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Red Sox-Rays series preview 06.10.13 at 4:20 pm ET
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The Red Sox will spend a lot of time on the road in the coming weeks, kicking off a stretch of 11 of 14 games being played outside of Fenway Park. Their first stop will be in St. Petersburg, Fla., making their second visit to Tropicana Field to take on the Rays.

For the most part, the Red Sox enjoyed their last visit to the Trop, taking two of three from Tampa Bay back in mid-May. So far this year, the Red Sox have enjoyed a lot of success against the Rays, owning a commanding 5-1 lead in the season series against their divisional rivals.

The month of June has been kind to the Red Sox thus far; the Sox are 6-2 in their last eight games, coming off a 4-2 homestand in which they won series against the Angels and the Rangers. The Sox now sit alone at the top of the AL East, a game and a half ahead of the Yankees, and own the best record in the American League at 39-25. For the Red Sox, it seems like things are clicking on all cylinders.

“This is a great clubhouse, a great group of guys. It starts with the top and works its way down,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said after Boston’€™s 10-5 win over Los Angeles on Sunday. “Everybody knows their role and everybody knows what approach to take, which makes things easier. We’ve got a good group of veterans with a good group of young guys. It’s a lot of fun, especially being in first place, but we know we have to focus on tomorrow.”

The Rays sit four games out of first place, occupying fourth place in the AL East standings at 34-28. After a loss to Baltimore on Sunday, the Rays slipped to .500 in the month of June with a 4-4 record after a six-game win streak to conclude May.

The usually dominant Rays pitching staff has been somewhat of a disappointment so far this season, ranking in the bottom third of the majors when it comes to ERA and runs allowed. The loss of ace David Price hasn’€™t helped matters; the reigning AL Cy Young award winner has been sidelined since his last start against Boston, back on May 15. Matt Moore, who began the year with an 8-0 record, has gone from being a sure thing when on the mound to a big question mark after he was hit hard in his second outing in a row, losing his last two decisions. He gave up nine runs on 12 hits to the Orioles, and with the loss, the Rays dropped to fourth place while the Orioles moved into sole possession of third.

“It seemed like when I was getting ahead, I just wasn’t making a pitch,’€ Moore said. I would say that I feel like I got shelled to death more so than putting runners on when they didn’t have to do much.”

The Rays will turn to their most consistent starter, Alex Cobb, in the first game of the series. Here are the rest of the pitching matchups for the three-game set:

Monday: John Lackey (3-5, 2.79) vs. Alex Cobb (6-2, 2.39)
Tuesday: Jon Lester (6-2, 3.60) vs. Roberto Hernandez (3-6, 5.03)
Wednesday: TBD vs. Chris Archer (1-1, 4.91)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

‘€¢ With two home runs on Sunday, Saltalamacchia made people take notice of the hot streak he’€™s been on as of late. The catcher has put up a .273/.341/.515 line through 49 games on the season, belting eight home runs and 16 doubles. Through his last eight games, Saltalamacchia is hitting .367/.387/.833 with 10 RBIs and eight extra-base hits. Although Saltalamacchia’€™s high batting average on balls in play (.385) and increased strikeout rate (33.5 percent this year as compared to 31 percent in 2012 and a 29.8 percent career mark) suggest that he may not be able to sustain this type of production, he has been drawing more walks and getting on base more consistently than in years past.

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Read More: Alex Cobb, James Loney, jose iglesias, mike carp
Red Sox activate Will Middlebrooks, designate Pedro Ciriaco for assignment at 2:55 pm ET
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The Red Sox will activate third baseman Will Middlebrooks prior to the start of Monday’s game in Tampa Bay against the Rays, with the team designating Pedro Ciriaco (who is out of options) for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 25-man roster, according to a major league source. With Middlebrooks back in the lineup (batting eighth), Jose Iglesias — who started everyday at third base in his absence — will be available off the bench.

Ciriaco did not adapt well from his everyday backup role of a year ago to his pure utility/bench role this year. He hit .216/.293/.353 with a cover-your-eyes total of seven errors in 133 innings (the equivalent of 15 full games).

Middlebrooks, of course, struggled for much of the start of the year. He had been starting to heat up in May, drilling extra-base hits with some regularity prior to the lower back inflammation that led him to the DL and opened the door for Iglesias at a new position, but his overall numbers suggest a struggle in 2013: a .201 average, .234 OBP and .408 slugging mark. As such, the Sox wanted him to get enough at-bats to lock in his swing and approach on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket before activating him. It appears that the 24-year-old did that to the team’s satisfaction, and so after five games in which he hit .294/.429/.647 with two homers, four walks and three strikeouts, Middlebrooks is back.

