8-6-2010: Youkilis lost for the year, Cleveland redux, Yankees on tap

Now comes the disturbing and somehow predictable news… Kevin Youkilis will have surgery today and will miss the rest of the 2010 season. This news could not have come at a worse time, with guys like Dustin Pedroia and Mike Cameron still out, Victor Martinez playing hurt and Jacoby Ellsbury just trying to get back into the swing of things. We need to win now if we want to stay in the chase.

What will the Red Sox do about first base? For now, they will play Mike Lowell there every day. Despite his Daniel Nava-like heroics in his first at-bat, there are still some serious health concerns with Lowell. He may not be able to play every day, so we’re going to need a quality left-handed bat to complement him. For now, there are no plans to promote Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Lars Anderson. Theo Epstein would like to see if Salty can stick at catcher, so he’ll be working on that for now. J.P. Ricciardi really likes the addition of Salty, and says that it could really pay off down the line.

As far as other options, I think the Sox are trying to avoid paying any real talent to try and salvage what looks like it could be a lost year already. Jed Lowrie has reportedly taken some reps at first base as a fill-in for when Lowell can’t go. They will reportedly audition Carlos Delgado, and they do have room on the 40-man roster, but I’d be surprised if the Sox committed to play him while Lowell is around. He’s an option only if Lowell clears waivers and is traded. There are some other DFA/FA options out there as well, such as Casey Kotchman and Daric Barton.

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Links 7-8-2010: Swept in Tampa, the bullpen, Youk’s All-Star chase, Injury turnaround?

Ugh. Not a fun series to watch, as the Sox got swept away last night by the Tampa Bay Rays. We are now two games behind them and 4.5 games back of the Yankees in the AL East, and that All-Star Break can’t come quickly enough.

Game 1: I am usually a Daisuke Matsuzaka apologist, but this game was a disaster for him. He kept stepping off the rubber and delaying, so he could never get into any kind of rhythm. He just doesn’t look confident out there. Admittedly, he had some long half-inning breaks, but he just looked terrible. When the bases are full, he has no problem attacking hitters and going ahead 0-2, but the rest of the time he was nothing. Terry Francona should have pulled him earlier, yes, but who could he go to that is any better right now? A lot has been made of Dice-K’s botched bunt play, but that’s the least of his issues right now. That play shows how much he’s putting pressure on himself and not just playing the game… Eric Patterson had 3 XBH, including a double and two home runs, his first multi-HR game of his career. The first one was a fully legitimate one, but he was lucky to golf the second pitch, a low breaking ball from Andy Sonnanstine. You could just see the disgust and disbelief on Sonnanstine’s face on that one.

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6-25-2010: Sox weather rocky series,

After coming into Colorado on a torrid streak of dominating Inter-League opponents, the Red Sox dropped two of three to the Troy Tulowitski-less Rockies this week. Tampa Bay continues to fizzle, but we need the Yankees to stay slow if we want to catch up.

Game 1: Jon Lester was good again, but the Sox just couldn’t get anything going versus Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin is a young talent, and he did a good job keeping the ball low and away from right-handed hitters, especially. We wasted a couple of bases loaded opportunities in this one… Dustin Pedroia made a nice play on that ball that took a bad hop on Kevin Youkilis, but that’s no rarity. He also backed up that bad throw in the 2nd on the swinging bunt nicely. I see him in the right position all the time, just the way you’re supposed to play… I don’t know why the injured Mike Cameron was trying to steal 2nd in the top of the 3rd; that must have been a botched hit and run or something, right? Normally I don’t complain about a strikeout for one of our pitchers, but that punchout in the 8th was clearly on a ball way outside. Hideki Okajima got lucky.

Game 2: Closer Jonathan Papelbon had a meltdown of historic proportions (again), blowing a 3-run lead on two HRs by Ryan Spilborghs and Jason Giambi in the bottom of the 9th. It was only his 2nd blown save of the year, but the problem was the way in which it happened. Papelbon blamed it on a “flat” flastball- hey, that’s exactly what he said after he blew his first save against the Yankees, another late-inning two-HR debacle of an outing… John Lackey continues his string of lackluster starts; if something’s not wrong physically, does he maybe have fat cat syndrome? Daniel Nava collected 3 hits and 3 RBI against Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez on a night where we needed someone to kickstart the offense. He’s quickly convincing me that he could stick as a 4th outfielder for us.

