The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Boston Red Sox Fri, 29 Apr 2016 23:30:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Braves top Red Sox to end 8-game slide Fri, 29 Apr 2016 02:57:54 +0000 BOSTON — Atlanta hitters got to Clay Buchholz early and never let up as the Braves pieced together a rare victory.

Nick Markakis had three singles, a double and three RBI and the Braves beat the Boston Red Sox 5-3 Thursday night, ending Atlanta’s eight-game losing streak.

“Any game is big no matter how we win it, especially with the way things are going now,” said Markakis, who led off the game with a double. “We just need to battle, stay confident and support each other and be as consistent as we can.”

The Braves have been consistent, just not in the right way while struggling to a big-league worst record of 5-17. Atlanta won for the first time since April 19 and avoided being swept by the Red Sox in the interleague series, which included two games in each city.

Mallex Smith doubled twice and had an RBI single for the Braves and Jhoulys Chacin (1-1) was effective enough over five-plus innings to get his first win since signing with Atlanta as a free agent.

Atlanta ended its second eight-game slide of the year with a dozen hits and solid pitching from Chacin and the bullpen.

“We did a lot of good stuff on the whole game,” Manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “It’s a good baseball game.”

Chacin (1-1) gave up two runs and six hits before leaving with nobody out in the sixth. Five pitchers combined for four-hit relief, with Arodys Vizcaino getting three outs for his second save.

Buchholz (0-3) allowed five runs, eight hits and four walks in 61/3 innings, raising his ERA to 6.51.

Buchholz said he struggled with his fastball command and the Braves took advantage.

“There was a couple of them that got hit hard and they found the holes. They didn’t hit the ball at anybody,” Buchholz said. “It happens like that sometimes. When you do walk guys, you try to minimize the damage. I didn’t do a very good job of that tonight.”

Boston’s Hanley Ramirez had an RBI single in the first and drove in another with a double in the third. The Red Sox didn’t score again until Dustin Pedroia’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth.

Markakis led off the game with a double, then singled in a pair of runs in a three-run third, when Smith had an RBI double. Markakis’ single made it 4-1 in the fourth.

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Pedroia hits two homers as Sox beat Braves again Thu, 28 Apr 2016 02:26:18 +0000 BOSTON — Dustin Pedroia needed a few extra feet for two homers. David Ortiz simply powered the ball around Fenway Park to pass a couple of Boston’s baseball legends.

Pedroia had a grand slam and a solo homer, Ortiz passed Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx on the extra-base hits list and Boston beat Atlanta 9-4 on Wednesday night even as the Braves ended their 15-game homerless stretch.

The Red Sox won their fourth straight and third against the Braves, the first two coming at Turner Field.

The 40-year-old Ortiz had three doubles and drove in two runs, giving him 1,119 extra-base hits to tie Hall of Famer George Brett for 16th on the career list. On the second double, he passed Williams and Foxx.

“I did? Good for me,” Ortiz said, smiling when told of the feat. “That’s what happens when you play for a long time. Man, I’m old.”

Freddie Freeman homered for Atlanta to end the drought. It was the longest for the franchise since the Boston Braves went 16 games without a long ball in 1946.

“Yeah, get the monkey off our back,” he said. “Hopefully, getting that one out of the way, we’ll start hitting a few more.”

Knuckleballer Steven Wright (2-2) allowed two runs – one earned – on three hits in seven innings, striking out eight with three walks.

“I thought we had a pretty good approach early in the game against Wright,” Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But I’ve never seen a knuckleball go sideways.”

The Red Sox jumped ahead 2-0 in the first against Bud Norris (1-4). Ortiz had an RBI double and scored on Hanley Ramirez’s single.

After the Braves scored a run in the top of the second, Boston broke it open on Pedroia’s slam in the bottom half. After loading the bases with two singles and a walk, Pedroia hit a slicing fly ball that caromed high off the Pesky Pole, making it 6-1. His solo shot barely cleared the Green Monster in the eighth.

“I mean, it’s a game of inches, I guess. I’ll take it,” Pedroia said. “I hit it hard. I’ve never really hit one off the pole. I’m glad I hit it.”

It was his second and third homers. Ortiz has seen the power from the 5-foot-8 Pedroia, a 2008 AL MVP.

“That’s the little guy I know,” he said.

Norris got just four outs, giving up six runs on seven hits.

In the fourth, Ortiz hit his second RBI double and scored on Travis Shaw’s stand-up triple.

NOTES: RHP Joe Kelly (15-day DL, right shoulder impingement) threw from 120 feet. … Reliever Carson Smith, out since the start of the season with a strained right flexor muscle, is expected to work two games with Double-A Portland and could be activated next week. … Boston C Ryan Hanigan had four passed balls, three in the fourth inning. “Hannie has his hands full when we have Steven on the mound,” Boston Manager John Farrell said.

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Red Sox beat Atlanta Braves, 11-4 Wed, 27 Apr 2016 02:11:55 +0000 ATLANTA — David Price matched his career high with 14 strikeouts, Travis Shaw homered and drove in five runs and the Boston Red Sox beat Atlanta 11-4 on Tuesday night as the Braves’ staggering home-run drought reached 15 games.

The Braves, who opened the season with nine straight losses, have lost seven straight.

The homer drought is the longest for the Braves in their 51 years in Atlanta. It’s the franchise’s longest span since a 16-game streak in September, 1946, when the Braves were based in Boston. Atlanta is 1-12 at home.

Price (3-0) allowed two runs on six hits in eight innings. The left-hander struck out the side in the eighth to match his career high.

Shaw hit a three-run homer off Matt Wisler (0-2) in the first and added a two-run double off Ryan Weber in Boston’s five-run ninth.

While with Tampa Bay, Price also had 14 strikeouts at Toronto on Aug. 28, 2011.

Xander Bogaerts had three hits, including a run-scoring double in the seventh, in Boston’s third straight win. The interleague series will continue with games in Boston on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Braves (4-16) have hit only three homers, easily the fewest in the majors. Entering Tuesday’s games, every other team in the majors had at least 12.

The 1975 California Angels are the only other team in the expansion era — since 1961 — to have hit as few as three home runs while playing 20 or more games in April, according to STATS.

Wisler allowed five runs on five hits and three walks in five innings. He threw 34 pitches in the first inning. Weber gave up five runs in two innings.

Wisler walked Dustin Pedroia, who had two hits, and gave up a single to Bogaerts before Shaw hit his homer into the second section of the lower level of right field seats.

Braves second baseman Daniel Castro made a spectacular catch of Mookie Betts’ blooper into shallow right field to set up a double play in the fourth.

With Price on first base following a walk, Castro ran with his back to the infield and reached over his shoulder to catch the ball as he slid on the outfield grass. As he was sliding, the ball popped out of his glove, but Castro reached and grabbed the ball with his bare right hand before rising to throw to first base. Price, running on the play, stood on second base watching as first baseman Freddie Freeman caught Castro’s throw for the double play.


There was a video tribute for David Ortiz, making his last visit to Atlanta, after the first inning. Fans responded with an ovation which grew louder when Ortiz popped out of the Boston dugout and tipped his cap, both to the fans and to the Braves dugout. Ortiz did not play.


Red Sox: RHP Carson Smith, on the 15-day DL with a right flexor muscle strain, is targeted for back-to-back appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday and Saturday. Manager John Farrell said Smith could join the team as early as next week when the Red Sox play at the Chicago White Sox. … LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (dislocated right kneecap) will make his first rehab assignment on Thursday at Pawtucket.



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Tom Caron: Don’t be quick to judge Price and Kimbrel Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 April is a time for snap judgments in baseball. Especially in Boston. It’s the time of year when fans decide how much they are willing to invest – both emotionally and monetarily – in the baseball season.

It’s also a time when things can be wildly distorted.

Take the 2016 Red Sox. They lumbered into Atlanta at about 5 a.m. Monday morning, with the glow of a 12-inning win at Houston a foggy memory. Boston got right back to work some 14 hours later, ready to open their final series at Turner Field with a .500 record.

It’s hard to tell a lot about a team that has won as many games as it has lost. Are the Sox as good as they’ve looked in those nine wins – a team that led the American League with 90 runs scored through Sunday, a team that cranked out 55 hits over the previous four games?

Or, were they as bad as they looked in those nine losses – a team with the league’s worst ERA and the most relief innings pitched of any team?

The Sox signed David Price last winter to a seven-year, $217 million contract to solidify the top of the rotation. Yet Price hasn’t pitched like an ace – at least not yet. He took a 7.06 ERA on this road trip, averaging just 51/3 innings per start.

Craig Kimbrel was the other big offseason acquisition, and he’s also struggled to acclimate himself to Boston. He returned to Atlanta, where he began his career, with a 5.00 ERA. He suffered his first blown save Sunday night. He already took a loss in the Fenway opener.

It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that Price and Kimbrel are the latest in a long line of big-money Boston busts, but doing so would be premature.

In fact, a look at the early-season histories of Price and Kimbrel would reveal that 2016 is not unusual – both stars have suffered slow starts in the past.

Price’s career ERA in March and April is 4.14, a run higher than his overall ERA (3.15). His WHIP is higher in April than in any other month, and his strikeouts-per-nine-innings is the lowest.

Last year Price had a 3.48 ERA at the end of April, a full run higher than the league-leading 2.45 ERA he would finish the season with.

Similarly, Kimbrel has struggled at the start of past seasons. His March/April ERA is 3.03 – nearly double his career mark of 1.71. In fact, his ERA drops significantly as the season wears on: May (2.76), June, (1.29), July (0.84) August (0.76). In September and October, Kimbrel’s career ERA rises slightly to 1.55.

Last year, Kimbrel’s ERA was a staggering 5.19 at the start of May. In fact, he wouldn’t really get comfortable until the end of an 11-game stretch from April 18 to May 19 when he allowed 10 earned runs in 92/3 innings.

Over the remainder of the season, Kimbrel posted a 1.44 ERA and .155 opponents’ batting average – the second-lowest of any National League pitcher with a minimum 40 innings pitched in that span.

Power pitchers often take a little while to settle into a season. Those early-season struggles are often magnified, especially when they are trying to earn the faith of a new fan base. Yet snap decisions based on a small sample size are often forgotten by the end of a long baseball season.

The Sox have looked both good and bad over the first month of the season. May is fast approaching. We’ll have a much better feel for what this team really can do by the middle of that month.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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Red Sox Farm Report: Bryce Brentz is back and looking to launch Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Power was on display in the Red Sox minor league system during the 2010 season.

In Portland, Anthony Rizzo was launching home runs into neighboring Fitzpatrick Stadium. The Red Sox system also featured a couple of pull-happy, left-handers in Josh Reddick (Pawtucket) and Jeremy Hazelbaker (Greenville).

And in the June draft, the Red Sox picked a masher from Middle Tennessee State in the supplemental round (36th overall). Outfielder Bryce Brentz hit 61 home runs over three college seasons and the Red Sox signed him for $900,000 to keep doing the same for them.

Six years later, Boston is looking for power. Rizzo (Cubs), Reddick (Athletics) and Hazelbaker (Cardinals) are hitting homers for other major league teams. The Red Sox are tied for last in the American League with 13 home runs, and no one has more than two homers at the Triple-A or Double-A levels.

Brentz, 27, is back with the Sea Dogs, for now, trying to recapture the swing and oomph that once showed so much potential.

In 2011, Brentz hit 30 home runs combined in Class A Greenville (11) and Salem (19).

Brentz cooled to 17 home runs in 2012 for Portland, but with a .296 average and .833 OPS.

Since then, Brentz has mostly teased with his might while sitting with injuries. In the past three years with Triple-A Pawtucket, he hasn’t played more than 82 games in a season (36 home runs in 204 total games), plus a nine-game cup of coffee with Boston in 2014.

Brentz has been sidelined with knee, hamstring and thumb issues. Entering 2016 – Brentz’s last season with minor league options – he arrived in spring training early and optimistic.

Then, during batting practice, a pain shot though his rib cage.

“I thought it was a little tight,” Brentz said.

Brentz tried to play through it and struggled in spring training games (0 for 16, 12 strikeouts). He was finally diagnosed with intercostal muscle strain.

“The muscles between your ribs,” said Brentz, who has become well versed in ailments.

Brentz remained in extended training when the season began. When he was cleared to play, Pawtucket’s outfield was full, but Portland had an opening. He played his first game in four years at Hadlock on Friday night (a single in four at-bats).

“I didn’t feel any (pain) so that was a confidence booster,” Brentz said.

After three stifling seasons, maybe a healthy year is ahead of him.

“It’s been frustrating but at the same time, it’s part of it,” Brentz said. “Half the battle is staying on the field. I feel like I’m in a good spot – fingers crossed, knock on wood, any other superstition I have to do, I’ll do it.”

MEANWHILE, THE RED SOX have traded some of their big bats, led by Rizzo. He has eight home runs for the Cubs this year after totaling 63 the past two seasons. Reddick was dealt to the A’s, where he has four home runs this year after hitting 20 last season. Hazelbaker was traded to the Dodgers and landed in St. Louis this year, where he is a rookie with four home runs.

PROJECTING POWER can be tricky. Mookie Betts hit zero home runs in 71 games with short-season Lowell in 2012. He swatted 18 in the majors last year and leads Boston this season with four.

BOSTON’S BEST HOME run prospect may be Salem’s Andrew Benintendi, who has 14 extra-base hits this season but no home runs. He broke out with 11 homers combined last year in Lowell and Greenville after being selected by Boston in the first round of the 2015 draft.

The leading home run hitters in the Boston organization can be found in Greenville – Josh Ockimey and Kyri Washington, both with five. One disclaimer about Greenville is the ball carries well in Fluor Field and its “Green Monster” is four feet shorter than Fenway’s (and Hadlock’s) and doesn’t extend much into left-center.

Ockimey, 20, is a fifth-round draft pick out of high school in 2014. He is ranked Boston’s 23rd-best prospect by Baseball America. He’s batting .323/1.093. Washington, 21, a 23rd-round draft pick last year out of Longwood University, is hitting .295/.957.

DAVE DOMBROWSKI TOOK a look at Boston’s prospects in Salem last week. The Red Sox president watched first-hand the production of Benintendi (.333/1.013) and Yoan Moncada (.350/.957, 13 stolen bases).

Aaron McFarling of The Roanoke Times asked Dombrowski how he knew when to move a player up. Dombrowski said there was a combination of factors, including “when you can see that a player is just better than the league.”

In the Carolina League, Benintendi and Moncada are third and fourth in batting average. Benintendi is fourth in OPS and Moncada sixth.


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Porcello blanks Braves, Bradley homers and Red Sox win, 1-0 Tue, 26 Apr 2016 02:23:34 +0000 ATLANTA — Rick Porcello combined with three relievers on a four-hitter, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit his first homer and the Boston Red Sox shut out Atlanta 1-0 on Monday night, giving the punchless Braves their sixth straight loss.

The Braves’ home-run drought reached 14 games, matching the longest streak in their Atlanta history.

Porcello (4-0) won his fourth straight start, allowing only four hits with two walks. Porcello gave up a double to Jeff Francoeur with one out in the seventh and left the game after walking Freddie Freeman. Robbie Ross Jr. stranded runners on first and third by striking out pinch-hitter Erick Aybar to end the inning.

Julio Teheran (0-3) allowed only two hits before Bradley pulled a belt-high fastball over the right field wall for his first homer in the seventh.

The Braves hit their last home run on April 10 and have only three for the season, easily the fewest in the majors.

The Braves also went 14 games without a homer Sept. 11-26, 1970, their fifth season in Atlanta. They haven’t had a longer span without a homer since a 16-game streak in September, 1946, when they were based in Boston, according to STATS.

Closer Craig Kimbrel, returning to his former Atlanta home, struck out Freeman to cap a perfect ninth for his sixth save.

Teheran allowed one run on six hits and three walks in seven innings. He set a season high with eight strikeouts.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez shuffled his lineup with Freeman hitting sixth for the first time since 2012. Adonis Garcia hit third and A.J. Pierzynski hit fourth.

Freeman, the normal No. 3 hitter, took a .177 average into the game and had two hits with a walk. One of the hits was a bunt single toward third base against a defensive shift.

The move down in the order is expected to be temporary. “We’ve got to do our best for him to get out of this thing and get going,” Gonzalez said.

A large turnout of Red Sox fans cheered when David Ortiz was used as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. Braves fans cheered when Arodys Vizcaino struck out Ortiz. The Red Sox also rested Hanley Ramirez after arriving at their team hotel in Atlanta at 5:30 a.m. after Sunday night’s 12-inning win in Houston.


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Red Sox beat Astros in 12 innings Mon, 25 Apr 2016 05:26:24 +0000 HOUSTON — Jackie Bradley Jr. singled home the go-ahead run in the top of the 12th inning early Monday morning, and the Boston Red Sox survived a blown save by Craig Kimbrel as they beat the Houston Astros 7-5 in a game that lasted more than five hours.

The Red Sox led 5-3 with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, but Carlos Correa doubled just over the leap of right fielder Mookie Betts and Colby Rasmus followed with a game-tying home run.

Heath Hembree, Boston’s sixth pitcher of the night, earned the victory with three scoreless innings.

