Craig Hansen’s stay in Boston lasted only one day, which is becoming the norm around this sickness-ravaged team.
And he was tagged with the loss in last night’s 6-4 defeat against the Angels, having coughed up a two-out solo homer to Casey Kotchman in the sixth inning that snapped a 4-4 tie.
Still, Francona came away impressed after watching the 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander in his 1 2/3-inning outing.
“I thought he threw the ball great,” said Francona. “He left one pitch up (97 m.p.h. fastball) and Kotchman didn’t miss it. But he pitched with confidence, aggression. His slider was 88 and 89 (m.p.h.) with bite. He pitched with no fear. He just reared back and let the natural movement take over.”
Nevertheless, the Sox optioned him back to Pawtucket after the game because they needed to make a move for a starting pitcher. Masterson will take his place on the roster for today’s start.
Hansen was not surprised he was being sent back to the minors.
“I pretty much figured it, but I figured I would go out there and give it my best,” said Hansen, who fanned three. “I felt strong out there. A couple of my pitches were working. There were one or two pitches that I guided (including the Kotchman homer). Obviously it was a mistake. It was a fastball inside but it got too much of the plate.”
Mike Lowell will begin a rehabilitation assignment in Pawtucket tomorrow.
Lowell, who has been on the disabled list since April 10 because of a sprained left thumb, will serve as the PawSox’ designated hitter tomorrow for a home game at McCoy Stadium, and then will play for Pawtucket in two games over the weekend in Buffalo.
He is scheduled to play third base on Saturday and then DH again on Sunday. Boston has Monday off, so Lowell will be able to get treatment or whatever work on the field he would like at Fenway. If all goes well, Lowell is likely to be activated in time for Tuesday night’s game at Fenway against Toronto.
Catcher Jason Varitek went “backward a bit,” yesterday, said Francona, apparently trying to do too much in his effort to overcome his case of the flu and return to action.
But Francona also said he thought it might be possible for Varitek to be available late in today’s game as a hitter.
The hitting streaks keep growing. Dustin Pedroia (12), Julio Lugo (9), Sean Casey (7) and Jacoby Ellsbury (6) each extended a hitting streak last night . . . Ellsbury has reached base via a hit or walk in 45 of the 49 big-league games in which he has had a plate appearances . . . Masterson will be the first player from the 2006 draft class to make it to the majors. He is 16-9 in his three minor-league seasons.
BOSTON – Is competition bringing out the best in Julio Lugo?
It was clear over the winter and in spring training that the Red Sox think very highly of young shortstop Jed Lowrie, and there’s no doubt the 2005 draft pick from Stanford was nipping at the heels of Lugo, who had a weak first season offensively and defensively for Boston in 2007.
An injury to Mike Lowell prompted the Red Sox to recall Lowrie from Pawtucket on April 10. Since arriving in the big leagues for the first time, Lowrie generally has sparkled. He has played three infield positions and he has stuck in a few clutch base hits along the way.
Lugo, meanwhile, already has committed six errors. And nine games ago, when Lowrie was beginning to make a favorable impression, Lugo was batting .238.
Maybe Lugo was feeling the heat. Maybe it’s just coincidence.
But since then, Lugo has fashioned a nine-game hitting streak, including an RBI single in the second inning that boosted his average to .333 (25 for 75). He wound up going 2 for 3, raising his average to 338.
He even has mixed in an outstanding defensive play or two. Last night he made a diving play to his left, something he rarely does. He got up and threw out the baserunner. He also made a strong relay throw, cutting down a runner at the plate in the second; turned a short-hopper up the middle into a nifty 6-3 double play; started a routine 6-4-3 twin killing, and made a fine play in the hole.
And how well is Lugo going right now? He drifted back for a major league popup hit by Vladimir Guerrero and dropped it. He calmly recovered, though, picking up the ball and throwing to second for a forceout.
It wasn’t a totally great night for Lugo, though. He fouled a ball off his left foot in the sixth, and was hobbling around a bit thereafter.
For the last two seasons, the Angels generally have tried to get David Ortiz out with offspeed stuff – sliders, curveballs and changeups.
