|A good Tek report||08.21.10 at 6:03 pm ET|
In a season ravaged by injury, the Red Sox are happy their captain is making progress in an effort to get back on the field. Jason Varitek is not close to resuming his position behind the plate but following a Friday conference call at Fenway, he has reason to believe he’s moving in the right direction.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Varitek, who broke his right foot on June 30 against Tampa Bay, had a conference call on Friday afternoon with manager Terry Francona, his agent Scott Boras, team trainer Mike Reinold and a pair of doctors to discuss how much progress was being made.
‘He did a really good job of articulating how he felt,” Francona said of Varitek. “What [Dr. Robert Johnson] basically said was that he doesn’t feel that Jason can’t hurt that foot, even when he feels some discomfort, which is good.
‘Now, Tek’s not ready to play. He’s able to advance forward and continue his progression. He’s just not quite ready to play in a game yet. But the really good part of that is that if he feels some discomfort, neither doctor felt like he was putting himself in jeopardy so that was good to hear. I think Tek felt pretty relieved by that. When he’s ready, we don’t know.’
Red Sox prospect Yamaico Navarro, who connected on his first MLB swing Friday for a single, got his first start Saturday at second base as the Red Sox gave Jed Lowrie the night off.
On Friday, Lowrie moved from second to first in the top of the fifth inning as the Red Sox try to give him more time there to get comfortable if they need him in a pinch or as a late-game replacement.
‘He looked ok,” Francona said. “He’s been taking grounders there. We tried to take advantage of a miserable night, get him some time over there so that when he does play over there he doesn’t feel out of place. All infielders, they’re probably not going to have a tough time catching the ball but anytime when you’re playing a position where it’s not second nature, where you make a change of direction.
‘Actually, the first time he played out there a while back, he got a grounder and you could see him hesitate before he went to first base. It’s a not a natural movement. The more natural it can get, the best off we’ll all be.’
In other Red Sox news, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia will remain in at Massachusetts General Hospital until Monday as doctors continue to monitor an infection in his lower right leg.
‘He’s going to stay in the hospital until Monday I know it’s a little bit longer than we originally anticipated,” Francona said. “The antibiotics took a little bit longer to kind of get going. Saying that, he’s actually doing a lot better today. It’s more localized and he’s feeling better but it did take a little bit longer than I think we thought to kick in.”
With Saltalamacchia not eligible to come off until Sept. 1, when rosters expand to 40 and no disabled list, there’s no rush to have him hurry home and try to get ready for re-joining the team.
‘Originally, we thought about maybe not putting him on the DL,” Francona added. “But if you sit for four or five days in the hospital, it’s kind of stating the hospital that you need a couple of days to kind of get back on your feet. And since there wouldn’t be a DL, there wouldn’t be a rush to do that.’
‘The blood has still not come back. We know it’s an infection but they have not said what it is, though.’
|Check-up time for Ells and Tek||08.17.10 at 5:50 pm ET|
Jacoby Ellsbury had an exam with Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California Tuesday afternoon after landing on the disabled list for a third time over the weekend, re-injuring his ribs, while Jason Varitek will meet with doctors on Tuesday night to get the latest update on his broken right foot, according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
Ellsbury suffered his latest setback following a collision running out a ground ball down the first base line last Friday in Texas.
As for Varitek, Francona said the catcher’s right foot is healing and he continues to be able to run but is experiencing some lingering soreness.
“Tek had a scan,” Francona said. “There’s a lot of improvement. It still hasn’t fully healed. He’s going to get it examined. I think at this point, the examination is more important than what the scan says. The pain he’s still having is a little bit off of where the the bone was broken and he’s doing a great job and he’s running better now than he was before.”
|Pregame Notes: Red Sox vs. Yankees, 8/8||08.08.10 at 7:01 pm ET|
NEW YORK — It’s a fairly quiet evening here in the Bronx, aside from the news that the Yankees scratched A.J. Burnett after he experienced back spasms. With Burnett out, Dustin Mosely takes the ball for New York, thus rendering a not trivial percentage of this fine work from intern Matt West moot. Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup for the Yankees as the cleanup hitter, and looked strong in batting practice, so it appears that the line drive that he took off the bat of teammate Lance Berkman during batting practice on Saturday will not keep him out for any extended period.
