Boston Red Sox: Aaron Cook

Orioles make short work of Sox

September, 28, 2012

BALTIMORE -- One year to the day the Red Sox were eliminated from the 2011 postseason, losing to the Baltimore Orioles while the Tampa Bay Rays were pulling off miracles, revenge was not on the menu at Camden Yards. Boog's Barbeque was doing its usual brisk business, though.

The Red Sox will have two more shots this weekend at the Orioles, who are trying to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 15 seasons. Friday night was not the time for any score-settling, as the Orioles scored six times in the first inning, on a two-run home run by Chris Davis and a grand slam by Ryan Flaherty, to make fast work of Aaron Cook and the Red Sox 9-1.

The Sox were held to one hit, a bunt single by leadoff man Scott Podsednik to open the game, in falling to the Orioles for the 11th time in 16 meetings.

Podsednik bunted past the mound for his hit, took second when second baseman Flaherty threw wildly, advanced to third on a sacrifice by Pedro Ciriaco and scored on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly. That was all the Red Sox would manage against Orioles starter Chris Tillman and reliever Troy Patton.

With five games to play, the Sox are now 69-88, a loss away from matching the '92 Sox for the worst record since 1966, when the Sons of Billy Herman went 72-90.

The Sox are 7-17 in September, with a chance to eclipse the 7-20 mark that got Terry Francona fired a year ago.

The revenge motive didn't exactly burn fiercely in the Sox clubhouse. Only Ryan Lavarnway and Pedroia were in the starting lineup in Game 162 last season, when the Sox lost the only game all season in which they led after eight innings, the dearly departed Carl Crawford unable to make a sliding catch of Robert Andino's sinking liner off Jonathan Papelbon.

Action, reaction: O's streak, Sox skid

September, 22, 2012

BOSTON -- The Baltimore Orioles won their sixth consecutive game with a 9-6 victory in 12 innings over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday at Fenway Park. With the loss, the Red Sox increase their losing skid to four games.

The Orioles have now won 16 consecutive extra-inning games this season, while the Red Sox drop their record to 0-7 in extra-inning games at home this season.

With the game tied at 6-6, Red Sox reliever Alfredo Aceves came in to start the top of the 12th inning. The Orioles' Adam Jones led off with a double and later scored on Jim Thome's ground-rule, RBI double for a 7-6 lead, which proved to be the game-winning run. Baltimore then added an RBI single by Endy Chavez to gain a two-run lead. The Orioles continued to pile it on in the 12th as Manny Machado's RBI single produced the final margin.

"It's kind of like a box of chocolates right now, you never know what you're going to get," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said of Aceves. "He's got 94, he's got a breaking ball, he's throwing a cutter; he's just getting hit."

Boston could not respond in the bottom of the inning and suffered the loss. Orioles closer Jim Johnson collected his 47th save.

Red Sox starter Aaron Cook worked 5 1/3 innings and allowed five runs on nine hits with two walks and one strikeout. He tossed a total of 77 pitches (48 for strikes).

Baltimore gained a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning before the Red Sox responded in the home half when Ryan Lavarnway provided an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1.

In the top of the second, Machado collected an RBI single to give Baltimore a 2-1 advantage. Mark Reynolds led off the top of the fourth inning with a solo home run as Baltimore went up 3-1.

The Red Sox knotted the game at 3-3 when Danny Valencia crushed a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning.

In fact, Valencia is the 22nd player to homer for the Red Sox this season, tied for third-most in franchise history. Only the 2009 (24) and the 1996 (23) teams had more. Also, Valencia becomes only the fourth player to hit a home run for and against the Red Sox in the same season, joining Kevin Youkilis (2012), Mark Kotsay (2009) and Victor Martinez (2009).

Ryan Flaherty gave Baltimore a 5-3 lead with a two-run triple to deep center field in the top of the sixth inning. Teammate Adam Jones hit a solo homer to lead off the top of the seventh inning to give Baltimore a 6-3 lead.

Boston cut its deficit when it pushed across a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh. After Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow retired the side in order in the top of the eighth, Boston tied the game at 6-6 in the bottom half on Scott Posednik's RBI double.

The game remained in a stalemate until Baltimore scored three runs in the top of the 12th en route to its 16th extra-inning victory of the year.

WEB GEM: Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia turned in the defensive play of the game for Boston in the top of the third inning with Baltimore holding a 2-1 lead. With one out and a runner on first, Boston had the shift on when the Orioles' Jim Thome hit a weak ground ball to the right side of the infield. Shortstop Mike Aviles almost interfered with Pedroia, but the second baseman fielded the ball, ran about 15 feet to record the out at second, spun and made a strong throw to first to complete the unassisted double play.

"That was a spectacular play," Valentine said. "That's just a baseball player making a great baseball play. We had the shift on, slow hit ball that he had to get on a short hop, couldn't feed it to the shortstop coming back so he took it himself and turned it."

