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Mike Napoli on the pressure on suddenly hot Hanley Ramirez: ‘I don’t think that’s too fair’ 06.06.15 at 10:44 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez rounds third base after crushing a first-inning homer. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

Hanley Ramirez rounds third base after crushing a first-inning homer. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

Mike Napoli knows there’s a lot of pressure on Hanley Ramirez to perform. Maybe too much.

But the way the slugger has been playing the last 10 games, there are positive signs the investment in Ramirez is starting to really pay off.

Ramirez crushed a two-run homer in the first inning Saturday and had three hits to lead the Red Sox to a 4-2 win over the A’s at Fenway. In his last 10 games, nine starts, Ramirez is batting .368 (14-for-38) with three homers. He has at least two hits in six of his last nine starts, lifting his average to .272 on the season.

Ramirez was signed for four years and $88 million in the offseason to do what he did in the first month of the season and what’s he’s done in the last 10 games since Texas.

“He’s a superstar so there’s a lot expected out of him,” Napoli said after Saturday’s win. “There’s pressure on him every day to come through every single time. I don’t think that’s too fair but I think he’s up to the task and wants to come through. He works hard and takes it serious and wants to get the job done.

“We all have confidence in him. He’s a great player. We’re going to need him.”

Ramirez acknowledged that responsibility Saturday with a smile after the game in front of his locker.

“I try to control what I can control right now,” Ramirez said. “Just go to the cage and do my work to be ready for the game and go out there and compete every day. Sometimes, you just have to go out there and let it go.

“It’s a long season. Pretty much everybody in here is a champion and everybody knows how to play the game and what we need to play better.”

Ramirez has apparently found something else, his comfort zone in the lineup. After batting .257 in 45 games as the club’s cleanup hitter behind David Ortiz, Ramirez batted third for the fifth time Saturday. His 3-for-5 effort raised his average to .400 (8-for-20) with two homers in the three hole.

Ramirez also acknowledged something else Saturday: He can lead offensively but he can’t do it all by himself. Yes, he shot a 430-foot missile of a homer to the tarp in center and set the tone offensively. But it was Ramirez who paid props to starter and winner Joe Kelly and the bullpen that held on for win.

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John Farrell marvels at switch-pitcher Pat Venditte: ‘That was truly amazing’ at 1:47 am ET
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Pat Venditte Friday at Fenway Park became MLB's first switch-pitcher since 1995. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Pat Venditte Friday at Fenway Park became MLB’s first switch-pitcher since 1995. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Red Sox manager John Farrell can certainly appreciate being part of history, even if it means standing in awe of the opponent.

On Friday night at Fenway, Oakland’s Pat Venditte became the first major league pitcher since Greg Harris on Sept. 28, 1995 to pitch with both arms in a major league game.

Then, Harris was with the Montreal Expos and accomplished the feat in the ninth inning of a game against Cincinnati. That was a year after he left the Red Sox, where he pitched from 1989-94.

On Friday, the ambidextrous Venditte was not only pitching from both sides, he was doing so in his major league debut after toiling seven years in the minors waiting for his chance.

Venditte entered the game pitching left-handed. He retired Brock Holt on a grounder to first, featuring an 83 MPH fastball and a slider between 72-76 MPH. Hanley Ramirez followed by grounding a slider into left for a single but Venditte quickly rebounded by getting Mike Napoli to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.

“This game is all about helping the team and I just want to come here and be able to do that,” Venditte said after the Red Sox‘ 4-2 win over the A’s. “And if I can do that, that’s all I care about, and whatever attention comes with that is fine. But we’re here to win games. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I’m pitching with both hands or one, it’s for one effort.

“Tonight, I felt comfortable out there. I was able to get ahead for the most part. I fell behind a couple guys but I felt good out there.”

Venditte had a perfect eighth inning, getting Xander Bogaerts to ground to short and Mookie Betts to fly to right, before striking out switch-hitting Blake Swihart. A very impressive debut for the switch-pitcher. Farrell was jokingly asked why he can’t teach his pitchers to throw with both arms as successfully.

