|Terry Francona on The Big Show: Carl Crawford will ‘be up at the top somewhere’ if he keeps hitting||05.04.11 at 3:31 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on The Big Show Wednesday afternoon. The Red Sox have closed to within one game of .500 as they send Josh Beckett to the mound Wednesday night vs. the Angels, but Francona said he’s trying to avoid putting pressure on the players to overcome their disastrous start as quickly as possible.
“I try not to look at, ‘OK what are you doing in April? What are you doing in May?’ Those are artificial deadlines,” he said. “What our record is is what our record is. But it does feel better to be playing better baseball.”
Third baseman Kevin Youkilis is slated to return to action after missing Tuesday night’s game due to sickness. “Youk said he feels OK,” Francona announced. “He was scuffling last night, though.”
Beckett has not pitched since last Wednesday in Baltimore. Francona said the extra rest stems from a long and tiring outing in Anaheim two weeks ago. Said Francona: “With no days off coming up, and we had to juggle our rotation anyway, we decided to give him an extra day. … We’ve got a lot more games. He’s going to make probably 33 more starts. We don’t want him missing starts. So we bought him an extra day.”
Reliever Bobby Jenks has had some struggles in his first month with the Red Sox. Said Francona: “He’s had a couple of really rocky outings. I thought the other day, he started letting it fly. He was throwing about 98 [mph], but he didn’t know where it was going. And he understood that. He got a little out of his game, probably heard some of the fans and was trying hard. I think some of the human factors probably got involved. He’s trying so hard to do the right thing — things you appreciate, but things we’ve got to fix.
“And I think he went back with [pitching coach] Curt [Young], looked at some of the things out of his delivery. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays out of the stretch a little bit for a while just to kind of shorten up everything and keep it a little bit more compact.”
|Kevin Millar on M&M: ‘Papelbon’s back’||04.29.11 at 11:57 am ET|
MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the Red Sox and news from around the major leagues. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Jacoby Ellsbury seems to have settled into the leadoff spot while Carl Crawford has dropped toward the end of the order while he continues to struggle. Even when Crawford gets in a groove, Millar said he’d prefer to see Ellsbury batting first.
“I think he’s your leadoff hitter,” Millar said. “That needs to be his role — to get on base, steal bases, slap the ball around, play good defense. Carl Crawford and him are very similar players. Obviously, [Crawford] having more of a track record and probably hits for more power, but they’re very similar players. But I think Ellsbury’s your leadoff guy.”
Millar said he expects the Sox bats to heat up along with the weather. Said Millar: “The ball flies in the summertime. … Fenway Park when it’s cold, it doesn’t play as small as people think, but summertime comes around, that beautiful weather, that wind starts flying off the Green Monster.
“The ballpark plays really small. So, I think it just has to do with summertime the ball flies. Wintertime, it’s not fun. You look at Minnesota, it was snowing the other day. It’s not fun to hit in that.”
Jon Lester has regained the form that made him one of the league’s most feared pitchers last season. “He throws to the inside part of the plate to right-handers, has command of that side of the plate, dominates with power stuff, he’s got 95-96 in his back pocket, he’s got a great cutter,” Millar said. “But to me, what makes Lester effective is that he can dominate right-handers. There’s no living away-away-away. He has in-in-in, and I’m coming back in again and I’m going to come back in there again. Then he mixes in his curveball and throws a nice little changeup to the outside part of the plate to right-handers. Now, he’s got both sides of the plate.
“Those are the good pitchers. Jon Lester is by far one of the top five pitchers in the big leagues because he dominates right-handers on the inside part.”
|Peter Gammons on M&M: Red Sox catching ‘still a precarious situation’||04.27.11 at 2:02 pm ET|
Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
A recurring theme in the discussion was the financial restraints the Red Sox and other major league teams are dealing with this season. Gammons took a question about Marco Scutaro accepting a utility role (now that he’s been replaced by Jed Lowrie as starting shortstop) and showed how the finances will play a key role in Scutaro’s future in Boston.
“I think he’d accept [the utility role].” Gammons said. “I think the question is going to be: Do the Red Sox feel they need to clear his money to be able to get a catcher or another pitcher in time if they need one. I think that would be a question. I think a lot of teams — I know the Mets would love to have Scutaro play second base, but they don’t want to pay him. There’s one of the problems that you run into. He’s an ideal utility guy, because he can play second, short and third, and he’s so great around the clubhouse. But the question is, Do you want to pay that kind of money if indeed ownership doesn’t want to go any further until the trading deadline and you need another catcher and it costs 5, 6 million dollars.”
Asked if the Red Sox have extended themselves close to their financial limit, Gammons said: “I think so. And I think that will change in the middle of the season. The Phillies are going through the same thing. [Phillies general manager] Ruben Amaro said last week — the question was posted actually about Scutaro, because they still don’t know when [injured second baseman] Chase Utley‘s coming back. They can say bravely, ‘He’ll be back at the end of May.’ They don’t know that. The thinking was Scutaro’s the perfect guy. And Ruben said, ‘I have no more money. We can’t make any moves.’
