Boston Red Sox: Josh Beckett

Digging in on Sox-Dodgers megadeal

August, 23, 2013
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AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillAdrian Gonzalez (center) and Nick Punto (left) have helped the Dodgers get to their current position.
On August 25, 2012, the Dodgers and Red Sox completed a 9-player deal which sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to Los Angeles for James Loney and four minor leaguers.

Entering 2013, Gonzalez had $127 million remaining on his contract and Crawford had $102.5 million remaining. This was the first time in MLB history in which two players were involved in a trade with $100 million remaining on their contracts.

The Red Sox are 84-80 since the deal, the Dodgers 91-70, with each in playoff position at the moment.

Let’s take a look at some of the other statistical aspects of the trade, a year later.

The financial impact
The Dodgers had a 2013 Opening Day payroll of $216.6M, the second-highest in MLB behind the Yankees ($228.8M). That was a significant increase from their 2012 Opening Day Payroll of $95.1M, which was 12th-highest in MLB.

The $121.5 million opening day payroll increase was easily the largest in baseball between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Next on the list is the Toronto Blue Jays, who increased their payroll by $42 million.

There’s still quite a bit of money left over on the contracts of the players the Dodgers acquired. Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett will be owed a combined $213 million after the 2013 season ends.

With those savings, the Red Sox were able to re-load in the offseason, spending more than $125M on impact free agents such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, David Ortiz, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, David Ross and Koji Uehara.

Victorino has posted 4.4 WAR this season, better than any player the Red Sox sent to the Dodgers has performed this season.

The star: Adrian Gonzalez
Of the five major-leaguers involved in the trade, Gonzalez has been the most valuable for his team this year, with 3.3 Wins Above Replacement.

Gonzalez’s value has come in the form of big hits. He has six game-tying or go-ahead hits in the seventh inning or later, the most of anyone on the team.

Gonzalez rates fourth in the majors and second in the National League in Win Probability Added, a stat that sums the value of every plate appearance (and stolen base/caught stealing, based on how much it adds to that team’s chance of winning). The only players who rate higher than Gonzalez are Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt.

Though Gonzalez has provided value, his power numbers are still not to the level that they were from 2009 to 2011. Gonzalez had a .536 slugging percentage and .231 isolated power (extra-bases per at-bat) over those three seasons. The last two seasons, those numbers are .460 and .162.

The surprise: Nick Punto
Both Crawford and Beckett have dealt with significant injuries that have been hindrances to their value. But another player has been a surprise contributor.

Punto has been worth 1.9 Wins Above Replacement for the Dodgers this season. If that holds up, it would be the third-highest single-season total of his 13-year career, his highest since posting a 2.4 WAR in 2008.

Punto’s value stems from that he can play a pair of positions adequately. He’s contributed five Defensive Runs Saved at both shortstop and third base, two spots where he’s had to fill in due to injuries.

Punto may not be an imposing hitter, but he’s an annoying one for pitchers to face. His 4.29 pitches per plate appearance rank tied for fourth in the majors, among those with at least 250 plate appearances this season.

In addition, in 13 games this month, Punto has a .475 on-base percentage (fifth in the NL among players with at least 30 plate appearances) and eight RBI.

Traded Sox reflect on time in Boston

August, 23, 2013
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Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the mega trade that allowed the Red Sox to essentially hit the resent button, sending Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto (along with more than $260 million in guaranteed contracts) to the Dodgers.

Coincidentally, the Red Sox are in Los Angeles today to kick off a three-game series. Here’s what the former Sox are saying about meeting their former team and reflect on their time in Boston:

* Carl Crawford (via ESPNLA.com): "That was one of the toughest times in my life, ever, from when I was a little kid, 1 year old. It definitely was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life to be traded over here.

"You make $20 million, but it's not like they're begging me to hit a home run every time I go up there, you know what I'm saying? It's not like I need to go 5-for-5 every at-bat and, if I don't, I'm considered the worst player on the planet."

* Adrian Gonzalez (via ESPNLA.com): "For the most part, we underperformed last year in Boston and we didn't win. The year before, we won. We just didn't make it to the postseason at the end. I had a good time. The only things I had there weren't really a big deal."

* Josh Beckett (via WEEI.com): "It just got way too personal for me," he said while rehabbing in the Dallas area. "It wasn't just like, 'Hey, you suck on the baseball field.' It was now, 'Hey, you're a bad person.' It was getting personal. It wasn't even about baseball anymore. It was definitely time to make a change. I think everybody from the front office to the players recognized that, we've moved on and now here I am."

* Nick Punto (via ESPNLA.com): "Pedroia is the heartbeat of that club, and when he's not happy, it's not a good thing. He was definitely not very happy."

'State of the Nation' revisits BOS-LAD deal

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
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SportsNation

One year after the blockbuster trade between the Red Sox and Dodgers, which team is better off?

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    33%
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    8%
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    51%
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    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 20,170)

With the Red Sox heading to Los Angeles for a weekend series with the Dodgers, ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes looks back on the megatrade the teams completed one year ago, when the Sox shipped Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to L.A. for a package headlined by pitching prospects Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster.

