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David Ross on bench-clearing dust-up: ‘I probably shouldn’t have yelled at the pitcher’

04.19.14 at 5:46 pm ET
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The moment spiced things up for a moment, but that was about it.

When both benches cleared in the Red Sox‘€™ 4-2 win over the Red Sox Saturday afternoon, it sent a buzz through the Fenway Park crowd. The game was still tied at the moment, Mike Carp was at first base with nobody out and David Ross was the hitter.

After three pitches from Bud Norris flew up and in to the Red Sox catcher –€“ who was attempting a sacrifice bunt on each offering — Ross took exception, yelling out at the Orioles pitcher. Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters and Ross proceeded to get in one another’€™s face, leading to the brouhaha.

But after the game, it was thought (at least in the Red Sox clubhouse) to be much to do about nothing.

“I think the guy at the time he kind of lost control of the strike zone a little bit. A couple pitches got away from him,” said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. “It’€™s a lot of adrenaline going on at the same time and my boy Rossy. He’€™s always a little hyper. The good thing is nothing happened we stayed right there. The situation could have gotten worse. It happens it’€™s part of the game.”

“There were three pitches that I think got away from Norris that ended up close to the head. I think that’€™s where the location of pitches that close up and in is where it might draw some reaction, which obviously it did,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “I’€™m not surprised we’€™re going to support and have each other’€™s back on the fight. Nothing really escalated from it but just a competitive moment. ”

“He’€™s just up in the zone more than usual for him,” Ross explained. “When you’€™re that good, it’€™s kind of getting picky but he’€™s really good, we’€™re glad he got the save, the more he gets out there the more comfortable he’€™ll be.”

Ross went on to explain why he had the continued reaction he did, getting in the face of Wieters.

“Yeah, I was telling him where I was at, and he was telling me where he was at,” the catcher said. “I definitely don’€™t think it was on purpose, just a natural reaction, three balls at my head. I probably shouldn’€™t have yelled at the pitcher.”

He added, “I think I’€™m sensitive to balls around my dome after having two concussions last year and missing two months. That may have been part of it. I think looking back, I’€™m usually not a guy who does that too often, but balls at my head — plus it was tough to see, late in the ballgame with the shadows. I think all that stuff, trying to get down the bunt probably played into it. We’€™ll turn the page and get after them tomorrow and try to win.”

Ross would ultimately strikeout, but Brock Holt ended up picking the catcher up by launching a run-scoring triple into the right-center gap on the very next at-bat.

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Closing Time: Brock Holt, Felix Doubront lead the way in Red Sox win over Orioles

04.19.14 at 4:24 pm ET
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Brock Holt turned in quite a game Saturday afternoon. (AP)

Brock Holt turned in quite a game Saturday afternoon. (AP)

It’s just been two games, but Brock Holt is certainly making his presence felt.

The newly-promoted third baseman followed up an impressive Friday night with the biggest hit of Saturday’s tilt between the Red Sox and Orioles at Fenway Park. Holt rifled a one-out triple into the right-center field gap in the seventh inning, scoring Mike Carp with the go-ahead run from second.

Holt proceeded to race in for the Red Sox’ fourth run on a perfectly executed bunt single down the first base line, getting in under the tag of Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters.

The end result was a 4-2 win for the Red Sox.

Earlier in the seventh, there was some spice added to the day when the benches cleared after David Ross took exception with Orioles pitcher Bud Norris coming close to his head on three bunt attempts. Neither collection of players got near each other, with Ross ultimately striking out two pitches later. The next batter up, Holt, however, offered the ultimate payback for the Red Sox.

Felix Doubront bounced back and gave the Red Sox a solid start, allowing two runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings. Doubront threw 106 pitches after tossing 33 in the first inning in the seven-strikeout, two-walk outing.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ eighth win of the season:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- The Red Sox knotted the game at 1-1 thanks in part to the Jonathan Schoop mishandling a grounder off the bat of Mike Napoli. If fielded cleanly, the Orioles might have been able to execute a 5-4-3, inning-ending double play. Instead, Dustin Pedroia — who drew his fourth walk in the last four games — came across to score.

-Holt continued to play stellar defense, this time charging and short-hopping a slow roller off the bat of Steve Lombardozzi to end the second inning.

- David Ortiz launched his third home run of the season in the fourth inning, giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. The blast curled around the right field foul pole and marked the designated hitter’s second hit of the day, having singled off the left field wall in the first.

- Pedroia reached base three times via a single, double and walk. It marked the third time this season the second baseman has reached that many occasions.

- The bullpen came through again for the Red Sox, with Junichi Tazawa holding the Orioles hitless through 1 1/3 innings and Koji Uehara picking up the save, striking out the side.

