Results tagged ‘ Felix Doubront ’
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 0
TAMPA - With all the dark clouds that seem to be swirling around the Yankees’ spring training camp - both literal and figurative - the skies always seem to part widely to allow in bright sunshine when they beat their most bitter rival. That is exactly what happened on Wednesday.
Left-handed camp sensation Vidal Nuno tossed five scoreless innings while the Yankees sent nine men to the plate in a four-run second inning against Felix Doubront as New York shut out the punchless Bostonians at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Nuno (1-1) is a 25-year-old pitcher who was released by the Cleveland Indians and discovered by team scouts pitching for the Washington Wild of an independent league. And all he has done this spring is throw up zeros, including five shutout innings against the Yankees when he was loaned to the World Baseball Classic champion Dominican Republic team for an exhibition game on March 6.
On Wednesday he did the same to Red Sox with a five-pitch assortment including a fastball, curveball, slider, cutter and changeup. Nuno allowed just two hits and a walk while he struck out one in a sparkling 63-pitch outing.
Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense got to Doubront in the second inning.
Juan Rivera opened the frame with a single and newly acquired outfielder Ben Francisco doubled him to third. Jayson Nix scored Rivera on a sacrifice fly and Chris Stewart followed with an RBI single to score Francisco.
Thomas Neal and Melky Mesa each singled to load the bases and Doubront then dug a deeper hole for himself by uncorking a wild pitch to allow Stewart to score.
Brett Gardner drew a walk to reload the bases and Eduardo Nunez closed out the scoring another sacrifice fly to plate Neal.
Five Yankee relievers combined to hold the Red Sox scoreless in the final four innings, limiting them to just two hits and no walks.
The victory improved the Yankees’ spring record to 10-15. The Red Sox fell to 13-12.
- As impressive as Nuno has been this spring with his tidy 0.68 ERA, it is unlikely he will make the team’s Opening Day roster. Nuno is considered a starting pitcher and the Yankees have six starters ahead of him. There is a very slim possibility he could be used as a second left-hander out of the bullpen while Clay Rapada recovers from bursitis in his left shoulder. But the Yankees seem to be learning toward using Josh Spence in that role. Believe me, though, Nuno has made an impression and will get a chance with the big club at some point in 2013.
- The Yankees’ four-run second inning is pretty much how the Yankees will have to do a lot of their scoring in the regular season. They scored three of their four runs on a wild pitch and two sac flies. Such is life without power for the Yankees in 2013.
- Francisco has been a doubles-hitting fool this spring between his stint with the Indians and the Yankees. His double against Doubront in the second was his eighth double of the spring and those doubles account for all but three of his 11 hits. He is hitting a cool .333 and he likely will make the team a platoon corner outfielder.
- Perhaps Kevin Youkilis was too jazzed up facing his former team. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he failed to get a ball out of the infield. Youkilis drew a lot of “Youk” calls from the paid crowd of 10,801 but it seemed most of them were from Yankee fans while Red Sox fans booed or were silent.
The game was played amid a solid blanket of heavy clouds but it could not compare with the gloomy news about shortstop Derek Jeter. After feeling soreness in his surgically repaired left ankle on Tuesday, Jeter was a late scratch from a game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, FL. Jeter downplayed the soreness, saying it was something doctors told him to expect. But Jeter’s availability for Opening Day is now in question after he was administered an anti-inflammatory injection on Wednesday. General manager Brian Cashman said the soreness in Jeter’s left ankle is not serious but that he might have to open the season on the disabled list. If that is the case, Nunez would start the season at shortstop. . . . Ace left-hander CC Sabathia threw 92 pitches on Wednesday against a minor-league lineup at the team’s complex in Tampa. Sabathia is scheduled to open the season April 1 against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. . . . Former Yankee right-hander Chien-Ming Wang worked out for the team at the team’s complex on Wednesday. Wang, 32, is a free agent who is drawing interest from a number of major-league teams after he pitched for Taiwan in the WBC. Cashman said the team has no vacancies in the rotation but they would be willing to offer Wang a minor-league deal to pitch at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees will stay at home to play host to the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
Right-hander David Phelps will continue his quest to make the rotation in his sixth start of the spring. He will be opposed by right-hander Liam Hendricks.
The Yankees will also welcome back WBC Most Valuable Player and All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano back to the lineup.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast live by the YES Network and on tape-delay by the MLB Network.
PHILLIES 4, YANKEES 1
CLEARWATER - One thing the Yankees are finding out this spring is it is pretty hard to score runs when you don’t get many hits. On Tuesday, they ended up with just two of them and they found that one run just was not enough to win.
Kyle Kendrick (1-2) gave up one unearned run on two hits and struck out three and Domonic Brown continued his own personal assault against Yankee pitching with a solo home run in the fourth inning as Philadelphia downed New York at Bright House Field.
Adam Warren (0-2) carried a 1-0 lead into the fourth inning but was tagged by Brown’s sixth home run of the spring (three of them have come against the Yankees) and a RBI double by Steven Lerud to score Laynce Nix.
The Phillies added single runs in the sixth on a RBI single by Michael Young off reliever Shawn Kelley and in the seventh on a solo home run off the bat of Ryan Howard against left-hander Josh Spence.
Warren ended up giving up two runs on seven hits and a walk and struck out two batters.
Chad Durbin pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save.
With the loss the Yankees’ Grapefruit League record dropped to 9-15. The Phiilies improved to 11-12.
- Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki teamed up to set up the Yankees’ only score of the day. Gardner led off the fourth with a bunt single and he reached second on Kendrick’s throwing error attempting to throw him out at first. One out later Suzuki doubled to the gap in left-center to plate Gardner. Suzuki is hitting .382 this spring.
- Left-hander Boone Logan, 28, looked sharp in his first outing of the spring. Logan has been sidelined up to this point with soreness in his left elbow. Logan gave up a leadoff single to Chase Utley but then retired the side, including fanning lefty hitters Brown and Nix swinging to end the inning.
- David Aardsma also looked good in his one inning of work. He gave up no hits and struck out two. Aarsdma is making a strong case to make the Yankees’ bullpen this spring. After being hit early he has his spring ERA down to 3.60. Aardsma, 31, is a former Seattle Mariners closer who is returning to action after missing all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
- Granted that Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are injured. Plus Robinson Cano is busy in the final of the World Baseball Classic and Derek Jeter was scratched from the lineup as a precaution. But it is pretty sad when players like Gardner, Suzuki, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner and Brennan Boesch can muster just two hits. That is just plain unacceptable.