UP NEXT: The Red Sox send left-hander Felix Doubront (11-9, 5.08 ERA) to the mound on Sunday to face Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman (8-2, 3.22). For Doubront, this will be his 28th start of the season and has already worked a career-high 147 innings in 2012. This will be his first career start against the Orioles at Fenway Park.

Sox seem to be cratering in California

September, 1, 2012

OAKLAND -- The Boston Red Sox didn't do much on the field, and then they didn't have much to say about it afterward.

After Friday night's 20-2 loss to the Oakland A's put yet another embarrassing exclamation point on the disappointing season, the Red Sox retreated to their quiet clubhouse and gave a collective shrug of the shoulders.

"We got our ass kicked tonight," starter Aaron Cook said. "We feel bad about it. We're going to come out tomorrow and try to do better."

Dustin Pedroia wasn't interested in giving his state-of-the-team perspective after this one either: "There's really nothing to talk about. The score was 20-2."

When manager Bobby Valentine was asked to evaluate the effort, he had no complaints.

"I thought they were trying," Valentine said. "The balls were just falling in and going over the fence."

[+] EnlargeAaron Cook
AP Photo/Ben MargotAaron Cook gave up 6 runs in 2 2/3 innings, and that was barely the beginning of Boston's troubles.
When Valentine was asked if he needed to say anything to his club, he said only that "we're going to send a good pitcher [Felix Doubront] out there tomorrow and shut them down and give us a chance to score some runs, and not play from three or four runs back."

At this point, with the Red Sox now 12 games back in the wild-card race, the particulars are virtually irrelevant, but this one was so awful that it was noteworthy on a few accounts.

It marked Boston's worst loss since a 22-1 defeat to the New York Yankees on June 19, 2000. It was the most runs the Red Sox had allowed since Aug. 21, 2009, also against the Yankees.

And in the bigger picture, a fourth consecutive loss on this West Coast trip dropped the Red Sox to 62-71, nine games under .500 for the first time since July 18, 1997. That was the last season the Red Sox finished under .500, a feat they will almost certainly match this year. That team was nine games under on its way up, finishing just six games under. This team seems to be heading down.

The pitching has been the problem on this trip, with the Red Sox allowing 21 runs in the first three games, even before the Friday night debacle. Aaron Cook wasted little time in continuing that trend.

Although he got three outs in the first, they were all fly balls, and Valentine knew that was a bad omen.

"That wasn't his style," Valentine said. "He couldn't get the sinker down."

After that, the A's pounded Cook for four runs in the second, two on Josh Donaldson's two-run homer. They scored two more in the third before Cook trudged off the mound, his team trailing 6-0.

"I was leaving balls up to a pretty good hitting team," Cook said. "They are hot right now. They were hitting them on the barrel. It's not a good night."

It was a good night for one member of the Boston pitching staff, relatively speaking.

Daniel Bard made his return to a big league mound after two months at Triple-A to find himself. Having failed to make Bard a starter, the Red Sox sent him down to rediscover the stuff that made him one of baseball's best late-inning relievers. Bard gave up one run in his one inning of work, on a homer by George Kottaras.

"It wasn't the eighth inning with a one-run lead, but it's a lot bigger stage than where I've been pitching the last couple months," Bard said. "It was fun. I felt comfortable out there. I wasn't as sharp as I'd like to be, but I haven't pitched in four days. It was good to be back out there."

Bard had said his focus in the minors was on getting back to being the pitcher who dominated with an upper-90s fastball and a slider. His fastball was 93 mph on Friday.

"It wasn't perfect, but it is almost September," Bard said. "I feel like I worked really hard to get back here. Everything is not perfect and it's not where I want it, but I made some big steps in the right direction. Let's try to continue that the next month. I know I have to prove some things to some people. I'm ready to do that."

Searching for positives on L.A.'s big day

August, 26, 2012
[+] EnlargeMike Aviles
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesMike Aviles, center, celebrates his home run with Pedro Ciriaco, left.
BOSTON -- After the Red Sox traded away three stars and another known veteran in the trade that sent shockwaves throughout baseball, they brought in some minor leaguers to fill the roster spots and installed the fringy Aaron Cook to take Josh Beckett's vacated start.

This is the new era of Red Sox baseball, one no longer marked by star power at virtually every position and shiny sports cars in the players' lot to prove it. Or at least not as many.
In actuality, the blockbuster trade cannot be truly judged for years. In the interim, it will present the faithful with scenes like the one presented Saturday night at Fenway, where a ragtag bunch flirted with a rout, lost it all in inglorious fashion and then fought tooth and nail into the night before falling to a Kansas City Royals team careening toward its 10th straight losing season.

