|Precedent suggests five-month recovery for Ryan Kalish||01.31.13 at 12:02 am ET|
On Tuesday, Red Sox outfielder Ryan Kalish underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right (non-throwing) shoulder, a procedure that included a repair of a posterior labrum tear. The Red Sox described the surgery as successful. But what does that mean? A couple of position players to undergo similar procedures offers a glimpse.
In 2008, B.J. Upton proved a uniquely destructive source against the Sox in the American League Championship Series. His spectacular performance (4 homers, 11 RBI in the seven-game series) occurred while he had a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Upton underwent surgery in mid-November. After opening the 2009 season on the disabled list — partly a precaution against Tampa Bay’s season-opening roadtrip to cold-weather venues — Upton was back by mid-April, almost exactly five months after his procedure. Read the rest of this entry »
|Hot Stove: Braves sign B.J. Upton||11.28.12 at 6:09 pm ET|
The Braves have signed former Rays outfielder B.J. Upton, according to multiple reports. The deal is worth $75.25 million over five years.
Upton, 28, has spent his entire career with the Rays since being drafted by Tampa with the second overall pick in the 2002 draft. Last season, he hit .246/.298/.454 with 28 homers and 78 runs batted in.
|Jacoby Ellsbury, B.J. Upton and the Red Sox’ protected draft pick||10.01.12 at 10:39 am ET|
BALTIMORE — Interesting shifts are occurring in the dynamics of American League East center fielders.
The Sox, meanwhile, saw their brutal season reach a new milestone for futility. The team reached 90 losses for the first time in 45 years, a plateau that clinched a top-10 draft pick for the team. That is significant given that the Sox’ first-round pick is now protected. They will retain their first-round pick even if they sign one of the elite free agents on the market this offseason. While the Sox would have to give up a pick if they sign a player who receives a qualifying offer (a one-year deal in the $13 million vicinity), it would be their second-round selection that they would sacrifice, rather than their first.
The difference between having a protected top pick and an unprotected win is potentially significant in determining the Sox’ approach to free agency, as Red Sox GM Ben Cherington recently explained.
“Certainly, there’s a difference between having a protected pick and not having one in terms of the level of how aggressive you are in going after certain free agents. That’s certainly part of the calculus in terms of who to go after — what you’re giving up. If it’s just money, it’s one thing. If it’s money plus a pick, it’s another thing,” said Cherington. “There’s no doubt that that will be factored in. It won’t be the only factor but it will be factored in. … The last thing we want to do is be picking that high, because obviously it’s a reflection of what our major league team has done, but it is what it is this year and we’ve got to take full advantage of it.”
Meanwhile, in Chicago, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton slammed two more homers on Sunday. He now has 28 homers and 31 steals — including a mind-blowing 19 homers since the start of August. His characteristic strong walk totals have dwindled this year, but all the same, he’s delivering considerable impact as he approaches free agency — shortly after his 28th birthday.
A quick comparison of Upton and Ellsbury in 2012:
It’s worth noting that even in the worst year of his career, Ellsbury has a higher on-base percentage than Upton. And, of course, the Sox are desperate for more high on-base players, as they’ve seen Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez and Marco Scutaro depart, leaving in their wake more aggressive hitters like Will Middlebrooks and Mike Aviles. Still, in 2012, there’s little question that Upton has looked like the most impactful player.
But Ellsbury has been injured for more than half of this season. That being the case, in fairness, it’s worth seeing how the two players have fared since Ellsbury broke into the league in 2007:
Ellsbury has slightly better rate stats than Upton, but Upton has had a higher OPS-plus than Ellsbury while one year younger than his Red Sox colleague in center field — something that accounts for the fact that Upton has made his home in a pitcher’s park, while Ellsbury has made his residence in an environment that typically has been somewhere between fair to favorable for its occupants. Both are considered premium defenders. Upton has shown a more consistent power/speed combination than Ellsbury — while Ellsbury has a 30/30 season to his credit and Upton does not, Ellsbury has never hit as many as 10 homers in another season. Meanwhile, Upton has three 20/20 seasons to his name.
To date, there’s little indication that the Red Sox and Ellsbury have common ground to reach an extension that would keep the center fielder in Boston past next season, Ellsbury’s last before becoming eligible for free agency. As recently as last month, the smart money was probably on the Sox keeping Ellsbury for his final season before free agent eligibility and then letting him walk in the offseason, collecting a draft pick in the process.
