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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Darnell McDonald Designated For Assignment

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Carl Crawford #13 ...
Darnell McDonald (right) was designated for assignment by the Red Sox to make room for returning starter, Josh Beckett. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Today the Red Sox were forced to do some more roster shuffling in order to fit Josh Beckett, returning from a trip to the 15 day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Unfortunately for Darnell McDonald, he was the weakest link in a chain full of productive outfielders, which caused the Red Sox to designate him for assignment.

Mostly a career minor leaguer until making his way into the Sox outfield back in 2010, McDonald knows he was fortunate to remain on the roster most of last season and pretty much all of this season even though he has been mostly unproductive at the plate since over the last two seasons.

In 84 AB this season, he was hitting just .214 with 2 HR and 9 RBI but Brent Lillibridge was likely the deal-breaker for the Red Sox. Lillibridge's bat is weak as well as D-Mac's but he can play seven positions with a certain amount of capability, something McDonald could not do.

With Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury both on rehab assignments and likely to return soon after the All-Star break, McDonald won't be the only one being moved in the near future. There will be tough decisions to make with Daniel Nava, Cody Ross, Ryan Kalish, Scott Podsednik and eventually Ryan Sweeney in the mix. Boston now has 10 days to either release, trade or allow him to clear waivers.

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Daniel Bard a Long Way From Red Sox Bullpen

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 23: Manager Bobby Valentin...
Daniel Bard's control problems reached a new level Friday in Pawtucket when he walked three and hit a batter in 1/3 of an inning.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Whatever has happened to Daniel Bard this season, a trip to Pawtucket has done nothing in the way of helping. The Red Sox hoped the stint in AAA would yield the same results as Mark Melancon earlier this season. Things have gone in the opposite direction for Bard though. He's been as bad or worse in the minors.

Friday night may have been--or hopefully it was--rock bottom for the same reliever that put together a phenomenal 26 1/3 inning scoreless streak last season as the Red Sox setup man.

Pitching for the PawSox, Bard was as far from the strike zone as he's ever been. He faced six batters, allowed a single, three walks and hit a batter while recording just one out before being lifted.

The most frustrating thing is the inconsistency in which the meltdowns are showing up. The righty pitched an inning this week, needing just 10 pitches, 7 of which were strikes and then something like Friday night happens.

With the issues he's shown, it will be quite some time before Bard gets back to Boston. At this rate, we may not see him at Fenway this season. It's been that bad since he was demoted.

When he came to the realization, according to Ben Cherington, that the bullpen was where he belonged, I thought it was great. I figured with the certainty, Bard could get back to throwing his high-90's fastball for strikes. Obviously, it hasn't been the case.

Right now, the Red Sox bullpen is in good shape, making it a non-issue. Problem is, bullpens can be inconsistent. Especially when the go-to guys are named Matt Albers, Scott Atchison and Vicente Padilla. These guys have been great, but is Atch a -2.00 ERA pitcher? Further, does anyone remember Albers in the second half of 2011?

There may be, actually I'm almost sure there will be, a time this season when Daniel Bard is a necessity in the Red Sox bullpen. I have faith he can figure this thing out, but now we keep our fingers crossed that the relief corps don't suddenly go on vacation.

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Aaron Cook Tosses CG Shutout in Red Sox Win

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 29:  Starting pitcher Aaron...
 Starting pitcher Aaron Cook #35 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 29, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
If you read that headline in disbelief, you're probably not alone. I fully expect nine of ten that didn't see the game will be very shocked, but it's true. Aaron Cook pitched an absolute gem against the Mariners to give the Red Sox their first win in the series by a score of 5-1.

The 33 year old, in his third start of the season, recorded 14 groundouts to just 5 fly outs on his way to the complete game two hitter. The most impressive part? He threw just 81 pitches to get through nine innings, 58 of them for strikes.

This was the potential Ben Cherington had envisioned when he pulled Cook off the scrap heap. He thought if the righty could keep his health under control, there was a chance he could be a productive starter once again. Whether it was a one-time deal or not remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. Bobby Valentines job of putting his rotation together after the break just got a little bit harder.

The Red Sox were able to capitalize on Cook's shutout on Friday, unlike the night before against Felix Hernandez. This time they were facing a struggling former Yankee, Hector Noesi.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued his first half tear, launching his 15th homer of the season, a 2-run shot with nobody out in the sixth inning. If he doesn't make the All-Star team I'd be pretty surprised at this point.

