|Is it Lowrie’s time? Should it be?||04.10.11 at 12:08 pm ET|
Amidst the pitching woes, there’s an overlooked truth. The Red Sox need more offense, too.
The Sox’ offensive struggles haven’t been quite as pronounced as their mound issues. Even so, they’ve been significant and surprising through this still-relatively brief eight-game stretch.
The Sox have scored 29 runs, tied for 21st in the majors; their average of 3.6 runs per game is tied for 18th. The team’s .215 average is 27th, the OBP is tied with Adrian Gonzalez‘ old team, the Padres, for 21st at .297, and the Sox’ .611 OPS is 25th in the majors.
In scoring opportunities, the Sox’ struggles are even more glaring. With runners in scoring position, they are hitting .197 (tied for 24th) with a .250 OBP (29th), .239 slugging mark (25th) and dismal .489 OPS (28th).
Certainly, the offense will get better. It’s a trust-the-track-record thing. That said, the fact that the Sox have had seven batting orders in eight games reflects the fact that they are actively searching for a formula that works, and that they have yet to settle upon one.
On Saturday, they made a move that should become more commonplace if they want to maximize their offensive potential. The Sox started Jed Lowrie at shortstop in place of Marco Scutaro. Read the rest of this entry »
|The dirt on the new Red Sox infield at Fenway Park||04.09.11 at 3:58 pm ET|
The complaints about the Fenway Park infield have been legendary.
From Eric Chavez calling it the “worst he ever played on” years ago when he played with Oakland to Dustin Pedroia ripping it last year for its inconsistencies, the infield on Yawkey Way has been notorious among major league infielders for decades.
But all of that has hopefully changed this year as the infield is brand new.
‘It looks beautiful,” Terry Francona raved before Saturday’s game. “A couple of things that excite us are, the texture of the dirt is really good, and I think it’ll get better as we get into a couple of homestands and it’s get played on, it’ll even get better. But everybody was really excited.
‘The hardest thing for players is inconsistency. But, again, when I walked it [Friday], it had a real nice texture to it. How’s that going to hold up? We’re one game in, and [head groundskeeper] Dave Mellor needs some days, too. He’s got to check with everybody and see how it plays and see how it digs up, if it clumps. But the initial reviews were really good.’
Pedroia was all aglow after Friday’s game, raving about how the ball bounces much truer and stays down lower to ground without coming up unexpectedly.
‘It was new,” Francona added. “There’s five infields that have this same surface. You’d have to ask Dave. But I believe it’s five. I’m sure those guys talk. Cleveland has the same one.”
Someone may have forgotten to tell Jed Lowrie. Making his first start on the new infield Saturday, he put his glove down on a grounder by Alex Rodriguez. He expected to come up like the old infield. It stayed down on the new one. Result: E-6. It was an error that opened the door for a two-run Yankees second, one of which was unearned.
|Jerry Remy on D&C: Carl Crawford will eventually settle into 3 spot||04.06.11 at 10:16 am ET|
NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning. Remy discussed Boston’s slow start, Terry Francona‘s shuffling of the lineup and the play of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Remy said he’s not getting too concerned just yet and that he thinks the players are just putting a little too much pressure on themselves right now.
‘I think they’re pressing right now,’ Remy said. ‘Any time you come out of spring training, you want to get off to a good start, and that certainly hasn’t happened. Down in Texas, the pitching was not what you’d expect it to be with those three guys coming out of the chute. And then last night, they just didn’t hit. There’s no question they’re pressing right now to get that first win and individuals trying to get off to a good start. That’s normal. If this happens in the middle of the season, a four-game losing streak, it wouldn’t be as magnified as it is right now.
‘But coming out of spring training with such high expectations, you’d think you’d be better than what you are right now,’ he continued. ‘You’d think you’d at least have a couple wins under your belt, and that’s not the case. Until you get that first one and second one and third one, you’re not going to get into the flow of the season very well. You get the feeling when you’re around the club that, ‘Hey, we just got to get this first one out of the way and then we can go.’ But it just hasn’t happened yet.’
The hosts asked Remy if maybe Francona is pressing with all the lineup shuffling, especially moving Carl Crawford from third to seventh to second.
‘I don’t know if he’s pressing or if he’s just trying to find a comfort level for Crawford,’ Remy said. ‘When Crawford was with Tampa Bay, the most success he had was hitting second. They had hoped to hit him third in this lineup and then he had a terrible first game against those left-handers down in Texas. ‘¦ I still eventually think he’s going to settle into the 3 spot when he gets to being Carl Crawford. That’s going to happen. It just hasn’t happened so far.’
|Francona on dropping Crawford: ‘Obvious he’s trying too hard’||04.03.11 at 12:41 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Red Sox preach that it’s important not to overreact to a poor first two games of the season. All the same, after seeing the Sox get outscored by the Rangers, 21-10, manager Terry Francona did see fit to make some tweaks to the lineup against Texas and left-hander Matt Harrison.
