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Red Sox notebook: John Farrell playing it safe with Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, and a Jonathan Herrera experiment 02.27.14 at 11:30 am ET
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Pedro Martinez was a close observer of Koji Uehara and Junicha Tazawa in camp. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Pedro Martinez was a close observer of Koji Uehara and Junicha Tazawa in camp. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox are making no apologies for playing it safe with some of their aging veterans as they enter camp as World Series champs.

Manager John Farrell announced Thursday before the team’s college doubleheader with Northeastern and Boston College that Shane Victorino is easing his way back into full baseball activities after his legs needed some extra rest after early work in camp.

“Shane continues to address some of the things we discovered in those legs,” Farrell said. “I want to be clear, his first two days of work coming in were extremely good. But then we saw some needs and we’re addressing those right now. He continues to throw and is doing some running and we’re just addressing the overall core strength.”

Farrell said there’s no firm schedule for when Victorino might be ready to get into spring games.

“Not yet. He’s going to be out there when he’s first ready,” Farrell said. “We know this from Shane, he’s going to want to get out there maybe before we might want to put him in games. There’s no reason to think that he’s not going to be ready for opening day. That’s not in our concern right now.”

In addition to surgery on his thumb in December, Victorino battled hamstring, groin and hip issues throughout last season. The Red Sox are trying to be proactive this spring to make sure those ailments don’t recur often.

Farrell also indicated Thursday that, despite the proclamation of Pedro Martinez on Wednesday, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara will be held out for about the first week of games in camp as they get their work in on the side and the back fields. The reason? Simple, both were used in many high leverage postseason situations for a full extra month of baseball last year.

“He and Junichi, they’ll get in games probably around the third-way through the game schedule mark,” Farrell said. “There’s nothing that says otherwise why we’re holding them back. They’re throwing the ball extremely well right now but we’re just trying to balance out the number of appearances last year, as well.”

As for Martinez saying Uehara, at 38, looks like he could already be pitching in regular season games, Farrell said there’s reasons for that.

“One they’re durable. Two, their work ethic in the offseason shows up when they first come into camp and the way they’re able to throw bullpens with shorter rest, so their recovery time has been great. But we still have to balance what they went through last year with a full month of additional pitching,” Farrell said.

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Red Sox face decisions on Andrew Bailey, Ryan Kalish and others 12.02.13 at 12:26 pm ET
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The Red Sox must decide on Monday whether to offer right-hander Andrew Bailey arbitration to secure his services for 2014. (AP)

The Red Sox must decide on Monday whether to offer right-hander Andrew Bailey arbitration to secure his services for 2014. (AP)

A midnight deadline looms for teams to tender contracts to the players on their 40-man roster who, with less than six years of big league service time, remain under team control. In the case of the Red Sox, that means five mostly straightforward decisions on arbitration-eligible players as well as some additional decision regarding players who are not yet arbitration-eligible but whose roster spots are in question at a time when the Red Sox will need to round out their major league roster with additional players.

First, the arbitration-eligible players: left-handed relievers Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller as well as right-hander Junichi Tazawa all project to make less than $2 million through salary arbitration, a modest sum given their abilities. Miller is expected to be healthy in 2013 after he underwent season-ending foot surgery for a torn ligament last July; his stuff was among the most dominant of any left-hander’s in baseball prior to the injury. Tazawa endured some ups and downs but still offers excellent bang for the buck as a late-innings right-hander who attacks the strike zone and gets swings and misses. Morales (2-2, 4.62 ERA in 20 games and 25 1/3 innings) had a disappointing year after his strong showing in 2012, but his upside (a left-hander with three swing-and-miss pitches) is such that he represents a worthwhile investment in his third year of arbitration-eligibility. First baseman/outfielder Mike Carp may assume a growing role with the Red Sox if Mike Napoli leaves in free agency; given his tremendous offensive production against right-handed pitchers in 2013, he’s a lock to get tendered. Newcomer Burke Badenhop will also be tendered. Read the rest of this entry »

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Buster Olney on M&M: Doug Fister ‘incredibly underrated’ 10.16.13 at 1:45 pm ET
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ESPN’s Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox’ win on Tuesday and the pitcher they’ll face in Game 4 of the ALCS.

Buster Olney

Buster Olney

The Red Sox face Doug Fister on Wednesday at Comerica Park, with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Boston has struggled this series against Tigers starters, recording 35 strikeouts and only two earned runs on six hits over 21 innings.

Fister brings less firepower than the previous three starters (Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander), as he sports just a 6.9 K/9 ratio, despite his solid 3.67 ERA.

