Boston Red Sox: Mike Carp

Pregame notes: Napoli sits, Carp at first

July, 29, 2014
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BOSTON -- To say Red Sox pitcher Felix Doubront appeared disinterested during his appearance on Monday would be a major understatement. The left-hander entered the game in relief in the sixth and worked just 2/3 of an inning, allowing six runs on six hits with two walks and zero strikeouts. Even his warmup pitches were all over the place.

After the game mercifully ended and Toronto had pounded Boston 14-1, Red Sox manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves both said every pitcher needs to be held accountable.

On Tuesday, Farrell was asked if he spoke with Doubront about the outing.

“Yes, and that’s all I’ll say about it,” Farrell said.

Since being moved out of the starting rotation and into the bullpen, Doubront has not been happy with the move. It was evident during Monday’s appearance.

Nieves had told Doubront that he needs to pitch his way back into the rotation. Meanwhile, others have replaced him -- namely Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster. And, if the Red Sox do trade Jon Lester before his scheduled start Wednesday night, Farrell said on Tuesday that Brandon Workman would be called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to start. Not a good sign for Doubront's future with Boston.

* Mike Napoli is not in the starting lineup Tuesday night; Mike Carp will start at first base for the Red Sox. Carp, who recently asked the Sox to be traded, has played a little more the last few games, but Farrell said this is a maintenance day for Napoli.

“A down day and just dealing with a little swelling in that finger that he’s been dealing with for quite some time,” Farrell said. “We felt a day down -- added treatment -- would give him a chance to try to get ahead of it a little bit more.”

Entering Tuesday’s game, Napoli has reached base safely in 25 of his last 29 games, with a .290 average, including five homers and eight RBIs.

* With all the trade speculation surrounding the Red Sox, Farrell said he has met with individual players about all different possibilities and scenarios. While Lester and fellow pitchers John Lackey and Andrew Miller have gained the most trade talk rumors, others are wondering where they stand. Farrell said the best way to handle situations like this week is to be honest with the players, so there are no surprises if anything does happen.

“We’ve talked to players individually on the current situation that’s in front of us,” Farrell said. “I think that’s just being professional with them to keep them abreast of what our plans are. This goes beyond players that are potential free agents and those players that might be rumored in trades. This goes deeper to players that we know are going to be here and we’ll continue to build with. That’s just a professional courtesy and respect to them and respect to the process that we have.”

Carp plays role of pinch-hit hero perfectly

July, 10, 2014
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BOSTON -- In Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell's mind, coming into close games are the situations Mike Carp was made for.

And Carp finally accepts that.

Spending more than a month on the disabled list with a broken foot -- parked up on the couch in a cast watching his team drop one-run contests time after time -- Carp had a difficult time seeing his job go undone.

[+] EnlargeMike Carp
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsMike Carp drives in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning Thursday.
"Some of the nights you almost have to turn the TV off when those situations come because you can't be there to help," Carp said. "That's my role, that's my spot and I pride myself on it."

After failing to come through in a similar situation Wednesday, Thursday presented another opportunity for Carp to put a stake on his spot. And he delivered, driving in Daniel Nava from second base and giving the Red Sox their second consecutive walk-off win, defeating the Chicago White Sox 4-3. Walk-off wins accounted for all three victories during this 3-7 homestand.

"This is tough gig to come up here and everybody expecting you to get the game-winning hit when you sat on the bench for three and a half hours," Carp said. "It's nice to even it out every now and then and come up with a big one."

Coming to the Red Sox last season, Carp carved a niche for himself as a late-game pinch-hitter against right-handed pitchers. Having returned from the disabled list Monday, Wednesday presented Carp with his first opportunity to perform that job once more.

With White Sox manager Robin Ventura bringing in Javy Guerra to face Xander Bogaerts in the bottom of the eighth in what was then a 4-3 game, Farrell went with Carp to get the job done with runners on second and third and two outs. Instead, Carp grounded out to first, ending the threat.

However, Farrell's trust in Carp didn't waver. Thursday saw Nava reach on a pinch-hit walk to lead off the 10th and advance to second on a Mookie Betts sacrifice bunt. Once Ventura opted to intentionally walk Stephen Drew and his .128 batting average, catcher David Ross was due up. This set the stage for Carp to come through, pinch-hitting for Ross and working a 2-2 count against White Sox reliever Ronald Belisario before punching an opposite-field grounder through the hole between short and third for a base hit. Nava came around to score, giving Carp the first walk-off hit of his career and first hit in general since May 22.

Carp entered the at-bat 0 for his last 19. The RBI was his 11th in 62 career plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.

"When we've been in those late inning situations he's had a number of opportunities over the course of the last year-plus," Farrell said. "Finally getting back to us here -- that's two consecutive days where he steps up in key moments and today he comes through."

Having reportedly been upset about his sporadic playing time earlier this season, Carp said accepting his role on the team coming off the bench has helped him to produce in those key situations.