Will Middlebrooks bounced back from his recent struggles with a 2-4 night at the plate. The rookie hit a solo homer, his tenth of the season, in the fifth inning for his 37th RBI.

There was one consistent theme to the offense last night. All five runs came from the long-ball. Cody Ross and Daniel Nava each added solo homers, also in the fifth inning against Noesi. The Sox wouldn't score after the sixth, but they didn't need to with Cook on the hill.

Tonight, at 10 pm EST, Josh Beckett will make his first start since being placed on the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder. The theme this season has been when Beckett comes off an injury, he gets lit up for a start and then returns to form. Here's to hoping the righty can change that tonight against the Mariners and help the Red Sox take this series.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Welcome Tim Wakefield Back to Red Sox

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 3:  Tim Wakefield #49 of t...
Tim Wakefield will join NESN as a studio analyst after retiring from a 17 year career with the Red Sox.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Okay, so it's not what some may think. Tim Wakefield won't be making an attempt at his 300th career win with the Red Sox, but our favorite knuckleballer will resume his career in the Sox organization as a studio analyst alongside Tom Caron, Jim Rice and the rest of the NESN crew.

According to a tweet from TC, Wake will become part of the team Saturday night and will rotate with the rest of the staff throughout the second half of the season. His job will officially start at 9 PM EST Saturday as part of the Red Sox pregame coverage.

Earlier this season we got a taste of Tim in the booth when he and Jason Varitek joined Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy during a live broadcast. Although he was a bit quieter than 'Tek, comfort didn't seem to be an issue. If I recall correctly, which I'm not sure I ever do, Rem Dawg proposed the idea of Wake on TV only for him to quickly shoot it down.

I fully expect that a bigger role is down the road for the 45 year old retired pitcher, but for now we get to enjoy (maybe?) his presence in the booth. Welcome back Tim Wakefield, it's been quite some time.

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Jacoby Ellsbury Get's RBI Double in Rehab Appearance

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13:  Jacoby Ellsbury #2 of ...
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13: Jacoby Ellsbury #2 of the Boston Red Sox runs out on to the field before the start of the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during the home opener on April 13, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Jacoby Ellsbury played in his first game this afternoon since partially dislocating his shoulder April 13, in the Red Sox home opener at Fenway Park against the Rays. The rehabbing centerfielder has not been given outfield duties yet, but according to Gordon Edes, his day at the plate was productive. 

The Boston Globe's Edes tweeted recently that Ellsbury recorded an RBI double, a walk, 2 strikeouts and a groundout while playing designated hitter in the Gulf Coast League.

According to Edes, Carl Crawford also played, his third appearance, walking twice in four plate appearances and capably playing left field. The Red Sox left fielder scored a run and slid into the plate. Gordon Edes said he "looked good" in doing so.

The way it's looking, both outfielders should be back soon after the All-Star break. Bobby Valentine will then be forced to juggle a lineup full of capable outfielders, which is another issue entirely. Either way, it's good to know some of the "cavalry", as Valentine called it, will be back soon.

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Franklin Morales: Potential Ace The Red Sox Lack?

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23:  Franklin Morales #46 of...
In three starts this season, Franklin Morales has flashed the "Ace" potential the Rockies envisioned when they brought him up in '07. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
At the moment, the Red Sox do not have one starter that can definitively be called an "ace". Normally, instincts would tell you that Jon Lester is that guy, or maybe Josh Beckett. This season, not even the most naive fan can call either of those guys a legitimate ace. Boston simply does not have a go-to guy in a big game.

Over the last three turns through the rotation, Franklin Morales can easily be called that guy. He's been better than the number one starter, he's been better than anyone else in the rotation since making his first start since '09 in the place of injured Josh Beckett. Morales has no doubt earned a further look in a starting role. Can the Red Sox cash in on a possible mistake made by the Colorado Rockies? Does Franklin Morales have ace potential?

Would it surprise anybody if the Rockies made a pitching mistake? They did recently propose their plan to utilize an "11-man rotation" where everybody on the staff will start and relieve. Maybe it's not fair to pick at the Rox but isn't there a chance they gave up too soon on a power lefty that is just 26 years old right now?

When Morales came up, Colorado had big plans for the southpaw and in the short-term, he paid dividends as a starter during the 2007 season in which the team made it to the World Series. You may remember it, he pitched twice in relief against the Red Sox.