“Our hands are full with one arm,” Farrell conceded. “That was truly amazing tonight. To watch Venditte, it’s a remarkable thing to see what one person’s body is capable of doing. The coordination, even guys in the dugout were marveling. This is a very unique thing and a very cool thing.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, MLB, Oakland A's
Brett Lawrie thinks netting needs to be improved at Fenway, doesn’t blame maple bats 06.05.15 at 11:22 pm ET
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Fenway security officials stand in the unprotected area where a female fan was struck Friday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Fenway security officials stand in the unprotected area where a female fan was struck Friday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

After Friday’s horrific bat accident in the stands behind the A’s on-deck circle, the scrutiny of controversial maple bats is likely to intensify.

But Brett Lawrie, the A’s batter whose bat shattered in the top of the second inning and struck a woman two rows deep in the box seats, sees a much different issue.

“I don’t think so,” Lawrie said when asked about MLB addressing the safety of maple bats. “I just think the netting [needs to be addressed]. I don’t think it’s necessary for the bats to change. You come into a game, you see I don’t know how many foul balls fly into the stands every game and for the most part, everyone is fine all the time, and these things are coming in at 100 miles an hour. And then when one bat flies into the stands at a low [speed], and if you’re not paying attention, it’s just one of those things where it was some bad luck. There’s really no time to react behind the dish.

“I really don’t feel like it’s necessary to change bats or anything like that. It’s just one of those things that’s part of baseball and unfortunately, everything is so close behind there and there’s limited netting. Yeah, it’s really important to be heads up back there.”

“First and foremost, our thoughts and concern and certainly our prayers go out to the woman that was struck with the bat. A scary moment certainly. Our concern is with her and her family,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “All you can think about is a family coming to a ball game to hopefully get three hours of enjoyment and unfortunately, with how close our stands are to the field of action, an accident like this is certainly disturbing. Our thoughts and concerns are with her and her family.”

Lawrie was using a Tucci model maple bat that was sawed off at the handle on a 94 MPH cutter from Wade Miley when Lawrie swung and grounded out. The barrel of the bat helicoptered into the stands, striking the woman and causing severe head trauma and bleeding in the stands.

The protective netting behind home plate at Fenway stops just shy of the on-deck circles on both the first and third base sides. Lawrie pointed to that as his biggest concern for fans as a visiting player at Fenway.

“You’ve got limited netting here in Boston so when you’re behind home plate and you’re along the third base side or first base side, you’ve really got to be heads up for foul balls or anything coming into the stands because it’s so close. There’s really no time to react,” he said.

Lawrie said he’s seen plenty of scary situations of foul balls and bats flying into stands but nothing in his career that approached what happened Friday.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Brett Lawrie, MLB, Oakland A's
Fan leaves on stretcher after being struck by a broken bat, reportedly suffers life-threatening injuries at 8:01 pm ET
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A fan is carted off the field after getting hit in the head with a bat and suffering serious injuries. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

A fan is carted off the field after getting hit in the head with a bat and suffering serious injuries. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In a scary moment at Fenway Friday night, a fan was struck and bloodied by a broken bat that flew two rows deep into the stands behind the A’s on-deck circle.

With one out and none on in the top of the second, Brett Lawrie grounded out to Dustin Pedroia. But in the process of the swing, the bat shattered and struck the unidentified woman in the face. The Boston Globe reported that the injuries were life-threatening.

The fan appeared to have a large gash over her left eye.

Emergency personnel responded immediately and attempted to apply a neck brace but the fan was still moving around in obvious pain.

After Josh Reddick grounded out to end the inning, the game was held up for five minutes as the fan was put on a stretcher and wheeled onto the infield warning track and out of Fenway in front of the Red Sox dugout.

There was no immediate update on the condition of the fan from the team.

Boston police spokesperson Rachel McGuire told the Boston Globe that the woman was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. McGuire also indicated that the woman was sitting with her husband and son at the time.