WHAT WENT WRONG

- Doubront allowed his first first-inning run of the season, giving up a two-out RBI single to Nelson Cruz, scoring Nick Markakis. After reaching via a leadoff singled, Doubront has allowed the leadoff hitter to face seven of 10 times.

- Doubront was cruising after the first until the sixth inning when the Orioles knotted the game at 2-2. Initially it appeared as though the lefty might escape his bases-loaded, two-out jam. But Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter was successful in his first challenge of the season, disputing Nelson Cruz initially being called out on a close play at first after his grounder down the third base line. It was the second RBI of the day for Cruz.

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Perfection for Brian Johnson; Garin Cecchini and the power question; Miguel Pena strikes out everyone

04.19.14 at 10:12 am ET
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Garin Cecchini hit his first homer since last July on Friday. (Salem Red Sox)

Garin Cecchini hit his first homer since last July on Friday. (Salem Red Sox)

It can be easy for pitching prospects to be forgotten in the lower levels of the Red Sox minor league system. After all, with a high-ceiling inventory of arms in Double-A and Triple-A, the line that has formed in front of those who remain in A-ball is long, creating the likelihood of a deliberate progression through the minors.

Yet just because they are at a greater remove from the big leagues does not mean that such pitchers aren’t an important part of the Red Sox future. And perhaps no Red Sox pitcher in A-ball is more likely to embody that notion than left-hander Brian Johnson.

The 2012 first-round selection out of the University of Florida — where he was the best two-way player in the country (a power-hitting first baseman to accompany his mound work) — Johnson was often forgotten in his first full pro season of 2013, in no small part because he struggled out of the gate after his first professional offseason was spent recovering from a line drive to the face. He couldn’t follow a normal strength program, and so he struggled with stuff and results early in the year in Single-A Greenville before landing on the DL with shoulder tendinitis.

But when he came back, Johnson showed some of the more interesting raw materials in the Sox system. The left-hander saw his velocity bump up, topping out towards the end of the year at 94 and 95 mph, while mixing in a diverse array of secondary offerings — curve, slider, changeup. None of the pitches graded as better than average last year, but the Sox believe the curveball could play up, and his feel for pitching suggests the future possibility of adding more weapons, such as a cutter.

The 23-year-old was one of the more impressive performers in spring training games, and given that he came from an elite college program and demonstrated feel for pitching, there were those in the Sox system who believed that, despite the slow progression in his first full pro season (when he spent almost all of 2013 in Greenville, moving up to Salem only at the very end of the year for two starts), he had a chance to accelerate his development pace going forward, much as Brandon Workman did after spending all of his first full pro season of 2011 in Greenville.

Johnson started slowly this year, getting tons of swings and misses (20 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings) in his first three starts — with his changeup having emerged as an intriguing weapon at times — but permitting 11 runs (7.24 ERA). But on Friday, he was nothing short of brilliant, firing six perfect innings with five strikeouts and seven groundouts while showing the ability to throw off-speed and breaking stuff in any count for strikes and working efficiently.

He recorded seven swings and misses with his curveball, but more significant than the quality of any single pitch was the way that he executed with his arsenal. He threw strikes with all four pitches, and did an impressive job of attacking inside with an 88-91 mph fastball with angle to open up the outer half of the plate for breaking stuff, notably both a quality changeup and a tight curveball with bite that, according to Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker, he’s had as a consistent putaway pitch in the early stages of the season. And he pounded strike after strike, in a way that caught the attention of Winston-Salem.

“At one point, we had thrown 120 pitches, and their guy had thrown 45,” Winston-Salem manager Tommy Thompson noted to the Winston-Salem Journal.

There are a lot of believers in Johnson in the Red Sox organization. While evaluators from other organizations last year came away underwhelmed — mostly on the basis of starts early in the year, before his velocity crept up — and saw a potential back-of-the-rotation starter, he’s shown enough in terms of his raw materials — the possibility of working comfortably with 91-93 or even 94 mph velocity, with a curve or change that can get swings and misses, to suggest the possibility of a durable mid-rotation presence who has a chance to become a very important part of the Red Sox‘ future.

Certainly, he’s further from the big leagues than pitchers like Workman and Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster and Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo, but there are times when it’s possible to imagine a future in which he *could* be more important than any of those pitchers. Friday’s 18-up, 18-down effort was one such moment.

A snapshot of the rest of the action in the Red Sox farm system on Friday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-3 LOSS VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS) Read the rest of this entry »

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Saturday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Felix Doubront vs. Bud Norris

04.19.14 at 9:14 am ET
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The Red Sox will head into the second game of their four-game series with the Orioles on Saturday when they send Felix Doubront to the mound against Bud Norris.

Doubront enters Saturday’€™s game after picking up his second consecutive loss of the season during a game against the Yankees on Sunday. The 26-year-old southpaw gave up three earned runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts during 6 2/3 innings on the mound. Two of those runs came on a two-run shot by Carlos Beltran during the third inning.