Most notably, after Carl Crawford spent the spring batting either second or third, and hit third in each of the first two games, Francona opted to lower the left fielder to the No. 7 spot in the batting order on Sunday. Crawford is 0-for-7 with a walk and four strikeouts in his first two games with the Sox. He has yet to hit a single ball out of the infield. Francona suggested that the outfielder, who must deal with the scrutiny that comes with a seven-year, $142 million deal that he signed in the offseason, is clearly pressing. By moving him down in the batting order, Francona is hopeful that it will permit the three-time All-Star to breathe.
“Looking at him, it’s kind of obvious he’s trying too hard. Especially with a lefty today, just let him sit down there As soon as he gets on base, starts causing some havoc, he’ll loosen up and the real Carl will come out. In the meantime, just take a little off of him,” said Francona. “He’s a great kid. I think he’s trying too hard. I always watch him. I think it’s an admirable quality. I actually love it. But we’re two games in, he’s not had real good at-bats. I just wanted him to be able to relax a little so he can play.”
Francona also made a couple of additional lineup alterations. For the second time in three games, J.D. Drew will sit in favor of a right-handed hitter. Whereas Mike Cameron got the start on Opening Day, it will be Darnell McDonald who starts on Sunday. McDonald got his first start as a Red Sox against Rangers lefty Harrison last year, hitting a homer and taking a walk in his two plate appearances against him. Though Drew also has enjoyed success in his limited plate appearances against Harrison — going 1-for-3 with a walk and sac fly in five plate appearances — Francona opted for the right-handed McDonald.
“I think Mac matches up good against this guy and then J.D. will be sitting over there if we get into the bullpen,” said Francona.
The Sox have one additional alteration to their lineup, with Marco Scutaro (1-for-4 with two walks and a sac fly against Harrison) sitting in favor of Jed Lowrie (1-for-3 against Harrison) at short. Scutaro is 0-for-8 thus far this year, but Francona said his move was motivated more by a desire to get Lowrie into the lineup, particularly against a left-handed pitcher. Lowrie hit .338 with a 1.025 OPS against lefties last year.
‘I wanted to get Jed, especially righthanded, wanted to get him into the game,” said Francona.
That said, Francona said that the determination of when to have Lowrie play cannot be driven solely by matchups.
“I just think this is the best place to play him,” said Francona. “A lot of times, if we want to get his right-handed bat in there, the other guys are pretty good, too, so there’s not really an obvious guy to sit if he’s going to play.”
Scutaro had a grounder tear off a fingernail in Friday’s opener, but the issue is not considered significant — especially in light of the pain that the shortstop faced last year, and that severely impaired his ability to throw the ball.
‘I think it’s sore, but I don’t think it’s getting in the way. Compared to what he had before, I don’t think he’s going to complain much about this one,” said Francona.
|John Lackey effective but Jonathan Papelbon struggles in Sox win over Mets||03.17.11 at 4:10 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey celebrated the news of his place as the No. 2 starter in the rotation by going out and scattering five hits and allowing one run over 5 1/3 innings as the Red Sox beat the Mets, 8-5, [boxscore] in the traditional afternoon game on St. Patrick’s Day at City of Palms Park. Carl Crawford and Jed Lowrie each went 2-for-3 with an RBI to pace the Red Sox offense.
[Lackey talks about the honor of pitching Opening Day at Fenway and being named No. 2 starter.]
Lackey, who will start the home opener vs. the Yankees on April 8, was stretched out on the sunny, 80-degree day, throwing 78 pitches (46 strikes) and was taken out with one out and a runner on in the sixth. Thursday was his longest outing of the spring, as he improved to 2-0 with 1.72 ERA in four Grapefruit League starts.
[Lackey explains his start on Thursday and how much better he feels this spring.]
The only troubling outing by Red Sox pitching Thursday belonged to Jonathan Papelbon, who gave up a three-run double after hitting a batter and walking two in the ninth. He then surrendered a run-scoring double before manager Terry Francona pulled him with two outs. In six outings this spring, Papelbon has a 12.60 ERA.
Drew Sutton homered and also had a pair of hits for the Red Sox, who improved to 12-9-1 in Grapefruit League play this spring. They will have a split squad on Friday, playing the Tigers at City of Palms at 1 p.m. and the Rays in Port Charlotte at 7 p.m.
|Is a healthy Jed Lowrie gunning for Adrian Gonzalez?||02.19.11 at 9:32 am ET|
Manager Terry Francona said in January that Scutaro will be the Sox’ everyday shortstop, prompting Scutaro to fire up the grill and leaving Lowrie to face the reality that he will be a player whose value to the Sox (again, barring injury) comes from his ability to be a productive player while playing all four infield positions.
