Boston Red Sox: Scott Atchison

Sox nontender Sweeney, Atchison, Hill

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
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Ryan SweeneyAP Photo/Elise AmendolaRyan Sweeney never really got on track in his brief time in Boston.
BOSTON -- Underscoring the one-sidedness of last winter's deal with the Oakland Athletics in which former Sox outfielder Josh Reddick emerged as a star, the Red Sox announced Friday they were not offering a 2013 contract to outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who came from the Athletics with closer Andrew Bailey.

Sweeney, whose season came to an end on July 31 when he fractured the knuckle on his little finger punching a dugout door, was one of three players the Sox nontendered. The other two were pitchers Rich Hill and Scott Atchison, who have been through this process before. All three are now free agents, though Hill and Atchison could wind up back in the Sox organization on minor league contracts with an invitation to big league camp.

The Sox offered contracts to the other 30 players on their roster who were not already under contract, including reliever Alfredo Aceves, who some had speculated might not be tendered after clashing with manager Bobby Valentine last season. New manager John Farrell, though, has identified Aceves as a pitcher whose versatility makes him valuable to the team; the Sox could also package him in a trade.

None of the moves was unexpected. The left-handed Hill was coming off Tommy John elbow surgery. The right-handed Atchison missed the last 55 games of the season with a strained right elbow, although he elected to forgo reconstructive surgery in the hope that rest and rehabilitation would be sufficient for his recovery.

Sweeney, projected to platoon with Cody Ross in right field, was hampered with injuries from the outset, straining a quad muscle in spring training. In May, he sustained a concussion that caused him to miss seven games, then less than a month later sustained a stress fracture of his left big toe, missing 18 games. He then missed another three games in July with a sore left hamstring before punching the dugout door in frustration and fracturing his finger, an injury that required a screw to be inserted in surgery.

Sweeney played in just 63 games (50 starts), batting .260 (53-for-204) with no home runs and 16 RBIs. Though Sweeney is just 27 and the Sox have a clear need for outfielders, his lack of power undoubtedly played a role in the club's decision to nontender him. Sweeney has hit just one home run in 303 plate appearances since July 24, 2011.

With these moves, Boston's 40-man roster is now at 37.

Atchison activated; Morales to 60-day DL

September, 12, 2012
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Right-handed reliever Scott Atchison was activated off the 60-day disabled list before Wednesday's game, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington announced in a team release.

Meanwhile, lefty pitcher Franklin Morales moved over to the 60-day DL to create a space on the 40-man roster for Atchison.

Ortiz gets injection in ailing Achilles

August, 6, 2012
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BOSTON -- Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz received an injection Monday afternoon to help alleviate the pain and swelling of his right Achilles strain.

"I don't feel my foot right now and that means I feel good," Ortiz said after Boston's 9-2 win over the Texas Rangers on Monday night at Fenway Park. "It's going to be there for 6 to 8 hours, but it's supposed to get things better. I guess I have to give it a couple of days to see what the reaction is going to be like and go from there."

Ortiz said he's not allowed to participate in any activities for a few days, but he's hoping he'll be able to return to the lineup when the Red Sox travel to Cleveland on Thursday.

"He felt great," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "He said he could have played tonight on the bench, but who knows how long that's going to last?"

The injection of a local anesthetic, believed to be Marcaine, should help control the pain in the affected area. The treatment is not considered a setback, according to Valentine.

"[Medical staff] didn't think that was the necessarily the case when talking to them," the manager said.

Ortiz has been on the DL since July 16 and was eligible to be activated on Aug. 1.

Other injury updates:

• Reliever Vicente Padilla was not available to pitch Monday night due to a slight groin pull, along with biceps and triceps issues, according to Valentine. "He needs a day, at least," Valentine said.

• Reliever Andrew Bailey will continue his minor league rehab assignment and is scheduled to pitch back-to-back days on Wednesday and Thursday for the Pawtucket Red Sox. "He came in today and said he felt great," Valentine said.

• Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka (trapezius strain) made his second minor league rehab start for the PawSox on Sunday and allowed four runs (one earned) on five hits, a walk and three strikeouts in three innings of work. Valentine said Monday that -- despite the numbers -- the reports were positive. "The first two innings, he threw the ball better than he has, but when there was an error made behind him and a couple of guys got on base, he lost a little of his command," Valentine said. "(Pawtucket manager) Arnie (Beyeler) thought it was the best he's seen him so far."

• Dr. James Andrews examined right-handed reliever Scott Atchison's ailing forearm and elbow in Florida on Monday. The club is not expecting a final decision for the next couple of days as to whether the pitcher will need season-ending Tommy John surgery or will be able to rehab it and return to action.

