Boston Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia

A feel-good opening day at Fenway South

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The day dawned under a blanket of ominous gray. The sun would ultimately break through, but even if it hadn’t, there would be something transcendent about this day at Fenway South.

It's not every day that a woman dresses up in a baseball uniform and ends up getting tips on nail polish and manicures from a knuckleballing pitcher. It's not every day that a fan flies 2,708 miles just to see a Panda Bear. It's not every day that Dustin Pedroia answers questions from two distinguished Marines who want to know about that scar on his right arm. And it sure isn't every day that The Spaceman touches down.

Outside the clubhouse, just after 9 a.m. on the first day of full-squad workouts for the Boston Red Sox, Staff Sgt. David Foraker and Sgt. Ron Michael Abeleda stood tall in their freshly pressed dress Marine uniforms. Their visit, which included meeting Pedroia and Mike Napoli, was sponsored by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital's Home Base Program, dedicated to serving veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan who are experiencing signs of combat stress or traumatic brain injury.

[+] EnlargeRed Sox & Marines
Michael Ivins/Boston Red SoxMarines Ron Michael Abeleda and David Foraker visited with Mike Napoli, Sox chairman Tom Werner, New Balance general manager of sports marketing Mark Cavanaugh and Dustin Pedroia.
"First time I've been here," said Foraker, who lives in southwest Florida. "You walk through the gates and you can smell the grass. Just seeing the facilities is outrageous. We heard that the field over there is the exact size of Fenway. Those are just cool facts to know. I couldn't be more excited to be here. You get starstruck. Right when they came out, I was like, 'Oh, gosh. There they are.' Napoli had a great beard."

After meeting Pedroia and learning that a scar on his right arm was caused by a falling toy while playing with his daughter, Abeleda said, "Just being with them, you see they're just like us. Just very simple guys. They love what they do, just like we love what we do, and you love what you do. We're all just proud to be here together."

Over on Field 3, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval -- aka "The Tres Amigos" -- went through stretching exercises, organized in the row the way they probably will be on manager John Farrell's lineup card on game day.

Near the fence just in front of them, Bianca de la Garza mimicked their movements in front of a video camera. Wearing a ballgirl's red jersey and white pants, she looked into the camera and said, "Steven Wright's going to teach me how to throw a knuckleball today. Good luck with that."

De la Garza, 39, signed off as news anchor for WCVB-TV Channel 5 in May 2014 to develop entertainment programming under her new company, Lucky Gal Productions LLC. She's in camp to film segments for her show, "Bianca Unanchored," which airs every Saturday night.

"It's spontaneous," she said later. "They put me in all situations and I just go with it. It's a cool format. It's me kind of out there, boots on the ground. It's been a thrill. This has been a real tough winter in New England, and people are dying for Opening Day."

Her segment with Wright, a 30-year-old journeyman knuckleballer who resurrected his career two years ago when the Red Sox signed him, was a real eye-opener for her.

"His nails were better than mine," she said, laughing heartily. "I need a manicure, next to his. They look great. They're short, squared, shiny. He told me he uses 'Hard As Nails' on two fingers. He doesn't cut his nails, just files them.

"These are the types of hard-hitting questions you get on 'Bianca Unanchored.' What’s your hair product? Do I look official enough as a ballgirl? You've got to have fun. I think they actually enjoy it, I think because the media is so hard on sports. They like to loosen up a little, and it's a good setting. They have a ton of personality. This team is built on it. It's going to be fun to watch and see how it comes together."

Later on, in the clubhouse, Wright was asked about the knuckleball lesson. He paused a few seconds, trying to formulate a genteel way to describe it.

"I mean, she tried," he said. "She tried hard. She wasn't hurt. She understood the concept, but it's a pitch that not everybody can do. There are guys who have pitched 20 years in the big leagues that can't throw it, so to have somebody who's not really thrown a baseball to throw a knuckleball, it's a little different."

Over on Field 4, it was a learning experience for Ramirez. The last time he was with the Red Sox, they trained near City of Palms Park. Now, they're at the $80 million Fenway South complex, with players moving from field to field through labyrinthian tunnels created by fence openings and yellow rope to keep the mob of spectators in line.

"Hanley!" Farrell yelled. When he got Ramirez's attention, Farrell motioned for Ramirez to leave through the third-base dugout rather than first base.

Sandoval appeared to have the whole maze figured out. Or maybe he was just following Ramirez.

As Sandoval headed in that direction, a fan shouted from behind the fence, and he acknowledged her with a wave and a smile.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz shares a laugh with Hanley Ramirez near the batting cage.
Jacqueline Pereira, 42, knows Panda and also has a PANDA KNOWS baseball cap. That's not all she has. She carries in her purse a picture taken with Sandoval at the Omni Hotel near Petco Park in San Diego. She also has a furry Panda hat, which was noticed by Vin Scully during a Dodgers-Giants broadcast a year ago, inspiring a Scully quip that went something like, "Very attractive, my dear."

Pereira flew from Southern California on Sunday, spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Fenway South and was scheduled to fly out late Wednesday. She's a Giants fan but probably an even bigger Panda fan. Now that Panda is in the American League, she plans on booking trips to Oakland, California, in May and Anaheim in August to see him.