“I think Fister is incredibly underrated,” Olney said. “But I’m sure the Red Sox are happy that it’s a different type of guy, because at the very least, unlike Sanchez, unlike Scherzer, unlike Verlander, he doesn’t go into it where you’re basically assuming you’re going to have 20 missed swings and you’re going to have a bunch of strikeouts. At least they have a better chance of putting the ball in play.”

The offensive issues don’t just exist in Boston. The Cardinals entered Tuesday’s NLDS Game 4 against the Dodgers batting just .134 in the first three games. Olney credits the domination in pitching partly to the cast of top-end starters employed by the four remaining teams, but also some of the scouting advances pitchers have gained in terms of determining the weaknesses of their opponents.

“I think a classic case of that was last night, when Miguel Cabrera comes up to the plate and John Farrell chooses to have [JunichiTazawa pitch to him because he has the information that Cabrera is struggling on pitches on the outer half  of the plate, and they just went back to it over and over and over and over again,” Olney said.

Boston offset its lack of offense with a dominant pitching performance by John Lackey to earn the 1-0 Game 3 win. Lackey threw 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowing only four hits and zero walks while striking out eight. After Detroit rapped out a couple of base hits in the first inning, Lackey and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia changed their approach.

“They went right to the concept of pitching backwards, rather than starting off with the fastball,” Olney said. “You have to give credit to he and Saltalamacchia for changing so quickly after they saw what the Tigers were doing.”

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Craig Breslow’s Playoff Blog: The ALCS dogfight continues at 11:32 am ET
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Red Sox left-hander Craig Breslow will contribute regularly to this blog throughout his team’s postseason run. In addition to his work on the mound, the eight-year big leaguer is also the founder and executive director of the Strike 3 Foundation, a charitable agency that heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research. To learn more about the Strike 3 Foundation, and its new Play It Forward program, click here.

Craig Breslow

Craig Breslow

This game had the feel that it was going to be won or lost on one pitch. We probably weren’t going to string together three, four, five hits in a row to score a run.

Great starting pitching can do that. We showed signs of breaking out two games ago, but we ran into a dominant pitching performance from Justin Verlander. Still, as has been the trend all season, we grinded through at-bats, kept ourselves in the game and put ourselves within striking distance to where a good at-bat, a good swing from Mike Napoli was enough to position us to win.

John Lackey gave us an incredibly gutsy performance when we needed it. He’s such a competitor. You saw John Lackey earlier in his career where he had the same attitude, the same bulldog mentality where, if the game is on the line, I’d put all my confidence in the world behind him. You know he wants the ball, and you know he’s not going to give it up unless someone wrestles it out of his hands.

When John Farrell came out of the dugout to see Lackey on the mound with one out and a runner on first in the seventh inning and didn’t signal for me right away, I thought maybe he was going to see how Lack felt and give him a chance to get through it. Obviously John felt the move was to bring me in to match up. It didn’t work out in that at-bat when I walked Alex Avila, but it worked out in the next one when Omar Infante grounded into a fielder’s choice.

As much as Lack wanted to stay in the game, he was among the first to say, “Good job,” when I got back to the dugout. He’s the first guy to say that now we’re in the postseason, there’s no room for egos. There’s no room for me wanting to get the win or me wanting to get the last out. As long as we win, that’s all that we care about right now. When you have 25 guys who believe that, I think really good things can happen. The time for caring about who’s getting the outs is over.

Along those lines, I probably wasn’t as sharp today as I’ve been in other outings this postseason, but even though I walked a couple of batters, I made a couple of pitches when I needed to and got two outs. Still, it was unsettling to leave a runner on base for Junichi Tazawa, and perhaps even more so when Torii Hunter‘s single put runners on the corners with one out and Miguel Cabrera coming to the plate in the eighth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Game 3 Tigers, Red Sox clubhouse reaction 10.15.13 at 10:03 pm ET
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DETROIT — A smattering of postgame clubhouse reaction to the events that led to the Red Sox’ 1-0 win over the Tigers in Game 3 of the ALDS:

Koji Uehara, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia celebrate the Red Sox' 1-0 victory over the Tigers in Tuesday's Game 3 of the ALCS. (AP)

Koji Uehara, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia celebrate the Red Sox’ 1-0 victory over the Tigers in Tuesday’s Game 3 of the ALCS. (AP)

ON THE SECOND-INNING POWER OUTAGE THAT DELAYED JOHN LACKEY’S RETURN TO THE MOUND BY 17 MINUTES:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: “He definitely wasn’t happy with it. It always seems like his starts are something whether there’s a rain delay or something happens where there’s a delay. He always seem to get those. I think it was probably a good opportunity for him to slow things down. I think he was a little excited that first inning. It seemed like he was maybe overthrowing a little bit because he was leaving pitches over the plate that he normally doesn’t. So, it might’ve been a good chance for him to slow down and regroup.”

