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May 18, 2008
Pitching Questions Answered..and other items of interest
The Red Sox this morning announced that Justin Masterson will start Tuesday against Kansas City, and a day later, will return to Portland, replaced on the roster by Bartolo Colon, who will make his Red Sox debut Wednesday.
Masterson, in effect, will take the spot vacated by Clay Buchholz (DL-finger) while Colon, with an extra day of rest, will pitch so that Daisuke Matsuzaka doesn't have to pitch on short rest. Matsuzaka would have been slated for Wednesday, but after Friday's rainout, pitched yesterday and would have been going on three days' rest.
The expectation is that Colon will remain in the rotation with Buchholz sidelined.
Manager Terry Francona, acknowledging that Masterson has been cuffed around in his last few starts for Double A Portland, said the pitcher's mistake has been leaving balls up in the zone late in games.
The club is awaiting the arrival of Chris Smith, who was in Scranton with Pawsox Saturday night.
Manager Terry Francona said Smith, who has battled some arm injuries in the past, has regained his velocity and still has a good changeup. He's both started and relieved for Pawtucket this season, ``but since going to the bullpen, has been really good,'' said Francona.
Smith will probably be with the Sox for just today and Monday, giving the Sox an additional reliever while Hideki Okajima (left wrist) has some down time.
``We wanted to stay away from (Okajima Saturday),'' said Francona. ``We might stay today, too. We just think it's in his best interest. But (Saturday, with a doubleheader) was a tough day to stay away from him.''
J.D. Drew is out of the lineup, with Coco Crisp in center and Jacoby Ellsbury in right.
``We're just mixing and matching,'' said Francona. ``J.D. played both games (Saturday) and we're trying to keep everyone feeling good about their legs.''
Outfielder Brandon Moss, who underwent an emergency appendectomy a few weeks ago, will get some at-bats in extended spring training Monday and Tuesday, then join the Pawsox in mid-week.
``He's ready to go,'' said Francona, who added that veteran outfielder Bobby Kielty (broken hand) remains at home in California.
Immediately after the game, Francona is set to leave for Philadelphia where Monday morning, he'll attend his son Nick's college graduation at the University of Pennsylvania.
Posted by Sean McAdam at 11:21 AM | Permalink
Starting Lineups, May 18
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:01 AM | Permalink
Sox win second game, complete doubleheader sweep
BY JOE McDONALD
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON -- Seven errors. Six unearned runs. A parade of seven pitchers to the mound who combined for 11 walks and 326 pitches in three-plus hours. Add it all up, and it spells U-G-L-Y.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As far the Red Sox are concerned, their come-from-behind 7-6 victory over the Brewers in the nightcap of Saturday's day/night doubleheader was a sight to behold.
"It’s not easy to do,” manager Terry Francona said of sweeping a doubleheader, which -- thanks to their 5-3 win in the first game -- the Sox accomplished with Saturday night's comeback. "We used every pitcher that was available and we found a way to win that second game."
Tim Wakefield started the nightcap and was staked to a 5-0 lead after five innings. He departed with one out in the sixth after having thrown 108 pitches, and watched as the bullpen -- specifically David Aardsma and Craig Hansen -- gave it all back and then some, as the Brewers surged ahead, 6-5, with three runs in the sixth (all of which were charged to Wakefield) and three more in the seventh.
Still, Wakefield was happier with the Sox' subsequent rally -- they scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to move back ahead, 7-6, at which point Javier Lopez and Mike Timlin nailed it down -- which completed the sweep, than he was disappointed at losing a chance for a personal victory.
"It’s huge, especially with [Hideki] Okajima and [Jonathan] Papelbon [unavailable] for the second game," he said. (Okajima will be sidelined several days because of a sore wrist, and Papelbon had pitched in the opener on Saturday evening.) "The offense did a great job coming back and Mike Timlin got the save. It’s been a while, but I’m glad to see he got an opportunity to get a save and we won.”
With that save, Timlin, 42, became the oldest major-league pitcher to record a save since John Franco did it for the Mets against the Dodgers on Aug. 24, 2003.
The Sox had built their lead on a two-run double by Mike Lowell in the first, a two-run homer by Lowell in the third, and an error by third baseman Billy Hall which allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to score from third base with two outs in the fifth.
The Brewer comeback began in the sixth when, with one out, Corey Hart launched a rocket shot off Wakefield over the Monster Seats and out of the ballpark, making it 5-1. After Wakefield allowed a single to former teammate Gabe Kapler (1-for-5 with two runs scored and a rousing ovation in his Fenway return) and hit Hall, he was lifted in favor of Aardsma.