"I could hardly believe it was happening even as I was reporting it," Edes says of the blockbuster trade.

CLICK HERE to read Edes' column exploring which team actually won the trade, one year later.

The Trade: An early reckoning

May, 15, 2013
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- James Loney began Wednesday night leading the American League in hitting with a .381 average, and leading the majors in percentage of line drives hit, 34 percent. Do we need another excuse to revisit last August’s trade between the Red Sox and Dodgers, and some of the moves that preceded it?

In a word, no.

There are many moving parts, and always it is useful to remember that regardless of the performance of the principals involved, Boston’s primary motivation was money: the ability to climb out from under $262 million in salary obligations to Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett.

The flexibility the Sox gained will be felt for seasons to come. In 2015, for example, the Sox currently have just $29.75 million in guaranteed salary obligations. That’s only two years from now. In 2016, the obligation is $245,000, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Ben Cherington and the Sox were widely applauded throughout the industry for being able to find a trading partner willing to take on that kind of salary.

The performance of the players the Sox gave up, of course, will help to define whether that flexibility was worth it. Here is an update:

[+] EnlargeAdrian Gonzalez
AP Photo/Reed SaxonAdrian Gonzalez thinks his days a a premier power hitter might be over.
Gonzalez is putting up another impressive slash line (.341/.391/.504/.895), but last week made a startling admission to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Gonzalez said he has never been able to regain the power swing he had before injuring his shoulder with the Padres in 2010, and that his years of hitting 30 to 40 home runs may be over.

"I can still hit home runs," Gonzalez said. "That is not going to be an issue. The full power is not the same.

"Last year, I tried to go back to the swing I had before I got hurt," he said. "I tried it for the whole first half, with horrible results."

Gonzalez hit .283 with six home runs in the first half of last season, and at the time of the Aug. 25 deal that sent him from Boston to Los Angeles, he was batting .300 with 15 home runs in 527 plate appearances. At no time in Boston did Gonzalez ever say he was forced to abandon his old swing.

So far this season, Gonzalez has four home runs in 135 plate appearances, which projects to around 20 for a full season.

The Sox, of course, envisioned Gonzalez as the slugger who would eventually take over for David Ortiz as a middle-of-the-order home run hitter. To acquire him, they gave up three prospects: pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and outfielder Reymond Fuentes.

Kelly made it to the big leagues with the Padres but underwent Tommy John surgery and is out for the season. Fuentes, Boston’s first-round draft choice in 2009, has struggled for a couple of seasons in the minors but at 22 may be putting it together: He was hitting .333 with a .893 OPS for Double-A San Antonio, with 17 stolen bases.

Rizzo, meanwhile, was subsequently dealt to the Cubs, who last week signed him to a seven-year, $41 million deal. Rizzo began the night tied for fifth in home runs in the National League with nine, and projects to be the slugger the Sox envisioned when he hit 20 for Double-A Portland, this after overcoming cancer.

So while the Sox have no clear vision of their first baseman of the future, having dealt away Rizzo for Gonzalez, of the two, Rizzo appears more likely to be the player they sought for that role, and for considerably cheaper than Gonzalez cost. Whether they can find a replacement who will offer comparable production remains to be seen.

Crawford, meanwhile, has experienced a renaissance with the Dodgers, hitting for average (.311), reaching base (.372), hitting for power (5 home runs), stealing bases (8). Having failed miserably when Terry Francona tried him as a leadoff man here, Crawford has thrived in that role for L.A.

The question, of course, for CC is sustainability -- not only whether he can sustain that performance this season, but for a contract that does not expire until after the 2017 season.

Josh Beckett, on the other hand, is winless in eight starts for the Dodgers with an 0-5 record and a 5.19 ERA, and may be headed to the disabled list with a groin issue. And surprise, surprise: Beckett’s interminable time between pitches has become an issue in L.A., too.

"I'd like to see him work really quick," manager Don Mattingly said. "Some guys work quicker, some guys work slower."

The Dodgers are on the hook to Beckett for this season and next for a total of $31.5 million.

Loney was one of the players the Sox received back from the Dodgers, and he was never viewed as more than a stopgap at first base for Boston, which allowed him to walk as a free agent without making an offer. His performance so far for the Rays is not surprising; it’s shocking.

Two other players acquired in that deal, first baseman-outfielder Jerry Sands and infielder Ivan DeJesus, were subsequently flipped to Pittsburgh with reliever Mark Melancon for Joel Hanrahan. Both are in the minors, Sands hitting just .159 while DeJesus, at 26, is running out of time. [Melancon, meanwhile, has an 0.47 ERA in the Pirates bullpen].

The Sox also received top pitching prospects Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa. Webster has already been called up twice by the Sox, and is regarded as a top prospect. De la Rosa, nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, is being brought along slowly, but in his last three starts, the longest one four innings, he has pitched 11 scoreless innings, striking out 20 and walking 1 in 19 innings. At that rate, a call-up to the big leagues will be inevitable.