But now, with a protected pick, the dynamics are a bit different. The Sox could sign a player like Upton — who is really at the start of his prime — while sacrificing no more than a second-round draft pick (assuming that the Rays make a one-year qualifying offer to him — not a given, since Tampa Bay might not be able to afford him in the unlikely event that he accepted a one-year, $13-ish million deal, but still likely). If the Sox can find common ground with the center fielder on a deal, then, in theory, they could deal Ellsbury for either prospects (something more valuable than a second-round pick, obviously) or for a player who might address another major league need, whether a starter or perhaps a first baseman.
That’s not to say that such a scenario will occur or is even likely to happen. After all, the Sox are leery of getting burned on long-term free agent deals (the most recent signing by the Sox of a Rays star outfielder didn’t work out so well . . . ), so depending on where Upton’s asking price ends up, he could represent too risky a long-term investment for the Sox to undertake, particularly given that Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. is probably about a season away from being ready to be a starting center fielder in the big leagues.
But, unquestionably, the struggles of Ellsbury this year and the fact that the Sox are now certain to have a protected pick change the outlook of what might be possible this offseason. That, in turn, raises all kinds of fascinating possibilities.
|Sunday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Jeremy Hellickson||05.27.12 at 6:54 am ET|
Clay Buchholz has Boston’s highest ERA at 7.84 and hasn’t won a start since May 11 against the Indians. In his last start, Buchholz (4-2) pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs in an 8-6 victory over Baltimore, but he didn’t factor into the decision.
The 27-year-old will take the mound against Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon and try to gather his second win against the Rays this season.
He last faced the Rays and Tampa Bay starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson on May 16. The Texas native lasted five innings and gave up two earned runs. The Red Sox went on to lose 2-1.
Tampa Bay’s Luke Scott has faced the right-handed Buchholz the most, batting .217 in 27 plate appearances. B.J. Upton, who has faced Buchholz 17 times, is batting .357 off Buchholz. Overall, the righty is 5-3 against Tampa Bay with a 2.48 ERA.
Hellickson (4-1, 2.73) will return to the mound to face the Red Sox after losing for the first time this season on May 21. He lasted 7 1/3 innings and gave up five runs, two earned, and one home run in Tampa Bay’s 6-2 loss to Toronto. His last victory came against Boston on May 16, when Hellickson threw six innings of one-run baseball.
Hellickson did not earn a decision in his first start against the Red Sox this season, allowing five runs in five innings when he pitched at Fenway on April 14.
In his career against Boston, Hellickson holds a 3-1 record and a 4.42 ERA. Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz have faced Hellickson more than any other current Red Sox. Gonzalez has recorded a batting average of .143 and three RBIs against Hellickson, while Ortiz has a .400 batting average and two RBIs.
|Relaxed Rays keep the pressure on Red Sox||09.16.11 at 12:19 am ET|
After Tampa Bay reconvened following the All-Star break they sat six games out of first place with a respectable 49-41 record. Manager Joe Maddon told his team that they were still in it, and they were. Less than two weeks later they were 11 1/2 games back and in the words of center fielder B.J. Upton, “A lot of people wrote us off.”
But now? “You can’t ask to be in a better place from where we came from and we’re excited about it,” Upton said.
The Rays are now three games back of the Red Sox in the wild card race after their 9-2 victory at Fenway, Thursday night and while they know they have a long way to go, they can’t help feeling pretty good about where they are in mid-September.
“We know there’s no pressure on us,” Upton said. “We’re just out here having fun. Joe said right after the All-Star break that we’re not out of this thing. Just keep winning ballgames and we’ve done that and here we are, three games back with three more to play against these guys, and a lot of games to make some ground up. We take it day by day and try to win each day and that’s it.”
The one game at a time mentality is of course the oldest cliche in the baseball book, but the Rays have bought into it. And why not? After a night in which they rallied behind an unlikely play in which a ground ball by Upton reached shortstop Marco Scutaro at precisely the same time as a sawed-off bat and kickstarted a four-run inning, Maddon saw it as a sign from above.