During that season, Morales started eight games with a 3-2 record, 3.43 ERA, 1.86 K/BB, 1.22 WHIP in 39 1/3 IP.

Things didn't start out well for Morales, who was just 21 at the time. In his first month at the major league level, he finished with a 4.40 ERA in 14 1/3 IP. The next month, September, was when the young lefty showed his potential.

After a rough first start in September, Morales made three straight scoreless starts, 17 innings total without allowing an earned run. He allowed just 7 hits in those three outings. The playoffs didn't go well, but the Rockies saw enough in the regular season to give him a starting job starting the '08 season.

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 28:  Starting pitcher Frank...
Franklin Morales pitching against the Mariners in a game he was out-dueled by Felix Hernandez but threw 7 scoreless innings with 7 K's.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
After a rough start in '10, Morales was optioned to AAA having made just five starts with a 6.39 ERA. He was given two more starts in '09 before being relegated to bullpen duty, where he remained until Bobby Valentine gave him a start this season.

The horrible 2010 season out of the bullpen led to the Rockies looking for a trade in the beginning of last season. The Red Sox, needing a lefty reliever, took a chance on the still very young pitcher and it paid off quite well. He made 36 appearances with a 3.62 ERA out of the Sox bullpen.

The most prevalent issue Morales had while with the Rockies was command. Since coming to Boston, he has steadily improved to a very good 4/1 K/BB ratio and 9.5 K/9 in 41 2/3 IP this season. That's where the success stems from. He's doing everything for the Red Sox that Colorado had envisioned for him.

There's a chance that Morales could unravel and go back to the issues that plagued him in the Mile High City, but the sample size suggests that he has just plain improved his control and it's not just a streak.

After coming up to the Red Sox from AAA last season, Morales posted a respectable 2.82 K/BB and 8.5 K/9 in 32 1/3 IP. It's improved this season to the numbers above and the sample size is larger.

It's too soon to say that Morales is an ace-type pitcher and not just pitching like one, but there is a chance we're seeing what he was expected to be. At 26, it's very possible that he's finally come into his own and learned to pitch instead of "throw". There's never been a question with the stuff. The stuff is there and if the command stays with it, he can be that ace caliber pitcher that the Red Sox have lacked the last couple seasons.

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Red Sox Shutout by King Felix in 1-0 Loss

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 28:  Starting pitcher Felix...
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 28: Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Boston Red Sox at Safeco Field on June 28, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Yesterday I talked about Franklin Morales' opportunity to prove his value in the starting rotation against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. The 26 year old may not have won the game or matched the former Cy Young winner, but he did pitch neck and neck with his counterpart for seven shutout innings.

The first hit allowed by Morales was a single by Franklin Gutierrez to open the fourth inning. The Sox starter came back and struck out two of the three remaining batters in the inning to get out of the jam. Over 7 IP, he only yielded 3 H, 2 BB and struck out 7.

The problem for Morales had nothing to do with his own pitching, it was his opposition. Felix Hernandez was dominant in leading the Mariners to the win, pitching a complete game shutout, allowing just 5 H and 1 BB with 13 strikeouts. Yes, it was that bad.
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 28:  John Jaso #27 (C) of t...
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 28: John Jaso #27 (C) of the Seattle Mariners is mobbed by teammates after getting the game winning hit to score Casper Wells #33 in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Safeco Field on June 28, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners defeated the Red Sox 1-0. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

How bad was it? The Red Sox never advanced a runner past second base the entire game. The best opportunity they had to score was in the top of the ninth when David Ortiz singled and Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked with one out. Hernandez ended the threat getting Adrian Gonzalez to fly out to center and Will Middlebrooks to pop out to second base.

As I said though, Boston's pitching held its own against Seattle, but the Mariners came through for their starter in the bottom of the ninth for a walk off win.

With Scott Atchison pitching, Casper Wells hit a one-out double to center field. The Red Sox elected to intentionally walk Justin Smoak and face John Jaso, pinch-hitting for Miguel Olivo. It came back to bite them.

Jaso lined a single through the right side that had Cody Ross throwing to the plate looking to get Wells. Ross made a great throw, in time, but Salty was unable to hold onto the ball and get the tag on. Game over, Mariners walk-off for the win.