Back-to-back singles by Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw started the winning rally against Astros reliever Ken Giles. After a sacrifice bunt by Brock Holt, Ryan Hanigan drew a 13-pitch walk to load the bases for Bradley, who hit a line drive to right.

Hanigan scored an insurance on a wild pitch.

IF JOHN FARRELL has lost the Red Sox clubhouse, if his players are tired of playing for him and if the 53-year-old manager’s voice has grown stale, there are no clear signs of it.

“I think he’s done fine,” said Dave Dombrowski, the president of baseball operations, when asked about Farrell’s performance during a conversation with the Boston Herald. “I think he’s a good manager, actually.”

From eschewing his first chance to pinch-hit for red-hot Travis Shaw with lefty-mashing specialist Chris Young, to using Young against a right-handed starter, to his bullpen management during tight games in a season-opening homestand, Farrell’s in-game decision-making has been dissected and critiqued by sports talk radio hosts, newspaper columnists and, surely, thousands of fans across New England.

Farrell knew what he was getting into when the season began. It’s part of the job in Boston, where coaches and managers can’t go long without winning before speculation begins to swirl about their job security.

It’s his fourth year as the Red Sox manager. Since winning a World Series in 2013, the Red Sox are 157-183. Some might believe it’s time for Farrell to move on.

Farrell was asked how he’s been handling the pressure.

“I have higher expectations than anyone else,” he said.

Asked if he’s been ignoring the voices that have been clamoring for his job, Farrell was resolute.

“I care about our players, and that’s where my focus remains,” he said. “It’s always been there.”

Dombrowski made his support for Farrell clear.

“I think John Farrell has done a fine job managing our team,” Dombrowski said. “The only thing I would tell him is the same I would tell any manager: You need to manage with your conviction. Whatever you believe is the right move, you’re the one who is most knowledgeable in the case, and you do what you think is the right thing to do.”

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On Baseball: World Series closer now a Red Sox coach Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Among the iconic memories in New England sports is the moment pitcher Keith Foulke underhanded the ball to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, clinching the 2004 World Series title for championship-starved Red Sox fans.

In the seconds after, while New England celebrated, Foulke had one thought.

“Don’t fall down,” Foulke told himself when 230-pound catcher Jason Varitek leaped into his arms.

Foulke played a key role that season, giving Boston a trusted closer it desperately needed (32 saves, 2.17 ERA). But Foulke wasn’t always a reliever, rising through the Giants’ organization as a starter.

The adjustment wasn’t simple and no one guided him in the transition.

Now Foulke, 43, wants to be that guide, hired by the Red Sox to work in developing relievers in the minors.

“In the minor leagues, the bullpen is about the only position where they don’t have coordinators and instructors,” Foulke said last week at Hadlock Field. “It’s something I’ve been talking to a few people about for the last few years. In January the Red Sox called me, we talked and here we are.

“I’m just going to work on that with these guys, so when they start moving up the ladder, they’re comfortable with it on that big stage. Hopefully they have a routine, a program mentally and physically where they can take it from Portland to the big leagues.”

Constructing a big league bullpen is a tricky, inconsistent business. The more relievers developed from within would seem to stabilize the process. Boston’s history of homegrown relievers is spotty.

That 2004 bullpen, headed by Foulke, was put together by trades and free-agent signings.

The 2007 World Series title team featured homegrown closer Jonathan Papelbon and reliever Manny Delcarmen. Both began as starters in the minors, although Papelbon was a reliever in college.

Daniel Bard looked like an All-Star reliever in the making (1.93 ERA in 2010), but he faded at the end of 2011, was allowed to make an ill-conceived move back to the rotation and was never the same, in part because of physical issues.

Recently, Junichi Tazawa (an international free agent, signed when he was 22) is the best success story, going from a Sea Dogs starter in 2009 to a key part of the 2013 World Series champion bullpen. Tazawa is still an important setup man.

Former starter Brandon Workman and starter Felix Doubront relieved in that 2013 postseason. Doubront resisted a long-term bullpen role, faltered as a starter and was traded. Workman is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Currently the Red Sox have Tazawa, plus former homegrown starters Matt Barnes and Noe Ramirez in the pen. Barnes (3.24 ERA, but 1.92 walks/hits per inning) and Ramirez (6.00/1.77) are still figuring it out.

But it’s apparent that Boston needs to do better in developing dependability in the pen. Thursday’s game at Fenway, when Pawtucket starter William Cuevas was used for three innings of relief – in a tie game – demonstrated the thin Red Sox relief corps.

Foulke said a crucial part in turning starters to quality relievers is a routine. He discovered that in 1997 when the White Sox acquired him from the Giants.

“It was definitely an adjustment when I got to Chicago. I had been starting and they put me in the bullpen,” Foulke said. “Going from that starter’s routine where I had 20 to 30 minutes to (warm up), down to just a couple of minutes.

“It’s learning how to prepare yourself to pitch nearly every day. You don’t get many guaranteed days off. It’s the physical part of it. There’s a big mental part of it, also. You don’t have a lot of wiggle room when you get into the game.

“There are going to be certain times when you come into the game and the game is literally on the line.”

Foulke not only brings know-how to the Red Sox minor leaguers, he has credibility.

“Obviously, just his name and him being around is unbelievable,” Sea Dogs reliever Chandler Shepherd said. “I think it’s great (having a roving bullpen instructor), especially someone like Foulke, someone who has been through it and has had a great career in the big leagues.”

That career climaxed, in the minds of Red Sox fans, when he underhanded that throw to Mientkiewicz. Then Varitek was leaping into Foulke’s arms.

But doesn’t the catcher clutch the leaping pitcher?

“That was the mindset with that team. We didn’t assume anything. Nothing was preplanned,” Foulke said. “It was one of those things that happened.

“Fortunately, I caught him and we didn’t look like a couple of goofballs falling. That was my one goal. Catching him was OK. When Mientkiewicz got there, it started getting heavy and everybody was piling on. My one thought was I didn’t want to go down. I didn’t want to be at the bottom of the dog pile. Just keep your feet.”

If the Red Sox want more dog piles in late October, they need a reliable bullpen. More homegrown relievers would help.


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Grand slam helps Astros defeat Red Sox Sat, 23 Apr 2016 23:47:41 +0000 HOUSTON — Clay Buchholz didn’t regret what pitch he threw to Colby Rasmus with the bases loaded in the fifth inning Saturday.

He just wished he had located it better.

Rasmus hit a tie-breaking grand slam to lead the Houston Astros to an 8-3 victory against the Boston Red Sox that snapped a four-game skid.

The game was 1-1 and Buchholz (0-2) had retired eight straight before walking Luis Valbuena with no outs in the fifth. George Springer singled with two outs before Buchholz plunked Carlos Correa to load the bases.

Rasmus then launched a 93 mph fastball with two strikes to the seats in right-center field for his fifth career grand slam and Houston’s second this season.

“It’s a really good pitch whenever you’re able to throw it where you want to, but the ball was moving a lot today,” Buchholz said. “For the most part, I felt like I did a pretty good job with executing the pitches I was throwing at times. Me and Colby faced each other a lot; he got me today.”

Rasmus drove in a fifth run with a double in Houston’s three-run eighth for his most RBI since he had six on June 2, 2011.

Buchholz yielded six hits and five runs, striking out six in 52/3 innings to remain winless in four starts this season. It’s his first career loss to the Astros in five starts, which included two complete games. He entered with a 1.38 ERA with 39 strikeouts against Houston.

Manager John Farrell praised his work despite the loss.

“I thought today he had excellent feel for his secondary pitches,” Farrell said. “He kept a very good fastball-hitting team off-stride for the most part, (except for) the grand slam. Granted, you’re going to look at the line score and it’s going to say five runs, but I thought the way he threw the ball today coming off the start against Toronto, he was making very good progress.”

Mike Fiers (2-1) allowed five hits and two runs with six strikeouts in 51/3 innings for his second straight win.

Mookie Betts hit a leadoff single and advanced to second on an error by Fiers on a pickoff attempt. Dustin Pedroia walked before the RBI single by David Ortiz made it 1-0.

Houston tied it in the second when Marwin Gonzalez scored on a groundout by Jason Castro.

Fiers settled down after the single by Ortiz, retiring 15 of the next 16 batters before a double by Pedroia to start the sixth.

A single by Travis Shaw with one out in the inning loaded the bases and chased Fiers.

“The last three or four games we’ve come out and we’ve been able to put up a crooked number on the board early,” Farrell said. “We’re creating a number of opportunities in games to get a little bit of a cushion. We were unable to cash in fully in that first inning today but still we’re having a lot of good at-bats.”

Fiers was replaced by Will Harris, and Brock Holt hit a sacrifice fly that scored Pedroia to cut the lead to 5-2. But Harris retired Chris Young to limit the damage.

The Red Sox added a run on a double by Josh Rutledge with two outs in the eighth.

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Betts pays off in Sox win Sat, 23 Apr 2016 03:58:11 +0000 HOUSTON — Steven Wright pitched into the seventh inning, and Mookie Betts finished a home run shy of the cycle as the Boston Red Sox beat the Houston Astros 6-2 on Friday night.

Betts tripled in the first and ninth innings, scoring both times. He had an RBI double in the second, and singled and scored in the fourth. He flied out in the sixth.

Wright (1-2) had his third straight good start to begin the season, allowing one run – no earned – and four hits with six strikeouts in 62/3 innings. He did walk five, with Carlos Gomez scoring on a passed ball in the seventh.

The knuckleballer has gone at least six innings in each of his starts and has allowed two runs or less in each of his starts this season.

Craig Kimbrel got Carlos Correa to end the game for his fifth save.

Dustin Pedroia, who had two hits, drove in Betts in the first and came around to score on Hanley Ramirez’s sacrifice fly. Xander Bogaerts also had two hits, including an RBI double in the fourth.

Brock Holt had an RBI single in the third to up Boston’s lead to 4-0.

NOTES: Henry Owens will start for the Red Sox in their game Sunday night against the Houston Astros, according to Manager John Farrell.

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Owens will start for Sox on Sunday Fri, 22 Apr 2016 23:29:11 +0000 Henry Owens will start for the Boston Red Sox in their game Sunday night against the Houston Astros, Manager John Farrell told reporters before Friday night’s game.

Owens, who pitched for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2013 and 2014, will start in place of Joe Kelly, who was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury after pitching just 2/3 innings on Tuesday. Owens is 1-1 in three starts for Pawtucket this season. He has allowed two earned runs, while striking out 23 and walking 10.

Also Thursday, the Red Sox called up left-handed pitcher Roenis Elias from Triple-A Pawtucket and sent down right-handed pitcher William Cuevas.

Sea Dogs’ pitcher Aaron Wilkerson was called up to Pawtucket and started Friday night against Lehigh Valley.

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On Baseball: There’s no relief from the starters Fri, 22 Apr 2016 02:51:27 +0000 BOSTON — Seeing pitcher William Cuevas make his major league debut was heartening, knowing how far he’s climbed through the Red Sox system, including a lengthy stop in Portland last year.

But what in the world was he doing on the mound in the eighth inning of a tie game, having already pitched two innings?

That’s how thin this Red Sox pitching staff is?

“We had a number of guys who were unavailable,” Manager John Farrell said after a 12-8 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

No Junichi Tazawa. No Robbie Ross. No Heath Hembree. Only Koji Uehara, if Boston was ahead. Farrell didn’t say so but we assume the same for Craig Kimbrel.

Farrell and his Red Sox went into Thursday’s game needing a solid start. Farrell even joked before that “I’ll sign up for a complete game.”

Farrell could be confident. He had ace David Price on the mound, the man who held the hard-hitting Toronto Blue Jays to two runs over seven innings in his last start.

These were the Tampa Bay Rays, the worst-hitting team in the American League.

But Price, the man with the $217 million contact, lasted 32/3 innings, allowing eight runs. Matt Barnes pitched 21/3 innings before Cuevas was summoned.

“Cuevas would have to give us multiple innings if we didn’t get a deep start, and that’s what took place today,” Farrell said.

In case of emergency, call on the rookie who has never pitched in the big leagues.

Cuevas looked composed. He mixed a 92 mph fastball with a change-up, going 21/3 innings (three hits, two walks, two runs).

“The numbers don’t say it but it went pretty well,” Cuevas said. “I threw the pitches I needed to.”

Even Cuevas said he was surprised to be sent out in the eighth. “But I just kept fighting.”

Cuevas did not have a put-away pitch (no strikeouts), and the Tampa Bay batters battled their way to walks and hits.

Noe Ramirez followed, making his fourth appearance in five days, and gave up two runs.

These new-and-improved Red Sox are supposed to be throwing gas. But they’re gassed.

Boston leads the American League with 56 innings thrown by relievers.

Getting an ace like Price was supposed to ease the bullpen’s burden – especially after the offense gives you a 5-1 lead in the first inning.

“That’s not fun for me. I know I’m better than that,” Price said. “Whenever you get five runs in the bottom half of the first inning, it’s unacceptable.”

Price repeated what he said after the home opener, when he allowed five runs in five innings: “I just didn’t execute … I’ve just got to get better.”

How bad was Price’s execution? Ask his former Rays teammate, Evan Longoria, who homered and doubled off him.

“A lot of the hits that he gave up were balls that he missed pretty significantly in the middle of the plate,” Longoria said. “From a hitting standpoint, you hope to capitalize and we did a good job of that today.”

Price routinely starts the season slow. His worst career month is April with a 3.90 ERA.

But right now that ERA is 7.06, with a team that already has a shaky rotation and fatigued bullpen.

There was hope, with catcher Christian Vazquez back handling the pitchers, that improvement was coming. Rick Porcello is 3-0, albeit with a 4.66 ERA.

But Joe Kelly is now out. And Clay Buchholz has had one good outing in three starts.

Offensively, there’s no problem. The Red Sox lead the league in runs. They scored eight runs on 15 hits Thursday.

“We didn’t miss the pitches we got,” said Dustin Pedroia, who was 3 for 6 with his first home run of the year.

Boston is supposed to be tough at Fenway, but went 4-6 on its first homestand, all against division opponents.

“We want to play better,” Pedroia said. “We’re starting to get into the grind of the season and figuring out what type of team we have, and we have a good one.

“It’s a matter of going out and finding ways to win games, and we’re going to do that.”

Applaud Pedroia’s optimism. Maybe the rotation will eventually find some consistency and endurance, so it does not drain its relievers.

But there is little room for error and little depth to depend on.

David Price needs to pitch like an ace. He fell far short Thursday.

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Price not sharp as Sox fall to Rays, 12-8 Thu, 21 Apr 2016 22:11:29 +0000 BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox blew a four-run lead.

Then they erased a three-run deficit.

Finally the Red Sox lost, again.

The Tampa Bay Rays enjoyed the last rally, beating the Boston Red Sox 12-8 on Thursday at Fenway Park.

It was the final game of a 10-game homestand, which found the Red Sox going 4-6, including two losses to the weak-hitting Rays.

With two outs in the eighth inning, Steve Souza smacked an RBI double just over the outstretched glove of Jackie Bradley Jr., against the wall in left-center, breaking an 8-8 tie.

The Rays tacked on three runs in the ninth.

“That was a resilient win,” Rays Manager Kevin Cash said.

Right-hander William Cuevas, an All-Star with the Portland Sea Dogs last year, took the loss in his major league debut. He allowed two runs over 21/3 innings.

Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts homered for Boston.

Red Sox ace David Price couldn’t hold a 5-1 lead after the first inning. Price lasted only 32/3 innings, allowing eight runs on eight hits, two walks and two hit batters. Price didn’t factor into the decision but his ERA ballooned to 7.06 in four starts.

Meanwhile, Rays starter Jake Odorizzi rebounded from a 37-pitch first inning to last into the fifth.

Odorizzi looked in big trouble in the first, giving up five runs – and it could have been worse.

Mookie Betts singled to lead off and Pedroia launched his first home run, over the Green Monster. Xander Bogaerts doubled and David Ortiz crushed a line drive that right fielder Souza made a highlight, running catch on.

Three more hits (Hanley Ramirez, Travis Shaw and Brock Holt) and a double steal (Shaw/Holt) brought in three runs for a 5-1 lead with one out. Christian Vazquez grounded into a fielder’s choice and Bradley struck out to end the inning.

“To jump out to a (5-1) lead, we feel like we’re in pretty good shape,” Manager John Farrell said.

But Price never looked in sync. His pitch count ran to 42 in the second inning, and 64 in the third, when former teammate Evan Longoria got his first hit off Price, a home run to left center, closing the score to 5-2.

Price still had five strikeouts through three innings but lost it in the fourth, retiring only one of the seven batters he faced, including a two-run homer by Curt Casali. He left with the score 7-5, with a runner on second, who scored on Souza’s single against Matt Barnes.

“I felt good in the bullpen,” Price said. “That’s the best I’ve warmed up in my four starts. To not have that translate into the game is frustrating.”

Odorizzi left after allowing a leadoff double to Bogaerts in the fifth. Reliever Enny Romero cruised but gave up a walk in the sixth.

With two outs, Danny Farquhar relieved and Betts swatted his fourth home run of the season, closing the score to 8-7.