"Panda knows me from seeing him at the Dodgers games," she said. "Every time the Giants come to L.A., I'm always there. For the last two years, I've been to every game there. I met him in San Diego two years ago, and he knows I'm a familiar face wherever he's at."

"I'm harmless," she said, clarifying her status as a nonstalker.

Harmless, but saddened at the change of address for Sandoval.

"I'm torn," she said. "Yeah, I'm torn. All my friends ask me, because they know how dedicated I am to Panda, 'So, are you a Red Sox fan now?' I'm like, 'No, I'm a Panda fan.'

"He's so entertaining to watch. He exudes an aura. There's something about him that really makes it fun. I am excited that he is here for you guys. I'm excited that the Bostonians seem to be embracing him as well. I wasn't sure how that was going to go over at first with the Panda stuff, but it looks like it’s taking off."

Well, maybe, but not at the souvenir stand. Panda-mania had not yet commenced. They're selling a Panda Bear cap -- featuring 10-inch flaps, each holding a baseball -- for $15. But as of late in the workout, there were no takers.

"There has been some interest," Joseph Knoll said. "Some people have asked about them, but I have not sold any yet."

Over on Field 3, ESPN's Karl Ravech and Curt Schilling did a live feed for "SportsCenter on the Road." The sight of Sandoval and Ortiz launching shots onto the metal roof of the batting cage in right field seemed to impress them.

"You get the sense that this is real," Ravech said.

The mood was jovial, with Sandoval video-bombing an interview being conducted with Ramirez. When Ortiz came over to join them, Ravech had to remind Ortiz, "Now that we're on live TV, whatever you're saying is going through that little mic there."

In the end, when the fans had started to stream for the exit gate and Schilling had satisfied a moving, pushing, autograph-seeking throng, a bearded former player strolled slowly down the sidewalk near the clubhouse, carrying two bats in his right hand, a bit of a hitch in his 68-year-old giddyup.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee is always welcome here.

Pedroia weighs in on pace-of-play rules

February, 21, 2015
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Dustin Pedroia had a ready quip when asked about the changes Major League Baseball is implementing in terms of pace of play.

"My kids go to bed at 8, so I’m not in a rush," the Red Sox second baseman said. "I don’t make the rules, I don’t break them. So that’s where I’m at."

New Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan was asked whether he feels compassion for the umpires who will have to ask David Ortiz to keep one foot in the batter’s box.

"Honestly, that’s a good question," he said. "That’s going to be a tough thing for those guys to enforce. Those guys are always telling us to try to keep things going. I don’t think [hitters] are intentionally trying to slow things down, but now the [umpires] obviously will have more responsibility, and gives them more power in the game."

Farrell extension music to Pedroia's ears

February, 21, 2015
Feb 21
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Dustin Pedroia and John Farrell go way back.

Pedroia arrived in Boston in 2006. A year later, the Red Sox hired Farrell as pitching coach. They admired each other’s work ethic for the three years Farrell served in that job, with Pedroia winning the American League Rookie of the Year in 2007 and the MVP in 2008. Farrell left in 2011 to manage the Blue Jays but returned in 2013 as manager and led the Red Sox to the World Series title.

So when Pedroia learned Saturday morning that the Red Sox had given Farrell a contract extension through the 2017 season (with a club option for 2018), Pedroia was ecstatic.

“Obviously, we won the World Series with him and then had a tough year last year, but he’s always been consistent,” Pedroia said. “And that’s all you can want -- always communicates well, and we appreciate that.”

Pedroia talks about Farrell as an important mentor and confidante, not just a manager writing names on a lineup card, making strategic moves and orchestrating roster changes.

“John’s awesome,” Pedroia said. “He’s always that guy you can go to and talk (to about) any kind of problems. He’s there for you. He wants you to be the best you can be as a player, and if you have something going on off the field you can always go to him. Obviously, me and him have a great relationship. So I’m happy he’s going to be here.”

Asked how important the trust issue is, he said, “It’s very important. If he tells you you’re going to play and then you don’t, you’re probably not going to like him. No, but he’s been great.”

Pedroia said the players haven’t been losing any sleep over Farrell’s status as manager because they’re just trying to do their jobs and rebound from a disastrous 2014 season.

“But obviously, this is nice,” he said. “It’s the first I’ve heard of it. I’m obviously happy for him. It’s great.”

Ramirez, 'Smurf' Pedroia get reacquainted

February, 21, 2015
Feb 21
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Newly arrived Dustin Pedroia had just finished speaking with a cluster of reporters in the Red Sox clubhouse Saturday morning when a familiar voice greeted him from the other side of the room.

“Hey Smurf," said Hanley Ramirez.

“Don’t be short-hopping any throws to me," Pedroia shot back with a smile as he went over to embrace Ramirez, Pedroia’s teammate in Double-A Portland 10 years ago. Pedroia, who had been drafted as a shortstop by the Sox in 2004, was moved to second base to make way for Ramirez.

The team’s double-play combination of the future never materialized, as Ramirez was traded that Thanksgiving, 2005, to the Florida Marlins. But in the decade since, each player has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments.

