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Will teams in David Price sweepstakes instead turn to Jon Lester? 07.25.14 at 2:58 pm ET
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Jon Lester could suddenly be viewed by teams as the ultimate prize of this year's trade deadline. (AP)

Jon Lester could suddenly be viewed by teams as the ultimate prize of this year’s trade deadline. (AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox and Rays may both assume residence at the bottom of the American League East, but the contrast in the dwellings of the team teams is currently stark.

With three straight losses on their way out of Toronto, the Red Sox‘ last-place standing in the division is becoming more and more rigidly defined by the day. The flicker of optimism about potential contention inspired by the team’s eight wins in nine games has yielded to the reality that it’s so very difficult for a team that has shown only rare bursts of strong play to reassert itself in the playoff hunt. The Sox are 9 1/2 games back in the division, and it feels like they’re 95 games back, as ever winning two out of every three remaining games would net the team just 87 wins — a longshot for the second wild card, let alone the division.

The Rays, meanwhile, are surging. They are 25-11, and so even though they are just 2 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox, they are hitting their stride in a fashion that validates the widespread view of Tampa Bay as the class of the division. Their seven-game deficit in the division somehow seems like a small fraction of what the Red Sox face.

And so it is that the Friday night pitching matchup of ace left-handers David Price and Jon Lester may represent a pendulum swing with repercussions to be realized throughout baseball. As the Rays surge, they seem increasingly inclined to hold onto Price unless they can command a ransom for an elite pitcher who is under team control for the duration of this season and then all of 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox-Rays series preview at 12:54 pm ET
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What a difference three days can make.

Rays left-handers David Price will start in the series opener against the Red Sox Friday night. (AP)

Rays left-hander David Price will start in the series opener against the Red Sox on Friday night. (AP)

The Red Sox went into their four-game series in Toronto rolling. They had won six of their last seven games and had fans once again dreaming of a playoff push following a sweep of the Royals.

The streak reached its peak Monday with a 14-1 rout of their American League East rivals, and it was all downhill from there. The Sox lost the final three games of the series, capped off by an 8-0 loss Thursday afternoon in which they were no-hit through six innings.

The losses put the Red Sox all alone in the AL East cellar at 47-55, 9 1/2 games behind the first-place Orioles and two games back of the fourth-place Rays, who the Sox play in a three-game series at Tropicana Field this weekend. It may have had an even bigger impact of the Red Sox’ approach to the July 31 trade deadline.

“I’€™m sure it’€™s going to have an impact on the type of trades that we make,” manager John Farrell said after Thursday’s game. “I will say this: I think there will be moves that will go on regardless of our record over the next seven days. All that will play out in due time.”

The Rays, on the other hand, come into the series playing their best baseball of the season. Tampa Bay has won seven straight games and 16 of its last 20, sneaking its way back into the playoff hunt. The Rays are 7 1/2 games back in the division and just 4 1/2 out of the wild card despite a middling 49-53 record.

Evan Longoria continues to be the leader of the Rays’ historically below-average lineup over the last half-decade. The third baseman leads the team in home runs (12), RBIs (50) and runs scored (54).

The pitching staff continues to be led by David Price, who has been at the center of trade talks this season. The rotation will also get a boost from Jeremy Hellickson, who will be called back up from the minor leagues to start for the Rays on Sunday, according to MLB.com. Hellickson has missed most of the season after getting elbow surgery in the winter. His only start for Tampa Bay this season came on July 8.

The Sox-Rays rivalry has been especially heated this season thanks to a pair of benches-clearing incidents and countless ejections. This weekend’s meeting may be tamed, however, with David Ortiz likely to miss some, if not all, of this series after suffering back spasms in Thursday’s game.

Here are the probable pitching matchups for the three-game series.