Meanwhile, 3,000-plus miles away, the Los Angeles Dodgers were trotting out their new toys like the rich kid at show-and-tell. Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat as a Dodger and curtain calls abounded for each new member of a team high on life, playoff hopes and the pay scale. Even Nick Punto, the bit player in the big deal, scored the last run in an 8-2 rout of Miami.

Again, the trade is just hours old. Los Angeles might miss the playoffs and find itself hamstrung by the big contracts in the coming years. Boston may rebuild quicker than expected. But for now, the dichotomy is striking.

That leaves the Sox finding the positives where they can. On Saturday, many came from those extras that have to fill the gaps and, perhaps, fight for a future in the organization. Mauro Gomez, never to be confused with Gonzalez, did his best impression with a home run of his own to go along with three singles. Pedro Ciriaco had two more hits and is batting .351 after 41 games with the club. Scott Podsednik had two of his own and is sitting at .375. And Cook put in a yeoman's effort on three days' rest and on a night in which Boston was already thin in the bullpen due to the Alfredo Aceves suspension.

"More than we expected," manager Bobby Valentine said of his emergency starter. "Cook got his ground-ball double plays when he had to. He gave us everything he had. Seventy pitches and six innings, pretty good."

Gomez and others keyed an offensive effort that gave the Sox a 9-3 lead after four innings. His homer kicked off a four-run second and he had run-scoring singles in the third and fourth. Cody Ross had hits in those two innings, including one to score Ciriaco.

The names are not flashy. The results sometimes aren't as well. Blowing a six-run lead at home to a team 14 games below .500 is downright disgusting. But the energy, which enabled the crowd at Fenway to exhibit more positivity and support than the club has seen in recent weeks, may be the first sign of a potential change in the culture, a change for which many have clamored. There was even a standing ovation during Gomez's at-bat to lead off the ninth in which he fouled off pitch after pitch before grounding out.

"I did see some relaxed play. Definitely a positive. We didn't come out flat like I would assume a lot of people thought we would after what went down earlier in the day," Ross said. "Came out ready to play, fired up."

It did not translate into success. In fact, the new era in Boston began in rather miserable fashion. Meanwhile, in L.A. it started with a bang. But in Chavez Ravine right now it is about dreaming big. In Fenway, it's all about the little things. It has to be.

Sox ponder whether to DL Doubront

August, 17, 2012
NEW YORK -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine did not rule out placing left-hander Felix Doubront on the 15-day disabled list retroactively if the team decides against using him until the end of next week.

Doubront, who has not started since Aug. 9, was scheduled to throw a 45-pitch bullpen session Friday, and will throw one more, of longer duration, if all goes well, before he is employed in a game situation. But if the Sox do not add him to the rotation for the Angels series, a DL move could be in the offing, which would allow the Sox to add another player in the interim.

It's possible the Sox are waiting to see whether they make a move with right-hander Aaron Cook, who reportedly was placed on waivers.

The Sox are mindful of Doubront's workload in his rookie season. He has made 22 starts this season and thrown 122 2/3 innings, after throwing just 87 2/3 innings in 2011, including 10 1/3 innings in Boston. The most innings he has ever worked in pro ball was 121 for Double-A Portland in 2009.

"He had a nice active rest period," Valentine said. "He had a little knee situation that we wanted to make sure cleared up. He'll be ready this next week to pitch. If we decide we don't need him until the end of the week, we might even take that amount of time."

Cook finds way to sink White Sox

July, 17, 2012
Although Aaron Cook did not get the win, he had another excellent start and continues to make history in the manner he's done it.

Cook allowed one unearned run on five hits over seven innings and has a 1.67 ERA in four starts since coming off the disabled list on June 24.

He did not record a strikeout or allow a walk, the second time he's done that this season, becoming the first Sox pitcher to register multiple starts of five-plus innings with no walks or strikeouts in the same season since Bob Stanley did it twice in 1979. He is the first pitcher to do it twice in a single season at Fenway since Ted Wingfield in 1925.

Cook also is the third Red Sox pitcher since 1918 (fifth time) to strike out two or fewer while walking one or fewer in five consecutive starts, joining Bill Lee (six in 1975 and 1977) and Jack Russell (five twice in 1929).

“Me and Beckett were kind of joking,” Cook said. “He’s got a streak of 200-something games consecutive with a strikeout. I’m going to work on going the other direction, see if I can get 200 without one.”

Cook's sinker was working Monday as 15 of the 21 outs he recorded came on grounders.

“That’s what he does. When you have that sinker, you pitch to contact,” Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “He’s not going to walk anyone. Very few guys are going to get on with a free pass. He’s going to pound that zone with a pitch that moves down to try to get them to hit the top of the ball."

Aaron Cook

Cook makes quick work of M's in shutout

June, 30, 2012
Aaron CookAP Photo/Ted S. WarrenAaron Cook celebrates his two-hit masterpiece with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
SEATTLE -- If the Red Sox are going to be competitive in the American League East, they are going to need competition among their starting pitchers.