"When I did [accept it], good things started happening," he said. "I really prepare myself -- [bench coach Torey Lovullo and I] had conversations going into that inning about when I was possibly going up. It lined up exactly how we talked about it."

In the end, Carp said he was happy to be able to pick up his team after closer Koji Uehara faltered in the ninth to allow Chicago to tie the game up on a two-run home run by Conor Gillaspie, his third in as many days.

"It's just great to come in in a crucial situation," Carp said. "Especially a pinch-hit situation -- my job."
BOSTON -- After a back injury last week shut down his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury, outfielder Shane Victorino appears to be improving again. Farrell said Victorino could get some live action sometime in the middle of next week's series against the Chicago White Sox, which begins on Monday. Victorino has been out since May 24 with his hamstring injury.

"He's improving. Running, the agility work, the number of swings in BP, that all continues to increase," Farrell said.

Will Middlebrooks and Mike Carp are both in Pawtucket on Saturday, with Middlebrooks at DH and Carp in left field.

"We want to get him regular at-bats," Farrell said of Carp, who's been out since June 2 with a fractured right foot. "As we talked on Thursday, the off day, we felt like everyday at-bats through the weekend was a good point in time to reassess and see where we go from there."

With Middlebrooks -- who's been out since May 17, after fracturing his right finger trying to field a line drive from Detroit's Ian Kinsler -- it's been a careful process, though Farrell says the swelling has finally gone down.

"I think finally the swelling has been resolved to a point where it's not affecting his throwing," Farrell said. "That was more of the caution than anything -- if that was going to alter any arm slot or any changes to his throwing stroke, does it show up in his elbow or his shoulder? We were just trying to be careful of that."

Victorino stuck in neutral; Betts still raking

June, 21, 2014
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Outfielder Shane Victorino (right hamstring strain) will be out of the lineup for Triple-A Pawtucket for the third straight game Saturday night, and the Red Sox's hopes of having him back during the West Coast stretch of their road trip has all but disappeared.

"He'll have another day of treatment," manager John Farrell said. "He'll re-engage with BP tomorrow and that's where we are right now. I wouldn't categorize it as a setback."

When Farrell was asked about recently signed veteran outfielder Andres Torres' progress, he said he didn't have "a real update" to offer. "I know Mookie Betts is swinging the bat well," Farrell added, smiling.

Betts is batting .324 with 12 RBIs, two home runs, three doubles, one triple and four stolen bases in 17 games since being promoted to Pawtucket from Double-A Portland. He's reached base safely in all 17 games. In his past five games, he's gone 10-for-23, including a two-run, walk-off single Friday night in a 3-2 win against Wilkes-Barre.

How fast could Betts get to Boston?

"I don't know," Farrell said. "The fact that he's in Triple-A, he's clearly on the radar, and the fact that he continues to swing the bat with some consistency ... Timeframe, no indication to it. He's doing everything he can, though, to put himself on that track."

Betts was drafted in the fifth round in 2011 as a second baseman, but he's now also playing in the outfield.

"We're not ready to anoint him a regular center fielder or a regular outfielder, but his athleticism certainly plays there."

• First baseman/outfielder Mike Carp (broken right foot) has started to "jog lightly" and hit off a tee, but he's not ready to go on a rehab assignment, Farrell said. Carp went on the 15-day disabled list on June 2, retroactive to June 1.

• Third baseman Will Middlebrooks (fractured right index finger) is making solid progress during his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket, Farrell said. "Timing is becoming more and more consistent with each passing day. While he still has some soreness in the finger, he's getting back to more game speed and game activity."

Buchholz starts in Pawtucket Friday

June, 9, 2014
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BALTIMORE -- A few quick hits from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where the Sox won two of three on their last visit:

* Clay Buchholz, who hasn’t pitched since May 26 and had a 7.04 ERA in five May starts before being shut down, is scheduled to make a rehab start in Pawtucket on Friday. The Sox are hoping Buchholz, who threw a three-inning simulated game on Sunday in Detroit, can go five for the PawSox Friday. He has been on the DL with what the Sox called a hyperextended left knee; he is eligible to come off the DL here on Wednesday, but obviously that isn’t happening.

Farrell said the team will see how Buchholz performs Friday before making a determination on when he is activated, but indicated it may be a short stay.

* Shortstop Stephen Drew, just 1-for-14 since being activated June 2, missed his third game out of the seven the team he has played. Farrell said he has some tightness in his right oblique muscle, which he felt during Sunday’s game against the Tigers. It was a precautionary move, Farrell said.

* Mike Carp, on the DL with a fractured right foot, came out of his protective boot Monday but Farrell estimates it will probably be at least a couple of weeks before he can begin light baseball activity.

