|Ryan Dempster : ‘You don’t want to be the squeaky wheel’||04.15.13 at 10:06 pm ET|
The beat goes on the for the Red Sox pitching staff – in record-setting fashion.
Ryan Dempster is just the latest Red Sox pitcher to show that 2013 is going to be a lot different. At least the start of it.
Thanks to Dempster’s two-hit outing over seven innings Monday at Fenway, the Red Sox were able to make pitching history. No Boston pair of pitchers had ever gone seven innings and allowed two hits or fewer in back-to-back starts.
The numbers are staggering. Red Sox starters are 5-2 with a 1.99 ERA, allowing just 16 earned runs in 72 1/3 innings, with 84 strikeouts. Monday marked the staff’s eighth straight start allowing two runs or fewer, the most since nine in a row between April 16-24, 2011. Clay Buchholz allowed just two hits, both in the eighth inning, and no runs on Sunday and got the win in a 5-0 victory over Tampa Bay.
On Sunday, after Buchholz shut down the Rays on two hits, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that he was looking for Dempster to continue what Jon Lester and Buchholz had done to set the tone in the previous two games of the series.
“On the heels of a performance of Lester [Saturday], [Sunday] Clay and [Monday] hopefully, Ryan will go out and continue to carry through what’s been established in this series, and pretty much for the first 11 games of the season,” Farrell said. “Our starters have done an excellent job.”
With Buchholz striking out 11 on Sunday and Dempster striking out 10 on Monday, they became the first pair of Red Sox teammates with consecutive double-digit strikeout totals since Pedro Martinez and Hideo Nomo in May 2001.
“The Ks are more a byproduct of getting ahead,” Dempster said. “I’m not trying to strike guys out; I’m just trying to make pitches. I had a real good slider today. That’s probably what they swung and missed at the most but when you get ahead you can get yourself in a position to get those kind of outs. I like the one-pitch outs. Those are a lot nicer than the strikeouts but either way I’ll take them.”
The broader point, though, is that Dempster is symbolic of what this Red Sox staff is all about right now. Quality starts that lead to wins. Red Sox starters have allowed three or fewer runs by their starters in all 12 games this season, the longest such streak to start a season in team history. It’s the longest in the American League since the 1990 Brewers went 14 starts to open that season.
“The nice part is you see the other guys in the rotation going out there pitching as well as they have,” Dempster said. “Even Ace [Alfredo Aceves], when he makes the start for [John Lackey], threw the ball so well. You don’t want to be the squeaky wheel. You want to be the one going out there and keeping the streak going. You push each other. You see how well Jonny and Buch threw in the first two games. You want to go out there and do that as well. I think it’s fun. We push each other. It’s like a competitive push to get the best out of each other and you get good results out of that.”
|John Farrell on Terry Francona: There’ll be ‘three days of some bantering back and forth’||at 11:30 am ET|
Red Sox manager John Farrell says he’s looking forward to managing against Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona Tuesday when the two clubs open a three-game series in Cleveland. Farrell served as Francona’s pitching coach for four seasons in Boston before leaving after the 2010 season.
This much is for certain, it won’t be boring for Farrell or Francona the next three days.
“Before I came up [for Monday morning media briefing], I [had] a text on my phone waiting so I’m sure there’s some remark that will start three days of some bantering back and forth but it’s always fun,” Farrell said before Monday’s series finale with Tampa Bay. “It’s always fun, whether it’s the conversation before or after the game or the conversation what takes place inside it. I know one thing – they’ve got a very good lineup and they’ll be well-prepared.”
What did Farrell learn from Francona while serving as his pitching coach for four years beginning in 2007?
“His ability to blend the personalities that have come through this clubhouse door in the eight years he was here,” Farrell said. “He had such a knack and a way to connect with so many different people, and to bring them all to a common point. Players loved playing for him and they ran through a wall for him. He just had a way of making every player know or feel that he was behind them, supported them and if there were any issues – and there were – they were handled in an appropriate way.
“He treated us great so we wanted to do the best job we were capable of as well. He made you feel part of the team. He didn’t make anyone feel like they didn’t have a voice or an opinion or an ability to contribute to what we were trying to get accomplished. He’s just got a very good way with people to make them feel included.”
But Farrell cautions not to read too much into the familiarity between the two managers dictating the play between the teams Tuesday through Thursday.