The Red Sox look to even up the series tonight with Aaron Cook facing Hector Noesi. Another 10:10 start, unfortunately.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Franklin Morales Can Make His Case As Starter Tonight

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23:  Franklin Morales #46 of...
Franklin Morales has a 17/1 K/BB ratio in his two starts this season. He looks to continue his dominance tonight in his start against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Franklin Morales has had several roles this season. At one point he was the setup man, he's been a middle reliever and now he's gone back to his roots as a starter while Josh Beckett works back from an inflamed shoulder. The 26 year old southpaw has done enough in his two starts to intrigue the Red Sox, but tonight in Seattle, he has a chance to really make his case as a starter going forward this season.

At this point, Morales looks like the guy Ben Cherington wanted Daniel Bard to be. A potential top-middle of the rotation type starter under team control until after the 2014 season. He's only made a pair of starts, so it may be too early to project him as anything more than a spot-starter, but when he takes the mound at Safeco Field tonight, he will have a perfect opportunity to prove that he belongs in the Red Sox rotation.

Opposing him will be the always challenging, Felix Hernandez. The best arms in the game tend to have a hard time going to battle with the guy they call "King Felix". If Franklin Morales can prove he's worthy of the challenge, Bobby Valentine may have a hard time slotting him back in the bullpen come the second half.

It's a perfect opportunity facing an offensively challenge Mariners team that hits for a total .236/.298/.371 slash line compared to the Red Sox' ..272/.332/.452 mark.

With Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching well and Aaron Cook still slotted into the rotation while Clay Buchholz recovers from esophagitis, Morales will have to continue to prove that he's the best option for Bobby Valentine going forward. Tonights start will weigh heavily on that decision.

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Once Again, Negativity Surrounds a Positive For Red Sox

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 7:  Clay Buchholz #11 of the...
The image of Clay Buchholz may be tarnished again after CSNNE reported the starter was at Foxwoods after staying back from the Red Sox trip to Seattle in order to heal from Esophagitis. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
After hearing from CSN New England that Clay Buchholz was spotted at a charity event being held at MGM Foxwoods and waiting to hear more details before forming an opinion, I have decided that the ignorance of Clay Buchholz is insulting to me as a fan and more importantly, it should be to his team. 

The reason I say "ignorance" is because apparently Clay thought 1.) Nobody would find out, which is bogus, he's not that dumb. 2.) It wouldn't be a big deal and the media would shrug it off, which is also bogus. Or 3.) He just didn't care. Which absolutely could be the case.

I'm the first person to advocate for a player having a life outside of baseball, but it's the circumstances under which this took place, if indeed it did. It makes you think, once again, that these guys just don't care. A perception that some members of this team would like to rid themselves of.

When Buchholz told the media how sick and unstable he was while spending time in the hospital, specifically in the intensive care unit, I did feel for him and it was understandable to me that he would stay back from the road trip to Seattle.

What I can't comprehend is, if he's too sick to accompany the team, why is he at a Casino attending a charity event sponsored by Stoli Vodka. Shouldn't he be resting and working to get back with the team as soon as possible?

Before hearing the details, I said to myself, "Well maybe he committed to this before getting sick", but that couldn't be the case because he would have known he would be headed to Seattle under normal circumstances.

WEEI's Alex Speier said his source reported that Buchholz did not drink, but I just don't get what these guys are thinking. I agreed with David Ortiz when he told the media to leave them alone, but maybe it's time Big Papi has a little talk with his teams starting pitchers. After all, 95% of the negativity surrounds them and they do nothing to change it.

The Red Sox are 28-16 over their last 44, they are tied for third place and are very much in the race for a playoff spot, yet because of Buchholz' ignorance, we are stuck talking about something other than baseball, again. It has to stop, somehow.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chips Stacked in Red Sox Favor, How Will They Play 'Em?

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 26:  Jarrod Saltalamacchia #...
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has contributed 14 HR this season, more than any other catcher in the American League.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
With a win against the Jays today to wrap up a 7-2 homestand, the Red Sox are now 28-16 since losing eight of nine from May 1-10 and moved up to 5 games over .500 for the first time this season at 40-35.

It may have taken some time and a great managing effort from Bobby Valentine, but it now appears the Sox are heating up and it couldn't come at a better time.

The division leading Yankees took a hit today, losing arguably their best two starters to injuries in C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. The former is expected back after the All-Star break, but the latter could miss two months or more with a fractured ankle, giving the rest of the AL East an opportunity to make up some ground.

