|GM Meetings Recap: What Tuesday meant to the Red Sox||11.17.10 at 8:47 am ET|
In recent years, the GM Meetings have been described as nothing more than a prelude to the real work of the offseason. This year, work has started early.
There was a flurry of actual activity on the first day of the general managers’ meetings in Orlando. Among the most notable developments:
–The Marlins closed in on a three-year, $18 million deal with John Buck (more on that here). Implications for the Red Sox: Buck represented the best catching alternative to Victor Martinez on the free agent market. That said, Rob Bradford reports that “the Sox’ interest in Buck was limited due to the cost the 30-year-old was going to command in the open market, along with the fact Buck had produced at a high level offensively (.281, 20 home runs) for just one year.”
Still, even if the Sox had only limited interest in Buck, they now lose the option of using him to bluff regarding their fallback plans for Martinez. Moreover, the fact that Buck received a three-year guarantee means that it will be hard to imagine a deal for Martinez of less than four or even five years.
–The Marlins traded Dan Uggla to the Braves in exchange for infielder Omar Infante and left-handed reliever Mike Dunn. (More on the deal here.) Implications for the Red Sox: Hypothetically, Uggla might have represented an alternative to Adrian Beltre in the third base market of Carl Crawford/Jayson Werth in the left field market had the Sox failed to sign any of them. That said, he is viewed as an imperfect fit for just about any position, so the significance of his move to the Braves is relatively low, except for the fact that it further strengthens the already considerable leverage of Beltre as the best third baseman available this offseason.
–The Cardinals re-signed free-agent Jake Westbrook to a two-year, $16.5 million deal. Implications for the Red Sox: Not many, although Westbrook’s signing does thin out an already weak class (behind Cliff Lee) of free agent starters. Conceivably, then, if the Sox decided to make a starter such as Daisuke Matsuzaka or Felix Doubront available, the fact that Westbrook and Ted Lilly are off the market could only help them.
That was the actual news at the GM Meetings. As for the rumors related to the Red Sox, broken down position-by-position: Read the rest of this entry »
|Pregame Notes: Red Sox at Yankees, 9/24||09.24.10 at 6:53 pm ET|
NEW YORK — The setting is placid.
The Red Sox are in Yankee Stadium, but the weekend series feels only slightly more meaningful than a Grapefruit League game. The Yankees and Rays have separated themselves from the depleted Red Sox, and so tonight marks the opener of a series in which the Red Sox are hoping they do not have to watch the Yankees celebrate a playoff berth.
“I wish we were eight games up,” conceded Sox manager Terry Francona. “I’m not real happy with where we are in the standings, but I don’t know if I had any different feeling coming to the ballpark today. This is a fun place to play games.”
A few notes:
–Entering the year, Darnell McDonald had 156 career big league plate appearances in his 13 pro seasons. This year, at 31, he has more than doubled that total, with 344 plate appearances. Francona praised the outfielder, suggesting that he has solidified his status as a legitimate big leaguer.
“I think he’s turned himself into a major league player,” said Francona. “He can go home this winter and come to camp next year knowing he’s a big leaguer. I don’t know if he could have done that before.”
McDonald’s major league salary calls for him to make $460,000 this year (prorated for the duration of his time in the majors). At the end of this season, he will have less than two years of service time, so the Red Sox control his rights and he will not be eligible for salary arbitration.
–Jed Lowrie has played in 45 of his team’s 56 games since being activated from the disabled list in mid-July, and he has been product as a semi-regular member of the lineup. He enters Friday hitting .261 with an .833 OPS, as well as 18 extra-base hits (six homers, 12 doubles) in just 158 plate appearances.
While Francona suggested that the versatile infielder is still trying to regain strength following his months-long bout with mono, the manager suggested that it appears that Lowrie’s left wrist — which limited him down the stretch in 2008, and then largely wiped out his 2009 campaign after he underwent surgery on it — is no longer a hindrance.
“With his wrist, I think he’s doing really well. You see him swing the bat, and I know he has to treat it and everything, but I think he looks pretty strong,” said Francona. “I think, as far as the mono goes, I’m hopeful that when you see him next spring you’ll see a little more bounce in his step. He looks to me like he’s still a half-step slower than he was, which I think is understandable. He’s not really a guy that, again, playing a major-league shortstop, he’s not blessed with a lot of footspeed. So, that’s kind of something he needs to stay on top of, and I know he will.