Ramirez was the National League Rookie of the Year for the Marlins in 2006, has been an All-Star three times and won two Silver Sluggers as his league’s best hitter at his position.

Pedroia was the American League Rookie of the Year for the Red Sox in 2007 and the AL MVP in 2008. He has been an All-Star four times, won four Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger.

The biggest difference in their career arcs? Pedroia has two World Series rings and has played his entire career for one team. Ramirez has yet to win a ring and has played for three teams, having been traded to the Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers before signing as a free agent with the Sox this winter.

“The offense, there’s obviously going to be a lot of upgrades," Pedroia said, referring to the addition of Ramirez and free-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval. “Our job is to figure out how to hit together."

One of the biggest potential upgrades, in addition to the newcomers, is a healthy Pedroia, whose contributions at the plate have diminished the past two years in the wake of thumb and wrist injuries. Pedroia had surgery last Sept. 11 on the wrist, and the extra recovery time has allowed him to have a normal offseason of weightlifting and conditioning.

"The fact is, Dustin’s had a great offseason," manager John Farrell said. “We shut him down early last year to give him time to get ahead with the rehab after the surgery. He’s in camp full strength ... when we look back, the last couple of years probably had some effect on his overall bottom line.

"A healthy Dustin Pedroia is a strong addition, even above and beyond what he’s done the last couple of years."

Being reminded of any shortcomings, whether due to injury or not, clearly doesn’t sit well with Pedroia, who has made a career of shredding doubters. It sounds like this season will be no exception.

"I like it," he said of the high expectations placed upon him and his teammates. "If you don’t perform well as a team, there are consequences.

"I don’t mind if you guys [media] get on me. It doesn’t bother me. Over the years I don’t really have any feelings anymore, so it doesn’t matter. Nobody’s harder on your team or yourself than you. You got to look in the mirror."

Farrell said the Red Sox have no intentions of reining in Pedroia’s aggressive style, other than to try to eliminate head-first slides into first base from his repertoire. That’s how he tore thumb ligaments in the first game of the 2013 season, and his subsequent wrist issue was related to that injury.

Farrell did say the Sox may try to give Pedroia a little more time off, noting that Brock Holt could play second base on occasion. He insists that the 31-year-old Pedroia is on board with that possibility, though a guy who has played 154 or more games in a season four times in his nine years in the big leagues hardly qualifies as a willing candidate to get more time off.

"I’m ready to play," Pedroia said. "I’m healthy, excited to do what I do."

Dustin Pedroia, warmer weather arrive

February, 21, 2015
Feb 21
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good morning from the Fort, where Dustin Pedroia showed up -- and so did some semblance of spring weather.

Friday’s shocking beginning -- the morning low of 35 degrees set an all-time record for Feb. 20 in Fort Myers and was colder than the Alaskans experienced in Juneau -- will be a distant memory, with a morning temperature of 44 bursting into 77-degree glory. Sunscreen is not optional today.

Twenty-nine Boston Red Sox pitchers and six catchers are going through their first workouts today at Fenway South, and fans are allowed into the back fields for the first time.

What will they see?

Well, they’ll get their first look at right-hander Rick Porcello and left-hander Wade Miley, who were acquired in offseason deals and will occupy 40 percent of the starting rotation. Porcello and Miley will pitch in a bullpen session with Clay Buchholz.

Koji Uehara, who was signed to a two-year, $18 million deal to continue as closer, will do long toss along with fellow relievers Craig Breslow, Brandon Workman and knuckleballer Steven Wright.

On Fields 3, 4 and 6, non-throwing pitchers -- including Joe Kelly, Justin Masterson, Junichi Tazawa, Alexi Ogando and Edward Mujica -- will field comebackers, cover first and handle bunts.

Catchers will take batting practice in 15-minute groups, with Christian Vasquez, Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart in the first group and Luke Montz, Humberto Quintero and Matt Spring in the second.

Dustin Pedroia predicts big things for 2015

January, 24, 2015
Jan 24
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MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- It’s not often an owner gets to do some trash-talking about a player, and Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner wasn’t about to pass up the chance. That’s how Dustin Pedroia found himself on the other end of a pingpong table facing one of his bosses at Saturday’s “Baseball Winter Weekend" at Foxwoods.

"They kind of blind-sided me with that," Pedroia said. "I haven’t played in like three years, but they said the owner’s playing and he’s telling TV he’s going to kick your ass, so I guess I’d better get down there.

"I played with him for a little bit, then I got my timing down and started spanking balls."

Clearly, a three-year layoff didn’t affect his forehand smash as Pedroia disposed of Werner. And now, after two straight years of surgery on his left hand related to his thumb, the Red Sox second baseman unabashedly predicts that baseballs will be jumping off his bat the way they did before he was hurt.

"The big difference, I got a chance to lift weights," Pedroia said. "My upper body, it’s been awhile. It kind of shriveled up, you know. Not anymore.

"That's part of what makes me good, being able to work out in the offseason and build up, maintain it over the year and always stay on my lifting program. Last year I couldn’t lift a dumbbell. I lifted [with] my legs. My legs were strong, defensively I was fine because my legs were strong. But the upper body, if you can’t do the things you want to do, you’re not going to have the bat speed you normally have. That’s changed."

