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Red Sox notes: Jon Lester delivers more of the same (in a good way) in latest outing 03.06.13 at 7:25 pm ET
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Jon Lester (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The pitcher looks familiar.

Once again, Jon Lester gave off the same impression he had consistently delivered prior to the 2012 season, tossing four solid innings against the Pirates Wednesday at JetBlue Park. The Red Sox may have come away with a 9-3 loss to Pittsburgh, but it was the starter’s one-run, two-hit performance that proved most important.

“Good four innings of work today,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “I thought he used his curveball a little bit more today than he had in the previous two outings, part by design, part by some of the situations that arose. He might not have been as sharp as the last time out, but still 52 pitches in four innings, a good day of work for him.”

Lester has now pitched nine innings (3 outings), just the one run on three hits, striking out six and walking four.

“From each work session, to what he’s able to do inside the game,” Farrell said of Lester. “I think today showed the ability to make some adjustments from pitch to pitch even with the back to back walks in the one inning. I think he’s more in tune with his delivery mechanics that allows him to make those adjustments.”

- Brock Holt got his first-ever taste of playing first base as a professional Wednesday, handling the position well. The 24-year-old (who still has options) went 0-for-2 with a walk and is now 5-for-20 (.25o) with two walks.

Prior to this season, Holt — who came over to the Red Sox in their trade with Pittsburgh for Joel Hanrahan — had only played second base and shortstop in pro ball.

“Through the work that he’s done in early work, he’s shown the ability to adjust to different angles and different reads,” Farrell said. “You’ve got to the long hop, short hop that’s going to become more readily executed at that position. He’s a good athlete and he’s shown a lot of good aptitude.”

There was also some talk of Holt playing some outfield, although Farrell explained that is on the back-burner while the Texas native works at third.

- A couple of pitchers who have created some buzz in camp — Steven Wright and Rubby De La Rosa — experienced tough outings against the Pirates.

Wright allowed five runs on five hits and three walks over two innings, while De La Rosa followed up with a two-inning, three-run outing.

“If you look at the bigger picture he’s at the early stages of trying to perfect this pitch, one which is an imperfect pitch,” Farrell said of the knuckleballer, Wright. “That will be a constant pursuit. With Wake being here and the amount they can converse back and forth … but at the same time, he’s got to learn that pitching in between the lines and not just on the side. That’s part of his development.”

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Why Red Sox are interested in Joel Hanrahan, but not Rafael Soriano 12.22.12 at 8:56 am ET
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The Red Sox have some interest in Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan. (AP)

Opportunity might be knocking for the Red Sox.

If the Red Sox’ interest in Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan was born out of desperation to upgrade their closers role, you would have been hearing Rafael Soriano’s name connected with the team by now. But according to a baseball source, the Sox haven’t discussed making a play at the free agent reliever.

Sure, there is the issue of surrendering a draft pick if Soriano is signed (since the Yankees offered the righty a qualifying offer) — a notion that seems to be scaring teams away. But with the success of the 33-year-old in the American League East, if there was over-the-top anxiety about finding somebody to finish off games for the Sox, a conversation might at least be started regarding to short-term deal for Soriano.

So why are the Red Sox interested in Hanrahan?

The Pirates are fielding offers for the 31-year-old, although a source tells WEEI.com Alex Speier that asking for the likes of Felix Doubront would be a conversation-killer. Hanrahan made $4.1 million in 2012, and will be eligible to become a free agent after the 2013 season, opening the door for Pittsburgh’s willingness to talk.

It is the second straight offseason Pirates general manager Neil Huntington has at least entertained the idea of dealing his closer.

“Obviously, we’d love Joel to be in a Pirate uniform as long as it can possibly happen. There’s a number of factors that go into that. We’ve got to weigh each one accordingly,” Huntington told WEEI.com last November. “We recognize where our window is. We also recognize that we’re not going to be able to keep everybody in Pittsburgh, in a Pirate uniform, for the duration of their career.

“If there’s a deal out there that makes sense, we need to be open to it. That said, we’re not going to look to move him, but if somebody comes in and can fill multiple pieces for us or can fill a hole longer term for us, regardless of who it is — take the name off the back of the jersey — we always have to be willing to think about how we fill multiple pieces to be a better team for longer.”

