|Jarrod Saltalamacchia on M&M: Felix Doubront has matured, John Lackey should be an All-Star||07.11.13 at 2:36 pm ET|
Jarrod Saltalamacchia joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday afternoon, and the catcher discussed myriad Red Sox hurlers, both those doing well — namely Felix Doubront and John Lackey — and those not so hot, like Jon Lester.
Saltalamacchia raved about Doubront, who he said has, in effect, simply gotten smarter. The 25-year-old southpaw owns a 2.70 ERA and is limiting opposing batters to a .220/.301/.367 slash line in his last 11 starts dating back to mid-May, and his catcher credited much of that to Doubront being more aggressive and throwing strikes.
Now that he’s pitching, as opposed to just throwing, he’s getting deeper into games, too.
“He’s matured,” Saltalmacchia said. “I think he’s starting to realize you don’t have to go out there and throw 95, 96 from the gate and try to blow everybody away. I think he’s really come into his own and said, ‘Hey, I need to start throwing more strikes to get deeper into games.’
“There were times last year where he was throwing the ball well, but they were fouling balls off, he was going to 3-2 counts. It can get a little frustrating when you go to an 0-2 count and try to do too much and all of a sudden you’re in a 2-2 count. I think he’s real mature and he’s gotten a lot better. … He’s really been working a lot quicker, too. I think that’s helping a lot.”
It’s a similar story for Lackey, who Saltalamacchia unequivocally said should be an All-Star.
Saltalamacchia compared 2013 John Lackey to the injured 2011 version, and the two are worlds apart.
“When anybody’s not healthy, they are mentally messed up. You’re going to be trying to grind through, you’re going to try to make pitches that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. It gets frustrating,” Saltalamacchia said. “Him being healthy this year, it’s good for him because he’s like, ‘All right, I’m going to rear back and throw my fastball,’ which is what he’s always done. For him to be in that situation, where he didn’t have the velocity, and he had to rely on his offspeed stuff, it kind of wears and tears on you.
“Him being healthy is probably the biggest key.”
Mike Hazen joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning, and the Red Sox assistant general manager — quite pleased with the team’s success to date — said there still is work to be done.
Aside from keeping in mind what happened in late 2006 and 2011, when injuries and bad baseball derailed those teams’ seasons, Hazen said potentially shoring up what at times has been an iffy bullpen will be a point of focus.
“If you could pinpoint an area that’s shown the biggest inconsistencies, it’s probably been [the bullpen],” Hazen said. “There’s been a lot of good individual performances. I think we have a really solid core at the back end of the bullpen. Guys have stepped into certain roles. Andrew Bailey’s been very good lately. Andrew Bailey is going to be a huge piece of what’s going to happen going forward with us.
“There’s a core there that’s really good. The front side of that bullpen, I think we’re going to explore — whether it’s internal options, like you saw last night with [Brandon] Workman, [Pedro] Beato, [Jose] De La Torre, those guys — whether one or two of those guys step into that role, or we go external. And that’s something that we’re going to definitely flesh out over the next few weeks.”
Even with some question marks in the relief corps, Hazen likes his “motley crew” of a team — really, really likes it. He pointed to everything from the coaching staff’s day-to-day preparation to the back end of the rotation to the offense that has, on many occasions, carried the team.
He also spoke to the importance of the team’s “character,” one of the 2013 Red Sox’ most discussed narratives.
“Character doesn’t win you baseball games,” Hazen said. “But character helps on days when you lose three in a row facing Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver, and you have to go up against another All-Star in [Hisashi] Iwakuma, and you have to go out and play that day and you’re down 5-1 in the second inning.
“It’s easy in that type of game to think, ‘Oh, man, here we go again.’ But when you have older, veteran players sitting in the dugout, looking at some of the younger guys saying, ‘Hey, kid, can you relax a little bit here? We have eight innings to play.’ ”
|John Farrell on Salk & Holley: Cutter has been Jon Lester’s biggest problem; Andrew Bailey closing ‘would be ideal’||07.10.13 at 3:36 pm ET|
Speaking during his weekly appearance on the Salk & Holley show, Red Sox manager John Farrell cited Jon Lester’s cutter as perhaps the primary cause for the starter’s struggles.
It’s analysis that is supported by opponents’ success against the pitch. According to BrooksBaseball.net, batters are hitting .299 against the pitch, whereas they managed just .196 (2010) and .211 (’11) clips vs. Lester’s cutter in recent years.
“One brief description where he’s been getting hurt has been with his cutter,” Farrell noted. “It doesn’t have the same power, the same lateness. We’ve tried different things to regain that. But along the way his changeup has become much-improved. We still see good power to his fastball. The other night he’s 93-94 consistently. What we’re seeing at times is some inconsistent control within the strike zone. Not so much wildness. There have been more inconsistencies within the strike zone which have come back to bite him a little bit, particularly with two strikes. And a lot of times the two-strike pitch has been that cutter. We continue to narrow it down.
“We continue to address physical and fundamental things that are there. That’s the one thing we look at right now. That pitch doesn’t have the same effectiveness he’s been known for the majority of his career.”