• PawSox reliever Daniel Bard continues to progress, and the Red Sox think he's closing in on a return to Boston. "The latest is they like all the progress," Valentine said. "They sent him out for the second inning the other night and it wasn't quite what they were hoping for, but the first inning was terrific. He's getting close to helping us."

• Outfielder Daniel Nava received a cortisone shot in his ailing wrist on Monday.

Bailey, Dice-K on rehab; Atchison setback

July, 28, 2012
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NEW YORK -- Torrential rains just arrived in the Bronx, where the start of Saturday afternoon's game between the Yankees and Red Sox already was in a delay.

In the meantime, a few injury updates:

--Closer Andrew Bailey is scheduled to throw in a Gulf Coast League game Monday, but is "weeks -- at least weeks" away from returning to the big club, manager Bobby Valentine said.

--Pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka (remember him?) is scheduled to begin another rehab assignment Monday with Pawtucket.

--Pitcher Scott Atchison, who pitched for Pawtucket on Friday night, evidently had a setback, and will have more tests on his strained right forearm, Valentine said. That is a bit ominous for Atchison, one of the team's most pleasant surprises this season.

Atchison's case to be an All-Star

June, 22, 2012
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BOSTON -- Players in the Red Sox clubhouse were seen filling out All-Star ballots Friday. Players now choose much of the pitching staff and most of the bench for both leagues, complementing fan voting and selections by the managers. Boston will likely be represented at this year's Midsummer Classic by David Ortiz and perhaps Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Valentine was asked if one of his unsung heroes, reliever Scott Atchison, has a chance to make the team.

"I think he will get mentioned. I think he should get attention and mentioned," he said. "I'm not sure what [Rangers manager Ron Washington] is thinking, and whoever it is that picks that now. ... If you hit against him you would vote for him, I bet that."

After two scoreless innings and a win Wednesday, Atchison's numbers continue to sparkle. He is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA, which ranks him fifth among qualified American League relievers. He leads all AL relievers in innings pitched with 38 1/3. Twenty-one of his last 22 outings have been scoreless.
[+] EnlargeScott Atchison
Bob DeChiara/US Presswire"Sooner or later it was probably going to happen, but unfortunately it had to happen tonight with a 1-run lead," Scott Atchison said after the Orioles snapped his scoreless streak Tuesday.
BOSTON -- There have been a few times this season when Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has used the term "roll the dice" in explaining a move he made during the course of a game.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it rains.

That's baseball. A manager makes a decision and has to live by it no matter the outcome. After the Red Sox dropped the first game of this homestand to the Baltimore Orioles 8-6 in 10 innings Tuesday night at Fenway Park, Valentine was asked why he lifted starter Jon Lester after the left-hander allowed a leadoff single to Orioles No. 9 hitter Endy Chavez in the top of the seventh inning with Boston holding a 4-3 lead.

Valentine pointed to the fact that the top two hitters in Baltimore's lineup -- Robert Andino and J.J. Hardy -- both have solid career numbers against Lester. Andino entered the game with a .385 average (5-for-13) while Hardy was 4-for-8 (.500) with one homer and two RBIs against Boston's southpaw.

On Tuesday, both were 1-for-3 against Lester heading into the seventh inning and were hitting the ball well off of him. Plus, Boston's bullpen has been excellent of late, especially right-hander Scott Atchison.

"With Andino and J.J. coming up, I thought we were going to cruise it home," Valentine said. "They had some tough at-bats against Lester and hadn't had tough at-bats against Atch. A fresh bullpen and 100-pitch starting pitcher, all that stuff [went into the decision]."

So, Valentine padded Lester (99 pitches) on the backside and then handed the ball to Atchison.

When he entered the game with one runner on and no outs in the top of the seventh, Atchison carried with him a career-high streak of 15 consecutive scoreless outings (19 2/3 innings). However, it came to an end as he allowed two runs on two hits by Andino and Hardy.

"I had an all right pitch to Andino and he sort of blooped it into right, and the next pitch to Hardy got more of the plate than I wanted, he did a really good job of hitting," Atchison said. "Sooner or later it was probably going to happen, but unfortunately it had to happen tonight with a 1-run lead. The guys did a great job of battling back but we just weren't able to pull it out, but everything felt the same as it has been.

"It's been a good run. You kind of notice it after a little while but it's over now," added Atchison. "You have to get back out there tomorrow and try to start another one. That's the best way I think to do it and that's what I plan to do."

Afterward, Lester admitted he did not want to come out, but had all the confidence in Atchison given his recent success.

"Anytime you come out of the game it's tough," Lester said. "Our bullpen has been great but it was a little hiccup tonight. It's no big deal and next time we're in that situation they'll pick me up. This is the way baseball goes. Obviously I'm not worried. It's one of those deals and Atch will pick me up next time."

