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Red Sox exploring rotation depth alternatives 05.18.11 at 11:47 pm ET
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With both Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey on the disabled list, and the Red Sox having inserted both Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield into the rotation, the team will explore depth options outside the organization, according to a team source.

MLB Network and NESN analyst Peter Gammons said on the Mut & Merloni Show on Wednesday that the Sox were exploring available veterans such as Kevin Millwood, who opted out of a minor-league deal with the Yankees in early May after going 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts in their minor league system (including an 8.00 ERA with 14 hits allowed in nine innings in Triple-A).

Though a workhorse, Millwood has suffered diminished effectiveness in recent years, and last year he went 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA in 190 2/3 innings while striking out 132 for the Orioles. The 36-year-old went unsigned until reaching his minor league deal with the Yankees late in spring training.

Nonetheless, the Sox’ search for pitching suggests the challenging position in which the team finds itself. With both Wakefield and Aceves now in the majors, the team’s major league ready depth options are limited. The only starter on the 40-man roster — Felix Doubront — is currently sidelined by a mild left groin strain. While farm director Mike Hazen said that his rehab should proceed quickly once he is cleared to throw off a mound, he is currently unavailable.

The other members of the PawSox rotation — Andrew Miller, Kyle Weiland and Brandon Duckworth — aren’t on the 40-man roster. Moreover, all of them have their limitations. Miller (1-2, 2.80) has been overpowering at times, but he has walked 28 (against 31 strikeouts) in his 35 1/3 innings, even though opponents are hitting just .157 against him. Weiland (3-4, 3.83, 45 strikeouts, 20 walks in 40 innings) is considered an unfinished product given that he is just in his second month in Triple-A. Duckworth (4-2, 3.27) is a viable spot starter, but doesn’t have the track record of major league success to exceed that job description.

And so, the Sox will explore all their options — while hoping that Aceves and Wakefield pitch well enough that the pursuit is simply for minor league depth purposes, rather than representing a desperate need at the major league level.

Read More: alfredo aceves, Daisuke Matsuzaka, john lackey, kevin millwood
Sox pitching staff in flux amidst concerns about health of Lackey, Daisuke 05.17.11 at 5:24 pm ET
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The results were nothing short of alarming. When Daisuke Matsuzaka walked seven in 4 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and five runs to the Orioles, the Red Sox felt that it was time to have the right-hander checked out to see if there was a physical problem.

And so, on Tuesday, Matsuzaka was sent for an MRI on his right elbow. The Sox were awaiting the results to determine if a roster move might be made, with the team prepared to move “expeditiously” (in the words of manager Terry Francona) to DL him and call up a reliever (Michael Bowden would be an obvious candidate — he has a 1.59 ERA in 22 2/3 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket) prior to Tuesday’s game.

UPDATE: The Sox intend to place Matsuzaka on the disabled list prior to the next game, at which time Bowden will be added to the roster.

“Talking about [Matsuzaka's] elbow, whether it’€™s sore or he’€™s afraid to get to a point where it’€™ll get sore, that’€™s what we’€™re trying to figure out. So we got the MRI and hopefully in the next hour or so we’€™ll have something to kind of go by,” Francona said at 4 pm. “There’€™s no reason to really do anything until we get the results back and talk to the medical people. Obviously, if there’€™s a need to do something, we’€™d like to do it expeditiously ‘€“ get that ‘€“ because maybe we could get a reliever in the meantime or somebody to help us through. We’€™re trying to do it in timely fashion.”

With Matsuzaka’s elbow being checked and John Lackey having been placed on the disabled list on Monday for his elbow strain, it is a time when the Sox’ rotation depth will be tested. The team is comfortable that in Tim Wakefield (scheduled to start on Tuesday against the Orioles, in place of Lackey) and Alfredo Aceves, it has viable options.