A few Red Sox notes, on a day when the Sox will have a chance to narrow the gap between them and the Rays to 3 1/2 games following the near no-hitter twirled against Tampa Bay by Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow — a player whom the Mariners selected in the first round of the 2006 draft over Daniel Bard (for more on that, click here) and Tim Lincecum:
“Thanks for bringing that up,” said Sox pitching coach John Farrell.
The Sox are thrilled with what they’ve seen so far from Beckett in his three starts off the disabled list. He is 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA, and the Sox have won all three of his outings. The team has seen him build from outing to outing, as he has become more aggressive while realizing that his stuff affords him the opportunity to dominate.
“We wanted so bad for him to be Beckett, not to be out there in name only. That’s why we tried to be so patient. I think that proved to be a good decision,” said Francona. “He’s going out there and pitching now, that doesn’t guarantee a win, but it’s pretty exciting.
“You can see the progression,” Francona continued. “He’s getting a better feel for his breaking ball, throwing it better. I think that really should bode well for us.”
As painful as it was for the Sox to be without Beckett for two months, they believe their could be benefit in the form of having him stronger down the stretch, thanks to the fact that his arm was spared quite a bit of work.
—Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek both made strides in their attempts to return from foot fractures. Pedroia “had a real good day,” according to manager Terry Francona, running the bases more aggressively than he had to this point and also having a productive day in the field. Pedroia said afterward that he plans to run on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Toronto to get a measure of his progress. His goal, as he said Friday, remains a return for the Sox by the start of the next homestand on Aug. 17.
Francona said that a rehab assignment was certainly a possibility given the amount of time Pedroia has missed (just over six weeks and counting). Right now, the only remaining hurdle for him is a return to running at full speed.
As for Varitek, he reported a “night and day” difference in how his foot feels now vs. a week ago. He took batting practice on the field for the first time since breaking his foot at the end of June, and after jogging for the first time a few days ago, he went running at what he described as 75 percent on Saturday, without any evidence of a setback. He is nearing the six-week mark of his injury, a point at which, the catcher said, “the governor comes off more.” Barring setbacks, Varitek is hopeful that, at that point, he will be able to start testing his foot to see how it responds to the demands of catching.
Martinez’ desire to catch could potentially come at his own detriment, particularly given that he spent a month on the sidelines without a rehab. Since returning on July 26, he has played every inning of all 11 Sox games, and he has been behind the plate for all but 15 frames.
“He loves to catch. He loves to catch everyday,” Francona said appreciatively of Martinez. “He doesn’t say anything about anything.”
The Sox feel that giving him some extra time at first base can help to keep him healthy and productive. The same is true regarding Lowell, whom Francona suggested had become fairly adept at managing his hip injury.
“[The days off] give him the best chance to be productive,” said Francona.
–After recording his first big league relief appearance on Saturday, Felix Doubront is likely unavailable on Sunday. Doubront impressed the Sox with a three-up, three-down inning that included a pair of punchouts.
—Jacoby Ellsbury is working to find his feel at the plate, according to Francona, who suggested that the leadoff hitter (0-for-12 in three games since returning) has been letting pitches get deeper on him than is ideal. Francona said that he also thinks that Ellsbury is working to regain his speed, but that Ellsbury would be helped immensely once he collects his first hit, something that might permit him to regain some lost confidence.
—Mike Cameron was planning on swinging off a tee for the first time since being placed on the disabled list on Monday.
—Kevin Youkilis wanted to rejoin the Sox either Sunday or Monday in New York, but as he recovers from his season-ending surgery, the Sox told him to take time to recover. The Sox he should either rejoin them in Texas next weekend or for the start of the next homestand.
While the Sox appreciate the player’s desire to be with his team, they also note that — given that he has not been slightly queasy in the aftermath of the surgery — there is little value to having him rush to the dugout.