This will be a good deal for the Dodgers only if they are playing in October. It may be years before we know how good a deal it was for the Red Sox.

And if Rizzo becomes a superstar, the reckoning becomes more complicated.

Leiter warned Bobby V about Beckett

September, 28, 2012
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BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine's relationship with departed pitcher Josh Beckett was the topic du jour on Michael Kay's radio show Friday afternoon, with a third party, former New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter, shedding light on what he said was a fractious relationship between the manager and Beckett.

Leiter, now part of the Yankees broadcast team, happened to be in the booth during the taping of the show, which aired on ESPN New York. Kay noted Leiter's presence to Valentine, who had managed the left-hander when he was with the Mets. Leiter jokingly asked Kay to ask, "Does Bobby still like me?"

"I love Al Leiter and I have for a long time," Valentine said. " ... And if I listened to him on some advice he gave me over the winter I'd probably have been better off this year."

Kay pressed him on the nature of the advice. "He gave me good advice and I didn't heed it."

Leiter hopped on the air after Kay concluded his interview with the Red Sox manager and elaborated.

"The advice was that he had to make sure that he had Josh Beckett," Leiter said, "... not contained and controlled ... but somewhere where he was on Bobby's side, because Josh could be difficult, and he was and it was a divisive kind of scenario and I don't know if he(Bobby) was able to do that."

Kay asked if Beckett "turned against" the manager.

"I don't know if he turned against him," Leiter said. "Bobby went down to Houston and went to the ranch and met Josh and you know tried to. ... You know, because the whole thing with the pitch count, remember? He (Valentine) was doing ESPN and he was like, 'This guy takes forever,' and automatically right from the start Josh was upset with that.

"My conversation was at length of my relationship with Josh Beckett and what I thought he (Bobby) needed to do, and I don't know if he really got it done."

To listen to Valentine's full interview, CLICK HERE. For Leiter's explanation, CLICK HERE.

Dodgers' Gonzalez struggling since trade

September, 12, 2012
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BOSTON -- Adrian Gonzalez homered in his first at-bat as a Dodger. He hit a walk-off, two-run double in another game, and tripled and scored the winning run in the ninth inning of another.

But beyond that, the central figure in last month's megatrade between the Red Sox and Dodgers has struggled. He took a called third strike with the tying run on base to end the Dodgers' 1-0 defeat Monday night to San Diego, which dropped the Dodgers to six games behind the Giants in the NL West with 20 games to play.

"I'm just letting the team down," Gonzalez told reporters after that loss, and indeed, it has been a struggle.

The Dodgers were 6-10 since the trade entering play Tuesday night, and Gonzalez had posted a .227/.288/.348 batting line, with three doubles, a triple and a home run along with 10 RBIs.

"The most frustrating part is that I feel so good," Gonzalez told the L.A. Times. "When it comes to the result, it's not there. This is a result-driven game. The results need to be there. It's not just having a good at-bat or making a good swing. It's about getting on base, driving a run in."

The Dodgers could still claim a postseason spot in October. They were a game out of the wild-card race entering play Tuesday night, and will have former Sox pitcher Josh Beckett on the mound Wednesday night when they face the Cardinals, one of the teams ahead of them. Beckett has lost two of his first three decisions.

Nick Punto, meanwhile, has two singles in 14 at-bats for the Dodgers.

Q-and-A with Beckett, Gonzalez

August, 26, 2012
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Here's what Josh Beckett had to say about joining the Dodgers.

"It's a very competitive group. They're very loose in the clubhouse. I saw that today. The dugout was really fun.

"I told my dad that today, 'Who doesn't want to go to Hollywood and play baseball?' I felt the same way about Boston. Who doesn't want to go to Boston and play baseball?

"This is a new chapter and I'm looking forward to it."

Q: Is this an opportunity to show what you're about again?
A: I don't really think I had that bad of a year last year. My last couple of starts weren't where I needed them to be. But I had a pretty good year last year and that's pretty much what I'm focused on. I'm not trying to get back to 2004 or 2003. I'm just worried about getting my mechanics straight and pitching like I did last year.

Q: What's happened this year?
A: Balls are up and balls are getting hit hard. Even the ground balls are hit hard. There's things that we look at, you can say yes, part of it's that [mechanics]. There's some exterior distractions that make it difficult. There was just a lot of stuff.

Q: Why didn't things work last year and this year?
A: We were very talented. We should've played better. That's what I told Ben Cherington. I don't think he wants to trade away everybody. I just think we made it impossible for him not to do that by not playing well and I'm as big a part of that as anybody. I know that that's not what they wanted to do. They wanted Adrian to stay and they wanted me to stay. They wanted Nick to stay and they wanted Carl to stay. But we just didn't do our jobs.

Q: Was criticism of you fair?
A: Fair or not fair, I'm over that.

Q: What about Carl Crawford?
A: I think he's going to be great. He didn't get off to the start he wanted to last year and that made it very difficult for him. But I know, competing against him, you're talking about one of the top 10 players, he's as athletic as anybody.

