|On heels of latest pitcher controversy, John Farrell wants MLB to approve substance for better grip||05.25.15 at 2:38 pm ET|
MINNEAPOLIS — With another major league pitcher getting suspended for the use of a foreign substance — Baltimore’s Brian Matusz, who is appealing his eight-game ban – Red Sox manager John Farrell suggested there should be another look at the rules of baseball.
Talking to the media prior to his team’s series opener against the Twins at Target Field on Monday, Farrell said MLB might want to look for a new substance that helps the pitcher with his grip on the baseball that is considered legal.
“I would like to see an approved substance that pitchers can use,” Farrell said. “Because when we take a manufactured baseball and rub it with dirt, it’s going to create a slippery feeling to it. The mud residue leaves a film on it that you don’t necessarily feel a good, consistent grip. Unless you go to a ball like the one used in Japan where it’s got a tacky feel to it. But I’d like to see something that’s approved that everyone can use. I think if you poll any hitter, the hitter wants to know that the ball’s got a grip. The ball’s not going to get away from [the pitcher].”
Matusz, who was ejected from Saturday’s game against the Marlins for having a substance on his right arm, is the second MLB pitcher in a week to be disciplined for using an illegal substance on the baseball. The Braves‘ Will Smith also was suspended eight games for using what he said was a combination of rosin and sunscreen — also on his right arm.
“I think any time the game loses players for eight to 10 games, I think it makes us as an industry look within,” Farrell said. “If a number of pitchers are putting themselves at risk and the belief is a widespread number of pitchers are using it, why would we not look to improve the game? Nobody wants to see pitchers sidelined.”
|Wade Miley on fast track to leading Red Sox turnaround: ‘We’re playing a lot better right now’||05.24.15 at 6:19 pm ET|
The Red Sox can only hope they copy the stunningly resurgent turnaround of Wade Miley.
The lefty has suddenly turned into the most reliable and consistent pitcher on staff. On Sunday, that encouraging trend continued when he allowed just four hits and one run over eight stellar innings in a 6-1 win over the Angels at a sun-splashed Fenway Park.
It was a perfect day for a game, and Miley gave fans a perfect start to their Sunday afternoon, retiring the first 14 batters he faced before walking Chris Iannetta on five pitches in the fifth. That was followed up by a single from C.J. Cron, who had been called back to hit after a pitch was ruled to have struck his bat by the umpiring crew.
Miley (4-4) has won each of his last three starts and is 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA in May. On Sunday he took just 45 minutes to race through four perfect innings. He needed just 35 pitches to get through four frames before a 23-pitch fifth. Where did Miley learn his fast pace?
“Probably college, my college coach was huge on that,” Miley said, referring to Southeastern Louisiana pitching coach Daniel Latham. “It’s kind of stuck with me.”
The Angels, who had never faced him before, were aiding the cause of Miley and catcher Sandy Leon by swinging early and often.
“They’re a pretty aggressive team and we kind of used that to our advantage and it worked out,” Miley said. “That’s the biggest thing, being able to throw the fastball. And what Sandy did, it felt like every time he put down a finger, it’s what I wanted to do. We were on the same page from the first inning on.”
By now everyone knows about Mike Napoli‘s monster homestand — batting .429 (9-for-21), with six runs scored, five home runs and 10 RBIs — but what many might not know is the story behind the bat he used.
“Sometimes there are kids in the dugout and I go up and have them sign my bat,” Napoli said. “It was kind of crazy, the first home run I hit the other day was where he actually signed it. It was pretty cool. I appreciate where he signed it.”
“It’s pretty cool,” he added. “Everyone is always asking for my autograph so I think it’s pretty cool to go up to a kid and say, ‘Hey, give me your autograph.’ They love that and they write their name on the bat in squiggle.”
After homering on Tuesday against the Rangers, Napoli really picked it up over the weekend against the Angels — the team that drafted him in 2000. He went 5-for-9 over the three games with four home runs and eight RBIs. With hitting a home run in three consecutive home games he became the first player to do so since David Ortiz did in June of 2012 and no one had done it in three straight days at home since Jason Bay in 2009.
The first baseman owns the Angels, as prior to Sunday’s game Napoli had the all-time best slugging percentage (.716) and OPS (1.163) against them.
