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Buster Olney on M&M: ‘Important to temper expectations’ for Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. 04.30.14 at 1:50 pm ET
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ESPN MLB insider Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about Red Sox rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., John Lackey and his resurgence, which team in the AL East has the highest ceiling and more. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. haven’€™t gotten off to the most productive starts in 2014, with Bradley holding a .244 batting average and Bogaerts having committed four errors. Despite some growing pains, Olney notes rookies are doing well when framed in the proper context.

“I think it is important to temper expectations for Xander Bogaerts and for Jackie Bradley Jr. this year because they’€™re young players and there are going to be times when they go up and down,” Olney said. “But it is worth nothing that early in the year, Xander Bogaerts has a .378 on-base percentage. I mean, my goodness, you take that out of guys in the middle of their careers, let alone someone on the outset of his career.

“And Jackie Bradley Jr. has an on base percentage today of .344 and eventually it looks like he’€™ll be able to be that guy who’€™s going to be the leadoff hitter, but I know the Red Sox front office is really intent on letting him ease his way on in rather than have to deal with the pressure.”

One of Bogaerts’ biggest problems hasn’t been at the plate but rather at shortstop. Other teams have even started to question if the 21-year-old ever will develop into a solid defender.

“Rival executives have told me that they have some questions about his range going to his left,” Olney said. “And it’€™s interesting, it actually reminds me a little bit of what I’ve heard of [Derek] Jeter even in the middle of his career, where people say, ‘Boy, there’€™s not as much range as some other shortstops, and especially with Derek going to his left.’ But I still think with Xander it’€™s obviously way too early to make a final assessment on what he’€™s going to be.”

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Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, jackie bradley jr., john lackey
Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: John Lackey vs. Erik Bedard 04.29.14 at 8:43 am ET
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The Red Sox will look to rebound from their 7-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday when they return home Tuesday to open a three-game series against the Rays, sending John Lackey to the mound to take on southpaw Erik Bedard.

Despite pitching well, Lackey struggled to get run support in 2013, averaging 3.7 runs per game and ending the season with a 10-13 record. In 2014, however, the 35-year-old has seen his fortunes reversed, receiving the best run support, an average of five runs per game, on the Red Sox staff.

Lackey also has seen his strikeout-to-walk ratio improve since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012. In 2013 Lackey had a 4.03 mark, the best of his career, while in 2014 he has a ratio of 4.86.

The Texas native last played Wednesday against the Yankees, lasting eight innings and allowing one run. He struck out a season-high 11 batters while walking no one on 111 pitches. The game was his third win of the season and snapped a two-game losing streak.

Lackey was modest after the game, crediting his performance due to a willingness to give the bullpen, which was overtaxed at the time, a night off.

“I was thinking about trying to give the bullpen a rest,” Lackey said after the game. “We’ve got some guys down there who’ve been worked pretty good the last week or so, and trying to get those guys a little bit of a breather and win a ball game.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Erik Bedard, john lackey, tampa bay rays
Craig Breslow on M&M: ‘Biggest goal is getting healthy’ 04.28.14 at 2:08 pm ET
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Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to talk about the Red Sox getting back to .500, Clay Buchholz‘€™s “dead arm”, the differences between the bullpen in 2013 and 2014 and Michael Pineda‘€™s pine tar incident last week. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

(Breslow’s charity — the Strike 3 Foundation — will be holding their annual charity event, “Sip Happens,” May 19 at the Boston Children’s Museum to benefit the fight against pediatric cancer.  To purchase tickets, or more information, click here.)

The Red Sox haven’€™t gotten off to the hot start they had in 2013, instead staying below .500 for the majority of the season, holding a record of 12-14. Breslow pointed out that while getting over that mark is one of the priorities, the biggest priority at this point is getting all the starters on the field.

“I think different teams probably have different goals at this point, and for us I think the biggest goal is getting healthy. … Obviously we’€™ve suffered through some early season injuries,” Breslow said. “We’€™re now just getting back some key players. Obviously, (it’s) great to get (Shane) Victorino back, (Will) Middlebrooks back. And I think just being able to run out the lineup that we had envisioned taking the field with on opening day consistently is really our first step towards, kind of, identifying who we are and who we will be as a team.”