Q: Changes you need to make?
A: No. I'm going to try and be the same guy that I've always been. I don't think that that's ever changed. You go and try to do your job and that's about it.

Q: Regrets?
A: I tried to control the things I could control. Some things aren't in your control. It's unfortunate the way it happened. Ben and John Henry, they put up. They did what they were supposed to do as owners and GMs. Ultimately it came down to the on-field performances and we didn't do our jobs. That's what forced their hand.

Q: Perception of the Dodgers?
A: I like to be on this side. I'm on the same side as all of this. It's awesome. I like being where I'm at.

Q: People say you're not a good guy?
A: Ask some more people. Ask some different people. Ask the people that are around me.

Q: Need to fix mechanics?
A: I need to get some timing. Get back on top of the ball.

Q: How much do you have left?
A: I don't think there's a gauge. I feel good. I'm healthy and at least when you're healthy you can work on things.

Q: Lifestyle change?
A: I'm from Texas. I'm used to wide open spaces. I've been in downtown Boston in a condo, I don't have a yard. So I think my family and I are looking forward to experiencing baseball like that as well.

ADRIAN GONZALEZ


Here's what Gonzalez had to say.

Q: Regrets?
A: Last year everybody was telling me about taking more of a leadership role at the end of the year. This year I tried to be a little more outspoken. But whenever you say certain things or do certain things, they can fire back the wrong way.

Everything I ever did was for the sake of winning and I think everybody in the clubhouse knows that. The way things were spun is unfortunate, but I guess, looking back, there are a couple things; well, one thing, that I shouldn't have done.

Q: Is that the text message?
A: I don't want to talk about that.

Q: How good is it to talk about baseball?
A: That's all I ever wanted to talk about.

Q: What part of this are you most excited about?
A: The pennant race, Dodgertown, Hollywood, everything that comes with it.

Q: Why didn't it work in Boston?
A: It was working pretty well until September and then, when the hitters hit, we gave up runs; and when the pitchers pitched, we didn't hit. I don't know. It kind of went on from there. We made a lot of errors. We've said it all along, the players have, we just didn't play good baseball.

Then all these other things came out. They were zero reason why we lost. But then this year we just couldn't put it together.

Q: Do you think Boston was the right fit for you?
A: I succeeded for the time I was there. I don't see why I couldn't have continued on.

Gonzalez, Beckett discuss Boston exit

August, 26, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto may have had little time to pack before boarding a plane from Boston to Los Angeles early Saturday morning, but before the former Boston Red Sox could begin the next chapters of their careers as members of the Los Angeles Dodgers, there was quite a bit of baggage to deal with.

"I had an awesome time in Boston. I had some tough times. There are some great people there," Beckett said. "For me, I think it was time to move on and start this new chapter."

Asked why it was time, Beckett said: "I don't know. I think it was time for both sides. I don't really have a reason."

There are, of course, plenty of reasons why Beckett (5-11, 5.23 ERA) and the Red Sox might part on sour terms.

SportsNation

Who got the best of the Red Sox-Dodgers blockbuster?

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    27%
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    38%
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    11%

Discuss (Total votes: 30,062)

But when pressed for specifics, Beckett seemed willing to assume quite a bit of the blame for the Red Sox historic collapse last September and his own struggles this season.

"We were very talented. We should've played better," Beckett said. "That's what I told [Red Sox GM] Ben Cherington. I don't think he wants to trade away everybody. I just think we made it impossible for him not to do that by not playing well and I'm as big a part of that as anybody. I know that that's not what they wanted to do. They wanted Adrian to stay and they wanted me to stay. They wanted Nick to stay and they wanted Carl [Crawford] to stay. But we just didn't do our jobs."

Beckett's only admissions about the turmoil that has plagued the Red Sox clubhouse the last two seasons were just vague allusions like: "There are some exterior distractions that make it difficult. There was just a lot of stuff."

For his part, Gonzalez said he too leaves Boston with some regrets.

Without directly admitting he was speaking about the text message that was reportedly sent from his phone to Boston ownership expressing dissatisfaction with Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, Gonzalez said he has regrets about several things in his Red Sox tenure.

"Last year everybody was telling me about taking more of a leadership role at the end of the year," Gonzalez said. "This year I tried to be a little more outspoken. But whenever you say certain things or do certain things, they can fire back the wrong way.

"Everything I ever did was for the sake of winning and I think everybody in the clubhouse knows that. The way things were spun is unfortunate, but I guess, looking back, there are a couple things; well, one thing, that I shouldn't have done."

Asked why the Red Sox underachieved so badly, Gonzalez said: "It was working pretty well until [last] September and then, when the hitters hit, we gave up runs; and when the pitchers pitched, we didn't hit. I don't know. It kind of went on from there. We made a lot of errors. We've said it all along, the players have, we just didn't play good baseball.

"Then all these other things came out. They were zero reason why we lost. But then this year we just couldn't put it together."

Gonzalez wore a black T-shirt with Mickey Mouse on the front to his introductory news conference after the Dodgers' 8-2 win over the Miami Marlins on Saturday.

