Boston Red Sox: Mike Napoli

Mike (Napoli) and the mike

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
NEW YORK -- Here's what John Farrell said about the "What an Idiot" comment by Mike Napoli after he homered off Masahiro Tanaka, caught on a Fox TV mike Saturday night:

"My understanding, they're looking to capture an emotion that might enhance the telecast. From my understanding, those mikes aren’t directly inside the dugout, but are powerful enough to pick up things that can be said inside there.

"The one thing we don’t ever want our players to be is non-emotional. I'm aware of the comment. I didn’t hear it at the time, but I know this: We’ve got the utmost respect for Tanaka. I know Mike Napoli does. His comment was based on emotion in that moment; it wasn’t directed as derogatory at him. To me, the microphone is part of the package that Fox buys from MLB, so that’s what we do."

Napoli could be heard making the comment as he returned to the Sox dugout after breaking a 1-1 tie with a solo home run in the ninth inning. He told reporters he was surprised that Tanaka threw him a fastball after getting him out all night with splitters.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn't make much of the comment either, telling reporters before Sunday night's game, "I haven't seen anything in Mike Napoli that he is a guy that shows people up or he is a guy that degrades people. I don't make too much of it. It is a heat of the moment thing."

NEW YORK -- Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli, whose unvarnished opinion of Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka ("What an idiot") would never have been uttered had he known a dugout microphone would pick it up, does not play favorites.

Still, despite the fact his game-winning home run in the ninth inning Saturday night -- the one that came at the expense of the heedless Tanaka -- made a happy man out of Sox pitcher Jon Lester, Sox starters have noticed a definite trend.

If form holds, folks who tune in to Sunday night's nationally televised game between the Sox and Yankees will see for themselves that when John Lackey is pitching, Napoli is likely to do some damage at the plate.

[+] EnlargeMike Napoli
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonMike Napoli rounds the bases after hitting a two-out, two-strike Masahiro Tanaka fastball over Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field.
"Yeah, no kidding," Lester said. "Somebody noticed that the other day. It's crazy. He's got to take care of his boy."

It started in Lackey's first start of the season, in Baltimore. Napoli had two hits, including a home run, and knocked in four runs. Next start, a three-hit game, and before the end of May, there would be two more three-hit games.

But it is in June that Napoli's pro-Lackey campaign has really taken off. He had three hits, including a game-tying home run, with Lackey on the hill June 8 in Detroit. His next start, against the Indians, there were two hits and three RBIs.

On June 18, after Lackey pitched nine scoreless innings in Fenway Park and departed the game with a no-decision against the Twins, Napoli hit a walk-off home run in the 10th.

And this past Tuesday in Seattle, in a game in which Lackey was routed, Napoli still did his part, with two hits, one another home run.

Need one more piece of compelling evidence? Go back to this past October and Game 3 of the ALCS, a thrilling 1-0 duel won by Lackey over Justin Verlander of the Tigers. The only run of the game came on a gargantuan home run by Napoli.

"The numbers are pretty good, huh?" Napoli asked Saturday night.

How about spectacular? In the 14 Lackey starts in which Napoli has batted this season, he is hitting .431 (22-for-51) with 4 home runs and 12 RBIs.

He doesn't like him that much, does he?

"He's my boy," Napoli said. "We grew up together."

Lackey, who had headed back to the team's hotel early to rest up for his start, wasn't around Saturday night to dish on his longtime friend, who was drafted by the Angels in 2000, one year after Lackey was picked.

Lackey made it to the majors four years ahead of Napoli but was there when Napoli marked his debut in 2006 with a home run off Verlander in his first big league at-bat.

"I remember that, for sure," Lackey said after Napoli's postseason blast off Verlander. "He got called up and hit one off Verlander on a curveball. And I said, 'We need that dude, keep him around here.'"

Lackey left the Angels first, signing with the Red Sox after the 2009 season. Napoli left a year later for Texas, before the two were reunited with the Sox last season. Neither one has shied from a good time since, many of them shared together.

Napoli is too easygoing to disparage a player, friend or foe. That's what made his gleeful comment about Tanaka to teammates as he returned to the dugout, caught on Fox TV, so startling.

Napoli was referring to the fact that Tanaka, who had devoured him with split-fingered fastballs in two earlier at-bats -- striking him out each time -- would throw him a fastball with two strikes and two outs in the ninth. What made it an even more egregious mistake is that the batter on-deck was Stephen Drew, who is mired in a horrific slump.

"He had me right where he wanted me," Napoli said.

Tanaka acknowledged afterward that he had twice shaken off Yankees catcher Brian McCann, until he got the sign for a fastball, and threw a 96 mph heater over the fat part of the plate. Napoli didn't miss it and drove it over the short right-field porch into the first row.

It was his sixth home run at Yankee Stadium since joining the Red Sox, the most by any visitor since the start of the 2013 season.

"Luckily, we're in Yankee Stadium and not anywhere else, and that ball goes out," said Lester, who was looking at a no-decision after allowing one unearned run in eighth innings.

Instead, he got to watch Koji Uehara polish off the Yankees and set up Sunday night's rubber match, with Lackey on the hill and Napoli at the ready.

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 2, Yankees 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doubront to start Friday; Ortiz gets day off

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Left-hander Felix Doubront will be activated from the 15-day disabled list Friday and start for the Red Sox against the Oakland A's in the second game of their four-game series.

Doubront will take the place of right-hander Brandon Workman, who is serving a six-game suspension for throwing near the head of Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria on May 30.