“But … he’s been playing a ton. We’ve tried to give him an occasional day off, just because I think he deserves it because of what he’s gone through, and playing him into the ground doesn’t do anybody any good. But it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here,” Francona added. “Kind of a nice potential dilemma. At worst, you’ve got a guy who swings the bat from both sides of the plate that can play first, second, third and short.”
–Phil Hughes has thrown 169 innings for the Yankees this year. Prior to 2010, he had never logged more than 146 innings in a professional season, and had never thrown more than 86 frames in the big leagues. And so, the Yankees have made the decision to skip Hughes in this series in hopes of saving his bullets for the postseason.
“There’s an innings limit on him that he will come in on,” said Yankees GM Brian Cashman. “This year, we had a much easier time managing it because we didn’t have so many injuries like we did during the Joba [Chamberlain] time. So we were able to skip him a few times early when he was going real well.”
|Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4 (11 innings)||08.21.10 at 10:42 pm ET|
The Red Sox needed this win pretty badly.
After the proverbial wheels fell off during a 16-2 loss on Friday night, they needed to prove that old baseball adage that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher and that blowout losses don’t carryover.
“It kind of flushes last night’s game right down the toilet,” said hero Jed Lowrie, whose leadoff homer off Casey Janssen in the 11th sent the Fenway faithful home happy Saturday night with a 5-4 Red Sox win. “We just have to put that one behind us and we did that tonight.”
Thanks to the bats of Lowrie, Marco Scutaro and Victor Martinez and the fielding of Yamaico Navarro, they not only flushed down the loss from the night before but they managed to come out smelling like a rose with the win at Fenway.
[Click here to listen to Jed Lowrie talk about his game-winning heroics and his perspective over last two seasons.]
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX:
Lowrie had a short memory. After dropping a routine foul pop-up that prolonged a potentially dangerous at-bat to John Buck, he homered off Casey Janssen to lead off the bottom of the inning.
“It’s just funny how the game works out that way,” Lowrie said. “Fortunately, the error didn’t matter. It was a foul pop-up. I got the opportunity to lead off the inning and end the game.”
VMart got down and dirty. Not only did he drive in the first three runs for the Red Sox with two singles in the third and fifth, he took a one-hop strike relay from Navarro in the fourth inning and was bowled over onto his back by Lyle Overbay. He got up and gave a love tap to Overbay’s chest just to make sure.
Scutaro looked very good at the top of the order. Scutaro had three hits in his first three at-bats and scored twice as he continued his hitting streak to eight games.
Daisuke Matsuzaka was on his game for seven innings. Aside from a speed bump in the sixth [see below], Matsuzaka not only had all his pitches working, he had tempo, rhythm and command. After giving up the lead in the sixth, he retired the final six batters he faced on a total of 20 pitches. He allowed six hits over the eight innings, three walks and eight strikeouts.
Navarro showed flashes of a strong and very accurate arm. He made the play of the game in the fourth when John McDonald doubled over the head of Darnell McDonald in center. Navarro, making his first MLB start at second went out to shallow center and took a relay from McDonald and fired a one-hop strike to Victor Martinez at the plate, nailing Overbay and preserving Matsuzaka’s lead at 2-1.
Bard and Papelbon were back to form. For all the talk there will be over Lowrie’s heroics and Matsuzaka’s solid outing, don’t overlook what Bard and Pap did in relief over the final three innings. After a perfect ninth, Bard pitched out of a jam when Lowrie couldn’t field Hall’s low throw on Travis Snider’s grounder in the 10th. But Bard got help when Snider got caught off second and in a run-down a sharp grounder by Fred Lewis. Bard then threw a double play ball to Escobar and the inning was over. Papelbon struck out one in a perfect 11th and has now thrown back-to-back perfect innings for the first time this season.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX:
Matusaka was not on his game with a three-run lead. As great as he was for seven innings, his one hiccup nearly cost him the win. Jose Bautista singles on a sharp line drive to left. Vernon Wells doubled on a line drive. John Buck‘s sacrifice fly scored Bautista. It looked like Matsuzaka would get out of it with a 4-2 lead when Aaron Hill popped out to Scutaro at short. But then for some reason, with Wells still and second and first base open, Matsuzaka decided to challenge Overbay with a fastball. Um, bad idea. He rocketed one over the Jays pen in right and all of sudden the fine work of the first five innings was out the window.