Buchholz, who has struggled in 2014 with a 1-2 record and a 6.66 ERA, is thought, by many, to have “dead arm.” Breslow contends that he too may be struggling through the same thing.

“There are probably a lot of parallels between Clay, and I just in terms of a heavy workload, battling some shoulder issues last season, wanting to make sure that we were completely healthy going into this season, picking up a throwing program a little bit later,” Breslow said. “I kind of felt like I ran out of time towards the end of spring training and needed a little bit longer to get myself in game shape.”

Added Breslow: “This whole dead arm phenomenon is really a bizarre thing because you don’€™t feel hurt or unhealthy or weak, but when you go to throw a baseball, despite the fact that you feel you’€™re putting the same effort into it, it’€™s just not coming out as hard.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Craig Breslow, Michael Pineda
Sunday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Jon Lester vs. R.A. Dickey 04.27.14 at 9:25 am ET
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The Red Sox will look to sweep the Blue Jays on Sunday when they conclude their three-game road trip in Toronto, sending southpaw Jon Lester to the mound to take on knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Lester is having the same luck John Lackey did in 2013 — he pitches well but gets no run support from his offense. The lefty sports a 2.67 ERA with a 1.337 WHIP through five starts, but he’€™s only 2-3. In his three losses, Lester has had a combined two runs from his offense, while only giving up six earned runs.

The 30-year-old’€™s last start, a 3-2 loss to the Yankees on April 22, was actually his worst of the season. Lester lasted only 4 2/3 innings while giving up 11 hits and eight runs (three earned), striking out seven and walking four on 118 pitches.

“I know everybody in here is busting their butt to do their best to get on a good run and put a full game together, whether it be pitching or defense or offense, whatever it may be,” Lester said after the game. “I hate saying it, but we’ve got a long ways to go and we’re going to figure it out on both sides of the baseball and we’ll be there — we’ll be fine.”

The southpaw has been good against the Blue Jays, especially in 2013, going 4-0 in six starts against the divisional foe with an ERA of 2.55. Overall, Lester is 15-7 with a 3.55 ERA vs. the Jays.

The 39-year-old Dickey has struggled in 2014, going 1-3 in five starts with a 5.90 ERA and a 1.621 WHIP. Dickey has given up a combined 13 runs in his last three starts, pitching 18 1/3 innings. While he historically sports a good walk-to-strikeout ratio, Dickey has walked 18 batters in 2014 while only striking out 24.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester, R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays
John Farrell: ‘Erratic’ Felix Doubront can’t pick up defense (or himself) in ‘terrible’ loss 04.25.14 at 12:33 am ET
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It was a night that John Farrell and the Red Sox desperately needed a mentally tough pitcher on the mound.

Felix Doubront was not that pitcher Thursday night.

In one of the ugliest games of the Farrell era in Boston, the Red Sox committed four errors in the first three innings, finishing with five on the night, while adding three wild pitches, 12 walks and a passed ball in a 14-5 loss to the New York Yankees Thursday night at Fenway Park. In the two losses to the Yankees, the Red Sox allowed 10 unearned runs.

Doubront was shelled for seven runs, three earned, on six hits and lasted just 2 2/3 innings, falling to 1-3 on the season. Doubront got out of the first inning down just 1-0 on the first of three errors from Xander Bogaerts and a passed ball from David Ross.

In the second inning, Doubront wasn’t as lucky. He was victimized by a Dustin Pedroia drop at second base, two wild pitches of his own doing, and two hits as the Yankees scored three times for a 4-0 lead. Add in two more errors in the third, one committed by Doubront himself, and three hits and the Yankees had a 7-0 lead. Doubront threw 73 pitches in just 2 2/3 innings of work.

“It was a bad night,” Doubront lamented afterward. “I couldn’t get my job done. It was probably a loss of concentration. That’s what happened. It was terrible.”

“Once again, spotting the opponent a number of runs to get behind early. Felix was erratic with his command. We contributed with some plays defensively to extend a couple of those innings and the sooner we move past this one the better,” Farrell added.

