tremendous job. Obviously, when you don’t pitch well, you don’t hit well, I think the reason they did it is because they have a prospect coming up. I think that’s a good reason to do it, but in the meanwhile, you have to be inside to know about what was really going on. I was sad about it, but hopefully A.J. can get a job.”

Though Guillen spoke highly of Pierzynski’s character as a winning baseball player, he was not shocked by the idea that Pierzynski may have had a difficult time fitting in with the Red Sox.

“A.J. is not always an easy guy to deal with,” said Guillen. “I know A.J., for some people when you see him, he sounds arrogant. I think one thing about A.J. that I always appreciated is that he shows up to play every day. He shows up to play and he shows up to win. He’s the type of guy that, when he’s not winning, he gets upset and sometimes says things he shouldn’t say. But one thing I love about A.J.: No one in Boston — no one, and I respect the clubhouse, I respect the manager and I respect the fans — but nobody in Boston can say A.J. is not a winner. He is. … He shows up to win. He’s not just showing up to play, he’s showing up to win, and some people can’t handle that. One thing A.J. Pierzynski has is a winning attitude.”

Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, Ozzie Guillen,
Gabe Kapler on MFB: A.J. Pierzynski ‘a harmless individual’ who ‘just didn’t perform’ in Boston 07.10.14 at 12:07 pm ET
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Fox Sports 1 analyst and former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler checked in with Middays with MFB on Thursday to discuss the Red Sox’ struggles and the controversy surrounding A.J. Pierzynski. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Red Sox released Pierzynski on Wednesday, and reports indicate the veteran catcher — who came to Boston with a reputation of being abrasive — had issues with teammates in the clubhouse. Kapler knows Pierzynski, having played winter league ball with him in Hawaii in the late 1990s.

“I got to know him well, and he’s a harmless individual,” Kapler said. “Big heart, sweetheart of a guy. Has the propensity to rub some folks the wrong way if things aren’t going well for him. And I think that’s the most important thing to look at here. He’s having his worst season ever offensively.”

Added Kapler: “We all have to be careful not to kick a guy on his way out, right? I think that that is the common thread, it’s the easiest thing to do. While I think there was certainly an element of clubhouse chemistry and his ability to connect with his teammates, I think the bottom line here is that he just didn’t perform. And that’s what Boston Red Sox front office members want to see — does a guy come in and perform? At some point you have to say, look, we don’t see this getting better.”

Christian Vazquez was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Pierzynski on the roster, and the young catcher showed promise in his debut Wednesday night.

“The other part of this equation — and it’s irresponsible not to illuminate it — is that the Red Sox want to see Vazquez: plus defender, a guy who can shut down a running game,” Kapler said. “[John] Farrell‘s a big fan — actually, all of baseball is a big fan. And they want to see what this guy can do behind the plate, stopping the running game.”

With Wednesday’s win, the Red Sox improved to 40-51. The defending World Series champions are 9 1/2 game behind the first-place Orioles in the American League East. Kapler said he does not hold Farrell entirely responsible for this year’s struggles.

“I think John Farrell‘s doing a fine job,” Kapler said. “Look, a lot of things have gone wrong for the Boston Red Sox. Last year they were sort of playing like superhero versions of themselves. A lot of them have sort of regressed back to the mean. You have a group of guys that — particularly in the lineup — that aren’t doing a very good job of scoring runs. And sans [Jon] Lester and [John] Lackey, there hasn’t been a whole lot of dependability in the starting rotation. The bullpen has been a pleasant surprise in a lot of different ways.

“But look, Farrell can’t walk into the batter’s box and hold the bat for these guys. And until they are scoring runs like we saw last year, it’s going to be a pretty tough road for them.”

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Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, Gabe Kapler,
Ben Cherington: As trade deadline approached, Red Sox in ‘unusual … unique’ position 07.09.14 at 8:12 pm ET
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After 90 games, it’€™s hard to assess the 2014 Red Sox season as anything but a failure.

A Red Sox squad fresh off a 97-win campaign that resulted in a World Series title was expected to once again establish itself as the cream of the crop in the American League this season -€“- not slump to the status of cellar dweller.

This is not the 1998 Marlins, who dropped from a 92-70 record (and a World Series title) in 1997 to a dreadful 55-108 season the following year due to a monumental fire sale. The 2014 Red Sox have a payroll of around $164 million and retained 17 of the 2013 team’€™s 25-man World Series roster.

Simply put, no one expected the Red Sox to be 12 games under .500 at this point of the season. General manager Ben Cherington is among those struggling to make sense of what has transpired.

Now 10 1/2 games behind first-place Baltimore in the AL East, the Red Sox have been put in a position that Cherington has not been familiar with — possibly taking on the role of “seller”€ as the trade deadline draws near.