Josh Beckett to Start Saturday; Red Sox to Use Six-Man Rotation

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 11:  Josh Beckett #19 of the ...
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 11: Josh Beckett #19 of the Boston Red Sox pitches during a game against the Miami Marlins, his last start before being placed on the disabled list on June 16. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
The Red Sox announced Tuesday that Josh Beckett will be activated from the disabled list and start against the Mariners on Saturday in Seattle. The righty was placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation on June 16 and has missed two starts already.

Starting in the place of Beckett while he was injured, Franklin Morales was admirable in pitching 11 innings with 17 K, 1 BB and allowing 5 ER to pick up a win and a no decision, but when he's healthy, the Red Sox rotation is better with Josh Beckett in it.

Since Morales was great and Clay Buchholz is still in the hospital with esophagitis, Bobby Valentine has elected to utilize a six man rotation until the All-Star break in order to give his starters some extra rest before the second half of the season begins.

The way it looks right now, it will be Jon Lester tonight against the Blue Jays, followed by Franklin Morales, Aaron Cook, Beckett, Felix Doubront and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Normally a six man rotation is undesirable, but in this case it actually looks like the best thing for Boston's staff.

Franklin Morales has made just two starts since '09, Felix Doubront is approaching an innings total he has not reached in the past two seasons, Josh Beckett is returning from shoulder issues and Daisuke Matsuzaka has made just four starts since returning from a year of rehabbing Tommy John surgery.

In order to get all of his starters ready for the pivotal second half of the season, this is an ideal setup until the break. It's not often that a team has an extra capable starter, so in this case, Valentine may as well use it to his advantage.

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Red Sox Step Out of Last Place With 5-1 Win Over Jays

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 26:  Aaron Laffey #32 throws...
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 26: Aaron Laffey #32 throws against the Boston Red Sox in the first inning at Fenway Park June 26, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Despite another outing in which he felt his way through the first inning, Daisuke Matsuzaka put up his best start of the season and kept the Red Sox in the game to give the bats a chance to get to the Jays bullpen and pick up a 5-1 victory in the late innings.

Brett Lawrie opened the game with a double off Dice-K, moved to third on a fielders choice and scored when Edwin Encarnacion hit a hard grounder down the line at third. Will Middlebrooks was able to make a play on it, but his throw to first was up over the head of Adrian Gonzalez.

The rest of the outing went rather smooth for Matsuzaka. He allowed 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB with 5 K in 5 2/3 IP for a no decision despite pitching well enough to win his first game of the season.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kevin Youkilis Trade Was Best For Red Sox, Right?

BOSTON, MA - JULY 06:  Kevin Youkilis #20 of t...
Kevin Youkilis was an all-time great in Boston, but his trade was best for the Red Sox.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
A week ago, I thought we were all on the same page when it came to the Red Sox dealing Kevin Youkilis. It seemed the overwhelming majority of fans realized that the deal was best for Boston, even if the return wasn't what it may have been at a different juncture.

After receiving feedback via Twitter, Facebook and hearing the reaction from fans last night when Will Middlebrooks misplayed a grounder, I'm not so sure everyone understands what this deal meant for the Sox, so here I'll lay out my opinion for you to kick around.

The first thing I'll say is, the Fenway Faithful should be ashamed of the reaction they gave the Sox new full-time third baseman last night against the Jays. I understand some are bitter about Youkilis being traded, but coming off the AL PoW award, Middlebrooks should be afforded a bit of leniency.

Now that that's out of the way, I intend to look at a few things regarding this deal such as the return received by Boston. Whether it was a fair haul for a player of Youk's caliber and how it impacts the Red Sox going forward.

Jacoby Ellsbury Could Start Rehab Friday

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13:  Jacoby Ellsbury #2 of ...
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13: Jacoby Ellsbury would leave the Red Sox home opener against the Rays with a partially separated shoulder. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
According to ESPN's Jim Bowden and several others, the Red Sox could be one step closer to getting injured star outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury back on the field after missing all but seven games this season with a partially separated shoulder.

General Manager Ben Cherington told media today that the '11 MVP runner-up will meet up with Carl Crawford and the Gulf Coast League Red Sox following the teams homestand and could be DH'ing in games as soon as Friday.

Cat out of the bag for Red Sox?

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 8:  Felix Doubront #61 of th...
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 8: Felix Doubront #61 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after a rough third inning against the Washington Nationals at Fenway Park June 8, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
I don't remember this personally because the silent film era was long before my time. I was brought up on Rugrats and Power Rangers (unfortunately), but some of my readers may have heard of the character "Felix the Cat". Last night, when Felix Doubront gave up a career high 11 hits, it sure looked like the cat was let out of the bag, which was all but inevitable right?

