|Closing Time: Red Sox 8, Orioles 2||06.05.10 at 10:21 pm ET|
Since 2008, the numbers suggest that there are few in his company. He entered Saturday’s contest against the Orioles with a .972 OPS since the beginning of ’08 that ranked third in the majors and first in the American League. The only players ahead of him on that list were Albert Pujols (1.090) and Manny Ramirez (.978). Youkilis was well ahead of players such as Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez and Joe Mauer. His .409 OBP is second only to Mauer among American Leaguers. His .563 slugging mark was, once again, better than anyone else in his league over the three-year span.
All of that was before Saturday’s game, when Youkilis delivered the key blow of the game. With the contest between the Red Sox and Orioles at a 0-0 impasses, Youkilis jumped on the first pitch that O’s starter Jeremy Guthrie threw in the top of the seventh inning. He lined the 90 mph fastball into the left-field seats at Camden Yards for his 12th homer of the year, a shot that gave his club a 1-0 lead.
Youkilis later helped the Sox to blow the once-tight affair open. In the top of the ninth, he added a two-run double, finishing the night having gone 3-for-5 with 3 RBI in his club’s 8-2 victory over the Orioles.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Reliever Daniel Bard recorded the two most significant outs of the night. After starter Jon Lester lost the strike zone in the seventh, walking a pair of batters and allowing a single, Bard entered the game with the bases loaded and one out, and the Sox leading, 1-0.
Bard stranded all three runners by getting a pair of pop-outs, retiring a pair of left-handers in the process. First, he got Luke Scott to fly out to very shallow center, too close to the plate to score Adam Jones. Then, with two outs, Bard got Corey Patterson to foul out to third.
Bard retired all five batters he faced. He stretched his scoreless appearances streak to 12 games and 13 innings. On the year, left-handed hitters have an .074 average against Bard.
–Jon Lester was again dominant, going 6 1/3 shutout innings while allowing four hits and three walks. He struck out four batters.
The southpaw has now allowed four or fewer hits in seven of his last nine outings, a run in which he is now 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA. He remained perfect in his career against the Orioles, improving to 11-0 in 13 career starts against the AL East team.
–Josh Reddick, called up from Triple-A Pawtucket, went 1-for-3 with a triple. He also drove a rocket to the warning track in left-center. Reddick suggested before the game that his poor numbers in Triple-A (a .191 average, .241 OBP and .603 OPS) were misleading, and that he had been hitting the ball well, but at people. (He mentioned that he had been robbed of homers by wall-climbing centerfielders on three occasions.) His day suggested as much.
–Dustin Pedroia stole his first base since April 26, swiping second after singling with two outs in the sixth inning. The swipe snapped a streak of 34 straight games without a steal for Pedroia, the second longest drought of his career (after an 84-game run to start his career). Pedroia also extended his modest hitting streak to five games.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–Joe Nelson, brought into the game for the ninth inning with an 8-0 lead, could not complete his team’s shutout. For that matter, he could not spare his bullpen from additional work.
Nelson allowed two runs, two hits and two walks while retiring just one batter.
–Victor Martinez entered Saturday on a tear, having gone 10-for-13 (.769) in his prior three games and 21-for-40 (.525) over an 11-game span. But the switch-hitter continued a trend in which he’s been much better against left-handed pitchers than right-handers. He went 0-for-4 with a walk in five plate appearances against Orioles right-handers. Martinez is now hitting .203 with a .597 OPS against righties.
That said, Martinez had a tremendous defensive game at first base. In his first appearance at that position in 2010, he made a diving backhanded catch of a liner in the first inning, and ranged well to his right on a pair of grounders in the eighth for a couple of groundball outs.
–David Ortiz has cooled off since coming to Baltimore. The designated hitter is 0-for-8 with a pair of walks in the series.
|Francona: ‘What we were doing wasn’t working’||04.20.10 at 4:57 pm ET|
The Red Sox are dealing with a number of moving parts. On Tuesday, Mike Cameron went on the disabled list due to a strain in his lower abdomen. Josh Reddick was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace him on the roster, and, with Jacoby Ellsbury still trying to work his way back from injury, Reddick was immediately slotted in to start in center field against the Rangers on Tuesday evening.
