|Closing Time: Jose Quintana, White Sox get better of Felix Doubront, Red Sox||05.21.13 at 10:56 pm ET|
CHICAGO — Jose Quintana certainly has made his mark on the Red Sox.
After shutting out Boston for eight innings last July 19 at Fenway Park, the White Sox lefty held John Farrell‘s team hitless through 6 1/3 innings Tuesday night on the way to a 3-1 win for the hosts at U.S. Cellular Field.
Quintana carried his no-hitter into the seventh inning, when, with one out, David Ortiz reached out and hit a broken-bat single to left-center on the White Sox starter’s 95th pitch.
The Red Sox ultimately drove Quintana from the game later in the seventh after two more singles, from Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava, loaded the bases with one out. But reliever Jesse Crain came on to strike out both Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew to end the visitors’ threat.
The 24-year-old Quintana is no stranger to dominance, having used 2012 to become the first rookie to throw eight scoreless innings or more three times in a season since Justin Verlander‘s 2006 campaign.
The Sox had another threat in the eighth, when they closed the gap to a run when Dustin Pedroia‘s hard grounder bounced up on Alexei Ramirez just enough to skip past the shortstop, allowing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to score from third. But with runners on first and third and one out, Ortiz grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to snuff out the opportunity.
“It was obviously a situation you plan on producing, but it happens,” Ortiz said. “We’ll come back tomorrow and try to win.”
On most other nights, the effort turned in by Red Sox starter Felix Doubront would have been good enough. The lefty came out after 85 pitches, allowing two runs on five hits, striking out three and walking two.
“It was consistent with his last outing down in Tampa and I think he’s on to something with the adjustments he’s made,” Farrell said. “I thought today was another positive step for him here tonight.”
The reason for the exit after a relatively light pitch count?
“[Pitching coach] Juan [Nieves] came to talk to me, said they want to build the trust, the confidence back,” Doubront said. “The next one’s going to be better, I’m going to throw more.”
|Jonny Gomes reveals his career aspirations||05.20.13 at 7:16 pm ET|
CHICAGO – Just moments after John Farrell sang Jonny Gomes’ praises — mostly reminding the collection of media about the outfielder’s intangibles — the player appeared in the dugout on the way to batting practice.
It was at that moment Gomes offered one of the reasons he was the way he was. He wants to be in Farrell’s shoes one day.
“I want to manage one day,” said the 32-year-old. “There’s been a couple of coaches in the minor leagues who have said, ‘When you get to the big leagues, pass on what I tell you.’ I really took that to heart early. For all the info anybody gave me, “Will do. Yes sir. Got it.” Then being underneath Lou [Pinella], Joe [Maddon], Dusty Baker, Davey Johnson, Bob Melvin and Farrell. Two teams in the American League. Three in the National League. Three division titles in five years. Been playoffs in both leagues.
“I just enjoy running the game. Running the bullpen. Running the bench. All of that stuff. I’ve been paying attention to it a lot. And I don’t want to get out of this game, because I love it.”
The way Farrell talks, it appears to be a logical career path.
“Seemingly, he’s been involved in something all the time,” the Red Sox manager said. “In his current situation, I think the batting average is a little misleading. I look at the on-base. He gets on base. He’s got a high number of walks, and it’s been both against righties and lefties. Even though his career strength is against left-handed pitching. But he finds himself in the middle of some kind of rally. He’ll break up a double play at second base. I think he brings a little bit of an intangible and an edge to his game that you feel and that plays out on the field. He’s done what we expected in this role and we know based on track record, those performance numbers will start to come into line a little bit more as we get deeper into the season.”
|John Farrell explains decision to leave in Ryan Dempster||05.19.13 at 12:34 am ET|
MINNEAPOLIS — It had never happened to John Farrell before. The Red Sox manager hadn’t ever gone to the mound and allowed a pitcher to talk him into staying in a game.
But that’s exactly what happened Saturday night.
With Ryan Dempster sitting at 122 pitches (four more than any Red Sox pitcher had thrown in a single game this season), the Red Sox clinging to a three-run lead with two outs in the fifth inning and Minnesota’s Jamey Carroll coming up, Farrell strolled to the mound for what appeared to be the execution of a pitching change.
But Dempster told his manager he had enough left to get that inning’s final out. That was good enough for Farrell.
“Well, he kind of talked his way into it,” said Farrell of Dempster after the Red Sox’ 12-5 win over Minnesota. “In hindsight, probably should have made the move at the time, but still, it’s a veteran guy who was fine physically in terms of his arm, he didn’t feel anything. But trying to get him the last out of the fifth to give him a chance to win.”
