|Tuesday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Tim Wakefield vs. Zach Britton||05.17.11 at 2:59 pm ET|
With John Lackey scratched from Tuesday night’s scheduled start and placed on the 15-day disabled list with an elbow strain, the second game of the Red Sox-Orioles short two-game series will turn into the latest example of age-old battle between youth and experience. Boston starter Tim Wakefield, who at 44 years young is the oldest active player in Major League Baseball, will try to best Baltimore rookie hurler Zach Britton to give the Sox their fifth win in a row.
This will be the third start of the season for Wakefield (0-1, 5.40 ERA), all of which will have come in the month of May. His first start on May 1 against the Mariners saw the knuckleballer pitch more than admirably as he held Seattle to just four base runners and one run over 5-2/3 innings. However, his next start on May 6 did not nearly go as well. Wakefield, who was pitching on one just day of rest, couldn’t survive the fifth inning and allowed eight runs (six earned) on nine hits and four walks in a 9-2 loss to the Twins. For what it’s worth, Wakefield will be pitching on five-days rest when he takes the mound Tuesday.
In 50 appearances (35 starts) against Baltimore, the knuckleballer is 16-13 with a 4.13 ERA. But against these current set of O’s, he has been quite hit-or-miss. For every Brian Roberts (.170 average in 48 career plate appearances) or Nick Markakis (.185 in 29), there is a Vladimir Guerrero (.480, 5 HR, 9 RBI) or Derrek Lee (.571).
At the other end of the age spectrum, Britton (5-2, 2.42) is an early-season favorite for the American League Rookie of the Year award. The 23-year-old lefty has allowed three earned runs or fewer in seven of his eight starts, including a six-inning, one-run effort against Boston back on April 26 and a complete-game, three-hit performance in his last start against Seattle. Leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury was the only Sox hitter to lace an extra-base hit off Britton in the latter’s only career start against the team. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox pregame notes: As the bullpen turns…||05.06.11 at 7:06 pm ET|
One comes in, one goes out.
The Red Sox made their official move to add Alfredo Aceves to the roster on Friday. In order to do so, they will designate Scott Atchison for assignment before the game so that he can be optioned to Pawtucket via major league waivers. Technically, another team could claim Atchison, but there’s a sort of working understanding among major league teams that players will not be claimed who have options remaining, and so it is a procedural technicality en route to sending the reliever back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
After Atchison logged 3 2/3 innings on Thursday, the Sox needed to replace him with a fresh arm. In Aceves, who was pulled from his scheduled start for the PawSox on Thursday, they found that man.
“We kind of did what we didn’t want to do with Atch, which is bring him up for a day and then send him back but I think we felt it was the safest thing to do for our staff. He gave us so much, which we appreciate,” said manager Terry Francona. “At the same time, he wasn’t going to pitch for awhile. Unfortunately for Atch, he’s the guy we can do it with. He’ll be back.”
Aceves will be available in the bullpen. This is his second call-up of the season. He had an impressive stretch in the majors in April, forging a 2.25 ERA and holding opponents to a .179 average (6-for-28) in six appearances, but he was sent back down to Pawtucket in order to stretch him out for the rotation.
“It is a business,” said Aceves. “Back and forth, you don’t know where you’re going to be.”
The right-hander said that he is comfortable with any role, and that he didn’t face a transition in moving between the rotation and bullpen.
“I’m a pitcher,” said Aceves. “That’s what I do. It doesn’t matter if it’s as a starter or a closer or a reliever.”
–One byproduct of the Red Sox rotation shuffle in the aftermath of Wednesday’s 13-inning game: The Sox will have Clay Buchholz pitch on Saturday on four days’ rest, then turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka on Sunday (almost a week and a half removed from his previous start on April 29), Josh Beckett on Monday (four days’ rest) and, finally, have Jon Lester pitch on six days’ rest on Tuesday.
Once Wakefield was re-inserted into the rotation, the Sox wanted to use the opportunity to give Lester an extra breather — something that the team has now been able to accomplish with each of its starters at this young stage of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
Tim Wakefield will look to get the Red Sox back on track Friday night when he takes the mound for his second start of the season. In his first start on Sunday, Wakefield held the Mariners to one run on three hits and a walk over 5 2/3 innings, but he ended up with a no-decision as the Sox needed a Carl Crawford walk-off single to get the win.
Wakefield has plenty of experience against the Twins as a franchise — he’s 14-6 with a 4.31 ERA in 27 career outings against them — but only six current Twins have faced him (excluding Joe Mauer, who is currently on the disabled list). Jason Kubel, who’s hitting .273 in 11 at-bats, is the only Twin with a home run off Wakefield. Denard Span has the highest average, as he’s hitting .429 in seven ABs.
For Minnesota, it will be Scott Baker on the hill. Baker struggled out of the gate this season and lost his first two starts, but he’s been much better of late, posting three straight quality starts. Although he has just one win during that span, he has lowered his ERA from 6.55 to 3.16 by allowing just three runs in 20 1/3 innings.