“He can’t do anything right now physically,” said Francona.
|Pregame Red Sox Notes: ‘Significant healing’ for Pedroia, Varitek||07.30.10 at 5:14 pm ET|
The Red Sox continue to get closer to fielding a full roster. Dustin Pedroia just completed a round of batting practice, on a day when he received a positive progress report about his still-healing broken foot. Jason Varitek is now off crutches for his broken foot, and Jacoby Ellsbury is working out with the club as he prepares to shift his rehab assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.
Here are the details:
–Both Varitek and Pedroia had scans on Friday to examine the progress of their broken bones, and Sox manager Terry Francona suggested that both had experienced “significant healing” since their last such exams. Pedroia, who had experienced discomfort while running in Anaheim on Monday, ran again on Friday with more promising results. He was told that he can begin to ramp up his activities as he moves closer to a return.
“Pedroia actually just came in from running. It went real well. It showed significant healing. Not healed, but good healing,” said Francona.
“More importantly, I think his exam went really well, so he’s got the go-ahead to start ramping up the running again. He did about 10 to 12 [sprints at] 90 feet, and the idea is just to kind of keep building. I think he took some groundballs, too . He felt good.”
Varitek is not yet that far along, but he is now off crutches, and will be able to start walking without a boot on Saturday. So that was good news.
“He’s a bit away from playing, for sure, but both reports came back really good,’ said Francona.
Francona said that Pedroia would “probably” require a minor league rehab assignment before getting back in the lineup.
–Ellsbury is working out with the Sox on Friday, and will play in Pawtucket on Saturday and Sunday. At that point, he’ll be re-evaluated and the next step will be determined.
–The Sox will hold off on a roster move involving Mike Lowell for another day or two, waiting for the trade deadline to pass before deciding what to do with the corner infielder, who could get dealt in the next 24 hours.
“There’s possible movement. The deadline is tomorrow,” said Francona. “It just seems to make sense to get through another day or two days and then do what we need to do.”
(For Lowell’s thoughts, click here.)
—J.D. Drew, who was scratched from the lineup just prior to Tuesday’s game and then sat out of Wednesday’s game, is back in the lineup after a three-day respite. “That’s great news,” said Francona.
–Francona said that he is trying to steer clear of conversations with GM Theo Epstein, as he does not want to put the general manager in a position where he feels like he needs to make a move that fails to balance the short- and long-term interests of the club.
“I know Theo and those guys are down there working. If he thinks he can make us better while making sense, he’ll do it. I’m confident of that,” said Francona. “I think he does a good job of trying to stay, keep track of the present and the future. Sometimes when you’re in uniform, all you care about is today. [I] try not to have conversations with him where he feels like, pressure from me to do something that would hinder our future.”
|Pedroia (almost) up and running||07.16.10 at 5:04 pm ET|
“The scan showed on Pedey a lot of healing, which is really good news,” Francona said. “He’s allowed to begin weight-bearing [activity]. He has to keep the boot on for approximately a week-to-two weeks, probably two weeks.”
Pedroia broke a bone in his left foot with a foul ball on June 25 in San Francisco and has been out since. The news is not as good for Jason Varitek. He was catching in a game at Fenway against Tampa Bay on June 30 when he took a foul ball from Carl Crawford off his right foot. It broke a similar bone and sent him to the DL.
“Tek is a little bit behind,” Francona added. “There’s not as much healing with Tek, which I think they expected. He’s probably a couple of weeks behind Pedey.”
[Click here to listen to Francona give an update on Pedroia and Varitek.]
Meanwhile, Francona said that while Adrian Beltre will start tonight, they will play it safe and pinch-run for him late if needed. Bill Hall started Thursday’s series opener in place of Beltre at third and had a home run while making two outstanding defensive plays at third and getting charged with a tough error on a sharp grounder by Josh Hamilton.
“He’s certainly not 100 percent, Francona said. ‘We’re hoping we get production out of his bat. He hasn’t felt perfect for a while.”
Francona said if he doesn’t like what he sees from Beltre in batting practice, he’ll take him out of tonight’s lineup.