Pedroia’s offense has declined in each of the past four seasons, from an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .861 in 2011 to .797 in 2012, .787 in 2013 and a career-low .712 last season, which ended for him Sept. 11 when he underwent an operation on his left hand with the cumbersome name of FirstDorsal Compartment Release with Tenosynovectomy. The surgery is designed to relieve something known as De Quervain's tenosynovitis, a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, a person with De Quervain's will experience pain with every turn of the wrist, while making a fist or trying to grasp something. The condition developed after Pedroia tore a ligament in his left thumb in the opening game of 2013, an injury with which he played while missing just two games the entire season.

Pedroia declared he is fully recovered. "I’m ready, ready to go," he said. "Everything, man. If it started tomorrow, I’d be good.

"I’m very excited. Obviously after last year, we didn’t play very well. We’ve got a lot of stuff to prove."

Manager John Farrell had suggested this winter that the team might look to give Pedroia a little more rest than in the past, but the player wasn’t hearing of it.

"I plan on playing 162," Pedroia said. "He said that because my numbers were impacted by that [last season]. I started 178 games [in 2013, including playoffs] with a torn thumb. Obviously I’m human. The next year you’re going to have a tough time.

"[But] I’m back. My body’s back. I feel strong. I’m lifting. Everything is right back to normal."

General manager Ben Cherington had said during the winter meetings that when he spoke with Pedroia, the player told him he was going to hit .460, a Pedroia-esque type declaration.

"That's probably hearsay, man," Pedroia shot back Saturday. "I only talked to him once. I don’t know, I might have hit him with a ball."

But Pedroia said he already has been hitting with authority in the offseason, and he expects even better results this spring.

"The ball’s going to go farther," he said. “The balls are going 400 feet now -- and then, when you add five miles an hour, I’m not a chemist or anything, it’s probably going to go 500."

The message, then, for the folks who sit on the Green Monster?

"Duck," he said.

Dustin Pedroia's Hall of Fame chances

September, 11, 2014
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Dustin Pedroia's season is over due to season-ending hand surgery. As Gordon Edes reports, this is the third consecutive season Pedroia will have surgery for a hand-related issue, and you wonder if it's a chronic issue at this point.

Gordon also asks if, at age 31, Pedroia's best seasons are behind him:
Pedroia has seven years and $96.5 million left on the eight-year, $110 million contract extension he signed in July 2013, a deal that will take him through his 38th birthday.

Did the Red Sox bet on the wrong guy at the wrong position, especially at a time when they were under no compulsion to act? Pedroia, remember, still had two years left on his deal when the Sox tore up his existing contract and signed him to what was widely described as a team-friendly extension. It looked even better when Robinson Cano, whose own former Yankees teammate, Mariano Rivera, said was not Pedroia's equal, signed a 10-year, $240 million free-agent deal with the Seattle Mariners.


Pedroia finishes the season with a .278/.337/.376 line -- career lows in all three categories. I'd suggest Pedroia's decline has been the result of three things: (1) Natural aging; (2) The hand injuries; (3) The lower strike zone that has been called in recent years has allowed pitchers to pound him down low, away from his power zone.

Despite his size, Pedroia's hands were so quick he had always been able to turn on high fastballs and do damage -- especially at Fenway. But check his numbers against pitches classified as in the upper half of vertical location (all pitches, not just strikes) over the years:

2009: .278/.359/.453
2010: .298/.408/.582
2011: .332/.422/.573
2012: .318/.381/.578
2013: .222/.339/.355
2014: .262/.316/.405

The numbers have cratered the past few years and explain his decrease in power the past two seasons (16 home runs total, after hitting 15 in 2012 and 21 in 2011). Interestingly, Pedroia's line-drive rate this year was 23 percent, his highest mark going back to 2010, according to ESPN data. (Baseball-Reference had him at 25 percent, also a career high.)

At the same time, however, he's also hitting more groundballs and fewer fly balls. Thus, fewer home runs and doubles off the Monster. As pitchers throw more to the lower half of the zone, it makes sense that a hitter like Pedroia is going to hit more line drive and groundballs, since he doesn't necessarily have a natural loft in his swing.

Have we seen the best of Pedroia? Part of his offensive decline has been mirrored by the decline across the league, so he's still retained a lot of value. His defense is still strong. Baseball-Reference grades him at 4.7 Wins Above Replacement in 2014, tied for third among major league second basemen with Brian Dozier and Howie Kendrick, behind only Robinson Cano and Jose Altuve.

As for his Hall of Fame chances, his résumé so far begins with the two World Series titles and 2008 AL MVP Award. This is considered his age-30 season (he turned 31 in August); here are the career leaders in WAR among second basemen through age 30, via Baseball-Reference, and whether they made the Hall of Fame:

SportsNation

Do you think Dustin Pedroia eventually makes the Hall of Fame?

