|Ben Cherington on D&C: In-season contract talks with Jacoby Ellsbury unlikely||05.23.13 at 9:52 am ET|
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, in an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show, said that the Red Sox have talked at various points with outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury about the possibility of something other than a one-year deal. However, each time, the team and player elected to agree to a one-year contract that avoided an arbitration hearing but that kept Ellsbury moving on a path towards free agency after the 2013 season. And now, in a season where Ellsbury has shown some recently promising offensive signs (reaching base in six of his last seven plate appearances) but has mostly struggled en route to a .249/.318/.340 line, Cherington suggested that the Sox expect that the team will not engage in contract talks with the 29-year-old until after the season.
“Because Ellsbury has gone through arbitration the last three years, there’s been an opportunity to talk to [agent Scott Boras] and Jacoby each of those years in the winter before spring training or early in spring training about his status. And each of those years we’ve signed a one-year deal and settled his arb case before it went to a hearing.
But during those talks, you talk about a lot of things. You talk about other options, other contract options, other sorts of scenarios,” said Cherington. “We’ve had those conversations. It’s just, in this case, we agreed before the season that we would defer it until the end of the season. That’s our expectation right now. You never say never. Things can change. But our expectation is we pick up the conversation after the season.”
As far as Ellsbury’s struggles, the GM suggested that there is reason to believe that the center fielder is in line for a turnaround.
“It’s a combination of things, and some of this is speculation, but we’ve seen a lot of lefties already early in the year. … He’s been a little bit unlucky on balls in play — hit some balls right at people,” said Cherington. “There’s nothing really alarmingly different in the underlying numbers — the strikeout percentage and the swing-and-miss rate. He’s still compact. He’s still doing a lot of things that he’s always done well. He’s healthy, the bat speed is there, the tools are there — he just looks to me like a guy who’s going to get hot at some point and we’ll stop talking about it. By far, the best outcome for all of us is for Jacoby to feel good, be productive in the leadoff spot. That helps him, helps us win games and I still think that’s going to happen.”
Whereas Ellsbury’s track record — and the similarities between the aforementioned underlying fundamentals this year and in previous seasons — gives the Sox optimism, the struggles of Will Middlebrooks — hitting .203/.236/.413 this year — are different. He doesn’t have the same established big league track record spanning multiple seasons, and he’s enduring a spike in his strikeout and swing-and-miss rate.
Still, Cherington expressed optimism that the 24-year-old will work his way through an early-career player development struggle to become a steady, meaningful contributor. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox-Twins series preview||05.17.13 at 12:34 pm ET|
The Red Sox head to Minnesota to take on the Twins for the second time this month (and the final time this season) for a three-game weekend set starting on Friday night. The second-place Red Sox look to continue to make up ground in the AL East, starting the day one game behind the 25-16 Yankees.
May hasn’t been kind to the Red Sox, who have lost nine of their 15 games this month. But the Sox managed to take their last series, against Tampa Bay, thanks to some late-inning heroics Thursday from third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who hit a bases-loaded double in the ninth inning to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 victory. The Red Sox had dropped their previous three series prior to taking two of the three games from the Rays.
The Twins may be in fourth place in the American League Central, but they are only one game under .500 and three games behind the first-place Tigers and Indians. The club is an even 7-7 in May, dropping two of three to the last-place White Sox in their last series. The team’s decent start is especially surprising given the performance of its starting rotation. The Twins starters have the second-highest ERA in the majors at 5.30, second (but more than a point lower) than the Astros.
The Sox and Twins met earlier this month at Fenway. The Twins outscored Boston 31-18 in the four-game set and won three of the games. The Twins have had their way with the Red Sox on Boston’s home turf, sweeping their only series there in 2012, but the Sox fared well in Minnesota in 2012, sweeping a three-game series last April.