Switch-hitting catcher Victor Martinez has begun to swing a bat lightly from the left side but it’s the right side and catching with his injured left thumb that remains the problems after a scan on Thursday.
‘The left side, that’s the one thing he can kind of handle,” Francona said. “He’s swinging the bat pretty good, actually. Right-handed, still can’t do it and he can’t catch yet. Once he can get that glove on and he can catch, they can rig up a lot of contraptions to take away some of the pressure but he’s just not there yet.’
Jed Lowrie appears to be gaining strength after missing the first half of the season with mono. He played six games for Single-A Lowell, collecting six hits in 14 ABs for manager Bruce Crabbe before playing Thursday for Pawtucket and going 1-for-4 with an RBI double.
‘He’s doing really well,” Francona said. “We got a report from Bruce Crabbe that was about as upbeat as we’ve seen in a long time. It said the last four or five days, the light has kind of come on with Jed. He feels like he’s turned that corner. We’re starting to see that player that we’ve all talked about. He’s not dragging, he doesn’t feel fatigued. He feels pretty good about himself.’
As for Jacoby Ellsbury, he continues to work out in Fort Myers, trying to increase baseball activity while rehabbing his injured side.
‘He was actually working out with Tom Goodwin and he actually requested if he could do a little bit more,” Francona said. “There are some parameters set up for him for his day schedule and he wanted to do a little bit more, which we were completely okay with. It’s ‘as tolerated’, that’s his program. If he can tolerate more, ‘Go.’’
Francona said the Red Sox will activate reliever Manny Delcarmen on Saturday. Jeremy Hermida will play outfield tonight and DH Saturday for Double-A Portland.
The Red Sox made a roster move to protect their bullpen after getting only two-plus innings from Tim Wakefield on Thursday night. They selected Fernando Cabrera from Triple-A Pawtucket and optioned Robert Manuel back to the PawSox.
|Red Sox up for exams||07.14.10 at 10:22 pm ET|
And on top of tests for Adrian Beltre, Jason Varitek, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez and Mike Lowell, the team will be getting progress reports on the rehab efforts of Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Manny Delcarmen, Jeremy Hermida and Jed Lowrie.
While several regulars are on the disabled list, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein sounded optimistic about two players key to the team’s hopes in the second half.
Buchholz is expected to make just one rehab start before returning to the Red Sox rotation while Beltre, who had his hamstring tighten the day before the All-Star break on Sunday is not expected to head to the disabled list.
‘He’s going to go three or four innings on a rehab start Friday in Syracuse, just make sure he’s comfortable,” Epstein said of Buchholz. “He’s healthy but we want him to test it. He hasn’t thrown in a game in three weeks so we want to make sure he tests it, gets around, bounces around okay on the hamstring. If that goes well, he’ll probably make just one and back to the big league rotation.’
Beckett will make his second rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday, also in Syracuse.
Beltre, who opted out of the All-Star Game and was replaced by Michael Young, will have an MRI on Thursday to make sure the hamstring issue was only a cramp and that he is ready for the start of the second half of the season.
‘We were in really good contact with the trainer out there [at All-Star Game] and had it been a regular season game, one of his players, the doctor and trainer said he would’ve been approved to play,” Epstein said.
Asked if the DL were possible for Beltre, Epstein said, ‘I wouldn’t think so, no.”
Varitek and Pedroia will have CT scans on Friday while Martinez will have his fractured left thumb re-examined on Thursday to make sure it is healing properly.
Infielder Jed Lowrie will begin a stint with Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday while reliever Delcarmen start for Double-A Portland at New Britain on Thursday while outfielder Hermida [ribs] also plays Thursday for Portland.
Theo on injuries:
‘Tito’s done a good job, the whole coaching staff. Ultimately, it falls down on the players, holding things together and playing well and you find out what kind of organization you have as a whole when you’re without some of your best players. Things are a lot easier, in general, when you have no injuries like ‘04 and ‘07.’
|Sox catching depth on the upswing?||07.06.10 at 3:39 pm ET|
Red Sox minor leaguer Mark Wagner, who had been out since April after suffering a broken left hamate that required surgery, was reinstated to the Triple-A PawSox following a brief rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League. Wagner was part of the decimated Red Sox catching corps, as all four of the team’s top catchers entering the year (Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek, Mark Wagner and Dusty Brown) were sidelined by injuries at the same time, forcing the Sox to call up Gustavo Molina and trade for Kevin Cash when Varitek and Martinez went down last week.