Torii Hunter: “Somebody not pay that bill?”

ON THE PERFORMANCE OF JOHN LACKEY:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: “I’ve seen him go out there with 95, 96, crisper, like that game against Baltimore. That was the best I’ve seen his stuff. But as far as the situation tonight and what he was up against, yeah, I mean, that was huge. Big game.”

Jake Peavy, specifically on the fact that the talk surrounding this game all related to Tigers starter Justin Verlander: “We had a guy going tonight who has been there, done it and has a chance. There was just no talk. It was almost like there was no talk of we even having a starting pitcher going out there. Talking to John, it’s about the guys in this room. And he wants to be a world champion again. … We’d just been watching this stuff all day and it was like we didn’t even have a starting pitcher going today. I didn’t hear John Lackey’s name mentioned the last 48 hours. It just amazes me that somebody with the back of his baseball card, his resume, gets overlooked in a game like this. It has nothing to do with the way he pitched or anything else, other than he was ready for this stage and he delivered.”

David Ross: “Honestly guys, you guys may be shocked, but nobody in here is. That guy has been one of our most consistent pitchers all year. He had something to prove coming off an injury. He had some tough years when he was pitching hurt. I think he’s had that about him every time. He’s a passionate pitcher and every time expects good things. He was a No. 1.”

David Ortiz: We’re having dinner last night and he sat down and didn’t say a word. He’s been like that since last night. I was like, damn, son. It’s unbelievable. His pitches were where he wanted. We all know that we’re facing a good team. that’s what we need.”

ON JUSTIN VERLANDER’S PERFORMANCE:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: “We knew what we were up against. I don’t think anybody was thinking that we were going to walk all over this game and win. I think we all knew we were going to have to battle and grind, just like we did tonght. That’s what made Lack’s start even bigger was the fact that we knew we weren’t going to get a lot of runs. We had to pitch.”

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Building the bridge: Red Sox bullpen passes first big October test in Game 2 win 10.05.13 at 11:56 pm ET
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The Red Sox have reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with Craig Breslow. (AP)

Craig Breslow pitched 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball for the Red Sox in their 7-4 win over the Rays Saturday night. (AP)

Koji Uehara electrified the Fenway Park crowd Saturday night.

Everything from his trot from the bullpen — most of the 38,705 in attendance stood and clapped along with his entrance music — to his nearly striking out the side on nine pitches to his eventually perfect inning (which required 11 pitches, all strikes) instilled a sense of prolonged excitement seen few other times this year en route to the 7-4 Game 2 win over the Rays.

“Man, how loud was that?” said David Ross, who caught all nine innings. “That was amazing. I just wanted to look up in the stands and take that all in for a minute. It was a lot of fun. This crowd, the first strikeout was loud, that second strikeout is as loud as I’ve ever heard it in a stadium. It was rocking. I don’t know how Koji could catch his emotions.”

But it was what preceded Uehara’s dominant, 11-pitch inning that may have been the most important feat for the Sox. Left-hander Craig Breslow and right-hander Junichi Tazawa, both making their playoff debuts, combined to pitch 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rays to move the Sox to within a win of their first ALCS berth since 2008.

“Each guy that came to the mound did a great job,” manager John Farrell said. “We were fresh. We were ready to go, obviously on the heels of [Jon] Lester’s strong performance last night. … They came in and made some big pitches at key moments.”

Each of those big pitches, however, came with big decisions on Farrell’s part. And as has become the norm in 2013, the skipper pressed all of the right buttons.

First came having Breslow relieve Lackey, who struggled with his command and exited after 5 1/3 innings of four-run ball. Breslow retired pinch-hitters Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez on four pitches to end the sixth.

The Red Sox started to tread dangerous waters in the seventh, which was arguably the biggest inning of the game with the meat of the Rays order due up and a pitcher not named Uehara on the mound.

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Closing Time: Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes lead Red Sox past Dodgers 08.24.13 at 7:22 pm ET
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Jon Lester

Jon Lester

What a difference a day can make.

Less than 24 hours after getting shut down and shut out by Ricky Nolasco and the Dodgers, the Red Sox came out of the gates swinging against left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles’ 26-year-old Korean who has stymied opposing teams for much of the season.