Five pitches later, Carroll rifled a single into right, scoring Pedro Florimon and bringing up the potential game-tying run to the plate in the form of Joe Mauer. That would be it for Dempster, whose pitch total was the highest since Sept. 13, 2011, and marked just the second time since 2001 he had reached such heights.
“Well, [pitching coach] Juan [Nieves] and I were talking about the fact I make a trip to the mound and don’t make a pitching change, that’s a rarity,” Farrell said. “You want to give the guy every opportunity to record a win but at that point the game was in jeopardy as well as the high number of pitches. It’s a delicate balance but at some point that decision had to be made.”
“He just asked me if I had enough in the tank to get the last hitter. I did. I made a good pitch,” said Dempster, who threw four sliders and a splitter to Carroll. “Jamey went out and hit a pitch a foot off the plate down around the other batter’s box. He threw his bat at it and hats off to him. I made a pitch there and it wasn’t quite good enough.”
The end result was a frustrating, 4 2/3-inning outing in which the starter allowed five runs on eight hits and six walks.
“I just couldn’t throw it where I wanted to throw it,” Dempster said of his fastball. “I kept missing away with it, missing up with it, missing off the plate with it. I didn’t really have any of my pitches tonight. That’s frustrating when you’re out there and can’t throw your fastball where you want, can’t throw your split where you want and can’t throw your slider where you want. Just have to work on it between starts and get them next time.”
Neither Farrell nor Dempster thought that extra rest would be needed despite the elevated pitch count. The last time he totaled as many pitches, the righty did bounce back to turn in two solid outings (13 innings, 4 runs).
“I’m a pretty good judge of my body. I’m going to do what I need to get ready,” the pitcher said. He added, “I was tired. But you’ve just got to go out there and recover. Recovery days are huge.”
|Clay Buchholz, rest of the Red Sox starters have executed an interesting traveling trend||05.17.13 at 10:09 pm ET|
MINNEAPOLIS – It’s not clear how it might translate into wins and losses, but John Farrell certainly has taken notice of the dynamic.
For the sixth time in as many opportunities this season, the Red Sox pitcher who was scheduled to start in a series opening game in different city than the team had played the night before, didn’t travel ahead of the club.
This time it was Clay Buchholz who remained with his team in St. Petersburg, Fla. the night before he was slated to take the hill against the Twins at Target Field Friday night.
“My only comparison was being here before,” the Red Sox manager said, “and guys would travel ahead a little more frequently.”
Asked if the dynamic might be a microcosm of the new clubhouse culture, Farrell said, “That’s the way I look at it. Some guys, just by nature, don’t want to go out head. They want to travel with the group and not have that feeling of separation.
“We give the option to every guy and still most guys want to stay with the team and don’t want to break away from that unit. They want to give the support the night before they’re pitching and feel like they can manage the travel and still be prepared to pitch.”
As for tangible results stemming from the strategy, it has been a mixed back. Heading into Friday, the Red Sox starters have totaled a 5.15 ERA, which dips to 3.52 without Felix Doubront’s 3 2/3-inning, six-run outing in Texas. And Buchholz brought the numbers down even further with his performance against the Twins Friday.
Yet, with or without early-season excellence, the intentions are what have struck a chord with those in the Sox’ clubhouse.
“I’ve always believed I’m not the only one playing, my teammates are all playing too,” said Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster. “The other thing is, what if you go 17 innings or something and I’m sitting on my couch or bed at home and my team ends up losing a game because I’m not there to help. You can sleep on a plane and get your rest.
“With this team, everybody kind of wants to be together. I think that’s awesome. It just everybody’s preference, but everybody here wants to stay and be a part of it.”
MINNEAPOLIS — Heading into Friday, Mike Napoli led the American League in two categories. One was doubles. The other?
Prior to the series opener at Target Field, Napoli was one of 12 American League players who had played all 41 games.
“That was probably my longest stretch of games in a row of my career,” he said.
Thursday, however, the first baseman was informed by Red Sox manager John Farrell that the streak of starts would be coming to an end and Friday was to be Napoli’s first day off of the season.
He had entered Minnesota coming off a series against the Rays going 1-for-11. But this was more about maintenance than production. In fact, if it was up to the player, the streak would still be trucking along.