Manager John Farrell was unequivocal in discussing Middlebrooks’ role upon his return.

“Will’s our third baseman,” said Farrell.

Iglesias, in turn, is slated to assume the utility bench role, with Farrell having said that he would need to get at least two starts a week, while leaving open the door for his role to expand beyond that. For a look at Iglesias’ progress this year and how the Sox envision working him into the lineup, click here.

News of Ciriaco’s designation was first reported by the Boston Globe.

Read More: jose iglesias, Pedro Ciriaco, Will Middlebrooks,
Red Sox notes: On the Will Middlebrooks/Jose Iglesias dynamic; no word on Clay Buchholz; resting Shane Victorino 06.09.13 at 12:20 pm ET
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It’s looking less and less like a fluke. Jose Iglesias is not merely collecting a bunch of well-located infield singles. The 23-year-old, in his stint as the everyday fill-in for Will Middlebrooks at third base, has demonstrated a form of plate appearances that has rarely if ever characterized his performance at any level. He’s laying off breaking balls not only in the dirt but even just out of the strike zone, thus earning fastballs that he’s lining to all fields. The result has been eye-opening, as Iglesias tops all big leaguers (min. 50 plate appearances) with a .443 average, including a .429 mark (with three doubles and a homer) during a current career-long 12-game hitting streak. He’s even working walks, having a .494 on-base percentage.

“He’s lengthened our lineup out, and his on-base ability has been probably better than expected, and he’s doing an excellent job at it. What we’re seeing is more consistent at-bats where he’s controlling the count, putting himself in hitters counts more regularly, and of late, he’s starting to generate a lot of respect by the opposition,” said manager John Farrell. “They’re pitching him a little bit more careful, and he’s doing a good job of not expanding the strike zone.”

Iglesias has made a considerable leap in his discipline. Entering the year, he averaged 3.43 pitches per plate appearance in 83 big league plate appearances. This year, he’s averaging 3.92 pitches per plate appearance — above league average. Of his six walks, five have come in the last four games, further demonstration of the fact that, to this point, he’s adjusting well to the way in which big league opponents are adapting to him.

“To me, that’s on-the-job training. That’s situational. Certainly, we have a high number of guys that have a track record of that, so he’s got a tangible example that plays out in front of him as a reminder,” said Farrell. “You see the recent number of walks that have been far more than what he’s experienced in the past. That’s a combination of hitting for an average and not expanding the strike zone.”

Will Middlebrooks is nearing a return to the big leagues. Farrell suggested that there isn’t a set date for his return from a rehab assignment but that it will occur “soon.” So, is there any relationship between Iglesias’ performance and the duration of Middlebrooks’ stay in Triple-A?

“No, and that was outlined at the outset. We feel what’s best for Will is best for us, and that’s to get him not only with the health things behind him, which everything points to that being the case right now, that there’s no more back issue, and for [him] to get on a little bit on a roll to come back to us,” said Farrell. “Will’s our third baseman. We’ve said that. But yet at the same time, Jose is doing an excellent job, and once Will’s returned and the roster decision is made, if the scenario is that Jose is our utility guy, we’ve got to be sure that we rotate him through there to keep him in the mix.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clay Buchholz, jose iglesias, Shane Victorino, Will Middlebrooks
Red Sox-Rangers series preview 06.04.13 at 12:24 pm ET
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The AL East-leading Red Sox return home after a 3-2 road trip, and when they get back to Fenway Park on Tuesday night, another first-place team will be waiting for them. The Sox will meet up with the Rangers for the second time this year, hoping for a better outcome than the last time they saw Texas. The Rangers swept the Red Sox in a three-game set back in early May, outscoring Boston 16-4 in the series.

But recently, the Red Sox have managed to put runs on the board with a lineup that is missing some key components. Right fielder Shane Victorino is working his way back, Will Middlebrooks is close to returning but still sidelined, and Jacoby Ellsbury missed the entire series in New York after injuring himself on his fifth stolen base of Thursday’€™s contest against the Phillies. But the Red Sox still scored a total of 27 runs over the course of the five-game road trip, including an 11-run explosion against the Yankees on Saturday.

The Rangers have enjoyed a combination of a great rotation, a solid bullpen and some steady offensive production to stay atop the AL West with a 35-21 record. The Rangers have won three of their last four games and have a 1½-game lead over the second-place Athletics.

This series will be a big one for both teams, as they look to prove that their reign atop their respective divisions is not temporary. The Red Sox will have their work cut out for them in staving off the Rangers, who have won 10 of their last 13 at Fenway Park.