Farrell insisted with his team and Doubront the effort is there but the focus might not be.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, felix doubront, John Farrell, MLB
Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Felix Doubront vs. CC Sabathia 04.24.14 at 9:18 am ET
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The Red Sox will finish off their home series against the Yankees on Thursday, sending Felix Doubront to the mound against fellow southpaw CC Sabathia.

Through four starts in 2014, Doubront has struggled, going 1-2 with an ERA of 5.48 and a WHIP of 1.55, second worst among Red Sox starters and only better than Clay Buchholz. Doubront’€™s 15 strikeouts are the lowest among the team’€™s starting rotation.

The 26-year-old last played on April 19 against the Orioles, going 6 2/3 innings and giving up two runs on five hits, striking out a season-high seven batters and walking two. Doubront pitched well, throwing 70 of his 107 pitches for strikes and allowing one extra-base hit. While Doubront got a no-decision, the Red Sox won the game 4-2, despite his rough first inning.

“I don’t really know what happened [in the first],” Doubront said after the game. “I think I overthrew a couple balls and I was thinking too much, and I calmed down and I was trying to throw strikes and get quick innings, and I did.

“Just throw down in the zone [after the first], throw more breaking balls, just throw strikes. And they swing. They’re a team, if you’re throwing a strike, they’re going to swing. I went with that, just throwing my cutters down in the zone. Tried to get quick outs and that worked.”

Doubront’€™s last start against the Yankees came on April 13 in New York. The southpaw went 6 2/3 innings, throwing 101 pitches and allowing three runs on a season-high seven hits. The Red Sox lost, 3-2.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, C.C. Sabathia, felix doubront, New York Yankees
Red Sox reaction to Michael Pineda: ‘Something has to be said’ at 12:06 am ET
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John Farrell had no choice Wednesday night at Fenway Park. There was no room for looking the other way from the greasy skin of Michael Pineda this time.

After watching the Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda blatantly used pine tar on his hand in a 4-1 win on April 10 at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox manager said he had no choice but to call for home plate umpire Gerry Davis to inspect the right side of Pineda’s neck in the second inning Wednesday at Fenway Park.

What Davis found was an obvious streak of pine tar used by the pitcher to gain an advantage on the grip of the baseball. The blatant use of pine tar represented an obvious violation of rule 8.02 (4) of applying a foreign substance to the ball and Pineda was immediately ejected. After being warned by MLB after his previous violation in New York, Pineda faces an almost certain suspension of at least eight games from Major League Baseball for the latest infraction.

John Farrell explained his case in detail after Boston’s 5-1 win Wednesday night:

“In the second inning it looked from the dugout that there was a substance on his neck,” Farrell said. “You could see it, I could see it from the dugout. It was confirmed by a number of camera angles in the ballpark, and given the last time we faced him, I felt like it was a necessity to say something.

“I fully respect on a cold night you’re trying to get a little bit of a grip. But when it’s that obvious, something has got to be said.”

Farrell continued: “I can say our awareness was heightened, given what we’ve seen in the past, and it was confirmed today.”

Farrell was asked if he fears the Yankees retaliating and asking umpires to check Red Sox pitchers on the mound. Clay Buchholz was accused by Toronto broadcasters early in the 2013 season of using suntan lotion for the same purpose.

“We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Farrell said. “I don’t know that. As obvious as this was, I felt like he needed to be checked at the time.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, Michael Pineda, New York Yankees
Jacoby Ellsbury gets much warmer reception than Johnny Damon in his return: ‘The fans were great’ 04.23.14 at 12:06 am ET
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Johnny Damon had warned Jacoby Ellsbury before the game Tuesday that he would find out just how vicious Red Sox fans could be for leaving Boston for the Yankees.

After all, when Damon signed with the Bronx Bombers prior to the 2006 season, he was roundly booed and excoriated every time he set foot inside Fenway Park. It didn’t stop when he left after winning a World Series in 2009 and played for Detroit, Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

But Ellsbury is no Johnny Damon. For whatever reason, Ellsbury was booed on Tuesday but no where near as fiercely as Damon when the original “Idiot” returned in 2006 for the first time.