“I think a lot of teams went right to the luxury tax threshold and spent a lot of money and said, ‘OK, we’re not spending any more until we desperately need something. So, figure out what’s wrong.’ I think the Red Sox, the Angels, the Phillies, Texas, the White Sox, I think a lot of them are in that position right now.”
Added Gammons: “I think most teams in baseball this winter, I think most of the big-market teams spent to their limit before the season. I hear that from the Phillies, I hear it from the White Sox, I heard it from the Tigers, I hear it from a lot of people. It’s not unusual, but people don’t want to add money right now. And they’re not sure where the economy’s going, they’re not sure where the labor agreement is going — although I still don’t believe the labor agreement is going to greatly impact the game. But a lot of teams just are holding. It’s not just the Dodgers and Mets, it’s a lot of teams.”
NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning, following Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Orioles that snapped the Sox’ five-game winning streak. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Remy remains confident that the Boston bats will soon heat up. “I truly believe that this team’s going to hit. I really do,” he said. “I think it’s going to be one of the top offenses in the league.”
The player most below expectations is newcomer Carl Crawford. “This couldn’t have been his worst dream to come out and play like this the first month of the season,” Remy said. “It’s almost like a year ago with David Ortiz, with the kind of month he had in April, and everybody was ready to bury him, and bench him, and play Mike Lowell, and get rid of him, release him — it’s that kind of month that he’s having. It is one month out of the season. I mean, the guy’s got a track record. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen it over and over again against us. He’s going to do it. You’re waiting for that day for it to click in.”
With the team’s struggles against left-handers, Remy predicts changes to the lineup when southpaws start against the Sox. “There’ll be adjustments in time,” he said. “There’s going to have to be, because this formula’s not working right now.”
Adrian Gonzalez also hasn’t live up to the preseason hype, with just one home run and a .281 average heading into Wednesday’s action. Part of the problem is his failure to use the opposite field. “Once he gets that inside-out swing going, I think that you’re going to see the home run totals go,” Remy said, although he noted: “[Opposing pitchers are] smart, too. They’re also pitching him in. He hasn’t seen many pitches out over the plate. A lot of these pitchers have been pitching him in in the early part of the season, so it’s been almost impossible for him to take that ball the other way.
“But it will all even out. He’s too good a hitter. I don’t think the shoulder’s an issue at all. He’s been out there every day, he’s been diving for ground balls. I think he’s just fine. I haven’t heard a word about the shoulder. I think it’s just a matter of time. When that swing comes, look out, because he’s going to put up some big numbers.”
Touching on the pitching staff, Remy said Clay Buchholz isn’t that far away from finding his winning form. “He has not had his real good stuff yet,” Remy said. “He hasn’t had a game, in my opinion, where all of his pitches are working for him. … I think that’s going to come for him.”
Backup catcher Jason Varitek has earned some additional starts with Jarrod Saltalamacchia having some early season issues. “I just think they feel more comfortable with [Varitek] behind the plate right now defensively,” Remy said, adding: “I don’t think it’s burying [Saltalamacchia]. I think it’s just more of trying to let him observe, watch, and see what the correct way to do things are. I think he’s just really happy to be here. I don’t see any problem with that.
“Now, we’ll see what happens as time goes on. Because like I said, you can’t catch Varitek every day. This guy’s going to have to get involved, and he’s going to have to play good. And what they want him to do is just catch good. They don’t really care about the offense.”
As for the Bruins, Remy predicts a 5-2 victory over the Canadiens in Game 7.
|Zero for Three: Sox amidst home run drought in third spot||04.26.11 at 12:10 pm ET|
That the Red Sox have been carried by pitching through their recent run is indisputable. The team has won eight of its last nine contests at a time when its starting five has a combined 0.88 ERA, something that has allowed the team to enjoy a wildly successful stretch even at a time when the offense has been modest.
In fact, the rotation has been good enough to mask some of the lineup’s early season shortcomings (though not all, as the highly scrutinized Carl Crawford and catchers can attest). Nonetheless, there are some interesting puzzles to the performance of the team’s offense through the first 25 days of the season, and few are greater than the team’s dreadful performance in the third spot in the lineup.
The Sox are one of two American League teams without a homer from the spot, joining the Rangers. The hitters in the third spot in the lineup have combined to hit .233 (10th among the AL’s 14 teams) with a .320 OBP (T-10th), .302 slugging mark (11th) and .622 OPS (12th).
A position that characteristically yields run production has instead seen the Sox drive in just seven runs, tied for the fewest by any spot in the batting order. That relates in part to the struggles from the leadoff spot (.198/.263/.363/.625), but even so, with Dustin Pedroia getting on base in more than 40 percent of his at-bats, there have been plenty of opportunities to drive in runs with an extra-base hit.
The third spot in the lineup simply hasn’t delivered. That suggests a deficiency, given that the third spot of the lineup is, on average, the second-most prolific RBI spot in the lineup (behind only the cleanup spot) in the AL this year, just as has been the case for each of the last five seasons. Read the rest of this entry »
|Closing Time: John Lackey, Red Sox keep good times rolling, shut out Angels||04.24.11 at 7:08 pm ET|
One game away.