Postmortem: Bomb(er)s away

April, 12, 2014
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NEW YORK -- The postmortem on Boston's 7-4 takedown by the New York Yankees on Saturday afternoon, leaving the Sox in need of a win Sunday night to salvage a four-game split:

• Manager John Farrell on homer-unhappy John Lackey, who gave up a career-high four home runs to the Yankees, two by Brian McCann, one each by Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano:

[+] EnlargeJohn Lackey
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIJohn Lackey struggled through 5 2/3 innings, allowing a career-high four home runs.
"He paid for some pitches that were up in the strike zone. A couple of fastballs, one that was to Beltran that he pulled back to the middle, the other to McCann where he hits another out of the ballpark. Warmer weather, the ball was really carrying here today, but still, there were some mistakes up in the strike zone."

• Lackey, on the same topic:

"I'd say about half and half. The fastball to Beltran, I obviously wish I could have back. McCann's was a slider that didn't do anything. The other two? Playing here.

"I felt pretty good. Just some mistakes I made, got hit pretty hard."

• Farrell addressed the attempted stolen base in the seventh inning by Mike Carp, who was cut down to end the inning after he'd just hit a two-run single to draw the Sox to within two runs. At the time, the tying runs were on base against reliever Dellin Betances, who had just entered the game and was facing Xander Bogaerts.

"On the 0-2 count, we gambled a little bit to get 90 feet. We were down two with Xander at the plate, down 0-2 count, there might be a breaking ball, we sent him just to try and create something, try to be a little more aggressive. It didn't work out."

• Carp, on whether he was surprised to get the "steal" sign:

"Not at all. It was 0 and 2, right there we're hoping he bounces a ball in the dirt and be second and third, or a possible run scored and I'm standing at second. My mind was in the same spot as they were. It was unfortunate it was a fastball up. It's easy to make a throw on a ball like that."

• With shortstop Derek Jeter having a day off, Mark Teixeira on the DL, Alex Rodriguez suspended for the year and Robinson Cano megawealthy in Seattle, the Yankees' infield Saturday around the horn was Kelly Johnson at first, Brian Roberts at second, Dean Anna at short and Yangervis Solarte at third. The four have combined to play a total of 38 games in a Yankees uniform, 11 apiece by Johnson, Roberts and Solarte, 5 for Anna.

That's reminiscent of the Yankees' infield on Opening Day 1972, 42 years ago: Ron Blomberg at first, Bernie Allen at second, Rich McKinney at third and Jerry Kenney at short. While Roberts went hitless in four trips with a sacrifice, Johnson, Solarte and Anna combined to go 5-for-12, including a home run by Johnson off reliever Burke Badenhop, and a double by Anna, also off Badenhop. The Sox's infield, meanwhile, went 2-for-15 -- a double by Dustin Pedroia and a broken-bat single by Xander Bogaerts.

• Badenhop, acquired from Milwaukee, is off to a rough start with the Sox: 12 hits and six earned runs in six innings over four appearances.

Breslow to have one more rehab outing

April, 6, 2014
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BOSTON -- Left-hander Craig Breslow will make one more rehab outing Monday with Triple-A Pawtucket as he recovers from a mild shoulder strain.

Manager John Farrell indicated Saturday that there was a chance that Breslow would be activated by Monday after getting two days off to recover from back-to-back rehab appearances, but the club will assess the veteran’s status after another game in the minors.

Farrell said that having Jon Lester on the mound Sunday and John Lackey on Monday gives the team reasonable confidence that the bullpen can be spared a bit after being forced to eat up 6 2/3 innings Saturday, but that the team is ready to make a move if it has another bullpen-heavy day. He said closer Koji Uehara is available Sunday even though he has pitched three of the last four days.

Mike Carp, who was scratched from Saturday’s game with back tightness before appearing at first base in extra innings, is not in the lineup Sunday but will be available. So, too, is center fielder Grady Sizemore, who is out of the lineup for a day game after a night game.

Takeaways: Buchholz, Sox stop Bucs

March, 9, 2014
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Takeaways from McKechnie Field, where the Red Sox played in front of a sellout crowd in a renovated stadium that finally resembles something of a major league spring training park -- with covered bleachers beyond left field, an elevated boardwalk that stretches from the left-field to right-field stands, and a tiki bar in center field that makes visiting Bradenton worth it.

[+] EnlargeClay Buchholz
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsClay Buchholz faced the minimum nine batters over three innings, allowing one walk.
The Red Sox had an ace on the mound and Clay Buchholz on the mound, with David Ross serving as his batterymate, responded in kind, helping the Sox snap a two-game losing streak in a 4-1 win over the Andrew McCutchen-less Pirates. After a dreary Saturday in which the roadsters lost 7-3 to the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota in a matinee matchup and the A-team looked lost in a six-error, 13-2 defeat to the O's backups at JetBlue Park, a road victory will make for a better ride home to the Fort.

While manager John Farrell insinuated before Sunday's game that the spring record has no bearing on how he feels about the team, the Red Sox skipper was pleased following the win: "Even though it's spring, you want to put together a consistent effort."

Let's see if a winning streak can start Monday when the Sox host the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park.

The result: The Sox are now 3-7-1 after Sunday's pleasantries. Buchholz looked in midseason form, facing the minimum number of batters across a three-inning outing. After he retired the first six batters on one fly out and five groundouts, Buchholz's only blemish came in his last frame, when he walked the first man he faced -- Jordy Mercer. The Sox right-hander quickly finished his day with the help of Ross, who threw out Mercer attempting to steal second, and then by striking out Robert Andino and inducing Chris Stewart into a fly out to center.