- Warren was much better on Tuesday than he was in his last appearance against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 14 in Dunedin, FL. In that game Warren gave up eight runs on four hits and five walks in just 1 1/3 innings. But Warren still has trouble putting away hitters on two-strike counts and he gives up way too many hits.
- After looking sharp in his early appearances this spring, Kelley is beginning to struggle a bit. In his last two outings - both against the Phillies - he has given up four runs on seven hits and two walks in two innings of work. His spring ERA has ballooned to 5.40.
Jeter is trying to tamp down any panic that might be brewing over his decision not play shortstop on Tuesday after feeling stiffness in his surgically repaired left ankle. Jeter told reporters that he was told by his doctors that he would feel occasional stiffness and he just sat out as a precaution. An MRI and X-rays of the ankle were taken after the game and the MRI showed just mild inflammation around the ankle. Jeter is listed as day-to-day. . . . Right-hander Phil Hughes, who is recovering from a bulging disk in his upper back, pitched in a simulated game on Monday at the team’s camp in Tampa and his next action should come Saturday in a minor-league game. Hughes is hoping to be able to be ready to pitch in the first week of the season but he also could be forced to miss at least one start.
SPECIAL NOTE: I would like to thank my fellow Section 205 pal, Tim, for providing my son and me with tickets to Tuesday’s game at Bright House Field. Being able to see as many games live is essential for providing my readers with the information they desire about the Yankees. Thanks so much for the tickets and the support to my blog. It means a lot.
On Wednesday, the Yankees have a date with their arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox, at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees will start left-hander Vidal Nuno, 25, who is 0-1 with a 1.08 ERA in his four appearances this spring. He will be opposed by Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and on tape-delay by the MLB Network.
What’s up Yankees the Red Sox got something to say to you
It’s late September and we really should be playing golf
We know we keep you amused but we feel we’re being “Hughesed”
– Apologies to Rod Stewart for the revision of his classic Maggie May
YANKEES 2, RED SOX 0
From the first crisp fastball out of Phil Hughes hand to Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning the Red Sox knew they might be in for a difficult night. Seven and one-third innings later Hughes’ fastball was still crackling and the Red Sox were still staring at a big, fat zero on the Fenway Park scoreboard.
Hughes pitched a thoroughly dominant game in which he shut out the Red Sox on five hits and a walk while he struck out seven batters on his high-riding four-seam fastball as New York downed Boston to retain their share of first place in the American League East on Thursday.
For Hughes (15-12) it was his first time this season he has won back-to-back starts since June 15 while it was the first time the Yankees have won back-to-back games since they defeated Texas from Aug. 13 through Aug. 15.
Hughes and Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront traded zeros until the fourth inning when Alex Rodriguez led off the frame with his second single of the night and he stole second base.
Doubront then walked Robinson Cano and Russell Martin to load the bases and Andruw Jones launched a line drive into right that scored Rodriguez.
The game remained 1-0 until the seventh when Steve Pearce drew a one-out walk and Eduardo Nunez, starting at shortstop for a hobbling Derek Jeter, lined his second single of the night into left.
Embattled Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine then removed Doubront in favor of right-hander Junichi Tazawa to face Jeter, who was in the game as the designated hitter.
Jeter battled the hard-throwing Tazawa to a 3-2 count before lifting a bloop single into center in front of Ellsbury and Pearce scored a very important insurance run for Hughes.
In addition, the hit was personally important to Jeter. It was the 3283rd hit of Jeter’s career, which ties him with Willie Mays for 10th place on the all-time hit list.
Doubront (10-9) gave up two runs on five hits and five walks and struck out five in his 6 1/3 innings of work.
But Hughes was much better, retiring the first 10 batters he faced and only giving up one extra-base hit during a 95-pitch outing – the 100th start of his career.
Hughes escaped trouble in the fourth when he had Scott Podsednik on third and Cody Ross on first with two out by inducing Daniel Nava into a infield groundout.
He also had Ellsbury at second and James Loney on first with two out in the sixth but retired Ross on flyout to right.
Boone Logan was summoned in the eighth to face Ellsbury after Hughes had allowed a leadoff double to Pedro Ciriaco and pinch-hitter Mauro Gomez flew out to center.
Logan retired Ellsbury on a flyout and David Robertson came in to retire pinch-hitter Ryan Lavarnway on a flyout to end the threat and keep the shutout intact.
Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 38th save in 41 chances this season.
The victory improved the Yankees’ record to 81-62 and kept them in first place in the division with the Baltimore Orioles, who completed a sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays with a 3-2 victory in 14 innings earlier in the day. The Red Sox are 60-84 and 17 1/2 games out in last place in the division. They are sinking faster than new FOX sitcom.
- Hughes at age 26 has had his ups and downs in his career with the Yankees and even during the 2012 season. But his performance on Thursday has to be one of the best of his career and likely the most important. While the pundits keep disparaging the Yankees’ starting pitching, Hughes has quietly compiled a 15-12 record and a 3.96 ERA. That is not bad for someone who was considered the team’s No. 5 starter.
- After the bullpen let the Red Sox get back into Wednesday’s game it was nice to see them bounce back with a good effort to maintain the shutout, It was the first time the Yankees had shut out the Red Sox at Fenway since the 2008 season.
- Give Jeter a lot of credit. He hobbled through this game with a severe bone bruise on his left shin and he got the timely hit that put the Yankees up by two runs. Tying Mays on the all-time hit list is just gravy for the 38-year-old shortstop. Jeter’s .323 average speaks volumes as to what he has meant to the Yankees this season as a leader and the team’s Most Valuable Player.
I will mention the Yankees were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position but because Hughes was so dominant it did not seem to matter. The fact the Yankees won with a great pitching and without hitting a home run is kind of refreshing. So there are no negatives in this one.
It’s official! Andy Pettitte will start for the first time since he suffered a broken left ankle on June 27 on Tuesday in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Pettitte believes he will be able throw about 60 to 65 pitches in the game. Pettitte will take the rotation spot of rookie right-hander David Phelps, who will likely enter the game in relief of Pettitte should he need to leave early on Tuesday.
The Yankees will open a vital home series against the Rays beginning on Friday.
The Yankees will send out ace left-hander CC Sabathia (13-5, 3.56 ERA). Sabathia lost in his last start against the Orioles despite the fact he entered the game with a 16-3 career record against them. He is 10-8 with a 3.12 ERA in his career against the Rays.
The Rays will counter with left-hander David Price (17-5, 2.54 ERA), who has not pitched since Sept. 2 due to shoulder soreness. He is 6-3 with a 3.84 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be televised nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 5, RED SOX 4
Just when it looks like the Yankees’ grip on first place in the American League East appears to be slipping the team seems to right itself in time to claim a narrow victory. Such was the case on Wednesday at Fenway Park.