Friday: Clay Buchholz (6-0, 1.69) vs. Vance Worley (1-4, 7.15)
Saturday: Ryan Dempster (2-4, 3.75) vs. Scott Diamond (3-3, 4.08)
Sunday: John Lackey (1-4, 4.05) vs. Pedro Hernandez (2-0, 5.79)
WHO’S HOT: RED SOX
• Even though he’s batting .211 on the season and his OBP isn’t much higher, Middlebrooks seems to be heating up as of last. His go-ahead three-run double in the ninth inning off of Rays closer Fernando Rodney on Thursday night was his first hit in the seventh inning of a game or later, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. That double was his seventh extra-base hit in as many games, and he hit .296 over that span.
• If there’s one Red Sox hitter who has been consistently good at the plate this season, it’s Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia is riding an eight-game hitting streak and has seven multi-hit games this month. The second baseman is leading the team in batting average (.340), OBP (.428), walks (24) and runs scored (25).
Read the rest of this entry »
|Closing Time: Will Middlebrooks leads Red Sox to ninth-inning comeback win over Rays||05.16.13 at 10:55 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Just over a week ago, Will Middlebrooks took a shot to the ribs. On Thursday night, he delivered one to the Rays.
With the Red Sox trailing, 3-1, in the top of the ninth, the bases loaded and his team down to its final strike, Middlebrooks laced a 1-2 changeup from Rays closer Fernando Rodney into the gap in left-center. The ball scooted all the way to the wall, allowing all three runs to score.
It was a mammoth hit, turning a 3-1 deficit and a fourth consecutive series loss into a 4-3 advantage that permitted the Sox to leave Tampa Bay with its first series victory in two weeks. The hit represented something of a landmark for Middlebrooks, as it was the first of his career to give the Red Sox a lead in the seventh inning or later.
“Awesome, man. Gives us some momentum, we’re on the road, so it’s obviously good to get that momentum going to the next series, and try to get things turned around,” Middlebrooks said of the hit.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Middlebrooks continues to impact the baseball since returning from his injury to the ribs. In seven games back, all eight of his hits have been for extra bases, with seven doubles and a homer in that span. He’s hitting .296/.321/.667 in that stretch.
On Thursday, not only did he smash the game-winning hit, but he also continued to show evidence of an improved overall approach both in that at-bat — when he spit on a 100 mph fastball on which Rodney just missed the strike zone on an 0-2 count, then jumped on a changeup — and in a previous one where he negotiated his first walk since May 2.
Middlebrooks said that he continues to feel improvement in his ribs — describing himself as “sore but getting better every day” — and that, more significantly, he continues to feel better at the plate, and that a slump that ran from early April to early May is now behind him.
“I got frustrated a little bit, but I never changed my plan, my routine at the field. And my teammates, they had my back the whole time. They were grinding right there with me,” said Middlebrooks. “Sitting out, I wasn’t going to get any better sitting out. You need reps. You need to fix stuff on your own and not just say I’m going to go sit down. That’s the selfish way to go about it. I wanted to go out there and do anything I could to help my team win, and I knew I couldn’t do that on the bench.”
– Junichi Tazawa worked a pair of scoreless innings to earn his third win of the year. He received an assist from outfielder Shane Victorino in keeping the Rays off the board in the eighth, but in the ninth, he worked around a pair of singles to shut the door.
“Much like we talked about the reason why we chose him in that ninth inning, there’s good poise, there’s very good stuff, he does a great job of controlling the running game even when they pinch-run [Sam] Fuld, so a solid job on his part,” manager John Farrell said.
– Thursday represented a considerable step forward for Felix Doubront. Though the left-hander lived dangerously for much of his outing, mostly due to command issues that resulted in a career-high six walks, he navigated carefully around trouble and baserunners. Though he gave up a solo homer to Ryan Roberts in the second, he stranded seven runners and held Tampa Bay hitless in five plate appearances with runners in scoring position, allowing him to work five-plus innings in which he allowed just one run on three hits.
Perhaps more importantly than the line, though, he showed improved power on his pitches. He showed a slight bump in velocity, sitting at 90-92 mph with his fastball for most of the night, and he also had a curveball that at times proved an outstanding pitch with sharp break. (At others, it became loopy and couldn’t find the strike zone.) While pitch inefficiency (104 pitches in 5-plus innings) and control (54 of 104 pitches for strikes — 52 percent) were both issues, he had the arsenal to compete, as evidenced by his seven strikeouts. Meanwhile, his one run allowed was his lowest yield of the season, while his three hits matched a season best.
