Boston Red Sox: Nick Punto

BOSTON -- Greetings from the Fens, where we begin with an inquiry that suspiciously looks like a trick question:

Who has more harder-hit balls this season, Oakland's Jed Lowrie, who last week was described by Houston pitcher Paul Clemens as "not an imposing guy" after Clemens threw at him three times, or David Ortiz, the Big Papi of legend and subject of a new movie from MLB Productions?

We'll spare you the suspense: The answer is Lowrie, the switch-hitting former Red Sox shortstop who brings a .423 on-base percentage into this weekend's series against the Red Sox. His WHAV -- percentage of at-bats ending with a hard-hit ball is .250, which ranks third in the major leagues, behind Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies (.277) and Jayson Werth of the Nationals (.260). The averages are compiled from a video review of every ball hit in a game by a game-tracking service.

Lowrie also drew 20 walks in April, his most-ever in a month.

A couple more tidbits about what former Sox players are doing for Oakland, which has made a cottage industry of employing ex-Sox talent:

First baseman Brandon Moss comes in batting .484 (15 for 31) against the Red Sox, with 3 home runs, 11 RBIs, and 11 runs in 11 games against Boston. By contrast, utilityman Nick Punto has a .167 average (19 for 114) at Fenway, his lowest average in any ballpark still standing.

Outfielder Josh Reddick started the season batting .098 (4 for 41) in his first 11 games, and was hearing speculation that he might be optioned to the minors. Since then, Reddick is batting .381 (16 for 42), with a .435 on-base percentage and .571 slugging percentage.

Center fielder Coco Crisp hit his third home run of the season Wednesday and since last Aug. 21 has 15 home runs, tied with Moss for most in the AL since that date. Only Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins (17) has more. Crisp also has stolen seven bases without being caught.

The Athletics, as you have already heard, come in with the best record in the AL at 18-10 and at 12-4 also have the league's best road record. They've already had 11 games decided in a game's last at-bat, most in the majors, and have won six of them. They've won four games despite trailing after seven innings, the most in the majors and matching their total in 2013. The Red Sox, by contrast, are 1-12 in games in which they've trailed after seven innings; they were 11-48 in such games in 2013.

Some other items of some interest emanating from the Fens and beyond:

• Remember that embarrassing five-error game against the Yankees on April 24? Well, through the magic of the commissioner's office reviewing scorer's decisions, that has now become a four-error game. An error was taken away from rookie Jackie Bradley Jr., who initially was charged with a misplay allowing Jacoby Ellsbury to advance to second on a single. Ellsbury has now been credited with a double.

That error had been the only one charged this season to Bradley, whose 3.11 range factor in the early going is tied with Colby Rasmus of the Jays for best in the American League.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it has been nearly 80 years since the Red Sox lost both ends of a doubleheader at Fenway park by one run, after having a lead in each game. The last time that happened was Aug. 25, 1934, when they lost 3-2 and 8-7 to the White Sox. Yes, that's a bit arcane, we agree, but underscores what a lousy day it was.

Former Sox closer Joel Hanrahan, whose Boston career was cut short by Tommy John surgery, has signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers.

About the Ortiz movie: The Sox passed along a release announcing, "David Ortiz in the Moment," described as an original documentary from the entertainment network Epix. The film was produced by Relativity Sports, whose president, Fernando Cuza, is Ortiz's longtime agent, in conjunction with Major League Baseball Productions. It is scheduled to air on Epix on July 17 at 8 p.m.

The umps reach out: Forget your frustration with the replay system for a moment, and consider assisting MLB umpires in performing some good works. The umps are offering more than 200 ticket packages, autographed sports memorabilia and one-of-a-kind VIP experiences during the 6th Annual UMPS CARE Charities Online Auction. The auction opened at 8 a.m. Friday at www.mlb.com/UmpsCare and closes at 10 p.m. on May 11.

Some of the items up for bid include a signed Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals game worn cleat, a Mariano Rivera signed baseball, a bat signed by 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, a baseball signed by 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, opportunities to watch batting practice from the field at many MLB ballparks or have a meet and greet with a player; hotel stays with game tickets from the finest hotels in the country; opportunities to have lunch with a Major League Baseball umpire; and more than 50 suites or ticket blocks from Minor League Baseball clubs for fans to see some of baseball's rising stars up close.

There are signed jerseys, bats, baseballs and gloves from stars of yesterday and today , including Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Hamilton, Matt Harvey, Bryce Harper, Felix Hernandez, Matt Holliday, Ryan Howard, Tim Hudson, Clayton Kershaw, Tony LaRussa, Don Mattingly, Vin Scully, Alfonso Soriano, Joe Torre, Bob Uecker, Chase Utley, David Wright and so many more.