Doubront went on the disabled list May 21 with a strained left shoulder. In his last rehabilitation start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday, he struck out 10 and allowed no hits over five innings.

"I felt great," Doubront said before Thursday's game. "Back in the minors, I was pitching, trying to get my arm speed and repeat my delivery more often and throw my pitches, get ahead in the count and strike somebody out. Get that confidence that I need to come back here. Everything went well."

Red Sox manager John Farrell said Doubront made big strides in his final rehab start.

"His last start was much improved in terms of overall stuff," Farrell said. "There was increased intensity, increased velocity, increased action to his pitches that are going to be required here. And he gets the ball tomorrow."

David Ortiz, who hit a game-tying home run in the 10th inning Wednesday against Minnesota, was out of the lineup Thursday night against Oakland.

"Just with the travel, as late as we got in here last night, not uncommon that he's got a day off where we try to manage his games with the first game on the West Coast," Farrell said. "Fully expect him to be back in the lineup tomorrow."

• Outfielder Shane Victorino (right-hamstring strain) was out of the lineup Thursday for Triple-A Pawtucket with "overall stiffness" in his lower back and hamstring but will still likely join the Red Sox while they're on the West Coast, Farrell said. After playing four games at Oakland, they play three at Seattle.

"He went through a full day of treatment," Farrell said. "We're going to go through another day of treatment tomorrow, likely, and everything points to him being back in the lineup on Saturday. We still intend that he will be joining us here on the West Coast. While he's not in the lineup, I can't say it was a setback, but we felt like we needed to get a couple days of work in."

• The Red Sox arrived in Oakland on the heels of an amazing victory Wednesday against Minnesota that Mike Napoli hopes can spark their struggling offense. Trailing 1-0 entering the bottom of the 10th inning, Ortiz and Napoli hit back-to-back home runs, lifting the Red Sox to an improbable 2-1 win.

"You hope it does," Napoli said. "That's what you look for: sparks to get your guys going. It was definitely a big win for us, and you would hope it would just snowball.

"It was just a crazy, crazy game. We were able to pull it out even though we weren't getting anything going offensively. Pitchers have been picking us up. It's time for us to turn the tables a little bit."

The Red Sox swept the three-game series against Minnesota despite scoring only five runs.

Sloppy seventh inning is Sox's undoing

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14

BOSTON -- Much of the season for the Boston Red Sox has been about searching for positives amid an otherwise negative campaign. On Saturday against Cleveland, that search was not difficult. With the exception of the seventh inning.

There were many silver linings in the 3-2 loss. Jake Peavy had perhaps his best start in over two months, even if he had to wiggle out of trouble in a few innings. For the most part, the defense was sound. And Boston created plenty of chances against five Indians pitchers. Alas, those chances too often came and went without a run and a few plays in the seventh proved to be the difference.

"We played great team baseball," said Peavy, who allowed a run in six innings and left with a 2-1 lead. "So many good plays, everybody was in the right position, playing hard. Just wasn't meant to be today."

Peavy helped contribute to an 0-for-11 showing with runners in scoring position for Cleveland. Once he left, however, an unfortunate series of events made his chance for his first win since April 25 vanish.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Pierzynski
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesA.J. Pierzynski's error on Dustin Pedroia's throw home allowed the tying run to score.
The Indians opened the seventh against Craig Breslow with Asdrubal Cabrera's infield hit on a ball that Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli could not scoop. Shortstop Jonathan Herrera made a great stop on the ball and the throw beat Cabrera, but the sure-handed Napoli could not pull in the one-hopper.

Another single put runners on the corners and set up the key play of the game. Jason Kipnis grounded one to Dustin Pedroia, who was playing in just a tad at second base. Pedroia could've gone to second base for an easy double play, conceding the tying run but setting the Sox up for a quicker escape.

That's not Pedroia's nature, however, and his throw home to nail Cabrera looked to be a wise choice as it beat the runner by a few steps. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was unable to hang on and the tying run scored without an out being recorded, opening the door for the Indians to inflict more damage.

Pedroia said his momentum was pulling him to the first-base side and it caused him to yank the throw a bit. Pierzynski, who was charged with an error, pinned all the blame on himself.

"Pedroia made a great play and I tried to make a tag and missed the ball," Pierzynski said. "I just missed it. Pedey made a great play, that's why he's a Gold Glover and that's why I'm not."

That made for two agonizing plays that could have been made and maybe even should have been made, both going against Boston. When Breslow walked the bases and Junichi Tazawa came on to walk in the go-ahead run, they loomed even larger. That's not to say there was any second-guessing.

"Pedey felt like he's got a chance to cut down the runner at home," manager John Farrell said. "Throw was on the backhand side of A.J., just enough to where he doesn't field clean. But can't second-guess that. That's a good, aggressive defensive play.

"Unfortunately we started to nitpick a little bit on the strike zone. Taz just misses a couple of fastballs to [Carlos] Santana for the difference in this one."

Breslow had not worked since June 7 but Farrell was confident bringing him in to protect the 2-1 lead.

"There's complete confidence in him, he had had good success against that part of the lineup," Farrell said. "A couple of ground balls found their way through, and the walk to [David] Murphy puts us in a bases-loaded situation unfortunately. I'd still go back to Bres in that situation again."

Farrell could also express confidence in the results of one of his other big decisions on the day, that being the somewhat unorthodox maneuver to give Brock Holt a start in right field, a position he had never played.

Holt made a couple of challenging catches and also played every hop, carom and roller along the wall with aplomb. He manned the position well enough and handled his various opportunities such that the Indians were never able to push the issue on several balls hit down the line. That's a tricky area for players with whom it is unfamiliar, but Holt had the look of a seasoned veteran.