Lester is coming off a five-inning outing in which he surrendered five runs, boosting his ERA to 4.60 and batting average against to .261. In the lefty’s last 10 outings, he has managed a 6.49 ERA.
Farrell didn’t discount Lester’s workload – having thrown the fourth-most pitches in the majors this season – saying “I don’t think there’s anyway you can set that aside.” But the manager still maintained that an improved cutter would most likely return the pitcher to the success he experienced earlier in the season.
“You can only work on it so much,” Farrell said of the pitch. “You begin to talk about it and you begin to visualize it, and use different techniques that allow to put yourself in that position even if you’re not out in the bullpen working on it. Physically you need those days of rest in between starts. There’s video review you begin to go back and break down and pinpoint some things. And in this case, with his cutter, it becomes more of a starting point within the strike zone.
“For example, if the catcher’s mask was the starting point for his cutter, which had later action, a little bit more tilt to it, not it might not have that same break. It’s a matter of adjusting the starting point rather than going back to the same point he’s been accustomed for a long period of time. It can also mean limiting the exposure to that pitch. Like I said, his changeup has become almost like a split type of action. He’s been getting a lot of swing and miss and has become a put-away pitch for him. This isn’t just about sheer velocity, because the velocity is still there. It’s about the action to that secondary pitch.”
|Red Sox-Mariners series preview||07.08.13 at 12:26 pm ET|
The Red Sox will look to rebound from a tough series against the Angels, heading north to take on the Mariners for the first time in 2013.
The West Coast road trip got off to a frustrating start for the Red Sox, who took the first game of the series with the Angels but lost a heartbreaker on Saturday night and were shut out by Jered Weaver and the Angels bullpen on Sunday. It was the first series the Red Sox dropped since losing three of four against Detroit on their last road trip.
“Last night was a tough loss. One out away from winning the series and it got away from us,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters after Sunday’s setback. “We didn’t close the door and they kind of kicked it down and walked through it last night. I still like this team. Tonight, we didn’t create a whole lot for ourselves, but this is a team that continues to battle. There’s a lot of good at-bats. We’re going to put a lot of people on base. Tonight just wasn’t one of them.”
Despite the trying three-game set in Anaheim, the Red Sox still enjoy a 4½-game lead over the Rays and Orioles, while the Yankees fell to five games out with a loss on Sunday. With 54 wins, the Red Sox still have more victories than anyone else in the majors, and have won seven of their last 10. With the defeat on Sunday, the Red Sox fell to 23-20 on the road and 11-8 against AL West foes. The stop in Seattle is the second-to-last series for the Sox before they send (at least) three representatives to the All-Star Game, with David Ortiz making the start at the designated hitter position and Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz joining the AL squad. Reliever Koji Uehara also has a shot at making the team in a final fan vote.
The 39-49 Mariners have not been a winning team since April 5. They sit 12½ games back of the Rangers in the AL West. Their offense ranks in the bottom third of most offensive categories, while their starting rotation is hit-or-miss and their bullpen is one of the worst in the league. But despite all of this, the Mariners have been playing good baseball over the past couple of weeks.
The Mariners, a much better home team (21-22) than road team (18-27) finally won consecutive road series when they took two out of three from both the first-place Rangers and the 50-38 Reds. Seattle wasn’t able to gain much ground in the division, but the M’s managed to stay afloat, trailing the third-place Angels by only four games.
“It’s a real good trip for us,” manager Eric Wedge said after Sunday’s 3-1 victory in Cincinnati. “I think we would have liked to have won one more, but you don’t get greedy this time of year. You work hard to win series. Our guys fought hard and played pretty good baseball.”
It hasn’t been easy for the Mariners, but there have been bright spots. They will send two All-Stars to the Midsummer Classic in New York City this year, with staff ace Felix Hernandez being joined by another starter, Hisashi Iwakuma. The pair have been a force to be reckoned with at the top of the rotation, combining to post a 2.64 ERA between them. Another thing the Mariners have done well is hit home runs. The ageless Raul Ibanez may be the only player with 20-plus long balls, but the Seattle offense has combined for 104 home runs, good for fourth in the American League and more than stacked lineups like the Angels or the Tigers. But things haven’t quite clicked for the Mariners yet, and they’ll come into their first series with the Red Sox 10 games under .500.
Here are the pitching matchups for the four-game set:
Monday: Jon Lester (8-4, 4.41) vs. Felix Hernandez (8-4, 2.69)
Tuesday: Allen Webster (1-2, 7.88) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (7-4, 2.60)
Wednesday: Felix Doubront (5-3, 4.11) vs. Aaron Harang (4-7, 4.92)
Thursday: Ryan Dempster (5-8, 4.04) vs. Jeremy Bonderman (1-3, 4.93)
WHO’S HOT: RED SOX
• There’s no question that Daniel Nava has been one of the team’s most consistent hitters throughout the first half of the season. The outfielder ranks third on the team in OBP (.378), third in slugging percentage (.450) and fourth in batting average (.294), and he’s tied with Pedroia for the third-most RBIs on the team (50). Though Nava went through a cool stretch in June, he’s heating up once again, going 7-for-14 in the series against the Angels, while batting .415 over his last 11 games with five RBIs, three doubles, and a walk. Overall this season, Nava is batting .294/.378/.450 with 10 home runs and 14 doubles, while drawing 35 walks and striking out 60 times in 79 games.
|Closing time: Allen Webster notches first major league win as Red Sox sweep Padres||07.04.13 at 4:59 pm ET|
Allen Webster set the Padres down in order only once on Thursday, but when it was all said and done the rookie right-hander accomplished something that had eluded him since his debut 2½ months ago: a major league win.
