PHILADELPHIA -- In his last appearance, Jonathan Papelbon coughed up a save, serving up a two-out, 2-and-2 ninth inning homer to Edwin Encarnacion in Cincinnati last Saturday.
Last night he was called in for the first time since that game.
And Papelbon didn't just earn the save, he turned in one of the most dominant outings of his career.
First, he blazed his way past Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, who couldn't catch up with a full-count 97 mph heater. Pat Burrell was next. Papelbon blew him away with a 95 mph fastball. Jayson Werth was the last obstacle between Papelbon and his 20th save of the year. Papelbon fanned him on another 95 mph heater.
The save was the 92nd of Papelbon's career, moving him into third place on the Sox' all-time list. Papelbon is one of three Red Sox to post 20 saves in three different seasons, joining Dick Radatz (4 times) and Jeff Reardon (3 times).
PHILADELPHIA -- The Red Sox were up to their thieving best on the basepaths in Tuesday night's 3-0 victory over the Phillies.
Boston swiped six bases, tying a record the team set on May 30 this season in a game in Baltimore.
Three of the Sox' most likely stolen-base threats were able to contribute to the record-tying performance last night. Coco Crisp swiped a pair with Jacoby Ellsbury and Julio Lugo each contributing one. Dustin Pedroia racked up one on the back end of a double steal with Lugo, and the other came from a highly unlikely source -- Sean Casey.
Casey was at first base in the eighth inning when the count went full on Brandon Moss. The lumbering Sox first baseman took off on the pitch, Moss struck out, and Casey beat the throw from catcher Carlos Ruiz, claiming his first stolen base of the year. It was his 18th steal in 1,367th big-league game.
All was not perfect in the stolen-base department for the Sox, though. While Ellsbury successfully swiped second base in the ninth inning for his major-league-leading 34th of the year, the rookie got a little uncharacteristically greedy in trying to steal third, too.
Ellsbury was gunned down at third for the first time in eight attempts at stealing that bag. It was the final out of the inning, and it took the bat out of Mike Lowell's hands when he already had been in scoring position.
It was an attempt the Sox didn't need to make, intimated manager Terry Francona.
"One too many chances," said Francona. "It was the first time (Ellsbury) was kind of wild. (Stealing bases) is part of our game. That's been helping us. We're trying to be efficient. We like the idea of being safe. We don't want to run just to run. We want to run to win."
Ellsbury has been caught only four times. As a team, the Sox have been successful on 70 of 83 stolen-base attempts (84.3 percent), the top percentage in the league.
PHILADELPHIA -- Kevin Youkilis will be missing his second straight start, replaced at first base by Sean Casey for Tuesday night's game against the Phillies.
Youkilis said he felt his back tighten up on him during Sunday's game in Cincinnati. He said when he took batting practice on Monday, his back "locked up' on him as he ran the bases.
"It's just tight, no spasms," said Youkilis this afternoon as he sat on a couch in the Sox clubhouse. "It's not like it's a disc or something. It should be nothing big."
Youkilis said he was hopeful he'd be able to play in Wednesday's series finale, but manager Terry Francona, noting that the Red Sox have a scheduled day off on Thursday, didn't seem to want to push Youkilis too soon.
"We'll see," said Francona of Youkilis returning Wednesday. "He's better. But with the off day, we don't want to take the chance on setting him back."
PHILADELPHIA -- Terry Francona wasn't in Willie Randolph's shoes over the last month or so when the New York Mets manager was publicly twisting in the wind, his job in jeopardy.
But Francona, who was fired in 2000 after four years in Philadelphia, had a perspective on the process that ultimately claimed Randolph at 3 a.m. EDT Tuesday after the Mets had won a game in Anaheim. New York general manager Omar Minaya has been scorched in the media and on blogs for the way he handled the situation.
"Way more often than not, regardless of how it's perceived, people are trying to do the right thing. Who knows? There's no easy way (to fire a manager)," said Francona.
Francona then recounted how he was told that he would not be coming back. Phillies GM Ed Wade called Francona into his office before the final game of the 2000 season and gave him the bad news. Francona then went back downstairs and managed the final game of the year, his pink slip in his pocket.
"Ed took some heat (for the timing of the firing)," said Francona. "But he knew I had a four-day golf outing planned right after the season, and he didn't want me (thinking about the job status) the whole time. He knew he was going to do it. He was trying to do the best thing, the best way he could. I appreciated that."
That didn't make managing that last game easy, though.
"That wasn't the best day, but that's the way it goes," said Francona.
He wished Randolph well.
"What I know of Willie he's a great guy," said Francona. "The harder thing (than getting fired) is going through all of it. It's so public in New York. I hope he's able to take a deep breath."
PHILADELPHIA -- The injury to Bartolo Colon (back) forced the Red Sox to make some alterations in its starting rotation.
Some of the changes already had been planned, notably extra rest for Josh Beckett, but Colon's injury likely has spared rookie right-hander Justin Masterson a return trip to Pawtucket.