Here are the pitching matchups for the three-game set.

Tuesday: Ryan Dempster (2-6, 4.45) vs. Justin Grimm (5-3, 3.93)
Wednesday: John Lackey (3-5, 2.96) vs. Alexi Ogando (4-2, 3.08)
Thursday: Jon Lester (6-2, 3.53) vs. Derek Holland (5-2, 2.81)

WHO’€™S HOT: RED SOX

‘€¢ Daniel Nava came into spring training in the mix for a spot in the outfield. He emerged from spring training as half of a platoon with Jonny Gomes. But with various injuries to outfielders, along with his steady and consistent contributions, Nava has turned into one of the most productive members of the lineup and, at some points, an everyday outfielder. Nava has been a stable presence at the plate all year, batting .297 with an outstanding .397 OBP.  He clubbed his eighth home run of the year over the past weekend in New York, going 4-for-6 on Saturday night with four RBIs. Nava is second on the team in RBIs with 37 and is tied for third in home runs, while he ranks below just David Ortiz in OPS with an .880 mark.

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Read More: Adrian Beltre, Craig Breslow, daniel nava, jose iglesias
Postgame notes: Farrell on ‘uneven strike zone'; Ellsbury questionable, Iglesias hungry 05.31.13 at 11:26 pm ET
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NEW YORK — A few postgame notes in the aftermath of the Red Sox‘ 4-1 loss to the Yankees:

— Typically, either pitchers or hitters will express confusion about a strike zone — rarely both. But on Friday night, the Red Sox managed that daily double.

In the top of the first and again in the eighth inning, mild-mannered Daniel Nava was nonplussed by called third strikes by home plate ump Lance Barksdale. In the first inning, the strikeout elicited a grimace. After Nava punched out to end the eighth, he engaged in what was likely the most vehement argument of his career, making clear his sentiment that the pitch was down and off the plate. Other members of the Sox lineup also frowned in dissatisfaction on a night when the Sox struck out 12 times, including four looking.

Meanwhile, Sox starter Jon Lester also was puzzled by some pitches that Barksdale did not call. After the bottom of the first, in fact, Lester checked in with the home plate ump to clarify where he’d missed with pitches that he thought had clipped the strike zone.

“I’€™ll be honest with you, I thought it was a very uneven strike zone tonight,” said manager John Farrell. “So I could understand if there was some frustration [from Lester], but I don’€™t think it caused him to be affected in successive pitches.”

Lester suggested that he was simply trying to get a sense from Barksdale about how close his pitches were so that he’d know how he needed to execute in order to get inside the umpire’s strike zone.

“I think everything’€™s a strike ‘€“ ball down, ball up, everything should be a strike but that’€™s baseball,” said Lester. “That first inning with [Brett] Gardner up and [catcher David] Ross where he was catching the ball, I felt like they were pretty good pitches, and you talk to Lance after the inning and he’€™s telling me no, they’€™re a couple of balls off, so my question to him was ‘€˜were they close or just off?’€™ and he told me they were just off. that’€™s information as far as a visual you can see ‘€“ I throw that same pitch, I know it’€™s off, you don’€™t have that reaction later in the game.’€™’€™

Meanwhile, Sabathia was little short of masterful in figuring out the precise parameters of Barksdale’s hermeneutics of the strike zone.

“You’ve got to work with those guys. Those guys, they call it like they see it. Sometimes zones are big. Sometimes they’re small. Sometimes they’re up. Sometimes they’re down,” Ross said, in a spontaneously Seussical portrayal. “It’s a constant adjustment. Every umpire is different and we’ve already had Lance once this year. He was consistent with what he was calling. You have to adjust. If he’s going to stay right there, then we’re going to have to make adjustments. CC took advantage of his good stuff, matching it with that zone. He did a good job. Nothing you can do about it.”

Lester suggested that his defeat — which left him with an 0-2 record and 6.05 ERA in his last three starts — was attributable more to bad stuff than to umpiring. He suggested that he didn’t have any of his four pitches — fastball, cutter, curve, change — working with any kind of consistency, resulting in his yield of four runs on six hits, four walks and a hit batter in 6 1/3 innings.

“It wasn’t just offspeed stuff. I really didn’t have good command of my fastball. One through four, it wasn’t good,” said Lester. “It just wasn’t a good night for me. It’s another one of those grinders. The biggest thing was just to try to get as deep in the game as I could and try to save the bullpen. It wasn’t good for me with really anything tonight.”

Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed Friday’s game due to stiffness in his left groin, remained impaired during Friday’s game, and his availability for Saturday’s contest is unknown. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, jose iglesias
Closing Time: Jacoby Ellsbury steals a piece of Red Sox history in blowout win over Phillies 05.30.13 at 10:22 pm ET
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The Red Sox will arrive in Yankee Stadium the same way they left it after the first series of the year: In first place in the American League East. The Sox ensured they would enjoy the divisional pole position by dispatching of the Phillies, 9-2, in a game notable for the team’s ongoing ability to conjure starting pitching depth and for the continuation of its ability to take advantage of rookies in what turned into an offensive explosion in the late innings against the Philadelphia bullpen.

Franklin Morales joined Alfredo Aceves and Allen Webster as pitchers who delivered serviceable outings when pressed into duty for injured teammates. In this instance, with Clay Buchholz missing a turn in the rotation, Morales proved serviceable if unexceptional, delivering five solid innings in which he gave up two runs. The Sox offense ensured that outing would prove sufficient by jumping early on rookie pitcher Jonathan Pettibone for four runs in the first. While those proved the only runs Pettibone permitted, he became the sixth straight rookie starter (in as many games) whom the Sox knocked out in five or fewer innings; rookie starters have a combined 10.64 ERA in those six starts against the Sox.

Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury continued a recent surge in which he looked like a player capable of altering the dynamic of the Red Sox lineup.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

— Ellsbury continued his recent surge. He went 3-for-4 with a walk and also got hit by a pitch, matching a career high by reaching base five times in a game (something he’d done four previous times, last on Sept. 13, 2011). He also set a new personal and Red Sox team record with five stolen bases; his previous best was four, accomplished against the Yankees on Aug. 9, 2010. The contest marked the 10th straight game in which he’s reached base. Over those 10 games, he’s now hitting .400/.489/.550, pushing his line for the year up to .268/.337/.372. Though he (somewhat startlingly) scored just one run despite spending the entire game in scoring position, he’s playing with considerable and obvious confidence in the batter’s box, in the field and on the bases, something that bodes well for a Sox team that entered the game having gotten just a league-average OBP (.327) from its leadoff spot. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Ortiz, franklin morales, jackie bradley jr., Jacoby Ellsbury
Red Sox-Phillies series preview 05.27.13 at 8:35 am ET
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Interleague play will begin for the Red Sox on Monday, with the Phillies coming to town. The Sox and Phillies will play a two-and-two set, with the first pair of games being played in Boston on Monday and Tuesday before the two teams head to Philadelphia to finish the four-game season series on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Red Sox are riding high after an invigorating walk-off win on Sunday afternoon. Down three runs in the ninth, the Sox rallied and pushed across two runs, and with two outs, Jonny Gomes drew a walk, Stephen Drew singled and Jose Iglesias battled to work a walk before Jacoby Ellsbury lined a two-run, game-winning double to center field.

With the walk-off victory, the Red Sox took three of four from the Indians and have won nine of their last 12 games, putting them only percentage points behind the Yankees for the division lead.

The Phillies come to town third place in the NL East at 24-26, 6½ games behind the division-leading Braves. Philadelphia is 12-11 on the month, coming off dropping two of three to the Nationals.

A weak offense has been a big problem for the Phillies, coming into the game with their lineup ranking in the bottom third of almost every offensive category. A recent string of injuries has also hurt, with Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and John Lannan all hitting the disabled list.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series.

Monday: Alfredo Aceves (1-1, 8.20) vs. Tyler Cloyd (1-0, 2.70)
Tuesday: Ryan Dempster (2-5, 4.69) vs. Cliff Lee (5-2, 2.48)
Wednesday: John Lackey (3-4, 2.72) vs. Kyle Kendrick (4-3, 3.29)
Thursday: Jon Lester (6-1, 3.34) vs. Jonathan Pettibone (3-0, 3.21)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

‘€¢ Ellsbury had been struggling recently, but he delivered a clutch two-run double to give the Red Sox a walk-off win against the Indians on Sunday afternoon. Ellsbury drove in four runs in the four-game series, reaching base six times with four hits.

‘€¢ Just recalled from Triple-A, Jose Iglesias has picked up where he left off when he was sent down to the minors back in April. Iglesias was 4-for-8 in the weekend series, notching three hits on Saturday and drawing a walk in a crucial moment in Sunday’€™s walk-off win. With Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list, Iglesias is taking over third base for now, moving over from shortstop.