“He was good,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of Doubront’€™s performance (via MLB.com). “When he throws the ball over the plate, he’€™s as good as anybody. I think, what, two of the walks scored. It just drives his pitch count up. It puts him in situations he shouldn’t be in. Other than that, he threw the ball well.”

Doubront’€™s lone win of the season came in his first start — a game against the Orioles on April 3. The lefty lasted 5 1/3 innings while giving up three earned runs on six hits with one walk and four strikeouts. Boston went on to win the game 4-3. In 10 career appearances against Baltimore, Doubront has gone 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA and a WHIP of 1.29.

Unlike Doubront, Norris comes into Saturday’€™s game after tossing a gem against the Blue Jays last Saturday. The 29-year-old scattered five hits with three walks and four strikeouts over seven scoreless innings in what ultimately was an extra-inning win for the Orioles.

Norris last faced off against the Red Sox on Aug. 28, 2013, in a game that featured a late-inning Boston comeback. Norris got a no-decision after he gave up one earned run on four hits and four walks over 5 1/3 innings. Norris also compiled seven strikeouts. Once Norris left the game, though, the Orioles bullpen gave up three runs in the seventh and eighth, leading to a 4-3 Red Sox win. Overall, Norris has made just three starts against Boston. During those outings, Norris has accumulated a 4.15 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: John Lackey, Red Sox turn in uninspired performances in losing to Orioles

04.18.14 at 10:37 pm ET
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Brock Holt and the Red Sox fell behind early and could never catch the Orioles, Friday night. (AP)

Brock Holt and the Red Sox fell behind early and could never catch the Orioles, Friday night. (AP)

The Red Sox continue to hardly resemble the world championship team of a year ago.

This time their 8-4 loss to the Orioles was a combination of poor starting pitching, uninspiring defense, and the continued inability to mount significant offensive rally.

Perhaps the biggest concern coming out of the loss for the Red Sox was the second straight subpar performance by starter John Lackey. This time Lackey allowed six runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings. Perhaps most surprising were the four walks he issued, the most free passes by the righty since July 12, 3013 (the only time last season he walked as many as four).

The was almost identical to his previous outing, against the Yankees, in which Lackey gave up the same number of hits and runs, but while retiring one more batter.

Here is what went wrong (and right) for the Red Sox in their 10th loss of the season. (They didn’t manage their 10th defeat in ’13 until May 4):

WHAT WENT WRONG

- The Red Sox were faced with adversity right at the very first pitch, with Nick Markakis‘ looper down the left field line being ruled a fair ball for a leadoff double. Even though the replay appeared to show the ball landed just foul, the umpires told Red Sox manager John Farrell the view was inconclusive. Markakis would ultimately score on Adam Jones‘ two-out single.

- Lackey allowed the first runner to reach in five of his six innings.

- While no errors were charged to the Red Sox, their defense proved shoddy behind Lackey. The most egregious misplay came in the fifth inning when first baseman Mike Carp let Matt Wieters’ grounder go underneath him for an RBI single.

- While every member of the Red Sox starting lineup collected at least one hit, they also stranded 11 men. The Sox came into the game having stranded the third-most runners in the majors despite possessing just the 21st most total bases.

- Reliever Edward Mujica had his second straight tough outing, this time allowing the Orioles to tack on an eighth run thanks to Jonathan Schoop’s fourth hit of the night (an RBI double).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- A.J. Pierzynski threw out his third basestealer of the season (in 11 attempts), gunning down Matt Wieters by a healthy margin to end the second inning. As a team, the Sox catchers have caught four of their opponents 16 attempted basestealers.

- Pierzynski, who came into the game just 1-for-15 with men in scoring position, helped the Red Sox add a third run by placing a single into center to score Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia kicked off the scoring in the inning with an RBI single of his own, scoring Daniel Nava.

- Xander Bogaerts continued to impress offensively, reaching base three times thanks to an RBI single and a pair of walks. He did, however, get thrown out trying to stretch his seventh-inning blast off the left field wall into a double, limiting the Sox’ rally.

- Brock Holt showed great hustle in busting it down the line to beat out a routine ground ball, leading off the eighth inning. Holt was initially called out, but after going to the replay the umpires ruled the third baseman safe.

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Red Sox lineup: Grady Sizemore meets the Monster

04.18.14 at 5:55 pm ET
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Grady Sizemore will get his first career start in front of the Green Monster on Friday. (WEEI.com)

Grady Sizemore will get his first career start in front of the Green Monster on Friday. (WEEI.com)

A Red Sox lineup in a constant state of flux features another new wrinkle on Friday, as Brock Holt — recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket — will start at third base and bat ninth against Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman. Holt had been enjoying a tremendous start in Pawtucket, hitting .380/.446/.600 in 56 plate appearances.