Wagner said by phone last week that he had resigned himself to the fact that this would be a year when he would have to try to gut it out and play through pain while dealing with the aftermath of his surgery.
‘It’s frustrating. I just haven’t seen the progress I’ve wanted in terms of getting back to playing,’ Wagner said on Friday. ‘We’re leaning towards believing that this is an as-good-as-it-gets type of thing unless we give it complete rest.”
Apparently, the wrist did not regress during his rehab in the GCL, and so Wagner will rejoin the PawSox to get a better gauge for his progress. Depending on how quickly he can return to game speed, it is not inconceivable that he could have a shot at the majors before Varitek returns in the second half.
At the same time, there is a real possibility that the hamate cost Wagner (whom Sox sources say they would have been comfortable calling up when either Martinez or Varitek — and certainly when both — went down) his most meaningful opportunity for a regular big league role this year. Even so, Wagner last week suggested that he had been trying not to consider the idea that he had missed an opportunity, insofar as he did not want to be viewed as consumed by Schadenfreude.
‘A lot of my friends, family, sportswriters have been calling me and bombarding me with that. I don’t ever look at it as a situation where I’m waiting for someone to get hurt,’ said Wagner. ‘It’s one of those things where if I got a shot it would be great, but it would be much better to watch [Varitek and Martinez] play and learn. But if there’s any shot I can get up there, Lord knows, I would love it, and hopefully I could get up there and help the team win.’
Wagner went 3-for-5 with five walks in his three-game GCL rehab stint.
For more on the Red Sox catching depth, click here.
|Sox Cash in on bringing familiar face to depleted position||07.02.10 at 8:00 pm ET|
It was mid-“I-was-designated-for-assignment”-story that Terry Francona decided to interrupt Kevin Cash‘s session with reporters on Friday. Surprised to see so much media gathered around the catcher, Francona asked if Cash’s dog had died. Upon overhearing the topic of the discussion, the Red Sox skipper quipped,”You’re going to get designated again if you keep talking.”
Such playful banter isn’t generally commonplace when a team down two catchers brings in a borderline journeyman, but with Cash, who had been acquired from the Astros just a day earlier to fill a position left occupied by injured catchers Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek, it was too familiar an environment to not smile in.
The catcher, whose previous tenure with the Red Sox consisted of portions of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, was called the “perfect guy” for the team to get given their situation by the manager.
“He’s a guy that’s caught here before,” Francona said. “He knows our staff. He knows our coaches. He knows our team. He walked through that door today, and it was a welcomed sight. He’ll help us. Our baseball ops guys did a great job in a hurry.”
Cash’s numbers will never stand out as being particularly pretty. His .188 career average is far from enthralling and the 61 games he played with the Sox in the ’08 season were a career high. Even so, his familiarity with the guys throwing to him could provide relief for a position that is in dire straits.
“[I’ve] already gone over some of the guys I don’t know with [bullpen coach] Gary Tuck,” Cash said. “The guys that I do know, it’s comforting. Gets a little nerve-wracking when you’re in a ballgame and you haven’t caught a guy.”
Varitek, who did not deny that a medical procedure on his foot could be in the cards depending on further evaluation, could appreciate the comfort level to which his manager referred.
“He’s been here, so it brings some stability back,” Varitek said. “That will be good.”
As for the interrupting voice in the clubhouse, Cash seems to appreciate knowing his surroundings as much as Francona does having him.
“I’ve got 20 people around and he’s popping off,” Cash said of Francona. “I’ve done this before where I didn’t know anybody and you get to know people pretty quick, but it’s nice to know the bulk of this team.”
|Tek positively optimistic about Red Sox||at 5:34 pm ET|
Then their other catcher – and captain – took one off the foot the very next day. At first the foul ball off Carl Crawford’s bat that hit Jason Varitek‘s left foot seemed like just another shot that a catcher takes during the course of the season.