Lowrie’s comfort level, he said, is in the middle infield, but he understands that his multi-positional skill is to both his and the team’s advantage.
“I see myself as an everyday shortstop, but I don’t think it hurts that I can play other positions. I think the team sees that. I think that adds value,” the 26-year-old said. ‘It’s just general improvements. There’s nothing specific I’m going to work on. Obviously, I assume they’re going to ask me to play more than one position, so it’s just continuing to get reps at more than one position while still focusing at shortstop.’
Though Lowrie’s strength was diminished for almost all of the year after he was diagnosed with mono in spring training and missed all of the first half, he produced at an impressive level in the second half. In 55 games, the switch-hitter hit .287 with a .381 OBP, .526 slugging mark and .907 OPS, launching nine homers in 197 plate appearances.
Those are marks that he can build on, and give some indication of the kind of value that he offers the Sox as a depth option. Those sorts of numbers would give the team above-average production at any infield position. And given the complexion of the roster, the team is well-served by the fact that Lowrie is now capable of playing all four infield positions (even as he describes both first and third as ongoing adjustments).
That said, Lowrie jokingly noted that he was skeptical that he is about to force a left/right platoon with Adrian Gonzalez.
“I don’t think [first base] is a career move,” Lowrie mused. ‘That’s not the competition I want to be in. I’ll just take as many reps as I can at the other positions [aside from shortstop], just to get comfortable.’
In that regard, Lowrie is already well ahead of where he was a year ago. It was by the time that he reported to spring training that he started to feel that something was amiss. And, of course, in each of the last two offseasons, the required rehab on his wrist prevented him from a winter of normal strengthening and conditioning for the regular season.
This year, that is different. Lowrie was able to build for the season in a way that he hadn’t, by his estimate, in at least two or three offseasons, something that gives him optimism about the form that the coming year might take.
“It’s a long season. Having a little extra strength and being able to maintain that throughout the year, the idea is to help performance,” said Lowrie. “It’s been a long time [since he had a healthy offseason]. It feels good to feel healthy, feel good about yourself. I look forward to helping this team.
|Marco Scutaro looking forward to cooking up something big in 2011||02.18.11 at 10:14 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Part of enjoying baseball when you’re not at the ballpark is cooking up a nice barbecue and enjoying a cold beverage.
So, it’s only fitting that Marco Scutaro joked Friday morning he held a barbecue for friends and family when Red Sox skipper Terry Francona informed him he was the club’s starting shortstop for 2011 over Jed Lowrie. Scutaro said he was at his South Florida home, watching TV when Francona called with the good news.
“I was in Miami, home watching TV, and we had a barbeque that night and celebrated like crazy,” Scutaro said in front of his locker in the Red Sox spring training complex.
Scutaro arrived Friday morning in the clubhouse and pronounced himself healthy and ready to assume the starting shortstop job that manager Francona confirmed was his in January at the writers’ dinner. Scutaro battled through neck, elbow and shoulder injuries in 2010 – his first season in Boston.
Scutaro said he rehabbed his left elbow, he battled through the right shoulder and rotator cuff injury for the second half of 2010. Even with all the injuries, Scutaro managed to hit .275 in 150 games, with 11 homers and 56 RBIs. The first half was his neck and left elbow. The second half was his right shoulder. A physically brutal season to be sure.
“It took a while till my shoulder felt better, after three weeks probably,” said Scutaro, who added he was able to avoid surgery. “I had to get all the muscles around the rotator cuff. It feels good. I can move it now. I started feeling better after three weeks [after the season].
“I just had to get all the muscles around the roatator cuff stronger, just like pitchers.”
Scutaro got good news in August when he got an MRI on his right shoulder that showed inflammation on his rotator cuff but no damage that would require surgery.
“They told me the rotator cuff was really inflamed, inflammation was really bad but I just needed rehab,” he said Friday.
How bad was it when he tried to play through it?
“Last year, it was kind of tough,” he said. “Some days, I’d get up about 11 [am] or noon, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I had to do so much to get loose.”
“Probably behind the pitchers, we have so many good hitters,” Scutaro joked. “I don’t know, probably ninth. As long as I do my little things and get on base, it don’t matter where I hit.”
So, what did he do when he found out that not only he was coming back as the starting shortstop but he was coming back to a team that added Gonzalez and Crawford?
“Another barbecue,” Scutaro answered with a laugh.
|Friday Fort-itude: Early morning spring training notes||at 9:43 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A few early items of interest, on a day when all Red Sox position players have made it into camp:
—Marco Scutaro feels healthy after a lengthy rehab this offseason to address the nerve irritation that led to arm and shoulder discomfort. He said that it was as if he was swinging with one arm for much of last season, since he had no strength in his left arm. (He was unable to lift during the year.)