“I don’€™t know that any team wants to go seven, eight deep, especially in a two-day period, losing two-fifths of your rotation. Wake has done it for a long time. Wake’€™s done it since I was a little kid,” joked Francona. “Actually, Aceves, we sort of maybe wanted to see what he could do as a starter. That’€™s why we signed him. Every time we send him down, we keep telling him to get stretched out because he might be a starter. We don’€™t like the reasons why. But we think we’€™re going to be OK.”

Of course, if both Wakefield and Aceves end up in the rotation, it would have a cascading effect on the bullpen. Wakefield has been a long man, while Aceves has emerged as something of a setup man to pitch either in the sixth or seventh inning (as he did on Sunday night in the win over the Yankees) or when the team is trailing in a close game (as he did in earning the victory on Monday night with three innings against Baltimore).

“He’€™s kind of taken that sixth, seventh type inning where he can face lefties and righties. That’€™s something to think about,” said Francona. “We have to figure out a way to get around that.”

Of course, the Sox appear close to getting at least one option back. Dan Wheeler, who had an 11.32 ERA in eight games before landing on the DL with a calf strain, is eligible to come off the DL on Friday. He has thrown 2 2/3 shutout innings in Pawtucket on a rehab assignment, and Francona said that there is no reason to expect that he won’t come off the DL when he is eligible to do so.

Bobby Jenks remains a bit further away from returning, though he threw on Tuesday from 60 feet on flat ground. He’ll increase that distance on Wednesday, though given that he went 11 days without throwing, he will almost surely require a rehab assignment before he’s ready to return to the majors.

“When you’€™ve got a no-throw for a while, I don’€™t know how fair that would be not to [have him take a minor league assignment],” said Francona.

As for Lackey, he will spend the next few days “down,” in Francona’s words. It is not known precisely when he will begin throwing again. Francona said that the starter had an MRI that had revealed the strain, but that it was unclear whether he was dealing with the condition during his mot recent outings, which featured particularly poor results.

“There’€™s a lot of gray area there. If you talk to a starting pitcher, if they make 35 starts, I bet they’€™ll tell you they feel good physically for about six or seven,” said Francona. “So, you know, I actually, what I told you guys yesterday was about as honest as I can be. We didn’€™t feel a rush to do anything because we knew that we could cover the spot today [with Wakefield]. If he was OK, we were going to let him pitch. We know he’€™s been having a rough time, but we also know that he’€™s a pretty good professional pitcher and we feel like he’€™s going to turn it around. Now, all of a sudden, you start about someone being tender or sore or hurt, that makes it a little bit tougher. Then you’€™ve got a guy who wants to pitch through it. We respect that. So we put our heads together, talked with the medical people, talked with Lack and took it out of his hands.

“That would be terrific if this little shut-down really helps him, he feels good and he starts throwing, is ready to come back right when it’€™s time to come off. I don’€™t know if that’€™s the case. I hope it is.”

Read More: alfredo aceves, bobby jenks, Daisuke Matsuzaka, dan wheeler
Tuesday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Tim Wakefield vs. Zach Britton at 2:59 pm ET
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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 »

Read More: Tim Wakefield, Zach Britton,
Red Sox pregame notes: As the bullpen turns… 05.06.11 at 7:06 pm ET
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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.”

OTHER NOTES

–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 »

Read More: alfredo aceves, Daisuke Matsuzaka, scott atchison, Tim Wakefield
Friday’s Red Sox-Twins matchups: Tim Wakefield vs. Scott Baker at 12:13 pm ET
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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 »

Read More: Red Sox, Scott Baker, Tim Wakefield, Twins
Peter Gammons on M&M: ‘I’m just such a believer’ in Jacoby Ellsbury 05.04.11 at 12:49 pm ET
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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.”

Read More: bobby jenks, Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett, matt albers
Red Sox vs. Angels pregame notes: The reshaped rotation 05.02.11 at 5:29 pm ET
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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.

OTHER NOTES

–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 »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, jered weaver, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis
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