Shaw doubled in Ortiz in the seventh to tie the game. The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out, but both Bradley and Betts struck out.

In the top of the eighth, Cuevas issued a one-out walk. After a fielder’s choice, Souza came up, worked the count to 3-1 and jumped on a fastball, scoring Desmond Jennings from first for a 9-8 lead.

Cuevas allowed a double in the ninth and left with one out.

Noe Ramirez gave up two hits and hit two batters, and the Rays piled it on.

NOTES: When Cuevas struggled with a 2-6 record and 4.70 ERA in advanced Class A Salem in 2014, his career looked stagnant. But on Thursday, there was Cuevas standing in front of his Fenway Park locker. Cuevas, 25, turned his prospects around last year in Portland (8-5, 3.40, All-Star selection), reached Pawtucket and got the call to the majors Tuesday. “I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “It’s incredible how quickly it happened. You never know when so you have to be ready.” Cuevas got into Thursday’s game and took the loss. With Boston needing more fresh arms from Pawtucket, Cuevas was informed after the game that he’s returning to Triple-A for now. …Boston doesn’t have a starter listed for Sunday (with Joe Kelly hurt), but Henry Owens seems the likely choice, and even more so after Brian Johnson started for Pawtucket on Thursday. … Reliever Carson Smith pitched in an extended spring training game in Fort Myers, Florida, and will so again Saturday. Smith, who is on the disabled list with a strained forearm, will likely begin rehab assignments next week (the Sea Dogs will be on the road next week until Friday) … Thursday’s nine-inning game lasted 4 hours, 16 minutes. Compare that to the Sea Dogs’ 17-inning game last Friday, which lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes.

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Red Sox end 3-game skid, dump Rays 7-3 Thu, 21 Apr 2016 02:26:15 +0000 BOSTON — Rick Porcello gave the Boston Red Sox exactly what they needed.

David Ortiz and Mookie Betts did their part, too, taking care of the offense after a rough night.

Betts hit a two-run homer and Ortiz drove in three runs with a pair of doubles to back Porcello, helping the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3 on Wednesday night to stop a three-game losing streak.

“Knowing we needed a deep start, he gave us everything we could have asked for,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said after his team used six relievers and was defeated 3-0 in 10 innings on Tuesday night.

Xander Bogaerts and Chris Young had RBI singles for the Red Sox, who ended a 63-game non-shutout streak at home on Tuesday.

With Boston having emptied its bullpen after Joe Kelly left Tuesday’s game in the first with a right shoulder impingement, Porcello (3-0) allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings, struck out nine and walked one.

“The bullpen had a lot of work the past couple of games, definitely paramount to go deep into the game to take a little pressure off them,” Porcello said.

He held the Rays scoreless on two hits through five innings while the Red Sox opened a 6-0 lead against Chris Archer (0-4). Porcello gave up Corey Dickerson’s two-run homer in the sixth.

Archer gave up six runs and eight hits in 41/3 innings as the Rays’ three-game winning streak ended. He is 0-7 with a 6.39 ERA in his last 10 starts.

After being held to one hit in Tuesday’s loss, the Red Sox scored three runs before Archer got an out. Bogaerts singled in a run, and Ortiz followed with a two-run double into the left-center gap.

“The first inning put the team behind the 8-ball,” Archer said. “I didn’t execute pitches very well, and they made the most of it.”

Boston made it 5-0 in the second when Betts homered off a light stanchion above the Green Monster.

Ortiz’s RBI double in the fifth made it 6-0. But it may have been a costly trip from first for Bogaerts, who left after scoring due to left quadriceps tightness.

“For as quiet as their bats were last night, they sure broke them out today,” Rays Manager Kevin Cash said. “They kind of had a relentless attack going, really good approach. You know coming into this, facing this team, they’re very capable of doing that.”

Tampa Bay closed to 6-2 when Dickerson hit his homer over Boston’s bullpen.

NOTES: Red Sox outfielder Brock Holt was in the lineup after sitting out three games. … Kelly was placed on the 15-day DL before the game. Farrell said it was too early to project a timetable for his return. … Bogaerts also had to race from first on Ortiz’s first double, and that’s when he felt the quad tighten. “I probably felt it my first at-bat when I got the base hit and Papi had the double that I scored on,” he said. … Porcello has gone at least six innings in his last 11 starts, the longest streak in the AL. “Yeah, that’s my job,” he said. “I want to go out there and pitch deep into games. I want to continue to do so, continue to improve on things I might not be doing so well. Just keep working and not get complacent.”

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Rays top Sox in 10th inning Wed, 20 Apr 2016 02:55:09 +0000 Drew Smyly and the Rays bullpen held the Red Sox to one hit, Kevin Kiermaier hit a solo home run in the 10th and Tampa Bay beat Boston 3-0 on Tuesday night for its third straight win. Smyly allowed one hit over eight innings and struck out 11 for the second straight start.

Smyly was in a pitching duel with Boston’s bullpen after starter Joe Kelly left in the first inning with stiffness in his right shoulder.  The Red Sox used six relievers, and the first four preserved the shutout until Matt Barnes (1-1) faced Kiermaier to lead off the 10th.

Jackie Bradley Jr. had Boston’s hit, a single to center in the third. Erasmo Ramirez (3-0) threw a hitless ninth for Tampa Bay, and Alex Colome pitched the 10th for his second save.

Kiermaier drove a 2-2 pitch from Barnes deep into the stands in right field for the first run of the game on just the fourth hit of the night for the Rays. Tampa Bay added two more runs with two outs on a ground-rule double by Desmond Jennings after an error by third baseman Travis Shaw.

Kelly faced just four batters, walking two, and left after the training staff visited the mound for the second time in the inning.

Heath Hembree, recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket earlier Tuesday, took over and went 3 1/3 innings. Hembree allowed two hits and struck out four.

Robbie Ross Jr. started the fifth and also struck out four while allowing one hit over three innings.

The Red Sox needed the strong showing from the bullpen to keep up with what Smyly was doing to Boston’s lineup.

Boston had its best chance in the third. Chris Young and Ryan Hanigan began the inning with consecutive walks, and then Bradley’s single loaded the bases. The Rays got a force out at home when Mookie Betts hit a sharp grounder right to third baseman Evan Longoria. The Red Sox still had the bases loaded for Dustin Pedroia, but Smyly got out of the jam by getting Pedroia to ground into a double play.

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Red Sox Farm Report: Top prospects could be in Portland soon Tue, 19 Apr 2016 01:46:10 +0000 If you long for a return to those prospect-rich days in Portland – when guys named Betts, Swihart and Shaw roamed Hadlock Field – the good times are getting closer.

One of the best collections of prospects in minor league baseball is gathered about 800 miles south, in Salem, Virginia.

The Salem Red Sox feature Boston’s top three everyday prospects: second baseman Yoan Moncada, center fielder Andrew Benintendi and third baseman Rafael Devers. And shortstop Mauricio Dubon is no slouch.

All but Devers are off to fast starts. If the other three keep hitting, they could be promoted to Portland by June.

Boston Red Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada forces Pittsburgh Pirates' Alen Hanson (59) at second base and relays the throws to first in time to turn a double play on Francisco Cervelli during the fifth inning of a spring training baseball game Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Boston Red Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada forces Pittsburgh Pirates’ Alen Hanson at second base and relays the throws to first in time to turn a double play on Francisco Cervelli during a spring training game in March in Bradenton, Fla. The Associated Press

 Moncada, 20, is the big name, if only because of the $63 million Boston invested in him ($31.5 million for a signing bonus, $31.5 million as a penalty for exceeding baseball’s international bonus limits).

Last year Moncada began slowly and then picked it up in Class A Greenville, batting .310 with a.915 OPS in the second half. He stole 45 bases in 48 attempts.

In advanced Class A Salem, Moncada is batting .333 (12 for 36), with a .972 OPS and 10 stolen bases in 13 tries – including 3 of 3 on Sunday. He’s struck out eight times but also has eight walks.

When does he get to Portland? By comparison, 20-year-old outfielder Manuel Margot arrived in Portland last June 22 after 62 games with Salem. Margot, of course, was traded to San Diego over the winter in the Craig Kimbrel deal.

There’s no need to rush Moncada, who turns 21 on May 27. He’s signed to a minor league deal and doesn’t have to be put on the 40-man roster until after the 2018 season, although it’s likely to happen sooner.

Like Mookie Betts, Moncada is going to have to move from second base, a position occupied in the majors by a guy with a contract through 2021.

 Benintendi, 21, appears to be one of those former collegians who will move quickly through the system – like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Sam Travis, each of whom reached Portland in his first full pro season (Pedroia actually began his first full year in Portland).

Drafted in the first round last year out of the University of Arkansas, Benintendi sizzled at lower levels. He hit a combined .313/.972 with 11 home runs in 54 games with Lowell and Greenville in 2015.

In Salem, Benintendi is batting .326 (14 for 43) with a 1.047 OPS. He doesn’t have a home run yet but has stroked four doubles and five triples. He has struck out only three times to go with three walks.

Portland beckons, just as it did for Travis last year, when he arrived after 66 games in Salem.

Benintendi is a center fielder but we assume that he can make the adjustment to left (with Bradley in center and Betts in right).

 Devers, the third-youngest player in the Carolina League, at 19 years and four months, is struggling with a .143 average, although three of his five hits are doubles. His career numbers (.293/.812 OPS) suggest he will come around. If he does, a late-season promotion to Portland is a possibility.

If you remember back to 2004, another promising 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic was not promoted to Portland until August. Hanley Ramirez was in the majors by the end of the next season.

 Dubon, 21, has been a nice surprise for a 26th-round draft pick in 2013, with career numbers of .298/.725. Promoted to Salem halfway through last season, he is off to a fine start in 2016: .351 (13 for 37) and an .837 OPS.

Dubon also has played third base and second base in previous seasons, suggesting the makings of a utility player. Unless he slumps badly, a ticket to Portland by June is likely.

HENRY OWENS made his third start for Pawtucket on Monday night, allowing one run in six innings. Owens, 1-1 with a 1.75 ERA, has 23 strikeouts in 18 innings, but also continues to have problems with command with 10 walks and two hit batters.

ANDERSON ESPINOZA, the top Red Sox pitching prospect, made his third start for Greenville on Monday night. Espinoza, who turned 18 last month, is the youngest player in the South Atlantic League. Consistent with a 97 mph fastball and developed curveball, Espinoza is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA, with 16 strikeouts and two walks in 15 innings.


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Blue Jays rally in 8th to spoil Red Sox’ Patriots Day, 4-3 Mon, 18 Apr 2016 18:41:15 +0000 BOSTON – Toronto manager John Gibbons knew Boston had its bullpen lined up.

It didn’t matter when the Red Sox couldn’t throw a key strike.

Russell Martin hit a two-run single against Craig Kimbrel to cap a four-run eighth inning, and the Blue Jays held to beat the Red Sox 4-3 Monday in Boston’s annual Patriots’ Day game.

“When you’re facing (Koji) Uehara and those guys at the end, it’s tough to do,” Gibbons said. “You see the end result. It was big.”

J.A. Happ (2-0) gave up one run and four hits in seven-plus innings. Drew Storen got three outs for his first save despite giving up two runs. Toronto gained a split of the four-game series by winning the last two.

“That was a huge inning for us against a tough pitcher,” Happ said of the eighth. “They brought Kimbrel in there, and we had some great at-bats – even before that with Uehara. It was a fun win.”

Boston’s Clay Buchholz allowed six hits in 6 2/3 shutout innings, helped by four double plays by his infield and a diving catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. Josh Rutledge and Travis Shaw had RBI doubles for the Red Sox.

With Toronto trailing 1-0 in the eighth, Ezequiel Carrera reached second base against Uehara (0-1) after Rutledge’s throwing error on his infield hit to third. He advanced on Christian Vazquez’s passed ball and scored on Michael Saunders’ groundout.

Uehara was charged with four runs and gave up two walks while getting just one out. Kimbrel also gave up a walk.

“It’s probably just early morning,” Uehara said through a translator. “It’s just my body was not awake. I’ll do my best tomorrow.”

Kimbrel entered with one out and the bases loaded and struck out Edwin Encarnacion. He walked Troy Tulowitzki on a 3-2 pitch, forcing in the go-ahead run, and Martin singled.

“It’s definitely not a situation I’m accustomed to,” Kimbrel said. “I’m asked to come in and get two outs and leave it where it was. I was able to get the first one to give us a chance, got ahead on Tulowitzki and walked him. That really wasn’t what we had written up.”

Shaw scored in the ninth on Hanley Ramirez’s two-out, RBI single, and Storen struck out pinch-hitter David Ortiz, who took a 93 mph sinker with a 2-2 count for a called third strike.

With the crowd filing into Fenway Park a couple hours after the morning commute ended and helicopters flying above to track the 120th Boston Marathon, Buchholz threw the first pitch at 11:07 a.m. EDT on a warm morning under bright, sunny skies.

Boston took a 1-0 lead in the second on Rutledge’s double into the right-center gap.

Ortiz arrived at the park just after 8:30 a.m., came across Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, and the two chatted briefly at the Red Sox players’ parking lot.

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Tom Caron: Stability may breed success for Red Sox Mon, 18 Apr 2016 17:41:31 +0000 Stability. It’s one of the most important characteristics of good teams. In 2016 it’s been a welcome change for the Red Sox.

For the first time in years, the Sox have a group of players that allow Manager John Farrell to put a fairly consistent lineup on the field each day. The bulk of his lineup will play every day when healthy.

This year he has good players. Players he can expect production from over the course of the season. That hasn’t been the case in recent years.

Last season the Red Sox were forced to use 136 lineups over the course of 162 games. In 2014 the Sox used even more – 145 through the course of the season.

It’s no coincidence that a manager who has to constantly tweak his lineup has a team that doesn’t contend. Both the 2014 and 2015 teams finished dead last.

Yes, the championship team of 2013 featured 126 lineups, but depth was a strength on that team, forcing Farrell to mix and match lineups to maximize production.

Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, Stephen Drew, Mike Carp and others were platoon players. Farrell had to constantly substitute one for the other, and move them up and down the lineup based on pitching matchups.

This season Farrell was able to use the same lineup in five of Boston’s first eight games. That’s because Travis Shaw won the starting third base job in spring training, and Brock Holt was installed as the primary left fielder when Rusney Castillo again struggled to hit big-league pitching.

Friday night there was a significant change in the lineup at catcher. Christian Vazquez was recalled from Pawtucket and Blake Swihart sent back to Triple-A, where he will begin spending some time in left field to increase his versatility. Vazquez was immediately inserted into the eighth spot in the lineup, where Swihart had been batting, and had two hits.

Farrell had the same lineup out there the next day. Vazquez had another hit and the Sox won their third straight game.

The manager won’t be able to put the same lineup out there every day for the rest of the season. It’s a long grind and players need a rest from time to time. That’s why Marco Hernandez made his major league debut at second base Sunday (breaking up Aaron Sanchez’s no-hit bid in the fifth).

Ryan Hanigan will catch more than the average backup catcher. He was behind the plate when knuckleballer Steven Wright took the mound Sunday, and should be back in there for Joe Kelly’s start against the Rays on Tuesday night.

And outfielder Chris Young will start against most left-handed pitchers. Back in February, Farrell said Young would start against every left-hander. Trouble is, the Sox didn’t face a lefty until Monday, when J.A. Happ started for Toronto. So playing time has been hard to come by for Young.

It’s important for a manager to keep all his players involved, to make sure the reserves are ready to contribute. Farrell will do that, finding innings for those who aren’t in the regular lineup.

He’s got a young, talented team. To get the most out of everybody he’ll need to continue putting them out there on a daily basis.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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Red Sox lose to Blue Jays, 5-3 Sun, 17 Apr 2016 20:59:46 +0000 BOSTON — Aaron Sanchez learned not to let little things bother him.

Sanchez allowed two hits in seven innings of one-run ball, and Jose Bautista drove in two runs with a homer and a double to lead the Toronto Blue Jays to a 5-3 win Sunday over the Boston Red Sox.

Cruising with a no-hit bid two outs into the fifth, Sanchez gave up a broken-bat single to Marco Hernandez. He dropped his head a bit and muttered.

A stolen base and an RBI single later, he was back in the dugout. It didn’t affect the rest of his outing.

“I think that was a big learning curve. That only happened a start ago,” the 23-year-old right-hander said. “For me, it’s going back out there, attacking the zone and not letting something affect me like I did my last start.”

Toronto Manager John Gibbons noticed the maturity, too.

“I’ve seen young guys that give up a hit and give up a run, and the next thing you know they’ve imploded,” he said. “That stood out to me. I’ve seen it too many times before.”

Edwin Encarnacion added two singles and an RBI for the Blue Jays, who had lost two straight and were 1-4 against the Red Sox. Kevin Pillar had three singles and made two nice catches in center after being dropped from the leadoff spot to eighth in the batting order.

Boston had won three straight but couldn’t do much at the plate until Travis Shaw hit a two-run homer in the night off closer Roberto Osuna.

The teams meet in the finale of the four-game series Monday in Boston’s annual Patriots Day game, which is scheduled for an 11:05 a.m. and coincides with the running of the Boston Marathon.