All proceeds from the Online Auction support UMPS CARE Charities youth programs to provide Major League Baseball experiences for children awaiting adoption, Build-A-Bear Workshop® experiences for hospitalized children coping with serious illnesses, college scholarships for deserving young adults who were adopted as children, and financial assistance for families in need. UMPS CARE Charities is the official charity of Major League Baseball umpires.

• And if you have a Sox jersey, this is Red Sox Jersey night, the Sox and Majestic encouraging you to wear the colors to the ballpark. And if you buy a new jersey, that would probably please them to no end. Just sayin'.

Digging in on Sox-Dodgers megadeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traded Sox reflect on time in Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'State of the Nation' revisits BOS-LAD deal

August, 22, 2013
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SportsNation

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

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

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

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

Dodgers' Gonzalez struggling since trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gonzalez, Beckett discuss Boston exit

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

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

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

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

SportsNation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Punto, meanwhile, tweeted a farewell to Boston fans.

"Thanks to all the fans of #Red Sox nation, also thank you to all my teammates, coach's and staff," he wrote on his Twitter account.

Gonzalez out again with back spasms

July, 14, 2012
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Adrian Gonzalez was not in the lineup for the second straight game Saturday night and was doubtful to play Sunday, according to manager Bobby Valentine.

The issue? Back spasms.

Gonzalez worked out Thursday when the team gathered here after the All-Star break. "I was perfectly fine that day," he said. "[Friday], the more I did the more it tightened up. Just locked up. Weird."

About an hour before Friday's game, a 3-1 Red Sox win, Gonzalez was scratched from the starting lineup, replaced by Mauro Gomez.

"I told Bobby yesterday, 'I can play if you want me to. I can get enough heat on my back, numbing pills I can just forget about it and gut my way through it,'" Gonzalez said. "He doesn't want me to do anything.

"It's better today. They just don't want me to do anything."

This will be the third game Gonzalez has not started this season. He played in 159 games last season, his first with Boston, and played 160 games or more in his last four seasons in San Diego. He had not missed back-to-back games since becoming an every-day player in 2006.

Meanwhile, to make room for Clay Buchholz, who came off the DL for his start Saturday night, the Red Sox have optioned Gomez back to Pawtucket. Gomez hit .308 in six games here, the first five of which he started at third base. He knocked in three runs and committed four errors.

With Gonzalez out, Brent Lillibridge drew the start at first base. He has made 14 big league starts at the position. Bobby Valentine mentioned Nick Punto and Jarrod Saltalamacchia as other options there, and of course David Ortiz can play the position. Punto was receiving treatment on his ankle after Ben Zobrist slid hard into him in the eighth inning Friday, but said he thought he'd be fine.

Salty sets career-high with 17th HR

July, 7, 2012
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BOSTON -- At first glance, you'll see that the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 10-8 on Friday night in the first game of a four-game weekend series at Fenway Park.

A closer look, however, and you could see how Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has come into his own. He's making it easy to notice that the organization made the right decision to acquire him via trade and have him develop under Jason Varitek.

[+] EnlargeJarrod Saltalamacchia
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaJarrod Saltalamacchia, center, celebrates his three-run home run with Cody Ross, left, and Adrian Gonzalez.
And, yes, it took a loss to the Yankees on Friday to fully understand and appreciate Salty's contributions this season, the first without Varitek behind the plate in some capacity since 1997.

When Varitek took over as the Sox's full-time catcher in 1999, he was 27 years old. He hit .269 with 20 homers and 76 RBIs that season. Saltalamacchia turned 27 on May 2 and he's currently at .244 with 17 homers and 41 RBIs.

On Friday, after the Sox fell behind 5-0 in the top of the first, Saltalamacchia's three-run homer in the bottom half of the inning tied the game at 5-5. He set a career high in home runs when that shot landed in the right-field seats, surpassing last season's mark of 16.

His 17 homers are the most by a Red Sox catcher before the All-Star break since Carlton Fisk had 18 in 1973. Pudge finished with 26 homers and 71 RBIs that season.

Speaking of All-Stars, it's inconceivable that Saltalamacchia is not an All-Star this season, especially with the offensive tear he's been on of late. He has belted four homers in the past eight games and six in the past 15.

The Red Sox's longest-tenured player in Boston, David Ortiz, said after Friday's loss that he's seeing strong similarities between Saltalamacchia and Varitek.