If the past two games are any indication, they are getting just that.

Just 24 hours after lefty Franklin Morales threw seven shutout innings in what turned out to be a bottom-of-the-ninth 1-0 loss to Seattle, Aaron Cook came back and did him one better with a two-hitter in a 5-0 victory over the Mariners.

Cook's gem Friday night, combined with four homers in the toughest home run park in the AL, kept the Red Sox rolling with their 10th win in their past 13 games.

"That's a huge boost those two guys have given us," rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. "Morales came out last night and pitched great, and then Cookie comes out here and starts throwing that sinker.

"That's just what we need."

Cook, an All-Star with the Colorado Rockies back in 2008, has been battling injuries the past few seasons. He signed a minor league contract with the Sox just after the first of the year, then began the season in the minors.

[+] EnlargeAaron Cook
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenAaron Cook needed just 81 pitches in facing one batter over the minimum.
But on a team with three starters -- John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz -- currently on the disabled list (Beckett gets activated Saturday), being able to reach into the bullpen for Morales and into the minor leagues for Cook is huge.

"You can never have enough good pitching," manager Bobby Valentine said. "We're building competition here. We're building a good staff.

"We'd like to think we can give the ball to one of many guys and think we have the chance to win. Our pitchers have really gained a lot of confidence in our catching staff, especially with Jarrod [Saltalamacchia] and Kelly [Shoppach]."

While there is no guarantee that Cook will be a long-term member of the Boston rotation, the fact that he needed just 81 pitches to record his first shutout since 2009 suggests he will get multiple chances from Valentine to show it's not a fluke.

Injured much of the previous two seasons, Cook is healthy again and just salivating to get the chance to be the pitcher he believes he can be. His sinker was simply wicked, one reason Saltalamacchia kept calling it pitch after pitch.

The results were grounder after grounder. Only six of the 27 outs recorded by the Boston defense were hauled in by outfielders.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia made the play of the game, smothering perhaps the hardest-hit ball of the night off a Mariners bat and turning that Dustin Ackley bullet into a 4-6-3 double play.

"You know [the Mariners] are going to be aggressive, but I got into a really good rhythm early," Cook said. "I depend a lot on my defense, and they played great tonight.

"It's good to be feeling healthy and making my pitches again."

Asked about the fact that he needed just 81 pitches to get 27 outs, Cook laughed and blamed it on a "short attention span."

Saltalamacchia had trouble believing the game he was catching.

"I felt like I'd caught five innings," he said, "and I looked up at the board and it was the seventh inning. Cookie was going right after them.

"When you look at what Morales and Cookie have done the last two nights, that's a big bonus for us. There aren't too many teams that go through the season using just five [starting] pitchers. We're going to need these guys, and they're stepping up."

For the first 13 innings of this series, the Mariners' pitchers were stepping up, too. No Boston baserunner had crossed the plate Thursday against Felix Hernandez or in the first four innings Friday against Hector Noesi.

Middlebrooks changed that with one swing, launching his 10th homer to lead off the fifth. In the space of eight batters, Boston would hit four homers and a double, good for all five Red Sox runs.

"He hung a slider," Middlebrooks said. "It's as simple as that."

Once that one was in the books, Cody Ross, Daniel Nava and Saltalamacchia all contributed bombs to the Red Sox total.

Sox to use 6-man rotation 'til break?

June, 28, 2012
SEATTLE -- It seems as if Boston manager Bobby Valentine is ready to go with a six-man rotation from now through the All-Star break, which will be upon the Red Sox in just over two weeks.

The wild card in all this is the reintroduction of Josh Beckett, who hasn't started a game since June 11 while spending a stint on the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder.

He'll go on Saturday in the wake of Thursday starter Franklin Morales and Friday's arm Aaron Cook. Felix Doubront, who would otherwise have pitched Saturday, gets pushed back to Sunday.

That leaves Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester to take the first two games in Oakland Monday and Tuesday before Morales closes out the road trip against the A's.

"I think you really need 10 starters coming out of spring training," Valentine said. In addition to the five in the rotation, he'd like to have two or three potential starters in the bullpen and three or two more available at Triple-A.

"We haven't built that to the full 10 yet, but we're close."

And they are likely to get closer when Clay Buchholz, on the disabled list with a stomach illness, returns.

Buchholz, who spent part of Wednesday at a charity event without drawing the consternation of the Red Sox, is eligible to come off the DL the last day the team is in Oakland, but isn't likely to be activated until the team returns home next weekend.

Valentine: Cook 'more than I was hoping for'

June, 24, 2012
BOSTON -- On a day when Clay Buchholz was placed on the disabled list, Josh Beckett’s timetable was left open-ended and Daniel Bard had another rocky performance with Pawtucket, the Red Sox rotation was in need of another show of support.