Again with the runners in scoring position. The Red Sox had a legitimate threat in the bottom of the seventh when Scutaro and Drew singled with one out. But after Ricky Romero buzzed David Ortiz up and in, he came back with a predictable slider and then a well-located fastball that jammed Ortiz just enough that he flew out to the warning track in left. Adrian Beltre struck out swinging to end the threat.
In the eighth, Mike Lowell popped a lazy fly to short left, near the line. Yunel Escobar camped under but allowed the ball to drop out of his glove and hit the ground and bounce into the stands for a two-base error. But Bill Hall failed to get a bunt down twice, and struck out. After pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie walked, Darnell McDonald whiffed and Scutaro grounded out into a fielder’s choice. And then in the ninth, a leadoff walk to J.D. Drew was followed by a pop out by Martinez and your standard 3-6-1 double play with the Jays employing the shift on Ortiz.
Lowrie looked like he was new to playing first base. He dropped a pop foul off the bat of Buck in the 11th, prolonging an at-bat that ended in a strikeout. Leading off the 10th, he wasn’t able to field a reasonable throw by a charging Hall on a soft Travis Snider grounder to second. He also lost track of the count during a pinch-hitting appearance in the eighth. All was forgotten and forgiven when he led off the 11th.
|A good Tek report||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.”
|Francona on Ellsbury: ‘There’s certainly some concern there’||08.13.10 at 10:25 pm ET|
Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury left his team’s game against the Rangers in the bottom of the fourth inning due to what the team described as “left side pain.” Ellsbury — who was batting leadoff for the first time in five games — incurred the injury while leading off in the top of the first inning. On a dribbler between the pitcher’s mound and first base, Rangers starter Tommy Hunter fielded the ball and lumbered to first base to record the unassisted out.
Hunter was running in the base path, where Ellsbury could not get around him. Ellsbury bumped into the pitcher and then tumbled to the ground, resulting in the pain to an area that has wiped out much of the center fielder’s season.
“There’s certainly some concern there,” Sox manager Terry Francona told NESN. “He managed to fall right on the same spot, trying to stay out of the way of a collision. His arm got caught in there when he hit the ground. We’re going to send him out to LA tomorrow, as quickly as possible. [Red Sox team medical director] Dr. [Thomas] Gill has already examined him. They’ve MRI’d him there. I’m sure they’ll do it all over again and try to get an opinion on where we are as quick as we can.”
The Sox later clarified that Ellsbury would be sent back to Boston to receive his MRI at Mass General. Ellsbury missed 98 of his team’s first 107 games due to five rib fractures. He was hitless in three at-bats on Friday, and is hitting .192 with a .485 OPS for the year.
Jed Lowrie also left the game in the ninth inning due to heat exhaustion, and required treatment with intravenous fluids.
|Closing Time: Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 5||08.10.10 at 10:26 pm ET|
For much of the year, Mike Lowell and Jed Lowrie were rendered afterthoughts on the Red Sox roster. Lowrie missed the first half of the season while recovering from mono, while Lowell languished on the bench and then was shuttled to the disabled list, in part because he did not have a useful role on the team.
But both have become prominent regulars on the Sox due to injuries, and both played huge roles in leading the Sox to a 7-5 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday. With the game tied, 5-5, Lowell ripped a homer to left against reliever Shawn Camp. After pinch-hitter Ryan Kalish singled, Lowrie blasted a double (his second of the game) high off the wall in straightaway center for an insurance run.
In the process, two players who had been marginalized for much of the year emerged as central as the Sox claimed their second straight win.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Jed Lowrie had his second two-double game of the year, as the switch-hitter collected one two-bagger from each side of the plate. Lowrie has been a critical contributor for the Sox with Dustin Pedroia down, hitting .311 with an .870 OPS.
–Lowell hit his second homer since returning from the D.L. earlier this month, and had his second multi-RBI game of August.
–J.D. Drew gave the Sox a brief 5-4 lead when he crushed a homer to right field against Jays starter Ricky Romero in the fifth inning. It was Drew’s first homer since July 22.
–Though David Ortiz has struggled significantly against left-handers this year, he has had no problems against Romero, either this year or in his career. He collected a pair of doubles against Romero, and now has five doubles and a homer in 16 career at-bats against the Toronto southpaw.
–With Daniel Bard unavailable, Manny Delcarmen delivered a dominating performance in the eighth inning, striking out a batter in a perfect inning that he required just 11 pitches to navigate. Opponents are 0-for-11 against Delcarmen in August.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–The middle infield defense was mistake-prone, as Lowrie and Marco Scutaro struggled to work together on a pair of plays that resulted in one error (charged to Lowrie) and another play that created a bases-loaded jam.