“A lot better,” Doubront said of his outing. “[I] finally figured out that my pitches, my breaking balls, changeups and curbveballs, start getting the feeling back. I wasn’t that consistent but good spin and my grip, everything was real good.”
While acknowledging that the walks were suboptimal, Farrell backed his starter’s positive outlook.
“We have to take one step at a time. Looking at the stuff objectively, it was much more crisp. Even though, yes the walks were there, but much as he’s done, prior to the last two outings, when he gets into a little bit of a jam, he bends but he doesn’t break and that was the case here tonight,” said Farrell. “He was on the plate with his stuff, all three pitches. I thought he had better conviction to the stuff he threw tonight. His curveball had much better consistency to it. He pitched with a little sense of urgency tonight, which was good to see.”
– David Ortiz erased an early Red Sox deficit by lining an RBI single off the fence in right, the ball hit so hard that he could not advance. The hit was the third in as many games for Ortiz with runners in scoring position during the Tampa Bay series. He went 1-for-3 with a walk.
– Shane Victorino interrupted what had been an early breeze through the Sox lineup for Rays starter Alex Cobb, who retired the first 10 batters he faced. Victorino snapped an 0-for-11 stretch by ripping a double to right that catalyzed a run-scoring rally. The switch-hitter continues to demonstrate strong plate appearances from the left side of the plate. After his 1-for-4 night, he’s hitting .316 with a .771 OPS against righties.
Victorino also made a pair of outstanding catches in right field to rob the Rays of extra bases, slamming into the wall while grabbing a Jose Lobaton smash and then tracking down a Desmond Jennings drive to right with an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track. However, he ended up having to leave the game in favor of a defensive replacement prior to the bottom of the ninth.
– Dustin Pedroia went 1-for-3 with a single and walk, extending his hitting streak to eight games.
|Jerry Remy on D&C: ‘I’m so sick of injuries over the last couple of years’||05.08.13 at 9:49 am ET|
NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning, following Tuesday night’s 6-1 loss to the Twins. The Red Sox have lost four of their last five games and are dealing with a rash of injuries, including two suffered in Tuesday night’s game that Remy called “just one of those lousy, ugly nights at Fenway.”
“It started down in Texas when they ran into the pitching they did with the Rangers, and the Rangers were playing very good baseball that weekend,” Remy said. “So you lose three games down there, you come back home and you get whacked with all these injuries. It reminds me a little of the last couple of years with all the injuries. You hope that that doesn’t happen again.
“So, they’re going to have find a way to fight their way through this. We don’t know how bad [David] Ross is yet, and we don’t know how bad [Will] Middlebrooks is yet. Certainly you know that the closers are going to be on the DL for a while. So, they’re going to have to figure a way to fight their way through this. … You hate to see the injuries pop up, because they’ve been playing so good. I’m so sick of injuries over the last couple of of years. It’s ridiculous.”
The Red Sox offense has hit a rough stretch, culminating with only a meaningless ninth-inning run in Tuesday’s loss.
“You’re going to run into situations like you did down in Texas. That’s just going to happen, where you get their top three starters, and their top three starters, not one of them has an off game,” Remy said. “You’re going to run into situations like that through the course of the season. It’s going to happen two, three, four times a year. But you’ve got to be able to regroup after that. And they did bounce back to get the win in the first game [vs. the Twins], a come-from-behind win here at Fenway. But then they went into a funk again last night.
“But I do think they have enough offense. I think there are guys that haven’t swung the bat yet that are going to swing the bat well — Middlebrooks one of those guys. [Stephen] Drew‘s starting to come around a little bit. If you can get the bottom of the lineup to swing the bat and be productive, they’re very strong at the top. You’ve got a pretty tough one through nine there. Do they have enough? Yes, I do think they do have enough.