It was a silly choice, but it wasn't exactly a coincidence.

"When we heard about [the trade] we didn't have a lot of time to pack," he said. "But when I saw this shirt I figured there couldn't really be a better shirt to wear."

Gonzo, Beckett, Punto en route to L.A.

August, 25, 2012
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The deal hasn't been officially announced, but the news is out -- via Nick Punto's Twitter account -- that Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Punto are bound for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On Saturday afternoon, Punto tweeted a photo of Gonzalez, Beckett and himself aboard a plane, with the caption, "#dodgers doing it first class!"

The Dodgers are agreeing to take on the contracts of Carl Crawford and Beckett in order to acquire the slugging first baseman Gonzalez, who will be returning to his Southern California roots.

According to a source, Gonzalez wants to play for the Dodgers on Saturday night and planned to be in the lineup against the Miami Marlins in Los Angeles.

"Excited to get back to Cali and be a part of Dodgertown!" Gonzalez tweeted Saturday afternoon.

Punto, meanwhile, tweeted a farewell to Boston fans.

"Thanks to all the fans of #Red Sox nation, also thank you to all my teammates, coach's and staff," he wrote on his Twitter account.
NEW YORK -- Bobby Valentine returned to New York to manage for the first time since he was fired by the Mets after the 2002 season.

He may not have come back as a conquering hero -- not with the Red Sox a game under .500 (49-50), 10 games behind the Yankees and 4 games out in the wild-card race -- but he was hardly cursing his fate, either, regardless of how much his team has underachieved.

Valentine I think we're heading in the right direction. ... I think we could build on that to 10, 15, 20 games over .500.

-- Bobby Valentine, on the Red Sox
"I'm a lucky guy," Valentine said when asked if his enthusiasm for the job has waned at all. "When I wake up in the morning, I count my blessings.

"Hell's bells, it's been exciting. Challenging for sure."

As upbeat as Valentine sounded Friday, it was hard to imagine how giddy he would have been if the Sox had come in here as something more than a team that has gone 8-13 in July, has lost 5 out of its past 6 and had beaten the Yankees only once in six previous meetings this season, all of which took place in Fenway Park.

The Sox manager talked about what a "great group of guys" he has, saying "I think we're heading in the right direction.

"We got off to a lousy start there with some confusion in the bullpen, we've been about five games over since that bad start in April, I think we could build on that to 10, 15, 20 games over .500."

For the Sox to finish 20 games over .500 (91-71), they would have to play at a .667 pace (42-21) the rest of the way. What does Valentine see that makes him believe this team is built to win?

He mentioned Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez's getting hot, referenced the return of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, noted that David Ortiz should be back soon and mentioned the stabilizing of the bullpen and his continued confidence in the team's starting pitching despite a 4.85 ERA and a record of 36-38.

"I've seen Adrian and Dustin really hitting their stride," Valentine said. "We went 80 games without them really getting their stride. They're feeling good. I see David coming back. I see Ellsbury and Carl in the lineup. I see our bullpen pretty well-stabilized and our starting staff feeling pretty good about themselves.

"Everyone says, 'How can the staff feel good about itself without Josh Beckett] or Jon Lester] winning their last starts and all that? They're healthy and throwing the ball well. I believe when you have quality people and they're healthy and maybe balls aren't hit at people -- whatever the hell it is that combined to have them not get W's and not do as well as we wanted to do in some of the games -- I think they will because they are healthy and they have qualities.

"A lot of the young guys we've had play are more established than they were early. Dan [Nava] is a more established player. Will [Middlebrooks] is a much more established player. Salty [Jarrod Saltalamacchia] has [19] home runs. Kelly [Shoppach] is working really well. The team has come along pretty well. I don't see things going backward."

He also singled out Mike Aviles as having "erased all doubts."

"He's played great defensively, made all the plays, he's been a iron man, and he's had a lot of big hits."

So there you have it: a team, by Valentine's reckoning, built to win.

And if it doesn't, who gets blamed? Hmmmm.

Beckett buries Sox with another bad start

July, 21, 2012
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BOSTON -- No uniform shredding Friday night.

Just a few more dents and dings to Josh Beckett's reputation.

Fresh off one of the season's most dramatic wins, Beckett took all the air out of Fenway Park in just two innings. That's the time it took for the Sox to fall behind the Toronto Blue Jays 4-0, and this time they never recovered, losing 6-1 before a crowd of 38,093 that contained the rarest of elements -- entire sections chanting, "Let's go, Blue Jays," a sound rarely (never?) heard in the Fens.

Giving up early runs has been a constant theme for Beckett, and Friday was no exception. The Jays scored twice in the first on Colby Rasmus' triple over the head of Cody Ross, a disputed safe call at home plate on an attempted tag play by Kelly Shoppach after a ground ball to third, and two more ground-ball base hits that found holes.