“As soon as I hit it, I had to get out of the box,” Lawrie said. “I was at first base. I saw some commotion kind of behind home plate and whatnot, and then I didn’€™t really know because I was running the bases and whatnot. Then in between innings is when things kind of got serious and realized there was a bit of an issue. Hopefully everything is OK and she’€™s doing all right.”

 

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Brett Lawrie, Oakland A's,
Red Sox-Athletics series preview at 10:39 am ET
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Stephen Vogt (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Catcher Stephen Vogt leads the A’s with a .308 average, 11 home runs and 39 RBIs. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Coming off of a four-game series split with the Twins, the Red Sox will remain at Fenway over the weekend and welcome the A’s to Yawkey Way. The Sox have lost their last two, including a wretched, error-filled, 8-4 decision on Thursday.

The Sox have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games and lost 11 of 16, placing their record at a woeful 24-31 and earning a cellar-dwelling position in the American League East. On Thursday, Farrell acknowledged that he’s taking things personally.

“Absolutely,” he said after his team’s loss. “That was a poor display of baseball today. Those situations are addressed individually, it’s alerted collectively, and we will continue to do so.”

While the sky is falling on Red Sox Nation, the visitors this weekend, too, have had a disjointed and unsuccessful season to date. The A’s have played to a 23-33 record and sit in last place in both the AL West and entire American League.

However, the A’s are winners of seven of their last 10 games and take a four-game winning streak into the weekend at Fenway. General manager Billy Beane’s squad has a plus-10 run differential this season, seventh best in the AL.

Manager Bob Melvin has been impressed with his team’s performance of late.

“We’re just trying to play good — win as many games as we can,” he said Thursday after his team swept the Tigers. “We’re about trying to climb toward .500, and then worry about where you are in the standings.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Stephen Vogt, xander bogaerts
Red Sox-Twins series preview 06.01.15 at 11:31 am ET
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Trevor Plouffe (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Trevor Plouffe has been the hottest hitter for a productive Twins offense. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

With June upon them, the Red Sox will be more than happy to close the book on the month of May, as they went a disastrous 10-19. To open June, the Red Sox will face the red-hot Twins in a four-game series at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox are coming off of a horrendous road trip, going 1-6 in Minnesota and Texas. The Rangers took three out of four in the Sox’ most recent series, after the Twins made quick work of them with a three-game sweep. Following this stretch, the Red Sox are 22-29 and reside in last place in the AL East.

As has been the case all season, the offense, more than the rotation, has disappointed for the Red Sox of late. They have failed to score more than three runs in four of their last seven games. The Twins shut down the Red Sox bats last week, as Ricky Nolasco and Mike Pelfrey combined to allow just three earned runs over their two starts. If not for Dustin Pedroia and his pair of two-run home runs last Wednesday, Phil Hughes would have joined the list of Twins pitchers to stymie the Red Sox.

With the team reeling, manager John Farrell met with five of the team’s veterans before Sunday’s series finale vs. the Rangers. Following an 8-0 shutout at the hands of the Rangers the night before, Farrell reinforced his team’s goals and its dependency upon its leaders.

“There was a group of guys that I had in to talk about a number of things,” Farrell said. “I guess the short version of it would be for us to play with some aggressiveness and some smarts inside the game situation. Without getting too detailed. But it was an opportunity to meet with our veteran group, to reemphasize the importance of the role that they provide to the younger players and how they go about and execute inside the game.”

The polar opposite of the Red Sox, the Twins have snagged seven of their last eight and 20 of 27 during the month of May. The Twins took two out of three from the Blue Jays to close out the month following their sweep of the Red Sox. With a 30-19 record, they own the best winning percentage in the AL as they sit in first place in the AL Central, a half-game up on the Royals.

“All those things you look at that really good teams do, we’ve been able to do this month,” Phil Hughes said after the Twins’ latest win over the Blue Jays on Sunday. “It’s a small sample, and we have to continue this trend, but it’s a positive sign for us.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, kyle gibson, Minnesota Twins, Phil Hughes
Red Sox-Rangers series preview 05.28.15 at 9:23 am ET
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Josh Hamilton (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Josh Hamilton is off to a slow start in his return to the Rangers, recording one hit in his first 11 at-bats. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

To close out the month of May and their road trip, the Red Sox begin a four-game series with the Rangers on Thursday in Arlington, Texas.