Friday: Jon Lester (10-7, 2.50 ERA) vs. David Price (10-7, 3.06 ERA)
Saturday: John Lackey (11-6, 3.66 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (6-5, 3.31 ERA)
Sunday: Jake Peavy (1-9, 4.72 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 2.08 ERA)


– Whether contract talks are ongoing or not, Jon Lester continues to prove to the Red Sox he deserves to be paid like an ace. The lefty has shut out opponents in three of his last four starts, including a four-hitter over eight innings last Sunday against the Royals, and has allowed two runs or fewer in his last seven outings, all of which have been Red Sox wins.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Jon Lester vs. David Price at 10:05 am ET
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The Red Sox will kick off a crucial three-game series against the Rays Friday at Tropicana Field, as both teams look to claw their way back up the division standings. Boston will send ace Jon Lester to the mound against David Price in the series opener.

Lester (10-7, 2.50 ERA) has been on another level for almost two months now, posting a 4-0 record with a minuscule 0.85 ERA over his last seven starts while not allowing an earned run in three of his last four starts.

In his last outing Sunday against the Royals, Lester was once again in control from the first pitch, holding the Kansas City lineup to just four hits over eight innings while striking out eight en route to a 6-0 Red Sox win.

“He’s been a model for others to witness as players get to that stage in their career,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell after the game. “I think in a professional manner, he’s been very forthright in not wanting [his contract negotiations] to be a distraction to his teammates or to us as a team. And he’s been able to go out and maintain that high level of focus.”

Lester was stellar in his last outing against the Rays on June 1, surrendering four hits and no runs over seven innings while striking out 12. In 27 career starts against the Rays, Lester is 13-9 with a 4.12 ERA.

Not to be outdone, Price (10-7, 3.06 ERA) has turned in yet another dominant campaign in 2014, leading the majors in both strikeouts (173) and innings pitched (155 2/3).

In his last outing Saturday against the Twins, Price allowed just four hits and no runs over eight innings, earning his fifth consecutive win in a 5-1 Rays victory.

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Read More: David Price, Jon Lester, Rays, Red Sox
Buster Olney on MFB: ‘I think [Jake Peavy] is going to wind up going to St. Louis’ 07.09.14 at 1:30 pm ET
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ESPN baseball reporter Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB to discuss the Red Sox and potential trade rumors. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Buster Olney

Buster Olney

It’s looking more inevitable each day that Jake Peavy will be traded before the trade deadline. Some reports have the Cardinals as the most likely landing spot for the right-hander.

“I think he’s going to wind up going to St. Louis,” Olney said. “Probably there’s a situation where the Red Sox might be trying to extract some value out of this as opposed to just a pure salary dump where they’re eating some dollars and moving them out to essentially create some spots for the younger pitchers.”

Reports suggest the Cardinals could use struggling outfielder Allen Craig as a piece to acquire Peavy in a trade.

“If the Cardinals were pushing this at all like, ‘Yeah, we’ll give up Craig for Jake Peavy,’ then if I’m the Red Sox, I’m going, ‘Why would that be?,’ ” Olney said. “I know he’s not having a good year this year and you guys remember the foot problem he had in the postseason last year and there’s some thought among the scouts that this was an issue early in the year.

“You’re talking about a guy who’s had back-to-back-to-back .300 seasons coming into this season. He was an All-Star last year. In his contract, given that history, he’s really good. So if the Cardinals are really interested in doing that type of deal, and again, I have no information that they are, that would scare me and would make me ask questions about what’s really going on with Allen Craig.”

Jon Lester‘s contract situation continues to be a story for the Red Sox this season. Olney said the Red Sox have tried to re-engage in contract discussions with the lefty.

“I think they’d like to re-engage him on some deal,” Lester said. “I’ve spoken with officials and they’re watching very closely because if Lester becomes a free agent, he’s going to become one of the two primary guys out there along with Max Scherzer on the whole market.

“So teams are wondering if there’s going to be an opportunity with Lester. And they think that once we get deep into this season and the Red Sox are kind of out of the race, we get into October and they’re not in the postseason, that would probably be the time the Red Sox try to get back into it with Lester, and it’s going to cost them because he’s going to be only a month away from free agency.”