Of course, Bard already has been removed from consideration for the starting rotation going forward, but the point is that three-fifths of the Opening Day rotation is not in the mix at the current time. Daisuke Matsuzaka has been pedestrian at best in his return to the starting staff in the wake of Bard’s demotion. Franklin Morales has performed exceptionally well after taking over for Beckett. Sunday it was Aaron Cook’s turn to step up.

While the final line was rather ordinary -- three runs and no strikeouts in five innings -- the Red Sox will take what Cook provided any day of the week, at least until the issues with Beckett and Buchholz are settled. Cook got the decision in a 9-4 win over Atlanta, his first victory since last August while with Colorado.

“Even a little more than I was hoping for,” manager Bobby Valentine said when asked to assess Cook’s contributions.

Cook had just one rehab start since going on the disabled list with a lacerated left knee suffered in his first start with Boston on May 5. He threw 66 pitches in that rehab outing and did not expect to get too far beyond that number on Sunday.

The righty finished with 79 pitches and should have an opportunity to increase the workload his next time out.

“I felt really good. It was nice to get out there and pitch some quality innings and get a win,” Cook said. “My sinker was working, my cutter was working.”

Cook said he feels about 85-90 percent in terms of his strength. Considering the state of things for others that began the year in this rotation, that will suffice.

Aaron Cook

Cook to start for ill Buchholz on Sunday

June, 23, 2012
BOSTON -- Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz has been scratched from his scheduled start Sunday due to illness, said manager Bobby Valentine.

The Sox announced that Aaron Cook, who was slated to start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday night but was scratched, will make the start for Boston on Sunday against the Atlanta Braves.

Buchholz was not at Fenway Park on Saturday. He's 8-2 with a 5.53 ERA in 14 starts this season.
PHILADELPHIA -- As a rule, catchers are probably the most like hockey players. Stitch 'em up and put 'em back in the lineup.

That was the case Saturday for Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who needed a dozen stitches to close a cut at the bottom and back of his left ear but was back in the lineup Saturday night to catch pitcher Jon Lester.

[+] EnlargeWill Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Howard Smith/US PresswireWill Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning.
Not only did he play, but Saltalamacchia homered, doubled and singled, scoring twice, while catching nine innings in Boston's 7-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

After the game, manager Bobby Valentine pulled out his cellphone.

"[Friday] night this is what Salty sent to me," Valentine said. "'Hey, Bobby, this is Salty. Everything came back good, had some stitches. The doctor cleared me to play. I'm good for tomorrow, plus I'm good to hit a bomb.'"

Calling your shot by cellphone may not become the stuff of legend like the Babe pointing in Wrigley Field, but hey, if it works, go with it. Saltalamacchia hit his sixth of the season in the fourth, going back-to-back with rookie Will Middlebrooks.

Which leads to the funky stat of the night: The Saltalamacchia/Middlebrooks combination now holds the distinction of longest combined last names (26 letters) to homer in a single game.

"That’s how I got to sleep last night," Valentine said of Saltalamacchia's reassuring note. "It's a tough roster playing in a National League park. Tough enough roster as it is."

Valentine already was going into the game short-handed with outfielder Cody Ross unavailable after fouling a ball off his left foot.

Saltalamacchia was injured Friday night in a freak play, when a pitch from Daniel Bard struck Ty Wigginton in the arm, caromed off Saltalamacchia’s arm, and struck him in the ear, an area that is not protected by his catcher’s mask.

"Weird, real strange," Saltalamacchia said of the play, which took place in the fifth inning Friday night. "The chances of it happening again are slim.

"I’m sore. I had stitches, but the doctors, everybody cleared me. They did a CT, all the concussion tests, I’m good."

Other injury updates:

Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-4 in Pawtucket Saturday while playing third base. He is expected to take Sunday off. A source said that Youkilis will rejoin the Red Sox Monday in Baltimore, though Valentine has not committed to that timetable publicly and said Saturday it would be useful for Youkilis to play nine innings in a game before returning.

Pitcher Aaron Cook was scheduled to throw a bullpen Saturday and have the stitches removed from his left knee. The next step for Cook will be a rehabilitation assignment.

Sox activate LHP Miller, place Cook on DL

May, 6, 2012
BOSTON -- Another day, another roster shuffle for the scrambling Boston Red Sox.

Aaron Cook, who needed 11 stitches to sew up a cut sustained on his left knee in a play at home plate Saturday, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday morning. Andrew Miller was activated off the DL and will serve as one of three left-handers in the Boston bullpen.

Cook took the start of the sidelined Josh Beckett in his Red Sox debut and was a candidate to make more starts as the club plows through a stretch of 20 games in 20 days. Alas, there was no way he would be ready to throw again in five or six days.