Nothing suggested that Doubront could continue to shut down opposing teams on a consistent basis, right? I mean, he was an afterthought when the Red Sox went to the drawing board to sketch out a formidable starting rotation this season.

It was an honorable run and if it should be over (I'm not sure that it is), he deserves some amount of respect for his bandaging abilities this season. At one point, his starts were the only thing keeping the Sox staff from being labeled a complete disaster.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Middlebrooks Earns Player of the Week; Working Toward Bigger Things

BOSTON, MA - MAY 13:  Will Middlebrooks #64 of...
Will Middlebrooks was named AL Player of the Week after hitting 3 HR and driving in 10 this past week.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Red Sox rookie, Will Middlebrooks, who forced the finger of Ben Cherington to pull the trigger on a Kevin Youkilis to Chicago deal with his scorching play on the field has earned his first career AL Player of the Week Award.

The 24 year old third baseman has shown superb offensive talent since being called up to the major leagues, but this past week was his best yet as he hit .625 with 3 HR and 10 RBI.

Certainly the award is something to be proud of, especially with the number of powerful bats in the AL, but it may be just the beginning of an honorable first season in the big leagues for Middlebrooks.

It wasn't too long ago that another young infielder made waves in his first season with the big club. In 2007, Dustin Pedroia got his first shot and after struggling out of the gate wound up walking away with the most prestigious honor for a young ball player. "Laser Show" was known as "Rookie of the Year" back then.

When Red Sox Get Healthy, Who's Fifth Starter?

BOSTON, MA - JULY 26: Franklin Morales #46 of ...
When Red Sox starters get healthy, who will Bobby Valentine leave in the rotation as the fifth starter?  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Per the usual, the Red Sox have had some recent health issues in the starting rotation. First it was Josh Beckett's shoulder, which remains a concern, and then there was Clay Buchholz who went down yesterday with a gastrointestinal illness and was placed on the 15 day disabled list.

With these injuries and Daniel Bard's failed transition, Bobby Valentine has been forced to do some shuffling, which has been arguably his best trait this season. In the midst of all this shuffling, the Sox have been slapped with potentially a good problem to have.

In the absence of Daniel Bard, who remains at AAA Pawtucket working on his command issues, Daisuke Matsuzaka was given the fifth starter role. He's made three starts with an ugly 6.06 ERA, but the majority of damage has been done in one inning per start, usually early which could be a result of the Tommy John surgery just over a year ago.

There was plenty of excitement surrounding Dice-K's return due to the struggles of Bard, but it was the unlikeliest of characters that's had the biggest impact on the mound lately.

Red Sox Closing in on The End of an Era

English: The Boston Red Sox of Major League Ba...
 The Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball are honored at the White House by President George W. Bush following the side's winning the 2004 World Series. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last night, as Kevin Youkilis was embracing his teammates and saying his final goodbyes to Red Sox Nation, it was hard not to realize that the Sox are nearing the end of a historic era that included two World Series titles after 86 years of heartbreak on the field.

Sitting back, thinking about the 2004 season offers a reminder of better days, not only in Red Sox Nation, but life in general. I was just 15 at the time and months away from leaving the great state of Massachusetts. That '04 team gave me a going away present I'll never forget and for that I'll be forever grateful.

Replaying Buck's call on Fox still sends un controllable goosebumps down the back of my neck to this very day.

"Back to Foulke! Red Sox fans have longed to hear it, the Boston Red Sox are World Champions".

If you can listen to that and not be filled with emotion, you're not a Red Sox fan, plain and simple. There are few things in this life that can spur those emotions.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Red Sox, White Sox Make Kevin Youkilis Deal Official

Kevin Youkilis , Will Middlebrooks
Kevin Youkilis is on his way out while Will Middlebrooks' era in Boston is about to begin.  (Photo credit: Keith Allison)
Early we posted on reports that Kevin Youkilis, after a long memorable run with the Red Sox, had been traded to the Chicago White Sox. At the time, nothing had been confirmed, now it's official, Kenny Williams and Ben Cherington have worked out a deal for the 33 year old third baseman.

According to multiple sources, Boston will pay approximately 4.5 of the $6.5 million remaining on Youk's deal and will receive minor league pitcher Zach Stewart and super-utility man, Brent Lillibridge.