“I probably wouldn’t go that deep into it because it’s still going to be what the guy on the mound is doing, what the players in the lineup are doing,” Farrell said. “The game situation will give us information to which to make decisions on. I think there’s an awareness of maybe the style of play that maybe he employs or what I employ but still it’s going to be about the strengths of the roster we have. Not to always deflect back to the players, but this is still always about them.”
Francona knew Farrell would be an ideal managerial candidate down the road, even while he was serving as Francona’s pitching coach.
“He was all for it, very supportive of it,” Farrell said. “As opportunities emerged prior to finally making the move [to Boston], he was always curious as to why? Why not now? Or what are you waiting for? Not to be over presumptuous on anything but this was a special place to work, and to work alongside him is a rare opportunity and I wasn’t looking to make a change just for the sake of change but he was always supportive in any kind of decision that was to be made.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Clay Buchholz: ‘I felt good all the way through’||04.14.13 at 6:05 pm ET|
Relaxation can be a wonderful thing for a starting pitcher. For Clay Buchholz it was the key to nearly repeating history.
Buchholz had the most dominant of his three outstanding outings so far this year, holding the Rays hitless for the first seven innings, allowing just two hits over eight scoreless frames and improving to 3-0 in a 5-0 win Sunday at Fenway Park. Buchholz lowered his ERA to 0.41 and has allowed just one earned run in 22 innings this season.
“Well, I felt pretty relaxed,” Buchholz said after Sunday’s masterpiece. “It’s an easy clubhouse to be relaxed. Everyone jells really well. I didn’t feel much different than any other day.”
But he admitted after his 109-pitch gem over eight innings that it was a lot more relaxing than the last time he seriously flirted with a no-hitter at Fenway.
“A lot more [relaxed] than the other time it happened [Sept. 1, 2007]. I was basically going out every inning after every pitch, telling myself to make a pitch and don’t worry about anything else. I felt good all the way through.”
Buchholz explained why was it so different than Sept. 2007, when Jason Varitek all but held the rookie right-hander’s hand through a dismantling of the Baltimore lineup.
“Because I had captain behind the plate and I didn’t want to shake him off because I was scared of him,” Buchholz said.
Skipper John Farrell had a good feeling from the start on Buchholz, who had 99 pitches after seven innings and was starting to approach that red-line area for pitchers early in the season.
“He had four pitches working for strikes,” Farrell said. “I think he struck out guys on four different types of pitches. After the seventh inning, the pitch-count is climbing. I certainly didn’t want to be the guy to walk out there with him with a no-hitter in tact. But on a day when we needed a starter to go deep in a game, he did that for us. An outstanding outing on his part. He made some key pitches, particularly in that sixth inning where things started to get a little extended. It was about a 22-pitch inning for him. He continued to make outstanding pitches throughout the course of the day.
“I think think the only thing we can speak to is the feel in the dugout. And after the fifth inning, you start to get a sense with each out recorded. Obviously, the crowd was getting into it.”
Farrell was never forced to make to the ultimate tough decision, hinting after the game that he would not have allowed Buchholz to get into the high-120s in pitch count.
“I don’t think we’ll ever know, will we?,” Farrell said with a laugh of relief.
The biggest key Sunday was not just first-pitch strikes but what he was using all day to get ahead of the Tampa Bay batters.
“I was able to throw first-pitch curveballs for strikes a lot today,” Buchholz said.
But that may have led to his undoing in trying to throw the second no-hitter of his career. Kelly Johnson opened the eighth inning by taking a curve for strike one. Then Buchholz went back inside to the left-handed hitting left fielder. The pitch didn’t quite get in on the hands enough and Johnson was able to get around, breaking his bat in the process, and dump a clean single over the head of Mike Napoli into right field.
“The second one I threw him it was basically supposed to be a purpose pitch, just to make it fall right on top the plate and see if we get a swing. I didn’t quite get it there and he was able to put the bat on it. It was just one of those things.
“I haven’t even seen it. When I released it, it felt like it was going to be a good pitch but obviously, I left it close enough to the zone if it wasn’t in the hitting zone, for him to get a bat on it,” Buchholz said.
“I know Kelly, I’ve played against him, played with him. I know he’s a good fastball hitter, so we stuck with our game-plan of getting ahead with some breaking balls trying to keep him off of it,” Buchholz’ battery mate Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Earlier in the game we were pounding him in. He hadn’t really looked too good on that curveball so I think that’s why we wanted to go back-to-back with it. Tip your cap, he broke his bat and it fell in.”