Aardsma started well enough, freezing Mike Rivera with a called third strike on the inside corner. But he hit Craig Counsell, loading the bases, and Richie Weeks won a long battle by fouling off several pitches and then spiking a two-run single to left on a 3-and-2 offering. Aardsma reloaded the bases when he walked Mike Cameron before escaping further damage by inducing Braun to foul out to first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
The further damage arrived in the seventh when Hansen took over, though he was wasn't helped by his defense. He gave up a leadoff single to Prince Fielder and struck out Hart. Lowell, at third base, then committed a rare throwing error on a slow chop by Kapler, putting runners at first and second. Shortstop Alex Cora compounded the problem by booting the in-between hop on a slow grounder by Hall, loading the bases.
The Brewers made it 5-4 on a fielder's choice grounder by Rivera, putting runners on first and third. Rivera soon made it into scoring position on a wild pitch by Hansen. Kapler held at third, but he wasn't there long; Counsell ripped a two-run double down the right-field line, scoring both runners and putting Milwaukee ahead, 6-5.
The Brewers entrusted the lead to Salomon Torres, whom they brought on in relief of starter David Bush, and it didn't take long for the Sox to jump on the 36-year-old right-hander . . . though, like Hansen, Torres had a case for defensive non-support. Ellsbury reached on an error by Weeks at second base. Dustin Pedroia hit a grounder to third and Hall's throw to second in an attempt to force Ellsbury went into right field, putting runners at second and third.
David Ortiz tied the game with a grounder to short, moving Pedroia to third. The Brewers then brought their infield in, which put them out of position to catch a popup into short right field by Youkilis. It fell for a hit, Pedroia scored, and the Sox were back ahead to stay,
"It’s always a battle," said Youkilis, who provided the would-be game-winning RBI in the seventh inning. "It’s a long day and by the end of the second game your body is tired."
It was clear late Saturday night that the Red Sox players were drained. It won’t get any easier, however, as the two teams play at 1:35 p.m. on Sunday.
"It’s baseball, you’re going to get something different every time you watch the game," said center fielder Coco Crisp. “It’s not like ice skating, where you know what you’re going to get where they have to do the mandatory jumps."
Posted by Joe McDonald at 12:26 AM | Permalink
Lowell power surge continues
BY SEAN McADAM
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON -- Until May 5, Mike Lowell, who led the Red Sox RBI last season, had yet to knock in a run. Since then, he's been more than making up for lost time.
As the Sox capped their doubleheader sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers with a 7-6 win Saturday night, Lowell provided much of the early offense, doubling home two runs in the first and adding a two-run homer in the third.
That outburst continued a torrid streak for Lowell over the last two weeks, which has seen him go 18-for-49 (.367) with five homers and 15 RBI.
The hot streak began on the team's recent three-city, 10-game road trip. Now that the Sox are home for a seven-game homestand, Lowell is hoping it continues.
"I think the whole trip, I was pretty comfortable and seeing the ball well,'' said Lowell. "When I got my pitch, I was putting it in play and not fouling it off. I was fortunate to do it twice today and drive in some runs for us."
Lowell gave the Sox a 2-0 jumpstart in the bottom of the first, when, after a two-out walk by David Ortiz and a double to left by Kevin Youkilis, he drove a double into the left-field corner off David Bush.
In the third, again with two out, he jumped on a pitch from Lowell and sent it into the Monster Seats, doubling the Sox lead.
Finally, after a month of April that saw him begin slowly, then spend more than two weeks on the disabled list because of a sprained thumb ligament, Lowell feels it coming together at the plate.
"I can't say that I did this or I did that,'' said Lowell of his turnaround. "I think I just needed some at-bats under my belt.''
Then again, as Lowell pointed out, the Sox were up against some good performances from Toronto and Tampa Bay starting pitchers.
"I'm happy with the way things are going now," said Lowell, who has five homers in the the last 12 games and has hit safely in eight of his last nine games. "I hope it continues."
The odds would seem to be in his favor, since Lowell has traditionally been a better hitter at Fenway than he has on the road.
"I think people break down numbers so much, it's hard to figure some things out,'' he said. "In 2006, I hit better on the road (.310 away from home and .260 at Fenway) and last year, I was better here (.373 at Fenway and .276 in road games). Someone told me last year that all of my homers either came at home or against A.L. East teams. But this year, my first three homers came against A.L. Central teams (Detroit and Minnesota). So, who knows?
"I just know my job is to produce in the middle of the order.''
And finally, he's doing that.
Posted by Sean McAdam at 12:25 AM | Permalink
Sox option Van Every, call up Smith
BY JOE McDONALD
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON -- After the Red Sox won both games of Saturday's day/night doubleheader over the Brewers at Fenway Park, they optioned outfielder Jonathan Van Every back to Pawtucket and purchased the contract of reliever Chris Smith.