10 observations after Sox lose marathon

May, 6, 2012
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BOSTON -- Roughly one hour after the Orioles-Red Sox game on Sunday, someone dressed as a ram mascot with an unidentifiable blue jersey on was running the bases at Fenway Park with a video crew in tow and Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" blaring overhead. And that wasn't even close to being the oddest sight at Fenway Park on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeMatt Wieters, Chris Davis
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireChris Davis' sour day at the plate (0-for-8, 5 K's) was sweetened when he earned the win by pitching the final two innings.
In the longest Sox game in terms of innings and time (17 innings spanning 6 hours, 7 minutes) since 2006, Baltimore outlasted the reeling hosts by a 9-6 margin. It was the kind of game that would best be summed up in a "War and Peace"-sized recap. But that's ridiculous. Here is your Cliffs Notes version, 10 observations taken from a wild one at Fenway:

(1) It is so rare to see a position player pitching. It is even rarer to see a position player pitching in a tie game. It is like spotting a unicorn to see position players for both teams squaring off at the same time in a tie game. Such was the case as this one boiled down to Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis and Red Sox designated hitter Darnell McDonald in a matchup for the ages. Or the aged, as the case was by the time the game ended.

Davis got the win with two scoreless frames, showcasing a heater that reached the low 90s and some off-speed stuff that did not look all that bad. Just ask Adrian Gonzalez, who flailed at what looked like a changeup to strike out with two men on in the bottom of the 17th.

(2) That strikeout was part of an awful day at the plate for Gonzalez. He seemed to have broken out of a slump with back-to-back three-hit efforts, but this one will be tough to get past. Gonzalez, who did not speak with reporters, became the first Red Sox cleanup hitter ever to go 0-for-8. Included in that performance were two strikeouts and one double play. He made first-pitch outs in the 10th, 12th and 15th.

Given all that, Bobby Valentine was quick to point out that Gonzalez was offering up his services in the event the manager needed anyone to pitch beyond McDonald.

(3) The silver lining again was the bullpen. Taking out McDonald's one inning, Red Sox relievers threw 12 1/3 scoreless innings. They threw 13 1/3 innings over the first two games of the series. When asked if a move is necessary to survive the upcoming series in Kansas City, Valentine was non-committal. But it seems almost impossible to begin that set without adding a fresh arm. The only pitcher Valentine said was definitely not available was Scott Atchison, who threw 23 pitches one day after throwing 35.

[+] EnlargeMarlon Byrd
Darren McCollester/Getty ImagesThe Sox would have won it in the 16th if Marlon Byrd had been safe on this play at the plate.
(4) When a runner is thrown out at the plate, especially in a big situation, it always seems like a mistake. Why did they send him, the masses will scream. However, it is hard to blame the Red Sox for trying to score Marlon Byrd from first base on a Mike Aviles double in the 16th. When you haven't scored in seven innings and you haven't won since Tuesday and you get a ball in the gap with two outs, why not? The Orioles made a great relay to nail Byrd by several steps. One hesitation or extra bounce in the outfield and the Sox are mobbing Byrd at home and Aviles at second.

(5) In large part because of its quirky dimensions and the close proximity of fans, Fenway Park has so often played into the hands of the Red Sox. Few places in all of sports boast such a distinct home-field (or home-court or home-ice) advantage. The club wins 50 games here on a yearly basis just by showing up.

Not anymore. After dropping 10 of their final 14 games at Fenway last season, Boston has dropped 10 of its first 14 this season. For those of you without an abacus, that's an 8-20 stretch at the Fens. You don't need any adding machines to recognize that as an extreme departure from the norm.

(6) Amid the wonderful performance by the bullpen were two standout jobs by lefties Andrew Miller and Rich Hill. Miller got the last out of the fourth inning after taking over for Clay Buchholz and then struck out the side in the fifth. Consider that in his 10 appearances for Pawtucket, Miller had just two perfect outings.

Also consider the fact that Hill, just four games into his return from Tommy John surgery, worked into a third inning of relief. He never managed an out in that third frame, walking the leadoff man and getting yanked, but the fact that he was sent back out for more was a tad surprising. Don't expect him to be working Monday in Kansas City as well.

(7) Pretty incredible how things are developing between the Sox and O's. With Sunday's win Baltimore is back in first place in the American League East, 7½ games ahead of last-place Boston. And this was a rivalry once so one-sided that the Sox were 64-25 against the Orioles from 2005 through 2009.

Baltimore's sweep is its first of the three-game variety at Fenway Park in nearly 18 years. Yikes.

(8) The term "rookie mistake" was uttered several times after Will Middlebrooks failed to run out a ball that bounced fair down the left-field line in the bottom of the 11th. His lapse in judgment turned a sure double into a single, and with two outs in the inning it loomed large.