Buchholz being Buchholz, with some salt-and-pepper mixed in: Buchholz led a parade of pitchers who posted zeroes for the game until Rubby De La Rosa allowed the first Pittsburgh hit -- three hits in all -- and a run in the seventh inning. Before the game, manager John Farrell mentioned Buchholz's workload would be approximately 50 pitches over "three to four innings," but the 29-year-old righty masterfully did enough to please Farrell in three quick innings.

"Given that he's only gone one inning so far, it was more of the number of times he was up and down today," Farrell said. "He did such a very good job of establishing his two-seamer with some cutters in there, but he was extremely efficient. When we've seen Clay put the ball on the ground [by inducing groundouts], I think that's when he's most effective. I think the fact that it's his second time out, to pitch what looked like to be pretty comfortably on the mound, and physically, he's responding to the gradual ramping up we're doing with him. He's in a good place."

Buchholz, who has refined his two-seam fastball over the past two years, was somewhat pleased with the way it performed, using it primarily over the first two innings before testing the curveball in the latter stages of the second and often during the third. He "felt the direction and movement was there" with the two-seamer and got most of his ground-ball outs -- five of the nine outs -- with it.

"I tried to throw that comeback two-seamer a couple times, missed over the plate a couple times, but got some weak ground balls out of it," said Buchholz, who had one strikeout. "I rely on it to get the ground-ball outs in crucial situations and it was good to do so today."

Ross said the brilliance of Buchholz is that his sinker -- which results from the nasty way he throws the two-seam fastball -- has evolved over the past few years as the pitcher has matured as a major leaguer.

"He's a veteran and he's learned how to use the sinker where he can work on it early [in the spring]," said Ross, who caught Sunday after having a day off Saturday.

[+] EnlargeJackie Bradley Jr.
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsJackie Bradley advanced to second on the throw home after singling in two runs in the second inning.
Ross also had a "dig me" type day, at least that's how he described it. The 36-year-old catcher threw a runner out at second, blocked a pitch in the dirt and had a 1-for-3 day at the plate (a hard-hit single to right) as the cleanup hitter -- the first time "since my Little League days."

"Had to make sure the old man's still got it," said Ross when asked about his throw down to second for the out.

For catchers, throwing down to second during spring games is perhaps the most critical thing in terms of preparation for the regular season.

"Each person is different, of course, but throwing for me is a rhythm thing," Ross said. "You're constantly trying to find the rhythm. It's easy to do the drills, but it's hard to find the rhythm with the pitcher, the timing. That's why it's good to have happen in games."

Brentz still bashing away: Entering Sunday's contest, Bryce Brentz had a .333 batting average and an .833 slugging percentage in 18 at-bats with three homers and six RBIs. He added two more hits to his stellar spring, albeit just two singles, and raised his average to .400.

"He's been very impressive," Farrell said. "We all recognize he's got well-above-average power, but when he's able to get into deeper counts and make some contact, like his two-strike, opposite-field hit in Sarasota yesterday, that was as encouraging as any ball he's squared up all swing.

"It's a matter of managing the count and putting a two-strike approach when called for. That's what we're looking for."

With Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes established as outfielders, and with Mike Carp as an option, the debate for the rest of spring boils down to Grady Sizemore, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brentz. In terms of where Brentz can play, Farrell believes the 25-year-old can play either corner spot.

"He profiles with his arm strength as a right fielder, but he can play both left and right."

JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr. went 1-for 4 with two RBIs and made a couple of good running catches as the center fielder. He is now batting .190 for the spring.

X files: Xander Bogaerts did not make the trip to Bradenton.

Dot, dot, dots: Carp went 2-for-3 with a solo home run as the designated hitter. The other hit was a squib single, which Carp said he used as a setup for his homer. "Both hits came on inside fastballs, which [Pirates right-handed starter Charlie Morton] was trying to clearly establish and work on," Carp said. "He kind of got me on the first one and I nubbed it, but I was ready on it the next time. It was good to learn from it and use an inside-out swing to make contact and get it out." Carp raised his average to .222 for the spring. ... Francisco Cordero, who took a year off from baseball last season after not receiving any substantial offers, continued to impress, notching another scoreless frame with a strikeout. The 38-year-old right-handed reliever walked his first batter this spring, but did not allow a run for the fourth time in spring training for the Sox. ... Andrew Miller struck out the side in the fourth inning and tossed his second straight scoreless inning this spring. "You're starting to see the timing and the delivery click for him," Farrell said. "Much more consistent strike-throwing." ... Sunday was infield coach Brian Butterfield's 56th birthday.

Quick hits from the Fort: Carp's versatility

February, 23, 2014
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his first year with the Red Sox in 2013, Mike Carp accepted his role as a utility player and enjoyed a great amount of success.