[Click here to hear Jacoby Ellsbury rave about his return to Fenway Park Tuesday night.]

As a matter of fact, Ellsbury thought the Red Sox fans showed great restraint and respect. True, it’s a lot easier to say that when you triple to open the game, making a diving catch in the bottom of the first and knock out the opposing pitcher Jon Lester with a two-run double in the fifth, all part of a 9-3 Yankees cakewalk Tuesday night at Friendly Fenway.

“Anytime a win is a good game,” Ellsbury said. “I’m happy I could go out there and help the team win tonight. I thought the fans were great. I thought the reception was nice. The tribute the Red Sox gave on the video board [was] unexpected, and I thought it was very classy of them to do that.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury, Johnny Damon, MLB
Jacoby Ellsbury gets mixed reception then delivers a reminder to Fenway fans 04.22.14 at 8:06 pm ET
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That didn’t take long.

Jacoby Ellsbury returned to Fenway Park for the first time since signing a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees and received a mixture of boos and cheers in the lineup introductions about 15 minutes before first pitch.

He received more boos as he was announced as the first batter of the game.

Then Ellsbury, as was often the case in his time in Boston, quietly showed off his multiple talents as a way of exacting revenge.

In the first at-bat of the game, he drilled a Jon Lester pitch high off the center field wall, so high that a fan wearing a Bruins jersey nearly fell over the 17-foot high barrier and onto the warning track below.

He was awarded a triple on fan interference and scored on a Derek Jeter single to center.

Ellsbury didn’t stop there. Grady Sizemore, brought in to help fill his void at the top of the order, led off the first for the Red Sox. Ellsbury ranged over 30 feet to his right to make a sliding, tumbling grab of a sinking liner for the first out. The play would be significant as Dustin Pedroia followed with a double to left field.

Before the top of the second, the Red Sox paid tribute to Ellsbury with a montage of his days in Boston, featuring highlights in the field from 2013, capped by his appearance on the Duck Boats in Rolling Rally after the World Series win last October. The montage was produced with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” playing underneath.

For good measure, Ellsbury knocked old friend Jon Lester out of the game in the fifth when he drilled Lester’s 118th pitch to left-center for a two-run double, making it 7-2 Yankees.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury, MLB, New York Yankees
Mike Napoli, Clay Buchholz discuss pros, cons of baseball sleepover 04.21.14 at 4:30 pm ET
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There’s very little that can truly scare Mike Napoli.

Sleeping on the bottom bunk of bed that has a grown man and starting pitcher on top qualifies.

Monday was one of those truly bizarre days at Fenway, thanks to the unkind schedule-maker and MLB that had the Red Sox play a nationally televised night game on ESPN hours before the traditional 11:05 a.m. Patriots’ Day contest.

To compensate, and to help Napoli get added treatment on a sore left kneecap, the Red Sox provided a solution. Years ago, when the Red Sox renovated their clubhouse, they put aside a room designed to allow staff, players and coaches to sleep in, if needed.

Sunday night into Monday morning provided just such a scenario.

“There’s two bunk beds in there,” Napoli told reporters after Monday’s 7-6 loss to the Orioles. “Just a dark room, blankets, pillows, all the necessary things to sleep.

“I didn’t want to deal with all the traffic. Just being here was easier. I knew it was going to be an early morning, so just stayed here. We have a sleep room upstairs. It’s convenient.”

Of course, Napoli had a sore kneecap because Orioles reliever Darren O’Day drilled him in the bottom of the ninth.

“I mean, I could move my leg around and run. It was just a little sore,” Napoli said.

There were three Red Sox players who elected to take advantage and avoid Monday’s traffic into the Fens. Napoli, Monday’s starter Clay Buchholz and John Lackey. So that meant someone had to bunk up. With Buchholz starting, Napoli and Lackey decided to split the other.

“I was bottom. Had Lackey above me,” Napoli said, before confessing he was “kind of scared he was going to fall through, to tell you the truth.”

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Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, ESPN
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