“I still feel good. I don’t even have to look at the lineup, I’m just in there. I’m prepared to play every day,” he said. “John came to me and let me know I would have the day off today so mentally I know I wasn’t going to play today, so that was a different feeling.
“Knowing I’m going to be in there every day, when I go home I know it’s going to be the same routine. But my body feels good. It feels fine. Playing first base is such a different feel, mentally and physically.”
Napoli explained that his new lot in life has a lot to do with a desire to join teammates Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury in maintaining a perfect attendance record this season. For the most part, he has lived up to expectations, totaling 34 RBI and more extra-base hits (26) than any player in the majors.
“Mentally it’s unbelievable,” said Napoli regarding the position switch. “I’m not going through the pitchers’ meeting. I’m not going through the game-calling situations. I’m not worrying about how I have to view each pitcher when they’re on the mound. You’re just mentally free. You’re just tackling baseball. It’s so different.”
He did point out that even when catching was part of his existence, such offensive downturns as he experienced in St. Petersburg weren’t an immediate result of whatever he was doing in the field. For that, he credits his former minor-league manager in the Angels’ farm system, Keith Comstock.
“He would always make me take a deep breath,” Napoli said. “If I came in and struck out, he always told me to take a deep breath and lead it go. He would be like, ‘You take a big, deep breath, blow it out, and it’s gone.’ I still do it now. I’ll be pissed off with an at-bat, I’ll take a deep breath, let it go and it’s time for defense.
“It was easy for me separate my defense and offense. When you’re catching, you can’t go behind the plate when you’re struggling hitting and bring that into catching. I was taught at a young age to be able to separate the two. For me, when it’s not going so good, I understand it’s part of baseball but you just try and minimize it.”
|Closing Time: Will Middlebrooks leads Red Sox to ninth-inning comeback win over Rays||05.16.13 at 10:55 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Just over a week ago, Will Middlebrooks took a shot to the ribs. On Thursday night, he delivered one to the Rays.
With the Red Sox trailing, 3-1, in the top of the ninth, the bases loaded and his team down to its final strike, Middlebrooks laced a 1-2 changeup from Rays closer Fernando Rodney into the gap in left-center. The ball scooted all the way to the wall, allowing all three runs to score.
It was a mammoth hit, turning a 3-1 deficit and a fourth consecutive series loss into a 4-3 advantage that permitted the Sox to leave Tampa Bay with its first series victory in two weeks. The hit represented something of a landmark for Middlebrooks, as it was the first of his career to give the Red Sox a lead in the seventh inning or later.
“Awesome, man. Gives us some momentum, we’re on the road, so it’s obviously good to get that momentum going to the next series, and try to get things turned around,” Middlebrooks said of the hit.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Middlebrooks continues to impact the baseball since returning from his injury to the ribs. In seven games back, all eight of his hits have been for extra bases, with seven doubles and a homer in that span. He’s hitting .296/.321/.667 in that stretch.
On Thursday, not only did he smash the game-winning hit, but he also continued to show evidence of an improved overall approach both in that at-bat — when he spit on a 100 mph fastball on which Rodney just missed the strike zone on an 0-2 count, then jumped on a changeup — and in a previous one where he negotiated his first walk since May 2.
Middlebrooks said that he continues to feel improvement in his ribs — describing himself as “sore but getting better every day” — and that, more significantly, he continues to feel better at the plate, and that a slump that ran from early April to early May is now behind him.
“I got frustrated a little bit, but I never changed my plan, my routine at the field. And my teammates, they had my back the whole time. They were grinding right there with me,” said Middlebrooks. “Sitting out, I wasn’t going to get any better sitting out. You need reps. You need to fix stuff on your own and not just say I’m going to go sit down. That’s the selfish way to go about it. I wanted to go out there and do anything I could to help my team win, and I knew I couldn’t do that on the bench.”
– Junichi Tazawa worked a pair of scoreless innings to earn his third win of the year. He received an assist from outfielder Shane Victorino in keeping the Rays off the board in the eighth, but in the ninth, he worked around a pair of singles to shut the door.
“Much like we talked about the reason why we chose him in that ninth inning, there’s good poise, there’s very good stuff, he does a great job of controlling the running game even when they pinch-run [Sam] Fuld, so a solid job on his part,” manager John Farrell said.
– Thursday represented a considerable step forward for Felix Doubront. Though the left-hander lived dangerously for much of his outing, mostly due to command issues that resulted in a career-high six walks, he navigated carefully around trouble and baserunners. Though he gave up a solo homer to Ryan Roberts in the second, he stranded seven runners and held Tampa Bay hitless in five plate appearances with runners in scoring position, allowing him to work five-plus innings in which he allowed just one run on three hits.