Given his abilities as both a first baseman and an outfielder, he could start on some major league teams, but his willingness to come off the bench and produce in key moments was just another special aspect of the Sox’s World Series team.

[+] EnlargeMike Carp
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesMike Carp is slated to work out at third base this spring with an eye toward finding another way to get his bat in the lineup.
Carp played a career-high 86 games last season and could possibly have more responsibility this season, as the Red Sox are considering finding a way to get his bat in the lineup on a more consistent basis. The plan this spring is to have him work out at third base in order to get used to the left side of the infield, just in case.

“Stay tuned,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said with a smile.

Last season, Carp posted a .296 average with nine home runs and 43 RBIs as a first baseman, outfielder and pinch hitter.

“He exceeded our expectations when you look at the line that he put up last year,” Farrell said.

The Sox manager said he was impressed with the way Carp could go days without playing, but always came through with a professional at-bat when called upon.

“He performed well in a difficult situation,” Farrell said.

Carp’s versatility could become crucial again in 2014 and Farrell is comfortable with him in the lineup.

“If something were to happen to another guy on our roster where we have to insert Mike Carp for an extended period, we’re perfectly comfortable with that,” Farrell said.

* It’s not a surprise that Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa are gaining a lot of attention this spring from the Japanese media. Their every move is being documented and for good reason. Both pitchers were key contributors last fall. Uehara and Tazawa were impressive in their respective roles as closer and set-up man.

“They are premium strike throwers, so every time they come to the mound we know they’re not going to beat themselves, in terms of issuing bases on balls or creating other issues,” Farrell said.

Like all returning pitchers from last year’s roster, the Red Sox are keeping a close watch on how much each throws this spring because of the added workload last fall.

“We’re mindful of that, as we are with other guys that pitched another month last year, so we’re taking steps to balance some of that,” Farrell said. “They’ve come into camp in great shape. They’ve got tremendous work ethic and they’ll be ready to go once the bell rings Opening Day.”

* Even though catcher A.J. Pierzynski just began his first spring training with the Red Sox, it doesn’t mean he has a lack of knowledge about the club’s pitching staff. The 37-year-old backstop has faced nearly every Red Sox pitcher during his career, and now he’s literally on the receiving end. Through the daily spring training schedule of meetings, bullpen sessions and live BP, Pierzynski’s transition to a new team should be seamless.

According to Farrell, Pierzynski is scheduled to work with each starter in the rotation a minimum of twice during Grapefruit League action. As a season progresses, pitchers have a tendency to find a comfort level with certain catchers, but at this point of spring training that’s not the case, and Farrell has not designated certain battery combinations.

* Newly acquired left-handed pitcher Chris Capuano tossed his first bullpen session with the Red Sox on Sunday. Prior to arriving in camp and passing his physical on Saturday, Capuano already had thrown eight bullpens on his own and had comfortably reached 50 pitches.

* Farrell announced his lineup of pitchers for the upcoming exhibition games.

Feb. 27 vs. Northeastern: Brandon Workman (two innings), Henry Owens (two), Noe Ramirez and Burke Badenhop.

Feb. 27 vs. Boston College: Rubby De La Rosa (two), Matt Barnes (two), Miguel Celestino, Tommy Layne and Alex Wilson.

Feb. 28 vs. Minnesota: Anthony Ranaudo (two), Dalier Hinojosa (two), Francisco Cordero, Andrew Miller.

March 1 vs. Minnesota: Allen Webster (two), Drake Britton (two), Brayan Villareal, Jose Mijares.

Carp happy to be a role player with Sox

February, 18, 2014
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mike Carp still can’t believe his luck.

He was acquired by the Red Sox in a trade five days after the first full-squad workout last spring, earned a roster spot after not being guaranteed of anything and ended up on a World Series champion. Meanwhile, the Mariners -- the team he departed -- had their usual downtrodden season, losing 91 games.

“It was amazing, just to come over from where I was and to mesh with these guys and go about their winning ways,” he said. “Everybody contributes and everybody pulls for each other. It was a lot of fun.”

Carp was more productive than expected, with nine home runs, 43 RBIs, a .296 batting average and .362 on-base percentage in 86 games.

Carp filed for arbitration Jan. 15, but avoided it by signing a one-year, $1.4 million deal two days later.

“This is the only place for me,” he said. “To go out and compete with these guys on the field every day -- that’s all you can ask for.”

Carp, 27, was versatile, playing 41 games in left field, 29 at first base, five as a designated hitter and two in right field. He didn’t make any errors in the outfield in 43 chances. If this year plays out the same way for him, he’ll be fine with it.

What to watch for: Sox-Orioles final series

September, 26, 2013
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BALTIMORE -- Beyond determining if the Red Sox will hold on to claim the league's best record and home-field advantage, here are a few things to watch for in Boston's final series of the regular season, a three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles:

* Koji Uehara needs one strikeout to reach 100 for the season and become the eighth reliever in Sox history to strike out 100 or more.