But the changes didn’t stop there. Francona shuffled the lineup, inserting J.D. Drew in the second spot in the order, where the Sox hope he will get on base in front of new No. 3 hitter Dustin Pedroia. Victor Martinez was dropped from third to fifth in the lineup, bumping David Ortiz down to sixth and Adrian Beltre to seventh.
Francona typically likes to keep a fairly stable lineup, and freely admitted that the overhaul reflected the state of affairs with his club.
“I think I said on Opening Day, if we were making changes, something isn’t going right. I do believe in being very patient. I think that is what helps players. At the same time, what we were doing wasn’t working,” said Francona. “Our hitting with runners in scoring position right now is zero. … You can hit them anywhere you want. We just need to do better.”
The Sox are admittedly facing a moment of some urgency after dropping five straight games and falling six games behind the Rays in the standings. That being the case, the team recognizes the need for improvement, and the fact that they don’t have long to enact a turnaround.
“We’re very results oriented. The results have been horrendous. Hopefully the results will start getting better,” said Francona. “This is a chance for us to try to stand tall. We talked to the players the very first meeting, how a lot of our season will be defined by how we handle frustration. Are we going to be tough? Are we going to dig ourselves out of it? Are we going to make excuses? We’ll find out. This is a time for us to show what we’re made of. I believe that.”
–Francona is hopeful that, with rest, Cameron might be able to return from his abdominal strain in 2-3 weeks, rather than being kept on the sidelines for a period of months by worsening the injury in a fashion that might necessitate surgery.
“He’s got a lower abdominal strain that is creating a lot of discomfort when he tries to rotate, move,” said Francona. “Think about it ‘ the last four or five days, dealing with a stone and an abdominal strain. Kind of amazing. He wanted to help us out and go out and play. We appreciated it a lot, but now we have to protect him a little bit. We’re going to DL him, rest it, rehab him and hopefully keep this a two- to three-week thing rather than an eight-week thing.
“The way I understand it is if you try to play through it and turn a strain into a tear, you’re looking at problems. That’s what we’re trying to stay away from.”
–Josh Reddick, who wore No. 68 last year and during the spring, is wearing No. 39, a number that suggests that he is viewed as more of a fixture. Still, Reddick suggested that he would gladly wear No. 99 if it meant that he was back in the big leagues.
–Francona suggested that Reddick is athletic enough to play any of the three outfield positions.
“Where he ends up as a major league player may have something to do with who we have, how he progresses,” said Francona. “He’s athletic enough to play center.”
Reddick certainly has the arm to play right field.
The 23-year-old was struggling in Triple-A this year (“Too many hits in spring training,” he suggested, alluding to his average over .400 this spring), hitting .179/.200/.359/.559 for Pawtucket. But in the last two games, he had three extra-base hits (double, triple, homer), and the Sox are hopeful that he can make a positive impact based on what he did when called up to play in Baltimore at last year’s trade deadline.
“As we’ve seen, last year when he was called up, there was an immediate impact with us with his bat and his outfield play,” said Francona. “Hopefully this will be the same.”
–Jacoby Ellsbury took batting practice on Tuesday for the first time since his collision with Sox third baseman Beltre on April 11. The fact that Reddick is now on the roster, thus giving the team four healthy players capable of playing the outfield (Reddick, Drew, Jeremy Hermida, Bill Hall) gives the Sox greater freedom to wait on a decision as to whether to put Ellsbury on the disabled list. Even so, the team simply wants to let Ellsbury’s health dictate the timetable of his return.
|Health of Ellsbury, Cameron uncertain||04.19.10 at 3:10 pm ET|
Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury missed his seventh straight game on Monday due to the bruised chest he suffered in a collision with Adrian Beltre on April 11. Ellsbury still wasn’t sure when he might be ready to return to the lineup, and was also unsure whether he’d have to be placed on the disabled list.