They mix in the occasional fastballs. It depends, naturally, on who is pitching and what stuff that pitcher may have. But the Angels pitchers have used the fastball as kind of a “show me” pitch while attacking him with the breaking stuff.
The problem with that philosophy, though, is that if you hang a breaking ball, even a struggling Ortiz can feast on it, which is what happened in the fifth inning.
Jon Garland hung a 74 m.p.h. curve on the inner half of the plate and Ortiz ripped it into the first row of seats in the right-field corner for a game-tying two-run homer.
The pattern changed in the seventh. Right-handed reliever Justin Speier, keeping the ball away from Ortiz, threw six pitches to the Sox’ designated hitter – all fastballs – and walked him.
The headfirst slide into first base is not a universally accepted concept, partially because not everyone is convinced you get to the base faster that way, and also because there’s the fear of injury, such as a separated shoulder.
There’s a different feeling when it’s used to avoid a tag. It’s more accepted, but still the injury fear is there.
Last night, Dustin Pedroia beat out a grounder to deep short in the fifth, sliding wide and reaching out with is left hand to tag the base as he slid by in his successful effort to avoid the tag of Casey Kotchman, who had to come off the bag to the home plate side to catch the throw from shortstop Erick Aybar.
Pedroia, who missed time in training camp in 2006 because of a slight separation of his left shoulder, appeared to be injured in the same way as he got up from the bag. Trainer Paul Lessard and manager Terry Francona checked on him. Pedroia stayed in the game, and scored when Ortiz laced his tying homer.
Kotchman’s baserunning mistake cost the Angels at least one run in the second inning.
Kotchman was at first and Jeff Mathis was at second base with one out. On Jon Lester’s 1-and-1 pitch to Maicer Izturis, Mathis got a good jump and broke for third.
In such a circumstance, the runner at first has to be aware of what the runner at second is doing. So when the runner from second takes off for third, the runner at first should take off for second because normally, if the catcher makes a throw, it will be to third base, leaving a safe move to second virtually guaranteed.
But Kotchman didn’t recognize soon enough what Mathis was doing. So while Mathis was safe at third, Kotchman remained at first base. He acknowledged his mistake by tapping his chest in a “my bad” gesture to first-base coach Alfredo Griffin as he returned to the bag.
Izturis crushed the next pitch into the gap in left-center for an RBI double. Had Kotchman been at second, as he should have been, he would have romped home, too. Instead, he was running from first.
When Manny Ramirez bobbled the ball in the outfield, Angels third-base coach Dino Ebel waved home Kotchman. Good relay throws from Ramirez to shortstop Julio Lugo and then Lugo to catcher Kevin Cash easily nailed a sliding Kotchman at the plate.
So instead of a 3-0 Angels lead with a runner at second and one out against a struggling Jon Lester, it was only 2-0 with two outs and a runner at second. The Angels did not score again in the inning.
Hot pitching prospect Justin Masterson will make his big-league debut Thursday afternoon in the series finale against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Masterson, the team's second-round pick in 2006, will be promoted from Portland, the Sox' Double A farm club, to help plug a hole in the rotation caused by a nasty flu bug that has been seriously affecting the team.
The 23-year-old right-hander was 1-0 with a 0.95 earned-run average in four starts for Portland this season. He fanned 23 and walked only 5 in 19 innings.
Masterson's emergency promotion has come as a result of health issues with Josh Beckett (stiff neck, flu) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (flu). Beckett was unable to make his start on Tuesday night, so David Pauley was plucked from Pawtucket for that outing. Dice-K was unable to make his start Wednesday night, so Jon Lester, Thursday's scheduled starter, was moved up a day.
To make room for Masterson, the Sox optioned right-handed reliever Craig Hansen after the Wednesday night game. Hansen, recalled from Pawtucket earlier in the days, was the losing pitcher in Boston's 6-4 setback to the Angels.
Today it's Daisuke Matsuzaka who is unable to make a scheduled start. The right-hander is suffering from the flu that has been ravaging the Red Sox the last week or so.
The Sox didn't have many alternatives, so they have turned to Jon Lester for tonight's outing against the Angels. Lester had been scheduled to start tomorrow afternoon's series finale against the Angels, so he will be pitching on short rest, one day sooner than normal.