Baker has faced the Sox once in each of the last four seasons and is 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA against them, having lost his last two starts. Current Sox are hitting .286 against Baker. Mike Cameron has two homers and three RBIs in just seven ABs against him, while Crawford and J.D. Drew are both batting over .400. Read the rest of this entry »
|Peter Gammons on M&M: ‘I’m just such a believer’ in Jacoby Ellsbury||05.04.11 at 12:49 pm ET|
MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox’ resurgence. Gammons said Sunday’s win over the Mariners, when Tim Wakefield stepped in for Clay Buchholz and pitched a strong game, might prove to be the game that got the Sox in gear.
“I think the mental hurdle of having to go to Tim Wakefield, have him step up big, and winning a game started by Felix Hernandez, I think that gave them a little sigh of relief,” Gammons said.
Jacoby Ellsbury has been on a tear of late and looks very comfortable in the leadoff spot. “I’m still a believer that there’s a lot there that we haven’t seen with him being a greater player,” Gammons said. “Because I think he can bunt. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a guy who gets 100 walks, but he can get that on-base percentage up higher.
“When he gets on base, everybody on the field moves. That dash home from second base last night when [Vernon] Wells made such a great play on it, just a little single, was just classic Jacoby Ellsbury — his speed, his athleticism.”
Added Gammons: “I’m just such a believer.”
Josh Beckett is scheduled to pitch Wednesday after having this start pushed back so that he had six days between outings, although the team insists he isn’t injured. “I think his elbow was a little tired. That’s sort of the impression that I got,” Gammons said. “Again, they’re being very cautious, like taking [Jon] Lester out last night. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing in April and May, to be very cautious.
“I think they just want to stay away from creating panic. But I think there was something in there that said, OK, he was tired. And you don’t want to blow him out in the first week of May. So, I think that’s why they’re being so cautious. But there’s no question there was something — there had to be something there. I was told by some coaches, well, it’s just something we’re not going to talk about now. They didn’t seem worried about, but they were cautious about it. And that’s a good thing. Because Josh is the type who will go out and pitch no matter what. And that could be an issue.”
Reliever Bobby Jenks has had some hiccups of late, but Gammons said the team doesn’t appear to be concerned. “I think it’s that combination of the psychological and the mechanical,” he said. “But his stuff has been so good that they’re not really worried about it. I think they think in time he’s going to be fine pitching the seventh and eighth innings.
“And I do think that [Matt] Albers has been a surprise. His stuff’s always been there. I think it’s better than it used to be. I was talking to a friend of mine on the Astros who said when he was good there, he was 91-93. He’s been 94-95 all along with a lot of movement. He might be a big surprise for them.”
|Red Sox vs. Angels pregame notes: The reshaped rotation||05.02.11 at 5:29 pm ET|
The stomach flu has been a pox upon the Red Sox in recent days. Not only did it mean that Clay Buchholz had to get pushed back from his scheduled start on Sunday (granted, that worked out fine for the Sox when Tim Wakefield allowed the team to beat Felix Hernandez and the Mariners), but also because Angels ace Jered Weaver – who was slated to pitch on Sunday against the Rays — got pushed back to Monday against the Sox after he endured a gastrointestinal protest.
Weaver carries a ridiculous 6-0 record and 0.99 ERA into Fenway Park for his start, continuing a run where the Sox have had to face several elite starters in the season’s first five weeks.
“This guy’s good tonight. He’s feeling pretty good about himself. He’s leading the league in almost everything,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “We might not knock him all over the ballpark, but it’s kind of satisfying when you can find a way to beat him.”
While Buchholz will be tasked with facing Weaver tonight, the Sox have now set up their rotation for the rest of the week. After Jon Lester makes his scheduled start on Tuesday, Josh Beckett (six days rest) will pitch on Wednesday, John Lackey (four days rest) will pitch on Thursday and Daisuke Matsuzaka (seven days rest) will take the mound on Friday.
Matsuzaka came out of his start on Friday with a stiff elbow. Though he says he feels fine, the Sox wanted to exert some caution with based on the injury.
“Dice came out of the game the other day. We’re trying to buy him a couple days. He says he doesn’t need it. If somebody comes out like that, we’d like to make sure they’re OK,” said Francona. “We had him down for a day, then he played catch. Now he’ll start his normal five-day cycle. Trying to take advantage of the time off, give a day off.”
Meanwhile, Francona said that the team wanted to give Beckett a bit of a breather after the team “leaned on [him] pretty hard there a couple games.” With no off days scheduled until May 12, the team felt like it wanted to give the right-hander (who is 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA in five starts) extra rest now at a time when Wakefield’s start made it easy to do so, particularly in the aftermath of a 125-pitch workload two starts ago in Anaheim.
“Part of it, not because of the way he’s pitching, because he’s pitching great, just wanted to try to get everybody situated where they all feel as good about themselves as they can physically. I think, this was just, to give them that day was important,” said Francona. “That game in Anaheim … pitch counts are pitch counts, but there’s a reason we probably watch stuff like that. We just want to monitor their workload so he can go out, be Beckett.”