“I think there’s always a personal incentive when you go up against your original organization regardless of how things play out over time,” manager John Farrell said. “That’s pretty common for most players.”
What was even more impressive was Napoli’s hot streak came out of no where.
|Shane Victorino (left calf) to disabled list, Red Sox looking to get durability more consistent||at 11:49 am ET|
Victorino missed two games this week with general soreness, focused around the left calf, but returned Saturday night. The return didn’t go as planned as he had to leave the game before his at-bat in the bottom of the third as he went back awkwardly on a fly ball in the top of the third and felt some tightness in the calf.
This is Victorino’s second trip to the disabled list this season, as he missed over two weeks with a hamstring injury last month. Since the start of the 2014 season, Victorino has played in just 50 games.
“He didn’t acknowledge it, that’s just the competitor he is, and I’m not saying he fought this, but at the same time he’s disappointed,” manager John Farrell said of Victorino accepting being placed on the DL. “He’s frustrated. But, in defense of Vic it’s kind of hard to plan inning-to-inning rather than game-to-game.”
Farrell said he admires the determination of Victorino and his value to the team when fully healthy. The issue is not being able to depend on him every day, and having to constantly have a backup plan ready to go on days he does play, as well as coming to the ballpark unsure of his playing status.
“When you look at the performance when he came back to us this year after all that he’s been through, you give him a tremendous amount of credit for the work he’s put in,” said Farrell. “I think any athlete who is taken out of competition because of injury, it’s taxing mentally. A number of times that Vic has either been on the DL or has missed anywhere from 3-5 games it wears on him. I don’t know that there’s a stronger competitor in our clubhouse and a guy who means a lot to this team when he’s active feels like he can speak his mind — it’s hard for a player to speak his mind when they are not active and in the mix and Vic is a vocal guy in our clubhouse.
“He’s a guy that impacts the game as we’ve seen this year when he’s on the field in a number of ways. He’ll be missed. That’s why you believe in a player as strong as you do with Vic, not for what he did just in 2013, but what we does every time he’s on the field and near 100 percent health. We’ve got to get him back to where the durability is a little bit more consistent.”
Bianchi has played in 162 career games with the Brewers, but when he does get into a game with the Red Sox it will be his first appearance at the big league level with them. He’s an infielder who can play third base, second base and shortstop. The Red Sox signed him to a minor league deal this past January.
“What we saw in spring training was a lot of dependability, particularly on the defensive side,” said Farrell. “His addition allows us to be a little bit more versatile with Brock to use in the outfield with a matchup that might be to our liking. The ability to play all three infield positions. Played all three with a lot of dependability in camp.”
|Stoic Steven Wright picks up first major league win as starter, calls it ‘just another day’||05.23.15 at 11:45 pm ET|
Standing in front of over a dozen reporters, the right-hander was calm, cool and collected, barely even cracking a smile, calling it just another day at the office.
“For me, it’s just another day,” Wright said. “If you try and put too much pressure on yourself you’re just going to disappoint and you’re going to try and over do things, over work. For me, I am going to try and go in there and throw quality knuckleballs in the strike zone. They are going to put it in play, it’s a contact pitch. Today we were fortunate to get balls right at some guys, guys made some good plays. I went as deep as I could.”
The 30-year-old has made one big league start each of the last three seasons before finally picking up his first win Saturday. He did earn three wins in 2013 as a reliever and another earlier this year in the 19-inning game against the Yankees.
Wright went 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits, only needed 75 pitches, as he threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 24 batters he faced, including the first 11 straight to open the game.
Manager John Farrell noted Wright’s stoicness, but also how he used being calm to his benefit.
“The one thing about Steven is sometimes you wonder if he’s got a pulse,” Farrell said. “He’s very even-keeled. There was no buildup into tonight after the start out in Seattle. Whether he’s pitched out of the bullpen, whether he’s started, he’s been the same guy.
“The strike-throwing was excellent, Number of first-pitch strikes. I think about 75-percent first-pitch strikes. He was very calm and it’s such a unique pitch coming off a conventional night last night when you have a number of guys with some power arms, it fit in well.”
The Red Sox will face another left-handed pitcher Saturday in the Angels’ C.J. Wilson. For the season as a team, the Red Sox are batting .197 against lefties, with some individual players even worse as Pablo Sandoval is just 2-for-41 (.049).