The Red Sox simply view this as an opportunity to take advantage of the market while dealing from a position of semi-strength, and not flat-out desperation. They still have a closer in Andrew Bailey, and another reliever who has previously closed in Koji Uehara who could serve as a serviceable backup plan. And there would seem to be depth beyond Uehara, with Junichi Tazawa, Alfredo Aceves, Mark Melancon, Franklin Morales and Daniel Bard (assuming he bounces back).

But one could make a case that Hanrahan’s a next-level kind of guy. Soriano without the price tag.

Hanrahan hasn’t changed all that much since he introduced himself to the Red Sox in 2011, when 27 of his 34 pitches thrown over two appearances were clocked at 97 mph or better. According to MLBAnalytics.org, he hit at least 96 mph on nearly half of his pitches in ’12, a rate that didn’t drop off in the second half (hitting 98 mph 19 times in September).

His numbers would have been relatively the same as previous seasons, as well, if not for two bumpy September outings. Hanrahan still ended up holding hitters to a batting average of .187 while finishing with a 2.72 ERA, striking out 67 in 59 2/3 innings.

Any concern revolved around the closer’s increased walk total, which jumped up to 36, 20 more than the year before. Some in baseball worry about possible arm issues, while others will temper any concern by pointing out that the majority of Hanrahan’s wildness came in the season’s final month, when appearances were spotty due to the Pirates’ late-season struggles.

If Bailey is healthy, the Red Sox could certainly live without Hanrahan. But lessons should be learned regarding the importance of making certain the end of your bullpen is top-notch. An argument could be made that if the Brewers (29 blown saves), Angels (22), White Sox (20) and Dodgers (19) had better game-enders they would have been playing in the playoffs.

And it is no coincidence that since 2005, only one World Series winner (’06 Cardinals) hasn’t found a way to total at least 45 saves. The Giants’ last two title teams have collected 53 and 57 saves, respectively. The Red Sox? They went 35 of 57 in save opportunities last season. Again, it’s why if not for the cost of the draft pick, going after Soriano would make arguably as much sense as any of the Sox’ other $13 million acquisitions.

What should Red Sox do?

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Add it all up and it’s why Hanrahan has now entered the conversation.

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Trade Deadline: Yankees acquire Casey McGehee from Pirates 07.31.12 at 5:23 pm ET
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Casey McGehee

With the injuries to corner infielders Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira in recent weeks, the Yankees acquired a corner infielder at the trade deadline, dealing Chad Qualls to the Pirates for Casey McGehee.

McGehee, 29, is batting .230 with eight home runs in 92 games with the Pirates this season. The former Brewer became expendable when the Pirates acquired Gaby Sanchez, as Garrett Jones and Sanchez can fill McGehee’s role at first base.

In 2010 with the Brewers, McGehee had his best season, batting .285 with 23 home runs and 104 RBIs. McGehee struggled in 2011 though, batting .223 with only 13 homers and 67 RBIs.

For a Pirates team that just dealt away successful relief pitcher Brad Lincoln for outfielder Travis Snider, Qualls can fill a spot in the bullpen. The right-hander had a 6.14 ERA in his eight games with the Yankees after being traded from the Phillies on July 1.

With the trade of Qualls, the Yankees have called up Joba Chamberlain from his rehab appearance in Double-A Trenton. Chamberlain has not pitched in the majors since June 5, 2011. Since then, the right-hander has gone through Tommy John surgery, an appendectomy, a dislocated right ankle and a torn right MCL.

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Trade Deadline: Blue Jays deal Travis Snider to Pirates for Brad Lincoln at 3:38 pm ET
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The Blue Jays traded outfielder Travis Snider for right-handed pitcher Brad Lincoln, completing a swap of 2006 first-round picks.

Snider is batting .250 with three home runs and a .559 slugging percentage in 10 games with the Blue Jays since being called up from Triple-A Las Vegas following Toronto’s 10-player deal with Houston earlier this month. The 24-year-old, who was taken with the 14th overall pick in 2006, has spent time in the majors every season since 2008.

Snider will likely be a starting outfielder in Pittsburgh along with MVP-candidate Andrew McCutchen and recently called-up top-prospect Starling Marte.