“I’d like to make a prediction [about a return date], but it’s kind of hard to tell. I wish it would have been a little bit quicker, but this is one of those things that needs rest,” said Ellsbury. “It’s hard to say [whether a DL trip will be needed]. I’m hoping that I’ll wake up tomorrow and feel a little bit better.”
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that Ellsbury will have an “aggressive” day on Tuesday to test the progress of his chest. He is still experiencing a sharp pain when he breathes deeply — something that Ellsbury said was limiting his workouts and any other work — but the Sox want him to try to swing more aggressively to see whether he is coming closer to a return to the lineup.
Ellsbury said that he has had some improvement. The soreness that he first experienced, which had been located across his ribs, is now isolated at the location of the impact.
“All of that other soreness has pretty much gone away. It’s just right where I took the hit on my chest, that’s where I still feel that sharp pain,” said Ellsbury. “You want to be out there and contribute, but it’s just a rough stretch right now.”
Meanwhile, the health of Mike Cameron remains an ongoing source of concern. He left for Mass. General this morning with a recurrence of the symptoms that led to a kidney stone being removed last Friday. But after doctors ruled out kidney stones, they are still trying to find out what is ailing the Sox’ centerfielder.
“He’s been [at the hospital] all day,” said Francona. “The CT-scan, we think, ruled out more stones. He’s in a tube now, they’ve got multiple doctors trying to figure out what’s going on. We don’t know. He’s been in there all day.’
The Sox have held off on putting Ellsbury on the disabled list to this point in part because Cameron returned so quickly to the lineup. Indeed, Francona said during the weekend that the Sox probably would have had to make a move had Cameron not returned to the lineup one day after having the kidney stone removed.
But now, with Ellsbury’s progress unclear and Cameron having endured his setback, the team will have to revisit the question of making a roster move to summon an outfielder from Triple-A.
“That’s something that [GM Theo Epstein] and I are going to talk about,” said Francona. “We’ve tried to do what we’ve thought was right the whole way. There’s a lot of uncertainty going on right now. We’ll probably continue to talk tonight. Hopefully we’ll get some more information pretty soon.’
Josh Reddick had appeared to be the most likely candidate for a call-up (indeed, he was in Boston on Friday), though because the Sox designated Ramon A. Ramirez for assignment on Friday, the team does have an opening on the 40-man roster should it choose to add Darnell McDonald.
|Kidney stone for Cameron||04.16.10 at 11:03 am ET|
Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron received an initial diagnosis of a kidney stone on Thursday in Minnesota, his agent, Mike Nicotera, confirmed in a text message. (The news was first reported by ESPN’s Gordon Edes.) Nicotera said that Cameron, who is back in Boston, will receive a “full workup today” and that more about his prognosis (including his expected duration on the sidelines) will be known once that is complete.
The Sox had been hoping to rule out appendicitis for the 37-year-old outfielder, who is currently hitting .217/.357/.261/.618. An appendectomy would have all but guaranteed a trip to the disabled list for the center fielder.
While a kidney stone would represent a less severe issue, however, it does not necessarily mean that Cameron will be returning in the immediate future. In recent seasons, there are instances of players who have spent no more than a few games sidelined by the condition (Marlon Byrd and Bobby Jenks both missed three games due to kidney stones last year) and others (such as Miguel Olivo in 2004) who have landed on the disabled list with the condition. In 2006, Coco Crisp was delayed by more than a week in his return from a broken index finger due to kidney stones.
With Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury (sore ribs) ailing, the Red Sox may need to dip into the minor leagues for a replacement as they prepare to host the Tampa Bay Rays in a four-game series. Click here to read about one of the candidates, Pawtucket Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick.
|Health concerns for Ellsbury, Cameron||04.15.10 at 5:57 pm ET|
According to multiple reports, Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron will be checked in a Minneapolis hospital for an examination of the lower abdominal pain that kept him out of the lineup on Thursday. The team wants to rule out appendicitis (a condition that would require surgery and prevent Cameron from flying) before allowing him on a plane.