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    36%
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    64%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,152)

1. Rogers Hornsby: 90.4 (yes)
2. Eddie Collins: 76.3 (yes)
3. Joe Morgan: 54.1 (yes)
4. Frankie Frisch: 51.1 (yes)
5. Rod Carew: 49.9 (yes)
6. Roberto Alomar: 46.8 (yes)
7. Bobby Grich: 46.8 (no)
8. Robinson Cano: 45.1 (active)
9. Ryne Sandberg: 44.5 (yes)
10. Chuck Knoblauch: 44.1 (no)
11. Dustin Pedroia: 43.1 (active)
12. Lou Whitaker: 42.7 (no)
13. Willie Randolph: 42.6 (no)
14. Chase Utley: 42.1 (active)
15. Tony Lazzeri: 40.9 (yes, via Veterans Committee)

There are others below the top-15 who also made the Hall of Fame: Billy Herman, Bobby Doerr, Joe Gordon, Nellie Fox, Charlie Gehringer, Nap Lajoie and Bill Mazeroski. All except Gehringer and Lajoie were Veterans Committee selections. Craig Biggio -- 35.0 WAR through age 30 -- should also make it in this year.

Let's look at what some of these guys did after age 30, to see what Pedroia may have to do to get his career WAR into Hall of Fame range:

Alomar -- 20.0 (career: 66.8)
Sandberg -- 23.0 (career: 67.5)
Knoblauch -- 0.5 (career: 44.6)
Whitaker -- 32.2 (career: 74.9)
Randolph -- 22.9 (career: 65.5)
Utley -- 19.2 (career: 61.3, in age-35 season)

Whitaker and Randolph never received any love from Hall of Fame voters and haven't yet shown up on Veterans Committee ballots. They're two favorites of the stathead community. Knoblauch fell apart after turning 30. The best cases here would be Alomar and Sandberg, both of whom started declining in their early 30s but hung around long enough to build up enough career value to get them elected.

Is Pedroia viewed on their level? That's what I'm not sure about. He won the MVP Award and finished seventh and ninth in the voting two other times. Sandberg also won once and finished fourth twice and had a scattering of non-top-10 finishes. Alomar never won but finished in the top six on five occasions.

Obviously, MVP voting isn't the only thing to look but it serves as a reasonable proxy for how voters may view a player. So Pedroia's MVP results are comparable but a notch below those two.

I'd say Pedroia still needs five solid years to build a solid foundation for a Hall of Fame case -- 2-3 .300 seasons with good health are vital, to build some of those career counting numbers. He's still young enough where that can happen. Whether his hands will allow that to happen is the unknown. Ultimately, there's no reason why Pedroia shouldn't be able to accumulate 20 to 25 more career WAR. I think that gets him in -- maybe just below the Alomar/Sandberg line but above the Whitaker/Randolph line.

Pregame notes: Betts, Pedroia in lineup

August, 18, 2014
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BOSTON -- A few quick notes from Fenway Park, where the news that Jackie Bradley Jr. had been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket came as a surprise even to the player recalled to take his roster spot.

Mookie Betts, returning to the Red Sox for the third time this season, is in Monday’s lineup against the Los Angeles Angels, batting eighth and playing center field. Betts said that while with Pawtucket this time around he spent the majority of his time playing center -- something he feels has led to vast improvements for him since his last time with the team.

Red Sox manager John Farrell spoke highly of what he saw from Betts last time up.

“We noticed that there was substantial improvement from the first time up here,” Farrell said. “I think he had about 40 games under his belt in the outfield before coming up here the first time. There were some routes that were still developing. Then when he came back to us the second time, I thought there was more range, more efficiency in those reads and those routes. I think that’s just getting acclimated to the position, particularly deep in center field.”

Pedroia back in lineup: After battling flu-like symptoms on Sunday and being sent home, Dustin Pedroia will return to the lineup, batting second.

Ross hopes to return: Catcher David Ross (plantar fasciitis) remains on track to be activated from the disabled list Tuesday pending the results of the work he gets in at Fenway on Monday.

“Today will have pretty much everything to determine that,” Farrell said. “He’s got a couple of bullpens he’s catching today. He’ll throw to the bases once again, he’ll do some running. How he comes out of today’s work will impact his activation.”

Craig begins rehab assignment: Outfielder Allen Craig (foot) will begin his rehab with Pawtucket on Monday night, serving as the team’s designated hitter. From there, Craig will likely get Tuesday off before playing the field Wednesday and Thursday. Farrell said the team will look to get Craig at-bats in three or four games with Pawtucket.

Upon Craig’s activation, he will likely share time in right field with the hot-hitting Daniel Nava (6-for-11, three RBIs in Houston series over the weekend) while Yoenis Cespedes continues to play left and Betts and Brock Holt platoon in center.

Pedroia gets the day off

July, 24, 2014
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TORONTO -- Dustin Pedroia was not in the Red Sox lineup on Thursday, and manager John Farrell said it was a scheduled day off.

Pedroia broke an 0-for-17 skid with a first-inning single Wednesday night, but is batting just .083 (2 for 24) since the All-Star break.

Brock Holt, who sat Wednesday, is playing second base, which will make him the first Sox player ever to start games at seven different positions (all except pitcher and catcher).
BOSTON -- Part of the collateral damage from the Red Sox's first-half struggles came clear on Sunday, when Jon Lester was the team's lone representative named to the American League All-Star squad (although a second member, Koji Uehara, is in line to eventually pick up a spot).

No David Ortiz, no Dustin Pedroia, who have been regular participants in recent years. Ortiz had been selected nine of the last 10 years, Pedroia four of the last six.