Greg Harris is the last Sox reliever to record 100 strikeouts in a season, in 1993, and Dick Radatz did it four times, including a club record for relievers of 181 in 1964. But in all seven previous instances, the relievers with 100-plus K's threw more than 100 innings; Uehara has pitched 72 1/3 innings.

[+] EnlargeKoji Uehara, David Ortiz
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz (29 home runs) and Koji Uehara (99 strikeouts) enter the regular season's final weekend on the cusp of statistical milestones.
* More Koji: Uehara is averaging 12.32 strikeouts per nine innings, second in club history among Sox relievers to Jonathan Papelbon's 12.96 K's per 9 in 2007. Only three Sox relievers ever have averaged better than 12 K's per 9. Lee Smith was at 12.23 in 1989 and Papelbon was at 12.17 in 2011.

* David Ortiz, who drove in two runs Wednesday for his seventh 100-RBI season, needs one more home run to finish with his seventh 30-homer season. Mike Napoli, who hasn't played since last Friday, needs one more home run to match his season total of 24 last season.

Ortiz and Napoli are the only Sox players with 20 or more home runs this season, the fewest since 1997, when Mo Vaughn hit 35 and Nomar Garciaparra hit 30. In 2003, the Sox had six players who hit 20 or more.

* With a .307 batting average, Ortiz is the only .300 hitter in the Sox lineup at the moment. But there are five other Sox players within five percentage points of hitting .300 entering the final weekend: Jacoby Ellsbury is at .299, Shane Victorino .297, Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia .296, and Mike Carp is at .295. Only Carp among that group does not have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.

Ortiz would have to go hitless in his final 13 at-bats to fall below .300. Only three times since 2000 have the Sox had just one .300 hitter: Adrian Gonzalez (2012), Manny Ramirez (2006) and Ramirez (2001). Gonzalez, of course, was traded before the end of the season.

* With his next double, Jarrod Saltalamacchia will set a club record for catchers with 40. The Sox have five players with 30 or more doubles, and three players could join that number: Nava (29), Stephen Drew (28) and Victorino (26).

* Take a look at Saltalamacchia's slash line entering the weekend compared to 2012:

2012 -- .222/.288/.454/.742

2013 -- .272/.338/.465/.804

Saltalamacchia's batting average jump from .222 to .272 (50 percentage points) is the biggest improvement among catchers with at least 400 plate appearances over each of the past two seasons, and the sixth-biggest jump among any MLB players with the same qualifications. His OPS jump of .062 is the second-highest improvement among catchers with the same qualifiers from last season.

* Victorino, by the way, is the only player in Sox history with 15-plus home runs, 20-plus stolen bases and 10-plus sacrifice hits. It has been done 17 times by 15 different players since division play began in 1969, but Victorino had far fewer plate appearances (527) than most of the players on the list.

* And the Sox have been successful in their past 37 stolen base attempts, dating to Aug. 9. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters ranks fourth in the AL with a caught stealing percentage of 35.3 percent, throwing out 24 of 68 attempted base stealers.

Sox will keep minding their own business

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
1:05
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It’s one of those quirky things that happens to teams every September.

The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Red Sox Thursday night to salvage the final game of their three-game set with a 4-3 win. And as soon as the game was over, they became Sox fans, rooting for Boston to do their dirty work for them against the New York Yankees this weekend at Fenway Park.

Tampa Bay’s prolonged free fall -- they were a major league worst 4-13 since Aug. 25 and had lost five straight before Thursday night’s win -- has left the Rays feeling some heat from the Yankees, who come into Boston just a game out of a wild-card spot after taking three of four from the Baltimore Orioles.

How do you kill off the Yankees -- on life support after three excruciating losses to the Red Sox last weekend in the Bronx -- the team no longer able to depend on a late-September lift from captain Derek Jeter, who is through playing hardball this season?

"You’re never going to kill them off," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit his 12th home run and threw out his third straight baserunner attempting to steal, each with a strong, accurate throw. “They’re such a veteran team. They’re going to battle. That’s a good coaching staff, and the guys that have filled in are good veteran guys that have been there before. They’ve got a lot of guys who can pull their clubhouse together.

"The Yankees were rooting for us this series, and now the Rays are. Weird, isn’t it?"

For Jonny Gomes, disposing of the Yankees once and for all is not on his to-do list, which he purposely keeps very short.

"We’re in a situation where we don’t look outside this clubhouse," Gomes said. “We don’t scoreboard-watch, we don’t worry about who’s pitching. We beat everyone already, you know. We’ve beat teams’ aces. We’ve scored a lot. We’ve won close games.

“That’s what happens in here. We’ve set ourselves up where if we play our game, we win [the division title]."

There’s no need, Gomes said, to admonish this bunch about paying attention to the task at hand.

"We’ve played our butts off all the way up to this point," he said. "We control our own destiny. I don’t think we need to tell anyone to focus on our game and not what [other teams] do. It’s pretty easy."