Sanchez (1-0) struck out seven and walked four.

Steven Wright (0-2) had his second good start against the Blue Jays in eight days, but again got little offensive support. The knuckleballer gave up two runs and six hits in six innings, struck out six and walked none.

“They pitched better,” Wright said. “(Sanchez) was nasty. He was throwing upper 90s. He was hitting his spots, changing his speeds really well.”

After scoring just five run the previous two days, the Blue Jays took a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Bautista’s homer caromed off the left-field foul pole. Toronto followed with three straight singles, with Chris Colabello driving in a run.

Hernandez, making his major league debut, had his soft liner drop into left in the fifth when his bat shattered and went back into the new protective screen along the first-base line. He stole second and scored on Mookie Betts’ single.

Josh Donaldson’s RBI double off the Green Monster made it 3-1 in the seventh. Encarnacion had his RBI single later in the inning.


Red Sox Manager John Farrell was happy with Hernandez’s first game. He was 1 for 2 with a walk.

“I don’t think the moment or the day was something that he didn’t handle emotionally,” the manager said. “He gets a good read to get the stolen base. He advances on an error, scores. But I thought he took some good swings, controlled the count with the base on balls. A very good first day.”


Blue Jays: Colabello was hit on the head by an 87 mph fastball from Wright. After being seated on the ground for a few minutes and checked out by a trainer, he got up and trotted to first.

Red Sox: Second baseman Dustin Pedroia was given the day off, and Hernandez played second and batted ninth. Left fielder Chris Young also was inserted into the lineup to give Brock Holt a break.


Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (0-0, 3.00 ERA) hopes to keep his string of solid starts going Monday. He’s given up two runs or fewer in each of his two starts.

Red Sox: Right-hander Clay Buchholz (0-1, 10.00) has allowed five runs in each of his two starts.

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On Baseball: Red Sox president has plenty to ponder Sun, 17 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The adage that a front office takes two months into a season to assess its baseball team does not work for Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski.

Before the season was two weeks old, the moves are aplenty.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval was benched despite his $95 million contract, then was suspiciously put on the disabled list with a sore shoulder (the suspicion comes from Sandoval going on the DL before he even had his shoulder examined).

Outfielder Rusney Castillo was not only benched – despite his $72.5 million contract – but was considered the fifth outfielder until he was finally banished to Triple-A.

And now catcher Blake Swihart – not a big contract yet, but lots of potential as a switch hitter – is also with Pawtucket, where he will catch and learn the ins-and-outs of playing left field.

What’s next? Clay Buchholz gone? Joe Kelly to the bullpen? A trade for another starter?

One thing for sure, Dombrowski isn’t asking for patience. He doesn’t seem willing to wait for results, especially when it’s dubious those results will come with the status quo.

Maybe the biggest shocks were the treatment of Sandoval and Castillo. We naturally think guys have to play because they are paid so much. But Sandoval and Castillo are not Dombrowski’s mistakes. They belong to Ben Cherington, so Dombrowski feels no allegiance.

Can you imagine Dombrowski’s conversation with Red Sox owner John Henry?

“John, about that $167.5 million …”

Well, they can always raise the concession prices (a good beer, footlong hot dog and peanuts are currently a bargain at $22.50).

But money aside, how will Dombrowski make this team a contender? Let’s look at the moves and what’s concerning.

Third base. Travis Shaw handled the pressure of replacing Sandoval impressively, batting .308/.899 OPS through Friday, with errorless play.

The mistake here, obviously, was signing Sandoval last year even though his production was trending downward.

The promise is that Shaw shows the maturity, plate discipline and ability to learn that may make him a major league mainstay.

The concern is Shaw is unproven over a whole season.

 Left field. Brock Holt is the unexpected starter, giving up most of his utility ways; although there have been sightings at third base after Shaw sat (mistakenly, in my opinion) for a pinch hitter.

The mistakes begin with Castillo, whose expensive signing in 2014 was a reaction to Boston losing out on another Cuban, Jose Abreu, the year before. This spring, Castillo looked overmatched (.183 average) and should have begun the season in Pawtucket.

Another mistake, I thought, was not keeping David Murphy. The Red Sox had a veteran, left-handed hitting outfielder, who batted .283/.739 last year and would complement right-handed Chris Young, and they let him go.

The promise is that Holt is a solid enough player – his .979 OPS is second only to David Ortiz on the team – and Young gets enough at-bats to be effective. There’s also a chance that Swihart helps out eventually.

The concern is that not only does Boston lose Holt’s versatility, since he’s a regular outfielder, but that he can hold up for a whole season. He tends to fade – a career .307/.811 hitter in the first half and .241/.600 in the second.

 Catching. Christian Vazquez rebounded from Tommy John surgery sooner than expected (especially after the trouble of Baltimore’s Mark Wieters). He is already considered one of the best defensive catchers in the game and his promotion is a no-brainer.

The mistake may be not developing Swihart’s flexibility sooner. But that’s understandable. With the uncertainty of Vazquez and Swihart’s need to keep working on his catching skills, giving him reps in left field could have caused more problems.

The promise is an eventual tandem of Vazquez and Swihart. Vazquez will catch most games but if Swihart can develop at other positions, his offensive talent won’t be wasted.

The concern is Swihart adjusting, but he’s shown an ability (and desire) to learn and stay in the majors.

 Starting pitching. Boston must improve. When ace David Price was signed, many wondered if anyone else even qualified as a No. 2 starter. Eduardo Rodriguez had the potential but also injured his knee early in the spring.

The mistake was relying too much on Buchholz and Kelly – who are averaging just over four innings a start. Yes, there is potential, but just how patient can Boston be, as these two tax the bullpen?

The promise is that Rodriguez is pitching simulated games in Florida, meaning rehab assignments are on the horizon, with a return to Boston maybe a month away.

The concern is the unknown about Rodriguez. He has potential but Boston needs results. While Kelly could go to the bullpen if he could adapt, Buchholz (making $13 million) looks lost. A trade for a starter makes sense, but opponents aren’t exactly giving away quality starting pitching.

These Red Sox can contend but there are obvious concerns. Dombrowski has a history for action, so one thing is sure. He’s not finished making moves.


]]> 0, 16 Apr 2016 19:43:41 +0000
Price, Red sox top Blue Jays, 4-2 Sun, 17 Apr 2016 00:24:23 +0000 BOSTON — David Price knew the results from his first two starts weren’t up to the standard expected from a high-priced ace.

He didn’t disappoint himself or the Fenway Park crowd Saturday.

Price rebounded from a rough start in Boston’s home opener with seven solid innings, Xander Bogaerts hit a three-run homer and the Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2.

“Absolutely, I hadn’t thrown the ball the way that I know that I can the first two starts,” Price said. “To throw the baseball the way I did today against the Blue Jays, an extremely good hitting team, feels good,”

He should know. He spent enough time with them last year.

Signed to a $217 million, seven-year deal during free agency, the left-hander had his best start for Boston.

In his Fenway Park debut Monday with the Red Sox, he gave up five runs in five innings after allowing two runs in six innings at Cleveland on opening day.

The 30-year-old went 9-1 for the Blue Jays last year after he was acquired in a trade from Detroit, helping them earn their first playoff berth since 1993.

It was Boston’s third straight win. The Red Sox have defeated the defending AL East champs four times in five meetings.

Price (2-0) gave up two runs and six hits, struck out nine and didn’t allow a walk. He finished by striking out the side.

“It’s almost like he gave you the feeling there was a closer mentality in that final inning of work,” Manager John Farrell said. “He finished the game today with a strong exclamation point to a solid outing for him.”

So did Craig Kimbrel, who struck out the side in the ninth for his fourth save.

Marco Estrada (1-1) was charged with four runs and eight hits over six innings.

Estrada’s outing began well until he was hit on the left leg by Jackie Bradley Jr.’s hard grounder leading off the third. After a pop out, four of the next five batters got hits and the Red Sox jumped ahead with four runs.

“I was feeling good today. I thought I was going to finish pretty strong. Just one inning got away from me,” he said. “I got hit and my calf kind of tightened up on me, couldn’t really finish pitches.”

Bogaerts pushed Boston ahead 3-1 with his first homer, a line drive into the Green Monster seats. Travis Shaw added an RBI single.

Jose Bautista’s RBI double gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead in the first after Josh Donaldson tripled into the center-field triangle area. Edwin Encarnacion added a run-scoring double in the fourth.

NOTES: Farrell said left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, on the disabled list after injuring his right knee in spring training, will pitch a simulated game Monday at the team’s spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida. … Right-hander Carson Smith (strained flexor muscle) threw batting practice Saturday, also in Fort Myers. … Dustin Pedroia went 1 for 3 with a single and walk. He’s reached safely in 26 games against the Blue Jays, the longest active streak for any player against Toronto. … Actor Robert Redford was seated next to the Red Sox dugout. … Toronto’s Chris Colabello was back in the lineup despite his early struggles. He entered 1 for 19 with six strikeouts. He went hitless in three at-bats with a strikeout.

]]> 0, 16 Apr 2016 20:50:44 +0000
Big Papi steals a base in Boston’s 5-3 win Sat, 16 Apr 2016 02:30:17 +0000 BOSTON — Rick Porcello was able to keep Toronto’s high-powered offense off the bases. David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez had some fun running them.

Porcello pitched 61/3 solid innings and Travis Shaw hit a two-run double to lead the Boston Red Sox to a 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Friday night.

Ortiz added a run-scoring double for Boston, moving him one RBI behind Hall of Famer Tony Perez (1,652) for 26th all time. Big Papi also stole a base, joining Ted Williams, Cy Young and Rickey Henderson as the only four Red Sox players with a steal at 40-years-old.

“Everybody wants to remind me of that every day,” Ortiz said of his age.

It was a light moment in Boston’s second straight win.

“I think everybody in the ballpark shared that,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said of the fun watching Ortiz’s steal.

Shaw’s double came after Ramirez had an adventurous at-bat.

Ramirez fouled a ball off his left foot and sat down in the batter’s box before limping around a bit. He then reached on a passed ball when he struck out as the bat went flying past Toronto’s dugout. He raced home from first on Shaw’s hit, sliding in safely.

“The hustle out of the box by Hanley on the strikeout sets us up to score three runs,” Farrell said.

Edwin Encarnacion hit his first two homers of the season, drove in all three Toronto runs and had all of three of the Blue Jays’ hits. Last season, he hit 39 homers for the AL East champs.

“That’s what we can do if we get a few more guys heated up,” Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons said.

Porcello (2-0) gave up three runs and two hits, striking out eight and walking one. He also hit two batters in beating Toronto for the second time in a week.

Craig Kimbrel got the final three outs for his third save. He allowed two runners to reach before fanning Justin Smoak.

R. A. Dickey (1-2) gave up four runs and six hits in 42/3 innings.

“I’m not disappointed in my knuckleball. I’m disappointed in the result, obviously,” he said. “My knuckleball has been pretty good. It’s moving late, I’m keeping the ball in the ballpark.”

Coming off consecutive wins over the Yankees, the Blue Jays were held to one hit until Encarnacion’s two-run shot in the seventh.

The Red Sox jumped ahead 3-0 in the first against Dickey. Ortiz made it 1-0 with his double halfway up the center-field wall. Shaw’s hit capped the big first.

Encarnacion’s first homer went into the last row of Green Monster seats in the second. His second just cleared the Monster in the seventh.

Mookie Betts’ RBI single made it 4-1. Dustin Pedroia also had an RBI single.

]]> 0, 16 Apr 2016 01:01:08 +0000
Sox activate Vazquez, demote Swihart Fri, 15 Apr 2016 20:10:41 +0000 The Boston Red Sox activated catcher Christian Vazquez from the disabled list and sent catcher Blake Swihart to Triple-A Pawtucket, in hopes of kick-starting the team’s woeful pitching rotation.

The Red Sox also called up infielder Marco Hernandez – who was on the Portland Sea Dogs roster last season – to replace outfielder Rusney Castillo, who was sent to Pawtucket on Wednesday.

Vazquez is in the lineup Friday night, catching starter Rick Porcello, and batting eighth. Boston plays host to the Toronto Blue Jays at 7 p.m.

Boston (4-4) features the worst starting pitching in the American League (6.86 ERA). Vazquez, 25, who missed all last season after Tommy John surgery, is considered one of the top defensive catchers in the game.

Swihart, 24, was batting .278 with a.669 OPS in six games. A switch-hitter, Swihart’s offense is a strong part of his game, but his defense is not as strong as Vazquez’s.

Both Vazquez and Swihart came up through the Red Sox system and played in Portland.

]]> 0 Fri, 15 Apr 2016 22:33:51 +0000
Red Sox hand Orioles first loss of the season, 4-2 Thu, 14 Apr 2016 02:39:10 +0000 BOSTON — The Baltimore Orioles were overdue for a game like this.

The Orioles wasted too many early chances and finally lost after opening the season with a team-record seven straight wins, beaten by the bats of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and the Boston Red Sox 4-2 Wednesday night.

“Some of the things that allowed us to get to 7-0 didn’t work out for us tonight,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “You have to tip your hat. They’ve got a long chain from the sixth inning on that they were able to do the job out of a very pitcher-friendly night.”

On a chilly night with game-time temperatures in the mid-40s, Baltimore left nine runners on in the first five innings, falling behind before Boston’s bullpen shut it down the rest of the way.

The Orioles were the last undefeated team in the majors, ending their longest winning streak to start a season since moving to Baltimore in 1954. The franchise opened 9-0 in 1944 as the St. Louis Browns.

The Red Sox snapped a three-game losing streak. Bogaerts hit a two-run double and Bradley had a tie-breaking triple.

Chris Davis hit a two-run homer for the Orioles, who had just two hits and were held scoreless after the fifth.

“Yeah, it was a tough game,” Davis said. “I think if you’d have told us when the season started we’d get off to the start we did, I think we’d have been happy with it. But it’s always tough to drop the last game of a series.”

Joe Kelly (1-0) labored through five innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with five walks and six strikeouts. Craig Kimbrel, the fifth Boston reliever, struck out all three batters he faced for his second save. He took the loss in the first game of the series, giving up a three-run homer to Davis.

“Obviously it wasn’t the best,” Kelly said. “I went out there and battled and grinded against a team that’s been really, really hot.”

Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1) gave up four runs on six hits and four walks in five innings.

The Red Sox gave up nine runs to Baltimore in each of the first two games of the series. They took the lead for good in this one in the fourth when Bradley hit an RBI triple off the base of the right-field fence and scored on Mookie Betts’ groundout that ricocheted off Jimenez’s glove over to second baseman Jonathan Schoop.

Trailing 2-0 in the third, Boston tied it on Bogaerts’ two-run double that got past diving third baseman Manny Machado and went into the left-field corner.

Davis hit his fourth homer, sending a drive into the first row of Green Monster seats in the third.

NOTES: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, on the DL since early April with an injured right knee, threw 50 pitches at the club’s spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida. “He got through it very good,” Manager John Farrell said. RHP Carson Smith, on the DL with a strained flexor muscle, also threw in Fort Myers. … After the game, the Red Sox optioned OF Rusney Castillo to Triple-A Pawtucket. “We need to get him out to get him going, get him some at-bats to get him playing every day,” Farrell said. Castillo had just four at-bats, getting two hits.

]]> 0, 14 Apr 2016 00:17:21 +0000
Red Sox place Pablo Sandoval on DL Wed, 13 Apr 2016 22:12:54 +0000 BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox hope Pablo Sandoval can get in better shape while he’s on the disabled list.

The club placed the benched third baseman on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday because of a strained left shoulder.

Red Sox manager John Farrell made the announcement before the series finale at Fenway Park against Baltimore. He didn’t know exactly when the injury occurred, but said Sandoval reported soreness when he got to the park.

“To give an exact moment, I don’t have that to be honest,” Farrell said. “He’s been hitting a lot – extra. Before BP and during the game in the cage. He’s got very limited range of motion.”

The 29-year-old Sandoval lost his starting job late in spring training to Travis Shaw and is hitless in six at-bats with four strikeouts.

Sandoval’s physical condition was questioned early in spring training. Farrell said the time down could help him get back in shape. He’s in the second year of a $95 million, five-year deal signed during free agency in November 2014.

“It’s been a real tough start. He’s been an easy target. I’ve had a chance to sit and talk with him specifically,” Farrell said. “First and foremost, we’ve got to get him right physically to get past the shoulder issue. If a breather gives a chance to maybe step away from the scrutiny he’s been under, we’ll make every effort for that to take place.”

Sandoval struggled in his first season with the Red Sox, hitting .245 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs. He also made 15 errors.

“I still firmly believe Panda can be a contributor to this team,” Farrell said. “We’re going to need him to be. There’s a darn good player in there and we’ve got to continue to work to get that out.”

Sandoval was a member of three World Series champions with San Francisco and a popular player there before signing with Boston.

He received loud boos when the Red Sox players were announced in the home opener on Monday.

The team recalled infielder Josh Rutledge from Triple-A Pawtucket to take his place on the roster.

