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Peter Gammons on M&M: Jason Varitek ‘really believes’ in Alfredo Aceves 05.18.11 at 1:25 pm ET
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Peter Gammons

MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to offer his views on the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Gammons said that this month’s bad weather might turn into good news for the Red Sox in the long run.

“When they make this up in July as part of that day-night doubleheader on a Thursday night in July, theoretically, the Red Sox pitching staff should be in much better shape at that time,” Gammons said. “And the Orioles pitching staff should be pretty worn down. I think we saw, as [the Orioles] tried to use six relievers to get nine outs the other night, they don’t have a lot or reserves there after [Jeremy] Guthrie and the three kids. I think that’s a much better time for [the Red Sox] to play.”

With John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list, Gammons was asked if there are any available arms in the minor leagues. “No, there really isn’t,” he said. “[Pitching coach] Curt Young said to me yesterday that they’re very hopeful that within a month, [Felix] Doubront will be ready. He got set back in spring training when he had the elbow problems. Then he recently had the groin. He got up to I think 4 2/3 innings, and had the groin pull. He’s out for a couple of weeks, so that sets him back.

“And even though Andrew Miller is starting to throw much better and, according to Curt, has really started to calm down his delivery, we know he’s got the stuff but he really needs to wait a couple of months. He needs to be able to repeat that delivery, get back to where he was 4-5 years ago. He is so intelligent and so hyper, if he came up here and it all sped up on him, it might set him back another half a year.

“So, I don’t think there’s anybody. [Kyle] Weiland is not ready yet. I had heard that there was a possibility that they would take a look at one or two of the veterans that are out there still looking for jobs. Like, sign Kevin Millwood, put him in Pawtucket and see what happens.”

Asked about Pedro Martinez, Gammons said that does not appear to be an option. “When I last saw Pedro at the end of March, I can tell you he was not thinking about pitching,” Gammons said. “It would be fun, but I don’t think possible. He really wasn’t throwing. He was talking about knocking coconuts out of trees, not throwing to a catcher.”

Alfredo Aceves is being moved from the bullpen to the rotation, and at least one Red Sox player is encouraged by what he’s seen so far. Said Gammons: “Jason Varitek was making a very passioned support speech to me about Aceves. He really believes. I started laughing at first, because it seems that Aceves shook off every pitch that Tek put down. But at the same time, he said that there’s a lot there. He’s really optimistic about him pitching well.

“You guys know, Jason doesn’t go out of his way — he is never a phony about pumping people up. But he really believes there’s a lot there. It will be interesting to see if the guy does do it for what they need him for — five, six starts, whatever the time frame. Maybe this is his chance to do well. I don’t know. Jason really believes it.”

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Some Red Sox have dealt with wounds to their own pride 05.15.11 at 9:05 pm ET
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NEW YORK — The Jorge Posada tempest seemed to clear up on Sunday night. The catcher made his public mea culpa, said that he made a mistake, apologized to Yankees manager Joe Girardi and said that he planned to talk with New York GM Brian Cashman about the situation. He admitted that he acted poorly out of frustration when he asked out of the lineup on Saturday — when he was slated to hit ninth for the first time since 1999 — and that he hoped to put the incident behind him.

There are members of the Red Sox who can certainly identify with the challenges of dealing with a wounded ego when their role shrinks from what it has long been. Certainly, the early stages of the 2010 season offered a number of case studies in the phenomenon.

At that point, Tim Wakefield was transitioning unhappily into the bullpen. Mike Lowell was being asked to adjust to duty as a reserve, at a time when he desperately wanted to start. Yet he was playing reasonably well at a time when David Ortiz was not hitting, and so Ortiz was left to look over his shoulder to wonder whether he would be replaced by Lowell against left-handed pitchers.

That was a challenging time for the Sox, particularly given that those dynamics were all the more strained because the Sox weren’t playing well.

“In our situation last year, we went through a tough April,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “It doesn’t always work out the way you want. You’re trying to balance the team, personal. You want everything to mesh, and it doesn’t always do that. But what’s more important is, not that you’re not going to run into problems, but how you get through them and where you go from there. David and I had to slug it out a little bit in April last year. There’s no getting around it. But we did, and we came through and got better for it. That’s what we try to do.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Ortiz on Posada: ‘They’re doing that guy wrong’ 05.14.11 at 11:35 pm ET
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David Ortiz, who rarely uses his glove, understands the frustration of Yankees DH Jorge Posada. (AP)

NEW YORK — David Ortiz knows the challenges of being a designated hitter. For years, he hated the idea that, in his mid-20s, he was viewed as incapable of holding his own defensively to the point where his glove was taken away from him. Over time, he came to embrace the role of the designated hitter, but it took time.

Based on his experience, and on the respect that he has for the career of longtime Yankees catcher — and now DH — Jorge Posada, he had very clear feelings about what New York is doing. After the Sox beat the Yankees, 6-0, Ortiz inquired about what was going on with his longtime rival, who — after being slated to hit ninth for the first time since 1999 — took himself out of the lineup with what Posada described as back stiffness and a need to clear his head, and which the Yankees said was unrelated to health concerns.