“Crawford was hitting and he foul-tipped a ball behind him,” Varitek explained. “It hit my lead foot. The likelihood of where it was, the foot had to be at a certain angle and a certain position from my understanding. He hit it right.”
Or wrong, as was the case for the Red Sox. Then Varitek woke up the next morning.
“Obviously, it was hurting, but I didn’t know how bad,” Varitek continued. “They said we might want to get this X-rayed just to make sure. The original [reports] came back fine. I had a hard time sleeping, woke up in the morning and we said we’re going to get this looked at further.
“I actually thought I’ll be good by Saturday. I actually had the CT and the MRI and they said you’ve got to go back to the office to do another test they need to do, and I said, ‘Well, I’ve got to go to a charity event, and I’ve got to get out of here.’ I honestly didn’t think it. Then I got different news.”
With a break, there comes the possibility of using a pin to stimulate the growth of the broken bone.
“At this point, they’re still evaluating a lot of different things,” Varitek said. “I will undergo further evaluation to make sure we’re attacking it from all angles.”
As far as a timetable, Varitek was non-committal.
“That’s still kind of up in the air as far as we just have to see how the bone heals first,” Varitek said. “I’ve got to do no weight-bearing for a period of time.”
Despite the injuries piling up at an alarming rate, the captain of the Red Sox feels there’s reason to be optimistic the team can overcome them and remain in contention in the second half of the season.
The team has had to replace both of its catchers in the last week as Martinez and Varitek landed on the disabled list, along with Dustin Pedroia and Manny Delcarmen, who was placed on the DL on Friday with a sore right forearm.
“We’re in a good spot and that’s the good thing, really we are,” Varitek said. “Just to be where we’re at right now, with everything, even to this point this team has had to deal with, starting with the most important thing, starting pitching. Losing a couple of guys, having to adjust with that and then move from there. There’s a reason we are where we’re at because we’ve had contributions from a lot of people.’
The Red Sox entered play Friday night with a 47-32 record, the third-best mark in the majors and just 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East. The Yankees were beaten earlier Friday in extra innings by the Toronto Blue Jays.
“It’s been a little different course for this team, having to deal with a lot of people at different times,” Varitek said.
One of those different people is someone the Red Sox and Varitek are more than familiar with – Kevin Cash, Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher for parts of 2007 and ’08.
“Cash brings, he’s been here, so it brings some stability back. That will be good,” Varitek said.
Obviously, Varitek’s injury also couldn’t have come at a worst time for him personally, as it appeared he was sure to get more regular reps behind the plate.
“You can’t really change the timing of it when something like that happens, but regardless, Vic and I work real well,” Varitek said. “We’ve had a good thing going, this was just going to be for a short period until Vic got back. I was looking forward to it because it was fun to be healthy and playing. But it just happens.”
Varitek, with a walking boot on his left foot and crutches leaning against his locker, maintain a sense of humor.
“I was actually pretty good,” Varitek said of his own putt-putt tournament on Thursday night, before issuing a challenge to another Red Sox player with a broken bone in his foot – Dustin Pedroia.
“We’ll race,” Varitek said.
|Closing Time: Red Sox 8, Rays 5||06.29.10 at 10:41 pm ET|
In 2006, a rash of injuries befell the Red Sox and sent the team spiraling from the second-best record in the majors on July 31 to a playoff afterthought before the end of August. The Sox simply could not sustain their standing as one key player after another was sidelined.
But that year, the 2010 Red Sox suggest, was different than this one in at least one crucial respect.
“It’s not similar. We lost our entire pitching. We were getting pitchers from all over the map, remember?” manager Terry Francona recalled of a period when injuries to four-fifths of the starting rotation forced the club to pick up retreads such as Jason Johnson, Kevin Jarvis and Kyle Snyder. “As long as you pitch, you’re going to give yourselves a chance, and our pitching looks good.”