[+] EnlargeWill Middlebrooks
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsPinch hitting in the ninth, Will Middlebrooks hit the ball on the nose, but it was right at Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.
The Rays would have found themselves in a virtual tie for the second wild-card spot had they lost to the Red Sox, who had won seven of their past eight and put the go-ahead runs on base in the ninth on a one-out infield hit by Stephen Drew and a four-pitch walk to pinch hitter Mike Carp, whose 10th-inning grand slam the night before shocked the Rays.

Sox manager John Farrell then called upon Will Middlebrooks, who was pinch hitting for the first time all season. The young third baseman, who had been given the night off so that Xander Bogaerts could get a start, started thinking by the sixth inning he might hit.

"I was ready," he said. "I didn’t hear anything until the eighth. I saw [Fernando] Rodney warming up, and I told a couple of guys I want him if the situation comes up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the run in."

Middlebrooks crushed a pitch from Rodney but lined it right into the glove of third baseman Evan Longoria for the second out of the inning. "Tough one to swallow," he said. Rodney then got to go into his flaming-arrow act when he retired Dustin Pedroia on a pop fly to end it.

Middlebrooks, too, did not have the Bronx on the brain.

"We’re not worried about anybody but ourselves, man," he said. “If we lose, we beat ourselves. We’re a good team. We’re not worried about the Yankees. We’re not looking at the standings. Just come to play baseball, and win every day."

The Rays broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth against Rubby De La Rosa when Longoria doubled and scored on a two-out, fly-ball double by Wil Myers that fell just inside the right-field foul line. Farrell had committed to giving a breather to his usual suspects in the pen and turned to Drake Britton and De La Rosa as setup men, with Franklin Morales held in reserve to close. Britton pitched a scoreless seventh and got the first out in the eighth.

De La Rosa gave up a ground-rule double to Longoria on an 0-2 slider -- Saltalamacchia was chiding himself afterward, saying he shouldn’t have asked De La Rosa to try to duplicate the excellent slider he’d thrown on the previous pitch, at least not right away -- and Myers’ fly ball kicked up chalk.

"When you get to this point," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, “there are always these little moments that occur, and it is about inches, whether it goes your way or not. Finally, we got a break tonight."

The Rays had taken a 3-1 lead against Sox starter Jake Peavy in the first four innings. Longoria tripled in the second and scored on a single by Myers. David DeJesus walked -- one of five issued by Peavy in six innings -- and scored on James Loney’s two-out double. And Desmond Jennings hit a two-out home run in the fourth.

The Sox, whose first run came on the home run by Saltalamacchia -- who broke an 0-for-21 slump -- tied the score in the sixth when David Ortiz hit his 27th homer to open the inning. Saltalamacchia walked, stole second, then scored on Drew’s double.

But there would be no adding to their total of 22 last-at-bat wins. Not on this night. Instead, they make a trip home for nine games against the Yankees, Orioles and Blue Jays and a chance to clinch the division on their own terms, on their own turf. The magic number remains at eight. The Bombers become the first order of business.

“I don’t know that we wrote them off," Farrell said of the Yankees. “[Alfonso] Soriano has come to that team. [Alex] Rodriguez has come back. Their offense is a strong one. We saw them for four games. No lead was seemingly safe. They’ve done an awesome job to be in the position they’re in given the number of games missed by their regular players.

“You respect the way they go about their work. Their pitching has been constant, and they’ve scored a lot of runs of late. And this weekend is going to be, as we’ve looked at every series over the course of the season, challenging in and of itself.

“I think there will be excitement around the three games we play. Every time we play them is a spectacle, and we’re going to see Mariano [Rivera] for the last time, hopefully. Looking forward to a really good series.’’

Carp steals scene as Sox slam Rays

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
1:23
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- So, just how long will that beard survive after the season?

"Funny question," Mike Carp said Wednesday night. "Same thing my wife is asking me all the time.

"I definitely want to show it off when I get back home, because not a lot of people can pull it off and do it. There's a few weeks to go, so it still has some growing to do."
A longer beard, Carp hopes, will offer some protection from what he endured Wednesday night after hitting a 10th-inning, pinch-hit grand slam that broke a 3-3 tie and catapulted the Red Sox to a 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, reducing their magic number to win the AL East to eight with 15 games to play. It started with Jarrod Saltalamacchia waiting at the top step to give Carp's beard a joyous tug, but it didn't end there.

"Pulling on the beard, that's a big thing going on here," Carp said. "There's about 25, 26 pulls in the dugout, so I'm a little sore. If it grows a little longer, it'll be OK. That's why I'm hoping it grows to be as long as possible."

Koji Uehara, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to set a couple more club records and gain the win, was on an exercise bike back in the clubhouse when it happened. There was no one to high-five, so Uehara just thrust his fist in the air.

Dustin Pedroia, who had drawn a leadoff walk, was on third base.

"I mean, I was kind of like an idiot, tagging up," Pedroia said. "Butter [third-base coach Brian Butterfield] told me to tag up. It was a great swing. He went down for the ball, hit it with backspin. It was loud."

Carp?