“They’ve got to continue to pitch, though, the way they have been. There’ll be a slight drop-off in that I’m sure. There has to be. You can’t keep it that pace all season long — or you can, you’re going to win a Cy Young Award. But the fact is, I think as the season moves on I think the offense is going to click a little bit better. Because they haven’t really clicked one through nine yet.”
|Red Sox injury update: David Ross, Will Middlebrooks day-to-day after leaving game||05.07.13 at 11:37 pm ET|
According to Red Sox manager John Farrell, both David Ross and Will Middlebrooks were classified as day-to-day after leaving the Sox’ 6-1 loss to the Twins early Tuesday night. Middlebrooks (right side/ribs) did receive X-rays after exiting the game in the seventh inning.
Both players were injured in the fifth inning while chasing a pop-up in foul ground near the wall just before the visitors dugout. Middlebrooks came up with the catch after the two banged into each other, and the barrier, in their sliding pursuit of the Chris Parmalee foul ball.
“David Ross has got left quad contusion, right above the knee area,” Farrell said. “When he slid, both he and will, the shin guard kind of peeled back a little bit and he slammed into the wall at that point. So he’s day-to-day. it’s not anything in the knee structurally. That checked out fine. He started to get some swelling in that inning and got him out of there. Will’s undergoing X-rays and a CT-scan right now, just on that right side. Again, when he slid on his side, he kind of whipped over and slammed in the wall there. we, precautionarily, took him out of the game. He took the next at-bat, he didn’t feel anything. He stated that he could have gone further but precautionary, we got him out of the game. His right side hit the wall.”
Ross stayed in for another batter after Parmalee, but after a Wilkin Ramirez single, and consultation at the mound, the catcher was escorted off the field by the Red Sox’ training staff.
“Obviously I’m a little sore,” said Ross, who referenced Middlebrooks’ ribs when talking about the third baseman’s injury. “I think I just jammed the top of my kneecap. It’s pretty sore and some swelling in there. If I wasn’t a catcher, I think I’d be fine, but squatting is a little bit sore. I couldn’t get up there in case the ball was in the dirt and stop it from going to the backstop or anything, so I felt it was best for Salty to get in there. Tough night.”
Ross added, “I stayed in for that one pitch. I felt it as I got down in my stance. It was tight. I felt the swelling in there. And then when I got to get up in my ready stance as far as with a man on third and I’ve got to block the ball, I couldn’t even get up. Anytime I engaged my quad, it was a pretty sharp pain. A lot of swelling. There’s no structural damage. We’ll get that swelling out of there, go home and ice until the wee hours of the morning.”
Ross is hitting .237/.341/.579 with four homers in 44 plate appearances. If he is unavailable for any meaningful stretch of time, the Sox almost surely would call up Ryan Lavarnway, who is hitting .328/.432/.500 for Triple-A Pawtucket and who has reached in all 18 games in which he’s played this year.
Pedro Ciriaco, who made two errors in the Twins’ four-run eighth inning, would be the short-term solution for Middlebrooks if the third baseman isn’t ready to go.
“Short term, not a concern,” Farrell said. “That was uncharacteristic of Pedro tonight. He’s shown to be a very dependable defender. You know, two miscues are unlike him. Long-term, we don’t think that will’s situation is more than day to day at this point. We’ll certainly get a better read once the test results come back. my thoughts haven’t gone down that path yet.”
|Closing Time: A painful, ugly mess as Twins beat Red Sox||at 10:12 pm ET|
It was night when injury was added to insult for the Red Sox.
Ryan Doumit doubled, homered and scored twice as the Twins handed the Red Sox their fourth loss in five games, 6-1, Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
Wilkin Ramirez singled home Ryan Doumit in the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie, one batter after a collision that injured a pair of Red Sox starters. David Ross collided with Will Middlebrooks while chasing a Chris Parmelee foul pop near the Twins dugout, behind the on-deck circle.
“David Ross has a left quad contusion right above the knee area,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “When he slid, both he and Will, the shin guard kind of peeled back a little bit and he slammed into the wall at that point, so he’s day-to-day. It’s not anything in the knee. Structurally, that’s checked out fine. But he started to get some swelling in that inning and we got him out of there.