Lester, who earned his third All-Star selection, still talks about the honor with stars in his eyes.

“This is what you want to do as a kid. You watch All-Star Games, you watch the playoffs on TV and you dream about one day hopefully being in that position,” Lester said. “And to live that dream and have that opportunity to go to three All-Star Games, and two World Series rings -- I don’t want to say it’s a dream come true because hopefully I have a few more World Series in me and all the other stuff to go along with it. Everyone in this room dreams about it as a kid.”

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJon Lester earned his third All-Star selection, but teammates David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia didn't make the cut.
The selection of Lester by Red Sox manager John Farrell is easily justified by the numbers.

Lester made a strong stamp on his All-Star resume in May when he fanned a career-high 15 batters in a win over Oakland. He followed that up with seven more strong starts. Since the beginning of June, Lester is 4-1 with an ERA of 1.65, striking out 39 batters in 49 innings and allowing just eight walks. He posted an ERA of 1.98 for the month of June, his best full month in nearly four years.

Currently, Lester ranks seventh in the AL in ERA (2.73) and strikeouts (122), and is tied for eighth in wins (9). Among AL lefties, Lester is second only to Tampa Bay’s David Price in K’s, and third to Toronto’s Mark Buehrle and Oakland’s Scott Kazmir in wins.

Farrell said that Lester and Uehara, who Farrell said is the first alternate replacement, have been playing “All-Star caliber baseball this entire first half of the season.”

“When you look at what Jon’s been able to do in terms of where he stacks up with other starters -- top five or top six in most pitching categories -- he has earned the selection,” Farrell said.

While it’s assumed that Uehara eventually will be added to the AL squad -- several starters are lined up to pitch on Sunday -- the reliever was cautious when approached about the All-Star Game. Asked through a translator if he was surprised about not getting selected initially, Uehara said, “No, not at all,” adding with a laugh, “I have some things to do during the All-Star break myself.”

Ortiz and Pedroia expressed similar indifference despite their popularity in the polls. Ortiz finished third among AL designated hitters with 2.4 million votes, while Pedroia finished fourth among AL second basemen with 1.8 million.

Pedroia laughed when asked about any disappointment, saying “[I’m going to] get some sleep, man.”

Ortiz had several conversations with Farrell about his potential selection, with Ortiz essentially ceding his spot.

“I’m a fan of guys who have had a really, really good first half making the All-Star Game, and there’s a couple guys ahead of me this year at my position,” Ortiz said. “We had a conversation, and [Farrell] asked me how I feel about it, and I said I just don’t feel like taking those guys’ places.

"I don’t think it’s fair to guys like Nelson Cruz and Victor [Martinez] and [Edwin] Encarnacion, who are having unbelievable seasons, they don’t have as many All-Star Games as I have. You just keep it real. They’re having a better season than what I’m having, and they well deserved it.”
John Lackey, Jon Lester Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesThe Sox hope John Lackey and Jon Lester can shut down the Orioles in Saturday's doubleheader.
BOSTON -- Saturday's forecast calls for no rain, with partial clouds and wind in the afternoon, and with it the Red Sox are hoping they can right the ship once again after one of the most disappointing series of the season.

The Sox returned Monday from a 10-game road trip in which they went 4-6 and promptly got swept by one of the worst teams in baseball, the last-place Chicago Cubs of the National League Central. Nothing seemed to go Boston's way, whether it was having to break up a no-hit bid by Jake Arrieta in Game 1, or stranding 10 runners in a 2-1 loss in Game 2, or just completely blowing up in Game 3, allowing 19 hits in a 16-9 loss to complete the sweep.

And suddenly, any momentum gained from last weekend's series at Yankee Stadium is gone, and the Sox are back at square one, falling nine games under .500 for the first time since May 25. That game, an 8-5 loss to Tampa Bay, was their season-worst 10th straight loss at the time, marred even further by a bench-clearing brawl after Yunel Escobar stole third uncontested with a six-run lead.

Following that loss, of course, the Sox reeled off a memorable seven-game win streak, so perhaps there is hope yet. Either way, some are right to wonder whether the last few days are the low point of the season.

Manager John Farrell is sticking to the weekend's lineup of starting pitchers after Friday's rainout. The Sox will send their top two pitchers to the mound Saturday, with Jon Lester (9-7, 2.92 ERA) taking the ball in Game 1 and John Lackey (9-5, 3.62) in the nightcap.

In the season series, the two teams are split at 5-5. Orioles cleanup hitter Nelson Cruz, who ranks second in MLB in RBIs (68) and is tied for first in homers (26), has historically had a good chunk off success against both of Saturday's pitchers -- particularly Lester, against whom Cruz has registered .458/.519/1.000 totals with three homers in 27 career at-bats.

The Sox come into the series not as desperate for offense as it appears -- they totaled 24 hits in their last two games -- but definitely in need of a jolt. David Ortiz has 4 RBIs in his last seven games, including a three-run jack against the Yankees, but otherwise he is 4-for-21 over that span. On the other hand, Dustin Pedroia has been heating up of late, going 12-for-24 in his last six games with five RBIs.