Curtis Granderson smacked a pair of home runs and the Yankees’ bullpen bent some but did not break as New York kept its share of first place with a huge victory over Boston.
The Yankees scored three runs in the fourth inning to take an early 3-0 lead and they never relinquished it. But getting from point A to point B proved to be a bit tougher than it should have against a Red Sox team that is playing out the string of a season in which they are in last place in the division and 16 1/2 games back.
Granderson opened the scoring with a titanic moon shot home run over the Red Sox bullpen in right-center off journeyman right-hander Aaron Cook (3-10) to lead off the fourth.
After Alex Rodriguez blooped a single into center, Robinson Cano launched a high shot of his own into the Green Monster seats in left-center. It was the 30th home run of the season for the All-Star second baseman and it is a new career high for him.
The Red Sox drew first blood off rookie right-hander David Phelps (4-4) in the bottom of the fourth. Dustin Pedroia stroked a one-out double off the Green Monster in left-center and James Loney rolled a single through the hole between first and second base into right-field to score Pedroia.
But the Yankees tacked on a pair of runs against former teammate Alfredo Aceves in the seventh on a leadoff single by Derek Jeter and Granderson followed with his second home run into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center. The two home runs give Granderson 37 home runs on the season, which leads the team.
Phelps left the game with two out and two on on the sixth inning. But he really earned his pitching stripes after he opened the fifth by surrendering a leadoff triple by Jarrod Salatalamacchia. Phelps stranded the Bosox catacher by striking out Daniel Nava, inducing Scott Podsednik to hit an infield popup and fanning Jose Iglesias looking.
The bullpen for the Yankees, however, was another story.
With one out in the seventh Cody Eppley gave up a ground-rule double to Saltalamacchia. Boone Logan came in to relieve Eppley and he gave up a double off the wall in center that Saltalamacchia misjudged and failed to score.
Joba Chamberlain came in for Logan and promptly gave up an infield groundout off the bat of pinch-hitter Mauro Gomez that plated Saltalamacchia (who must have breathed a sigh of relief heard all the way in the Bronx). Then pinch-hitter Mike Aviles doubled off the wall in left to score Gomez to make it 5-3.
The Yankees’ offense, meanwhile, struggled to put additional runs across by doing what they do best: Choking with runners in scoring position. They left 10 men on base on the night and they were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Closer Rafael Soriano was summoned to relieve David Robertson with a Loney on second and two out in the eighth. He escaped further trouble by striking out Cody Ross looking on a 3-2 pitch that Ross thought was low. Ross actually waved the bat menacingly at home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez before he was tossed from the game.
Boston skipper Bobby Valentine had to restrain Ross to keep him from bumping Marquez. But Valentine must have an important date with his clubhouse office mirror because he also got ejected by Marquez just before the ninth inning started. It was Valentine’s sixth ejection of the season and a new Boston record for managers.
It is about all Bobby can really be stoked about this season.
Valentine could not view first-hand a bottom of the ninth inning in which Saltalamacchia launched a home run off Soriano into the bleachers in right to lead off the inning. He also had to watch on TV as Aviles reached first on an infield hit off the glove of Soriano with two out.
The Fenway faithful among the 37,230 in attendance were virtually in a frenzy. Bobby smiled into his trusty mirror.
That brought up the potential winning run in last night’s hero Jacoby Ellsbury. But Ellsbury’s string of good fortune eluded him when he bounced the first pitch right into Soriano’s glove and Soriano dispatched Ellsbury and the reeling “Dead Sox” with an easy underhand toss to Nick Swisher for the final out.
Though it might not have been pretty, Soriano earned his 37th save in 40 opportunities this season.
Coupled with Baltimore’s 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees remain in first place for the 85th consecutive day and they are tied with the Orioles with identical 80-62 records. The Rays fell three games back. The Red Sox are now 64-79 and headed for oblivion.
- Granderson seems to be showing signs of coming out of his long September slide. He is 5-for-11 (.455) with three home runs and eight RBIs in his last three games. Of course, Granderson did strike out two more times, which gives him 170 on the season, second in the American League to Adam Dunn.
- Phelps pitched extremely well in a game the Yankees desperately wanted to win. He gave up one run on five hits and a walk and he struck out five in 5 2/3 innings. It is a shame but Phelps may not get another start this season because Andy Pettitte is expected to take his place in the rotation next week.
- Cano’s home run gave him a personal high with 30 (he hit t 29 in 2010) but he remains some 43 RBIs shy of 2011 high of 118. Cano only has 77 RBIs this season mostly because he is hitting a career low .223 against left-handers and he is hitting just .235 with runners in scoring position.
- Eppley, Logan, Chamberlain and Soriano looked shaky in a game the Yankees should have breezed through. In 3 1/3 innings, the bullpen gave up three runs on six hits (four of them doubles and one homer) and they actually allowed the Red Sox back into the game. They also faced the possibility of letting the Red Sox tie it or win it in the ninth. That is just plain bad.
- Boston pitchers used Ichiro Suzuki and Chris Stewart, who were batting eighth and ninth, respectively, as escape hatches out of even bigger innings. They were 0-for-6 and they combined to strand nine base-runners.
- The 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position line speaks for itself. The Yankees were able to put the leadoff batter on in six consecutive innings from the third through the eighth innings. They only scored runs on the Cano and Granderson home runs in the fourth and seventh innings. So they squandered a lot of chances to pad the lead and let Boston have a chance to mount a comeback, which they did.
Jeter left the game in the eighth inning after he injured his left ankle trying to beat out a double-play grounder that ended the inning. Jeter was removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi, but Jeter vowed he will be in the lineup in the Boston series finale on Thursday. Jeter also revealed he has been battling thorough a deep bone bruise on his left shin. . . . The Yankees announced that right-hander Ivan Nova will come off the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and will start in place of Freddy Garcia against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Nova has been sidelined since Aug. 21 with inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Garcia will now pitch out of the bullpen after he was 0-1 with a 7.64 ERA over his last four starts. . . . Pettitte threw a 55-pitch simulated game on Wednesday at Fenway Park and he likely will make a start next week for the Yankees. Pettitte has not pitched since June 27 when he fractured his left ankle. Pettitte almost certainly will replace Phelps in the rotation in order to prepare the 40-year-old left-hander for some potential starts in the postseason.