"Great, man," Ortiz said of Saltalamacchia. "This game is a learning process and he's learning and once you learn, you never forget. I talked to him the other day and he said, 'I watch all of you guys hitting and I've learned from it. I see you're not trying to always pull the ball and you're trying to stay through the ball and I'm trying to do the same thing.' There he is."

Red Sox newcomer Nick Punto never had Varitek as a teammate in the big leagues, but he played against him plenty of times. When Punto arrived on the scene in Boston and saw how Saltalamacchia prepared himself, he knew the Red Sox had the right guy behind the plate to replace the retired captain.

"Those are really big shoes to fill," Punto said. "Varitek was a great player here for a lot of years and Salty's really coming into his own. You can see it offensively that he's becoming a more mature hitter. He has a lot of raw power, too. This field suits him well with the Monster. It's fun, too, to watch him dissect hitters and he loves talking baseball. He's a very mature player -- a guy you want on your team."

Saltalamacchia made his presence felt with his defensive play, too.

The combination of a heads-up play by Punto at second base, and Saltalamacchia's willingness to block the plate in a Varitek-esque move in the top of the fifth inning, prevented Alex Rodriguez from scoring what would have been the go-ahead run. Instead, A-Rod was out and the game remained knotted at 6-6 before Boston gained a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the inning.

"I felt it was a big out to get if we could get it and the only time you can get that play is if you get a line drive when the guy at third base has to freeze, and A-Rod froze a little bit," Punto said. "You fire it over there and hope you get him."

Punto got him because Saltalamacchia stretched out his left leg to block the plate.

"That's instincts," Punto said. "He's a good enough catcher to know. He's played with Adrian [Gonzalez] and Adrian makes those plays, so you just read that play, watch it develop and everything moves pretty quick but [Salty] was right there."

In a Saltalamacchia-style move, he quickly exited the ballpark after Friday's loss, partly because he knew he would have to answer questions about his 17th homer of the season. To him, like Varitek, it's not about personal achievements. It's about wins and losses and on Friday the Red Sox lost.

The only thing missing was a glove to the face of Rodriguez and a walk-off win for the Red Sox (flash back to July 24, 2004).

Sox offense gets party started

June, 14, 2012
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David OrtizMarc Serota/Getty ImagesRed Sox slugger David Ortiz connects on his 393rd career home run.
MIAMI -- David Ortiz's 393rd career homer was the first he's ever hit into a nightclub.

His fourth-inning blast landed in The Clevelander, the South Beach-style club the Miami Marlins had built into the left-field concourse of their new ballpark.

After the game, Ortiz slipped on an expensive jacket and a red pair of Louis Vuitton loafers. He and his Boston Red Sox teammates were ready to party, cruising into an off day with a 10-2 win, their second in a row, and the type of offensive outburst that's been hard to find.

"We needed that," Ortiz said. "Our pitching's been stepping up. We've been facing some good pitching the last week. It's crazy how that works. We've been working on that. We've been trying."

The Red Sox's bats matched a masterful effort from Felix Doubront, who struck out nine and allowed three hits in a season-high seven innings. They backed him up with 14 hits, the most they've had since June 1, and made the game a laugher with a six-run eighth. They tagged Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco (6-5) with four runs and five Miami relievers with the rest.

Nearly everyone brought something to the show, led by Ortiz, who was 2-for-2 with 3 RBIs, including his 15th homer of the season. That tied him with Jim Edmonds for 53rd all-time. Next up is Joe Carter (396).

Boston did it all offensively. The Sox manufactured a run, helped along by a sacrifice bunt by Doubront. They got a bomb from Big Papi. They batted around in the eighth, an inning that featured two hits and two RBIs from a pinch hitter (Nick Punto) and the pounding of a highly effective reliever (Miami's Randy Choate).

"We haven't batted around in so long, and we're a good offensive team," Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "Bat around, see Nicky Punto get two hits in an inning. That's a good thing.

"We can do that again," he added.

The top of the order -- Scott Podsednik, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Ortiz -- were a combined 9-for-17 with 7 RBIs and 6 runs scored.

"It was big," said Punto, who had two hits in an inning for the first time in his career. "We haven't been coming up with timely hits. It was nice to see Adrian get a few knocks there, and Pedroia, and pretty much up and down the lineup guys were driving in runs."

They were soon driving out of the parking lot, looking ready for Miami's nightlife and some well-earned good times. Chicago's next.

Sox answer Punto's breakout with silence

June, 2, 2012
6/02/12
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[+] EnlargeNick Punto
Tom Szczerbowski/US PresswireNick Punto celebrates his first homer with Boston.
TORONTO -- The dugout silent treatment following a home run is usually saved for rookies rather than 12-year veterans, yet after Nick Punto smashed a solo homer to the Rogers Centre's second deck in the ninth inning, he was greeted with no reaction in the Red Sox dugout.