Group that with Peavy's positive step after a relatively rough stretch, nine hits for an offense that has shown signs of life in the series, and several other solid plays in the field and the Sox had plenty to feel good about.

"Jake gives a quality start, thought he and A.J. worked well together," Farrell said. "We played some very good defense behind him, particularly [Napoli] at first and Brock out in right field. He cut down 90 extra feet that they could've taken. Just ... we came up short."

That's been a theme often in 2014. On Saturday, at the very least, there was no need to second-guess and no issues finding a few positives.

Ortiz delivers much-needed blast

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9

DETROIT -- The Boston Red Sox finally got the big hit they needed on Sunday night.

David Ortiz's three-run homer off Joba Chamberlain with one out in the ninth inning gave Boston a come-from-behind 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

The win snapped the Red Sox's five-game losing streak and averted a series and season sweep at the hands of the Tigers, who won the first five games between the teams this season.

“We needed a win,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “We had so many opportunities that we couldn't capitalize on, then David Ortiz gets the three-run homer in the ninth.”

The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the third against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, but got only one run out of it. That came on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly, which gave Boston a 1-0 lead. Ortiz ended the inning by striking out on a 3-2 pitch.

[+] EnlargeOrtiz
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportDavid Ortiz receives congratulations from Dustin Pedroia after his go-ahead home run in the ninth.
The Sox missed out on another opportunity in the fourth with runners on first and third with one out. Sanchez struck out Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley Jr. to get out of it.

Boston had a chance to break a 2-2 tie in the seventh after Brock Holt's one-out triple, but with the infield pulled in, third baseman Nick Castellanos made a diving stop on a Xander Bogaerts grounder and threw him out at first. Ortiz then flied deep to center against lefty reliever Phil Coke, who was brought in to face Ortiz (now 2-for-19 against Coke).

In the eighth, Coke struck out Bradley with runners on first and second to end the inning.

But when Ortiz stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth, Holt on second and Pedroia on first, he was looking for one thing from former Yankees reliever Chamberlain: a slider.

Ortiz got one that hung out over the plate and sent the 1-1 pitch deep into the right-field stands for his 14th home run of the season.

“You just have to fight,” Ortiz said. “Lately, I think I've made a career of hitting balls right at people. But that's baseball. You just have to fight through it.”

The clutch homer made a winner of John Lackey, who improved to 7-4 with eight solid innings.

“We've seen so much of that,” Lackey said of big home runs by Ortiz. “We think it's a possibility every time he hits. He lives for those situations. You almost expect it.”


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The big right-hander allowed three runs -- two earned -- and seven hits. He walked one and struck out five. He threw 112 pitches, 74 for strikes.

“I threw the ball pretty good. Getting to the eighth inning against this club is an accomplishment,” Lackey said. “And we were able to pull it out.”

Koji Uehara retired the side in order in the ninth for his 12th save.

Chamberlain (1-3) took the loss. He gave up three runs on three hits with a walk and a strikeout.

First baseman Mike Napoli returned for the Red Sox on Sunday after being on the disabled list since late May due to a sprained finger on his left hand and made an immediate impact. His line homer into the right-field seats leading off the sixth inning tied the game 2-2. It was Napoli's sixth home run of the season, the first off Sanchez since Napoli hit one against him at Comerica Park in last season's ALCS. Napoli was 3-for-4 with a walk and even stole his first base of the season.

It's safe to say Napoli's presence in the No. 5 spot behind Ortiz was felt.

“They wouldn't have thrown the ball near the strike zone [against Ortiz in the ninth] if Mike wasn't standing on deck,” Lackey said.

Farrell said that Napoli's presence in the lineup also helped the Red Sox drive up Sanchez's pitch count.

Despite getting only two runs and six hits in six innings off of Sanchez, the Red Sox made him throw 112 pitches. He walked two and struck out seven.

With Napoli back, Holt made his professional debut in left field. He continued his hot hitting by going 4-for-5, but he also made an outstanding running, twisting catch in left of Ian Kinsler's long drive to end the third inning. Holt made the catch on the warning track near the fence while running toward the fence and the left-field line.

“Unbelievable” Ortiz said. “That's a guy who's never played left field before. He's very athletic.”

An error by Bogaerts at third on Austin Jackson's grounder in the seventh gave Detroit the opportunity to take the lead. The miscue put runners on first and second with none out. One out later, Eugenio Suarez's line single to left brought home Nick Castellanos to make it 3-2.

But Bogaerts made amends in the bottom of the ninth, making a diving stop on hot smash by Castellanos to get the second out and leaping to snare a liner by Jackson to end it.

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 5, Tigers 3

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8

DETROIT -- David Ortiz's three-run homer in the top of the ninth turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead and the Red Sox held on for the win at Comerica Park on Sunday night, snapping a five-game losing streak.

Ortiz drove a 1-1 pitch from familiar foe Joba Chamberlain deep into the right-field stands with one out in the ninth.

The win averts a sweep in the three-game series and a sweep in the season series against the Tigers, who won the first five meetings.

A bulldog as usual: John Lackey (7-4) pitched eight innings to earn the win. He allowed three runs -- two earned -- and seven hits. He walked one and struck out five. Lackey threw 112 pitches, 74 for strikes. Koji Uehara pitched the ninth for his 12th save. Chamberlain (1-3) took the loss.