That was not the case Saturday, however, as the Red Sox walked away with a 4-2 win at Dodger Stadium behind the strength of a four-run first inning and another strong game from their own left-handed starter, Jon Lester.

All four of those first-inning runs came before Ryu, who lasted only five inning, recorded a second out. The key rally started with Shane Victorino getting hit by a pitch, followed by Dustin Pedroia eking out an infield single to second baseman Mark Ellis. Mike Napoli drove Victorino in with a line-drive single to center — thus ending the Dodgers’ streak of 26 2/3 scoreless innings — before Jonny Gomes came through with the big blow, a three-run home run to left-center.

Ryu settled down from there on out, allowing only two more hits in his final 4 2/3 innings, but the damage was done — and against a southpaw no less.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– For his second start in a row, Jon Lester was dominant. He lasted 7 1/3 innings and yielded only one run on three hits while striking out six. The Dodgers went down quietly in most innings, forcing Lester to reach the 20-pitch mark only once, and although they worked four walks — the last of which came around to score — Lester got the big outs when he needed to. Carl Crawford worked that last walk before Junichi Tazawa came on in relief of Lester.

The Dodgers didn’t collect their first hit until the fourth, and even then it proved to be harmless. After allowing a Mark Ellis single to center to lead off the inning, Lester bounced back to get former Sox Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez looking, dancing around the outside edge of the strike zone in both cases. Gonzalez watched a 94 mph fastball, while Ramirez let a 79 mph curveball go by. Lester walked A.J. Ellis — no relation to Mark — to put two on with two out, but Andre Ethier flew out to Victorino, who was fighting the sun, to end the threat.

The outing was the latest indication that Lester has found his way after a mediocre first half. In seven games since the All-Star break — during which Lester got a season-high nine days of rest — he has posted a 2.31 ERA and 1.16 WHIP while striking out 38 and walking 12 in 46 2/3 innings innings.

Until Craig Breslow allowed Lester’s last baserunner, Crawford, to score, Lester had tallied 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to the end of his outing against the Blue Jays Aug. 14.

– The Red Sox turned three double plays, two of which featured sensational rookie Yasiel Puig getting doubled off of first.

After Puig worked a full-count walk to lead off the first, Gonzalez lined out to Napoli, who quickly stepped on first to barely beat Puig back to the bag. Then with Puig on again, this time after a single in the sixth, Victorino caught Mark Ellis’ soft line drive and tossed to first to easily retire the Cuban outfielder, who was passed second base by the time Victorino made the catch.

The final one helped Lester escape a one-out, two-on jam in the seventh. Juan Uribe lined to Drew, who doubled Ramirez off second.

– Gomes, who finished the day 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base, hit his fifth long ball in 25 games since the All-Star break. He also has a .500 slugging percentage and 18 RBIs in that time, while managing to walk 16 times compared to 18 strikeouts.

– Napoli, in his first start in more than a week due partly to his plantar fasciitis and partly to David Ortiz getting time at first base in interleague play, went 3-for-4 with a pair of line drives. He entered the day hitting just .146 and a .293 OBP and .250 slugging mark this month.

– Koji Uehara got perhaps the game’s biggest out, striking out A.J. Ellis with runners on first and second and two outs in the eighth.

– Xander Bogaerts notched his first major league hit, rifling a ninth-inning single into right field.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– A few of the relievers didn’t offer much relief. Once Lester exited after 7 1/3, Tazawa only recorded one out while allowing Puig another single. Breslow allowed Gonzalez a two-run double before walking Ramirez and giving way to Uehara.

Although he owns a 2.61 ERA and 1.14 WHIP on the season, Tazawa was been particularly hittable his last six games, which include two blown saves. He has a 5.40 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in five innings in that span.

– The West Coast has not been kind to Will Middlebrooks, who has cooled off after a scorching start to his month. Middlebrooks, 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Saturday, is 3-for-15 with a game to go on this six-game road trip. Three of those games have been 0-fers.

Jacoby Ellsbury has not done much the last two days to impress one of his potential offseason suitors. He has gone 0-for-9 with two strikeouts. Ellsbury also suffered a mental miscue when he walked off first base after hitting into a force out at second, thinking there were three outs when there were only two.

– David Ross, not particularly known for his offense, has lived up to that billing in his first two games since coming off the DL. He followed up his 1-for-4 effort against the Giants on Tuesday by going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

– The Dodgers bullpen, which features no fewer than five relievers who have served as closers at some point in their careers, limited the Red Sox to no runs and two hits in four innings after Ryu departed.

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