Pitchers challenging Pedroia ... and winning

July, 2, 2014
7/02/14
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[+] EnlargePedroia Charts
ESPN Stats & InfoThese heat maps show Dustin Pedroia's drop in slugging percentage against fastballs over the past four seasons.
While power is not Dustin Pedroia's calling card, he’s lost nearly 100 points of slugging since 2011.

He’s dropped from .474 in 2011 to .449 in 2012, .415 in 2013 and what would be a career-low .383 this season.

Pitchers are becoming increasingly comfortable pounding the strike zone against Pedroia. In fact, no batter has seen a higher rate of pitches in the strike zone this season than Pedroia.

Pedroia isn’t taking advantage of these pitches in the strike zone. His slugging percentage against those pitches has also decreased each season since 2011, and fewer are turning into home runs.

He is also seeing more fastballs -- and doing less with them. Just as relevant is that more of these fastballs are being thrown in the strike zone, which suggests pitchers are challenging Pedroia to beat them.

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 8, Yankees 5

June, 29, 2014
6/29/14
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NEW YORK -- So, was there a difference in the Boston Red Sox's offense Sunday night? You bet(ts).

The result: The Sox marked the arrival of Mookie Betts’ major league debut by generating a dozen hits and eight walks, a first in one game this season, and rolling to an 8-5 win over the New York Yankees before a crowd of 48,124.

The Big Picture I: The Sox won the rubber game of this three-game set and finished their 10-game, three-city excursion with a 4-6 record. They are 18-25 on the road, 15-20 in the AL East and trail the first-place Toronto Blue Jays by six games.

The Big Picture II: The Jays are 12-15 in June and have lost nine of their past 13 games. Despite a losing record on the trip, the Sox picked up a half-game on Toronto.

Big Picture III: It's worth noting that on June 8, the San Francisco Giants were 9½ games ahead of the Dodgers. Three weeks later, the teams are in a virtual tie for first place.

Mookie mania: Betts did his part, grounding a single in the fourth for his first major league hit, then walking and scoring his first big league run in the sixth. He also was caught stealing and missed a diving attempt at a liner by Ichiro Suzuki that went for a triple.

No less than the prince of the Yankees, Derek Jeter, who at 40 is 19 years older than Betts, tossed the ball from the kid’s first hit into the visitors’ dugout for a memento, while his father and mother, Willie and Diana Betts, and his fiancée, Brianna Hammonds, watched from box seats in the second deck.

Hit-o-rama: But this was a night in which everyone in the Sox's lineup got into the act.

* Dustin Pedroia singled in each of his first three-at bats, giving him six straight hits, hit a sacrifice fly and drew a walk. He scored a run and drove in three, and also stayed in a rundown long enough after being picked off for another run to score.

* David Ortiz hit a three-run home run off Yankees starter Chase Whitley in the third, his 19th home run of the season and 450th of his career, in the third.

* Mike Napoli, who always hits in games John Lackey pitches (24-for-55 on his career), doubled and scored Boston’s first run.

* Stephen Drew singled Napoli home, his second RBI of the season, for the first Sox run.

* Brock Holt walked twice and singled, scoring two runs.

* Jackie Bradley walked and scored, singled, and also threw out Carlos Beltran at the plate when he attempted to score in the sixth with the Yankees down three runs.

* A.J. Pierzynski threw up his arms again in mock celebration when he blooped a hit in the fifth.

Lackey gets a pickup: Lackey was knocked around for five runs (four earned) in five innings, giving up home runs in the fourth to Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, but was credited with the win. He is 7-0 in games in which the Sox score four or more runs.

Shutdown pen: Sox relievers pitched two-hit ball over the last four scoreless innings, striking out six. Andrew Miller K’d three in the seventh.

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 2, Yankees 1

June, 28, 2014
6/28/14
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NEW YORK -- Before rookie Mookie Betts makes his major league debut here Sunday night, the Red Sox might want to arrange for him to have a chat with Mike Napoli about the logistics of playing in Yankee Stadium.

If Betts is smart, he'll hang on every word.

The result: With two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning Saturday night, Napoli broke a 1-all tie with an opposite-field home run off Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka to give the Red Sox a 2-1 win over the Bombers before a shocked-into-silence crowd of 48,433 in Yankee Stadium.

With one game left on this 10-game, three-city excursion, the Sox are 3-6 on this trip, 17-25 on the road, 14-20 in the AL East, and are now 3-6 against the Yankees. They trail the first-place Blue Jays by seven games in the East, and reach the season's midpoint at seven games under .500 (37-44).

The House That Nap Owns: The home run was the 10th of the season for Napoli, who joins Jonathan Schoop of the Orioles as the only players to take Tanaka deep twice this season. It was also his sixth home run at Yankee Stadium since he joined the Red Sox at the start of the 2013 season, the most by any visiting player in that time.

Lester shines: The home run made a winner of Jon Lester, who allowed just an unearned run on five hits, walking two and striking out six in eight innings. Two defensive plays, as they are wont to do in low-scoring games, figured prominently. Batterymate David Ross nailed Brett Gardner attempting to steal with a laser throw after he'd singled to open the sixth. The next two Yankees hit safely, but Lester struck out Carlos Beltran to end the inning.