Napoli's back: Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli, who returned on Sunday after being on the disabled list since late May due to a sprained finger on his left hand, made an immediate impact. His line-drive homer into the right-field seats leading off the sixth inning tied the game 2-2. It was Napoli's sixth homer of the season, and the first home run off Sanchez since Napoli hit one against him at Comerica Park in last season's American League Championship Series. Napoli was 2-for-3 after walking on a 3-2 pitch in his first at-bat back and even stole his first base of the season.

Suarez comes through again: Detroit shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who recently was called up from Triple-A Toledo, put the Tigers ahead 3-2 with a seventh-inning single after tying the game at 1-1 with an RBI single in the third. He homered on Saturday night for his first major league hit.

This left-field stuff is easy: Brock Holt, who was playing the first game of his professional career in the outfield, made an outstanding running, twisting catch in left of Ian Kinsler's long drive to end the third inning. Holt made the catch on the warning track near the fence while running toward the fence and the left-field line. Holt also was 4-for-5 at the plate.

Cabrera leaves game: After a two-out single in the sixth inning, Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera was removed from the game with left hamstring tightness and replaced with Don Kelly. Cabrera appeared to be laboring while legging out a double and then scoring from second on Victor Martinez's single in the fourth. Cabrera is day-to-day.

Wasted opportunities: The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the third against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, but got only one run out of it. That came on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly that gave Boston a 1-0 lead. Ortiz ended the inning by striking out on a 3-2 pitch. The Sox missed out on another opportunity in the fourth with runners on first and third with one out. Sanchez struck out Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley Jr. to get out of it.

Boston had a chance to break a 2-2 tie in the seventh after Holt's one-out triple. But with the infield pulled in, third baseman Nick Castellanos made a diving stop on Xander Bogaerts' grounder and threw him out at first. Ortiz then flied deep to center against lefty reliever Phil Coke, who was brought in to face Ortiz (now 2-for-19 against Coke). Coke struck out Bradley to end the eighth with runners on first and second.

High pitch count: Despite getting only two runs and six hits in six innings off Sanchez, the Red Sox made him throw 112 pitches. He walked two and struck out seven.

W2W4: Sox-Tigers, 'Sunday Night Baseball'

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8

DETROIT -- The Boston Red Sox look to avoid a series and season sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" at Comerica Park.

Not only has Boston lost the first two games of the series, it has dropped five consecutive games this season to the team it beat in the American League Championship Series last season.

But reinforcements are on the way.

[+] EnlargeMike Napoli
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsMike Napoli sat in Boston's dugout Saturday, but the Sox hope he provides a boost in his return to the lineup Sunday.
First baseman Mike Napoli, who has been on the disabled list since late May with inflammation stemming from a dislocated finger on his left hand, is scheduled to be activated on Sunday, and the plan is for him to go right into the lineup at first and his accustomed fifth spot in the batting order behind David Ortiz.

The Red Sox had been struggling offensively, but their bats perked up in Saturday night's 8-6 loss to the Tigers, and they're expecting another boost from Napoli.

"You're talking about a guy who had over 20 home runs and almost 100 RBI for us a year ago [23 homers and 92 RBIs]," Boston manager John Farrell said. "So that's a guy we're happy to have back."

Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who homered on Saturday night, agreed.

"A huge part of our order. A run producer. We need him," Pedroia said.

The Red Sox will send John Lackey (6-4, 3.28 ERA) to the mound against Detroit's Anibal Sanchez (2-2, 2.15).

Jon Lester was totally ineffective in taking the loss on Saturday night. He gave up five runs and 12 hits in 4⅓ innings. He said he didn't feel right from the time he started warming up in the bullpen.

"Hopefully, Lackey will come out and pick me up tomorrow night," Lester said after Saturday night's game.

Sanchez has allowed only a combined run and five hits in 15⅓ innings over his past two starts, with one walk and 14 strikeouts, but doesn't have a win to show for it.

The Tigers also feature the dangerous duo of Miguel Cabrera (.321, 11 HR and 51 RBIs) batting third in the order and Victor Martinez (.329, 14 HR and 37 RBIs) batting cleanup.

Cabrera was 3-for-4, including two doubles, with a RBI on Saturday night, and Martinez had a run-scoring double in five at-bats.

Sox set to activate Napoli on Sunday

June, 7, 2014
Jun 7
DETROIT -- The Boston Red Sox are anticipating the return of their No. 5 hitter on Sunday.

First baseman Mike Napoli, who has been on the disabled list since late May with a finger strain on his left hand, is scheduled to be activated on Sunday, and the plan is for him to go right into the lineup at first and his accustomed fifth spot in the batting order, behind David Ortiz.

Getting Napoli back would be a good thing at any time but it's particularly good now because the Red Sox are struggling to score runs.

"You're talking about a guy who had over 20 home runs and almost 100 RBI for us a year ago [23 homers and 92 RBIs]," Boston manager John Farrell said. "So that's a guy we're happy to have back."

In addition to the finger, Napoli also had a couple of other nagging injuries when he was placed on the DL.

Napoli's return means that Brock Holt, who has been playing first in Napoli's absence and batting leadoff, will move to left field.

Holt, who has been shagging flies in the outfield for the past few days, has played all four infield positions during his professional career but never the outfield.

"His athletic ability will allow him to play left field. It's a learn-on-the-job situation," Farrell said. "We like what he's done in the leadoff spot."

Holt is hitting .314 in 26 games with a .357 on-base percentage.

Buchholz pushed back

Right-handed starter Clay Buchholz, on the DL with a hyperextended left knee, was scheduled to pitch a simulated game before Saturday night's contest against the Detroit Tigers.