]]> 1 Wed, 13 Apr 2016 18:33:56 +0000
Orioles outslug Red Sox to remain unbeaten Wed, 13 Apr 2016 02:52:10 +0000 BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox weren’t overly concerned after their third straight loss.

The last two happened to come against the Baltimore Orioles, who remained the only unbeaten team in the majors with a 9-5 win at Boston on Tuesday night.

“It’s early. Don’t panic,” said David Ortiz, who hit a two-run homer in the first inning for Boston.

Ortiz gave Boston a 2-0 lead that held until Baltimore began outslugging Boston.

J.J. Hardy had a pair of two-run home runs and Mark Trumbo added another as the Orioles improved to 7-0 and tagged Boston pitchers for nine runs for the second straight game.

Trumbo’s homer off Clay Buchholz (0-1) was his second in two days. It was part of a three-run sixth inning that put the Orioles in front.

Buchholz faced four batters in the inning and didn’t get an out, catching a bad break when the swirling wind drove a foul pop-up by Trumbo just out of catcher Blake Swihart’s reach. Trumbo stayed alive in the at-bat and belted a shot off the very top of a sign above the Green Monster.

“We’re seven games in,” Buchholz said. “There isn’t anybody worried about this.”

Buchholz allowed five runs on five hits, struck out five and walked three.

Manager John Farrell said Buchholz actually pitched better than in his season debut at Toronto last week, when he also allowed five runs on five hits. Buchholz wound up with the loss Tuesday, but Boston’s relievers also struggled against the Orioles’ lineup.

“Seemingly any pitch that we mislocate, they have not missed in the two games so far,” Farrell said.

This is the Orioles’ best start since moving to Baltimore in 1954 — the franchise went 9-0 as the St. Louis Browns to start the 1944 season.

Hardy curled Buchholz’s fastball inside the right field foul pole for his first homer in the fourth, then got his second off Robbie Ross in the seventh.

It was the 12th career multihomer game for Hardy and his first since 2014.

Mike Wright (1-0) made his season debut after having it delayed by a rainout. He went five innings, gave up four runs and struck out four.

Trumbo now has two home runs and five RBIs through two games of the three-game series, which concludes Wednesday night.


The first of several Ortiz-themed giveaways for Red Sox fans this season took place Tuesday. The team gave away 15,000 replica chained necklaces with a medallion commemorating Big Papi’s 500th home run last season.

Ortiz, who is retiring at the end of the season, said he wasn’t concerned by the team struggling early in his final season.

“Why should I be? We’ve got a hundred and some more games left,” he said. “I know our pitching staff is going to bounce back and put it together.”

]]> 0, 13 Apr 2016 00:17:05 +0000
On Baseball: Hmmm. Maybe the Red Sox need to spend even more on pitching Tue, 12 Apr 2016 00:56:13 +0000 BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox said all the right things after their 9-7 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on the unofficial New England holiday known as Opening Day at Fenway Park.

It’s early. This team should be fine. The struggling pitchers will fix their ways.

Yada, yada and yada.

Despite consecutive last-place finishes, expectations were high for the Red Sox after they upgraded the pitching staff over the winter. A sellout crowd of 37,160 came to Fenway on Monday to see for themselves this new-and-improved product.

After all, the Red Sox spent $217 million to sign starting pitcher David Price to a seven-year contract.

They traded four promising minor leaguers for relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel, who throws close to 100 mph. Boston also assumed the remaining two years and $24 million on his contract.

But after Monday’s game, you might be wondering if this team needs to spend even more.

A good starting pitcher tends to go at least seven innings. Price lasted five on Monday and gave up five runs in the process. It was a poor performance – one in which he still made about $1 million (roughly the average he earns, based on his $30 million salary this year).

“It comes down to execution and I didn’t do it,” Price said. “I didn’t throw the ball the way I’m capable of throwing it.”

Kimbrel said something similar. He gets paid to be the dominant pitcher at the end of the game. When the Red Sox needed Kimbrel to keep the game tied in the ninth inning, he walked two batters. With two outs, he threw a 97 mph fastball that Orioles slugger Chris Davis launched 450 feet into the center field bleachers. Davis’ three-run homer gave Baltimore a 9-6 lead.

“When you throw hard and hit the barrel (of the bat), it goes a long way,” Kimbrel said. “I went out there and beat myself.”

To be fair, no baseball player can expect perfection, no matter how much money they make. Both Price and Kimbrel seemed sincere in wanting to hurry back and prove themselves.

“Any time you fail, you want to get a chance to get out there and succeed,” Kimbrel said. “I’m going to get my chance (Tuesday) and hopefully I’ll do my job.”


Red Sox fans want to believe him, they really do. These are two good pitchers and they should bounce back. But the past two years have tarnished the fans’ hope.

Price presents himself as a confident man. He said it was fun pitching in the excitement of a Fenway opener. “It’s never fun losing a game, and (only) going five innings and giving up five runs,” he said, “but I enjoyed being out there, and that’s good.”

There is a knack to being able to play in the passionate/obsessive atmosphere of Boston. Some big names couldn’t do it. Outfielder Carl Crawford came from small-market Tampa Bay and melted under the scrutiny.

Price? He seems to embrace it.

Glad he’s having fun. Can he avoid moments like the third inning when he allowed all five runs, including a three-run homer?

“That’s been my Achilles’ heel, having that one bad inning,” Price said. “That’s all it takes in this game. A two-seam fastball leaked over the plate (and Mark Trumbo hit it for a home run).

“That’s what happens whenever you don’t execute.”

In his postgame comments, Price used the word execute or execution 10 times in four minutes.

Not to belabor the $217 million contract, but the Red Sox have a right to demand more execution. And talk of an “Achilles’ heel” is, well, a little concerning.

We’ve seen high-priced hopefuls do worse. Third-baseman Pablo Sandoval signed a five-year, $95-million contract before last season and is now sitting on the bench. Even when Boston had an obvious chance to use Sandoval as a pinch hitter on Monday, manager John Farrell had no confidence in him.

Wasted money. Dead weight on a Red Sox roster that needs new life.

Of course, it’s too early to made rash judgments on David Price and Craig Kimbrel.

But Monday afternoon didn’t make Red Sox fans feel especially hopeful.


]]> 0, 12 Apr 2016 00:22:20 +0000
New pitchers falter as Red Sox drop Fenway opener to Orioles Mon, 11 Apr 2016 21:37:28 +0000 BOSTON — BOSTON — This was too good to be true, right?

The Boston Red Sox began the bottom of the ninth inning down by three runs. They scored once, put two more runners on with no outs. Then the big man, David Ortiz, strutted to the plate. A double would tie the game, a home run would win it.

“The setup for a dramatic moment on which he’s risen to the occasion so many times,” Boston Manager John Farrell said.

Instead, Ortiz grounded into a double play and then Hanley Ramirez struck out, as the Baltimore Orioles dampened the Fenway Park opener Monday afternoon with a 9-7 win.

Baltimore remained unbeaten (6-0); Boston dropped to 3-3.

“What do you want me to tell you about it?” Ortiz said of the ninth inning. “I ground out. Next question.”

Ortiz’s abruptness may be understandable. He did have two hits, including a double and an RBI – part of an 11-hit Red Sox attack – but it was not enough to overcome another shaky pitching performance.

The surprise was that the pitchers in question were ace David Price (five innings, five runs) and closer Craig Kimbrel, who allowed a tie-breaking three-run Chris Davis home run in the ninth.

“Davis is a real good low ball hitter,” Farrell said. “He gets a fastball in the middle of the plate and turns it around.”

Kimbrel was not as upset at the home run as he was of the two walks that preceded it.

“I can’t be walking guys in that situation,” Kimbrel said.

For all the pitching failure, the Red Sox led this game once and tied it twice. Boston has scored 35 runs in six games, including a shutout loss on Sunday.

“I told you guys in spring training, we’re going to hit,” Ortiz said. “I never doubt we’re going to have a good offense.”

Mookie Betts had three hits, including a ninth-inning home run.

Baltimore starter Yovani Gallardo also lasted five innings, turning this game into a bullpen battle.

Gallardo got in trouble immediately, allowing consecutive singles by Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Ortiz to begin the bottom of the first inning. Bogaerts and Ortiz both had an RBI and Hanley Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.

That looked like plenty for Price, who struck out four of the first eight batters.

But it came apart quickly with one out in the third. Baltimore loaded the bases and with two outs, Davis fought off a 1-2 change-up and singled in two runs. Mark Trumbo followed with a three-run homer over the Boston bullpen and the Orioles led 5-3.

“If I could take a pitch back, it’s that change-up to Chris Davis,” Price said. “If I can execute that the way I did earlier on, to get that swinging strike below the zone, it could have been a little different for me.”

Boston tied it in the fourth. Brock Holt walked and Blake Swihart singled. Jackie Bradley Jr. sliced a ground-rule RBI double, then Betts knocked in Swihart on a fielder’s choice ground ball.

Matt Barnes relieved Price in the sixth and promptly gave up back-to-back doubles to J.J. Hardy and Jonathan Schoop for a 6-5 Orioles lead.

Boston tied it again in the seventh. Holt worked a one-out walk and hustled to third on Swihart’s single to center. Bradley hit a grounder to second. Baltimore went for the double play and Bradley just beat the throw, allowing Holt to score.

The relievers held serve in the seventh and eighth as both teams warmed up their closers for the ninth.

Kimbrel, making his first Red Sox appearance at Fenway, walked two in the ninth – including Manny Machado with two outs – to bring up Davis. He crushed a 0-1, 97 mph fastball to deep center field.

In the bottom of the ninth, Betts worked a full count against Baltimore closer Zach Britton and smacked a fastball over the Green Monster. Pedroia followed with a single, firing up the Fenway crowd. Bogaerts walked. But Ortiz grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, and Britton struck out Ramirez.

NOTES: Fenway featured extra protective netting, extending to both dugouts. Last year, a fan was injured when a broken bat flew into the stands. … The pregame ceremony featured a video tribute to Ortiz, who is retiring after this season. Then Ortiz was surprised to hear the name of his 15-year-old daughter, Alex, announced to sing the national anthem. “I was more nervous during that than any at-bat I’ve had in my career,” Ortiz said … Four Boston sports standouts threw out the ceremonial first pitches – Ortiz, Bobby Orr, Bill Russell and Ty Law … Ramirez received two loud ovations for his fielding, scooping a ball in the dirt and hustling to catch a fly ball in shallow right field.

]]> 0, 12 Apr 2016 00:45:11 +0000
Fenway faithful get first look at Price Mon, 11 Apr 2016 01:10:00 +0000 BOSTON — Boston Red Sox fans will get an extra treat when they show up to the home opener at Fenway Park.

No, not a World Series ring ceremony like the ballclub has held three times since 2005. Last year’s team finished last in the AL East, which the franchise is doing everything it can to forget.

But because of a couple rainouts during the season-opening series in Cleveland, the Red Sox will send prime free-agent acquisition David Price to the mound for Boston’s first home game of the season, against Baltimore.

“I know opening day in Fenway is like a holiday,” Price said as the team finished its opening road trip. “So for me to be able to get that game, I’m definitely very excited to have it.”

The Red Sox made a big splash in the free-agent market, signing Price to a seven-year, $217 million contract to become the team’s ace. He got the opening day start in Cleveland, of course, but that put him in line to pitch again on Saturday in Toronto.

After rainouts pushed the opener back a day and then postponed the scheduled series finale Thursday, the team decided to push Price back to Monday rather than skip Steven Wright in the rotation.

“It will be a treat for our fans to see David pitch on opening day in Boston,” Manager John Farrell said.

That won’t be the only excitement at Fenway Park.

With David Ortiz set to retire after the season, the Red Sox are planning a season-long tribute to the three-time World Series champion – the only remaining member of the drought-busting 2004 championship team. Ortiz’s teammates said they would like to send him out as a winner, and Farrell said he doesn’t want the farewell tour to become a distraction.

“David always draws the cameras or draws the attention or the spotlight wherever he goes. We’ve been accustomed to that for quite some time,” the manager said. “Hopefully, we’re going to get a year full of that excitement as he closes things out.”

The game will also be Farrell’s first at Fenway since August, when he was diagnosed with cancer. He took the last six weeks off for treatment but was declared cancer-free by doctors over the winter.

“The last time I spoke to you guys upstairs last year was not a fun message,” he told reporters. “I think the best thing is that the conversations I have with you guys, it’s about what’s going on between the lines. I haven’t forgotten what I’ve gone through, but to have the focus on our players and on the game, that’s rewarding.”

]]> 0 Sun, 10 Apr 2016 21:16:15 +0000
Blue Jays top Red Sox, 3-0 Sun, 10 Apr 2016 20:04:59 +0000 TORONTO — The Boston Red Sox racked up a whole lot of runs in their first four games of the season.

Their streak came to a sudden end against Toronto right-hander Marco Estrada.

Estrada pitched seven shutout innings, Josh Donaldson hit a home run and the Blue Jays beat the Red Sox 3-0 on Sunday, avoiding a three-game sweep.

Activated off the 15-day DL before the game after missing the start of the season because of a sore lower back, Estrada gave up five hits, walked two and struck out eight.

“The three times I faced him, he didn’t give me one good pitch to hit,” Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “He was on the corners, his changeup was great.”

Farrell said Estrada had a “Bugs Bunny type of changeup.”

“You could seemingly almost sit on the changeup and it wouldn’t get to home plate,” Farrell said.

Boston came up empty after scoring at least six runs and getting at least 10 hits in each of the first four games.

“(Estrada) pitched a heck of a game against us,” Farrell said. “We’ve been swinging the bat well here and throughout this road trip and he shut us down.”

Estrada’s efficient outing helped Toronto avoid its first five-game skid since May 13-17, 2015.

“It’s early in the season but we needed that game,” Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons said.

Drew Storen worked the eighth and Roberto Osuna finished for his third save to complete the seven-hitter.

Toronto used two singles and a walk to load the bases with nobody out in the first. Jose Bautista was forced out at second on Edwin Encarnacion’s RBI grounder to short, but Pedroia threw high to first as he tried to complete the double play, allowing a second run to score.

“The throw just got away from him,” Farrell said.

After reaching on a fielder’s choice in the third, Pedroia was thrown out at home plate trying to score from first on Xander Bogaerts’ double into the right-field corner. Second baseman Ryan Goins took the throw from Bautista and fired a perfect relay to catcher Russell Martin, who tagged Pedroia on the lower left leg just before he slid across the plate.

“They executed it perfectly,” Pedroia said. “They just put every throw on the money.”

Estrada wasn’t troubled again, retiring 12 of the final 15 batters he faced.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright allowed two runs, one earned, and five hits over 6 2/3 innings in his season debut. He’s the first Boston starter this season to pitch into the seventh inning, and the first to take a loss.

Donaldson made it 3-0 with a first-pitch drive off Noe Ramirez in the eighth. The homer was his fourth, tying him with Seattle’s Robinson Cano for the AL lead.


Boston’s Brock Holt was not available to pinch hit after fouling a ball off his right foot Saturday. X-rays were negative and Holt is expected to be available for Monday’s home opener against Baltimore.


Donaldson’s homer ended a streak of 9 1/3 scoreless innings by Boston relievers.


Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez went 3 for 4 with two singles and a double, his fourth multihit game.


RED SOX: Right-hander Carson Smith (strained forearm) reported no problems following a 25-pitch bullpen session Saturday. Smith will throw another bullpen Monday or Tuesday, Farrell said.

BLUE JAYS: Left-hander Franklin Morales (shoulder) was placed on the 15-day DL to make room for Estrada. The move leaves Brett Cecil as the lone lefty in Toronto’s bullpen.

Left-hander David Price (1-0, 3.00) makes his second start for Boston as the Red Sox face undefeated Baltimore in their home opener Monday. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo (1-0, 1.80) starts for the Orioles, who are 5-0. Price is 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 19 starts against Baltimore.

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On Baseball: Pedro could not do it alone, and neither can Price Sun, 10 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 We have seen this act before, when the Boston Red Sox tried to get by with a certified ace and a bunch of question marks.

Watching a 2016 Red Sox rotation of David Price and those-who-cannot-be-trusted brings back the days of Pedro Martinez and … well, who else was there?

Pedro was the king, of course, the must-see attraction that under-appreciated general manager Dan Duquette brought to Boston in 1998. From there, Duquette piecemealed the rotation.

There was the ever-present knuckleball of Tim Wakefield, who sometimes shined despite a career ERA of 4.41.

There were onetime-standouts who showed flashes of brilliance (Bret Saberhagen, Steve Avery, Ramon Martinez, Hideo Nomo, David Cone and John Burkett), and other veterans (Pete Schourek, Kent Mercker and Mark Portugal).

And there were young arms that showed potential (Brian Rose, Derek Lowe and Casey Fossum).

I know I left off some names but you get the point. The Red Sox had Pedro Martinez, then crossed their fingers.

It almost worked. From 1998 to 2003, Boston made the playoffs three times. The Red Sox lost to Cleveland in the ’98 division series 3-1 (with Pedro Martinez getting the win). They lost the 1999 league championship series to the Yankees 4-1 (only win from Pedro Martinez).