“€œI think we’€™re in an unusual and perhaps unique position,” Cherington said. “It’€™s unusual in the sense that we haven’€™t been in this position — at least since I’ve been here — of even thinking about trading players at the deadline. So that’€™s unusual. It’€™s unique because on the one hand, our team is where it is. On the other hand, we’ve got guys on the team who are performing at a very high level who were part of winning a World Series months ago, and that just doesn’t happen often in baseball.

“Sometimes teams are sellers, but not necessarily with guys that are coming off of success like that. We’€™ll just have to see what happens. As I’ve said before, whatever we do will be with the mind of trying to get better as quickly possible and trying to build the next good team as quickly as possible.”

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Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, ben cherington, christian vazquez, xander bogaerts
With eye to future, Red Sox take stock of A.J. Pierzynski’s departure at 7:18 pm ET
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When he inked a one-year, $8.25 million contract with Boston on December 3, 2013, A.J. Pierzynski was expected to be a short-term, if not suitable, solution behind the plate for the Red Sox this season.

He may not have been in the team’€™s plans for the long haul, but even Pierzynski couldn’€™t have expected that his tenure in Boston would reach its conclusion at such an early juncture.

Pierzynski was designated for assignment Wednesday afternoon after just 72 games with the Red Sox, batting.254 with a .286 OBP, .348 slugging mark, four home runs and 31 RBIs this season.

For Red Sox manager John Farrell, the move was necessary for the team to look to the future, as Pawtucket catcher Christian Vazquez was called up to fill Pierzynski’€™s open roster spot. Vazquez is a part of the team’s future beyond 2014; Pierzynski never was, which is why he was signed to a one-year contract as something of a placeholder.

“€œObviously we designated A.J. earlier today,” Farrell said. “It’€™s an opportunity for us to invest in players that we feel are going to be here beyond 2014 and while there may be other decisions that are forthcoming, we felt like the place we where we were going to start with was behind the plate.”

“€œYou never want to see a teammate get released or have to leave for any reason,”€ said catcher David Ross before Wednesday’€™s game against the White Sox. “We wish him the best, he’€™s had a great major league career up to this point.”€

With the departure of Jarrod Saltalamacchia after the 2013 season, Boston looked for a backstop that would both approximate Saltalamachia’€™s impressive offensive numbers from last year (.273/.338/.466 with 54 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs) while also being on a short-term deal that would avoid blocking promising catchers in the organization going forward – such as Vazquez or Portland’€™s Blake Swihart.

For Farrell, Pierzynski — who averaged 22 home runs and 74 RBIs over 2012 and 2013 — fit all those requirements.

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Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross, John Farrell, Red Sox
John Farrell on D&H: ‘We’re turning the page in terms of investing in young players’ at 3:56 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell joined Dale & Holley on Wednesday afternoon to discuss A.J. Pierzynski‘s departure, the current state of the club and trade rumors regarding Jake Peavy. To listen to the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Pierzynski was designated for assignment Wednesday afternoon, a roster move that Farrell confirmed during his appearance.

Farrell said that Pierzynski, who hit .254 with four home runs and 31 RBIs while posting a .286 OBP in 72 games this year, was not made expendable due to his personality or performance at the plate, but due to the need to bring up more youth to the club, as Pawtucket catcher Christian Vazquez will be called up and and get the start behind the plate for Wednesday night’s game.

“It’s at that point in the season where you start to look to invest in young players and take advantage of the games remaining for us,” Farrell said. “We look to players who might be here beyond this season, and in that case it’s Christian Vazquez, who’s behind the plate here tonight.”

Farrell continued: “This has been a matter of us taking a look internally at, what are the players we’re going to continue to build forward with? And we’ve started with what’s taken place behind the plate.”

While Farrell said that the team is not mailing it in this season, he acknowledged that the team is making a move to look to the future by playing some of the organization’s most promising players.

“We’re turning the page in terms of investing in young players,” Farrell said. “We’ve had a number of young players in starting roles for the vast majority of this season. I wouldn’t say that the white flag is being waved, because inside our clubhouse, I can honestly tell you that feeling does not exist. This is a matter of how we’re going to go out and beat Chris Sale tonight.”

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Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, Christian Vasquez, John Farrell,
Red Sox baserunning woes persist as A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Drew run into outs 07.02.14 at 12:17 am ET
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The Red Sox don’t have enough rallies to snuff them out through their own actions. After a 2-1 loss to the Cubs, the Sox rank 26th in the majors in average (.241), 13th in OBP (.319), 27th in slugging (.365), 23rd in OPS (.684) and 27th in the majors — and dead last in the AL — in runs per game (3.71). Those woeful numbers from the batter’s box make a couple of the team’s deficiencies — both of which were on display in Tuesday’s game — all the more glaring.