Boston enjoys a day off on Thursday, making it easier to give Beckett a breather of sorts. So the starters for this weekend's series at Fenway Park against the Cardinals will be Tim Wakefield (Friday night), Daisuke Matsuzaka (Saturday afternoon) and Jon Lester (Sunday).
Matsuzaka will be taken off the disabled list for his start in the 4 o'clock game, and Lester will slide up into Beckett's spot for the Sunday outing. Lester, who starts Tuesday night against the Phillies, will be pitching on normal four days' rest.
Beckett will pitch Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against Arizona at Fenway. He'll be pitching on seven days' rest, his last outing having come last Sunday in Cincinnati.
Manager Terry Francona said that there is nothing wrong with Beckett physically, but that the Red Sox want to make sure they give their pitchers extra rest whenever possible to keep them stronger down the stretch.
"We really think that helps," said Francona.
Masterson will pitch the second game of the series against Arizona, with Wakefield pitching the finale next Wednesday night. And if the Sox want to make any further alterations of the rotation after that series, they will have another day off, June 26, to use to their advantage in that regard.
PHILADELPHIA -- Curt Schilling's comeback from a serious shoulder injury has been stalled.
The veteran right-hander was sent back home to Boston, where on Wednesday he will be examined by team physician Thomas Gil.
Schilling threw last Friday in Cincinnati and was not encouraged by his progress. His session was termed "blah" by manager Terry Francona.
Schilling did not want to comment on his shoulder or anything else this afternoon.
"Nothing new to report. I'll let Tito (Francona) talk before I say anything," said an uncharacteristically tight-lipped Schilling.
Francona later talked about the immediate plans for Schilling.
"Hopefully he's just hit a plateau," said Francona. "It may be a bump in the road. We'll send him back to be examined before he does anything else. It has been a frustrating week for him. He's just kind of stuck. We'll just have to wait and see what the next move is."
Schilling was not available to talk after Francona's media session.
PHILADELPHIA -- Bartolo Colon, who had to leave his start Monday night because of a lower back strain, has been placed on the disabled list.
He's being replaced on the roster by Chris Smith, a right-hander called up from Pawtucket. Smith will provide manager Terry Francona with another arm out of the bullpen for three games. It is expected that Smith will be returned to Pawtucket on Saturday, when Daisuke Matsuzaka will be activated from the DL for a start that day at home against St. Louis.
Colon suffered the injury during one of his overly aggressive swings, the force of one of which caused his helmet to fall off. Colon whiffed both times, swinging and missing six pitches, his second at-bat coming with runners at second and third with two outs in the fourth.
The corpulent right-hander pitched the fourth, but Francona said he and pitching coach John Farrell saw a change in his arm angle and didn't want him to risk further injury by going back out for the fifth.
Colon spent time on the DL in 2006 because of rotator cuff issues, and time last year because of elbow woes. He already had been shut down once this year because of an oblique muscle strain.
But the veteran has gone 4-2 for the Sox. So the feeling of Francona and the organization is a better-safe-than-sorry philosophy.
"We're being somewhat cautious not only with him, but all of our pitchers," said Francona. "We want them to be healthy and productive and we think that goes hand in hand. We want to have him all year. We kind of like the way he has been throwing."
Colon's injury, plus the serious foot injury suffered by the Yanks' Chien-Ming Wang, has caused more debate about the fears American League managers have when they participate in interleague play in National League parks where the designated hitter is not used.
"I know anyone can run the bases. (Wang) was just bad luck. You're asking people to do stuff (hitting, running the bases) they're not used to doing. That's difficult," said Francona.
Steve Krasner reports that the Red Sox have placed pitcher Bartolo Colon on the 15-day disabled list. Colon has back stiffness following hard swings he took during last night's Red Sox-Phillies game. The Sox have called up relief pitcher Chris Smith to take Colon's spot on the roster.
Colon's next scheduled start was to be Sunday against the Cardinals. The Sox plan on using Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will be coming back from the DL, on Saturday, and plugging Jon Lester into the Sunday start.
Click the play button below to hear Sean's comments, recorded this morning. The topics: Bartolo Colon's swing-for-the-fences plate approach, the debate over whether the National League should adopt the designated hitter, and Cole Hamels' prediction that the Sox and the Phils will meet again in October.
Here are some excerpts from Sean's comments:
On Colon, and his injury: "I guess it could have been worse, if you're the Red Sox, because look at what happened to Chien-Ming Wang, who got on the bases and then ended up breaking his foot, and is going to be out until September at the earliest."
Will the NL go with the DH? "I think the only way this changes is if you get an influx of younger National League owners. As it is now there are teams and owners in particular who would I think fight to the death before adopting the designated hitter in their league."
On the Phillies' World Series hopes: "It just seems like offense has to carry so much of what they are and point them to success. But the National League is so wide open ... I would put the Cubs as probably the best National League team, but that doesn't mean that it's impossible for the Phillies to get in and perhaps knock them off."
Ha, ha. 'Ol Hank, always good for a laugh. All because his pitcher can't travel from third base to home plate without incapacitating himself.