Game 3: What kind of player is Pedroia? He’s the kind who cares deeply about winning and can seemingly will his team to win at times. His 5-5, 3-HR, 5 RBI performance was the best hitting performance of his career, and it saved Papelbon’s tail, who blew his second straight save in as many nights. And don’t think this puts Pedey in the power hitter category, because he just doesn’t hit them like those guysBoth bullpens were horrible last night, reemphasizing our need for help out there… I keep thinking that Adrian Beltre has to come back to earth soon, but every time I say that, he goes out and gets two or three hits. Credit Theo Epstein for signing a capable player who is motivated to get a big contract next year, and the benefit we are reaping from him this season. Beltre’s numbers and overall quality of defense (despite the high number of errors) make him a legitimate All-Star candidate in my book… Josh Reddick needs to relax out there. He’s all tense about proving he can hit, and that’s making him, well, not hit.

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6-21-2010: Sweep of LA, roster changes, 2010 draftees play, Sox sign Broughton

The Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Dodgers this weekend, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Turns out Manny Ramirez’s return was nothing at all. I told you Inter-League play is a good time for Red Sox Nation. Now tied with Tampa Bay for 2nd place, we are in a very strong position going forward. Game-by-game notes:

Game 1: Felix Doubront was not half bad in his Major League debut, and it was good enough for the victory. Guided by Jason Varitek, he showcased a strong 92-93 mph fastball and mixed in a couple of decent curves and changeups. He got 80% first pitch strikes, didn’t make too many mistakes, and he didn’t pitch scared. He was promptly sent back to Pawtucket, and the Sox called up Robert Manuel.

Game 2: Tim Wakefield continues to do what he does, torn 43-year old labrum and all. A lot of errors in this one, but hey, it’s the Ws that count, not the Es. It’s not like the overall defense is bad; rather, the opposite is true. Give some credit to Daniel Nava on Dustin Pedroia’s game-winning, walk-off single.

Game 3: That changeup Clay Buchholz throws is simply unfair. The “hand of God”, as it has been dubbed, made the Dodgers just look bad at the dish. That heads-up play by Pedroia in the 2nd inning proves why he is just so valuable to this team; aware that no one was covering 3rd base because of the shift on David Ortiz, he immediately got up and took the extra bag. That, children, is the way baseball is meant to be played. Adrian Beltre just makes it look so easy over at the hot corner. He calmly picked that rocket by Jamey Carroll on a mid-hop and threw him out. Another thing he makes look easy: smacking the ball to the triangle. How in the world does he generate all that power with one knee on the ground? Watching Darnell McDonald stumble around in right really makes me appreciate J.D. Drew’s defense (hopefully he’s back Tuesday). Speaking of outfield defense, Mike Cameron didn’t look his best in center, but that’s probably because he’s not anywhere near 100% yet.

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6-18-2010: Sox sweep Dbacks, Manny happy returns?

Game notes: The Sox draw to within just TWO GAMES of first place! Both John Lackey and Dan Haren are having down years, in what should normally have been a pitcher’s duel last night. Lackey was shaky all game, working high in the zone and they were smacking him all over the ballpark. That errant throw to first in the 3rd was very ill-advised. Anybody else find David Ortiz’s slide in the first inning to be hysterical? Judging from Kevin Youkilis’ out at second, the Sox could use a refresher on sliding. Manny Delcarmen allowed some baserunners, sure, but he was locating alright and getting ground balls; they just found their way through the infield. Lastly, is it jsut me, or has Jonathan Papebon dropped his arm slot even more? It looked like he has moved to a low 3/4 slot yesterday, which allowed him to locate heat right at the knees. Hope it doesn’t indicate anything health-wise for him.

As the Dodgers come into town tonight, this article by Peter Abraham just about sums it up. I can tell you for my part that I will not be cheering for Manny Ramirez. Yes, he did a lot for this ballclub in his day, but he received all the applause he’s getting from me. I refuse to support that kind of player.

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Links 6-17-2010: Last night redux, Shealy signed, bullpen overuse, more draft signings

For those that missed the game yesterday, I have to say that the box score just doesn’t do justice to the way the game went. The Sox were pounding Rodrigo Lopez all night, with loud outs all over the outfield. Dustin Pedroia is smoking balls every at-bat now. Jon Lester was a bit inconsistent, but his stuff was still electric, freezing guys at the dish. Also not reflected in the box score: Justin Upton’s mammoth home run in the 2nd that landed in Landsdowne Street. That was a Manny Ramirez-type blast. That kid’s got some incredible power.

The Red Sox have signed 30-year old first baseman Ryan Shealy to a minor league deal. Theo Epstein has long coveted Shealy’s on-base skills back when he was still a prospect, but as Ben Nicholson-Smith points out, he does provide some right-handed depth for when Mike Lowell is dealt.