Beckett has allowed 19 earned runs in 16 innings for a 10.69 ERA in the first inning, including 10 of the 14 runs he has allowed in his past three starts. He didn't get a call when he needed it, umpire Sam Holbrook ruling that Rasmus had gotten his hand in even though Shoppach had the plate blocked on Edwin Encarnacion's ground ball to third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
Bob DeChiara/US PresswireBeset by more early-inning issues, Josh Beckett failed to win at Fenway once again.
"He didn't have a real big lead off of third," Middlebrooks said, explaining why he went for the play at home. "I was playing about halfway in, so I knew I had a shot at home and I took the shot. I was trying to save a run for Josh."

Middlebrooks made the right play, for Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.

"I mean, he was out pretty easily," Valentine said. "It wasn't like a bang-bang play."

Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia followed with base hits bounced through the infield, and the Jays had a 2-0 lead.

But whatever limited sympathy Beckett engendered in the first inning was gone by the second, when Yunel Escobar doubled, Beckett issued a two-out walk to Anthony Gose after getting ahead 0-and-2, and Rasmus hit the next pitch for a double to drive home both runners.

The Gose at-bat was when Beckett needed to rise up and show he was still Josh Almighty Beckett against a kid called up just three days ago because Jays slugger Jose Bautista went on the disabled list with what the Jays are calling an inflamed left wrist. Instead, Beckett missed with two cutters, then missed with two curveballs to extend the inning.

"You've got to make the 2-2 pitch or the 3-2 pitch, and I didn't do that," Beckett said.

There was still an exit strategy available, but instead Rasmus, who had hit a good curveball from Beckett for his triple, honed in on a first-pitch fastball, and smoked it into left-center. Escobar scored easily and Gose flew around the bases to make it 4-0.

"I think he'd take back that 3-2 pitch to the leadoff hitter (Gose)," Valentine said.

"Letting the 3-2 curveball to walk the leadoff hitter, I think he lost a little concentration and threw a fastball over the plate to Rasmus on the next pitch; before we know it, it's two runs."

Beckett allowed only an unearned run in his last four innings, but this time there was no late-inning uprising like the one that Cody Ross had capped with a three-run, walk-off home run in the ninth inning Thursday to beat the White Sox.

The veteran right-hander now has just one win in eight starts dating back to May 26, and the Sox have lost six of them. He lost despite 12 swings and misses, 12 ground balls, and seven strikeouts in his six innings of work. "Pretty good stuff," Valentine said.

Small consolation.

"I can't say that I'm looking at a whole lot of positives from that outing," Beckett said. "I got burned whenever I didn't make pitches."

For the second straight night, meanwhile, a left-handed starter shut down the Sox. Thursday, it was White Sox rookie Jose Quintana, who limited the Sox to five hits in eight scoreless innings. Friday night, it was Aaron Laffey, who went seven scoreless on eight singles, tacking on to the six scoreless he threw here June 26.

Well, Valentine had said before the game he didn't believe in momentum. That wasn't the case, he said, after their 10-1 win Wednesday, and wouldn't be Friday night, either.

"I think that you can have momentum in a game or in an inning, but I don't think yesterday necessarily carries over," Valentine said. "Other than that, you have a good feeling when the game starts. You know, 10 runs, sometimes you get a little overconfident. Everyone gets hits, they figure it's going to be easy. It's never easy at the major league level, never. As soon as you think it is easy, that's when it gets really difficult."

The Sox for the second straight night did all their scoring in the ninth, a run coming across on a force play. Pinch hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out to end it, his 19th strikeout in his past 30 at-bats.

It certainly hasn't been easy against the Jays, who have split 10 games against the Sox this season. Both teams were missing thunder Friday night -- Jose Bautista on the DL for the Jays, David Ortiz on the DL for the Sox.

The Jays were part of a 10-player deal Friday in which they added three pitchers, a signal they want to stay in the hunt for a postseason spot. Trade rumors, meanwhile, continue to swirl around the Sox, who are being linked to most every available starting pitcher (Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Francisco Liriano). Beckett's performance Friday didn't shred those rumors.

First-inning blues for Beckett

July, 7, 2012
7/07/12
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[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
Bob DeChiara/US PresswireTake away the Yankees' five-run first inning, and Josh Beckett's outing looks pretty good.
BOSTON -- All things considered, Sox fans probably would have opted for another night of silence from Josh Beckett, if it meant he would have pitched better.

But while Beckett has made a recent practice of ducking out after starts, it violates his personal code to do so when he pitches poorly, so he planted himself in front of his locker Friday night and discussed an outing in which the Yankees scored five times on their first turn through the order, all in the first inning.

Ordinarily, giving up an early five-spot would have meant a certain loss for Beckett, who has gone more than six weeks since his last win (May 20), due in great part to the fact the Sox had scored a total of eight runs in his previous five starts while he was in the game.

Friday night, however, they took him off the hook by striking back with five in the bottom of the first, countering with a run in the bottom of the second when the Yankees scored in their half, and giving Beckett a chance for a win when he left with a 7-6 lead after five.

The bullpen couldn’t protect that advantage, however, leaving Beckett with a no-decision on a night he probably didn’t deserve any better, though at one point he struck out four Yanks in a row.