–Bill Hall struck out twice in his three at-bats, going 0-for-3. Despite being a part-timer for most of the year, Hall has 24 multi-strikeout games this year, a mark that ranks second on the Red Sox to David Ortiz (33).
–Marco Scutaro went 0-for-5, and is now hitting just .159 with a .400 OPS in August.
WHAT WENT BOTH RIGHT AND WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–The process of trying to acclimate Felix Doubront to life in the bullpen at the major league level is admittedly a challenging one for the Red Sox, as the Sox will hope that he proves capable in the face of challenges even though most of his outings in the coming weeks will represent some kind of “first.” Tuesday was just such a day.
For the first time in his professional career, he entered in the middle of an inning with runners on base. Doubront was summoned with two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth inning, asked to preserve a 5-4 lead. He immediately got what should have been in inning-ending grounder that was botched by the middle infield tandem of Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie. No matter. With the bases loaded, Doubront got a huge three-pitch strikeout against Travis Snider, the last pitch being a nasty swing-and-miss curveball.
But when he was asked to follow up that effort by pitching the seventh inning, he stumbled, leaving a fastball up and over the middle of the plate to Jose Bautista. The American League leader in homers crushed the pitch out to left field, tying the game. He recovered quickly to retire the next three hitters, but what could have been the defining performance of the game instead turned into a footnote. Still, the new experiences should only help Doubront going forward.
–Daisuke Matsuzaka was alternately spectacular and vulnerable for the Sox. He struck out the side on just 14 pitches in the first inning, marking the second time this year that he had struck out three batters in an inning. (The first also came against the Blue Jays.) In stretches, he was simply overpowering. And yet there were other stretches in which he completely lost his command, with damaging results. Most notably, he walked the first two batters of the third inning (No. 9 hitter John McDonald and leadoff man Fred Lewis), and followed that by allowing a three-run homer to Travis Snider on a fastball down the middle.
As a result, an outing where Matsuzaka appeared capable of cruising to victory ended with him recording a no-decision and failing to last six innings. For the night, he allowed four runs on six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings while striking out seven. He allowed two homers in a game for just the second time this year, and gave up a homer with at least two runners on base for just the second time this year. Still, when he threw strikes, he was dominant.
His up-and-down outing did have the benefit of inspiring a grassroots poetry movement.
|Red Sox notes: D-Mac scratched, Ells makes strides||08.01.10 at 3:21 pm ET|
Darnell McDonald was scratched from Sunday’s lineup with back stiffness but Red Sox manager Terry Francona said the team hopes to have him available later in the day as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement.
In his place, Eric Patterson started in center for the Red Sox while Ryan Kalish, fresh from his 2-for-4 performance in his major league debut on Saturday, gets the start again in left field.
Elsewhere, Jacoby Ellsbury took another step on Saturday night toward a return to Boston when he went 2-for-4 and scored a run scored in his first game with Triple-A Pawtucket.
Ellsbury hit leadoff and played center field in a 5-1 loss to Durham. Asked if Ellsbury is as strong as he was before he suffering fractured ribs on April 11, Francona answered, “He probably isn’t as strong as he was in spring training. He came to camp in really good shape.
“We are trying to get the soreness out of his body in Triple-A, not here, so that is why he needs to keep playing a little bit,” added Francona.
In four games with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Pawtucket, Ellsbury is hitting .333 with four runs, two walks and a stolen base.
Ellsbury played the outfield again Sunday and will continue playing with Pawtucket until he is at full strength.
“He is going to have general soreness from not playing,” Francona said. “We have to get him through that, and I think we would all rather do that in Pawtucket and not here.”
Francona gave props to Jed Lowrie for his game-changing at-bat in the ninth, pinch-hitting for Patterson. Lowrie fouled off several pitches before drilling a double to left-center and extending the eventual game-winning, three-run rally.
“His at-bat was tremendous,” Francona said. “I think it got overlooked a little bit because of what David did. That was a really nice piece of hitting.”
Lowrie batted .367 with four doubles, one homer and nine RBIs in 10 rehab games with Triple-A Pawtucket and Class A Lowell.
Francona said that Lowrie, who was activated from the disabled list July 21 after a three-month bout with mononucleosis, is getting stronger and stronger but still is not ready to play every day.
“He is a good hitter. I think it has become forgotten,” Francona said. “He has had a lot of things go wrong health-wise, but he seems to be getting back, which is good.”
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