“You’re always look for signs,” Maddon said. “The baseball heavens, the baseball gods, they’ve got to throw you a sign every once in a while and they’ve got to give you to further the belief. Believe me, when I saw that I thought, ‘Hey let’s see what’s going to happen the rest of the game.”
What happened is that Evan Longoria followed up with a three-run homer, Casey Kotchman hit just his eighth career home run against left-handed pitcher and Upton crushed the laws of physics when he sent a monster shot over the Monster and through the nasty winds that were blowing across Fenway.
“Actually, I had my back turned,” Maddon said. “I was talking and I heard it. I could tell from the sound of the bat, wow. I never saw it, but I heard it.”
The ways of baseball are weird, but there’s nothing mystical about the Rays’ success against Boston this season. Their pitchers have compiled a 2.58 ERA, allowing just 31 earned runs in 108 innings, helping them to a 10-5 mark and six straight wins against the Sox.
“Honestly, I have no tremendous revelations or understanding,” Maddon said. “I know we get really jacked up to play these guys. Our pitching is good. Maybe it’s just a higher level of execution versus them by our guys, I don’t know. I’ve never really sat there and tried to break it down.”
The old storyline about the small-market Rays chasing the big boys in New York and Boston? They’re beyond that now.
“I think you could have said that in the past, but we’re kind of past that,” Upton said. “They know we have a good ballclub and we know they’re always going to have a good ballclub. We’re not really looking at the payroll or anything like that. We got to go out and play and we feel like we match up well and we’ll see what happens.”
Despite all that good feeling — and all that pitching — the Rays are still chasing.
“To tell you the truth, I would rather be three up at this point,” Johnny Damon said. “We do have to play the teams we’re trying to catch. It’s going to definitely come down to the last couple of days, if not the last.”
Damon knows as well as anyone how dangerous the Sox are and how much work they have to do with seven more games against the Yankees on top of the three they have left at Fenway. “When you talk about the American League East, it’s almost like the SEC [in football],” Damon said.
Damon was asked how he thought his old team was following after their latest loss. “Hopefully like [David] Ortiz said, they’re in panic mode,” he said before turning serious. “They have so many good players who have been through tough times in the past. The only thing we can really think about is how these guys in here feel. We can’t really be worried about how they’re doing.”
So the Rays keep plugging away, staying in the race and keeping the pressure on Boston and living for today.
“It’s one game and it’s great to get the first one like we did, but it’s about Friday night now,” Maddon said. “Let’s win tomorrow’s game and move on from there. You have to do that. You’ve got to think of it in those terms. If you start getting clumpy with your thoughts and you’re thinking four in a week and how many games you’ve got left, it’s really going to get in the way. Just stay in the present tense.”
The present being a far better place for the Rays then where they were less than two months ago.
|Trade Deadline: Rays likely to stay put||07.30.11 at 9:40 pm ET|
The Red Sox have acquired Royals middle infielder Mike Aviles and are looking into starting pitching options along with the Yankees. American League East rival Tampa Bay, however, has been quiet in the days leading up to the trade deadline.
Rays manager Joe Maddon doesn’t expect any roster changes, according to a tweet from Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. Center fielder B.J. Upton has been the subject of many trade rumors, but he is playing in Saturday’s game against the Mariners.
Tampa Bay enters Saturday’s action trailing the division-leading Red Sox by 9½ games and the second-place Yankees by 7½ games.
|Trade Deadline: Nationals, Giants, Indians, Braves reportedly in mix for B.J. Upton||07.27.11 at 2:32 pm ET|
The Rays have been testing the waters for potential suitors for struggling center fielder B.J. Upton, and four teams have reportedly emerged as possible destinations, according to the Tampa Tribune. The Nationals, Giants, Indians and Braves are interested in the 26-year-old, who’s hitting .227 this season.
The Rays aren’t under any pressure to shed Upton’s salary, and he could very well stay in a Tampa Bay uniform past the July 31 trade deadline. Either way, Upton doesn’t seem concerned about the speculation.
“I’m to the point now where I don’t really care,” he said Wednesday. “I turn on the TV, it’s on. I hear it all day. I’ve heard enough of it now. At this point, it is what it is.”
The Tribune also reported that the Rays have all but taken starting pitcher James Shields off the trading block.
“My gut feeling would that be I’m not going to get traded, that I’m going to stay here,” said Shields. “We’ll see.”
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