The Yankees will hope to win the rubber game of their three-game series with the “Red Flops” on Thursday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (14-12, 4.13 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off a victory over the Orioles on Friday in which he gave up three runs (two earned) in six innings. Hughes is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA in his career against the Bosox, but he won his last start against them at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 17.
Left-hander Felix Doubront (10-8, 5.21 ERA) will take the hill for Boston. Doubront is 1-4 with a 7.22 ERA since the All-Star break, which likely is because Doubront pitched 134 innings this season and he has not thrown more than 129 1/3 innings since 2008. He is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
The New York Yankees welcome their old pals, the Boston Red Sox, to Yankee Stadium for the first time this season beginning on Friday. The Dead Sox, as they are being referred to many Boston circles, are limping in having lost five of their last six games and are 10 1/2 games back in last place in the American League East. This series is pretty much their season. If they get swept, it’s over. If they sweep, there is still a glimmer of hope. But in some ways the Red Sox have the look of Custer at Little Big Horn, the Texas Army at The Alamo and the Red Sox in September 2011. Here is why they will fail this weekend:
PITCHING IS KING
Looking at the pitching matchups this weekend does not instill much confidence in Boston.
Journeyman right-hander Aaron Cook (2.3, 3.50 ERA) will open the series for Red Sox. Cook, 33, is a symbol of the inability of the Red Sox to build a starting rotation this season. In past years the Red Sox would trade for a Josh Beckett and sign free agents like Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey while they developed young stars like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
But with the team’s record 13-24 in games started by Beckett and Lester this season it really has not mattered much what three pitchers follow them in the rotation. Buchholz is 8-3 with an elevated 4.93 ERA and he has been hampered by injuries for a good part of the year.
Lackey is out for the season after Tommy John surgery. Dice-K came back from the same surgery only to make five ill-fated starts with an 0-3 record and 6.65 ERA before landing on the DL again. Matsuzaka has made only 49 starts since the 2008 season in which he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. The Red Sox have their own version of Carl Pavano, collecting huge paychecks while he constantly rehabs.
That is why the Red Sox have been forced to use Cook and Felix Doubront in their rotation. Doubront is 12-7 with a 4.62 ERA but he has become less effective as the innings have piled up. His ERA has steadily risen all season and was 5.83 in June.
So Cook enters this game actually as the the team’s most effective starter lately. He has a 2.79 ERA in July. But he also is 0-2 in his three July starts, which means he has not got much in the way of run support.
The Red Sox also will be facing right-hander Phil Hughes, who has rediscovered his 2010 form this season. Hughes is 9-8 with a 4.09 ERA, however, those numbers are misleading.
Hughes is 5-3 with a 2.77 ERA in his last nine starts and he has issued only 15 walks while striking out 53 in his last 61 2/3 innings. Add to that, the Red Sox have been outscored 43-17 in their last six games and you have the makings of a very ugly opening night for them in the Bronx.
The Red Sox will just have to hope they score enough runs early to keep Cook in the game and get Hughes out of it early. In other words, a typical Red Sox-Yankees four-hour marathon where the total of runs scored is about 24. But I do not think that is going to happen on Friday.
The Red Sox are without their Yankee kryptonite in designated hitter David Ortiz. Without his bat, the Red Sox become less potent against the Yankees. In a 9-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Monday, the Red Sox collected 10 hits against fill-in starter Scott Feldman. But they were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.
The Yankees do come in having lost five of their last seven and they are without Alex Rodriguez and possibly may be without Nick Swisher.
But the Yankees also come back home for this series and home is where they shine.
The addition of Ichiro Suzuki could make a big impact in this series with is bat, his legs and his glove. Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira come into the series hot and the Yankees are getting contributions from their bench in Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Jayson Nix.
Look for Game 1 to be close early but the Yankees will eventually burn Cook and serve him up as a special at NYY Steak over the weekend.
TOO MANY CCs
Even if the Red Sox do succeed on Friday, they will have to face CC Sabathia (10-3, 3.30) on Saturday. That is bad news for the lefty-dominant Red Sox lineup of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who stinks as a right-hand hitter.
The Yankees, meanwhile, face Lester (5-8, 5.46 ERA). In Lester’s last three starts, he is 0-3 and has given up 22 runs (21 earned) on 25 hits and 10 walks over 12 1/3 innings. That is an ERA of 15.32. Ouch!
The word from scouts is that Lester decided to develop a cutter a few years ago. He used it to compliment his other pitches, which were nasty. He was able to control both sides of the plate and he was 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA last season despite a September slide that coincided with the epic collapse of the Red Sox.
But this season, Lester has become cutter crazy and it cost him in velocity and command of his fastball. Hughes found the same thing happened to him in 2011 and he junked his cutter this season. But Lester has tried to carry on with his same arsenal and he is getting pounded harder than a herd of cattle in a butcher shop.
In his last start against the Yankees on July 8 at Fenway Park, Lester lasted just 4 1/3 innings and he surrendered five runs (four earned) on nine hits and a walk.
The bottom line is Lester is just not the Lester that Red Sox Nation is used to seeing dominate lineups. He is headed for a big fall on Saturday.
COUP DE GRACE
The Red Sox will face on Sunday the Yankees’ best pitcher, of late, in Hiroki Kuroda (10-7, 3.34 ERA).
Kuroda is 7-1 with a 2.49 ERA in last 11 starts. Though he did struggle against Boston at Fenway Park, Kuroda has proven to be a much more effective pitcher at Yankee Stadium this season. He is 7-3 with a 2.68 ERA in the Bronx.
That is bad news for the Red Sox, who have not announced a mound opponent for Kuroda.
Doubront defeated the Yankees at Fenway on July 7 but he also was shelled for six runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings against the Rangers on Monday. The Red Sox may, instead, call upon Buchholz to pitch the finale. He gave up just one run on four hits and three walks in seven innings against the Rangers on Tuesday.
If Buchholz pitches on Sunday it indicates that manager Bobby Valentine is desperate. He has to be if the Red Sox pick up the Sunday New York Times facing a 12 1/2-game deficit to the Yankees.
The game will be very close on Sunday but the Yankees have a decided edge on the mound. They should win in a very close game.
IN THE END
The truth is that the seeds of the 2012 season for the Red Sox were sown in the aftermath of their historic collapse in September 2011. The departures of manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein have left Valentine and new general manager Ben Cherington with a mess.
He has some prima donnas like Beckett and Lackey and a huge albatross of a contract to Crawford tied around his neck. The team can’t rebuild only through free agency because they are right up against the edge of having to pay the luxury tax.
They could start shipping high-priced underachievers out and let their free agents like Ortiz walk. But there are so many holes on this roster it looks like Swiss cheese.