Lester threw 107 pitches in his previous outing, against Texas last Saturday.
Boston had to make a quick starting-pitcher change last night, too, when Josh Beckett (stiff neck) was unable to make his scheduled start. He was replaced by David Pauley, an emergency call-up from Pawtucket.
Pauley lasted only 4 1/3 innings, forcing manager Terry Francona to call on Julian Tavarez for 1 2/3 innings, so Tavarez, who could have been a candidate to start either tonight or tomorrow night, is unable to do so because of his Tuesday night workload.
The Red Sox likely will have to call up a pitcher to start tomorrow's game.
Kevin Youkilis is being given a night off because of a minor problem with his back.
Youkilis felt some discomfort in his lower back when he went deep behind third base to make a play in Tuesday night’s game, manager Terry Francona reported.
``He called me this morning and told me he was feeling it,’’ Francona said.
Jed Lowrie will start in his place and bat eighth. The red-hot Julio Lugo moves up to the seven hole and Kevin Cash will hit ninth. Cash will be starting for the fourth straight game in place of Jason Varitek.
The good news for the Sox is that Varitek is feeling better, so much so that he just finished taking early batting practice. Francona said he hopes not to have to use him tonight. With a day game tomorrow, it is possible Varitek could play then. That would work out well since Tim Wakefield is scheduled to pitch Friday, meaning Varitek would be able to get that day off since Cash handles Wakefield’s knucklers.
In other Sox news, Josh Beckett, who missed his start last night because of a stiff neck, is feeling better and has been penciled in to pitch Sunday, which would be his normal spot in the rotation.
Mike Lowell not only took more batting practice, he did some work in the field for the first time since going on the disabled list. Depending on how he reacts to today’s work he could be on rehab assignment soon.
Bartolo Colon did some throwing from 120 feet today and seems to be progressing. A tentative schedule has been planned, one that would have him back with Pawtucket pitching on rehab assignment on May 5. That would be exactly one month to the day when he hurt his oblique.
Coco Crisp also is feeling better, could play if needed tonight and likely will return to the starting lineup tomorrow.
Craig Hansen, who has yet to allow a run this season, has been promoted from Pawtucket and is ready to pitch tonight when the Red Sox host the Angels.
``They called about 11:30 last night,’’ the big right-hander said. ``They called RJ (Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson) and he called me.’’
Hansen had just returned from a quick trip back home to New York on a day off for Pawtucket. The trip home was enjoyable, he said, except for one thing. His dog was too happy to see him.
``He jumped all over me. You can see the scratches,'' said Hansen, who has several scratches near his left eye.
Hansen, Boston’s first-round draft choice three yers ago, has pitched in eight games for Pawtucket. He has gone 12.1 innings and allowed three hits with four walks and 13 strikeouts withot allowing a run. For the season, hitters are 3-for-43 against him
``He’s been throwing the ball great,’’ said Sox manager Terry Francona. ``And he has some flexibility.’’
Manny Delcarmen, one of a number of Sox players who has been ill, is feeling ``so so,’’ Francona reported, so his status for tonight is questionable. It makes Hansen a prime candidate for work tonight.
Hansen replaces David Pauley, who started last night. That means the Sox keep 13 pitchers on their 25-man roster.
The New England Sports Network announced thus afternoon that Heidi Watney has been hired as a reporter/host and will join Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy on Red Sox broadcasts beginning the first week of May. She will assume the role that Tina Cervasio filled before leaving for the MSG Network in New York last month.
“Heidi is a skillful reporter who is smart, resourceful and has a terrific sense of humor,” said Joel Feld, NESN’s vice president of programming and executive producer. “Her talent for connecting with viewers makes her the ideal choice to join Don and Jerry as part of our Red Sox coverage.”
Watney comes to NESN from Fresno, Calif., where she has served as a sports anchor and reporter for KMPH Fox-26 News and a sports talk radio show host for 1430 ESPN Radio KFIG. The University of San Diego graduate began her career as a sports reporter/assistant producer for KUSI News in San Diego, California.
Projo SoxTalk with McAdam: Ellsbury shines vs. L.A.