“That first inning, the strike zone was very hard for him to find,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said. “I’ve never seen him like that. The changeup was squirting out of his hand. He just wasn’t getting it done.’’

This was Beckett’s second start since coming off the disabled list with a strained shoulder, and every time he’s off, there’s always the concern something isn’t right.

“It was tough,’’ he said. “I was battling myself, especially in that first inning. I kind of sped up my mechanics there in the middle innings, especially out of the windup, it made a difference. The stretch was pretty tough.

“I was just thinking to get down in the zone. I was really struggling. I think in the first inning I just wanted to throw a strike, I didn't care where they hit it. I was just really battling myself with that. I think the second inning it was better, I kind of spread things out. I was having a hard time getting my arm up.’’

ESPNBoston.com intern Bill Humphrey contributed to this report.

Sox can't solve M's in another walk-off loss

July, 1, 2012
7/01/12
3:33
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Josh Beckett and Adrian GonzalezOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesWith the M's stifling the Sox bats, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez didn't have much to smile about.
SEATTLE -- It's more than a little difficult to figure.

The Boston Red Sox are having a viciously difficult time trying to score against the Seattle pitching staff.

And Cody Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are still trying to figure out how to get that final out at the plate.

With a collection of seven Mariners pitchers holding the Red Sox to just two runs, Seattle beat Boston in the 11th inning Saturday, the second walk-off win in three days for the Mariners.

In both losses, the Red Sox had a chance to keep the winning run from scoring. Both times Ross came up throwing. Both times Saltalamacchia thought he had a play on the runner. Both times the Mariners scored. Both times the Mariners won.

Chone Figgins, who lost his job as Seattle's starting third baseman more than a month ago, was hitless in four at-bats before stepping up against Alfredo Aceves with men on first and third. He drilled a line-drive out to Ross in left field.

The throw to the plate wasn't in time to stop Dustin Ackley as the Mariners pinned a 3-2 loss on the Red Sox thanks to Figgins' sacrifice fly. Two nights earlier, Ross picked up a John Jaso hit with the idea of throwing Casper Well out at the plate. That didn't happen either in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-0 Seattle win.

"Man, those are two tough losses," Ross said. "Wells got a great jump, and there was some topspin on Figgins' ball, but that's baseball. Sometimes that's just the way it goes."

Saltalamacchia has come to expect strong, accurate throws from Ross, and the catcher knew there was going to be trouble when Figgins hit the ball in the air as hard as he did.

"What we were looking for was a ground ball in the situation, something so that we could get Figgins to roll over on a pitch and we could get a double play," Saltalamacchia said. "It was going to be a tough play."

Saturday was a troublesome night for the Boston offense as well as the Boston defense. The Red Sox outhit Seattle 11-9 but went 1-for-12 with men in scoring position. For the series they have just two hits with men in scoring position, and they're starting to appreciate the Mariners' pitching staff.

"It's been three days and I haven't seen a pitch to hit yet," David Ortiz said. "I don't know why these guys aren't winning more than they are."

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesJosh Beckett was hitless through the 4th and scoreless through the 5th before a little bad luck cost him two runs in the 6th.
Batting coach Dave Magadan said Seattle keeps throwing arms loaded with plus fastballs at the Red Sox. And for three days at least, Seattle has had the upper hand.

Even in Boston's 5-0 win Friday, the Red Sox did all their scoring in two innings and didn't threaten before or after.

"On Friday we took advantage when the kid (Hector Noesi) got some pitches up," Magadan said. "But those guys just seem to be able to bring another guy with a great fastball one after another.

"They've got a good pitching staff over there."

The Red Sox's pitching staff is looking up, too, even in Saturday's loss. Josh Beckett threw six innings, and for the first five of them he allowed just one hit and one walk.

"Josh is back and Josh is healthy," manager Bobby Valentine said. The Red Sox activated Beckett from the disabled list before the game after he'd spent two weeks dealing with shoulder discomfort. There was little evidence of that, even in the sixth inning when Seattle scored twice.

The inning's key play was a pop fly down the left-field line that fell between shortstop Mike Aviles and left fielder Daniel Nava. It was a ball that should have been caught, and it set up a two-run double by Jaso, the same man who beat them with a single Thursday.

"I think Mike heard Daniel call him (off)," Valentine said. "Daniel wasn't with us in spring training, and I don't think we have our communication down."

Even so, Beckett threw 85 pitches without pain and mostly with considerable success. That can only be a major positive.

"It was good to see JB back out there again," Saltalamacchia said. "He looked good. There was a little trouble with his changeup, but it was mostly good. He kept us in the game. We've just got to do a better job of getting some runs for him."

The Red Sox had won nine of 11 before losing two of the first three games of this series. Boston needs a win in the Sunday finale with Felix Doubront pitching to get a split of the series.

Light in OF; long on pitchers; Aceves' itch

June, 30, 2012
6/30/12
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SEATTLE -- The news that Darnell McDonald was designated for assignment Saturday to get Josh Beckett back onto the roster after a couple weeks on the disabled list leaves the Red Sox shorthanded in the outfield.