"The good old silent treatment. It was fun," Punto said. "I said 'Come give me some love. I've been playing this game a while but that's only my 15th home run, so come give me some love.'"

After a few seconds of playing along, Punto's teammates indeed showed that love, happily celebrating Punto's first homer of both the season and as a Red Sox player. Punto had done plenty to deserve such a reaction, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored in Boston's 7-4 win over the Blue Jays.

It was a rare offensive burst from the career .246 hitter; the Red Sox signed Punto not for his bat but for his versatility. His ability to play all over the infield has been a valuable asset to the team given the number of injuries faced by the Sox this season. Punto has started Boston's past five games at second base in place of Dustin Pedroia, who may yet still face a DL stint due to a torn muscle in his right thumb.

Punto said it has been difficult for him to adjust to the reduced playing time given that he had been a starter in Minnesota and got regular action last season as a backup for the Cardinals thanks to the ever-shifting nature of National League lineups. Yet, Punto is happy with his role and his opportunities to help the Sox whenever he can.

"It felt great," Punto said. "We're playing good baseball and for me to get in there and contribute a little bit felt great."
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Nick Punto

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 4

June, 2, 2012
6/02/12
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TORONTO -- The Boston Red Sox used some timely hitting and another quality start from Felix Doubront to record a 7-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday at Rogers Centre.

Boston jumped out to an early lead with four runs in the second inning, all of which were scored with two outs. Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks continued his hot hitting with an RBI single, Nick Punto followed with an RBI double and Daniel Nava delivered a two-run single that blooped in front of Toronto center fielder Colby Rasmus.

It was yet another instance of the Sox coming up big in important situations. Boston entered the game with an .848 OPS with runners on base, the third-highest total of any team in the majors.

PUNTO POWERS UP: Punto went 3-for-4 in the game, including his first home run of both the season and his tenure with the Red Sox. The occasion was marked by the Boston bench giving Punto the silent treatment before exploding to congratulate the light-hitting infielder on his rare long ball. Punto made his fifth straight start at second base in place of the injured Dustin Pedroia, who is out with a right thumb injury.

DOUBRONT DELIVERS: Doubront matched his season high by throwing 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk while striking out eight Jays batters. It was Doubront's eighth quality start in 11 outings this season, and he improves to 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA over his last six starts.

Doubront allowed solo home runs to Jeff Mathis and Jose Bautista, and he risked further damage on two other occasions. The left-hander escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third by inducing a pop-up from Rasmus to end the inning, and after committing an error in the fourth that led to an unearned run, Doubront got a forceout that left two Jays runners stranded.

BLOOPERS: The Red Sox got an unearned score of their own in the fourth. Kevin Youkilis lined a double off the right-field wall and advanced to third on a wild throw from Bautista. Youkilis later came in to score on a double play from Middlebrooks.

Shortstop Mike Aviles appeared to be shaken up after bobbling a ground ball from Edwin Encarnacion in the third that was originally scored as an error on Aviles but changed to an infield single. Aviles received a brief visit from manager Bobby Valentine and trainer Rick Jameyson following the play but remained in the game.

Right fielder Ryan Sweeney made a peculiar error in the eighth inning that led to a Toronto run. Following a single from Brett Lawrie that advanced Encarnacion to second, Sweeney appeared to fake a throw into the infield, but the ball slipped from his grasp and rolled into center field. Sweeney's misplay allowed the Jays to temporarily cut the deficit to two runs.

Then Lawrie committed perhaps the game's worst blunder, getting thrown out trying to steal third by Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- ending the inning and the Jays' rally.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Red Sox have now won 16 of their past 22 games and go for the sweep of their AL East rivals Sunday. Daniel Bard takes the mound for Boston, while the Jays counter with rookie right-hander Drew Hutchison.

Pedroia out, Youk rests, Gonzo at 1B

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
7:02
PM ET
TORONTO -- Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia took grounders during batting practice Friday but remained out of the lineup for a fourth straight game.

Pedroia hasn't played since jamming his right thumb in the fifth inning of Monday's win over Detroit after, an injury later diagnosed as a torn muscle.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine joined provided an optimistic outlook.

"It's the meaty part of the hand, where the ... muscles that control the thumb get bruised by a pitch being thrown inside and the bat vibrating in the hand," Valentine said during his weekly appearance on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "Most of his swelling is down, he's gripping a bat, he played catch [Thursday].

"I don't think the DL is going to be in the cards for him. That being said, he's not ready to play just yet, so we're playing -- as they say -- a man short."