While Snider was a high first-round pick, Lincoln was an even higher first-rounder, as the Pirates took him fourth overall in 2006. The 27-year-old has a 4-2 record with a 2.73 ERA in 28 games (five starts) with Pittsburgh this season.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell says that Lincoln will pitch out of the bullpen because, “that’s where he’s flourished.”

In his last four starts with the Pirates before being moved back to the bullpen, Lincoln was 2-2 with a 7.13 ERA. However, since being moved to the bullpen, Lincoln has a save, a blown save and five holds while maintaining a 0.57 ERA through 10 appearances.

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Trade Deadline: Pirates P Kevin Correia on block following Wandy Rodriguez acquisition 07.27.12 at 10:48 am ET
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With the acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez on Tuesday, the Pirates have an extra starting pitcher at their disposal and have been fielding offers for starter Kevin Correia, according to ESPN.com baseball writer Jerry Crasnick.

Correia, who has won his last six decisions, is 8-6 with a 4.24 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 19 starts this season. The former Giants and Padres pitcher has been moved to the bullpen following the acquisition of Rodriguez, something he said he is not happy about.

“Starting pitching is what I want to do,” Correia told Rob Biertempfe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I think that’s best how I help the team.”

With only $1 million remaining on his contract, the 31-year-old could be an intriguing starting pitcher option for a playoff-contending team looking to bolster its rotation down the stretch.

Correia, who is from San Luis Obispo, Calif., which is midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, could be an option for a team such as the Angels as an acquisition before Tuesday’s non-waiver deadline.

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The LaRoche Press Release 07.22.09 at 3:10 pm ET
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The Red Sox just sent out the following press release announcing the deal that brought Adam LaRoche to Boston in exchange for minor leaguers Hunter Strickland and Argenis Diaz (for the Pirates release, which includes quotes from Pittsburgh G.M. Neal Huntington on Diaz and Strickland, click here):

BOSTON, MA—The Red Sox today acquired first baseman Adam LaRoche from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for shortstop Argenis Diaz and right-handed pitcher Hunter Strickland.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

LaRoche, 29, is batting .247 (80-for-324) with 12 home runs and 40 RBI in 87 games for the Pirates this season. He ranks seventh in the National League with a .338 (54-for-160) average at home. Among current members of the Red Sox, only Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis (each with 42) have more extra-base hits than LaRoche’s 38, 27 of which have come at PNC Park . The left-handed hitter has committed just one error in 836 total chances and ranks second among N.L. first basemen with a .999 fielding percentage.

He has reached double digits in home runs in each of his six Major League seasons, including a career-high 32 for Atlanta in 2006. Since 2004, only six other N.L. lefties have more round trippers. Overall, LaRoche owns a .269 career batting average with 123 homers and 426 RBI in 775 games with the Braves (2004-06) and Pirates (2007-09).

The former first-round draft pick has posted second-half OPS of .941 since 2006, 12th in the N.L. during that span. He has belted 10 of his 12 home runs off right-handers this season and owns an .866 OPS against righties since the start of the 2006 campaign. He has appeared in eight career post-season games, going 8-for-25 (.320) with two homers and 10 RBI.

Diaz, 22, hit .253 (70-for-277) with 24 RBI in 76 games at Double-A Portland this season. Originally signed by the Red Sox as a non-drafted free agent in July 2003, he is a career .268 hitter with four home runs and 127 RBI in six seasons in Boston ’s farm system.

Strickland, Boston ’s 19th selection (18th round) in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was 5-4 with one save and a 3.35 ERA (31 ER/83.1 IP) in 18 appearances/12 starts for Single-A Greenville . In three professional seasons in the Red Sox organization, the 20-year-old posted a 10-9 record with one save and a 3.66 ERA.

The Red Sox also promoted shortstop Yamaico Navarro from Single-A Salem to Double-A Portland today. He hit .319 (30-for-94) with four homers and 17 RBI over 23 games with Boston ’s Carolina League affiliate this season.

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UPDATED: Red Sox acquire Adam LaRoche for two prospects at 1:00 pm ET
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WEEI.com has confirmed that the Red Sox and Pirates are close to finalizing a deal that would send first baseman Adam LaRoche of the Pittsburgh Pirates to Boston in exchange for two minor leaguers. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was the first to report the news.