However, Valentine is 100 percent correct in referencing the odd wind patterns in that part of the field and how it can fool players who are not accustomed to it. A handful of times every season a left fielder overruns a ball that blows back into fair territory behind him. Nine times out of 10 it is an opposing player. The 10th time it is Jeremy Hermida, or at least it was in 2010, when he made a mockery of such plays.

(9) Just in case you need to be reminded, the winning pitcher was Chris Davis, who also struck out five times and grounded into a double play, and the losing pitcher was Darnell McDonald, who pinch-ran for David Ortiz in the eighth. That's the kind of game it was.

(10) Felix Doubront has yet to last into the seventh inning in eight career starts. With a bullpen in tatters heading to Kansas City, now's the time, Felix.

Aceves, bullpen shut the door on Rays

April, 15, 2012
4/15/12
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[+] EnlargeAlfredo Aceves
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesAlfredo Aceves pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 2nd save in 2 days.
BOSTON -- Since returning to Fenway Park from a 1-5 road trip, the Boston Red Sox have improved in every department. That includes the one area that may have caused the most trepidation during the season-opening slump.

Indeed, the once-beleaguered bullpen has followed suit in showcasing a turnaround at home. A 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday provided an excellent example.

After starter Felix Doubront was chased on a game-tying Luke Scott home run to start the top of the sixth inning, four relievers combined to stem the tide. Scott Atchison got one big out after an infield hit and a walk before the trio of Vicente Padilla, Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves shut the door.

The pen remains a fluid situation for manager Bobby Valentine. A few more performances like the one he saw on Sunday will help to solidify things.

“I don’t think anything is set in concrete but I’m confident in the guys coming out of the bullpen,” he said. “They’re pitching great. Vicente, Morales and Aceves look like they’re setting up nicely. Atch has been doing a good job. We’ll see, it’s a developing situation.”

Padilla was perhaps the most impressive. He struck out Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings and got Carlos Pena to fly to right to strand Atchison’s two runners in the sixth. Padilla then survived an infield single and a line drive off his leg in the seventh. He needed a few moments to recover and a couple of warm-up tosses after Ben Zobrist hit the comebacker, which resulted in a force out at second base, but Padilla showed no ill effects in finishing the inning off with a big strikeout of Scott.

That sequence won some fans in the clubhouse.

“He got hit pretty hard,” said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who caught the carom off Padilla and threw to second for the out. “Went out there and got the next hitter out.”

Morales worked around two singles in the eighth and Aceves had a perfect ninth. He struck out Zobrist to finish off the Rays and record his second save.

Overall, the Boston bullpen has allowed one run on five hits and one walk in seven innings this series, striking out seven. Before the four-game set began, the relief corps owned an unsightly 5.89 ERA.

Scutaro hopes to begin baseball activity

May, 16, 2011
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BOSTON -- Infielder Marco Scutaro, who was placed on the disabled list on May 8 because of a left oblique strain, said he was hoping to be able to take some swings Monday after a week without baseball-related activity.

Scutaro was examined as rain fell at Fenway Park late Monday afternoon. He said he had done a little cardio work or leg work since going on the DL. The Sox didn’t want him to do anything of a rotational nature to his oblique for fear of further injuring the muscle and lengthening his stay on the sideline.

Scutaro said he was feeling less sensitive to the touch, but has been advised to go slowly in recovering from the injury.

“They said if [I] hurt it again and you mess it up, it could be two months,” said Scutaro.

Manager Terry Francona had very little news to report. This is what came from his media briefing:

* The team arrived from New York in the wee hours Monday, so the Red Sox did not have to report to the park as early as usual. They had to be ready for batting practice at 5 o’clock for the 7:10 game.

* Reliever Scott Atchison, who is on the Pawtucket roster, was spotted in the Boston clubhouse Monday. Francona said that there was a “miscommunication,” then said he was at Fenway “picking something up” and that there was no roster move to announce.

In other Sox-related news, color analyst Jerry Remy is expected back behind the NESN microphone for the first time since April 26. Remy was out with pneumonia.

Notes: Off night for Papelbon

September, 22, 2010
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BOSTON -- The bullpen door opened, and Jonathan Papelbon’s ominous trademark music -- "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys -- was blaring over the speakers at Fenway Park as the closer ran toward the mound.

But there was no game to close Tuesday night, just a game to finish out for an inning of work.

And for Papelbon, it turned into a nightmare. Already down by four runs entering the ninth, Papelbon quickly coughed up four runs and five hits on only 18 pitches in an ugly inning that included a throwing error by third baseman Adrian Beltre and ultimately contributed to a 9-1 loss to the Orioles. It was the most hits ever allowed by Papelbon in a relief outing.

Papelbon hadn’t pitched in six days, so he was called upon in a non-save situation.