Valentine added that while there is natural concern that Pedroia could get hurt worse when he's able to return, he's not worried about it.

"I think Dustin can go out there and play, and not be affected at all, unless a re-occurrence of the original situation presents itself. That fastball that comes inside that you don't get the head of the bat out and you get your hands out, and it hits close to your hand and you get that vibration, it can be painful."

Nonetheless, Valentine did not offer any specifics in Toronto on when Pedroia might be able to resume hitting. The 2008 AL MVP has had a special brace fitted to his bats, but has been told not to swing until swelling in the thumb subsides.

"We just want to let nature take its time," Valentine said before the Red Sox faced the Blue Jays.

Pedroia took grounders from bench coach Tim Bogar during the first half of batting practice, then walked off the field and returned to the clubhouse.

Valentine had hinted Thursday that Boston would not continue to play short-handed through the weekend, with speculation rife that infielder Pedro Ciriaco would be promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Rookie Will Middlebrooks, who played shortstop in high school, took grounders at short before Thursday's loss to Detroit.

Like Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis was also out of the lineup Friday, a scheduled day off. Valentine said he offered Youkilis the chance to take consecutive days off Sunday and Monday, when Boston does not play, but Youkilis preferred to split up his days of rest.

Youkilis, the subject of trade rumors, is batting .313 (10 for 32) with two homers in nine games since returning from a 22-game absence caused by a sore back.

"He's been great," Valentine said. "Youk's 100 percent and when Youk is 100 percent, he's a really good member of the team. He's playing good defense, running the bases well and having good at bats."

Nick Punto started at second base Friday, with Will Middlebrooks at third and Adrian Gonzalez at first base and Ryan Sweeney in right.

Asked whether Gonzalez, who has started eight of the past 12 games in right, would return to the outfield this weekend, Valentine said "maybe," and denied suggestions Gonzalez is unhappy in right.

"I don't sense that," Valentine said. "There's been no indication of that."

Valentine called the defensive rotation between Gonzalez, Youkilis and Middlebrooks "a workable situation but maybe not long term."

"I think after the off day would be a good time to collect everyone's thoughts on it, or maybe even in the next couple of days," he said. "It just depends on how it affects the guys physically and mentally."

While Pedroia's situation remained murky, there was clearer news for a trio of Red Sox currently on the disabled list:

" Outfielder Cody Ross, out with a fractured left foot, has told Valentine he "feels great." Ross will have his walking boot removed and undergo a physical exam when the Red Sox return home next week, and could be cleared to resume baseball activities or begin a minor league rehab stint.

" Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka (right elbow) allowed two runs, including a solo homer, in 5 1/3 innings at Pawtucket on Thursday, his second rehab start.

"He's staying there, he's going to throw his bullpen there and throw again (Tuesday)," Valentine said. "The reports were much better. First inning home run, up to 94, sat at 91, had a good changeup. Worked quick with men on base, there were only a couple of men on base."

" Outfielder Darnell McDonald (right oblique) is also at Pawtucket, and will play through the weekend there.

" Also joining the PawSox this weekend is right-hander Mark Prior. The former first-round pick, who last pitched in the majors in 2006, was signed to a minor league deal last month and had been at extended spring training.

Valentine called Prior's advance a "great story."

"He's made constant progress. People have liked his attitude and his throwing ability."

Ian Harrison is a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

Sox say child struck by bat Saturday is OK

May, 6, 2012
5/06/12
1:21
PM ET
BOSTON -- The young boy struck by a bat at Fenway Park on Saturday is expected to be fine, according to the Red Sox.

The team has been in contact with the child’s father, who told the team that the boy was released from Children’s Hospital on Saturday night. He was “behaving normally,” according to word from the doctors passed on to the Red Sox.

The scary incident occurred in the sixth inning of Boston’s 8-2 loss to Baltimore. Red Sox third baseman Nick Punto lost the bat swinging at a Jason Hammel offering. The bat soared into the stands near the Boston dugout. Punto and Hammel showed concern as medical personnel tended to the boy before removing him from the park.
Tags:

Nick Punto

Child struck by Punto's flying bat

May, 5, 2012
5/05/12
4:19
PM ET
BOSTON (AP) -- A child was carried from the stands behind the Red Sox dugout after being hit with Nick Punto's flying bat in the sixth inning of a game between Boston and the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday at Fenway Park.

Boston's Punto, batting left-handed with one out in the sixth, had the bat slip out of his hands and fly about two rows behind the dugout, striking the child.

No immediate word was available about the injury.
Tags:

Nick Punto

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