On a hot, muggy July afternoon, the 23-year-old Webster matched his outing from that cool Sunday in April, allowing just two runs in six innings. Despite all of the baserunners — he walked four and gave up five hits — Webster stayed efficient to guide the Red Sox to a 8-2 win and series sweep of the Padres at Fenway Park. He threw more than 20 pitches in only one inning (the third) and stayed under 15 on four occasions.
“He had good stuff again today,” John Farrell said. “With each passing start here at this level, he starts to get his feet under him. He’s clearly a work in progress, but I thought today he made a couple big pitches when he had to.”
Webster capped his day at 97 pitches (54 strikes) and got the final two outs with a 93 mph fastball. Pedro Ciriaco lined to third, and Brandon Snyder easily doubled Alexi Amarista off of first.
Andrew Bailey (one inning, two strikeouts), Alex Wilson (1 1/3 innings, one strikeout) and Craig Breslow (2/3 innings) all had scoreless relief appearances to finish off the game and the Red Sox 8-1 homestand, their best mark in a run that long in more than two years.
“We’ve played very well, and we’ve gotten some good starting pitching the last time through the rotation, really the last two times,” Farrell said. “We’ve had some exciting games late, and I think this further builds the momentum and confidence of this group. Any time you can rack up that many wins in a nine-game homestand — this is the obvious statement — it’s a good thing.”
Farrell was particularly impressed with Bailey, who effectively mixed all four of his and retired the Padres in order.
|Koji Uehara to close, but Andrew Bailey optimistic he’ll reclaim ninth-inning duties||06.21.13 at 7:55 pm ET|
Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Detroit that if a save situation arises in the ninth inning on Friday night, he will entrust the responsibility for securing the game-ending three outs to right-hander Koji Uehara. The decision comes in the wake of Andrew Bailey‘s third blown save in five appearances on Thursday night, when he gave up a game-ending, two-run, walkoff homer to Jhonny Peralta.
“I had a chance to talk to both [Uehara] and Andrew, and just where we’re at, Andrew needs to back out and get some opportunities where he gets a little momentum,” Farrell told reporters. “We did this before with [Bailey] and [Joel Hanrahan] as well. All good players go through stretches where things aren’t happening for them, so that’s where we’re at right now.”
Given that the Sox have been trying to manage Uehara’s workload, Farrell suggested that others could see save opportunities at different times as well. He added Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa to the mix, while also noting that “in time” Bailey could also receive renewed chances to close out the ninth. Given that there is a willingness to involve others in closing opportunities, Farrell suggested that the separator in making Uehara the primary option was the fact that he has previous experience as a closer, specifically when he went 11-for-13 in save opportunities for the Orioles in 2010.
“We’re very confident when he walks to the mound. He’s been very good for us. He’s had success in closing opportunities previous,” Farrell told reporters. “There’s an element of not only dependability but success in the past that we’re turning to.”
Given the presence of Uehara, Miller and Tazawa (as well as the team’s longer-term belief that Bailey will once again be ready to close), Farrell said that he didn’t expect to see the Red Sox pursue a closer via trade. Read the rest of this entry »
|Kevin Millar on M&M: Andrew Bailey ‘needs to get that confidence back,’ AL East poised for exciting summer||at 1:31 pm ET|
Kevin Millar joined Mut & Merloni Friday afternoon, and the MLB Network host was sure to chime in on the latest controversy in Red Sox Nation— that of the team’s closer, or lack thereof.
According to Millar, Bailey’s problem is similar to the one he said last week that Jon Lester has.
“He needs to get that confidence back,” the former Sox first baseman said. “This game is all about confidence. Everybody at this level can throw, hit and catch, but you go through these little two-, three-week periods where we all lose our confidence. I don’t care who you are, Tiger Woods on the golf course, it happens. And right now Bailey just needs to take a deep breathe and realize, ‘You know what? I’m OK.’ ”
Millar suggested a few days off, or at least in low-pressure situations, would do Bailey a lot of good and help him get back on track. In the long term, he added, Bailey is the team’s closer since the Red Sox don’t have too many other legitimate options.
Millar also stuck to his guns when it came to the left side of the Red Sox infield. He said in his appearance last Friday that Will Middlebrooks is the third baseman, and there shouldn’t be any controversy about that.
That leaves the Red Sox with making a decision between Stephen Drew and Jose Igelsias.
“I’ve never been a fan of the whole platoon situation,” Millar said. “I couldn’t stand having to look at the lineup every single day. … We know [Iglesias] isn’t going to be a third baseman unless he starts running into 15 to 20 [home runs] a year, let’s face it.
“I don’t think this whole revolving door is healthy.”
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