The Tampa Bay outfielder was just looking for something to work with. Read the rest of this entry »
|Stephen Drew: ‘It’s a good feeling to be back’||04.10.13 at 4:56 pm ET|
After getting hit by a pitch in the head and suffering a concussion in early March during a spring training game against the Twins in Fort Myers, shortstop Stephen Drew said before Wednesday’s game against the Orioles that he can’t wait to rejoin the Red Sox as the starting shortstop. Drew spoke at length about what it was to overcome the concussion, watch the team get off to a hot start and watching Jose Iglesias perform well in his absence.
More than anything, Drew said he was happy to finally be back on the field and ready to make his true Red Sox debut.
“It’s a good feeling to be back,” he told reporters three hours before Wednesday’s scheduled first pitch. “It was kind of a long process, and kind of didn’t know when I would be back. The symptoms are gone and I’m ready to get back after it. It’s good to be here.”
Does he feel ready to play?
“Oh yeah, I feel ready,” he said without hesitation. “It’s now getting in there and getting back and playing the game that I always played. I’m looking forward to getting back with the guys to help this team win. That’s what it’s about.”
Most importantly, Drew said he doesn’t fear being gun shy at the plate or in the field.
“No hesitation,” Drew said. “I knew after going through that, it’s not frustrating. You just could do nothing. You get hit in the head, and it’s your brain, and it’s one of those things that takes time to heal. I thought I was fine during the game, and going home, I knew something wasn’t right. It’s like I said, that concussion took a little while longer than I thought it would be.
“Just now, while I was down there [on a rehab assignment], trying to see as many pitches as I can, playing catchup, just getting as many at-bats as I can, taking as many swings and ground balls to be back up here.”
Drew said he started really feeling better just before the season opener in New York.
“I would say about a week and a half ago, things started to come around,” Drew said. “I don’t feel no symptoms no more. That’s what I was saying. Two weeks ago, they were still there. Just trying to get over the spin feel, being a little lethargic, tired and stuff like that. With the drills I had to do, the vision stuff, the time held itself.”
Drew said he is very grateful for the new seven-day concussion policy instituted by Major League Baseball, which began last season. Read the rest of this entry »
|Clay Buchholz: ‘I don’t feel any different than last year’||04.08.13 at 8:50 pm ET|
Clay Buchholz says he doesn’t feel that different than the start of 2012.
But the numbers and the eye test both tell a different story.
In his first two starts of 2012, the right-hander was 1-0 with a 9.82 ERA.
After shutting out the Orioles on three hits in seven innings, walking four and striking out eight, Buchholz earned his second win of 2013 in as many starts Monday. He is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA, matching the 2-0 record of Jon Lester.
“I don’t feel any different than I did last year,” Buchholz said. “Just little things that didn’t go right [last year] and it definitely makes it easier whenever you have somebody like Jonny going out the day before you and throwing [well], it’s something for you to feed off of. It’s better than being 0-2. You have to keep everything on an even keel I think and try not to get too high and don’t get overconfident with it. Just go out and do your work and that’s what I’m going to lead with.”
With Baltimore lefty Wei-Yin Chen matching zeroes with Buchholz, the pressure was on Buchholz heading into the seventh.
Matt Wieters worked a walk to open the inning. But Buchholz zeroed in. He fanned J.J. Hardy and Steve Pearce, sandwiched around a ground out from Ryan Flaherty. His day was over after 113 pitches, 65 strikes. Some eyebrows were raised as Buchholz was allowed the chance to finish the inning, despite a pitch count approaching 100 in the seventh.
“That’s Clay’s ballgame,” skipper John Farrell said. “I felt like he earned that right to get through it. His stuff didn’t diminish. He showed the ability to make big pitches in key moments. It wasn’t like he was losing command or the fastball was becoming elevated. He stayed sharp throughout. More than anything that was his inning to finish.”
Finish is exactly what Buchholz did in strong fashion, blowing away Hardy (looking) and Pearce (swinging) on 93 MPH fastballs.
“Always good to win,” Buchholz said. “I think after that seventh inning when I went out there, it’s sort of inning-by-inning by each [starter]. It’s tough. Each out you do get going up to that point [is important]. You just don’t want runners to get on because all it takes is one pitch like you saw. It’s a fun game to pitch in, especially whenever you come out on top in the end.
“I didn’t really have one thing that was working the whole day. I was up in the zone. There was a couple balls hit early that would have gotten out, but stayed in the park. Other than that, it was sort of a grind there for a little bit.”
|John Farrell on ‘aggressive’ Jose Iglesias: ‘No one’s going to take away from what he’s done’||at 2:42 pm ET|
The joyride that has been the first six games of the season for Jose Iglesias may be coming to an end soon. But Iglesias is at least making the Red Sox think about his roster spot when Stephen Drew returns to active status from his concussion.