“It’s a different mindset coming in with a save [on the line], but that doesn’t affect the way you throw the ball,” said Papelbon, whose earned run average zoomed from 3.39 to 3.92.

“I thought I threw the ball well. I thought the ball came out of my hand well. They came out swinging the bats. They were ambushing the first pitch. There’s nothing you can do about that. The outcome wasn’t what you’d like, but I thought I threw the ball well.”

Papelbon had a chance to save himself a run. With runners at first and third and one out, Felix Pie hit a dribbler toward the mound. Papelbon didn’t look at home and elected to throw to first. It appeared as if when the out was made at first Papelbon started to head to the dugout, seemingly thinking there were three outs.

He insisted that wasn’t the case.

“I’m trying to get outs there,” Papelbon said. “He was probably going to be safe at the plate. I was trying to get outs. I was already in knee-deep so why throw to the plate when I thought he was going to be safe.”

Atchison no relief

Scott Atchison had been unscored upon in his last 7 2/3 innings over a span of five outings.

That streak came to a crashing halt.

With the game tied, 1-1, in the seventh, Atchison faced four batters, and when he trudged off the mound, having been lifted by manager Terry Francona, the Sox were trailing, 4-1.

Cesar Izturis slammed a leadoff single to center and, after a force out, Nick Markakis singled off the Wall and Ty Wigginton sliced a three-run homer inside Pesky's Pole.

“I’ve got to come in and keep it 1-1 and give our offense a chance. Tonight I didn’t do it. He [Wigginton] hit a decent pitch in the right spot,” said Atchison.


Clipping the Birds

Clay Buchholz has given up only one earned run in his last 28 innings against the Orioles . . . Ryan Kalish almost gave the Sox a 2-1 lead in the sixth, but his blast into the triangle, with Jed Lowrie at first and two outs, hopped onto the warning track and into the seats for a ground-rule double, forcing Lowrie to stop at third. Daniel Nava, who drove in Boston’s only run, then took a called third strike, stranding both runners . . . Down by 4-1 in the seventh, David Ortiz, batting a mere .207 against left-handed pitchers, took a called third strike from lefty Mike Gonzalez with two out and runners at first and second, ending Boston’s final threat . . . The appearance by Papelbon was his 328th, moving him past Cy Young and into seventh place on the Sox’s all-time list . . . Hideki Okajima made his 250th appearance for the Sox, stretching his scoreless streak to 10 innings over his last 12 outings. He has retired the last 11 batters he has faced.

Breaking down Saturday's pitching decisions

August, 29, 2010
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Lots of unhappiness being expressed in cyberspace over Terry Francona’s pitching decisions Saturday night.

Most of the criticism revolved around two issues:

1. Why did Clay Buchholz start the eighth inning instead of Daniel Bard?
2. Why was Scott Atchison in the game?

Let’s look at both situations.

1. The Sox took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth, Victor Martinez having broken a 1-all tie with a home run in the top of the inning off the Rays' Joaquin Benoit, who has been for Tampa Bay what Bard has been for the Red Sox, a dominant setup man (1.52 ERA in 50 appearances, 43 Ks in 45 IPs). Rays starter Matt Garza had thrown just 101 pitches and allowed six hits and a run in seven innings, but Rays manager Joe Maddon went to his bullpen. And it didn’t work out.

Buchholz entered the bottom of the eighth having thrown 107 pitches. He had allowed the Rays three hits, all singles. No Tampa Bay baserunner had advanced past first until Buchholz made a two-base throwing error to first on what he intended to be a routine toss to keep Carlos Pena close to the bag. Pena scored on Matt Joyce’s foul fly, a ball that J.D. Drew said he probably should have let drop.

Buchholz’s fastball, which averaged 93 miles an hour for the game, was at 92 in the seventh. The Rays’ eighth, ninth and leadoff hitters were due to bat in the eighth. Collectively, they had gone 0-for-7 against Buchholz in the game, with the help of Ryan Kalish’s spectacular catch that took extra bases away from B.J. Upton in the second.

Buchholz has averaged 102 pitches per start. In 16 of his previous 22 starts, he has thrown at least 100 pitches. The most he has thrown in a start is 117, on April 27 at Toronto. He was pitching Saturday with an extra day’s rest because of Thursday’s off-day.

Francona had Daniel Bard and rookie left-hander Felix Doubront warming up in the eighth. Bard had worked the night before, entering in the eighth inning with the Sox ahead, 3-1, and throwing 15 pitches.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon also had pitched Friday night, throwing 23 pitches. He has matched or exceeded that number 10 times in his 53 appearances. He has pitched the next day three times after throwing as many as 23 pitches.