Beckett had a 25-pitch bullpen session on Monday afternoon, which Francona said went without a hitch. The manager said that the pitcher was on board with the idea of additional rest for this start.
“Just in talking to him, again we talk to all of them, we have the opportunity so it made sense,” said Francona. “We leaned on him pretty hard. There’s no days off coming up. When you have the ability to give a guy an extra day, sometimes you’ve got to take it, because we won’t be able to going forward for a couple weeks. … We keep an eye on the workload. It’s not just the starters. It’s the relievers. We talk about health and production going hand in hand all the time.”
With the tweaked rotation, the Sox will still have two days between the starts by Beckett and Matsuzaka, something that presumably will make it easier for Jason Varitek to continue to catch both of them.
–The fact that the Sox feel their starters can benefit an extra day underscored the value of having a pitcher such as Wakefield in the bullpen who can step in for a spot start, thus giving members of the rotation extra rest in stretches of the schedule that feature few off days. Read the rest of this entry »
|Sunday’s Red Sox-Mariners matchups: Tim Wakefield vs. Felix Hernandez||04.30.11 at 10:04 pm ET|
After Clay Buchholz was scratched from his start Sunday with a stomach illness, it will be Tim Wakefield who toes the rubber against Seattle for his first start of the season. Wakefield has made seven appearances out of the bullpen so far, notching a 5.56 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and no record in 11 1/3 innings.
Wakefield has struggled with the Mariners in his career. He is 4-10 with a 4.18 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 27 career outings, including 17 starts. Wakefield lost his only start against Seattle last season, giving up four runs (three earned) on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings.
Current Mariners are hitting .272 against Wakefield. Jack Cust has done the most damage, as he is hitting .440 with four extra-base hits and five RBIs in 25 at-bats. Adam Kennedy, Miguel Olivo and Milton Bradley all have a home run and three RBIs off Wakefield.
If Wakefield’s poor record against Seattle wasn’t enough of a reason for Sox fans to be concerned, there’s also the fact that Felix Hernandez will be on the mound for the Mariners. The reigning American League Cy Young winner is 3-2 with a 3.32 ERA this season. He has won each of his last two starts against Oakland and Detroit, respectively, allowing just two earned runs on eight hits and five walks over 13 2/3 innings.
Moreover, Hernandez is 4-1 with a 2.91 ERA in eight career starts against Boston. He won his only start against the Sox last season, allowing just one earned run on four hits and a walk while striking out nine over 7 1/3 innings.
Current Red Sox are hitting .259 against Hernandez. J.D. Drew leads the way with a .391 average and two home runs in 23 at-bats. Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and Mike Cameron all have a homer off Hernandez, too. Read the rest of this entry »
|Time for Daisuke to go? For now, the answer should be no||04.12.11 at 2:38 pm ET|
It was one terrible start.
There is no way to sugar coat what happened to Daisuke Matsuzaka on Monday night against the Rays. He was battered early and often, allowing seven runs on eight innings in just two-plus brutal innings of work.
The reaction has been swift. Calls for Matsuzaka to be taken out of the rotation, or traded, or banished to the island of Elba have torn across New England. Matsuzaka — ever a lightning rod — has once again inflamed the passions of Red Sox fans as few others can.
Even Sox manager Terry Francona could do little to mask his frustrations with the 30-year-old’s outing, particularly the horrific second inning in which the pitcher permitted six runs.
“We got into the second and everything went to the middle of the plate,” said Francona. “There was seven balls hit right on the barrel. We love when guys throw strikes but there was some balls that were middle-middle for the first seven hitters.
“The best way to be a good player is to be consistent,” added Francona. “You’re going to have some good nights. There’s a lot of nights where you don’t know quite what’s going to happen. We’ve seen a lot of nights where there’s a lot of inconsistency in the strike zone, in and out, tonight he was right down the middle. They squared up a lot of balls in a hurry.”
Matsuzaka, of course, has been anything but consistent over the course of his Red Sox career. His talent has often been something of a tease, with the pitcher alternately having outings that verge on dominance and then getting lit up like a firecracker. As colleague Rob Bradford points out, four-plus years and 100 starts into his Red Sox career, no one has made sense of the pitcher.
So does that mean he should be demoted or sent packing?
Nope. Not now. Not after one passable start (5 innings, 3 earned runs) against the Indians and one dreadful one against the Rays. If his struggles continue for additional weeks, then perhaps the Sox would be in position to reconsider. But for now, the Sox should — and likely will have to — stick with him.
The team felt his performance was appalling, but they are mindful that he has bounced back from bad outings before, and feel that — based on what he did in spring training — he has shown the ability to do so once again to be a useful member of the rotation. There appear to be no plans to take him out of the rotation, a move that would represent an overreaction to a bad start.
There are many reasons to keep him in the rotation, rather than banishing him to a lonely island. A closer look: Read the rest of this entry »
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