The Red Sox have taken a two-pronged approach to running into outs. While their rate of running into outs while taking an extra base has been roughly league average (the Sox have 28 such outs; the AL average entering Tuesday was 27), their masochistic tendencies have been particularly pronounced at second base. On Tuesday, A.J. Pierzynski slammed a ball off the Wall in left and tried to advance to second. The carom was played cleanly by left fielder Chris Coghlan, who threw out Pierzynski by perhaps 30 feet at second, beating him by such a margin that Pierzynski did not bother to slider on the tag play. That marked the 13th time this year that a Sox runner has been thrown out at second (on a play other than a force or a caught stealing), tied for most in the American League.

“A.J. is trying to stretch a single into a double, probably a little over-aggressive on his part,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “Coghlan makes a good play off the wall and throws a strike into second base.”

“Trying to get in scoring position,” Pierzynski said brusquely. “That’s it.”

It marked the second time this year that Pierzynski has been thrown out at second — not even close to the team and American League leader in the category, Dustin Pedroia, who has been thrown out at second five times (most recently trying to stretch a single into a double on Saturday in New York). Pedroia is tied for fourth in the A.L. with six outs on the bases; Pierzynski has run into three outs, tied with Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. for second on the team. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Drew,
Jake Peavy frustrated with umpire’s call on fourth inning, two-out walk prior to HR 07.01.14 at 5:23 am ET
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The count was 3-2 and Jake Peavy was just one strike away from striking out the side in the fourth inning. To that point in the game, Peavy had regained some velocity on his fastball that was not present in his past couple of outings. Peavy felt good on the mound, confident that he would turn in a start that would give the Red Sox a chance to win.

Peavy pumped a 91 mph fastball to Cubs batter Welington Castillo right on the outside corner, over the white of the plate, and most importantly, right where Peavy and catcher David Ross wanted the pitch. Peavy waited for home plate umpire Chris Conroy to punch out Castillo.

He waited and waited.

The punch-out from Conroy never came and Castillo walked down to first base. Peavy walked around the mound, frustrated with the call on what he thought should have been strike three.

Eight pitches later, Peavy left a cutter over the heart of the plate and Nate Schierholtz deposited the ball into the Red Sox bullpen in right field to swing the game 2-0 in favor of the Cubs. Considering how Cubs starter Jake Arrieta was throwing and how much the Red Sox offense has struggled to generate runs, Schierholtz’s home run was all the offense Chicago needed.

Schierholtz’s blast marked the 17th home run this season off Peavy, who is tied for most home runs allowed in the American League with David Price of the Rays. The righty has allowed home runs in all but three of his 17 starts in 2014. Peavy said that the high home run total is inherent with his desire to have an aggressive game plan with each start.

“I’m going to be aggressive and throw the ball over the plate,” Peavy said. “I shouldn’t say that I don’t mind giving up home runs. You don’t ever want to. Not many of them have been like the [Kyle] Seager [three-run home run in Seattle]. If you give up one or two, as long as they are solo shots, no more than a two-run home run, you have a good chance of keeping your team in the game. It’s frustrating, and I relive the pitch [to Schierholtz] over and over. I wish that I had thrown something different and wish I had located it and things could have been different.”

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Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross, jake peavy, John Farrell
John Farrell on D&H: ‘I don’t think [any upcoming roster move] will be surprising’ 06.25.14 at 4:34 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell joined Dale & Holley on Wednesday to discuss the struggles of Xander Bogaerts and A.J. Pierzynski and the condition of the team. To listen to the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

The Red Sox continue to disappoint in 2014, as the team is mired in fourth place in the AL East with a 35-43 record. Boston is reeling during a West Coast trip, producing a 1-5 record and getting outscored 36-18 in games against the Athletics and Mariners. Despite Boston’s struggles, Farrell says his team has the potential to turn things around this season.

“I think what we’€ve all shared, from top to bottom, is some frustration with how the first 78 games or so have gone,”€ Farrell said. “€œWe’ve had areas on this team that have been very strong, and until lately, that’€™s been the rotation and really the bullpen. The last couple of days have not been good for us from the mound. … We’€™re starting to get some guys back. [Clay] Buchholz obviously starts tonight for us, Brandon Workman is in line and a strong candidate for Friday, so we’€™re starting to get some help back to us.

“Some of the inconsistencies on the offensive side, that’€™s got to change for us to got on a little bit more of an extended run.”€

Bogaerts is going through the worst slump of his brief MLB career, posting a .157 average with five extra-base hits in June. The 21-year-old slugger has been even worse over his last seven games with a .080 average and two singles in his last seven games.

“I do know that he’€™s obviously working on some things and right now, he’€™s quick to get out to his front side,”€ Farrell said. “He’€™s a little jumpy, he’€™s a little anxious, and when he’€™s missed his pitch in the zone, there’€™s been some mounting, I don’€™t want to say pressure he’€™s put on himself, but he knows he missed his pitch. That’€™s part of dealing with the anxiety that sometimes emerges inside of a player. … We’€™re trying to get him back on track. …We fully feel he’€™s going to be an impact player.”

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Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, John Farrell, Red Sox, xander bogaerts
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