Meanwhile, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury told reporters after the Sox’ 8-0 loss to the Twins that he continues to experience “sharp pain” when trying to take a deep breath. He will be further examined in Boston on Friday.
Until either Ellsbury or Cameron can return, the Sox have only three outfielders on their roster: J.D. Drew, Jeremy Hermida and Bill Hall. That being the case, if both remain unavailable for the team’s return to Boston, a minor league addition would be expected.
Josh Reddick is the only Red Sox minor league outfielder on the 40-man roster. He was not in the starting lineup for Triple-A Pawtucket’s game in Buffalo on Thursday, but PawSox skipper Torey Lovullo told reporters that Reddick was out for a “mental break” following a 4-for-29 start to the season.
|Post-Game Notes: Red Sox 2, Twins 1||03.04.10 at 9:29 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — For Josh Beckett, the success of his first start of the Grapefruit League season was easy to measure. Beckett allowed a run on two hits in two innings, striking out one, walking none, and throwing 19 of his 27 pitches for strikes. Yet he defined his effectiveness with another gauge.
“I feel like I kept the ball down well. There were five groundballs [and] two hits ‘ one a line drive, the other a groundball,” said Beckett. “Things we’ve been working on the last two weeks, I’m getting there.”
That Beckett would now measure the success of his performance in terms of grounders represents an interesting evolution of his approach. In 2009, he matched his career best groundball-to-flyball ratio (0.91 to 1, compared to a big league average of 0.81-to-1) and set a new career standard by producing 1.28 groundouts per flyout (more than 20 percent better than the MLB average of 1.06-to-1).
The 29-year-old says that he has not been trying to redefine himself as a groundball pitcher, but that the area of emphasis in his game over the last two seasons has lent itself to a development in that direction. He has incorporated a two-seam fastball that has become as much a swing-and-miss pitch as a groundball-inducing one. As much as that two-seamer with both tail and sink, his ability to work down in the strike zone with his four-seam fastball (the primary pitch that he featured on Thursday) has been a huge factor in his increasing talent for keeping the ball on the ground.
“I think just keeping the ball down, you’re going to get more groundballs,” said Beckett. “The top half of the ball is more exposed than the middle part and the bottom, so I think you’re just going to get more groundballs by keeping the ball down.”
–Of the 13 pitches that Jonathan Papelbon threw in his first inning of Grapefruit League action, he estimated that he threw four splitters. That, of course, is a pitch that Papelbon has prioritized this spring in an effort to present opponents with a broader mix of pitches for which they must account.
Though the pitch didn’t result in any swings and misses on Thursday, Papelbon seemed pleased with the action of his splitter, including one that resulted in a foul ball straight into the ground and another that produced a called strike.
Papelbon suggested that he has taken a greater focus into spring this year. He is not shy about saying that his goal is greatness, and that after some struggles in 2009 (and a season that ended on a note of disappointment, when his 0.00 ERA in the postseason finally took a hit in Game 3 of the ALDS), he is driven to make the needed adjustments.
‘I think the day I stepped foot in a big league uniform I’ve always strived to be a great athlete,’ said Papelbon. ‘But I’ve also said too [that] to be a great athlete comes with a lot of hard work and a lot of challenges and a lot of adjustments.
‘I feel like right now, I’m just in a phase in my career where I’m having to make adjustments and having to realize the challenges ahead of me and evolve my game. I see how it is ‘ it’s very simple when you look at it. It’s just an evolving time for my game and who I am and what I do.’
–The double play tandem of Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia got its first unveiling in a game, and the results were solid. In particular, Beckett praised the pair for turning a double play when Scutaro ranged to his right on a hard-hit ball by Michael Cuddyer to start a 6-4-3 double play.
‘That was a great double-play on a 3-and-1 pitch. That’s the pitch I’ve been talking about since day one of spring training. You don’t have to make a perfect pitch. You make a decent pitch, and the guys behind you pick you up,’ said Beckett.