The Sox are now carrying 13 pitchers and have only a three-man bench. Beyond Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Cody Ross, who are regulars these days in left, center and right, there are no other outfielders on the roster.

Enter Brent Lillibridge. Acquired last Sunday from the Chicago White Sox in the Kevin Youkilis trade, he's primarily a second baseman/shortstop type. The key word is "primarily."

Lillibridge has played enough outfield in the past couple years with the White Sox that the Red Sox were willing to go with him as the backup until the team's disabled outfielders -- Ryan Sweeney, Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury -- start trickling back onto the roster in the next few weeks.

"We know that he can play in the outfield," manager Bobby Valentine said, although Valentine's knowledge of what Lillibridge can do is based on the 28-year-old's four games in the outfield for the Sox this week, one of which was in a start.

It also helps that Lillibridge is right-handed, the manager said, pointing to his success against left-handed pitching last year with Chicago: He had a .287 average and nine of his 13 homers in 2011 were against lefties.

PITCHING IN: With the roster now crammed to capacity with pitching, the Red Sox don't figure to make any changes until they return to Fenway Park.

And even then, the changes may not come right away.

The need for pitching is going to be at an extra-high level up to the All-Star break. After finishing up Sunday in Seattle and playing a three-game set starting Monday in Oakland, the Red Sox have a four-game set with the Yankees, including a Saturday day/night Fenway Park doubleheader that is the prime reason for loading up on pitching.

That's why Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure are comfortable going with a six-man rotation for the moment. They are adding Beckett to the rotation without, for the moment at least, subtracting anyone from it.

That being said, Valentine indicated that the club might use the off day Thursday to juggle the rotation around some so that the Red Sox get their best possible matchups against the Yankees heading into the All-Star break.

"We can be more flexible that last time around," Valentine said. "I'd like to get through Oakland and see where we are and go from there."

THE CLOSER QUANDRY: The Red Sox have been winning plenty lately, 10 times in 13 games heading into Saturday's game in Seattle.

But they have been doing it without all that much work for closer Alfredo Aceves.

The right-hander wants more work than he has been getting, and he's only pitched once in the past six games.

"Alfredo hasn't come to me, but I get the word," Valentine said. "He loves to pitch. And the more he pitches, the better he is. He was going to pitch last night, but ... "

On Friday Aaron Cook pitched a two-hit shutout in which only three men reached base and Cook threw just 81 pitches. There clearly wasn't much need for the closer in that circumstance.

"He loves his job; he loves to throw," Valentine said of Aceves. "I'm very comfortable with giving him the ball."

The past five Boston wins and six of the past seven have been by margins of four runs or more. That makes it hard for Valentine to justify using Aceves.

"You never know when you are going to need him five games in a row," the manager said.

Sox designate McDonald for assignment

June, 30, 2012
6/30/12
9:05
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[+] EnlargeAdam Jones, Darnell McDonald
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireDarnell McDonald pitched in where needed in his time with Boston. But like this May 6 emergency relief appearance, things didn't work out.
SEATTLE -- The last time Darnell McDonald went through this, it seemed final.

It wasn't.

It's been two years since McDonald was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox in what might have been the quickest DFA on record.

Jacoby Ellsbury immediately went out and injured his ribs early in 2010. McDonald hadn't even gotten to the airport to fly home when he got the call: All was forgiven and would he please come back?

He wound up playing in 117 games for the Sox that year. But that number dropped to 70 games played in 2011 thanks in small part to an injured quad. And he'd played in just 38 of the first 77 games this season when he got the word midday Saturday that he was being handed the DFA card once again.

"Dream come true to play in Boston want to wish my boys good luck the rest of the year! Much love to RSN! #ShowGoesOn," McDonald tweeted Saturday.

The Red Sox needed to make a move to get Saturday's starting pitcher, Josh Beckett, off the disabled list and eligible to play. It wasn't a huge surprise since McDonald had gotten just 28 at-bats in June.

"He's one of the guys you love to have here," manager Bobby Valentine said of the 33-year-old McDonald, who played all three outfield positions in his 2 seasons with the Red Sox. "He helped us win games defensively and offensively. He's a well-respected guy."

The respect couldn't outweigh the numbers. Boston has been getting good work out of Daniel Nava, Cody Ross and Ryan Kalish of late, and Ryan Sweeney is due off the disabled list next week. Beyond that, Ellsbury and Carl Crawford both should be back mid-July or so.

"With all the outfielders we have eventually coming back, his number eventually would have come," Valentine said. "We decided to do it now."

The Red Sox now have 10 days to trade McDonald, release him or sign him to a minor league deal. At 33, it seems unlikely he'd want to go down to the minors after having been taken off the roster.

McDonald leaves with a .214 batting average, two homers and nine RBIs for the season. He's a career .248 hitter with 18 homers and 78 RBIs, and in 2010, his best year with the Sox, he averaged .270 while hitting nine homers and delivering 30 RBIs in 319 at-bats.

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