In 2003, with Lowe, Wakefield and Burkett combining for 40 wins, Boston reached Game 7 of the league championship series. The Red Sox lost when a gassed Martinez gave up the tying run in the eighth inning, and the Yankees won in the 11th.

It wasn’t until the Red Sox deepened their rotation that they took off. Martinez was complemented by Curt Schilling. Martinez left and Josh Beckett entered, with a developing Jon Lester coming up. In 2013 it was Lester with John Lackey, and the oft-injured Clay Buchholz chipping in.

The scenario was not always perfect – the good and bad of Daisuke Matsuzaka – but it produced three World Series titles.

While Lester and Lackey could not prop up a bad 2014 Boston team, an ace-less 2015 rotation did not do any better.

Enter Price in 2016. Boston has its proven ace (3.09 career ERA), and returnees Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez (the most promising of the bunch, but out with a knee injury).

Price started the season Tuesday with a tidy six-inning, two-run, 10-strikeout performance on a frigid afternoon in Cleveland.

As the weather warms, he should go longer into games.

Then came starts from Buchholz and Kelly – and the bullpen was busy by the fourth inning. Buchholz gave up five runs in four innings Wednesday in Cleveland, Kelly seven runs in three innings in Toronto on Friday.

Porcello followed Saturday by giving up four runs in three innings, but he at least re-grouped to go six innings. Still, he doesn’t project confidence, not after last year.

Can the Red Sox contend with pitching like this? And will the bullpen hold up if it has to continue to bail out Boston in the early to middle innings?

This rotation has potential – we constantly hear about the “stuff” of Buchholz and Kelly. But we also hear about a couple of misplaced pitches or something off in their mechanics.

Will that ever change? If everything is not working just right with Buchholz, Kelly and Porcello, can they be effective?

Back in 2006, Lester went through his first major league spring training. He told me the most valuable lesson he learned – from Beckett and Schilling – was a pitcher has to find a way to win even without every pitch working.

It’s called competing.

We’re not saying Boston’s starters 2 through 5 don’t want to win. Do they have enough will to win? It’s a tangible that Boston needs.

Otherwise, fans are in for a season of watching Price, then crossing their fingers.

HENRY OWENS might have been in Boston’s rotation with the injury to Rodriguez. But Owens looked shaky in spring training (5.40 ERA, allowing 12 hits and nine walks in 131/3 inning).

Owens appeared back on track Friday night, albeit in Triple-A, pitching six shutout innings for Pawtucket (allowing one hit and three walks, striking out eight).

If Owens continues to dominate over a stretch of games, he might force a promotion (maybe finally sending Kelly to the bullpen, where his fastball-slider would play better in short stretches).

ANOTHER PITCHING prospect shined Friday, but Boston needs to be patient with Anderson Espinoza, who turned 18 last month.

Pitching in low Class A Greenville, Espinoza went a career-long five innings (two hits, no runs, no walks and four strikeouts; 63 pitches, 43 strikes). The high 90s fastball was apparently working.


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Porcello wins debut as Red Sox beat Blue Jays, 8-4 Sat, 09 Apr 2016 21:28:03 +0000 TORONTO — Dustin Pedroia had three hits and two RBIs, Rick Porcello pitched six innings to win his season debut and the Boston Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 on Saturday.

Jose Bautista hit a pair of two-run home runs, his first two of the season, but the Blue Jays lost their fourth straight.

Hanley Ramirez tripled home the tiebreaking run on a ball that bounced over Bautista’s head in the fifth. Ramirez later scored on a passed ball.

The Red Sox have scored at least six runs and finished with at least 10 hits in all four games this season, the third time in team history they’ve done so — along with 1950 and 1985.

Porcello (1-0) came in 4-7 with a 5.29 ERA in 12 career games against Toronto and overcame Bautista’s twin blasts to earn the victory. He allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings.

Kojie Uehara worked the seventh and Robbie Ross Jr. handled the final two innings.

R.A. Dickey (1-1) allowed seven runs, six earned, and eight hits in five innings.

Bautista homered in the first to put the Blue Jays on top but Boston answered with three in the third. Pedroia drove in a run with a grounder before Xander Bogaerts and Travis Shaw each hit RBI doubles.

Bautista connected again in the bottom half, making to 4-3, but the Red Sox tied it in the fourth on Blake Swihart’s sacrifice fly.

It was the 29th multihomer game of Bautista’s career. Seeking a third home run, he walked in the fifth and flied out in the seventh.

With runners at first and second in the fifth, Ramirez lined a ball that bounced over Bautista’s head in right and was scored a two-run triple. Ramirez scored when catcher Josh Thole couldn’t handle Dickey’s first pitch to Pablo Sandoval. Thole finished with two passed balls and Dickey also had a wild pitch.


Red Sox: Sandoval made his first start of the season at third base and Rusney Castillo made his first start in center field. David Ortiz got the day off. Manager John Farrell said Chris Young will make his first start of the season Sunday. … C Christian Vasquez (right elbow surgery) went 1 for 2 with a double and two walks in the first game of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket Friday. Vasquez is scheduled to catch the second game of a doubleheader Saturday.

Blue Jays: Donaldson (right calf) started at DH for the second straight day and likely won’t return to third base until Tuesday’s game against the Yankees, manager John Gibbons said. Toronto is off Monday.


Red Sox: RHP Steven Wright makes his season debut and will face Toronto for the first time in his career.

Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada will come off the DL after missing the start of the season with a sore back. Estrada was 2-1 with a 6.10 ERA in three games — including two starts — against Boston last season.


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Red Sox, Holt jolt Blue Jays Sat, 09 Apr 2016 03:05:44 +0000 TORONTO — In a lineup loaded with sluggers, Brock Holt is showing he’s not to be taken lightly.

Holt hit his first career grand slam and drove in a career-high five runs, David Ortiz had two RBI and the Boston Red Sox rallied to beat the Blue Jays 8-7 Friday night, spoiling Toronto’s home opener.

“Tonight was a big win for us,” Holt said. “It showed a lot.”

The grand slam was the second home run of the season for Holt, who hit two in 129 games last year. His career high is four, set in 2014.

Holt also had a two-run blast in Wednesday’s 7-6 loss at Cleveland and connected in consecutive games for the first time.

“He’s on pace for about 60 homers right now, maybe more than that,” teammate Travis Shaw joked. “He’s got a little bit more juice than people think.”

Josh Donaldson hit a grand slam, but the Blue Jays couldn’t hold a 7-2 lead and blew a save for the third straight game.

Manager John Gibbons insisted he wasn’t worried about the bullpen’s rocky record so far.

“We really anticipate that’s going to be one of our strengths,” Gibbons said. “It just hasn’t happened yet.”

Matt Barnes (1-0) pitched one perfect inning and Craig Kimbrel got his first save.

Boston has scored six or more runs in each of its first three games, the first time it has done so since 1995.

“We’re swinging the bat very well,” Manager John Farrell said. “There’s a lot of fight in this team.”

Toronto’s Marcus Stroman left after Xander Bogaerts’ double and walks to Ortiz and Shaw loaded the bases in the sixth. Jesse Chavez came on to face Holt, who hooked the second pitch over the wall in the right-field corner.

Holt wasn’t sure he’d done enough to clear the fence but figured he’d get at least a double.

“When it disappeared behind the wall, it was a good feeling,” he said.

Holt also hit an RBI double in the second.

After Dustin Pedroia and Bogaerts hit back-to-back singles off Drew Storen (0-1) in the seventh, Brett Cecil came on and gave up a tying single to Ortiz, then a go-ahead single to Hanley Ramirez.

Toronto chased Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly with a six-run fourth, an inning that began with four straight singles. The next batter, Kevin Pillar, plated a run when he was hit on the brim of his helmet. Pillar was knocked down but immediately jumped up and remained in the game.

“I heard it but I didn’t really feel much,” Pillar said. “I got pretty lucky.”

Donaldson drilled Kelly’s next pitch into the left-field bullpen for his third home run and second career grand slam, the first ever by a Blue Jays batter in 40 Toronto home openers.

Donaldson started as the designated hitter after leaving with a strained right calf in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s 5-3 loss at Tampa Bay. Darwin Barney was at third base.

NOTES: The last time the Red Sox and their opponent both hit grand slam home runs in the same game was June 26, 2001 against Tampa Bay. Trot Nixon did it for Boston and slugger Greg Vaughn connected for the Devil Rays, but the Red Sox won 7-6. … Farrell confirmed that LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (right knee) will throw a simulated game Sunday, his first since suffering the injury during a spring training fielding drill.

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Kelly learns to trust more than his fastball as Red Sox starter Thu, 07 Apr 2016 22:46:16 +0000 CLEVELAND — Joe Kelly could be a reliever already. He could have taken his 98 mph fastball to the bullpen long ago.

But Kelly – whose start was postponed Thursday when Boston’s game at Cleveland was rained out – instead came out of spring training as the No. 3 starter in the rebuilt Red Sox rotation, a starter perhaps poised to be the difference-maker Boston hoped he’d be when he came over from St. Louis in a trade for John Lackey two years ago.

That he uses everything in his repertoire beyond that fastball is what gives him a chance to do that.

“I’d heard all about the fastball,” Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said. “When I saw his first bullpen and I saw the secondary stuff, I was like, ‘Wow, this isn’t just a guy that throws 98 miles per hour.’ ”

“His ability to command his secondary pitches has been exceptional,” said catcher Ryan Hanigan.

Kelly carried a 5.67 ERA when the Red Sox shipped him to Triple-A Pawtucket in late June last season, driving home the message he needed to use his secondary mix far more than he had. Six successive starts in May and June had seen Kelly throw his fastball more than 69 percent of the time, just rearing back and firing, reliever-style. It hadn’t worked.

In his final eight starts of the season, all after his recall from Pawtucket, he threw his fastball more than 60 percent of the time just once and less than 50 percent three times. He posted a 2.35 ERA in those eight starts. He carried that over into spring training, pitching to a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings.

A snowy but efficient bullpen session Monday was one last opportunity for Kelly to solidify his feel for his pitch mix.

“Everything feels like it’s coming out of the same arm slot,” he said. “The command of the secondary stuff has felt pretty solid, getting over the plate for some strikes and then burying some stuff when I needed to.”

Kelly made clear late last season that he was leaving his game-calling in the hands of his catcher. The way Hanigan guided him through most of his starts convinced Manager John Farrell to pair Kelly with Hanigan this season, at least in the early going.

But Kelly does understand the value of giving Hanigan as many options as possible. What makes him so intriguing as a starter is the myriad of options his four pitches give his catcher. Those options give him a better chance to turn over a lineup three times than a pitcher with just two or three pitches.

One new pitch Kelly unveiled this spring, for example, was a hard slider he can throw in under the hands of left-handed hitters, almost like a cutter.

“It’s the same pitch,” he said, “but sometimes I’ll put a little extra on it if I feel like it’s good for that hitter, and sometimes I’ll try to slow it down if a guy is on it.”

“It’s always nice to have the option of a pitch they haven’t seen when you get through the lineup the third or fourth time,” Hanigan said. “He can throw a righty-righty change-up. Not a ton of guys do that. He can throw a backdoor slider. He can throw a frontdoor slider. He’s one of the best guys at throwing get-back-in-the-count breaking balls or strike breaking balls in fastball counts. He can throw the four-seam heater and the two-seam heater. Really, it’s about thinking it and being smart with the game-calling.”

There was a time Kelly might have preferred pitching out of the bullpen, but since Boston got him, he’s wanted to do nothing but start. That the Red Sox targeted him in the Lackey deal showed they believed he could start.

“It’s obviously been a challenge,” he said, “but I’m trying to learn year to year about what it takes. It’s been fun just to try to learn that stuff on the fly.”

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Red Sox postponed again Thu, 07 Apr 2016 21:23:16 +0000 The final game of the season-opening series between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians was postponed Thursday because of rain in Cleveland.

No makeup date was announced, and the Red Sox aren’t scheduled to play again in Cleveland this season.

The Red Sox announced that their scheduled starting pitchers will all be pushed back one day, so Joe Kelly will start Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Rick Porcello and Steven Wright will pitch the other games in Toronto, and David Price will pitch the home opener Monday against Baltimore.

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Napoli’s homer sinks Red Sox, 7-6 Thu, 07 Apr 2016 02:06:31 +0000 CLEVELAND — Mike Napoli homered against his former Boston teammates and the Cleveland Indians overcame David Ortiz’s second homer in his farewell season to beat the Red Sox 7-6 on Wednesday night.

Napoli broke a 6-all tie in the seventh with his solo shot off Junichi Tazawa (0-1). Napoli, signed as a free agent in November to give the Indians’ lineup some pop, spent 21/2 seasons with Boston and helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013. Batting just .207, they traded him to Texas in August.

Napoli’s homer made a winner of reliever Zach McAllister. Cody Allen worked the ninth, retiring Ortiz on drive to the wall in left field for the final out of Cleveland’s first win.

Ortiz’s 505th career homer moved him past Eddie Murray into 26th place on the career list and triggered a four-run sixth for the Red Sox, who overcame 4-0 and 5-2 deficits.

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Red Sox, David Price take season opener over Cleveland Tue, 05 Apr 2016 20:52:15 +0000 CLEVELAND — The extra day didn’t bother the Red Sox and neither did the stinging cold.

New ace David Price delivered in his Boston debut. And, as usual, so did David Ortiz.

“When the light goes on, Papi goes on,” Ortiz said.

Price struck out 10 and won his weather-delayed first start for Boston and Ortiz began his farewell tour with a two-run homer, leading the Red Sox to a 6-2 win over the Cleveland Indians, who were forced to push their season opener back a day because of wintry conditions.

Price gave up two runs and five hits in six innings, giving the Red Sox an immediate payoff after they signed the left-hander to a seven-year, $217 million contract in December. Boston is hoping Price can push them back into contention in the AL East after the club finished last in the division three of the past four seasons.

Price set the tone for Boston’s reconfigured bullpen and he and three relievers didn’t allow a hit after the fifth inning and retired 16 of the last 18 Cleveland hitters.

Ortiz began his final season with a bang, connecting for his 504th homer in the ninth. Big Papi tied Hall of Famer Eddie Murray for 26th place on the career list and added a double.

With one out, Ortiz ripped a pitch from Trevor Bauer over the wall in right. When he crossed home plate, Ortiz pointed skyward as the Red Sox fans in attendance roared. It’s a sight Indians manager Terry Francona has seen many times before.

“He’s smart and dangerous,” said Francona, who won two World Series titles with Ortiz in Boston. “I wish he would have retired this year.”

Ortiz batted just .178 during spring training, but he’s locked in now that games matter.

“He’s still got it, absolutely,” Price said of his new teammate. “I know he doesn’t care about spring training. He’s saving it all for the season. The opposing pitchers don’t want to see him in that box.”

Boston’s Mookie Betts homered in the second off Corey Kluber, tagged with a loss in the opener for the second straight year. Cleveland’s ace gave up four runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings.

Monday’s opener was postponed before the gates opened in Progressive Field, where the wind chill dipped temperatures into the upper teens. It was warmer — 34 degrees — and sunny when Kluber fired his first pitch to Betts, but there also thousands of empty seats as many fans couldn’t afford to take a second day off work.

Price didn’t disappoint Boston’s faithful, who envision him turning the Red Sox back into a power. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth and improved to 10-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 14 starts against Cleveland.

Boston’s win was also meaningful to manager John Farrell, who left the club last season after he was diagnosed with cancer.

The Red Sox broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth on Brock Holt’s RBI single and Kluber’s wild pitch.

Betts struck out leading off the first, but Boston’s right fielder didn’t miss one of Kluber’s sliders in the third.

After Jackie Bradley singled, Betts connected on a 1-1 pitch, driving it into the left-field bleachers. It was the second straight season Betts has homered in the opener. He hit a solo shot last season in a win at Philadelphia.

The Indians scored twice to tie it in the fourth off Price, who coasted through three innings and was threatening to turn his initial outing for Boston into something historic. He struck out six and easily handled a Cleveland lineup missing its best hitter, injured outfielder Michael Brantley.

Yan Gomes hit an RBI single and Marlon Byrd added a sacrifice fly for Cleveland in the fourth.

Ortiz’s double was the 585th of his career, moving him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 17th all-time. Ortiz also started at DH on opening day for the 13th time, passing Don Baylor (1977-88) for the most starts at that spot.


Red Sox: RHP Carson Smith (strained flexor muscle) has been throwing in Florida. Farrell said Smith, who is on the 15-day disabled list, will begin a throwing program that will extend to 120 feet before he gets back on the mound.

Indians: Brantley (shoulder surgery) received one of the loudest ovations during pregame introductions. There’s no timetable on when he’ll be back. … RF Lonnie Chisenhall (wrist) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A Columbus.


Red Sox: RHP Clay Buchholz, who started Boston’s opener in 2015, begins his 10th season with the Red Sox. He’s the longest tenured member of the team’s staff. Buchholz went 7-7 last season, but made only 18 starts because of a strained elbow.

Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco will face the Red Sox for the first time since 2011. The 29-year-old finished last season with at least five strikeouts in 18 straight outings, the longest streak by a Cleveland pitcher since Hall of Famer Bob Feller did it 23 times in 1946.