Stewart is set to slot into the starting rotation at AAA Pawtucket, with two options remaining on his current contract and Lillibridge will head straight to Fenway as a utility infielder/outfielder with no options.

Kevin Youkilis Traded to Chicago White Sox

Youk in Houston
Kevin Youkilis, two time World Series winner in Boston has reportedly been traded to the Chicago White Sox.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Several reports circulating twitter say that the Red Sox have indeed traded Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. Some say Zach Stewart, a 25 year old pitcher in the ChiSox farm system is involved in the deal, but at last check, nothing had been formally announced.

Twitter exploded with the reports after Youkilis was pulled from the Sox win at Fenway after a triple to right centerfield that fell between Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward. Teammates of Youkilis awaited the 33 year old at the steps of the dugout with a heartfelt farewell and the Fenway Faithful gave the two time World Series winner a standing ovation.

When the trade is formally announced, we will have more details regarding the Red Sox return. Jim Bowden said a utility player and pitcher were involved, but quite honestly, we just don't know for sure yet. Check in later for more information on the trade.

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Clay Buchholz Hospitalized With Gastrointestinal Illness

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13: Clay Buchholz #11 of th...
Clay Buchholz was placed on the 15 day DL with a gastrointestinal illness that landed the righty in the hospital.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
The Red Sox have now officially placed Clay Buchholz, according to sources on twitter. The same sources are saying the righty has been hospitalized with a gastrointestinal illness.

Joe Amorosino of 7 News sent out a tweet just minutes ago saying it was intestinal bleeding, which as he pointed out can be life threatening if untreated. He also said the bleeding was caused from anti-inflammatory pain medications. His report is the only one of such that I've seen to this point and sources were not cited. 

Rob Bradford of WEEI says Bobby Valentine was unsure if Buchholz is still in the hospital, but said he had checked into the hospital. The manager also said the sickness occurred two days after his last start, but he hoped the starter would be ready to go after the 15-day DL stint.

It's unclear if Aaron Cook will make the additional starts while Buchholz is on the disabled list. This afternoons start will likely determine that. Either way, it appears the Red Sox could still be a player for starting depth before the non-waiver trade deadline.

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Clay Buchholz Could Be Headed to DL

BOSTON, MA - MAY 6: Clay Buchholz #11 of the B...
Clay Buchholz could be headed to the DL according to Nick Cafardo.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
According to a tweet from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Clay Buchholz could head to the disabled list due to unspecified reasons. Bobby Valentine announced that Buchholz was sick yesterday and would miss his scheduled start Sunday.

The situation gives way to speculation as to whether the righty is actually "sick" or there is an injury that was not reported by the Red Sox. Unless the illness is more serious than originally thought, it would appear to be an injury situation.

Aaron Cook has already been slated to start today in place of Buchholz, but this could turn into a prolonged issue if he goes to the DL. If Cook struggles, options are thin at the major league level. When Josh Beckett returns, Morales would be a formidable option, but it's not entirely clear if Beckett will return right away.

Bobby Valentine has a scheduled press conference for 11 this morning before the Sox play a 1:35 game at Fenway. We should have more information after the meeting with media.

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Daniel Nava: Hot Streak or Major League Hitter?

BOSTON, MA - MAY 28: Daniel Nava #66 of the Bo...
BOSTON, MA - MAY 28: Daniel Nava #66 of the Boston Red Sox scores a run as Gerald Laird #9 of the Detroit Tigers has trouble fielding a late throw in the second inning at Fenway Park May 28, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Carl Crawford played in his first game in eight months Saturday in the Gulf Coast League, which means at some point soon, Bobby Valentine may be forced with a tough decision regarding Daniel Nava who has been spectacular this season while filling in for an injury riddled Red Sox outfield.

With Crawford making $20 million/year, he will start in left field when he's ready. Jacoby Ellsbury, who's slated to return at some point in July, which will further complicate the situation. That will leave just right field, where Cody Ross has produced above expectations as well.

The decision Bobby V will be faced with is, who to keep on the roster as backup outfielders upon the return of Ells and CC?

One thing he will have to determine in order to make such a decision, is Daniel Nava on a prolonged hot streak or has the un-drafted 29 year old evolved into a quality major leaguer?

Is Jacoby Ellsbury Worth What He'll Get in Free Agency?