The Rays had six hitters batting left-handed Saturday night, including switch-hitter Ben Zobrist and John Jaso, who was scheduled to bat third in the eighth. Francona said afterward that he wasn’t necessarily planning to bring in Doubront to face the lefties, that Bard was an option.

It is clear in Francona’s decision that he hoped that he would not have to use both Bard and Papelbon Saturday night, which likely would have left him unable to use either pitcher in Sunday night’s game against the Rays. Papelbon has not pitched on three consecutive days all season. Bard has done it once, May 17-19.

Buchholz’s first pitch to Upton was ball one, a fastball. His next pitch was a curveball, only the third curve he’d thrown all night to a right-handed hitter, the first he’d thrown to Upton. It was a “get-me-over” curveball, Francona said. The Rays’ center fielder hit it into the left-field seats for a tying home run. It was the only curveball thrown by Buchholz put into play by the Rays all night.

Francona lifted Buchholz after he’d retired Jason Bartlett on a first-pitch popout. Buchholz finished with 110 pitches, allowing one earned run on four hits.

Maddon went to his bullpen and it gave up the go-ahead run. Neither Benoit nor closer Rafael Soriano, who pitched the ninth, had pitched the night before.

Francona stayed with his starter and he gave up the tying run.

Both managers had considerable justification for the decisions they made.

2. After Doubront got the last two outs of the eighth inning, Bard pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, throwing just 10 pitches. On only two occasions this season has Bard pitched more than one inning on the second day of back-to-back appearances. He blew saves on both of those occasions, April 7 in a 3-1 loss to the Yankees, Aug. 13 in a 10-9 loss to the Rangers (after having pitched just a third of an inning the night before).

Francona had Papelbon throwing lightly in the top of the 10th in case the Sox took the lead, but had no intentions of bringing him into a tie game on the road. Why not? Because if Papelbon had held the Rays scoreless in the 10th and the Sox had then taken the lead in the top of the 11th, Francona would have been without his closer to preserve the lead.

Francona had Atchison and left-hander Hideki Okajima warming up in the bullpen. Okajima had just been activated earlier that day from the disabled list, where he’d been placed with a strained hamstring. Okajima was ineffective on his rehab assignment with Pawtucket, giving up six hits and five earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.

He has endured a miserable season, with a 5.85 ERA in 40 appearances. He has had four save opportunities this season, and been charged with a blown save all four times.

Francona elected to bring in Atchison. Only twice before this season has Atchison entered a game in the eighth inning or later with the Sox either tied or ahead by three runs or fewer. The first time was on April 25 at home against the Orioles, when he entered a tie game and loaded the bases on a single, double and walk without retiring a batter. All three runners scored, and he was charged with the loss.

The second time was on Aug. 14 in Texas, with neither Papelbon nor Bard available. Atchison was called upon to relieve Jon Lester with the Sox holding a 3-0 lead entering the ninth. Atchison retired the first batter on a liner to second, but then gave up a home run to Josh Hamilton and single to Vladi Guerrero, and was replaced by Doubront, who was credited with the save in a 3-1 win.

This was the third time, and it again ended unhappily. Atchison got two quick strikes on Johnson, the leadoff batter in the inning. Johnson fouled off three pitches, took two pitches that just missed, then homered into the right-field seats.

Francona gambled and lost with Atchison in a situation for which Atchison was supposed to be nothing more than a last option. When the season began, the Sox thought they’d have Ramon Ramirez or Manny Delcarmen to use there, but Ramirez was dealt to the Giants and Delcarmen has been erratic -- in three of his last four appearances, he has been scored upon, walking three in one outing.

The only upside for Francona is that the Sox can still win this series with a victory Sunday night, and he’ll have his closer, Papelbon, available.

Lester comes up big for Sox

August, 15, 2010
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Once upon a time in an Iowa cornfield, a man named Ray Kinsella heard a voice telling him to “Go the distance.”

OK, so Kinsella was a fictional character in the movie “Field of Dreams” and it has nothing to do with the Red Sox’s 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday night. What is comparable is that Boston starter Jon Lester knew heading into the game that the club’s bullpen was taxed, and to win, the team’s ace needed to go the distance -- or least get pretty close.

He delivered.
[+] EnlargeJon Lester
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezJon Lester had 5 hits and no runs in 8 innings Saturday.

Lester worked eight scoreless innings, allowing only five hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

“We needed him to go out there and pitch exactly like he did,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “The heat got to him a little bit. He was sick to his stomach, and when he went out in the sixth, we were certainly keeping an eye on him because he wasn’t feeling good. It didn’t look like it the way he was pitching.”

Lester retired the side in order in the sixth and stranded the potential game-tying run at third in the seventh, all while feeling nauseated. Francona sent him back out in the eighth and warned the southpaw he was being watched closely.