“You want to know what I think? They’re doing that guy wrong. They’re doing him wrong,” said Ortiz. “You know why? That guy, he is legendary right there in that organization. And dude, DH-ing sucks. DH-ing is not easy.

“From what I heard, they told him from the very beginning that he’s not even going to catch bullpens. That straight up will start messing with your head. And you’re going to tell me that Posada can’t catch a game out there? Come on, man.”

Ortiz made clear that he did not endorse the idea of a player pulling himself out of a lineup. At the same time, he expressed sympathy for Posada’s position, suggesting that the change of role was confusing and frustrating.

“You don’t do that,” Ortiz said of a player taking himself out of the lineup. “But that’s what I’m trying to tell you guys. The confusion, the frustration that you’re living in, sometimes makes you make mistakes. He’s not perfect. He’s a human, just like everyone else. He probably [thought] it was the right thing to do, but now you see that [it wasn't].”

Ortiz remained convinced that, while Posada has gotten off to a dreadful start, hitting .165 with a .272 OBP and .621 OPS, he is capable of more. Indeed, Ortiz felt that if his Yankee counterpart were to catch, it would help him improve his performance at the plate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Peter Gammons on M&M: ‘There’s something funny about the passion of this team’ 05.11.11 at 12:50 pm ET
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Peter Gammons

Hall of Fame baseball analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Gammons said he’s trying to figure out why the Sox can’t seem to put things together and get over the .500 mark.

“There’s something funny about the passion of this team,” he said. “I still don’t see the offense. They haven’t scored 10 runs in a game all year. I don’t believe they’ve been ahead by four runs at the end of the fourth inning all year. So, games have really been struggles for them.

“They probably will click on all cylinders. But for the time being … Is it right to say that it’s almost like there’s a little chip missing here? I really sense that, that there’s a personality chip missing that’s different than what they maintained last year when they overachieved.”

Added Gammons: “I can’t put my finger on it. I thought about it all last week. I kept thinking, ‘Jeez, there’s just something funny about the way this team is playing.’ Whether they need one more guy to kind of come in and stir things up with [Dustin] Pedroia, I don’t know. That’s sort of the way I feel. But I don’t see anybody in that division running off and winning 100 games, so they’re in a very good position if they do get hot to make up whatever they need to make up.”

One player who does not lack intensity is Carl Crawford. “I don’t think he realized what it would be like to come to Boston and start out struggling,” Gammons said. “He cares so much, he practices so hard that I think he just drives himself into the ground. But now that he’s starting to relax … He’s obviously very popular. Every time he does anything, his teammates’ reaction to him is wonderful, it really is.”

John Lackey‘s failure to be a stopper has made him a target for critics. Gammons said he would like to see Lackey take more responsibility for his struggles. Said Gammons: “I’ll admit that that game [the 13-inning, 5-3 loss to the Angels on May 4], having to play that game for 16 hours or whatever it was, that deflates you. But that’s a time when John Lackey has to step up and say, ‘OK, here I am.’ … That wasn’t the case. They need him to be more consistent. He has not been what he was brought here to be, pure and simple.

“The only thing that surprised me is I’ve never really heard him say, ‘I’m really mad about the way I’m pitching.’ You always hear, ‘Well, the ball found a hole,’ or something happened, a bad call. He should be too good for that stuff.”

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Peter Gammons on M&M: Red Sox catching ‘still a precarious situation’ 04.27.11 at 2:02 pm ET
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Peter Gammons

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.”

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Jerry Remy on D&C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia ‘going to have to get involved’ at 9:53 am ET
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Jerry Remy

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.

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Red Sox Pre-Game Notes: Why Jason Varitek is getting more playing time 04.26.11 at 6:00 pm ET
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Jason Varitek is getting the bulk of the catching workload in recent games for the Red Sox. (AP)

BALTIMORE — In the end, the results were too glaring to ignore. Red Sox pitchers have a 2.07 ERA in 10 games with Jason Varitek behind the plate, and a 6-2 record entering Tuesday when he is in the starting lineup. When Jarrod Saltalamacchia is behind the plate, the team’s pitchers have a 6.14 ERA and a 4-9 record when he gets the start.

And so, even though the Sox have won the last couple games started by Saltalmacchia, it has been hard for manager Terry Francona to ignore how the pitchers have done with his 39-year-old captain behind the plate. And so, with Clay Buchholz pitching for the Sox, Francona decided that he would have Varitek start, something that he plans to repeat on Wednesday with Josh Beckett on the mound.

“I said [Varitek would] catch more than the average backup catcher and some of it will be determined on production and how guys are going. He’s been catching so well,” said Francona. “Right-handed [the side from which Varitek will bat against Orioles left-handed starter Zach Britton] is where he should play. I know he’s not swung the bat yet. I just think it made some sense. We’re playing pretty well with both of them. Sort of have a hole to dig ourselves out of and I think sometimes, just trying to play guys to help us win. Right now it’s important.” Read the rest of this entry »

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