Click the play button below to hear Sean's comments, recorded this morning. Today's topics: Jacoby Ellsbury's terrific night against the Angels, the Ellsbury-Dustin Pedroia duo looking great, David Pauley's future with the team, and the roster move to come later today.
GOLD DUST TWINS: Jacoby Ellsbury's two-homer night -- and his mad dash home from first base with the winning run in the eighth inning (above right) -- got most of the attention, but he shared the spotlight with Dustin Pedroia in the Red Sox' come-from-behind 7-6 win over the Angels. Paul Kenyon's game story not only chronicles Ellsbury's night, but also the four-hit, three-double performance of Pedroia (above left), who knocked in Ellsbury with the run that broke the 6-6 tie. Steven Krasner goes Inside The Game to take a closer look at the eighth-inning climax, showing how just the threat of Ellsbury stealing second base helped secure the victory.
NOW WHAT? The big news before the game was the stiff neck that forced Josh Beckett to miss the start and led to the emergency callup of David Pauley. Pauley only lasted 4 1/3 innings, allowing five runs, and was immediately sent back to Pawtucket, meaning the team will need to make another roster move before tonight's game. Krasner and Kenyon note it will be a position player if Jason Varitek is feeling better, or a backup catcher if the flu bug that has flattened Varitek and a few other members of the club is still strong enough to keep the captain away from the park.
LIKE NO PLACE ON EARTH: Matt Hurst, the Angels' beat writer for our Belo cousins in Riverside, Calif., talks to Angels players about what it's like to be an opposing player in Fenway Park. (Riverside Press-Enterprise) Some elements of the piece are disturbing, like Torii Hunter and Gary Matthews Jr. telling how they've heard a few racial taunts -- which prompted the Boston Herald to look further into the subject -- but what comes across, mostly, is the passion, positive and negative, the fans have for the Red Sox and for baseball . . . passion so unlike other cities that the players really don't know how to process it. "There are no fans like theirs," said Garret Anderson. And Hunter told the Herald that, in spite of everything, he wanted to join the Red Sox as a free agent last winter. “I did want to come here," he said. "But it didn’t work out."
MANNY BEING MYTHIC: SI.com's Tom Verducci profiles Manny Ramirez in a piece that not only puts his bat into historical perspective but also notes that he's become a mythic figure at a time when the white-hot glare of multi-platformed media scrutiny almost precludes athletic myth. "It's like telling a story about Babe Ruth," Verducci writes. "It may or not be true, but just the plausibility of it is enough."
NEXT TARGET: With the Joba Chamberlain contretempts settled -- for now -- Hank Steinbrenner turned his attention to another member of the Yankee pitching staff: Mike Mussina. The Baby Boss says he wants Moose to pitch more like Jamie Moyer, advice Mussina seemed to accept with equal parts humor and resentment. (New York Daily News) But on the LoHud Yankees Blog, Peter Abraham has numbers that show Mussina does pitch like Moyer.
'NO SURPISES': Jose Canseco's lawyer says federal investigators stuck to the script in their three-hour meeting regarding Canseco's knowledge of steroid use in baseball. (New York Post) So did Canseco when it came to whether or not Roger Clemens was at his house during the 1998 party that became a focal point of a congressional hearing in February: He continues to insist Clemens wasn't there, photographic evidence to the contrary.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: In light of speculation that the Mets may do to Carlos Delgado what the Jays did to Thomas, our pal The Tao of Steib wonders if Toronto would consider bringing back Delgado. "We'd usually dump on anyone who came up with this sort of fanciful BS notion of returning a player to the team for completely sentimental reasons," admits Tao. "But there's something about the idea of seeing Delgado back in Toronto that melts away all of our reason and good sense." A suggestion, Tao: Take a look at this post on FanGraphs before starting a full-fledged We Want Carlos! campaign.
REMEMBER WHEN: The Los Angeles Times' Jerry Crowe writes about the 30-year anniversary of Lyman Bostock trying to give his entire April salary back to the Angels because he got off to a slow start after signing as a free agent from the Twins. The team refused to take it, so Bostock instead donated the money to charity. That memory has been lost because Bostock, tragically, was killed in a drive-by shooting that September in a case of mistaken identity.