‘I don’t think [the pitchers] have talked about [the defensive improvement], but I think it’s just known. Obviously the defense is really going to help us with not having to make the perfect pitch. They’re bad situations for us when we’re behind in the count with guys on base, but I feel like you can just make a good pitch, and if the ball is put in play, you’ve got a good chance of getting some outs.’
–Catcher Mark Wagner delivered the game-winning hit for the Red Sox after entering the game in the top of the eighth inning. He lined a single to left with Josh Reddick (who lined a leadoff double to right) on third to break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth. Reddick’s ball had surprising carry to right field on a chilly night, and Twins right fielder Rene Tosoni misjudged it, thus permitting it to sail over his head.
–The Sox bullpen combined to produce seven shutout innings. Scott Atchison got the win with a scoreless eighth, and Joe Nelson had the save by putting up a zero in the ninth.
|Spring Fortitude: Sunday in review||02.22.10 at 8:42 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The pace of activity is picking up as new arrivals fill the crowded clubhouse in the Red Sox‘ minor league training facility. With all position players scheduled to report for spring training today, the roster is taking fuller shape. David Ortiz arrived early on Monday morning, one day after Bill Hall, intent on reviving his career and restoring the swing mechanics that he lost after an ankle injury in 2007, tried to acclimate to his new spring training facility.
Even as the shape of the 2010 team takes further definition, a significant amount of attention is falling on the Red Sox future. There are plenty of questions this spring about what the future holds for potential free agents Josh Beckett and Victor Martinez following this season.
Beckett addressed his situation (sort of) in a meeting with the media. Martinez, meanwhile, spoke with Lou Merloni about the fact that he is somewhat bemused by questions about whether he is still an everyday catcher. Martinez also reiterated that he would love to stay in Boston, but that while he is open to negotiating an extension, he wants to conclude any conversations about his contract by the end of spring training.
Meanwhile, Red Sox infield instructor Tim Bogar came away dazzled from a glimpse into the slightly more distant future after his first chance to look at shortstop Jose Iglesias in the field. Noteworthy: multiple baseball sources say that Iglesias was offered more to sign with the Cubs than the $8.25 million he received from the Sox.
As for the 2010 season, pitching coach John Farrell broke down what each of the returning pitchers on his staff is working on in spring training. Dustin Pedroia made clear that he is no great fan of the more advanced defensive metrics and the ongoing offseason chatter that the Sox are now a team that will rely heavily on “run prevention” to win. Beckett, meanwhile, said that he wasn’t overly concerned with titles such as that of “the ace,” and that his focus is simply on figuring out a way to compete on any given day, regardless of what kind of stuff he has.
“I wish he went to the National League. Good sign for Detroit, though. [Tigers manager Jim] Leyland will love him. He really will. But I’m not sad he’s not in our division. You can talk all you want about maybe his decreasing defensive skills or however you want to say it. When he’s coming up to bat, it’s not a good feeling. He’s shooting balls all over the ballpark, over the third base dugout, bouncing one into your dugout, looks over and waves at you, then he hits the ball into the gap and it’s a double. Not sad to see him move on.” — Manager Terry Francona on Detroit’s signing of Johnny Damon
Daisuke Matsuzaka continues to move well in drills, and is scheduled to play catch from 60 feet on Monday. Though he had been expected to do so on Sunday, that was a byproduct of Francona’s confusion about the day of the week.
NO MINOR DEVELOPMENTS
–Yamaico Navarro has been a batting practice beast, threatening cars on Edison Ave. while mashing balls over the fence in left and left-center. His raw power is significant. Navarro said that his wrist (which required surgery to remove a broken hamate) feels “perfect” this spring, and that he is “stronger than ever.”
–Lars Anderson also put on a show in batting practice, using his smooth swing to flash all fields power. Anderson says that he is in a “very good place” after his struggles in 2009.
–Josh Reddick said that he’s currently at his typical playing weight of about 180 pounds. He said that he actually weighs less now than he did in college, when he weighed 188 pounds at Middle Georgia.
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