And then it hits a little closer to home, when Bartolo Colon makes a cartoonish spectacle of himself flailing wildly at various Cole Hamels deliveries and has to come out of the game because he hurts his back on one of his corkscrew swings. (Boston Herald)
Forget the sideshows -- Hank Steinbrenner, the ridiculous way Colon was injured -- and focus on this: Nine times a season (the nine games A.L. teams have to play on the road during the interleague period), you're asking a subset of professional athletes, in this case American League pitchers, to utilize a set of skills they've let atrophy over the years. Most times they can handle it, at varying degrees of competency. And sometimes, as Chien-Ming Wang and Bartolo Colon can attest, they can't . . . at the cost of their livelihood and their team's on-field chances.
And why? Because one league plays by one set of rules, the other by another.
I don't want this to be interpreted as a big-market whine about losing a pitcher. I understand that pitchers, even if they don't have to do it very often, should be able to swing a bat or run the bases without suffering debilitating injuries. And I understand that position players get hurt doing the very same things, even though they work on those tasks daily.
Fact is, though, that neither Wang nor Colon would be injured today if they hadn't been playing in a National League park. That, in the end, winds back to what is -- and always has been -- my point: One league plays by one set of rules, the other by another. People ask me why I hate interleague play. That's why. You build your team to play the game a certain way and then, for the nine games a year you have to play on the road during the interleague period, it all goes out the window. It's utterly absurd. Do the Celtics lose players on four fouls when they play in the Western Conference? Do the Patriots have to play with 10 men on offense when they face an NFC team? Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, how is that any different than what baseball actually does?
Most times it's just annoying. And sometimes, like in the last two days if you're a Red Sox or a Yankee, it's infuriating.
I don't often hear Peter Abraham of the LoHud Yankees Blog say he agrees with Hank Steinbrenner, but he did today.
Me too, Pete.
SIDESHOW: Colon's injury didn't have much of an affect on the Red Sox game last night, except that it forced them to use Mike Timlin when the outcome was still in question . . . and that, sad to say, isn't a good thing these days. Timlin allowed four runs in two-thirds of an inning and Steven Krasner has the gruesome details of the veteran reliever's 2008 season in the aftermath of last night's 8-2 defeat: 40 baserunners (29 hits, 11 walks) in 21 2/3 innings, with a 7.06 ERA.
AS ONE DOOR CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS: The news of Colon's injury was tempered -- at least a little -- by Daisuke Matsuzaka's more-than-encouraging rehab start for the PawSox (above). Tom Robinson, writing for the Providence Journal and projo.com, said not only did Dice-K dominate the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs -- not allowing a hit until he appeared to tire in the fifth -- but reported that Matsuzaka had no problems with his shoulder. There was already talk Matsuzaka would start Saturday in Boston against the Cardinals; if Colon's on the shelf, that would seem to be a certainty.
AND YET ANOTHER CLOSES: They'll need that depth. Krasner says the news on Curt Schilling isn't good and wonders if the thin chance that Schilling would actually pitch this year has gotten "even thinner."
PHILLY PHAVORITE: J.D. Drew -- who refused to sign with the Phillies after they made him their No. 1 draft choice in 1997 -- has always been held in a special ring of hell by Philadelphia fans. They gave him their normal venomous greeting last night but he had the last laugh when he homered.
The Daily News has the down-and-dirty report of the firing -- pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base coach Tom Nieto were also let go -- as does the Post, which called it "a bizarrely timed housecleaning." Mets GM Omar Minaya isn't scheduled to meet the press until 5 p.m. EDT today, so speculation and opinion will rule the day until then. And it's already started:
-- The blog It Is About The Money, Stupidreports reaction from various folks, none of whom particularly praise the Mets. (The Daily News' Bill Madden, on a radio appearance, calls it the most "undignified, atrocious" firing he's seen in 30 years of covering New York sports, and that includes all of George Steinbrenner's dismissals.)
Shysterball's Craig Calcaterra has the best take on it all. The Mets, he says, turned Randolph -- who he thinks deserved dismissal -- into a sympathetic figure by deliberately timing his firing until after the print media's final deadline had passed, meaning it would miss today's newspaper news cycle. But it reality it means "the bloggers, while not nearly as widely read and heard as the traditional outlets, are going to be twice as shrill as they try to fill the void; and . . . the print and radio people" -- who won't be far behind, since they all have online outlets -- "are going to level about five times as much artillery at the Mets due to the shoddy way in which this was all handled."
In fact, it's already started. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post posted an online column in the last 15 minutes in which he absolutely eviscerates the Mets. I wanted to cull through it for the most inflammatory comments, but there are so many of them I don't know where to begin. ("Disgraceful. Utterly, completely, disgraceful" . . . "miserable cast of miscreants" . . . "sinister men, cowards" . . . see what I mean?)
Just brilliant, guys.
ONE LAST NOTE: The Mariners fired GM Bill Bavasi (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), but before you read the story after clicking this link, check the picture. All I could think was: Kevin Youkilis in 20 years.