Neither heat nor exhaustion fazed Lester. He retired the side in order and his night was finished.

“It is what it is. You know it’s going to be hot and you’ve got to do the best you can to stay hydrated and not really worry about it,” Lester said. “They [the Rangers] have to play and pitch in the same thing we are.”

With the Sox’s bullpen completely blown out from the previous night’s 11-inning loss, Francona handed the ball over to reliever Scott Atchison, who got a quick out but then surrendered a solo homer to the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton.

Vladimir Guerrero then legged out an infield hit, so Francona decided to call for lefty reliever Felix Doubront. With Mitch Moreland at the plate, Guerrero attempted to steal but was cut down by Sox catcher Victor Martinez. Doubront then struck out Moreland on a nasty breaking pitch.

On normal nights, Doubront would not be in that situation. But due to Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard being unavailable, the rookie lefthander needed to close things out.

He did.

“You get what he does regardless of the situation,” Francona said. “He’s not going to shrink from competing. It’s actually pretty exciting.”

Doubront wanted to make sure he finished the job for one reason and one reason only.

“[Lester] is my hero,” Doubront said.

After losing four consecutive starts, Lester has won his past two and it appears he’s back in his zone, knowing the club needs vintage Lester if it wants to stay in contention down the stretch.

“It’s nice to come out and give a quality start and win a game after two losses,” Lester said. “That was big for us to come out and do that.”

For a change, Atchison means winning time

June, 28, 2010
6/28/10
11:20
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BOSTON -- Call him whatever you like -- middle reliever, long man, mop-up guy, cannon fodder -- but there are few positions that generate as much turnover on a baseball roster.

Look at the Red Sox relievers who have already come and gone this season: Scott Schoeneweis, Fabio Castro, Boof Bonser, Joe Nelson. All have been jettisoned by the Sox, with Castro the latest to be designated for assignment to make room for newcomer Eric Patterson, the second baseman-outfielder.

Then there is Scott Atchison, who has spent his share of time on the discard pile, which often is the only time these guys are noticed. Atchison not only has managed to fend off the termination notices, but has come to symbolize how the Sox are winning even as bodies fall left and right.

Twice, two weeks apart, Atchison has been an emergency substitute for a Sox starting pitcher felled by injury, and given the Sox what they needed. Summoned moments before a game against the Phillies when Daisuke Matsuzaka felt some tightness in his forearm, Atchison gave the Sox three innings -- and a season-high 52 pitches -- in a collective effort by the Sox pen.

Then Saturday afternoon in San Francisco, when Clay Buchholz strained his left hamstring running the bases, Atchison came out of the Sox dugout in the second inning and delivered 2 1/3 innings, again setting the stage for the rest of the pen to close out what would become his first win in the major leagues since Aug. 31, 2004.

“Guys like Atchison,’’ manager Terry Francona said, “two months ago he was having kind of mop-up innings, now he’s coming into games [when they matter]. I guarantee he’s feeling good about himself. Now he’s coming out of games, teammates are mobbing him. Yeah, it’s a good feeling.’’

Francona cited Atchison, the 34-year-old right-hander who pitched the last two seasons in Japan, as an example of how this club has been developing its personality during these testing times. “He has been tremendous,’’ Francona said.

Between the two rescue missions, Atchison also followed rookie Felix Doubront and struck out five Dodgers in three innings to preserve a win, then entered a one-run game in Colorado in the seventh inning Thursday night and held his ground.

“It definitely feels like it’s fun to pitch when you win,’’ said Atchison, who in seven of his first nine appearances entered the game when the Sox were losing.

"It’s easier to pitch when you’re winning as far as getting yourself up. I understand my role, I know what my role is. You’re going to have times when you have to pick up innings when you’re not ahead. But it’s been nice these last couple of times to get in some exciting situations.

"It’s nice to be standing in here [in the clubhouse] high-fiving everybody as they come in the door, to be able to be part of some wins.’’

Pregame notes: Reddick gets call

June, 5, 2010
6/05/10
6:58
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BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox needed to make a few roster moves in preparation for tonight’s game against the Orioles.

Boston has called up outfielder Josh Reddick from Triple-A Pawtucket and optioned pitcher Scott Atchison. The Red Sox needed an outfielder because Jeremy Hermida was a bit banged up with a sore left forearm and side after colliding with third baseman Adrian Beltre on Friday.

This is Reddick’s second stint with Boston this season. He was hitting .183 with five homers and 25 RBIs with the PawSox. In his last 26 games for Pawtucket, he batted .165.

“The one thing [PawSox manager] Torey [Lovullo] said was, ‘You’re going to call up a guy whose batting average is low and everybody is going to say what are we doing?’ For the last two weeks his approach has been a lot better,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “We like this kid and I think it’s a good reminder. Come help us win some games and how long he’ll be here, we don’t know.”