Because of that, Sandoval is out of the lineup, as manager John Farrell said he is over the knee issue after missing the last three games following being hit by a pitch Tuesday night.
“He’s available inside of tonight,” Farrell said. “If there was a right-handed starter on the mound, he would be in the lineup, but with Wilson going it was a chance to get him another day down.”
There were more changes with Dustin Pedroia sliding into the leadoff spot, Shane Victorino hitting second, and Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz flip-flopping so Ramirez will hit third, and Ortiz fourth.
Farrell said this was based on their performances against lefties.
“That’s the reason you have Pedey (Pedroia) in the leadoff spot with Vic hitting second,” he said. “The two guys that have handled left-handed pitching the best on our club so far. Give Mookie [Betts] a down day as well.”
When asked if Pedroia might stay in the leadoff spot past tonight, the manager didn’t rule that out.
“We’ll see it how it unfolds,” Farrell said. “Hopefully today is a day we handle Wilson who is off to a decent start, we get another left-handed starter tomorrow. Depending on who is available tomorrow to be in the lineup, we’ll address that at that time.”
Entering the season, hitting left-handed pitching was likely on the bottom of the list of potential concerns with a lineup featuring Ramirez, Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino. But, after 42 games, it’s one of the biggest — although general manager Ben Cherington thinks it will naturally improve.
“Certainly coming into the season we didn’t foresee that would be an issue and it has been to this point,” Cherington said. “Looking in hindsight at the first 42 games or wherever we are, you can see certain areas of performance and be like, ‘Oh, that’s why they are struggling against lefties.’ We didn’t expect that to be a challenge and I think that is something that can just improve naturally with the guys that are here and get guys into some established roles.”
OTHER RED SOX NOTES
There were no chairs thrown, no yelling or screaming, but the message was clear, the Red Sox not happy with the way things are going.
They are now 8-12 at home, and even with the five runs scored, they are only averaging 2.45 runs per game in May with 13 of the 20 games scoring two runs or fewer.
“Everybody’s pissed. Obviously not playing well,” Dustin Pedroia said.
Overall the Red Sox are 19-23 on the year, 7-13 in the month of May and 10-18 over their last 28 games. They’ve have had a few team meetings over the past few weeks with Pedroia speaking at least one of them. The second baseman seemed like it was past the point of holding another meeting.
“Less talk more play,” he said.
“We’ve all been around long enough to know that doesn’t work,” he added. “You have to show up day in and day out and have the right process. If everybody plays together then we’re winning. Right now all aspects of our game aren’t together and when they aren’t together you’re not going to win.”
On a night where the Red Sox scored more runs than they had in their previous nine games, they didn’t get the performance from the mound they had been accustomed to from Rick Porcello, who allowed seven runs in just 4 1/3 innings after the team had won his last five starts. Red Sox starters had a string of eight straight games going at least five innings and allowing two earned runs or less.
“There’s definite frustration,” manager John Farrell said. “That’s shared by all in our clubhouse and who work day in and day out. We all know and we expect more from ourselves — that is a given, that’s repeatedly discussed and talked about and in the moment we have to go out and execute more consistently and do a better job all the way around.”
|Red Sox injury updates: Shane Victorino still day-to-day; Pablo Sandoval remains out with limitations||05.22.15 at 5:50 pm ET|
After being a late scratch with “general soreness” mostly in the left calf Thursday, Victorino remains out of the lineup Friday. He went 2-for-2 as a pinch-hitter Tuesday.
“He’s day-to-day, that’s the best I can tell you right now,” manager John Farrell said.
“We don’t anticipate this being a long-term situation,” Farrell added. “Hopefully he’s back to us soon because he was swinging the bat well.”
Also on Friday the Red Sox added outfielder Rusney Castillo and sent down Jackie Bradley. Even prior to the injury this week, Farrell said he sat down with Victorino to explain he would now be at least partially sharing right field with Castillo as well as Daniel Nava and Brock Holt.
“There’s a scenario that I have already sat and met with [Victorino] prior to the calf injury with Rusney’s arrival there was going to be a rotation with Rusney between both right field and center field,” said Farrell. “That wasn’t going to put [Victorino] on the bench by any means. When [Victorino] is fully capable that will take place, that rotation.”