Young talent the Red Sox are hoping to develop is in short supply and that is really the biggest problem they have going forward. They likely would be better off with a roster purge and rebuild effort. But that also will mean they have to be candid with Red Sox Nation that they will not be competitive for some time.
That is hard sell. But after this weekend, it could be quite likely you will see Beckett go and others will follow.
The Curse may be over but it might be a long, long time before we see a Red Sox team capable of competing with the Yankees.
To us Yankee fans, that is just fine.
YANKEES 10, RED SOX 8
Well, it all came down to, as it so often does, one very bitter rival getting the best of another bitter rival on Friday.
In this case, I am not speaking of the Red Sox and Yankees. I am referring to the very bitter and public feud between Mark Teixeira and his former Texas Rangers teammate Vicente Padilla. This time, Teixeira won.
Teixeira launched a 3-2 fastball from Padilla into the deepest recesses of center-field in Fenway Park for a one-out, two-run triple that ignited a four-run seventh inning and led New York to a 10-8 victory over Boston in a game that took three hours and 59 minutes to play.
Teixeira has publicly lashed out several times at Padilla for his penchant of hitting batters on purpose while he was a starter for the Rangers. After an incident in which Padilla hit Teixeira with a pitch in 2009 when Teixeira was in in his first season with the Yankees, the Rangers players and front office were so angry with Padilla that the team released him soon after the dustup.
In his 93 starts for Texas, Padilla hit 51 batters and he even admitted publicly that he would rather hit batters than walk them and ruin his walks to innings pitched ratio (WHIP).
But Teixeira got a measure of revenge with the Yankees trailing 7-6 in the seventh inning as Padilla entered the game after Andrew Miller had walked Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez scratched out an infield single off the glove of Mike Aviles at shortstop. Texeira’s triple easily scored Granderson and Rodriguez and gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the night.
“Almost every at-bat, he tries to throw at your head, throws behind you or something screwy,” Teixeira said. “With first and second and the game on the line, he’s not going to do it then, so I could actually dig in and look for a good pitch to hit.”
Teixeira led the Yankees’ 10-run, 14-hit attack with two hits, a walk, a stolen base, two runs scored and four RBIs. In the finale of a two-game series at Fenway Park on April 21, Teixeira had a double and two home runs and drove in a season-high six runs. So in his last two games at Fenway Park, Teixeira is 7-for-10 with a double, a triple, two home runs, five runs scored and 10 RBIs.
Meanwhile, the Yankees’ bullpen ended up being better than Boston’s.
Boone Logan (4-0) was credited with the win though he did give up a leadoff home run in the seventh inning to Cody Ross that made it 10-8.
Rafael Soriano entered the game in the bottom of eighth with two out and two on but retired Adrian Gonzalez on a routine infield groundout to end the threat. He then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts to earn his 20th save in 21 opportunities.
You can pretty much expect the unexpected when these two teams hook up and so it was on this night in front of a sellout crowd of 38,066.
The Yankees jumped on ace right-hander Josh Beckett for five runs in the first inning, keyed by a bases-loaded two-run single by Teixeira and a pair of sacrifice flies from Nick Swisher and Chavez in an inning which the Yankees sent nine men to the plate.
However, the Red Sox jumped all over Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who entered the game 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA in his last seven starts. The Bosox struck for five runs of their own and also sent nine men to the plate. Jarrod Saltamacchia’s 17th home run of the season, a three-run shot, was the key blow in the inning.
Granderson stroked a one-out triple in the second inning and he scored on an RBI infield groundout by Rodriguez as the Yankees ended up scoring six runs on eight hits and two walks off Beckett in 5 2/3 innings.
Kuroda, however, allowed the Red Sox to tie it up again in the bottom of the second by hitting Daniel Nava with a pitch and allowing back-to-back singles by Ryan Kalish and David Ortiz. Nava scored on Ortiz’s single but Ortiz was thrown out at second base trying to stretch the hit in to a double.
The Red Sox took the lead off Kuroda in the fifth as Gonzalez opened the frame with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored one out later on an RBI single by rookie Mauro Gomez, the first RBI of his career.
Kuroda gave up seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and one walk while striking out three in 5 2/3 innings.
But the Red Sox bullpen was unable to hold the one-run lead and the Yankees triumphed for the third time in three games this season against the Red Sox, all of them coming in Boston.
With the victory the Yankees improved to 50-32, which is the best record in the major leagues. They also maintained their lead in the American League East over the second-place Baltimore Orioles of 5 1/2 games games with the Orioles. The Red Sox fell to 42-41 and they are 8 1/2 games back in fourth place in the division.
- After largely disappointing Yankee fans with a first half in which he had 14 home runs, 46 RBIs and hitting just .247, Teixeira has been on a bit of hot streak in his last three games. He is 5-for-10 with a home run and five RBIs. In his three games against the Red Sox this season, he is 5-for-14 (.357) with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
- Even though Logan gave up the solo home run to Ross, the Yankee bullpen easily outshone the Red Sox pen. Logan, Cody Eppley, David Robertson and Soriano combined to give up one run on four hits and one walk and struck out five in 3 1/3 innings. In contrast, the Red Sox bullpen surrendered four runs on six hits and two walks and fanned five in four innings.
- Soriano was sensational in retiring all four batters he faced and striking out two. These games are good tests to see if Soriano can hold up to the pressure of a playoff-like atmosphere. It is pretty clear that he was not phased with pitching in Fenway with the game on the line.
- Give Chavez credit for another good game filling in for Rodriguez at third while A-Rod was the designated hitter. Though he was thrown out trying to stretch a single and committed an error which allowed an unearned run in the first inning, he was 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and a single and drove in two runs. Chavez is hitting .279 on the season.
- Kuroda is showing he is having difficulty winning on the road. He is 6-3 at home and 2-5 on the road and his road ERA is now 5.82. Kuroda missed the strike zone early and often in counts and got tattooed when he was forced to throw strikes. The Red Sox were without Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis has been traded but they still managed 10 hits off Kuroda.
- Watching Russell Martin flail helplessly at pitches is just getting painful to watch. He was 0-for-3 with a walk and he has just four hits in his last 55 at-bats. His average has now dipped to .176. His last hit was on June 20 against the Braves. Since then he is hitless in his last 29 at-bats.
- Swisher is also struggling big-time with the bat. He was 0-for-4 with an RBI on sac fly. However, he struck three times and he is hitless in his last 17 at-bats with eight strikeouts. He is now hitting .255 on the season.