Reddick said he's ready to help out the Red Sox.

"Well, I don't really expect much of anything. Just come up here and try to help them as much as I can, whether it be short term or long term," Reddick said. "My numbers weren't really showing much, but the last two or three weeks I've been hitting the ball really well, having great at-bats."

Fellow outfield prospect Ryan Kalish had recently been promoted to Pawtucket from Double-A Portland and has been playing well, but the organization thought Reddick was a better option for the emergency call-up.

“Do we think [Kalish] is a really good player? Yeah. But he just went to Triple-A a few days ago, so I don’t think [a call-up] is in his best interest,” said Francona.

Atchison has options remaining in his contract, making him expendable.

“I think he understands. I think he gets frustrated and he also knows we think a lot of him as a pitcher,” Francona said. “Sometimes guys get on that shuttle and when your team gets in a little bit of a bind like we potentially were, we needed a healthy outfielder and unfortunately [Atchison] caught the bad end of it.”

Since the results of a CT scan on Hermida’s side came back fine, he could return to the lineup on Sunday and Reddick’s stay could be brief.

Also, pitcher Boof Bonser’s 30-day minor league rehab stint ends Sunday. He’s scheduled to work one inning of relief for the PawSox tonight in Louisville and there’s a possibility he could be with the Red Sox on Monday in Cleveland.

A few other pregame notes from Francona:
* Here's Francona's explanation as to why Mike Lowell is not playing tonight and Kevin Youkilis has been moved from first to third: “A couple of things. We wanted to get some left-handed bats in the lineup and we have a day game tomorrow, so this a way we can keep Victor in there because he’s been swinging the bat well. We let Tek catch and Youk, at some point during interleague, will play third.”

Youkilis has played 55 games at first this season and tonight will be his first appearance on the other side of the diamond.

* Jacoby Ellsbury (ribs) was able to take batting practice today and participated in running drills. He was able to increase the intensity of his workouts. He said he’s feeling better.

* Mike Cameron (abdominal tear) also took BP and is doing much better. He’s actually feeling pretty good, according to Francona, but the manager added he doesn’t think Cameron’s ready to play. “Last night during the game he was pacing the dugout. He knows there are guys banged up, so I told him, ‘Quit pacing because you’re not going to play. We’re not going to do something that’s not in your best interest because we’re running short.’ Hopefully that made him feel a little bit better.”

Tazawa to have Tommy John

April, 1, 2010
4/01/10
10:36
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox minor league right-hander Junichi Tazawa will have Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery on Tuesday, ending his 2010 season before it begins, manager Terry Francona said Thursday.

The surgery will be performed by orthopedist James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Recovery time is typically nine months to a year.

Tazawa, a 23-year-old Japanese industrial league find who made four starts for the Red Sox last season and projected to be in Pawtucket's starting rotation, has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow.

On Tuesday morning, Tazawa had told reporters the tightness he'd experienced in camp this spring was something he had pitched with in the past in Japan, but the Red Sox decided to have it checked by Andrews. Tazawa had given up five home runs in seven innings this spring.

"There were times in camp here that he felt normal and there were other times where because of lack of command or action to his pitches he felt like something wasn't quite right either in the game or the amount of recovery time he would need," Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said earlier this week. "And we mapped out his workload to give him ample time to recover, although it got to a point where we needed to take a further look and get an in-depth evaluation."

Francona also offered these tidbits Thursday morning:

* Right-handed reliever Scott Atchison was told Thursday morning that he has made the club, cinching one of the final two spots in the bullpen.

* Left-handed reliever Alan Embree was told he needs more time. The Red Sox would like him to stay here, pitch Saturday, then pitch for affiliates. He has an April 15 opt-out date in his conrtract. Francona said Embree was told to take a day to talk it over with family and friends, but made it clear the Red Sox would like him to stay.

* Right-handed reliever Joe Nelson was told he was going north to Washington, D.C., with the club, is "deep in the mix,'' but has no guarantees of a job. The Red Sox will look at Scott Schoeneweis again Thursday, but he would appear to be a long shot. The Red Sox play an exhibition game against the Nationals on Saturday.

* Left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is not playing in a game for a third straight day, but Francona insists it's just to let him rest his arm, sore after a day of working on cutoffs and relays in camp a few days ago. Ellsbury is scheduled to take batting practice Thursday.

* First baseman Kevin Youkilis will not play Thursday after fouling a pitch off his right knee the day before, but Francona said it's just a bruise.

* Pitcher Fernando Cabrera was reassigned to minor-league camp.

* Reserve outfielder Jeremy Hermida (hamstring) will go to minor-league camp Friday to get multiple at-bats, then will head north with the club.

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