"That might have been the fastest I've ever run around the bases," he said. "I looked up, and I was already halfway to third. I kind of wanted to savor that moment, but at the same time, I wanted to get in and savor it with the boys.

"I knew I'd gotten the job done off the bat. I knew I put a good swing on it. I knew it was deep enough to drive in a run. But when I saw it go over the fence, wow."

[+] EnlargeMike Carp
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesMike Carp celebrates after his 10-inning grand slam broke a 3-3 tie.
In New York last Sunday, the Yankees had accused Mike Carp, who was playing first base, of being a sign-stealer, an accusation that at first made Carp incredulous, then angry, as he barked back at a Yankee dugout that was woofing at him.

"I couldn't take that from them," he said.

Wednesday night in Tropicana Field, the Red Sox part-timer became a scene-stealer. Guilty as charged, in this case, Carp hit a first-pitch slam off Rays reliever Roberto Hernandez, which cleared the center-field fence and sent the Sox to their 14th win in 17 games and the Rays to their 13th loss in 17 games.

Only 19 days earlier, the teams had been in a virtual tie for first place, and Sox players were being asked about the September collapse in 2011, when they went 7-20 and the Rays slipped into the playoffs ahead of them on the season's last day.

Those questions aren't being asked now.

"I don't [know if] there are too many players now who were around then," manager John Farrell said.

The Sox, who have won nine consecutive series, are now 9½ games ahead of the Rays, who once had a five-game cushion for a playoff spot but now have four teams within two games of their spot, the closest being the Yankees, only a game behind.

"Everybody's been preaching gloom and doom," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "and from my perspective, it's been a very tough run right now. But as we right ourselves, we're in pretty good position to continue on into the playoffs. I don't want our guys to go out there and worry about sharp objects."

No such concerns on the Sox side, where someone has been showing up on a nightly basis to do something to put their chin in jeopardy. That's one of the reasons, Carp said, that makes a very difficult job -- coming off the bench to be productive -- a welcome challenge more than a cross to bear.

It had been more than 10 years since a Sox player hit a pinch grand slam; one of the Idiots, Kevin Millar, did so on June 7, 2003, against Milwaukee.

But this was the seventh pinch home run hit by a member of the Soggy Bottom Boys, breaking the club record of six set 60 years ago.

Sox pitchers, meanwhile, have not allowed a single pinch-hit home run this season.

"Just watching these guys go to work every day, wanting to be part of it, wanting to be that guy who has a big hit, the big pinch-hit home run in the game," said Carp, who now has two pinch homers to the four hit by Jonny Gomes, the man whom Carp hit for Wednesday night.

"That's what we're all playing for. If I get an opportunity to do something, I want to do it."

And what exactly was the point he stole the sign for Hernandez's hanging slider, a wise guy asked.

"Never," Mike Carp, scene-stealer, said with a grin. "When the ball left his hand."

Carp notes Yankees' sign-stealing gripes

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
8:31
PM ET
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox first baseman Mike Carp knew all about the hoohah that erupted Monday night in Baltimore, after the Yankees accused Orioles third-base coach Bobby Dickerson of stealing signs, leading to a heated confrontation between Baltimore manager Buck Showalter and New York manager Joe Girardi.

"They did the same thing to me the day before," said Carp, who played first base for the Sox on Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, where the Sox lost 4-3 to the Yankees.

Carp could be seen barking back and forth with the Yankees' dugout early in the game, and he said Wednesday that they were accusing him of stealing signs.

"Pretty much their whole dugout," Carp said when asked who was making the accusation. "But it was their pitching coach [Larry Rothschild], I think, who came to the top step."

Carp laughed at the suggestion that he was guilty as charged.

"I'm not even an every-day player," he said. "I wasn't stealing signs. I couldn't take that from them."

Bard wants to keep pitching this season

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
7:36
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BOSTON -- Daniel Bard is determined not to shut it down for the season, manager John Farrell said Friday after speaking with the struggling reliever.

Farrell said Bard told him he’d like to pitch at least a couple of more times, even after a disastrous outing Thursday in the season finale in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, in which he walked five batters in two-thirds of an inning and wild-pitched home two runs.

"He wants a couple of more appearances and we can provide those to him, give him an opportunity and see where it might go," Farrell said. "The potential of that being in Lowell is a real potential. Daniel has not closed the book on this season, I think that’s the first and foremost thing."

-- Mike Carp, who was scratched from an infrequent start Thursday, reported his shoulder felt "great" Friday before batting practice, but with a lefty (Hector Santiago) going for the White Sox, he was back on the bench. Mike Napoli played first and Jonny Gomes was in left.

-- Jake Peavy, who will be facing his former White Sox teammates Saturday, told a cluster of mostly Chicago-area reporters that he never wanted to leave Chicago and loved his time there.

"That being said," he continued, "I couldn’t be any more excited being right here, right now. I couldn’t walk into a better situation with a better bunch of guys who are a lot like me, on and off the field."

Peavy joked he was concerned that White Sox strongman Adam Dunn will come to the plate batting right-handed instead of left-handed.

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