Joba Chamberlain could be in line to begin a minor-league rehab stint next week. Chamberlain faced six batters at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, FL, on Friday and struck out three in a 25-pitch session. Chamberlain, who began the winter rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. However, in March he suffered a severely displaced right ankle playing on a trampoline with his son. The right-hander vows he will pitch for the Yankees this season. . . . As expected, the Yankees activated former Red Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald on Friday and sent right-hander David Phelps to Double-A Trenton to build up his pitch count as a starter. Phelps could return to the Yankees after the All-Star break but that has not been decided yet. . . . The Yankees will recall right-hander Cory Wade from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to join the team for Saturday’s day-night doubleheader. League rules allow teams to add a 26th man on the day of doubleheader. Wade was optioned earlier in the week when the team added right-hander Chad Qualls to the roster. Wade had been struggling, giving up 13 runs on 17 hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings in his last six appearances.
The Yankees will play a day-night doubleheader against the Red Sox on Saturday which is necessary because of a rainout at Fenway Park on April 22.
Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (2-2, 5.94 ERA) will start the first game for the Yankees. Garcia pitched pretty well in his first start since April 28. He gave up only two solo home runs in 5 1/3 innings on Monday in a no-decision that the Yankees eventually lost to the Tampa Bay Rays. In the last 10 seasons, Garcia is 9-4 with a 4.76 ERA against the Red Sox.
The Red will counter with left-hander Franklin Morales (1-1, 2.51 ERA). Morales pitched seven innings of shutout baseball in a no-decision against the Seattle Mariners on June 28. Morales is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA against the Yankees but it all has been in relief.
Game-time will be 12:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (9-6, 4.29 ERA) will pitch in the nightcap. Hughes allowed two runs and walked just one while striking out eight in eight innings in a victory over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. Hughes is 2-5 with 6.65 ERA in his career against the Red Sox.
The Bosox will counter with left-hander Felix Doubront (8-4, 4.42 ERA). Doubront gave up just one run but left after throwing 103 pitches in 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Mariners on Sunday. Doubront walked five batters. He has no record and a 2.53 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.
YANKEES 6, RED SOX 2
A hundred years ago Fenway Park opened its turnstiles for the first time and the seeds of a Red Sox rivalry with the New York Yankees were planted on that day and sown over the generations.
The modern day version played out upon the hallowed cathedral of Boston’s baseball heritage on Friday and the New York franchise that was the Highlanders in 1912 evolved quickly into the Bronx Bombers in the afternoon sun and pounded out five solo home runs to ruin the celebration for the Red Sox faithful.
Ivan Nova (3-0) gave up two runs on seven hits and struck out five over six innings to notch his 15th consecutive decision dating back to his rookie season. He is just one victory shy of the franchise record established by Roger Clemens.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were taking aim for the upper reaches of the Green Monster and Landsdowne Street against Clay Buchholz (1-1).
Eric Chavez, inserted in the lineup to play third base so Alex Rodriguez could DH, led the way with a pair solo home runs in the second and fourth innings. Nick Swisher began the home run barrage two batters before Chavez in the second with his own Monster Mash. Rodriguez led off the fifth with a blast onto Landsdowne Street and it was the 631st home run of his career, moving him past Ken Griffey Jr. into fifth place on the all-time home run list.
Russell Martin completed the barrage in the sixth with a high lined shot into the scaffolding above the Monster for his first home run of the season. Martin stepped to the plate hitless in his last 15 at-bats.
The Red Sox scored their first run on a disputed double by David Ortiz that was ruled a home run by the umpiring crew after a replay review in the second inning. They scored again the fifth after Cody Ross led off the inning with a double to center and one out later Nick Swisher lost Mike Aviles’ routine pop fly in the sun, which allowed Ross to score.
But the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen held the Red Sox scoreless over the final three innings. Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera came on to record the final three outs in the ninth to seal the victory for the Yankees.
So while the Red Sox legends like Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Dennis Eckersley, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez and Dwight Evans came onto the field prior to the game to pay tribute to a city’s love for its ballpark and its team, it was the modern legends the likes of Derek Jeter, Rodriguez, Ortiz and Rivera who shone brightest on this day.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 8-6 and they are now a half-game behind Baltimore in the American League East. The Red Sox fell to 4-9 and they are four games out in last place in the division.
- With the starters struggling to keep the other team off the scoreboard early and not being able to pitch past the fifth inning, Nova’s effort on Friday was very much welcome. Nova had only one 1-2-3 inning (the fourth) and yet he was able to keep the Red Sox offense at bay for most of the afternoon. The fact that the 25-year-old right-hander is within two victories of passing Clemens proves that he is doing something right. He lowered his season ERA to 3.79.
- Manager Joe Girardi gets kudos for starting Chavez at third base and Chavez made the skipper look clairvoyant with his first two home runs of the season. Chavez has only two home runs all last season for the Yankees. In limited play this season, Chavez is hitting .400 and he is proving that the Yankees’ bench is pretty deep with talent.
- Rodriguez’s home run was by far the most dramatic of all the home runs and it made a statement as it flew well over the Monster in left. It was his second home run of the season and it gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead. Buchholz gave up nine hits in six-plus innings five were solo home runs and two others were doubles. He was not exactly fooling the Yankees.
- Jeter singled off the glove of Kevin Youkilis in the second inning to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Jeter was 1-for-5 and scored a run and he is hitting .359 on the season. With the hit he moved into 18th place and past Dave Winfield on the all-time hit list with 3,111.
- Cody Eppley, who was brought up from Triple-A when Brett Gardner was placed on the disabled list on Wednesday, did not fare well in his debut with the Yankees. The 6-foot-5 sidewinding right-hander entered the game in the ninth with a four-run lead and he gave up a leadoff single to right by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Girardi went immediately to the mound and brought in Rivera to close out the game.
- Mark Teixeira was the only Yankee starter who did not get a hit in the game. He was 0-for-4 including three weak infield grounders. Teixeira’s season average dropped to .264, which is pretty good considering Teixeira is a career .190 hitter in April.
- Swisher had to be a bit embarrassed by losing Aviles’ fly ball in the fifth, which allowed a run to score. Swisher tried using his left hand to shade his eyes from the sun but he ended up covering up and baling out as the ball dropped in front of him and rolled into deep right. It was a tough sun field on Friday but Swisher still should have had it.
Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte tossed five innings on Friday in an extended spring training game against Pittsburgh Pirates minor leaguers at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Pettitte gave up two runs on four hits but, more importantly, he threw 58 of his 66 pitches for strikes and struck out five batters. In his next game action, Pettitte likely will move up in class and start a game for Double-A Trenton. The 39-year-old veteran is targeting a return to the Yankees in early May. . . . Both teams on Friday wore throwback uniforms that were worn by Red Sox and Highlanders in 1912. The jerseys did not have names or numbers on the back, which made it hard for fans, broadcasters and writers to figure out who was coming to the plate to pinch-hit or who was coming to in to pitch. I would guess it was pointless to buy a game program in 1912, if they were even available then.
One of the loudest and warmest greetings from most of the 36,770 fans in attendance during the pregame ceremonies was bestowed upon former manager Terry Francona, who initially declined the invitation to come but later relented. Francona received a raucous standing ovation and it rivaled the ovation for Yastrzemski. In the seventh inning of the game, current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine went to the mound to remove Buchholz and he drew a chorus of boos. Valentine is still reeling from comments he made to reporters on the record about a seeming lack of commitment from Youkilis. The firestorm ended with the players backing Youkilis and Valentine was forced to apologize for the comments publicly. But it is obvious that Francona’s departure after last season’s September swoon, Valentine’s uncalled for candor and the poor start of the team has combined to provide a very poisonous atmosphere at Fenway Park on her 100th birthday. The situation will be increasingly worse for Valentine if the Red Sox fail to win a game this weekend against the Yankees. For his part on Friday, Valentine appeared reticent and chastened when he spoke to the media. It would appear he has learned a valuable lesson about being too candid and failing to address concerns with his players privately. But the question still becomes how will Valentine survive it all if this team continues to languish at the bottom of the division and fails to make the playoffs? The fans in Boston are not a patient bunch and Valentine really stepped into it badly by knocking an immensely popular player.
The rivalry series continues on Saturday.
The Yankees will send right-hander Freddy Garcia (0-1, 6.97) to the mound. Garcia was tagged for five runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings in a loss against the Twins on Monday. With Pettitte on the way back to the major leagues, the pressure on Garcia to pitch well increases. He is 9-4 with a 4.45 ERA over the last 10 seasons against the Bosox.
Boston will counter with left-hander Felix Doubront (0-0, 5.40 ERA). Dubront has not made it out of the fifth inning this season although he has 13 strikeouts in 10 innings of work. He is 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.
ASTROS 4, YANKEES 2
TAMPA - George Springer doubled in a run to break a 2-2 tie in the ninth inning and later stole third and scored himself as Houston edged New York in a Grapefruit League contest on Monday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Astros reliever Fernando Rodriguez (1-0) worked his way around two walks to pitch a scoreless eighth inning to get credit for the victory. Yankees left-hander Michael O’Connor took the loss. Despite giving up a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, Jorge De Leon got credit for his first save of the spring.
The Astros limited the Yankees to only five hits while they collected 12 of their own on offense.
The Yankees’ spring record drops to 5-6 and the Astros are 5-4.
- In his second spring outing Hiroki Kuroda did manage to blank the Astros in his three innings of work, however, even he admitted he did not have his best stuff. Kuroda gave up two hits, walked two batters and struck out two in a 41-pitch outing (23 were strikes).
- With the Astros up 1-0 in the fifth, Dewayne Wise stroked a one-out single, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Brandon Laird groundout. Wise is trying to make the team as a non-roster outfielder and he is hitting .364 in the early going.
- Nick Swisher tied the game in the sixth inning with a booming one-out triple off wall in the right-center to score pinch-runner Melky Mesa. It was only the Yankees’ third of the game. Swisher is hitting .294 so far this spring and already looks more comfortable hitting from the left side. He hit .232 against right-handers in 2011.
- Dellin Betances, the team’s No. 2 prospect, pitched an impressive two scoreless innings against the Astros. He gave up a scratch single and fanned two batters in a 32-pitch outing (22 were strikes). Betances showed much better command than he did in his previous two outings and he has a spotless 0.00 ERA this spring.
- Allowing the Astros to outhit you 12-5 is not something to brag about. Former Red Sox right-hander Kyle Weiland made hsi first start for the Astros and he held the Yankees hitless and scoreless for four innings. Weiland walked one batter and hit another but was very much in command. Eric Chavez flew out twice and they were the only two balls Weiland allowed to reach the outfield.
- Speaking of Chavez, he committed a pair of mistakes that cost the Yankees dearly. In the fourth inning, Fernando Martinez lofted a foul popup near the first-base line. Chavez broke late and the ball dropped between he and catcher Francisco Cervelli. Martinez then laced a one-out double and later scored. In the fifth inning, Jordan Schafer attempted two bunts before he laid down a bunt down the first-base line. Chavez fielded the ball cleanly but bobbled it as he shuffled a toss to pitcher Cesar Cabaral that was too late to get Schafer.
- O’Connor’s bid to become the second lefty in the bullpen took a huge hit when he gave up two runs in the ninth inning. O’Connor’s spring ERA is a gawdy but even 15.00. He allowed a single, a double and two stolen bases in the nightmarish ninth and he definitely deserved to take the loss.
Yankees All-Star reliever David Robertson had the walking boot removed from his right foot and he discarded his crutches. Robertson, who suffered a bone bruise landing hard on a step at his home last Wednesday, insists he thinks he will be ready for Opening Day after he played catch for about five minutes on Monday. . . . Non-roster right-hander Dan Burawa suffered a tear in his ribcage and he will be sidelined for at least the remainder of spring training. Burawa, 23, pitched three scoreless innings this spring. The former 10th round draft choice in 2010 will likely begin the season in Double-A Trenton. . . . The Yankees hope to have backup infielder Eduardo Nunez back in the lineup on Tuesday if he can get through batting practice without feeling pain in his right hand. Nunez has been sidelined for eight days after being hit in the hand on a pitch from Phillies right-hander Austin Hyatt.
There is no need to hype Tuesday night’s contest at George M. Steinbrenner Field. It will be Round 1 of the Yankees’ 2012 rivalry with the Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees will open the game with right-hander Ivan Nova on the mound. Nova will be making his third appearance and he hopes the control issues that have plagued his first two starts are behind him.
The Red Sox will counter with left-hander Felix Doubront, who is bidding for the fifth spot in the rotation. Another candidate, Vicente Padilla, is also scheduled to pitch. Mike Aviles, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are making the trip from Fort Myres, FL.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
As spring training camps open it is time to look at the American League East competition for the New York Yankees. How will the other teams fare as they gear up to dethrone the 2011 division champions? Do these teams have the pitching? Is there enough offense? Let’s see.
PART 4 – BOSTON RED SOX
A fellow Yankee fan once called the Red Sox the Red Flops because of their penchant for running out to big leads in the American League East and fading badly in the second half. After the famous “Collapse of 2011″ the term seems apropos.