But Farrell said the Comerica Park field wasn't available and that the simulated game is now scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 3:30.

Colbrunn update

Farrell said hitting coach Greg Colbrunn was feeling better, walking around more and was less disoriented than he had been.

Colbrunn was diagnosed with bleeding in the brain, a potentially life-threatening condition, after being taken to the Cleveland Clinic before Wednesday's game with the Cleveland Indians.

Farrell said that he has texted with Colbrunn, who is expected to make a "good" recovery.

Badenhop extends streak

With 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in Friday night's 6-2 loss to Detroit, right-hander Burke Badenhop extended his streak of not allowing an earned run to 26 1/3 innings (22 games).

"He's been tremendous in relieving with his sinker ball and the number of double plays he has produced has been great," Farrell said. "A great addition to our bullpen and the success that it's had."

Badenhop was acquired from Milwaukee in a trade in November.

He was originally drafted by Detroit in 2005 (19th round) and in December 2007, Badenhop was one of the players the Tigers sent to the Florida Marlins in exchange for Miguel Cabrera. Badenhop's current Red Sox teammate, left-hander Andrew Miller, was also sent to the Marlins by Detroit in that deal.


Infielder Xander Bogaerts was 1-for-4 with a RBI on Friday night and has reached base in 22 of his last 24 games. He is batting .351 (34-for-97) in that span.

Pregame notes: Sox stick with Gomes

May, 28, 2014
May 28
BOSTON -- For the second consecutive game, Jonny Gomes is in the Red Sox starting lineup versus a right-handed pitcher.

With the Sox recently snapping a 10-game losing skid and winning two in a row, manager John Farrell said that Gomes finds a way to impact games.

“I think we have a very different feel, and I know this is very subjective, our energy on the field is different when he’s in the lineup,” Farrell said. “When we’re in the stretch that we are, we need every form or type of contribution made and Jonny fits it.”

During Boston’s 6-3 win Tuesday against the Braves, Gomes went 1-for-5 with a run scored, but he made a few crucial defensive plays in right field to help the Red Sox to victory. Overall, he enters Wednesday’s game with a .236 average, 5 homers and 22 RBIs.

A win tonight for the Red Sox will give the club a three-game winning streak, which would be their longest all season.

* Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli had an MRI taken on his dislocated ring finger Wednesday and structurally everything looked fine, according to Farrell.

“We’re working on getting the swelling out of there and there’s no damage to the tendons or ligaments. He’s still battling a lot of soreness,” Farrell said. “The swelling, to me, that’s what's significant and you wouldn’t think after all this time, since it was first sustained, that it’s still there as it is, but that’s where it’s at.”

* Mike Carp went for a precautionary X-ray Wednesday afternoon due to some increased swelling and soreness after being hit on the outside of the right foot during Tuesday’s game in Atlanta. As a result, Daniel Nava is starting at first base for the Red Sox.

* Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks continues to progress from a fractured right index finger, but hasn’t started baseball activities. He’s been on the DL since May 17.

“He’s almost to the point of full extension with the finger,” Farrell said. “There’s still quite of bit of swelling and discoloration. There’s no time frame, as far as beginning baseball activities. The recent X-ray this past weekend indicated that there’s no further chips or movement of the fracture that’s been sustained. So, he’s still in an immobilization period right now.”

The going gets tougher for snakebit Sox

May, 25, 2014
May 25

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- So, if scoring five runs in the first inning against Tampa Bay's David Price, one of the best left-handers in baseball, isn't sufficient to end a losing streak, what exactly is Plan B?

How about trying to win with a minor league call-up making his fourth big league start, backed by a tapped-out bullpen and a lineup that when healthy wasn't producing, and now has a huge fault line running right down its middle?

Those are the prospects Sunday facing the Boston Red Sox, who went 15 excruciating innings Saturday before losing their ninth straight game, 6-5, to the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that made franchise history with its third straight walk-off win while Andrew Miller extended a run of personal agony unmatched by any Sox reliever in at least 40 years, if ever.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Miller
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsAndrew Miller has been on the hook for four walk-off losses in 11 days.
Miller has now been charged with four losses in the span of 11 days, the most losses of any American League reliever, and all have come in walk-off fashion -- two in Minnesota, one in each of the first two games here. The one Saturday was particularly torturous: Miller gave up a leadoff single to James Loney, who grounded a ball through a vacant spot in Boston's shifted infield. Brandon Guyer then lay down a bunt that went undisturbed by either third baseman Brock Holt or Miller, each thinking the other was going to make a play.

The next batter, Desmond Jennings -- who on Friday night drew a walk off Miller, stole second and scored the winning run on a base hit by rookie Cole Figueroa off Burke Badenhop -- hit a comebacker to the left-hander, who fielded it cleanly, whirled and threw the ball past an uncovered second base into center field.

A pale-looking Miller lamented that he was unable to hold up on his throw when he realized that neither shortstop Jonathan Herrera nor second baseman Dustin Pedroia had arrived at the bag.

"Perfect storm," he said. "It happens. You'd like to think you could do something different about it. If I check up and get the out at first, I can still get a strikeout or a popup or put somebody on and still get the double play.

"We have options. Just the way it unfolded, I didn't react quick enough to shut it down, to realize I didn't have a play, or didn't like the play I had."