]]> 0, 06 Apr 2016 00:19:35 +0000
Tom Caron: Red Sox know, after two tough years, they need a good start Tue, 05 Apr 2016 01:11:25 +0000 For the Boston Red Sox, the Road to October begins this week in Cleveland. It’s a 162-game journey that will test the mental and physical toughness of every man who wears the uniform.

For the past two seasons, the journey has ended long before it should have. It’s been more than two years since Sox fans have been treated to any sort of playoff race.

That’s why there’s so much talk about the importance of a good start for the 2016 team. Last year, the Sox were under .500 by May 3. They never reached .500 again, and finished in the cellar for the second straight year, the first time in 85 years Boston had consecutive last-place finishes.

It’s no coincidence that the team finished well back of the pack. You can’t win a championship in April, but you can certainly lose one.

“It’s been written a lot about that, that anytime you look back (on) a good year, you’ve got off to a decent start,” said Manager John Farrell. “That’s no different for us. The urgency which has been spoken about, written about, that’s every year. That’s Boston. We know what’s transpired the last two years, but those years are behind us. We’re looking for a tremendous amount of energy and optimism (for the season opener).”

Farrell believes his team is built for the long haul. He thinks this group is ready to hit the ground running. They had better be. Farrell’s job could be hanging in the balance.

When the Sox signed bench coach Torey Lovullo to an extension this winter, they did so in part because they weren’t sure if Farrell would be fully recovered from his battle with lymphoma.

Farrell is fit and ready to go. Now he has to prove he’s the right man to lead this team back into playoff contention.

“We’re ready,” said Farrell. “We’re ready to begin the season. That means that there’s a journey ahead that we’ll get thrown some things that might be unexpected, some bumps and twists along the way. How we respond to those as a team is what matters most.”

To truly respond to the challenge, the Red Sox will have to prove themselves in an early-season gauntlet that will test the notion that they are a contender.

Seven of Boston’s first 13 games are against the defending AL East champion Toronto Blue Jays, a team that led the American League with 891 runs last year. Friday’s game in Canada kicks of a two-week stretch of games against divisional opponents.

“That’s one thing you can’t do,” said Dave Dombrowski, Boston’s president of baseball operations. “You can’t get buried early.”

Opening Day starter David Price signed a seven-year, $217 million contract to lead this team back to respectability. Last year he won nine of his 11 starts with Toronto in August and September, and the Blue Jays made the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.

He’s expected to live up to his big contract. This spring, Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo didn’t live up to theirs. So they begin the season on the bench, after Brock Holt and Travis Shaw fought their way into the Opening Day lineup.

“The way our players came and worked every day, the energy that they brought every day, their attention to detail, that’s been outstanding,” said Farrell. “We’ve seen a group that has somewhat grown together and become a little more close as we begin. This is a special group of guys, and I’m happy and proud to be a part of it.”

Farrell hopes to be part of it for a long time. For that to happen he’ll need this group to make the start of the season special for all of us.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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Red Sox opener postponed until Tuesday Mon, 04 Apr 2016 19:08:46 +0000 The Boston Red Sox season opener in Cleveland has been postponed to 1:10 p.m. Tuesday because of inclement weather in Cleveland.

David Price will start Tuesday’s game for the Red Sox. He’ll be opposed by Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.

Tuesday’s forecast in Cleveland calls for partly sunny conditions and a high of 34 degrees.

The Red Sox are scheduled to play four games in Cleveland this week before traveling Friday to Toronto for a three-game stand against the Blue Jays.

The home opener at Fenway Park is scheduled for April 11, against the Baltimore Orioles.

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Ortiz’s farewell tour begins in Cleveland Mon, 04 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CLEVELAND — Big Papi is about to take one more trip around.

One of baseball’s most clutch hitters, David Ortiz has always had an impeccable knack for drama. Few players seize the moment quite like Boston’s big bopper.

And, as he prepares for his 20th major league season, Ortiz feels it’s time to take his last cuts.

“I’m ready to pass the torch,” he said.

On Tuesday, he begins his long goodbye.

A beloved New England sports icon, Ortiz, the man with the massive swing, smile and larger-than-life personality, will play the first game of his final season as the Red Sox visit the Cleveland Indians. Ortiz announced his retirement in November on his 40th birthday, and he’ll spend 2016 on a farewell tour, taking a bow for a career filled with memories.

“Nothing is forever,” he said. “It’s just time to do different things.”

The first step of Ortiz’s walk-off season isn’t the only storyline as the Red Sox make their only visit to Progressive Field, which has been improved during the offseason with a massive, high-definition scoreboard.

The opener will also mark Boston Manager John Farrell’s return to the dugout after he stepped away last August to receive medical treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt lymphoma. The Red Sox announced his cancer was in remission a few weeks following last season, and the opener represents another significant date for the 53-year-old.

Farrell’s comeback coincides with the Boston debut of ace David Price, who agreed to $217 million, seven-year contract in December. The left-hander will start the opener against Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, the 2014 Cy Young Award winner looking to bounce back from a 16-loss season and help the Indians close the gap on Kansas City in the AL Central.

While Ortiz’s sendoff in Cleveland doesn’t have a major sentimental tie, there is a significant connection.

Ortiz helped Boston end its 86-year World Series drought while playing under Indians Manager Terry Francona, the Red Sox skipper from 2004-11.

Francona considers Ortiz the consummate player and teammate – on the field and in the clubhouse.

“I went through the gamut with David,” Francona said. “From watching him win games in the World Series to when he was on his back, to struggling and having to pinch hit for him. We kinda came full circle. Regardless, the thing I’m probably most appreciative of when we had problems and had to fight through them – we did. He’s a really proud guy. He’s somebody I care about a lot and I’m glad he’s going out on his own terms.”

The Indians will be the first opposing team to celebrate Ortiz’s illustrious career, which began in 1997 with Minnesota. The club will honor him with a tribute and gift on Thursday, and by the time October arrives, Ortiz will have been saluted with standing ovations and likely presented with everything from rocking chairs to golf clubs.

Ortiz hopes to savor every moment, but doesn’t want his final season to detour the Red Sox from accomplishing all they can.

“I’m not planning to put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said. “Besides being my last season, I also know this is a job I have to continue doing. I’m just going to take things day by day. Hopefully there are not going to be any distractions for my teammates or myself. I need to focus on what I like to do.

“That’s the only way I can play the game. I’m the type of player who can’t get away with not focusing. I’ve got to focus. I have to be on it. I like to help out the younger players. I know there are going to be a lot of teams out there trying to congratulate me. And I really appreciate that, but I don’t want it to be a distraction either. I hope everything goes smooth.”

NOTES: Following a workout at Progressive Field, Ortiz and Price attended the NBA game between Charlotte and Cleveland. … As expected, the Indians placed outfielders Michael Brantley (shoulder) and Lonnie Chisenhall (wrist) on the 15-day disabled list. Brantley underwent surgery in October and had hoped to be ready for Opening Day. … Cleveland purchased the contracts of outfielder Marlon Byrd and left-hander Ross Detwiler from Triple-A Columbus and designated left-hander Giovanni Soto and infielder Zach Walters for assignment.

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On Baseball: Red Sox preview: Nowhere to go but up Sun, 03 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Is there any reason to believe this time? I ask you.

You tell me David Price. I say, who else?

But, you insist, Craig Kimbrel is the closer. I fire back with two questions: Does Kimbrel still use “Welcome to the Jungle” as his entrance song? (I hope so.) And just how many leads will Kimbrel get to protect?

Now you’re getting mad, reaching for your best comeback. “Won’t the team want to win it all for Big Papi?” you ask. Hmm. I pause and remind you of the Yankees’ final season with Derek Jeter. How did that work for them? (Hint: no playoffs.)

For me, the pressing question about the David Ortiz farewell tour concerns the creativity of opposing teams when they present gifts to the big man. How many rocking chairs made of baseball bats will he receive?

And will Ortiz’s prolonged goodbye overshadow (or distract from) a team that has finished last the past two seasons and enters 2016 with so many questions that the Fenway Faithful can’t possibly feel comfortable.

True, some respected prognosticators are picking Boston to finish first. But several also picked the Red Sox as AL East champs in 2015.

Last season, Boston won 78 games.

This season?

Let’s look at this Red Sox team, broken down into six categories. I realize “broken down” may not be the nicest terminology, but Boston already has two pitchers on the disabled list, and neither is named Clay Buchholz.


THE PRIZE OF the offseason free-agent market, David Price, is being hailed by a Red Sox Nation that has cried out for an ace since Jon Lester departed.

But an ace can only do so much, evidenced by Pedro Martinez’s first five seasons with Boston (and two playoff appearances). Price is very good, with a career 104-56 record and 3.09 ERA, averaging 210 innings a season.

But the starters after him are part of the same group that compiled a 4.39 ERA last year, 13th out of 15 American League teams – and the only starter not back is Wade Miley, the winningest pitcher of the group (11 wins).

Are Rick Porcello (4.92 ERA last season) and Joe Kelly (4.82) that much improved? Can Buchholz, who has averaged 112 innings per season, be counted on after seven stints on the disabled list in the past eight years?

Eduardo Rodriguez (10-6, 3.88) looks promising but begins on the DL with a kneecap injury.


REBUILDING THE BULLPEN was a priority of new president Dave Dombrowski. He made two good deals over the winter, bringing in Kimbrel as closer and hard-throwing right-hander Carson Smith to set up. A forearm strain sidelined Smith, who may be back in a month or two.

Kimbrel appears to be the real deal (alarmists may point out his 2.58 ERA and 1.045 WHIP last year were career worsts, but nothing suggests a real downturn).

Without Smith, 40-year-old Koji Uehara and usually-reliable Junichi Tazawa are the chief set-up relievers. Tazawa is effective as long as he’s not overused and he doesn’t face the Blue Jays (Toronto hit .404 against him the past two years).

Matt Barnes is the wild card. He had a 4.13 ERA as a reliever last year. But he looked very comfortable out of the bullpen this spring in 12 appearances: 0.73 with 13 strikeouts and two walks in 121/3 innings.

Lefty Tommy Layne held left-handed batters to a .148 average last year.


MOOKIE MANIA is spreading throughout New England and MVP predictions for Mookie Betts are appearing after a breakout season (.291/.820 OPS, 18 home runs and 21 stolen bases) in 2015. Huge expectations can be a burden, but Betts always appears grounded and eager to improve.

But what about Betts’ fellow outfielders? Jackie Bradley Jr. will win a Gold Glove if he can stay in the lineup. He improved to .249/.832 last year – including a sizzling August (.354/1.163).

Left field is a surprise with Rusney Castillo on the bench despite his $10.5 million salary. The platoon will be Chris Young (.327/.972 against left-handed pitching) and Brock Holt (.280/.727 against all pitching). Using Holt in the outfield diminishes a strength – his versatility as a utility player.


THE AGE-DEFYING Ortiz has a challenge in his final year – maintaining his power. Ortiz has averaged 34 home runs a season in his Red Sox career, including 37 last year at age 39.

But turning 40 seems to be a drain on power hitters. Only one player has hit more than 26 home runs during his age-40 season (Darrell Evans’ 34 in 1987).

While the Red Sox front office milks Ortiz’s much-publicized final season, the team could use his muscle. After Ortiz, the next-highest home run total last year came from Hanley Ramirez – 19, but only nine after April.


INFIELD CONCERNS ABOUND, but none involve Xander Bogaerts, who has demonstrated he can handle shortstop (ranking fourth defensively among American League shortstops, along with a league-best 4.3 WAR among shortstops).

The rest of the infield comes with questions. Ramirez has moved to first base after a disastrous try in left field. Reports out of spring training are encouraging. Can we admit the jury is still out?

The jury is also still deliberating third base, where underperforming Pablo Sandoval has been benched for overachieving Travis Shaw. The son of a major leaguer, Shaw carries himself well. Still, he is under a lot of pressure, replacing a veteran with a $95 million contract.

Second base never used to be a question, but Dustin Pedroia is 32. While still a gamer, he played only 93 games last year because of injury, and he’s been hampered by injuries in the past. Boston needs Pedroia’s swagger, not another scenario of him grabbing for his hamstring.


CATCHING LOOKS FINE with Blake Swihart starting, veteran Ryan Hanigan as a backup, and Christian Vazquez – the best defender of them all – being brought along cautiously after Tommy John surgery.

Much was made of Swihart’s development last year, batting .303/.805 in the second half. His defense is improving, although not near the other two. Hanigan is insurance. Should Vazquez be ready soon, after time in Triple-A Pawtucket, look for a trade. Then the challenge becomes working out a Vazquez-Swihart platoon.


SO HOW WILL the Red Sox do? Last week, we optimistically predicted 87 wins, a nine-win improvement over last year. I’m figuring five more because of Price, two because of Kimbrel, one because of an All-Star year from Betts, and one because Ortiz has a final walk-off homer inside him.


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Major League Notebook: Red Sox top Jays in final game of spring Sat, 02 Apr 2016 23:28:34 +0000 MONTREAL — Ryan Hanigan homered during a five-run fifth inning and the Boston Red Sox swept a two-game exhibition series from the Toronto Blue Jays with a 7-4 victory Saturday at Olympic Stadium.

The crowd of 53,420 topped the 52,682 that turned out for Boston’s 4-2 win on Friday night.

This was the third year that Toronto ended its spring training with a pair of games at the Big O. Montreal hasn’t had a major league team since the Expos left after the 2004 season to become the Washington Nationals.

The Blue Jays begin the regular season Sunday at Tampa Bay while Boston opens Monday at Cleveland.

Toronto scored twice off Sean O’Sullivan in the third inning.

Hanigan opened the fifth with a home run to left field off Shane Dawson. Jackie Bradley Jr. singled and scored on Josh Rutledge’s double.

O’Sullivan gave up two runs and four hits in six innings.

“He threw strikes, had decent stuff, and for a guy who is going to provide depth for us, at least to begin the season, it was good to see him go out and throw the ball over the plate the way he did,” Boston Manager John Farrell said.

DIAMONDBACKS: A.J. Pollock emerged as one of baseball’s best players a year ago. Now Arizona’s All-Star center fielder has to sit, rehab and wait after fracturing his right elbow in a headfirst slide into home.

His arm in a sling, Pollock put his best face on the situation Saturday.

“It almost felt like a nightmare, like it really wasn’t happening,” Pollock said of the moments after the injury during Friday night’s exhibition game. “But today it’s sunk in. Now it’s kind of get prepared for what’s next.”

Pollock will have surgery in the next few days, probably Tuesday.

YANKEES: Reliever Andrew Miller on Wednesday made his first appearance since breaking a bone in his non-throwing wrist. The lefty faced three batters, walking one and striking out one in a 2-1 loss to Miami.

RANGERS: While neither outfielder Josh Hamilton (knee) nor right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish (Tommy John) will be ready for opening day, General Manager Jon Daniels said neither will be placed on the 60-day disabled list.

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Major league notebook: Red Sox win exhibition in Montreal Sat, 02 Apr 2016 03:58:49 +0000 MONTREAL — Outfielder Ryan LaMarre drove in two runs with a two-out double in the top of the 10th inning Friday night to lift the Boston Red Sox to a 4-2 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays at Olympic Stadium.

LaMarre’s hit off the wall in right-center field scored Travis Shaw and Chris Young, who each walked after reliever Pat McCoy got the first two hitters in the 10th to ground out.

The teams play a second exhibition game Saturday in Montreal to end spring training for both clubs.

The Red Sox open their season Monday at Cleveland.

The crowd of 52,682, many wanting to show Major League Baseball that Montreal is ready to get a team back after losing the Expos in 2004, saw a game with plenty of hits and some runs early, but little more as managers substituted players freely.


ATHLETICS: Right-hander Jarrod Parker underwent surgery on his right elbow.

MAJOR LEAGUE Baseball made several minor rule changes for this season, including one that covers tag plays when a runner is touched only by the laces of a fielder’s glove. Now, the runner will be safe. Also, the top-to-bottom length of a first baseman’s mitt and a fielder’s glove was increased by an inch to 13 inches.

METS: Pitchers Jim Henderson and Logan Verrett made the opening-day roster with backup catcher Kevin Plawecki.

YANKEES: Andrew Miller was cleared by a hand specialist to pitch with a broken bone in his right (non-throwing) hand and plans to be in the bullpen when the Yankees open the season Monday against Houston.

Miller, who suffered a fractured pisiform bone in the heel of his hand when he was hit by a line drive Wednesday, was examined by Dr. Patrick Owens at the University of Miami. Owens is believed to have treated Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul after his fireworks accident last July 4.

“Doctor was great this morning,” Miller said. “Said everything I hoped to hear. It’s a break but it’s a bone that’s not that important … It’s my right hand. Of all my limbs, it’s the best one to have to deal with.”

Miller and the Yankees are checking with Major League Baseball about whether he can wear protective padding inside his glove.

Miller, who was told to wear a brace at all times (except when pitching), played catch Friday and hopes to pitch in the Yankees’ exhibition finale Saturday at Marlins Park. If all goes well, he will be the Yankees’ closer until Aroldis Chapman returns from his 30-day suspension May 9.

n CC Sabathia won the fifth starter’s job over Ivan Nova.