The Sox lineup will also feature some additional wrinkles. David Ortiz has a scheduled day off, and so Mike Napoli will serve as designated hitter while Mike Carp plays first base. With Ortiz out, Dustin Pedroia is moving down to the third spot in the order, behind leadoff man Grady Sizemore (playing left) and Daniel Nava (playing right).

While Sizemore has seen time both in the leadoff spot and in left field this season, he has yet to play in his career in front of the fabled Green Monster. Sizemore received something of a crash course in playing the Wall from outfield and first base coach Arnie Beyeler on Friday afternoon, but Farrell didn’t attempt to pretend that there will be a degree of foreignness to Sizemore’s task.

“Grady has not played left field in this ballpark,” said Farrell. “We can’t go out and have so much repetition to get him comfortable with it this afternoon. He’s going to get some. But he’s in left field.”

RED SOX LINEUP

Grady Sizemore, LF

Daniel Nava, RF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

Mike Napoli, DH

Mike Carp, 1B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

A.J. Pierzynski, C

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Brock Holt, 3B

John Lackey, SP

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Red Sox notes: Red Sox call up Brock Holt, designate Ryan Roberts for assignment as Will Middlebrooks gets closer

04.18.14 at 5:38 pm ET
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The Red Sox designated Ryan Roberts for assignment on Friday. (AP)

The Red Sox designated Ryan Roberts for assignment on Friday. (AP)

When the Red Sox signed Ryan Roberts to help man third base in the absence of Will Middlebrooks, they sat on the cusp of a stretch where they’d face five left-handed starters in a 10-day span. Though the Sox went 4-1 in those contests, that was hardly a reflection of Roberts’ performance. The 33-year-old was just 2-for-19 with two singles and three walks, good for a .105/.227/.105 line, and with the Sox now arriving at a stage where they’ll face primarily right-handed starters, and with Middlebrooks moving closer to a return from the DL, the team elected to designate Roberts for assignment.

In his place, the team called up Brock Holt from Triple-A Pawtucket. Holt, who spent one day on the big league roster when Middlebrooks first landed on the DL, has been on a tear for the PawSox, hitting .380/.446/.600 with eight extra-base hits, five walks and three strikeouts in 56 plate appearances. The Sox immediately put Holt in Friday’s lineup.

“We felt like we needed to try to create a little bit of a jump-start to the offense. With the designation of Ryan, we got another lefthanded hitter here in Brock Holt,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “We’ve come through a stretch with seven lefthanded starters against us out of the past 10, and we’re kind of reversing that right now, going against primarily righthanders. We felt like we needed to try a different combination to attempt to spark that bottom third of the order.

“[Holt has] clearly earned the promotion here,” added Farrell. “When he was sent out, even after just one day of being here with the big-league club, he was initially disappointed, but he’s channeled that the right way and gone down and played very well on the left side of the infield.”

As for Roberts, Farrell suggested that he didn’t appear to be in sync after spending about 10 days at home following his release from the Cubs at the end of spring training. The Sox hope that the versatile Roberts will clear waivers and accept an assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket.

“We certainly want him to remain in the organization,” said Farrell. “We feel like he needs at-bats to get things going a little bit.”

As for Middlebrooks, he rejoined the Red Sox (he’d been sent home early from Chicago while struggling with the flu) and resumed baseball activities, including batting practice. Given the relatively limited time of his absence with the flu, the Sox are hopeful that Middlebrooks — who is eligible to come off the D.L. on Monday, but won’t be ready to do so at that point — will be ready to start a minor league rehab assignment in relatively short order.

“I don’t think [the flu] is going to delay Will in his eventual rehab assignment, which we’re still hopefully targeting sometime the middle of next week,” said Farrell.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

Shane Victorino remains on track to start his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday, followed by games on Monday and Tuesday, at which point he’ll be re-evaluated for potential activation from the disabled list.

Koji Uehara came through his return to the mound on Thursday (a scoreless ninth for the save against the White Sox), and Farrell said he’ll be available again on Friday.

– Farrell said that the fact that David Ross has caught all but one of Jon Lester‘s starts was a mere coincidence, a reflection of the fact that the Sox have faced left-handed starters on the day when Lester takes the hill. In the three games when Ross and Lester have been paired, the first was a day game after a night game against the Brewers, the second featured left-hander CC Sabathia on the mound for the Yankees and the third had Chris Sale on the mound for the White Sox.

“I wouldn’t look too deep into Lester and Ross hooking up all the time. It’s just been lefthanded starters the last two, three times out that they have connected,” said Farrell. “Going forward, we’ll look at the best matchup for who’s behind the plate.”

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