Manager Bobby Valentine said that there could be issues of infection if the stitches popped free while pitching. Also, Cook has had shoulder issues in the past. There is no reason to push the issue with him and perhaps wind up with a more serious injury, Valentine said. That explanation is a bit curious given the fact that Cook returned to Saturday’s game after cutting open his knee and proceeded to give up six additional runs before being pulled with two outs in the third.

There was one other big reason for the move to Miller on Sunday.

“We need help in the bullpen,” said Valentine, who has had his relievers throw 13 1/3 innings in the last couple of days.

Enter Miller, who was rehabbing from a strained left hamstring suffered in spring training. Miller made 10 relief appearances for Pawtucket. Depending on which number you look at, he was either awesome or poor -- Miller had a 5.73 ERA and walked an alarming 14 men in 11 innings for the PawSox, but he struck out an equally alarming 23 batters and yielded only four hits.

The 26-year-old feels that the control problems were notable early on in the rehab stint and that he is beyond that. He walked five and gave up only two hits in the last 6 2/3 innings for Pawtucket.

“I pitched twice in Toledo, once two innings, once one inning, and both of them went great,” he said, referring to his most recent outings. “Those are fresh. Those are recent. I hope to carry that along.
“I had two outings that didn’t look good statistically in the middle, and one of them I felt pretty good coming out of. However many appearances I had, looking back, I gave up a two-run homer and I had one outing that I thought was pretty terrible from the get-go, so I’ll take it.”

Miller was 6-3 with a 5.54 ERA in 17 games for Boston last season. Twelve of those appearances came as a starter. That will not be the case this time around.

“I’ve felt good coming out of the bullpen so far. I’m interested to see how it goes for an extended period of time,” he said. “I’ve always been out there as a long guy or gotten inconsistent innings. I’m just looking forward to getting a chance to contribute and help us win some games.”

Miller’s 30-day allotment for rehab was just about to expire, so the move comes at a natural juncture for the club. Valentine said that Miller will be the “first left-hander out of the bullpen,” likely appearing before Rich Hill and Franklin Morales and primarily facing left-handed hitters. Miller held lefties to a .063 average and struck out 13 against just three walks.

In other clubhouse news, Kevin Youkilis has begun a “walking program,” according to Valentine. Youkilis is walking just fine, of course, but he will incorporate structured movements forward and backward and “getting into the pelvic movement that’s needed.”

“He’s progressing. He’ll stay back and not come with us because he doesn’t need the plane ride for his back and he has rehab being done here,” Valentine said.

Aaron Cook's ugly, painful debut buries Sox

May, 5, 2012
Aaron CookMark L. Baer/US PresswireThis play at the plate gave the O's a 1-0 lead and spelled doom for Aaron Cook and the Red Sox.
BOSTON -- Aaron Cook had a few goals in mind when he made his Boston Red Sox debut Saturday.

He wanted to prove to the Sox organization that it had made a wise move in keeping him from exercising his May 1 opt-out clause and bringing him up to Boston for a spot start in place of injured Josh Beckett (strained lat).

The veteran right-hander also wanted to go deep into Saturday's game against Baltimore at Fenway Park to lighten the load for the tired bullpen, which had worked seven innings in a 13-inning loss on Friday night.

But 2 2/3 innings, eight hits, seven runs and 11 stitches in his gashed left knee later, Cook was unable to meet any of his goals, saddled with an 8-2 loss as the Red Sox's mystifyingly horrendous season at home continued.

[+] EnlargeAaron Cook
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesAaron Cook needed 11 stitches after cutting his knee on Chris Davis' spike.
Boston has dropped four in a row at Fenway and an astounding 9 of its past 10 this season. The Red Sox, who generally feast on the opposition at home, are a feeble 4-9 at suddenly Unfriendly Fenway.

Analyzing Cook and his future on the staff is difficult after this outing, especially in light of his injury, which occurred when he was covering home plate on a passed ball in the second inning.

To that point, Cook, whose previous 10 years in the big leagues had been spent with the Colorado Rockies, had looked solid. He's a sinkerballer whose fastball didn't get above 89 mph, and his ball was sinking. He retired the first five batters he faced, four on routine groundouts. But after two-out singles by Chris Davis and Wilson Betemit he threw a fateful pitch, another sinker.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was unable to block the pitch with Davis at third base. Saltalamacchia's technique wasn't the best; he tried to knock it down with the palm of the mitt facing down rather than trying to get the glove down on the ground and the palm of the glove up.

The ball squirted under Saltalamacchia and rolled a little bit away from him. He pounced on it and threw to Cook at the plate as Davis slid in. Davis was safe, and Cook got spiked, a misfortune that wound up having huge implications in the game.

"I landed on the top of his back spike," said Cook, his left knee bandaged as he met the media after the game.

"At first I didn't think it was too bad. Salty looked at it and said it was bleeding. I was bleeding all down my pant leg," said Cook, who signed a minor league deal with the Sox last offseason.