For the second time this season, the Sox were swept by their opponent in their most recent series, dropping all three games to the Twins and getting outscored 14-7 in the process. In the first and second games of the series, Boston was unable to plate more than two runs before plating four Wednesday afternoon when Dustin Pedroia hit two two-run home runs. The Sox have scored two or fewer runs in 19 of their 42 games this year and own a 4-15 record in those contests. When crossing the plate three times or fewer, Boston is 5-17. In their last 15 games, the Red Sox have tallied two or fewer nine times with a 2-7 record.

“A lot of early outs, put the ball on the ground, a couple of ground-ball double plays. I’d like to think our approach can be a little bit more concerted, a little bit more concentrated,” manager John Farrell said after Tuesday’s 2-1 loss. “I think we’re capable of more than we showed here.”

The Sox also made an addition to the 40-man roster, announcing on Wednesday that they had acquired outfielder Carlos Peguero from the Rangers for cash considerations. Peguero, who is a left-handed hitter, doesn’t do much to abate Boston’s woes batting vs. lefties, and makes the outfield picture just a little more crowded.

Thursday will mark Sox pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez’s first major league start.

The Rangers, despite dropping their most recent contest against the Indians on Wednesday, ending a seven-game winning streak, are 8-2 in their last 10 games, tied with Minnesota for the best mark in the American League during that stretch.

“Winning is contagious,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said after his team’s comeback win Tuesday night. “I think all of it plays together. It’s a lot more fun to play when you’re winning games.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, elvis andrus, Mitch Moreland, Prince Fielder
Buster Olney on MFB: Red Sox have ‘most fixable problems’ of AL East teams 05.27.15 at 1:49 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox, their status within the American League East and how they can improve. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Last week, with the Red Sox seeming to heat up, Olney said that the team had a great opportunity to take advantage of a relatively weak AL East. Since then, the Sox offense has sputtered and the team has lost five of seven. However, Olney maintains that the Red Sox still have the best chance of any team in the division to turn things around.

“When you look at what they have as their list of potential solutions, it’s just a lot longer than, say, a team like Tampa Bay or the Yankees, where they’re pretty much stuck with the guys that they have, and it’s part of the reason why I think going forward [the Red Sox] have a chance to get better,” Olney said.

While the Red Sox have struggled this season, Olney said, “They have the most fixable problems and the most resources to fix them with,” as compared to other teams in the AL East.

One change Olney recommended is to move the lineup around based on day-to-day matchups rather than each player’s pedigree. The Sox, for example, moved the struggling David Ortiz down to fifth in the order for Tuesday and Wednesday’s games.

“That feels like the first step in what has to happen next in fixing the 2015 team, which is to get away from stature and past records and all that and just get back to picking the best lineup every day,” he said. “If you move Ortiz, who has the most stature on that team, you can probably do a lot of other things as you go.”

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Wade Miley on fast track to leading Red Sox turnaround: ‘We’re playing a lot better right now’ 05.24.15 at 6:19 pm ET
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Wade Miley was a picture of perfection early on against the Angels Sunday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Wade Miley was a picture of perfection early on against the Angels Sunday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Red Sox can only hope they copy the stunningly resurgent turnaround of Wade Miley.

The lefty has suddenly turned into the most reliable and consistent pitcher on staff. On Sunday, that encouraging trend continued when he allowed just four hits and one run over eight stellar innings in a 6-1 win over the Angels at a sun-splashed Fenway Park.

It was a perfect day for a game, and Miley gave fans a perfect start to their Sunday afternoon, retiring the first 14 batters he faced before walking Chris Iannetta on five pitches in the fifth. That was followed up by a single from C.J. Cron, who had been called back to hit after a pitch was ruled to have struck his bat by the umpiring crew.