On Tuesday, against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Sox continued that trend. John Lackey allowed just one run over seven strong innings, improving the rotation’s record to 16-5 with a 3.07 ERA since May 29. That strength gives the Sox hope that they will be able to withstand their rut of injuries. So, too, did an impressive offensive display in Boston’s 8-5 win over the Rays.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Lackey improved to 5-0 with a 3.72 ERA in his last seven starts, a span in which he’s averaged nearly 6 2/3 innings per outing. On the season, he is now 9-3. While his 4.46 ERA is unimpressive, he continued his role as a workhorse. He has thrown 106 innings this year (second on the Sox to Lester) and has tossed at least six innings in all but two of his 16 starts.
—Adrian Beltre continued his remarkable season, going 4-for-4 in his second four-hit performance of the season. With a pair of doubles, he improved his average to .349 (best among all big league third baseman) with a .948 OPS (second to the .951 mark by Cincinnati’s Scott Rolen).
–The Sox have maintained that one of the keys to their climb in the standings has been the performance of the players who have filled in for injured starters, and Tuesday was no different. Bill Hall, starting at second in place of Dustin Pedroia, clubbed a two-run homer, while Jason Varitek, who will handle everyday catching duties with Victor Martinez on the sidelines, delivered a run-scoring single in the sixth inning and a sac fly in the seventh. Hall also made a couple of fine defensive plays at second, most notably, a good snare of a foul pop-up next to the tarp down the first base line.
—David Ortiz continued to torment Rays starter James Shields, breaking a scoreless tie with a massive three-run homer to right in the bottom of the fifth inning. That was part of a night in which the Sox designated hitter went 1-for-2 with a walk against Shields. In 36 career plate appearances against Shields, Ortiz is now hitting .400 with a .500 OBP, .933 slugging mark, 10 extra-base hits and three homers. On the year, Ortiz is hitting .253 with a .913 OPS, and he is on pace to hit 35 homers and drive in 104 runs.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–On a day when GM Theo Epstein said that the best-case scenario for the Sox bullpen was improvement from within, left-hander Hideki Okajima continued to show little promise that he would contribute to that effort. Okajima allowed two runs on two hits and a walk, and he’s now been touched for six runs in his last four outings to swell his ERA to 5.81. He is walking more batters per nine innings and allowing more homers per nine innings than ever before in his career, and he is striking out fewer batters than ever. Because rookie Dustin Richardson remains relatively untested, the Sox are operating currently without a reliable left-handed weapon in their bullpen.
And Okajima’s ineffectiveness had further consequence, since the Sox were forced to bring in Daniel Bard to finish the eighth inning for the left-hander, thus denying the AL leader in appearances (39) a day of rest.
Then, with the Sox in possession of an 8-3 lead in the ninth, the team ended up having to employ a trio of relievers, with Scott Atchison (1/3 inning, one hit, one walk, two runs) and Dustin Richardson (1/3 inning, one hit) both unable to do the job. That, in turn, meant the Sox had to bring Jonathan Papelbon into the game for a one-out save (his 18th). The Sox bullpen ERA now stands at 4.62 for the year, a mark that ranks 12th among the 14 American League clubs.
—Marco Scutaro struck out twice, marking the first time this year that he had punched out on multiple occasions. That ended a streak of 78 straight games (eighth longest in the majors) dating to last Sept. 14 in which the Sox shortstop hadn’t struck out more than once in a game.
–The Sox had hoped that Victor Martinez could avoid a trip to the disabled list for the broken bone in the tip of his left thumb, but the digit proved too sore to permit him to remain a catching consideration. Though the Sox would have preferred that he could have remained on the active roster, however, the fact that he could miss as few as 11 games (thanks to three off days in the final two weeks leading to the All-Star break) means that his injury is not as costly as it might have been.
–The Sox had a brief scare in the game when a shallow foul pop-up had Adrian Beltre and Jason Varitek on a collision course down the third base line. But, at the last second, Varitek slid out of the way of the freight train that is Beltre, thus avoiding a third collision between the third baseman and one of his teammates.
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