Smith will join the Red Sox on Sunday in his major-league debut.
The right-hander has been outstanding for the PawSox this season, recording four saves in six relief outings with a 0.90 ERA. He's allowed one earned run in 10 innings out of the pen. Smith started four games at the beginning of the season in Pawtucket, and overall is 1-2 with a 1.45 ERA in 31 innings.
The Sox needed to make this move due to their bullpen being taxed. Every member of the relief corps except Hideki Okajima, who is temporarily sidelined because of a wrist injury, worked in one of the games in Saturday's doubleheader.
Here's the feature story I wrote about Smith last week at McCoy Stadium.
PAWTUCKET - Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher Chris Smith doesn’t like to waste time.
When he’s on the mound, he works quickly and usually gets the job done. Smith, a seven-year pro in the Red Sox organization, has always faced adversity in his career but now he feels he’s back where he needs to be.
Originally selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2002 draft, the one-time pitching prospect suffered a compound fracture in his right pitching forearm prior to the 2003 season. He had just completed a promising rookie campaign with Single-A Lowell, but the injury, which required surgery, halted his development.
He returned to the mound in 2003 in a dramatic comeback. Smith began the 2004 season with Double-A Portland, but after 14 starts he suffered a bout of tendinitis in his throwing shoulder and was shut down for the remainder of the year.
The summer of 2005 was much the same as he continued to battle the shoulder problems. He eventually needed surgery to repair a torn labrum. For the last two seasons he has split time between Portland and Pawtucket.
He began this season with the Sea Dogs but never threw a pitch until he was called up to Pawtucket on April 7 to replace Bartolo Colon, who suffered an oblique strain. Since his arrival at McCoy Stadium, Smith has worked as both a starter and reliever and compiled a 1-2 record with one save and a 1.65 ERA.
Smith was impressive Thursday night, working two perfect innings of relief against the Durham Bulls to help Pawtucket to a 3-2 victory. PawSox manager Ron Johnson called Smith’s outing "dirty" and he expects to see much more of that this season.
"I feel really good," said Smith. "Actually, I feel 100-percent great. I’m high on confidence and it’s the best I’ve felt post-surgery. I feel like nothing has ever happened. I understood it would take a little time, and that’s what they told me, and I figured out it does take time. I can’t wait to throw every day and I feel healthy."
Smith said he was a little impatient at first because the shoulder was not responding as quickly as he hoped. In fact, it took 2 1/2 years before he felt back to normal. The process, he says, was long and arduous, something he had to get used to. Still, Smith didn’t think it would take this long.
"Not a chance," he said. "I was ready for a year-and-a-half (rehab), and here I am almost four years after the surgery [before I got back to] 100 percent. After a year-and-a-half, I was competing but not getting guys out. I wanted to see some conviction behind my pitches and that’s what I’m seeing now."
Smith is 27 now and he hasn’t been considered a prospect for a few years. That’s not to say he’s out of the loop because with the way he’s pitched of late he has put himself back on the radar.
"Yeah, when you’re younger you want to hear that you’re a prospect," he said. "When you get older, you’re not a prospect anymore. You might be a name that gets mentioned, but you’re no where near a prospect. Some people say they don’t want to be on the radar; they want to be below the radar. Now it’s time for me to be on the radar. I want people to start knowing that I’m doing well."
Not only has Smith had to deal with the shoulder injury and long recovery period, his role has changed, too. The right-hander has been a starter. He’s been a reliever. It’s flip-flopped so many times now it must be hard to figure out what he’s actually doing.
"Whatever role they put me in, I just want to go 100 percent," he said. "If I’m a starter, I want to make a long impact, and if I’m a reliever, I want to make a short impact.
Smith’s repertoire includes a fastball -- usually between 88 and 92 mph -- a nasty curve ball and an above-average changeup. His velocity is back to where it was pre-surgery and Johnson said he couldn’t be more pleased with Smith’s performances.
Johnson managed Portland when Smith was blowing away opposing hitters in 2004, recording 85 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings of work. Now, to see the kind of success he’s having makes it even better for the Pawtucket manager.
"I couldn’t be more excited about a player as I am with him in a long time," said Johnson. "He has above-average game awareness when he pitches. He always had above-average command, but the thing he was lacking was getting that velocity back after the surgery. I couldn’t be more excited about the guy."
The Boston Red Sox felt that earlier in Smith’s career that he had the potential to be a major-league pitcher. Even though his career suffered a detour, it appears he’s worthy enough again to be considered.
Posted by Joe McDonald at 12:07 AM | Permalink