Miley (4-4) has won each of his last three starts and is 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA in May. On Sunday he took just 45 minutes to race through four perfect innings. He needed just 35 pitches to get through four frames before a 23-pitch fifth. Where did Miley learn his fast pace?

“Probably college, my college coach was huge on that,” Miley said, referring to Southeastern Louisiana pitching coach Daniel Latham. “It’s kind of stuck with me.”

The Angels, who had never faced him before, were aiding the cause of Miley and catcher Sandy Leon by swinging early and often.

“They’re a pretty aggressive team and we kind of used that to our advantage and it worked out,” Miley said. “That’s the biggest thing, being able to throw the fastball. And what Sandy did, it felt like every time he put down a finger, it’s what I wanted to do. We were on the same page from the first inning on.”

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Red Sox notes: Mookie Betts gets second look, Mike Napoli hitting with ‘clear mind right now’ at 2:15 pm ET
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Mike Napoli went deep twice in the Red Sox' win Saturday over the Angels. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Mike Napoli went deep twice in the Red Sox‘ win Saturday over the Angels. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Sometimes bad luck can lead to good things.

In the case of the Red Sox, Shane Victorino leaving Saturday’s game against the Angels (and subsequently landing on the disabled list) opened a new opportunity for John Farrell and Mookie Betts. Specificially, it allowed Farrell to see what Betts looks like hitting behind Dustin Pedroia and it gave Betts a chance to hit between Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez in the order. Sunday marked just the second time this season Betts has batted in the No. 2 hole.

Betts went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in Saturday’s 8-3 win.

“I think it’s one of those things where hey, it worked, I’m not going to change it [with] as much change as we’ve been going through,” Farrell said. “Mookie put three swings on balls [Saturday] night as we’ve seen in a number of other games. He was given a little bit of heads up before the game started, be on-call here because you don’t know how far or how deep in the game he might be needed. It was unfortunately quick in this case. He put up three quality at-bats in the meantime. Credit to him.”

Then there’s the scorching hot Mike Napoli. He obliterated another pitch Sunday afternoon, launching a pitch from lefty Hector Santiago five rows deep to the bleachers in straightaway center for his fourth homer in three games and fifth homer on the six-game homestand. Saturday, he crushed a pair of homers of nemesis C.J. Wilson, including a two-run bomb to left that cleared the Monster and traveled an estimated 450 feet.

“It’s more timing,” Farrell said of Napoli‘s resurgence. “It’s not so much trying to take an approach to one side of the diamond because when the timing is accurate, they’re seeing pitches more clearly and they’re able to react to where pitches are on the plate. You see [Saturday] where in a 3-2 count, Nap gets a fastball on the inside part of the plate that he turns on. When they’re in a good hitting position, there’s a great ability to react to where balls are located in the zone.

“I can’t say there’s a different effort level in the swing. He’s a guy that’s going to impact the baseball and drive the baseball. That’s his calling card as a hitter his whole major league career. So in those [hitter’s] advantage counts, now that his timing is more consistent and more what he’s been accustomed to. He’s just in a better position to drive the baseball. Sometimes, whether it’s a pitcher or hitter, body mechanics can get disrupted by thoughts. More than anything, he’s hitting with a clear mind right now.”

With Victorino going on the disabled list Sunday, the Red Sox brought up infielder Jeff Bianchi from Triple-A Pawtucket. Farrell said there was no consideration to bring up Jackie Bradley Jr. since the organization felt he needed more regular playing time.

“At this point, he needed to get some regular at-bats,” Farrell said of Bradley, who was expected to travel to Louisville and be ready to play Sunday evening against the Bats, the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate.

Farrell also said righty Justin Masterson continues to make good progress after being disabled with right shoulder fatigue/tendinitis on May 14.

“He threw a bullpen [Friday],” Farrell said. “A pretty intense bullpen. He’ll have at least one more and we’ll probably get a total of three bullpens before we send him out on a rehab assignment but he’s making strong progress in terms of the intensity of the throws, the volume of throws. We don’t have a targeted date for his first rehab assignment but that’s coming in the near future.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia, justin masterson, mike napoli
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