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Read More: Domonic Brown, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon, jose iglesias
As the roster churns: Why the Red Sox made six roster moves with more to come 05.24.13 at 6:03 pm ET
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It is the busiest transaction day of the year for the Red Sox, who made six roster moves with more to come in the coming days. Here’s a look at the moves that were made and the moves that likely will be made, with a brief explanation for each:

SHANE VICTORINO PLACED ON 15-DAY DL (LEFT HAMSTRING STRAIN), RETROACTIVE TO MAY 21

Victorino had been unable to play for the last three games. The Red Sox roster is currently running thin, given that the bullpen was nearly emptied in Thursday’s 12-3 blowout loss to the Indians and that Victorino and Will Middlebrooks both faced injuries. While the Sox had planned to wait until closer to the one-week mark of Victorino’s stretch of being unable to play before making a decision on him, the need to summon reinforcements from the minors somewhat forced the Sox’ hands. So, too, did the fitful progress he’d made since suffering the injury. It hadn’t been a straight-line improvement, but instead an up-and-down trajectory. Given that, the Sox, according to manager John Farrell, felt that Victorino was “in need of this extended time and treatment.”

Victorino is hitting .283/.343/.362 while playing dazzling right field defense in 34 games this year. He’s missed 14 games due to back injuries and the hamstring. This is his first stint on the DL this year.

WILL MIDDLEBROOKS PLACED ON 15-DAY DL (LOWER BACK STRAIN) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, David Ross, jackie bradley jr., jose iglesias
Shane Victorino, Will Middlebrooks to DL; Jose Iglesias, Alfredo Aceves promoted at 3:58 pm ET
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The Red Sox executed a flurry of roster moves Friday, calling up both pitcher Alfredo Aceves and infielder Jose Iglesias while putting outfielder Shane Victorino (hamstring) and third baseman Will Middlebrooks (back) on the 15-day disabled list. The Sox also activated catcher David Ross from the seven-day concussion DL, optioning Ryan Lavarnway to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Victorino’s DL stint is retroactive to May 21.

Iglesias, who just started playing third base last week, is hitting .202 with a .262 on-base percentage in 33 games for Pawtucket. He is just 5-for-35 (.143) in his last 10 games. Aceves last pitched May 17, allowing three runs (one earned) over five innings. In four appearances for the PawSox, the righty has 3.13 ERA in 23 innings, striking out 21 and walking 11.

Iglesias gets the start at third base against the Indians Friday night, going up against Indians’ starter Justin Masterson. The third baseman will hit ninth.

Here is the rest of the Red Sox’ lineup:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Daniel Nava RF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Napoli 1B

Jarrod Saltalamacchia C

Mike Carp LF

Stephen Drew SS

Jose Iglesias 3B

For all the matchups. click here.

Read More: alfredo aceves, David Ross, jose iglesias, Shane Victorino
Red Sox minor league roundup: Making sense of Francellis Montas, Jose Iglesias debuts at third, Bryce Brentz being Bone Buhner? 05.22.13 at 10:24 am ET
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What to make of the hardest throwing pitcher in the Red Sox system, at a time when he’s beginning to string together some dominant starts?

Francellis Montas has long had a reputation that preceded him. Even before he pitched in the States, word started to circulate about the teenager who could reach triple-digits with his fastball. Still, in his first couple seasons in pro ball, he struggled to harness his power, as evidenced by the fact that he walked 30 (the same number that he struck out) in 34 1/3 innings in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 and 2011.

Last year, however, he took a considerable step forward while spending most of the year in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League. He struck out 41 and walked just 12 in 40 2/3 innings.

This year, despite a 1-4 record and 5.08 ERA, he’s been even better than that while facing more age-appropriate competition in the Single-A South Atlantic League. The 20-year-old Montas continued what has been a string of eye-opening starts by tossing five innings in which he permitted just one run on one hit (a solo homer), walked one and struck out eight.

On the year, Montas now has 49 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 39 innings. His 11.3 strikeouts per nine rank 18th in all of minor league baseball. Of the 17 players who are ahead of him on the list, only one (19-year-old Tyler Glasnow) is younger. Of the 58 players with 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings (or more) this year, his rate of 4.9 strikeouts per walk ranks sixth. So, he’s in a somewhat elite class when it comes to having power stuff (a fastball that, as a starter, sits in the mid- to high-90s, along with a slider that has made considerable progress to become a wipeout pitch) while having the willingness to attack the strike zone with it.

And Tuesday continued what has been an increasingly impressive stretch for the right-hander. In his last five starts, he’s punched out 31 and walked just four in 23 innings (12.1 strikeouts and 1.6 walks per nine) with a 3.13 ERA. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: brandon jacobs, Brandon Workman, bryce brentz, carson blair
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