That’s what the Red Sox find themselves from hitting the magical .500 mark after completing a four-game sweep of the Angels courtesy of a 7-0 win Sunday afternoon in Anaheim. The Sox now stand at 10-11, the identical mark they possessed after 21 games last season.
The win marked the first time since 1980 the Red Sox completed a four-game sweep against the Angels in Anaheim since 1980. The victory also made the Sox’ 8-1 since April 16, the best mark in the majors over that time. During the eight games leading into the series finale, the Sox starting pitchers had combined for a 6-1 mark with a 1.01 ERA, limiting opponents to a .152 batting average.
The Red Sox starters also matched a stretch not seen since 1946, allowing two runs or less while totaling more than five innings or more in each of the last nine games.
Sunday it was John Lackey who carried the torch. The starting pitcher was one of more than a few things that went right for the Sox in their latest win.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Lackey was in control all day, notching 23 first-pitch strikes to his 32 batters, while going to just three three-ball counts. When it was all said and done, the righty had gone eight innings, giving up six hits, and one walk while striking out six. It marked the second time in Lackey’s Red Sox career that he came out of a start without giving up a run.
– Reliever Dan Wheeler, who had allowed at least one run in four of his seven previous appearances, cruised through the ninth to keep the shutout intact.
– Carl Crawford actually smiled. The grin game after his third at-bat of the game, when the outfielder worked his way back from an 0-2 count, made it 3-2, and proceeded to launch his first home run as a member of the Red Sox over the right-field fence. Crawford, who raised his average to .171, capped his day with a single in his next at-bat.
– The Red Sox answered a persisting problem by going 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Sox, who were last in the majors in such situations, were helped mightily by Adrian Gonzalez, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs.
– Jacoby Ellsbury continued to show signs of life out of the leadoff spot, coming away with a pair of hits, along with the Red Sox’ first run. His strikeout rate continued to be somewhat of a concern (2 more), but the outfielder now has his highest batting average (.219) since the third game of the season. He also finished the series 6-for-18 with two walks and four runs.
– With the red-hot Jed Lowrie getting a day off, Marco Scutaro returned to the starting lineup at shortstop and came away with a pair of hits.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– While Ellsbury has been more of a presence in the leadoff spot of late, his stolen base percentage isn’t what he would probably like. The speedster was thrown out for the third time this season, having made eight attempts.
– Mike Cameron is still getting used to a new role, going 0-for-4 while replacing J.D. Drew in right field Sunday, with the veteran’s average dropping to .136. It was just Cameron’s seventh game, which has included three hits (no extra-base hits) in 24 at-bats.
|Carl Crawford makes it rain money in Anaheim||04.22.11 at 9:27 am ET|
Times continue to get tough for Carl Crawford.
The Red Sox did beat the Angels, 4-2, Thursday night, and Crawford did come away with two walks and a stolen base. But that didn’t lift the cloud that continues to hover over the outfielder, who went without a hit for the 10th time in his 17 games played, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
Another reminder regarding Crawford’s struggles came when he put down a sacrifice bunt to get to Jason Varitek with one out and runners on first and second in a scoreless game in the sixth.
The bunt actually turned into a well-executed play for the Red Sox, with Jacoby Ellsbury ultimately driving in the game’s first run, but it also offered a dose of reality considering Varitek is hitting .043 and you’re sacrificing with the player who had been perceived as one of the team’s best run-producers at the start of the season, residing in the lineup’s No. 3 spot.
Another picture that told the story of the pressures surrounding Crawford was that of the money thrown on the field when the left fielder stepped into the on-deck circle. (Hat tip to Larry Brown Sports.) You might remember the Angels were the ones who finished second in the Crawford sweepstakes this past offseason, a notion that evidently even the laid-back Southern Californians aren’t about to forget.
Los Angeles outfielder Torii Hunter, for one, holds no hard feelings.
“Everybody had him coming here,” Hunter told the Boston Herald. “I had him coming here … He made his choice. But I’m his homeboy first.”
Hunter later added, “That was his business. His business plan didn’t work out for me. He made his decision and I respect that. I was a free agent once. I’m a fellow baseball player. I know what it’s like. I’m not upset at all. I love him.
“I was in Fort Myers with Boston for years. I respect that organization like crazy. Those guys coming up with $142 (million), they really wanted him. I tip my cap.”
Before the game, Crawford told CBSSports.com that, in his mind, one solution to his problem is not listening to the wave of advice that has come his way since the struggles began.
“Right now the best advice is no advice,” Crawford said. “At this point, everybody seems to be a hitting coach. At this point, I’m just shutting everybody out.”
Of 196 qualifying players, Crawford has the lowest OPS (.371), just above the Yankees’ Brett Gardner (.388), who did beat out Crawford for lowest batting average (.128 to .143). The Dodgers’ James Loney possesses the worst on-base percentage (.190), with Gardner and the Red Sox’ outfielder trailing just behind at .196 and .200, respectively.
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