Sandoval (knee) was expected back at third base Friday, but after pregame work taking ground balls, running, etc. it was determined he would miss his third straight game after being hit by a pitch in the knee Tuesday night.
“He doesn’t feel like he’s ready to go,” said Farrell. “There’s limitation to the range, there’s limitation to him being able to plant that left leg to execute a strong throw. Baserunning was going to be limited. All that added up to him needing more time.”
Brock Holt will take the place of Sandoval once again at third.
For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.
|Searching for positives: Clay Buchholz lone bright spot in Red Sox’ loss to Rangers||05.21.15 at 11:25 pm ET|
It’s hard to imagine any positive from the Red Sox‘ 3-1 loss to the Rangers in the final game of a three-game set where the Rangers took two-of-three from the Sox at Fenway, but there actually was one in starter Clay Buchholz.
The right-hander continued to ride the train that the Red Sox starters have been on of late, going at least five innings and allowing two earned runs in eight straight games, and going at least six innings in seven of those eight games.
Buchholz went 7 1/3 innings allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits, while walking two and striking out four. It was his team-leading sixth quality start and third straight.
“[I felt like] I threw the ball well,” Buchholz said. “First inning, Bogey [Bogaerts] tried to turn a double play, didn’t get a handle on the ball. That guy is pretty quick, so lost him right there and he scored. Other than that a solo home run. If you’re going to give up home runs, a solo home run is the way to go. Surprised the ball got out. Right when he hit it I thought it was going to be off the wall for sure, but it just kept going. Strong man. But yeah, overall I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. Mixed pitches. It was unfortunate.”
The Rangers scored two runs in the first — on the same play. With the bases loaded and one out, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts were looking to turn a double play, but Bogaerts couldn’t make the tranfer as he dropped the ball when he went to turn the double play (ruled an error). Two runs scored, the second being unearned and the Rangers took a quick 2-0 lead.
They scored again in the fourth when Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer, giving the the Rangers a 3-0 lead at the time.
If there was one person inside Fenway Park Wednesday who deserved a better fate Wednesday night, it was Joe Kelly.
On a night when he wasn’t feeling well to begin with, the Red Sox righty starter took to the mound and dug deep for seven quality innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits, working his way out of trouble and giving his team a chance.
All he got for his troubles was a bruise on the fleshy outside part of his right hand on a Shin-Soo Choo grounder back to the mound in the third inning and his third loss in four decisions this season in Boston’s 2-1 defeat to Texas.
“It’s a little bit sore but it didn’t affect the way I pitched out there,” said Kelly, who wore a white bandage over his wrist and hand after the game. “I’m definitely going to ice it and keep trying to get the swelling down. It feels fine.”
After his 108-pitch effort, manager John Farrell recognized what Kelly was able to accomplish after allowing solo runs in the second and third innings.
“After the third inning, he settled in. He used his curveball a little bit more,” Farrell said of his hard-throwing starter. “He started to elevate his fastball for some strikeouts. And on a night when he wasn’t completely healthy in terms of an illness he was dealing with. He threw the ball exceptionally well. He takes the one-hopper off the hand that really, after the initial sting went away, didn’t affect the way he threw the baseball. He got a couple of big strikeouts with men in scoring position. A well-pitched game.”
It was a well-pitched game using mostly his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, his two best pitches. Of Kelly’s 108 pitches, 79 were fastballs. He velocity improved as the night wore on, reaching 99 on his final pitch of the night to end the seventh with a strikeout of Thomas Field. As a matter of fact, Kelly was able to fan Chirinos and Field back to back after Leonys Martin doubled with one out.
“My fastball was working for me,” Kelly said. “My offspeed, I was giving up a lot of hits on those. My slider wasn’t breaking like it normally does. I couldn’t really throw a changeup over the plate but I made some pitches when I had to and commanded my heater.”
In the last two starts, Kelly has been not only been overpowering, he’s been in command for the most part. Heading into his start last Thursday in Seattle, he allowed 21 runs and 26 hits over a stretch of four straight starts. Last Thursday, he yielded just one run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 2-1 win. Ironically, Wednesday night, he was on the wrong end of a 2-1 score.
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