That ended a 5-hour, 16-minute exercise in which neither team had scored since the fifth inning. The Red Sox, who were missing Mike Napoli, David Ortiz and Shane Victorino, managed just two hits after the first inning, and advanced only one baserunner to second base the rest of the way, when Holt chopped a ball over the head of pitcher Cesar Ramos in the 13th and Ramos threw wildly to first. The Sox could not exploit that error, Ramos recovering to strike out Herrera and Mike Carp sandwiched around an intentional walk to Pedroia. The Sox went down on strikes 16 times, and from the ninth inning on had two strikeouts in four innings.

[+] EnlargeJake Peavy
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsHanded a 5-0 first-inning lead, Jake Peavy gave it all back over six innings.
"There is no 'give up' in this group," Farrell said. "You do the best you can with what you have, where you are. That's the mode we're in right now."

The Rays' clubhouse reverberated with shouts after Miller's misplay made them winners.

"He's been through a tough stretch," Farrell said. "No question. Every [late] inning situation he's in, he's coming up on the short end. We're aware of it. We're conscious of it. We've got to go with who's available.

"The stuff is there -- there's no backing up the stuff. He's not catching a break right now, nor are we."

And so, with the Sox now eight games under .500 (20-28) and seven games behind first-place Toronto, they search for a way to avoid a third straight series sweep. Right-hander Brandon Workman, who started three games last season for the Sox and has had so-so results in Pawtucket this spring, is Sunday's emergency starter, Felix Doubront having gone on the disabled list after losing a one-on-one confrontation with a car door last week. The Sox went through seven relievers Saturday, so they were casting about for a way to keep another minor league call-up, reliever Alex Wilson, here for another day so they'd have at least one fresh arm behind Workman.

The lineup is in disarray. Right fielder Victorino went on the disabled list for a second time in less than two months with a strained right hamstring, prompting the recall of Daniel Nava; Victorino's first stint on the DL lasted 22 games. First baseman Napoli may soon join him on the DL as the roster move required to keep Wilson; unless the Sox can somehow get creative, that is the most obvious path available.

Farrell said Napoli is still bedeviled by the flu-like symptoms that sidelined him for two games last week, has hamstring and calf issues, and has never given the dislocated ring finger on his left hand a chance to fully heal, because he's tried to play through it.

Admirable, to be sure, but Napoli hasn't been the same hitter since dislocating the finger with a headfirst slide into second base April 15 in Chicago against the White Sox. Since then, Napoli has continued to draw his share of walks -- 24, which matches the number of hits he has gotten in that span -- but has just two home runs and 13 RBIs in that time.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Pierzynski
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsThe Sox seemed to be sitting pretty after A.J. Pierzynski's three-run homer, but the Rays rattled off six unanswered runs to hand Boston its ninth loss in a row.
"It's impacted [him]," Farrell said before Saturday's loss. "To what extent, it's hard to say, but ever since the injury it's pretty clear. He's not one to make excuses, but at the same time coming off the flu and everything he's dealing with, he needs at least a couple more days. This isn't a one-day thing; we're hopeful it's not 15."

In addition to Victorino and Napoli, DH Ortiz also sat in what Farrell called a planned day off to deal with a calf issue, though Ortiz did pinch hit for Jackie Bradley Jr. in the 10th and grounded out. Given Ortiz's numbers against Price (8-for-37, .216, no home runs), and the fact he had just one broken-bat single in his past 19 at-bats, the decision to rest him made sense. And when the Sox piled on Price for five runs in the first, the last three coming on A.J. Pierzynski's first three-run home run of the season (he also has a grand slam), it looked like the Sox might get away with their undermanned lineup.

But the Rays pecked away with single runs against Jake Peavy in the second and fourth, then tied the score in the fifth with three straight singles and a two-run double by Guyer, who whacked a hanging full-count curveball after Peavy had jumped ahead in the count, 0-2.

"That's the pitch," Peavy said, "that's going to haunt me all night."

The Sox clubhouse hasn't exactly turned into a ghost town, but without the music that blares after a win, it has become eerily quiet.

"I feel like I've got what, four losses, attached to my name in the last 11 days," said Miller, who had struck out Matt Joyce to end the 14th, the eighth straight inning in which seven Sox relievers had held the Rays scoreless, on four hits.

"That [stinks]. The goal is to win, not to feel good about yourself afterwards. Right now I'm the one who has been stuck on the field a bunch of times, and it feels like crap. I don't want to be there anymore. My job there is to put up a zero, however you get there, and I didn't do it.

"We're grinding it out. It's tough. Nobody wants to lose a game, let alone a streak we're on right now. All 25 guys, we're in a hole we've got to dig ourselves out of. I'm as much a part of that as anybody."

Gentlemen, start your shovels.

Farrell restores Pedroia to 3-hole

May, 23, 2014
May 23
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox manager John Farrell rolled out his 38th different batting order in 47 games Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, but indicated that restoring what was the heart of the order in 2013 -- Dustin Pedroia No. 3, David Ortiz cleanup, Mike Napoli No. 5 -- may have some permanency to it.

Third baseman Brock Holt, who led off on April 21 against the Orioles and went 2-for-4 with a sacrifice fly, was back in the top spot Friday night, followed by rookie Xander Bogaerts, who hit in the 2-spot in four straight games in mid-April (3-for-14, HR) but was subsequently dropped lower in the order.

Bogaerts hit regularly in the 2-hole in the minors last season, and has been the team's hottest hitter of late, reaching base in each of the team's last 10 games (.378/.425/.676 slash line, with three doubles, two home runs and a triple). He is batting .500 (9-for-18) in his last five games. Napoli, who had two hits and a walk Tuesday night against Toronto, had missed the last two games of the Jays' series with flu-like symptoms. "It came on me quick," he said, "And it hit like a ton of bricks."