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Read More: Allen Craig, buster olney, David Ortiz, David Price
David Ortiz on ‘bigger than the game’ comments: ‘Who’s David Price?’ 06.04.14 at 8:31 pm ET
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David Ortiz takes issue with Tampa Bay starter David Price not being ejected in the fourth inning of the Rays-Red Sox game. (AP)

David Ortiz took issue with Rays starter David Price not being ejected in the fourth inning of last Friday’s game. (AP)

CLEVELAND — Through all the back-and-forth regarding the Rays and Red Sox, along with David Price and David Ortiz, one comment truly stuck in the craw of the Sox designated hitter.

Following the incident in which Price hit Ortiz with a first-inning fastball, the Tampa Bay ace went on the Fox television broadcast and said, “Nobody is bigger than the game of baseball, and sometimes the way he acts out there, he kind of looks like he’s bigger than the game of baseball. That’s not the way it is, that’s not the way it goes.”

It was a claim Ortiz continues to take particular issue with. (To listen to the audio, click here.)

“That ain’t me. I never overlook the game, you know? There’€™s never going to be a player bigger than the game,” the DH told WEEI.com prior to the Red Sox‘ series finale against the Indians. “It doesn’t matter if you act like it, if you think you are or if people think that you are. It’€™s not true. Bigger than the game, nobody’€™s ever going to be. Know why? Because you come in, you play, you leave and the game continues.

“The one thing I can tell you about when he says that is he’€™s just trying to look for an excuse to get out of it. That’€™s a dumb-ass excuse, because whoever knows me knows I never act like I’m bigger than the game ever. He just doesn’t understand that he’s not going to win all the time. He’s carried that since last year when we whupped his ass. … It’€™s too bad that MLB sees the way he talked the day that he hit me and the way that he talked the next day and they still haven’€™t followed up with the rules. He basically said that he hit me on purpose, but I’€™m over that. I don’€™t really care about what he said. Who gives a [expletive]? Who is David Price? I don’€™t really care. I’€™m going to continue with what I do. Like it or not, it is what it is.

“I respect the game. I don’€™t think there’€™s a player in the game that can ever be bigger than the game. We’ve got guys that have done a lot of good things for the game, have put up crazy numbers, but we don’€™t give life to the game; the game gives us life. That’€™s why you’€™re never going to be bigger than the game.”

Ortiz had continued to express animosity toward Price Tuesday after Major League Baseball suspended Red Sox pitcher Brandon Workman six games but only fined Price.

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Read More: David Ortiz, David Price, Rays, Red Sox
John Farrell on D&H: Lack of disciplinary action against Rays ‘doesn’t make sense’ at 4:03 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell joined Dale & Holley on Wednesday to discuss the fallout from the Rays-Red Sox series this past weekend, the suspension of Brandon Workman, and the state of the Red Sox outfield. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

MLB has announced its disciplinary rulings in regards to Friday’€™s game. Workman was suspended six games for throwing behind Tampa Bay slugger Evan Longoria, while David Price, who hit both David Ortiz and Mike Carp in the game, received no sentence.

“We presented our case on everything that took place inside that Friday night game, and once all the information is turned over, you wait for the judgment to be handed down,” Farrell said. “I know that there weren’t suspensions, Brandon is obviously the only one suspended. There might have been some fines levied on both sides of this, but you go by the process that’s in place. … I think at the time at the ejection and following the game, my thoughts were expressed.”

Added Farrell: “Unfortunately, we’ve got a guy that we’€™re going to miss for, right now, six games, even though he has appealed.”

Tensions were high on Friday, as the Red Sox utilized four managers because Farrell, bench coach Torey Lovullo and third base coach Brian Butterfield were ejected during the course of the game.