Perhaps more importantly than the line, though, he showed improved power on his pitches. He showed a slight bump in velocity, sitting at 90-92 mph with his fastball for most of the night, and he also had a curveball that at times proved an outstanding pitch with sharp break. (At others, it became loopy and couldn’t find the strike zone.) While pitch inefficiency (104 pitches in 5-plus innings) and control (54 of 104 pitches for strikes — 52 percent) were both issues, he had the arsenal to compete, as evidenced by his seven strikeouts. Meanwhile, his one run allowed was his lowest yield of the season, while his three hits matched a season best.
“A lot better,” Doubront said of his outing. “[I] finally figured out that my pitches, my breaking balls, changeups and curbveballs, start getting the feeling back. I wasn’t that consistent but good spin and my grip, everything was real good.”
While acknowledging that the walks were suboptimal, Farrell backed his starter’s positive outlook.
“We have to take one step at a time. Looking at the stuff objectively, it was much more crisp. Even though, yes the walks were there, but much as he’s done, prior to the last two outings, when he gets into a little bit of a jam, he bends but he doesn’t break and that was the case here tonight,” said Farrell. “He was on the plate with his stuff, all three pitches. I thought he had better conviction to the stuff he threw tonight. His curveball had much better consistency to it. He pitched with a little sense of urgency tonight, which was good to see.”
– David Ortiz erased an early Red Sox deficit by lining an RBI single off the fence in right, the ball hit so hard that he could not advance. The hit was the third in as many games for Ortiz with runners in scoring position during the Tampa Bay series. He went 1-for-3 with a walk.
– Shane Victorino interrupted what had been an early breeze through the Sox lineup for Rays starter Alex Cobb, who retired the first 10 batters he faced. Victorino snapped an 0-for-11 stretch by ripping a double to right that catalyzed a run-scoring rally. The switch-hitter continues to demonstrate strong plate appearances from the left side of the plate. After his 1-for-4 night, he’s hitting .316 with a .771 OPS against righties.
Victorino also made a pair of outstanding catches in right field to rob the Rays of extra bases, slamming into the wall while grabbing a Jose Lobaton smash and then tracking down a Desmond Jennings drive to right with an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track. However, he ended up having to leave the game in favor of a defensive replacement prior to the bottom of the ninth.
– Dustin Pedroia went 1-for-3 with a single and walk, extending his hitting streak to eight games.
|Red Sox pregame notes: John Farrell trying to avoid creating ‘uncertainty’ with lineup shuffles||05.15.13 at 7:10 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It’s been a period in which productivity has been glaringly absent. The Sox have now scored three or fewer runs in eight of their last 12 games, with their average of 3.3 runs per game in that span ranking 13th of the 15th teams in the American League.
So how to fix it? Manager John Farrell was asked whether he’d contemplated tinkering with the lineup. While he acknowledged considering the possibility of such a measure, he decided that he’d rather show more faith in a group that roared to one of the best starts in franchise history.
“I have given it some thought. And yet the one thing that I don’t want to create in there is more uncertainty,” said Farrell. “And I think at a time when you could understand if some frustration starts to filter in, I want there to be some stability and some continuity to the work that we’re doing. That includes they understanding that there’s a lot of belief and trust in them as players and we didn’t go to 20-8 at one point with a completely different set of players.
“We’re not going to run from them. I really like our team,” he added. “This is a group that’s talented and going to be very successful.”
Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury has been a considerable part of the team’s early struggles. He’s hitting just .256 with a .321 OBP and .363 slugging mark. In May, those numbers dip to .200/.290/.255.
The Sox recognize that Ellsbury is a singularly impactful member of their roster when he reaches base. But he’s been doing that so rarely that it seemed reasonable to ask Farrell if he might consider moving from his familiar spot as a leadoff hitter.
“Certainly there’s a track record in which to refer to. I know he’s working diligently to get back on track, particularly his timing at the plate,” said Farrell. “I do know this — when he does get on base, it changes our entire [complexion] — not only to start or lead off a game, but throughout the course of a given game, when he’s on base. Whether or not he’s in the leadoff spot, that’s one time. That’s the first at-bat. After that, I don’t want to say that we’re not creating opportunities for ourselves, but, to me, the more glaring thing is how we’ve created those opportunities and yet the ball hasn’t fallen our way.” Read the rest of this entry »
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