–Scutaro was grateful to hear that manager Terry Francona had made clear that he will be the Red Sox shortstop out of the gate this year. Asked what he did after hearing the news, Scutaro mused, “We had a barbecue that night and we celebrated like crazy.”
More on Scutaro will be coming shortly.
–Red Sox pitcher Stolmy Pimentel, a 21-year-old who is in big league camp now, offers yet another reminder of how dramatically players signed internationally at age 16 grow. (Pimentel was signed by the Sox for just $25,000 in 2006.) The right-hander says that he now is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds; when he signed, he estimated that he was 6-foot-2 and “so skinny — 170 or something like that”; when he pitched in the Futures at Fenway in 2008, he suggested that he was 185 pounds.
Pimentel said that with his increased size, he feels more power in his pitches, something that has led to a notable uptick in velocity (he touched 95 mph last year for the first time in his career) while also giving him the strength to maintain command.
“This year I feel stronger. Maybe I can throw harder,” said Pimentel. “I worked really hard in the offseason to come in in shape for spring training. I feel ready.”
—Yamaico Navarro had no idea why his Dominican Winter League team only kept him on the roster for a brief period of time. Navarro was a standout in his few weeks with Licey, hitting .261/.400/.478 with four homers, 15 RBI, 14 walks and 14 strikeouts in 20 games. He expressed mixed feelings about the experience in the Dominican — he was pleased with his performance, but disappointed that the strange roster politics of the winter leagues led to it being a short stay. Navarro said that he moved around the diamond with Licey; his versatility is an important component of his potential path to the majors.
|Terry Francona takes stock of the Red Sox||02.13.11 at 3:09 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona held court with the media for the first time since arriving in spring training. He had spent the last two days huddled with team officials and coaches to formulate individual spring plans for the players in camp.
The Sox skipper welcomed the big expectations that exist for his club. One reporter noted that former Sox bench coach Brad Mills told Francona, after Boston’s active offseason, “Don’t [bleep] it up.”
“I actually had a few of those,” chuckled Francona. “One of them was from [GM Theo Epstein].”
Francona touched on a number of topics. Among them:
–Francona said that the team would try to manage any concerns about outfielder J.D. Drew‘s hamstrings. The outfielder has been concerned enough to have received medical attention from Dr. James Andrews in Alabama as well as doctors in Boston about his discomfort, though Francona suggested that the concern was not a huge one.
“It’s something that he has voiced some concern about,” said Francona. “I don’t think he’s real concerned about it, but it’s been there. I don’t think we want it to be a concern, so we’ll certainly monitor it.”
–The team doesn’t feel that it will have to put restrictions on second baseman Dustin Pedroia in his return from a broken foot, but it will try to structure his work to prevent him from having to stretch his foot out.
“When he does his work, we need to probably not break it up in segments. We try not to do that anyway. When they go out and do their infield stuff, they put their gloves down and then go to hitting,” said Francona. “But we’d rather not beat up guys ‘ and a guy like Pedroia is a good example ‘ for no reason. We’ll keep an eye on him. For as much as he talks and he likes to talk, he’s pretty honest with me about stuff. So I’m not too worried about that. there’s a reason we like him as a player, but at the same time we realize what’s happened to him, and we’ll keep an eye on him.”
BULLPEN: PAPELBON AND THE SETUP GROUP
–The manager does not foresee an issue arising with the acquisition of Bobby Jenks, a closer-turned-setup man. Francona, does, however, believe that closer Jonathan Papelbon will be able to use both the disappointment of his down year in 2010 as well as his status as a free agent following the 2011 season as sources of motivation. Read the rest of this entry »
|Terry Francona: Marco Scutaro ‘is our shortstop’||01.20.11 at 4:06 pm ET|
Ending any speculation that there will be a shortstop competition at spring training in Fort Myers, Terry Francona said Thursday that Marco Scutaro will be the club’s starting shortstop to begin the season. Francona was asked if Jed Lowrie, after his strong finish to 2010, could challenge Scutaro for the starting shortstop job this season.
“I think we’re thrilled,” Francona said of Lowrie’s recovery from a wrist injury and mono. “This kid went through a lot. He had the wrist injury, had mono, was in Fort Myers for the whole first half of the year. We didn’t see him. Then he comes up and gets an opportunity because we had a lot of guys beat up, and he hits the ball all over the ballpark, and he has the ability to play four different infield positions. So rather than worry about an infield competition, because Scutaro is our shortstop, this guy gives us something that I don’t know how many teams can say they have.”
Scutaro was also rumored to be a part of trade talks as the Red Sox explored ways to improve their bullpen.
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