LaRoche is a power-hitting first baseman who has averaged 24.5 homers over the past four seasons with the Braves and Pirates. He is hitting .247 with a .329 OBP and .441 slugging mark for the Pirates this year, down from career totals of .269/.338/.486.

According to multiple baseball sources, the Pirates will receive shortstop Argenis Diaz and pitcher Hunter Strickland when the deal is finalized. Diaz is known as a gifted defensive player with incredible tools, but there are questions about his bat, and his defensive focus has at times come into question, resulting in high error totals (he has committed 18 errors this year).

The 22-year-old Diaz is hitting .253/.309/.310 with Double-A Portland this year. He has not hit any homers this year. After he got off to a terrific start in April (hitting .289 with a .769 OPS), he hit .246 with month-by-month OPS totals of .587 in May, .609 in June and .567 in July. His ceiling is considered that of a major-league backup infielder, but for him to achieve that status, he would have to show greater consistency in the field. Diaz was added to the 40-man roster following the 2007 season. Pirates G.M. Neal Huntington had this to say about Diaz in the Pirates’ official press release announcing the deal:

“Diaz is an intriguing shortstop prospect who projects to play above-average defense with soft hands, good first step quickness and an above average throwing arm,” said Huntington. “He is developing on the offensive side of the baseball, but Argenis quickly becomes the best defensive shortstop prospect in our system.”

Strickland, an 18th round pick in 2007, is 5-4 with a 3.35 ERA for the Greenville Drive of the Single-A South Atlantic League this year. The 6-foot-5 20-year-old has shown excellent command for the Drive, with a 51-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 83.1 innings this year.

He shows advanced command for his age of a fastball that is in the vicinity of 90 mph, and his frame suggests the possibility of a future uptick in velocity as he fills out. He also has a decent changeup, but he has yet to show a consistent breaking ball that he can use as a complementary pitch. His development of that pitch will, in all likelihood, determine the quality of the Pirates’ return in this deal (aside from the salary relief they will achieve by moving LaRoche). This is what Huntington had to say in the Pirates’ press release:

“Strickland is a young developing right-handed starting pitching prospect with a good frame, solid delivery, clean arm action and an interesting pitch arsenal,” said Huntington. “He is a quality strike thrower with a fastball that has averaged as high as 93 miles per hour, with the potential for a major league caliber breaking ball and changeup to complement his fastball.”

LaRoche is eligible for free agency following this season. He is playing on a one-year, $7.05 million deal in 2009, his last as an arbitration-eligible player. His brother, Andy, was part of the three-team deal that sent Jason Bay to Boston and Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles last July 31.

The first baseman has struggled of late, hitting .138/.167/.241 in July. Throughout his career, however, he has been a significantly better hitter following the All-Star break, with a career second-half line of .296/.357/.544 and a .901 OPS, compared to first-half marks of .252/.326/.447/.773.

Because Diaz was on Boston’s 40-man roster, LaRoche will be able to take his spot. It remains to be seen, however, how the Sox will clear a spot on their 25-man major-league roster for LaRoche.

Hunter Strickland went 5-4 with one save and a 3.35 ERA (83.1ip/31er) in 18 appearances (12 starts) this year for the Single-A Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League. The 20-year-old Strickland entered the season with a career record of 5-5 and 3.94 ERA (96.0ip/42er) in 24 games (16 starts) since being selected by the Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Last year with Single-A Lowell of the New York-Penn League, Strickland posted a 3.18 ERA (70.2ip/25er) in 15 games (10 starts), which ranked fifth among all Red Sox minor leaguers. Strickland finished the season by posting a 0.43 ERA (20.2ip/1er) in his last four starts.

“Strickland is a young developing right-handed starting pitching prospect with a good frame, solid delivery, clean arm action and an interesting pitch arsenal,” said Huntington. “He is a quality strike thrower with a fastball that has averaged as high as 93 miles per hour, with the potential for a major league caliber breaking ball and changeup to complement his fastball.”

Though there had been reports that the Pirates would send money to the Red Sox to cover part of the remaining $2.95 million of LaRoche’s salary this year, Kovacevic reports that no money will move from Pittsburgh to Boston.

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