With Pedroia slotted third and Ortiz and Napoli dropped back a spot apiece, Farrell said the Sox succeed in lengthening their lineup, which he hopes will help rejuvenate an offense that scored a total of 13 runs on the recently completed homestand and posted a .228/.281/.332/.613 slash line while losing all six games in the Fens, extending their current losing streak to seven games.

The Sox held a lead in just one of 54 innings while at home. They had lost only six times after taking a lead (15-5 when they score first), and are 18-1 in games in which they've led by two runs.

Farrell noted that it was just a couple of days ago that he was praising Pedroia's performance as leadoff man, but now says he may use Bogaerts as leadoff man against left-handers, with Shane Victorino batting second and Pedroia third.

"It runs counter to our intent to create continuity," Farrell said of the frequent lineup shuffling. "That has been hard and frustrating to get to, because of some of the inconsistencies we've experienced."

The 5-hole in the lineup has been one of the team's most unstable, as Farrell has cycled six players through that spot.

A couple of other notes:

• Right-hander Brandon Workman was scratched from his start for Pawtucket on Friday, Farrell said, giving the Sox the option of summoning him to start here Sunday in place of the disabled Felix Doubront. Allen Webster, who is scheduled to start Sunday for the PawSox, is another possibility, but Workman would appear to be the nominee to come here.

• Left-hander Doubront (shoulder strain) has begun some light tossing.

• Third baseman Will Middlebrooks remained back in Boston. He underwent additional testing, Farrell said, to measure how much healing has taken place in the avulsion fracture of his left index finger.

• Reliever Burke Badenhop has not allowed an earned run in his last 18 1/3 innings.

Pregame notes: Napoli out again

May, 22, 2014
May 22
BOSTON -- For the second straight game, Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is not in the lineup due to flu-like symptoms, and Mike Carp will take his place.

But manager John Farrell said in his pregame press conference Thursday afternoon that Napoli could be available.

“He’s improved today,” Farrell said. “He’s dealing with some dehydration, he’s still dealing with some overall achiness and nausea, [but] we’re hopeful at some point later this afternoon there would be some availability in today’s game.”

If anything, Napoli would likely pinch-hit if necessary.

Meanwhile, Carp has been serviceable in his absence, being aggressive in his at-bats. In Wednesday night’s 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays, Carp went 2-for-3 with two doubles, an RBI and a walk. In 51 at-bats this season, Carp has .275/.351/.373 totals.

“We’re fortunate that we do have some depth that we can go to a quality bat,” Farrell said. “And as [Carp] is starting to show, the more consistent at-bats of late are starting to pay off, with some timing and some hard-hit balls like he did last night.”

Here’s how the lineup looks:

1. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
2. Shane Victorino, RF
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Jonny Gomes, LF
5. A.J. Pierzynski, C
6. Xander Bogaerts, SS
7. Mike Carp, 1B
8. Brock Holt, 3B
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Jon Lester, LHP

Playing the odds: With David Ross as his frequent batterymate, Jon Lester has pitched some gems of late, including May 10’s 15-strikeout performance against Oakland. Today’s move to put Pierzysnki at the dish, instead of Ross, was influenced by the need for more offense, said Farrell.

Pierzynski is all too familiar with Jays starter Mark Buehrle and his rapid-fire progression from their seven seasons as teammates with the White Sox from 2005 to 2011 (Pierzynski, however, did not catch Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009). All-time against Buehrle, Pierzynski is 9-for-22 with 3 RBIs and 4 strikeouts, with an OPS of .826. Carp, by comparison, has never faced Buehrle.

“He’s had quite a bit of success against Buehrle,” Farrell said of Pierzynski. “In a stretch where we’re trying to generate as much offense as possible, that’s where we are in the lineup today.”

Inconsistency plaguing Buchholz: Clay Buchholz was a popular talking point in Farrell’s afternoon press conference. The veteran starter, who allowed nine hits and four earned runs in Boston's 6-4 loss to Toronto on Wednesday night, is clearly struggling. In his last three starts, Buchholz has allowed a total of 29 hits, 13 earned runs and three homers, with just 11 strikeouts. In nine starts this season, he has a 6.32 ERA -- nearly double his career average.

Farrell said he and pitching coach Juan Nieves “spent quite a bit [at the park] last night” watching film, then again this morning, before meeting with Buchholz.

The most glaring issue? Problems repeating his delivery.

“When he’s making mistakes, he’s been up in the strike zone or he’s been in the middle of the plate,” Farrell said. “And last night, more than we’ve seen this season, he pitched behind in the count a lot. And that’s again from... a lack of repeating his delivery as needed.”

Farrell also admitted that Buchholz is “not in the most confident state” at the moment.

Another issue has been his pitch velocity, often opting for harder throws when in jams instead of mixing it up.

“Right now, when he’s pressed to make a pitch, he has gone to a pitch that’s been hard in velocity, whether it’s fastball or cutter,” Farrell said. “We’ve got to get back to the point of being able to change speeds more consistently -- and for strikes, not just throwing them for the sake of throwing.”

Rapid Reaction: Tigers 6, Red Sox 1

May, 17, 2014
May 17

BOSTON -- One of the best teams in baseball is in town this weekend for a critical series, and Friday night, against reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, the Red Sox could barely get off the runway.

Saturday night, they couldn't get out of second gear. The Red Sox dropped their second straight game to the American League Central-leading Detroit Tigers, a 6-1 loss in which Boston produced seven hits with almost nothing to show for them.