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6-7-2010: Baltimore wrapup, wounded OFs, looking ahead

It was a disappointing loss to end the series, fer sure (as John Lackey might say), but it was still a good series for the Red Sox. Boston made the Orioles look pitiful (as they should), outscoring them 22-6 over three games. That’s what run prevention looks like when it works. Clay Buchholz turned in another great outing, showing more maturity and poise on the mound, Jon Lester pitched great yet again (with a big help from Daniel Bard), and Lackey wasn’t too terrible. Oh, and in that last game, despite the velocity being there, Manny Delcarmen’s poor finish has been attributed to lower back issues. David Ortiz is also fine after being hit by a pitch on the left hand, near the wrist. Mike Cameron finally came back and looked very good out in center field in his first start- more good news.

Perhaps the most negative thing to come out of this series was the collision between Adrian Beltre and Jeremy Hermida. That’s the second OF Beltre has taken out this season, for those who are keeping score; Jacoby Ellsbury is still on the sidelines after crashing into the big third baseman a month ago. Hermida doesn’t have any broken bones, or at least that’s what the Sox medical team claims. Beltre is a hulking six feet of muscle- Hermida and Ellsbury, not so much. Left field is becoming a hazardous place to play in Boston. The next victim? Josh Reddick, fresh from Pawtucket.

Incidentally guys, please don’t touch Beltre’s head. That nearly cost Victor Martinez a trip to the DL, according to this article.

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Links 6-4-2010: Bogar’s fault?, draft outlook, Sox sweep AL awards for May

Tim Bogar has apologized for getting both Victor Martinez and Darnell McDonald thrown out at home with no outs. We ended up losing by one run, despite getting 18 hits; and that hindsight has a lot of people upset at Bogar. Saberist Tom Tango points out that sending the runners may not have been wrong, and that teams are generally too conservative on the basepaths. So it’s not always so clear cut- but I’d say that he should have held up because Martinez, who is a slow runner to begin with, has been struggling with a bruised big toe. McDonald also banged his right knee on a pickoff play at first earlier, and was sort of loping home, and was thrown out easily. I think the injury concerns should have forced him to be a little less aggressive with these guys. But let’s not pin the loss on just these two outs. If we pitch and play defense better in a game where Brett Anderson leaves after two innings, we win, plain and simple.

This year’s amateur draft is quickly approaching, and the Red Sox, with 4 of the first 57 picks, are salivating over the talent that’s available. The last time we had this many picks that high (in 2005), we ended up with Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Michael Bowden. Apart from Bryce Harper and a couple of other guys, there isn’t a lot of separation between the players in the rest of the first round, and Theo Epstein thinks that could help us out this year.

Congratulations go out to David Ortiz and Jon Lester, the AL Player and Pitcher of the Month, respectively. Not surprisingly, Ortiz says confidently that the wrist is no longer an issue. Well, duh.

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5-28-2010: The return of Dice-BB, Ellsbury status quo, Delcarmen back in form

I just have no words for yesterday’s start by Daisuke Matsuzaka. Did this guy really have a near no-hitter last time out? Matsuzaka walked EIGHT Kansas City Royals en route to one of his worst starts ever. The runs didn’t happen until the 5th inning, but there was trouble brewing form the very start, according to John Farrell. I guess we can throw out the Jason Varitek theory, because it happened with Tek behind the plate yesterday… I’ll spare you the long article telling you how I looked at his stuff in PITCHf/x, and there wasn’t much that was amiss; it was all a matter of control, which suggests a minor mechanical issue to me. Sigh. He’s always been good at preventing hits; it’s the control that’s an issue. Dice-K offered some vague excuse about “lower body soreness”, but come on- be a man already! Can someone explain to me why walking someone is more honorable than letting them hit it and getting them out again?

After a battery of tests, Jacoby Ellsbury is no closer to understanding what is ailing him than he is to getting back on the field. This is starting to look bad, especially because he can’t very well go out and play until we know what’s wrong and what the associated risks are.

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Links 5-27-2010: Sox sweep Rays, Ellsbury dissatisfied, catcher defense

The Red Sox blew it wide open in the top of the 9th inning yesterday, tacking on five runs to blow out Tampa Bay by a score of 11-3. John Lackey struggled some, but cobbled together enough to limit the Rays to two runs. Despite that, he maintains that it was a very good start. Adrian Beltre doubled and homered twice, driving in a career-high 6 runs. While I was surprised by the show of power, his teammates think he’s got the most raw power in the lineup. Another great moment- David Ortiz chugging home, with Kevin Youkilis hot on his heels.

The Red Sox certainly made a statement when, even with an 8-run margin, the Sox sent the half-loping, half-hobbling Mike Cameron around from first base on a single Jeremy Hermida to score their last run. I’m don’t agree with that call for a 9th insurance run, not given the risk of injury to Cameron with an already light outfield. With the victory, the Sox move within 5 1/2 games of the Rays, and just two games behind the Yankees, who are sliding hard of late. It’s been a good week.

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