“An explanation was had, but still a differing of opinion. Anytime you get ejected, you have thoughts in a certain way,”€ Farrell said. “[Umpire] Dan Bellino took exception to those thoughts and obviously the ejection did take place. But there were no warnings issued prior to Saturday’€™s game, there was an awareness or a heads-up given prior to the series beginning. … You’re going to have different sides of it, and our side was certainly different than what the umpires and certainly what Tampa thinks.”

Farrell continued: “€œI understand that they want to protect people and not put guys at risk for potential injury, but still, David Ortiz didn’t get injured, no one else got injured, yet we had three guys hit by pitches that night. We’€™re the only team getting ejections coming out of the Friday night game, so when you add it all up, it doesn’t make sense.”

While the Rays and Red Sox had engaged in a bench-clearing incident just five days prior to the start of last weekend’€™s series, Farrell didn’t expect more drama going into Friday.

“€œNope, I didn’t anticipate anything, actually,”€ Farrell said. “A lot of people want to refer to the Sunday game in Tampa five days prior. We thought that was pretty much a done deal at the time. By their comments afterwards, David Ortiz being hit was not a result of Sunday’€™s game, but last postseason. You don’€™t go into a game thinking someone is going to get drilled in the first inning.”

Despite posting a 7-3 record over their last 10 games, the Red Sox have yet to get much offensive production from their outfield. Jonny Gomes currently has the best batting average amongst the group with a subpar .235 line.

“€œWe’€™re not at full strength,”€ Farrell said. “€œWe’€™ve got challenges in certain areas and we’€™re trying to find ways to make the best of a situation. We need Shane Victorino back in time, and we don’€™t have a return date yet. … Getting on base is there, it’€™s the follow through and capitalizing on opportunities that we do create.”

For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Brandon Workman, David Price, John Farrell, Rays
Buster Olney on MFB: ‘I haven’t understood’ Red Sox’ decision to move Xander Bogaerts’ position at 1:58 pm ET
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ESPN baseball insider Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the drama surrounding David Price and the Red Sox, the switch from shortstop to third base for Xander Bogaerts and the struggles of the Boston outfield. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Buster Olney

Buster Olney

Punishments have been levied in regards to Friday’s game between the Red Sox and Rays. Sox starter Brandon Workman was suspended six games for throwing  behind Rays third baseman Evan Longoria while Price, who hit David Ortiz and Mike Carp, received no discipline.

“€œIt didn’t surprise me, because of how the umpires handled the game,” Olney said, adding: “The umpires in the field didn’t eject David Price, and they didn’t eject him after the fourth-inning incident in which he hit Carp, so based on that information, it doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t suspend him.

“I think that if they really want to be aggressive and vigilant and try to curb some of this stuff, I agree with what John Farrell said the other day after the game, that, ‘Hey, the umpires clearly read intent into what Price did, why not eject him at the beginning?’ I think that would be a stop to a lot of stuff.”

The Red Sox outfield has struggled all season long, as the unit has a combined .214 batting average on the year. Despite the lack of production, Olney said that a potential addition via the trade market might not provide much of a boost for the club.

“They’re going to have to wait in all likelihood, because the market is going to take a while to declare itself,” Olney said, continuing: “€œEven if the Red Sox at some point decide the answers are not in-house and they want to go out on the market, it’s going to take a while for the interest to come up, and they’re probably not going to be very good ones.”

The return of Stephen Drew has had a big effect on Bogaerts, who is making the switch from shortstop to third base — a move Olney does not necessarily agree with.

“If they feel like, internally, that he’€™s the shortstop, and that’s basically what we heard from January, February, March on forward, to be honest, I don’t know why they didn’t leave him there in the first place.

“I know that he hasn’t necessarily been at his best defensively and he’s been a work in progress, but since you pretty much know that Stephen Drew is going to be a temp, why not just leave Xander Bogarts and make Drew make the adjustments? I haven’€™t understood that from the beginning.”

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Read More: buster olney, David Price, Red Sox, xander bogaerts
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