Red Sox at Orioles July 20, 2011.
Jacoby Ellsbury had a magnificent 2011 season, but does it warrant Carl Crawford-type money on the free agent market? Hint: Carl Crawford didn't deserve Carl Crawford money.   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When the Red Sox gave Carl Crawford an absurd amount of money to come over to play left field in Boston, not only did they overpay for a player headed for the wrong side of his prime, they also made signing Jacoby Ellsbury after the '13 season a tough task.

Having Scott Boras as an agent, it's long been known that the MVP runner-up would likely test the free agent market, hoping to cash in on financial security for the rest of his life. What the Red Sox did by signing Crawford was set the bar at a rate that will make it nearly impossible to sign Ellsbury, assuming he would want to stay in Boston anyways.

There's still well over a year before anything will be negotiated and Boras made it clear that the two sides do not intend to negotiate during the season, but if Ellsbury does get Carl Crawford money from somebody, will it be a wise investment?

Morales, Middlebrooks Lead Red Sox Past Braves

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23:  Franklin Morales #46 of...
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23: Franklin Morales #46 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Atlanta Braves . (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Saturday night at Fenway, the Red Sox were once again led to a win by the young talent being infused on the team by manager Bobby Valentine. Even in the middle of more controversy, Boston got a stellar spot-start from 26 year old Franklin Morales and 23 year old Will Middlebrooks continued to put up potential Rookie of the Year numbers en route to a 8-4 victory for the Sox.

Starting just his second game since being converted to a full time reliever in '09, Franklin Morales again gave us reason to be intrigued, throwing 6 IP, allowing 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, with 1 BB and 8 K. The hard throwing lefty has now pitched 11 innings with 17 K, 1 BB, 4 ER in two starts while filling in for Josh Beckett.

Like his start against the Cubs, it took Morales an inning to lock in, this time allowing three straight to reach and a run to score in the first, but he came back to strike out two of the final three batters and end the threat.

The Red Sox offense picked up the tab quickly in the bottom half of the first. Dustin Pedroia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to set up an RBI base-hit for Adrian Gonzalez and an RBI double for Will Middlebrooks to give Boston a 2-1 lead.

Braves starter Randall Delgado was forced from the game after just 1 1/3, having surrendered 6H and 4 ER.

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23:  Will Middlebrooks #64 o...
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23: Will Middlebrooks #64 of the Boston Red Sox is congratulated after his home run against the Atlanta Braves. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Dustin Pedroia had himself a night, putting together 3 H and 2 RBI to bring his average on the season to .267. It was encouraging to see him making solid contact after struggling the entire month of June to date.

Will Middlebrooks led off the bottom of the third with his 9th homer in just 142 AB on the season. The rookie third baseman now has a .331 BA, 33 RBI and a .962 OPS in 40 games. If he continues to play, there's no doubt he'll get a serious look for RoY.

Daniel Nava continued to produce as well with a 2-run single in the bottom of the seventh. The left fielder now has 24 RBI, a .336 BA and .967 OPS in 113 AB on the season. Cody Ross also continued swinging a hot bat since his return from the DL with a pair of doubles and an RBI.

Vicente Padilla and Alfredo Aceves were able to put together scoreless eighth and ninth innings to get the Red Sox the win and bring them to 4-1 on the home stand and 8-2 in their last 10.

With the drama endlessly surrounding Bobby Valentine and the club, you'd never know it, but they are on fire right now. The Olney piece may turn out to be the best thing that happened this season.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Andrew Bailey's Rehab Slowed By Red Sox

OAKLAND, CA -  JUNE 17: Andrew Bailey #40 of t...
Injured Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey has been slowed down in his efforts to get back to the major leagues, according to Bobby Valentine.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
The Red Sox have slowed the progression of Andrew Bailey after the reliever threw 25 pitches off a mound today at Fenway and reported that his arm didn't feel good, according to Bobby Valentine.

Valentine says the issue is unrelated to Bailey's surgically repaired thumb that has kept him from making an appearance with the Red Sox this season. The skipper also says Bailey was already progressing "ahead of schedule."

Bailey was expected to return sometime in July, which would theoretically give the Sox bullpen a boost. Hopefully this doesn't turn into a bigger issue with the injury prone closer.

In other injury news, Carl Crawford was 0-3 with 2 BB in 5 AB while making his first rehab appearance in the Gulf Coast League. Jacoby Ellsbury has been taking batting practice with the team at Fenway on this homestand and is still expected to be ready at some point after the All-Star break.

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