While starter John Lackey had some good moments -- particularly the fourth inning, in which he worked in his curve fluidly to ring up Nick Castellanos and Andrew Romine on strikes -- this will go down as another forgettable night. He allowed nine hits and six runs (five earned) in 5⅓ innings, fanning four and walking two on 96 pitches (70 for strikes) and taking the loss to fall to 5-3.

Lackey's counterpart, Rick Porcello, kept Sox batters at bay with his arsenal of curves, sliders and four-seamers, striking out four in eight innings, scattering six hits and allowing just one earned run. He threw 110 pitches, 71 for strikes, and improved to 7-1.

The Tigers got to work on Lackey early in the second, with Victor Martinez leading off by singling through a shift. Austin Jackson then worked a 10-pitch walk after starting the at-bat down 0-2, and he was moved to second on a Castellanos base hit through the left side. Dustin Pedroia made a quick-twitch snag of Alex Avila's grounder at second, but Avila beat out Xander Bogaerts' double-play relay to first to keep the inning alive and score Martinez. Lackey settled down after that, striking out Romine on a fastball-curve-slider sequence, then getting Rajai Davis to fly out to center.

In the third, Miguel Cabrera sat red and took Lackey's 94 mph four-seamer opposite field, slicing it around Pesky's Pole for a solo home run and 2-0 lead.

The Tigers got two more in the fifth, first with Hunter scoring Ian Kinsler from second on a liner down the third-base line, then Cabrera scoring Hunter with a double deep to left-center. That was followed by two more runs in the top of the sixth that ultimately ended Lackey's night -- a Davis RBI double off the Green Monster, then a Kinsler sacrifice fly to score Davis.

Cabrera -- who came into Saturday's game with a .333/.385/.667 career slash line against Lackey -- finished the night 3-for-5 with two RBIs, one strikeout and one run.

Sox stranded: The Sox failed to produce any run support for Lackey, stranding 12 runners. Their best chance was in the fourth, when they loaded up the bases. David Ortiz hit a liner off the Green Monster, then Mike Napoli knocked a bloop hit to shallow center. After Mike Carp drew a five-pitch walk, A.J. Pierzynski dribbled Porcello's third pitch -- a 92 mph four-seamer -- into a 4-3 putout to end the rally before it started.

In the ninth, Napoli singled to left, then moved to second on Grady Sizemore's groundout to first, but Carp grounded out to third, followed by a flyout to center by Pierzynski to end the game.

The Sox's woes weren't devoid of controversy. In the eighth, Shane Victorino hit a dribbler down the first-base line but was called out on batter's interference, leading Red Sox manager John Farrell to leave the dugout to protest the call to no avail.

Bogaerts' blast a bright spot: Sandwiched between the outpour of Tigers runs was a powerful solo shot from Bogaerts, who planted Porcello's 89 mph four-seamer in the third row of Green Monster seats for his second homer of the season. Bogaerts finished 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Holt takes hot corner, Victorino returns: Wearing a brace on his left knee, Victorino returned to the lineup after missing Friday night's contest. He finished 1-for-5 with an RBI and a strikeout. Brock Holt was called up to take over third base for Will Middlebrooks, who was placed on the disabled list with a nondisplaced fracture in his right middle finger. Holt finished 0-for-2 with a walk.

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 5, Rangers 2

May, 11, 2014
May 11

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Red Sox got on the right side of .500 for the first time since the opening week of the season with a 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers on Sunday, improving to 19-18.

The win also gave the Sox their third straight series win.

Boston has Monday off before beginning a three-game set in Minnesota.

Lackey feels at home -- Red Sox starter John Lackey looked very comfortable on the mound at Globe Life Park. He should have -- it was his 20th start in Arlington, the city where he played his college baseball at the University of Texas at Arlington. Lackey went seven innings, allowing two earned runs while striking out nine. It was his sixth outing this year in which he's allowed two or fewer runs and the third with no walks. The win moves Lackey to 5-2 on the season and puts him a game over .500 lifetime against the Rangers in Arlington at 8-7.

Return of Uehara -- Sox closer Koji Uehara saw his first action since his save against Cincinnati last Wednesday, picking up his ninth save of the season in short work. Uehara got Alex Rios to ground out and took care of the rest himself, striking out DH Mitch Moreland and pinch hitter Michael Choice, both looking. He his now 9-for-9 on the season in save opportunities.

Napoli makes them pay -- Rangers manager Ron Washington elected to intentionally walk Red Sox DH David Ortiz in the first inning with one out and Dustin Pedroia on third in favor of one of his former players, Mike Napoli. In the second pitch of his at-bat, Napoli doubled off the right-field wall, scoring Pedroia. Napoli and Ortiz both came home one batter later on a single by another former Ranger, catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

Snubbing a former teammate -- Napoli followed his clutch hit in the first with a fine defensive play to end the sixth. With two outs, Napoli had to contend with the sun and the wall down the first-base line but snagged a foul pop by former teammate Adrian Beltre. Just after making the catch, Napoli rocked over the wall, leaning into the crowd before displaying his glove with ball inside.

Pedroia reboots -- After a stretch from the third into the seventh inning that saw the Sox collect just one hit of Rangers starter Robbie Ross Jr., Pedroia again was Boston’s offensive spark, drilling a solo home run, his second of the season, into the visitors bullpen on a full count. Before Friday’s game, manager John Farrell lauded Pedroia’s selflessness moving into the leadoff spot for the good of the team and, in turn, truly becoming the catalyst for everything the Red Sox offense does.