Red Sox manager John Farrell acknowledged before Monday’s home opener that when Drew returns, Iglesias will likely be replaced as the starting shortstop. Barring any more freeze outs, Drew is expected to play in one more rehab game with Double-A Portland before joining the Red Sox for Wednesday’s game against the Orioles.
Iglesias certainly has made the decision more difficult for Farrell and the Red Sox by starting out 9-for-17 in five games for the Red Sox.
“I think we probably have to wait for that move to take place first,” Farrell said. “But no one’s going to take away from what he’s done. If it turns out that that’s the move, then, much like any player who’s gotten off to a good start, it’ll be hard [for Iglesias] to swallow it. But there’s got to be an understanding of [how] personal and organizational goals align. And sometimes [they're not the same].
“What he’s done is he’s clearly shown that not only do we have a now-ready shortstop [but] if, it turns out that he becomes depth for us, he’s made very good strides, particularly at the plate.”
Iglesias’ spectacular defense has again been on display in the first week of the season. That confidence has finally spilled over offensively, with the assistance of some well-placed infield hits. Only one of Iglesias’ nine hits have found the outfield. What has Farrell thought of his approach so far?
“Aggressive,” Farrell said. “He’s made contact. He’s found some holes. He’s beat out a couple of infield hits. He’s taking aggressive swings, much like we talked about in spring training. He’s in a pretty good place, back to a natural swing that’s got some pull to it, but that’s what works best for him. He’s also used the bunt on occasion to keep some defenders honest with him. He’s picked out some good spots against left-handed starters to push bunt. And we’ve seen his glove work at shortstop has been outstanding.”
The Red Sox were hoping the signing of Drew in December to a one-year, $9.5 million contract would light a fire under the 23-year-old Iglesias. So far, so good.
“I think he came in with and expressed some thoughts after the singing of Stephen over the winter,” Farrell said. “And I think he was determined to show some things differently, whether how he went about his work, [or] what he did inside of given games. He [got] a break because of an unfortunate situation with Stephen and he’s made the most of it.”
And for now, that’s good enough to stick.
|Jonny Gomes launches moonshot, Will Middlebrooks dodges bullet in Red Sox spring loss to Orioles||02.27.13 at 10:30 pm ET|
SARASOTA, Fla. — In a spring training game that saw Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffer a scare with his right wrist, Jonny Gomes blasted a long home run to left field while several Red Sox relievers looked strong early on as the Orioles beat the Red Sox, 5-3, Wednesday night at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.
Reliever Franklin Morales started the game and retired the side in order on 12 pitches, eight strikes. The lefty was making his first appearance of the spring.
But the bigger story came in top of the first when the Red Sox (2-4) appeared to dodge a major bullet. With an 0-1 count, Middlebrooks took an inside fastball from Orioles starter Chris Tillman. Middlebrooks attempted to check his swing and avoid being hit. He was successful in avoiding the pitch but he immediately grabbed his right wrist and went to manager John Farrell. He was taken out of the game and replaced with Pedro Ciricaco. As he went into the dugout, he threw his helmet against the back wall in obvious frustration.
The team later said Middlebrooks, who broke the same wrist last August in Cleveland when hit by a pitch, was suffering from “right wrist soreness” and would be re-evaluated Thursday in Fort Myers. After the game Middlebrooks said he felt no pain and it was “just a scare” and a “freak thing that scared everybody.” He pointed to the outside of his right wrist, where he suffered the break last August and said the initial discomfort was in the same area.
Alex Speier has much more, including reaction from Middlebrooks.
The group of Morales, Joel Hanrahan, Koji Uehara, Andrew Bailey and Andrew Miller all threw a single inning of work. Only Hanrahan allowed a run, and it was unearned, as Ciriaco threw high to first on a routine grounder in the second inning, and Nava couldn’t reach up and grab it.
But the good run of pitching ended in the sixth when Junichi Tazawa was roughed up for two runs on four hits and committed a balk in the sixth. The two runs came on an opposite-field homer to left by Chris Davis, erasing Boston’s 2-1 lead and putting Baltimore ahead, 3-2. Tazawa has allowed five hits and two runs over two innings in his first two appearances. Drake Britton allowed two more runs on three hits in the seventh as Baltimore built a 5-2 lead. Read the rest of this entry »
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