"Basically I could see the whole inside of his leg," said Saltalamacchia. "Tendons, ligaments. It was pretty nasty."

Trainer Brad Pearson came out with manager Bobby Valentine. Cook limped into the Red Sox dugout and Valentine called for Clayton Mortensen to come in. The reliever made it to the field and went into the Sox dugout, ready to enter the game, but Cook elected to try to continue after the medical staff wrapped up the knee.

"I thought about taking him out immediately," said Valentine. "I brought a guy in from the bullpen. The medical staff said he would be fine. They were wrapping it up. So I said, 'Cookie, it's on you. If you can pitch, throw. If not, let us know.'"

Cook jogged back to the mound, took a few warm-up tosses and elected to give it a try. He retired the batter he was facing, ending the inning and keeping it a 1-0 deficit on the unearned run.

But the roof fell in on Cook and the Sox during a seven-run third-inning explosion by the Orioles. Cook was banged around for six hits in the inning, including a mammoth two-run homer over the Green Monster by Adam Jones, and Clayton Mortensen let both of the inherited runners score on Mark Reynolds' three-run bomb into the Monster seats that put Baltimore on top, 8-0.

In the third inning, Cook's pitches were up, and given the fact they had little velocity, he was basically throwing batting practice.

"After (getting spiked) it seemed like his sinker wasn't what it should be," said Valentine.

"I was surprised he went back out there after that injury," said Saltalamacchia. "His sinker was up and with a sinkerball pitcher that's never good."

Cook went 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in five starts in Pawtucket, forcing the Sox to either promote him or likely lose him to another organization because of his May 1 opt-out clause. But on Saturday, he was just trying to suck it up, pitch through it and help the team. That showed toughness, but the plan didn't work.

"I felt good the first two innings (before getting spiked)," said Cook, 33, who got the stitches after he came out of the game. "To be honest, I kind of felt like my leg was a little numb (after getting spiked). I was throwing all arm and that caused the ball to be flat and up in the zone. It was one of those days.

"I wanted to try to eat up more innings. The bullpen was taxed (Friday night). At the end of the day I'm not sure that was the best decision, but that's what I wanted to do (by staying in the game)," said Cook.

What will happen in the coming days for Cook is a mystery. He will likely be off his feet as much as possible to help the gash heal. When he'll be able to resume throwing and what his role might be is unknown. In the meantime, Cook, whose career has been sidetracked at times by a broken leg, a broken finger and shoulder trouble, will try to be the best teammate he can be.

"It's frustrating, but there are things that are out of your control," said Cook. "I'll try to come in with the best smile on my face and encourage the guys and see how it goes."

Aaron Cook

Rapid Reaction: Orioles 8, Red Sox 2

May, 5, 2012

BOSTON -- Things could not have gone any more smoothly with the first five batters that Aaron Cook faced Saturday in his Boston Red Sox debut.

The veteran sinkerballer, filling in for Josh Beckett (strained lat) in a spot start, retired all five of those Orioles, four on ground balls, which seemingly was a good sign. It looked as if Boston had made a good move in adding Cook to the roster, keeping him from exercising the opt-out clause in his contract after a dazzling month in Pawtucket.

That's when the roof fell in on Cook and the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The next 11 Baltimore batters Cook faced went 8-for-10 with a walk, ultimately knocking Cook out of the game with two outs in the third inning, five runs already in, two runners on base and the Orioles boasting a 5-0 lead. One of those hits was a mammoth two-run homer over the Green Monster by Adam Jones.

And Cook's ERA took a further beating when Clayton Mortensen, who replaced Cook, was greeted by Mark Reynolds' three-run homer into the Monster seats, expanding Baltimore's advantage to 8-0, prompting a smattering of boos from the Fenway faithful.

By the time the game came to an end, the Red Sox were losers again at home, by 8-2. Boston has lost 9 of its last 10 games at Fenway, including the last four in a row on this homestand in falling to 11-15 overall for the season.

[+] EnlargeAaron Cook
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesAaron Cook got spiked on the game's first run in the second inning, and knocked out in the third, when the O's scored seven more.
Cook's day began taking a turn for the worse when Chris Davis ripped a two-out single off the wall in the second inning. Davis moved to third on Wilson Betemit's line single to center. One pitch later, Cook suffered a gash just under his left knee while covering the plate on a passed ball.

The Orioles' Chris Davis slid home safely and somehow, either on Davis' cleat or on the front edge of the plate, Cook was cut, sparking a little drama at Fenway. After being attended to by trainer Brad Pearson and checked out by manager Bobby Valentine, Cook limped to the dugout and Valentine called in Mortensen.

But before Mortensen got to the mound to throw a pitch, Cook re-emerged from the dugout and returned to the mound, with Mortensen running back to the bullpen for the time being.