The other play was highlight-reel stuff from Dustin Pedroia, who made a diving stop of Derek Jeter's smash with a runner aboard and no out in the eighth, then flipped the ball with his glove to Stephen Drew, who completed the double play.

Babe Ross: Boston scored three runs or fewer for the 12th time in the past 14 games, but both of its runs came on home runs. David Ross hit his fourth with one out in the third; the backup catcher has now homered in each of his past two starts.

Complete-game loser: In a rarity these days, Tanaka went the distance in the loss, allowing the Sox seven hits while walking one and striking out eight. Tanaka is now 11-3 and has lost back-to-back decisions for the first time this season.

Pedey percolates: Pedroia had three hits, leading off three different innings with line-drive base hits, one to right and two to center.

Rubby's gem wasted as Crisp, A's walk off

June, 21, 2014
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Red Sox manager John Farrell is doing his best to keep faith in his struggling team.

After watching the Red Sox waste right-hander Rubby De La Rosa's gem and suffer a 2-1 loss in 10 innings Saturday afternoon to the Oakland A's -- Boston's third straight loss to baseball's winningest team -- Farrell somehow found a positive spin.

"I look at it like this," Farrell said. "We are very close to becoming a team that will go on a run for an extended period. We got a number of really strong things in place, and that is pitching, both in terms of our rotation, our bullpen. I think we're playing very good defense. We've had situations get away from us in terms of men in scoring position."

The Red Sox left eight runners on base and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position Saturday, losing their American League-high 17th one-run game. As has happened so often this season, the Red Sox wasted a brilliant pitching performance.

De La Rosa allowed just one run on four hits while striking out seven and walking one. What's more, he pitched lights-out on the road for the first time in his young career. Going into the game, De La Rosa was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA at Fenway Park and 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA on the road.

[+] EnlargeRubby De La Rosa
Jason O. Watson/Getty ImagesRubby De La Rosa gave up one run on four hits and a walk, striking out seven in seven innings.
"It's important," De La Rosa said of pitching well on the road. "It makes me more confident in my stuff."

What was working for De La Rosa?

"He had everything going," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "The biggest thing with Rubby is he throws it over the plate, and today he threw four pitches for strikes and kept them off balance. We saw how Rubby can be.

"For him to go out and pitch the way he did, he kept us in the game and gave us a chance. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a hit."

Well, at least not one with runners in scoring position. For the second straight game, former Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp came through with the big hit for Oakland. He lined a walk-off single off Koji Uehara with one out in the 10th, driving in Alberto Callaspo with the winning run. Crisp singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning off Andrew Miller in the A's 4-3 win Friday night.

"We play a one-run game every night," Pierzynski said after the Sox fell to 11-17 in one-run games. "We're just kind of used to it now. We're hoping that eventually these will turn around and we'll find a way to win these instead of just coming up short."

Their luck appeared to change in the top of the eighth inning. With Dustin Pedroia on third and David Ortiz on first with one out, A's right-hander Luke Gregerson appeared to strike out Mike Napoli swinging on a 2-2 pitch. But home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott ruled that Napoli had foul tipped the ball and that it hit the ground. Replays showed that Vogt actually caught the ball cleanly, but the play was not reviewable under baseball's replay rules.

"Quinn heard sound and thought there was a foul ball," crew chief Gerry Davis told a pool reporter. "This type of play happens quite often actually. It's a difficult call for us. And in order to change it, we have to be positive."

Gregerson bounced his next pitch and the ball hit Vogt, and as the ball ricocheted toward the mound, Pedroia made a mad dash home and scored with a headfirst slide.

Pedroia said the fact that the Red Sox have been struggling to score influenced his decision to head home on the wild pitch.

"It's definitely a little gamble," Pedroia said. "It all depends on the situation. I think righties are hitting, like, .150 off [Gregerson]. Obviously, that was a tough at-bat, so you have to try to make something happen."

The Red Sox have scored just six runs in three games against Oakland after scoring five runs in a three-game sweep of Minnesota.

"You got to keep grinding," Pedroia said. "Obviously, we're trying too hard. Sometimes you got to keep saying, 'Let the game come to you.' You have at-bats in big situations, sometimes they make pitches on you, but sometimes they make pitches to hit and you're looking for their best location instead of just relaxing and putting a good at-bat together."

Farrell said he's heard no complaints from his starting pitchers over the lack of run support.

"That's part of the game," Farrell said. "We're going to go through stretches where starters are going to go out and give you a quality start and come away with nothing in terms of a win or a loss. That's completely out of their control. They continue to go about their work in between starts as consistent as any other time in the year. We have to continue to band together and find ways to collectively put together a complete game, and that's been a tough run here in this series coming off what I thought was a hard-fought series with Minnesota at home."

The Red Sox wasted good chances to score in the sixth inning and again in the 10th when Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded a one-out single off Dan Otero and moved to second on Brock Holt's third single of the game. But Otero retired Pedroia on a fly ball to Craig Gentry in right field, and David Ortiz struck out.

"We fought hard in this game," Farrell said. "We created some opportunities. Rubby pitched outstanding, and we've got to continue to grind away. The left-on-base is what it is, but we got to continue to believe in our guys and put forth the same approach and effort that we do."

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