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Ortiz exits spring training in style Fri, 01 Apr 2016 01:50:13 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — In his final at-bat, David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox hit his first home run of the spring Thursday in a 7-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

Ortiz announced on his 40th birthday in November that this will be his final season. He played in 342 Grapefruit League games in Fort Myers over 20 years with Minnesota and Boston.

With two outs in the fifth, Ortiz launched a ball over the right-field wall.

“Great,” Ortiz said of his home run. “These are Fort Myers fans that support the Twins, support the Red Sox and I’ve been here for a while. I bet you a lot of these people watched me playing when I played for the (minor league) Miracles down here. I’m pretty sure they’re super happy with how my career has gone.

“You see a kid start and 20 years later, you see his career and being the way it has been, and then you get to see his last spring training game, and it’s something that makes it special.”

Ortiz struck out to end the first inning and grounded out to end the third before his home run.

“I think it matters to David,” Manager John Farrell said of the solo shot, “because he didn’t like the way the previous at-bat went, asked for another. And to see him have that kind of intensity tuned up a little bit against one of their starters, good to see him square the ball up.”

Two batters earlier, Twins center fielder Byron Buxton made a terrific play, sprinting back and diving to catch Josh Rutledge’s drive to the warning track.

“The ball was really carrying today, center and left particularly,” Minnesota Manager Paul Molitor said. “I thought he had a pretty good gauge on it but it just kind of fooled him a little bit, but he had the athleticism to make the adjustment at the last second to make the catch. Just one of those things that shows what his capabilities are out there. It’s pretty special. And he had good at-bats today, too.”

The Red Sox opened the scoring in the third when Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a walk and scored when Xander Bogaerts grounded into a double play.

Hanley Ramirez of Boston hit his second home run of the spring.

Eddie Rosario hit his third homer, and Danny Santana had three hits and two RBI for Minnesota.

Clay Buchholz went four innings, giving up one run on two hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He also gave up the solo home run to Rosario in the fourth.

“Felt good. It’s a good way to wind down,” Buchholz said. “I took a step forward every time out this spring. The two-seamer was a lot better today. That’s what I worked on between this start and my last start. I got some ground balls because of it. Everything else felt good.”

NOTES: Red Sox right-hander Carson Smith (flexor muscle strain) and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (subluxation of his right knee) will start the season on the disabled list, as will right-hander Brandon Workman and catcher Christian Vazquez, who are returning from Tommy John surgery.

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On baseball: Red Sox taking shape with selection of Shaw over Sandoval at third base Fri, 01 Apr 2016 01:06:39 +0000 Everyone is comparing Travis Shaw with Pablo Sandoval this spring, especially after Boston Red Sox Manager John Farrell announced Thursday that Shaw, 25, won the starting third-base job from Sandoval, 29, despite Sandoval’s $95 million contract.

Here’s my comparison of Shaw and Sandoval and two telling offseasons:

 First, Shaw. During his 2013 season with the Portland Sea Dogs, Shaw was flailing. Admittedly trying too hard to hit home runs, Shaw got out of his rhythm and couldn’t find it again, batting .221 with 13 homers and a .736 OPS. At least he played a solid first base with an occasional game at third.

In the offseason, Shaw went to work. With his father, former major league pitcher Jeff Shaw, throwing batting practice, Travis Shaw rediscovered his disciplined approach.

“When everything is going to center and left-center, that’s how I know my swing is going pretty good and I’m pretty locked in,” Shaw said recently.

Shaw was hungry to improve and his work paid off.

 Now, for Sandoval. During his 2015 season, Sandoval batted .245 with 10 home runs and a .658 OPS. Maybe he was trying too hard to justify his hefty five-year contract. But his fielding was also atrocious, ranked the worst third baseman in the majors.

So what did Sandoval do in the offseason? In January, Farrell said Sandoval was given a playing weight goal and announced Sandoval had lost 20 pounds.

But when Sandoval reported to spring training in February, his belly was still sizable, and photos of him working out were not flattering. It was clear that Sandoval was some kind of hungry during the offseason.

Sandoval’s first conversation with the media turned out worse than the photos. Sandoval declared that 2015 was “not a disappointment. It’s baseball … you’re going to have some ups and downs.”

Spring-training games did not boost anyone’s confidence. Sandoval has made four errors in 16 games and hurt his back on one play, missing a week of games.

Sandoval returned Tuesday but the injury was the latest red flag concerning his conditioning.

Shaw got off to a hot start and while he’s cooled recently, he still put up good spring numbers – .333/.886 OPS in 20 games. Sandoval batted .244/.767 in 16 games.

Of course, spring numbers are not enough to take a job from a veteran. But Shaw also played well over 65 major league games last year (not a full season, obviously, but better than your typical one-month sample). Shaw batted .270 with 13 home runs and an .813 OPS.

Maybe that’s still not enough to prove Shaw worthy of a starting job. Remember Will Middlebrooks? He had a breakout season in 2012 (.288/.835 in 75 games) before flaming out. He’s now in Triple-A with the Milwaukee Brewers.

But who is Farrell to depend on – a hungry young player who has proven he can handle adversity or a player whose production continues to decline?

Maybe in other circumstances, Farrell would defer to the veteran and be patient. But this is the manager of a team with back-to-back last-place finishes. Farrell hardly can afford to not put out his best lineup at the start. Of Boston’s first 16 games, 13 are against division opponents.

“For right now, to start the season, we feel this is the best for our team to go with this alignment,” Farrell said Thursday in Fort Myers, Florida.

That thinking already has benched outfielder Rusney Castillo despite his $72.5 million contract, including $10.5 million this season. Utility player Brock Holt is going to left field to platoon with Chris Young. They both can hit major league pitching and Castillo cannot (which brings us to the perplexing decision to keep him on the major league roster).

Sandoval handled his benching well, saying Thursday that “if it’s the right decision to help the team win, I’m going to be happy. … I’ll be ready for everything in the season and do my job.”

But what will Sandoval’s job be? If Shaw shines, Sandoval will continue to be a well-paid backup and insurance in case of injury.

Next year, first baseman Hanley Ramirez could replace the retired David Ortiz as the designated hitter. But that doesn’t mean Shaw would go to first and Sandoval back to third. Shaw may stay at third with touted first base prospect Sam Travis possibly ready.

And unless traded, Sandoval will keep sitting, his contract lasting through 2019.


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Price feels ready for opener Thu, 31 Mar 2016 00:58:01 +0000 BRADENTON, Fla. — David Price pitched four solid innings, and a Boston Red Sox split squad played to a 4-4, nine-inning tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.

Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart hit back-to-back RBI singles in the first inning for Boston. Chris Young had an RBI triple in the fifth.

Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer and Gregory Polanco doubled twice for Pittsburgh.

Price gave up a run on four hits, walked one and struck out three.

“I’ve continued to feel better as spring went along,” Price said. That’s what I’m accustomed to and I felt really good today.”

The left-hander, who signed a seven-year, $217 million contract in December, will pitch Monday in the season opener against Cleveland.

“I feel good and I’m ready to go,” Price said. “I’ll let my mind rest the next two or three days. It really kicks in about 48 hours before any start. That’s when I’ll really lock it in.”

Price has been picked to start on opening day five times for three teams, including the Tigers last year. The others were with the Rays.

Price doesn’t plan to pore over scouting reports about the Indians.

“I’ve spent my entire career in this league. I know these teams because I’ve faced them a lot,” he said. “That’s one thing I benefited from by signing back in the AL East. I faced the Indians four or five times last year, so I know what I need to do.”

Drew Smyly pitched four hitless innings and struck out seven to lead Tampa Bay to a 4-3 victory over the other Red Sox squad at Port Charlotte.

Boston’s Hanley Ramirez had two hits, including a RBI double, to raise his spring batting average to .320.

NOTES: Boston LHP Roenis Elias was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he will pitch as a starter. … A decision is due soon on whether Travis Shaw or Pablo Sandoval will be the opening-day third baseman. “Certainly, by the weekend,” Manager John Farrell said. …Farrell said Chris Young is in line to get more playing time than Rusney Castillo as the fourth outfielder.

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Kelly’s not as sharp as Twins top Sox, 6-2 Tue, 29 Mar 2016 23:33:00 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — Brian Dozier’s first-pitch home run and a shot by Miguel Sano just five pitches later set the tone as the Minnesota Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 6-2 Tuesday in a rain-shortened game.

Kurt Suzuki also homered for the Twins and Hanley Ramirez got two hits for Boston before the game was stopped with one out in the bottom of the seventh.

Sano got three hits and drove in three runs. Dozier and Trever Plouffe each had two hits.

Minnesota left-hander Tommy Milone went six innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks.

Red Sox starter Joe Kelly went four innings, giving up four runs on eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

“He had great stuff today – power to his fastball, he was down in the strike zone quite a bit,” Boston Manager John Farrell said. “Made some pitches up, out over the plate that, when you look at the first pitch of the game, Dozier rides one out of here. But power stuff. Not as efficient as the first two, three times out for him. Still, we got him to 90-plus pitches on a day when you’re getting close to opening day and you want to get close to 100 pitches.”

Suzuki homered in the fourth inning and Sano’s two-out single scored Dozier, who singled and took second when Joe Mauer walked.

The Red Sox scored twice in the third after Mookie Betts and Brock Holt hit one-out singles and moved up on a wild pitch. Chris Young had a sacrifice fly and Ramirez had an RBI single.

Kelly has had a fairly strong spring before this start. He entered the game having given up just three runs in 20 innings over five starts.

“Just a couple of mistake pitches,” Kelly said of his outing against the Twins.

NOTES: Farrell announced that left-hander David Price will be Boston’s opening day starter Monday in Cleveland. The announcement was just a formality. The Red Sox signed Price to a seven-year, $217 million free-agent contract in December.

This will be Price’s fifth opening day start.

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Fort Myers says goodbye to David Ortiz Tue, 29 Mar 2016 01:09:40 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston celebrated David Ortiz’s two decades of spring training in Fort Myers with a pregame ceremony before his final home exhibition game, a 5-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.

Ortiz announced on his 40th birthday in November that this will be his final season. He trained in Fort Myers with the Minnesota Twins and then since 1993 with the Red Sox.

Ortiz went 0 for 3 and left after the sixth inning in a golf cart decorated with his number 34 and the flag of the Dominican Republic on its roof. The cart was driven by a pair of former Red Sox starts: Hall of Famer Jim Rice and Luis Tiant.

“Very nice, very nice,” Ortiz said. “I’ve been coming to Fort Myers for a long time. To get to the point where you can get to say goodbye as a player, it’s really good.

“It’s crazy. I wasn’t expecting any of it but it happened. Whenever somebody comes to you with a gift, it’s always welcomed, right? The Red Sox and the city of Fort Myers, I really thank them for being so nice.”

Xavier Avery, Nolan Reimold and Francisco Pena homered for the Orioles, with Avery connecting on Rick Porcello’s second pitch of the game.

Porcello, Boston’s No. 3 starter, gave up five runs, 10 hits and three walks in 62/3 innings, striking out five. He allowed three home runs.

In four exhibition outings and 152/3 innings, Porcello allowed 17 runs, 29 hits and four walks. He has a 9.77 ERA.

“He’s capable of better,” Manager John Farrell said. “He’s shown that.”

NOTES: Right-hander Carson Smith has been sidelined by a flexor muscle strain and will start the season on the disabled list as will right-hander Brandon Workman and catcher Christian Vazquez, who are returning from Tommy John surgery. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who has been sidelined by a right knee injury, will start the season on the DL, too. … Third baseman Pablo Sandoval, sidelined since Thursday with lower back stiffness, was 0 for 3 and played five innings in a minor league game against Tampa Bay’s Class A team. The Red Sox hope to get him into the major league game on Tuesday. … Reliever Koji Uehara, who has been sidelined with general soreness, pitched one inning in that game … Outfielder David Murphy was released, a day after exercising his opt out provision. … Boston optioned infielder Deven Marrero to Triple-A Pawtucket. Infielder Josh Rutledge, first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, outfielder Brennan Boesch, catchers Dan Butler and Sandy Leon and right-handed pitcher Anthony Varvaro were reassigned to minor league camp. Right-hander pitcher Carlos Marmol was released.

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Tom Caron: Sandoval, Castillo could be on Red Sox bench when season starts Mon, 28 Mar 2016 16:07:58 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — Last place.

In the world of sports, there is nothing scarier than finishing dead last. The Boston Red Sox have finished at the bottom of the American League East for the past two seasons and three of the last four. That’s why there is a sense of urgency around these final days of spring training.

The Red Sox know they have to do better in 2016. Much better. Manager John Farrell knows his job is on the line, and a bad start may lead the team to go in another direction before too long.

You would expect a big-market, big-money team like the Red Sox to have their starting lineup pretty well set with opening day less than a week away. Yet positional battles have lingered far longer than anyone expected.

The biggest battle is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has struggled mightily in the field, and spent the weekend dealing with lower-back pain. He has been criticized for being out of shape and for lacking range at third base.

Normally, a veteran like Sandoval – in the second year of a reported five-year, $95 million contract – would expect to see his name written into the lineup for the opener in Cleveland regardless of any struggles in Florida. That’s not the case this year. The Red Sox have an option in Travis Shaw, who burst on the scene with 13 home runs in just 65 games last year and is tearing up Grapefruit League pitching with a .367 batting average (and an eye-popping .571 slugging percentage) through Sunday.

Farrell has said that Sandoval “understands this is about putting the best team on the field from Day One.” In other words, a veteran isn’t guaranteed a chance to work things out when the season begins.

The same situation is developing in left field. Rusney Castillo, who signed a $72.5 million contract in late 2014, remains a mystery. He’s a 28-year old who has played just 90 games at the big-league level. He began the final week of spring hitting just .227.

That’s why we’ve been seeing more of Brock Holt in left field as the Grapefruit League rolls along. Holt and newcomer Chris Young could be a left-right platoon in left field, with Castillo the odd man out.

“There is a chance for (Holt) to get a good number of at-bats out in left field,” said Farrell.

That’s an unexpected development. The Sox finished last season with Castillo joining Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, Jr. as the everyday outfield setup. It was expected to be the same trio playing for the majority of 2016, with Young getting opportunities against left-handed pitching.

Instead Holt – the only All-Star for Boston in 2015 – is getting a look out there. It’s another sign that Farrell is considering everything as he gets his team ready to head north.

This is urgency you don’t often see in spring training. Urgency that has come about because the organization can’t sit by idly if another last-place finish is even a remote possibility. The first month of the season is vitally important for this team to build confidence in itself, and for Dave Dombrowski, the new president of baseball operations, to have faith that Farrell is the right man to lead the Sox back to the playoffs.

To avoid finishing last, the Sox have to be at their best when the season starts on Monday.

Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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Major league notebook: Bogaerts, Bradley homer in Red Sox win Mon, 28 Mar 2016 01:04:48 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston’s first three hitters – Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts – combined for seven hits, three runs and two RBI to lead the Red Sox to a 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.

Bogaerts had a solo home run, his second of the spring, and No. 9 hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a two-run homer, his third.

“He’s in a good place right now and I think he firmly believes he’s a major league player, and that’s more than half the battle to go along with the talent that he has,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said of Bradley.

Odubel Herrera, who returned to the lineup Saturday for the first time in 13 days after injuring his left middle finger while sliding headfirst into home, went 3 for 3 and scored the Phillies’ run.

“He’s a freak,” Phillies Manager Pete Mackanin said. “This guy can hit. He’s just a real different kind of hitter. He’s got such great hand-eye coordination, it doesn’t take him long to get on track.”

Maikel Franco, who leads all major leaguers with eight home runs this spring, drove in Herrera with a first-inning double high off the replica Green Monster in center field. His drive just missed going out and was reviewed by the umpires, who let the call stand.

Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright went 52/3 innings, giving up one run on seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts. He is competing for a spot in the rotation.

“He certainly helped his cause today with a solid outing,” Farrell said. “I thought he did a nice job with his fastball and his curveball in the early innings to get back into some counts, and then he got a better feel for his knuckleball as the game went along.”

MARINERS: Robinson Cano had three home runs and seven RBI to help Seattle outlast the Chicago Cubs 12-9 in a game that was delayed for several minutes by a swarm of bees in center field.

INDIANS: Manager Terry Francona says reliever Joba Chamberlain has made the team as a non-roster invitee.

Francona also said All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley will not begin the season as a starter, as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery in November.

The Indians also released outfielder Will Venable and reliever Joe Thatcher, and informed left-handed pitcher Tom Gorzelanny that he won’t make the team.

CARDINALS: Third-base coach Jose Oquendo is taking a medical leave of absence.

Oquendo missed several days earlier this spring when he traveled to St. Louis for knee surgery. He returned to camp on March 20, walking with the aid of crutches, but hasn’t returned to the coach’s box since the surgery.

First-base coach Bill Maloney will handle third-base duties while Oquendo recovers, and assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller will coach first base.

TRADES: The Atlanta Braves acquired infielder/outfielder Tyler Moore from the Washington Nationals for minor-league first baseman Nate Freiman.

The Braves also added left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty from the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash considerations.

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