“Will is undergoing X-rays and CT scans on that right side. When he slid on his left side, he kind of whipped over and slammed into the wall. [As a precaution], we got him out of the game. He took the next at-bat, didn’t feel anything. He stated he could’ve gone further but as a precaution we got him out of the game.”
Ross would stay in the game for one batter before coming out with a strained left quadriceps while Middlebrooks came out after the sixth inning with pain in his right side. The double dose of injury news comes one night after the Red Sox lost their closer Joel Hanrahan to a strained right forearm.
Ryan Dempster (2-3) was the tough-luck loser as his offense and fielders failed him, early and late, respectively. Lefty Scott Diamond (3-2) stifled the Red Sox on three hits over seven shutout innings.
“A very good outing by Ryan Dempster,” Farrell said. “Unfortunately, not much to show for it on our end, and that’s not taking anything away from Diamond, who lived on the edge and stay out of the middle of the plate, even when he got in a couple of fastball counts. He located well.
“In the time he was in the there, I don’t think we had a guy past first base. Other than that, it was a solid outing by Ryan Dempster.”
During a four-run Minnesota eighth that blew the game open, Farrell appeared ready to get his first ejection as skipper, arguing a call at first when he felt Doumit ran inside the baseline, causing a Jarrod Saltalamacchia error that continued Boston’s misery in the inning.
“We execute the out at home,” Farrell said. “The return throw is low as he’s trying to throw around the runner Doumit. He steps on [Mike] Napoli’s foot, clearly indicates he’s inside the base path. The explanation to me was … I’m still trying to figure out the explanation. I’ll just leave it at that. That 45-foot lane is there for a reason. He wasn’t in it. By the rule, he should’ve been out.”
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
• Injuries mounting very fast. There’s no immediate prognosis on the Middlebrooks or Ross injuries but the Red Sox can ill afford a repeat of 2012 when injuries to starting position players midway through the season depleted their depth and eventually took its toll. The Red Sox are already dealing with injuries to Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey while hoping Napoli and David Ortiz hold up over the course of the season.
• Scott Diamond looked like Cole Hamels. The lefty, mixing his 89 mph fastball with a wide variety of offspeed pitches, kept the Red Sox batters off balance all night.
• Saltalamacchia continues to struggle badly. He over-swung at an 81 mph slider down and in during his first plate appearance in place of Ross. Salty did connect for his fourth homer of the season, an opposite field solo shot over the Monster to open the ninth.
• Before getting injured, Will Middlebrooks‘ struggles continued, going 0-for-2 with a strike out, dropping his average to .192 on the season.
• Pedro Ciriaco woeful in the field. Life has not been kind to Red Sox third basemen. Middlebrooks has struggled in the field this season and his two errors on routine grounders to open the eighth opened the flood gates for the Twins, who blew the game wide open.
“Short term, not a concern,” Farrell said of the club’s depth situation at third base with Middlebrooks’ status uncertain. “That was uncharacteristic of Pedro tonight. He has shown to be a very dependable defender. Two miscues are unlike him. Long term, we don’t think Will’s situation is more than day-to-day at this point. We’ll certainly get a better read when the test results come back. My thoughts haven’t gone down that path yet.”
• Lefty Craig Breslow couldn’t get anyone out, literally. After coming in for Dempster, Breslow allowed three hits, one walk and two runs, one earned, as Saltalamacchia committed the third Red Sox error of a brutal four-run eighth.
|Red Sox lineup: Will Middlebrooks returns to face Twins’ starter Vance Worley||05.06.13 at 2:56 pm ET|
Returning to the Red Sox lineup against Twins right-hander Vance Worley will be Will Middlebrooks, who got the day off Sunday against Texas ace Yu Darvish. The third baseman is hitting .195 with a .623 OPS to go along with six home runs, although he has totaled a slightly-improved .265 average with a .736 OPS in his previous 10 games.
No current member of the Red Sox has totaled more than three at-bats against Worley, who is tied for the worst ERA in the majors (7.22).
With Clay Buchholz getting the start for the Red Sox, here is the home team’s lineup:
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Shane Victorino RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Daniel Nava LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Stephen Drew SS
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