Cook, who spent the first 10 years of his big league career in Colorado, then retired Mark Reynolds on a bouncer to third, ending the inning and keeping it a 1-0 deficit on an unearned run.

The third inning, though, was another nightmare for the struggling Sox. After a lineout, a bunt single, a walk and a caught-stealing on the front end of a double steal, it still was a 1-0 game with two outs and Cook was facing Nick Markakis.

Cook couldn't keep the ball down, though, and when your fastball tops out at 89 mph, as Cook's does, that constitutes batting practice at the big league level if it's not located well.

Markakis ripped an RBI single to center. Jones crushed a hanging, belt-high, 79 mph breaking ball for his two-run homer. Matt Wieters doubled to right-center. Davis lined a single to left. Betemit grounded an RBI single to right and that was it for Cook.

Mortensen did Cook no favors by serving up Reynolds' homer, inflating Cook's Red Sox E.R.A. to 20.25, a far cry from the 3-0 record and 1.89 E.R.A. he compiled in five starts for Pawtucket as he tries to bounce back from shoulder woes that were a factor in his 3-10 record and 6.03 ERA for the Rockies last year.

SALTY PEPPERED: In general, Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a tough day behind the plate for the Sox.

First, Cook almost got hurt because Saltalamacchia did not use the best form in trying to block a ball that barely grazed the dirt with two outs and runners at first and third. Saltalamacchia slapped at the ball with his mitt with his palm facing down instead of turning his glove palm up to protect the space between his legs.

Saltalamacchia did get some leather on the ball, but it squirted between his legs because the catcher left open space in that area. The ball didn't roll very far away, but Davis was able to beat Saltalamacchia's throw to Cook, who suffered a gash just below his left knee on the play.

Saltalamacchia's technique was better when Cook bounced a ball in front of him in the third, but the tough-to-handle bouncer got away from him for a wild pitch, allowing Endy Chavez to move from first to second.

But Saltalamacchia uncorked a strong throw to third base, nailing Chavez on the front end of an attempted double steal in the inning, though the Orioles ultimately scored seven runs in the third.

Saltalamacchia heard some boos when he was unable to catch a foul popup down the third-base line in the fifth. He went a decent distance for the ball and seemed to lose it in the glare. To be fair, it would have been a tough play for any catcher to make. It was the third baseman's ball, but Nick Punto, playing third, had been shifted over toward shortstop because of the hitter (Davis), so he wasn't able to cover enough ground to call off the catcher.

No error was charged on the play.

DECEIVING LINE: At first glance, Mortensen's pitching line looks pretty decent. He worked 3 1/3 innings, allowing only two hits and one run. He also whiffed five.

Unfortunately for Mortensen and the Sox, the first batter he faced, Mark Reynolds, clubbed a three-run homer, taking out whatever air might have been left in the Red Sox's balloon. That blow made it an 8-0 game in the third inning.

Otherwise, Mortensen turned in a second straight strikeout-filled performance since being promoted from Pawtucket on Wednesday. The right-hander, featuring a repertoire of changeups and split-finger fastballs, kept the Orioles off-balance, as he had the Athletics last Wednesday.

In two appearances Mortensen has fanned 11 in only 6 1/3 innings. Only Reynolds solved him Saturday. Reynolds had the other hit, too, a double.

GONZO'S BACK: Adrian Gonzalez, who snapped an 0-for-18 skid on Friday night, notched his second straight three-hit game on Saturday.

Anderson sent down; Cook on way?

May, 2, 2012
BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington walked through his team’s clubhouse late Tuesday night, only briefly indicating to waiting reporters that he did not have any news on Aaron Cook, who had the right to opt out of his contract if he wasn't on the big-league roster as of May 1, which he wasn't.

However, Cherington did confirm that he had created an opening for Cook.

Outfielder/first baseman Lars Anderson was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket following Boston’s 5-3 loss to Oakland. The move will be made official Wednesday, when a corresponding move will be made, most likely involving Cook.

Anderson struck out in the midst of a two-run rally in the ninth inning Tuesday. He went 1-for-7 since being recalled last week.

Before Anderson emerged for that at-bat, the injured Kevin Youkilis was seen on the dugout steps with a batting helmet and a bat. Manager Bobby Valentine admitted he had no intention of using Youkilis, but rather was hoping to force A’s manager Bob Melvin to bring in a right-hander.

“No, he wasn’t available,” Valentine said of Youkilis, who has missed three straight games with a sore back. “I was just using everything I had. It was just sort of a decoy. Didn’t work very well did it?”

Moments later, Anderson went down swinging and the rally fizzled when Dustin Pedroia grounded to second with the tying runs on base.

Prior to the game, the Red Sox recalled shortstop Jose Iglesias and optioned reliever Junichi Tazawa. That left them with just 11 pitchers, two fewer than the total they carried to begin the season.