On Sept. 3, they were 84-54, a half game behind the Yankees and nine games up on the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished the season with a dreadful 6-18 record and missed the playoffs by a game. In Boston that is not an oops, it is an eruption and it cost manager Terry Francona his job and general manager Theo Epstein fled to the Chicago Cubs.
Looking to 2012 the Red Flops hired ego-driven Bobby Valentine as manager. Ben Cherington, an Epstein assistant, took over as GM. They even dismissed first-year pitching coach Curt Young in favor of Bob McClure to keep their starting pitchers from getting bagged in the clubhouse on Samuel Adams.
Of course, that is odd because McClure pitched most of his career with the beer capital of the world in Milwaukee.
There is no doubt the starting pitching let the Red Sox down in 2011. They scored runs and the bullpen was good until it got overtaxed. But has this team addressed the areas of weakness enough to win the division in 2012?
Well, it does not look good.
The Red Sox were unable to acquire any starter of significance this winter because they had to re-sign free agent David Ortiz and the team was already perilously close to the salary mark that would incur the luxury tax.
So they return to the field with two of the pitchers who aided in the collapse (Josh Beckett and Jon Lester), one pitcher who was hurt most of the 2011 season (Clay Buchholz) and two big question marks behind them. That seems hardly like a recipe for success.
Beckett, 31, returns as the team ace after a season in which he was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA. But an ankle injury late in the season forced him to fade like a typical Red Flop in September. He posted a 5.48 ERA in September. He also was in the center of the beer issue that drew the ire of teammates and the front office.
If Beckett wants to remain the ace he better start showing some leadership by example.
Lester, 28, is starting to look like the Red Sox version of Mike Mussina. He has all the talent and the pitches to be successful but he never takes that big step forward to be an elite pitcher. He was 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA but he also slid in September. He had only two quality starts from Aug. 27 to the season finale and was 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in the final month.
Buchholz, 27, made only 14 starts last season before ending up on the disabled list with what was eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture in his back. He finished with a record of 6-3 and a 3.48 ERA. There is no doubt he was sorely missed last season because Epstein failed to stock the Red Sox with any depth and the team floundered after he was shelved on June 16.
The Red Sox other two starters were veteran right-handers John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
If Lester is like Mussina then Lackey is looking like the Red Sox version of A.J. Burnett. Signed as free agent before the 2010 season, Lackey has done nothing but disappoint Red Sox Nation with bad pitching. He was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 2010 but he got much worse in 2011 with a 12-12 mark and 6.41 ERA.
Red Sox fans have taken to calling him “Lacking.”
But there is good news for RSN, Lackey, 33, will not pitch at all in 2012 because he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. There is no real guarantee Lackey will be any better in 2013, which will be the final year of his four-year contract. His days in Beantown look to be limited at this point.
Speaking of that, Red Sox fans also would like to see Matsuzaka, 31, gone after three injury-filled seasons in which he was a combined 16-15 with a plus 5.00 ERA in only 44 starts. Last season, he was shelved in June with a 3-3 record and a 5.30 ERA. Like Lackey he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
He possibly could return late in the season but there is no one banking on him coming back pitching like in he did in 2008 when he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. He is in the final year of lucrative six-year contract and the Red Sox seem to be counting the days they can part with him.
With Lackey and Dice-K on the shelf, the Red Sox have to come up with two starters and one of them is Daniel Bard, the team’s setup man the past two seasons. Bard, 26, does throw hard and he has two breaking pitches to mix in his arsenal.
But Bard also was the poster boy for the Red Sox collapse. Forced to pitch a lot to cover for weak starting pitching, Bard got hit hard and often in September, finishing the season 2-9 with a 3.33 ERA and five blown saves. Only July 31, Bard had a 1.76 ERA.
Now the question is can he be an effective starter? It has not worked for relievers lately. It did not work for Joba Chamberlain and Brandon Morrow of the Blue Jays has struggled to get past the fifth inning with the Blue Jays. Usually it works better when a starter becomes a reliever as it did with former Red Sox right-hander Dennis Eckersley.
Until Bard proves he can pitch deep into games consistently and does not fade late in the season as the innings pile up, he is big question mark in 2012.
For the fifth spot, the Red Sox issued an open casting call much like the Yankees did in 2011 with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.
They are looking at holdovers Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Miller as possible candidates. Aceves, 29, was 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA but made only four starts. He is better suited as a reliever, as he proved with the Yankees. Miller, a 26-year-old left-hander, was 6-3 but he had a horrible 5.54 ERA in 12 starts.
The Red Sox also signed former Yankee right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and three other right-handers including Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla and Carlos Silva to compete for the job this spring.
None of these candidates are going to impress the Red Sox faithful. They all have a lot of mileage on them and they all have not had much success in recent years.
This might be one of the weakest Red Sox rotations in many years and the lack of depth in it is the major problem. If Beckett, Lester or Buchholz are hurt, who steps up to replace them?
The Red Sox allowed Jonathan Papelbon leave for the Philadelphia Phillies rather than pay him what he was worth as a closer for them over the past six seasons. The conventional wisdom was Bard would take over as the closer.
But the Red Sox made him a starter instead and opened up the job. They decided to fill it with 27-year-old right-hander Andrew Bailey, who was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
Bailey is coming off two injury-plagued seasons but is pretty darn good when he is healthy. Bailey is 7-10 with a career ERA of 2.07 and 75 saves in 84 chances.
There is no doubt Bailey is an excellent closer. The only question is of the Red Sox can keep him healthy and can Bailey adjust to the very small dimensions of Fenway as opposed to the expansive Coliseum.
The Red Sox also traded with the Houston Astros for yet another former Yankee reliever in Mark Melancon. (Can the signing of Tanyon Sturtze be far behind?). Melancon, 26, was 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and saved 20 out of 25 games for the lowly Astros last season. Melancon, who was touted years ago as the eventual successor to Mariano Rivera when he was in the Yankees’ minor-league system, will set up Bailey and can close if Bailey should revert to past form and pull up lame.
Speaking of lame, the Red Sox suffered a huge blow to their bullpen before pitchers reported to camp on Sunday because 30-year-old right-hander Bobby Jenks will miss more time when a pulmonary embolism was discovered in his lung. This was discovered after he had two back surgeries after pitching only 19 games last season. He is on the 60-day DL and he will be on a long road back to health.
Aceves also figures in the late innings because he is much more valuable in that spot.
The Red Sox got some use out of 29-year-old right-hander Matt Albers, who was 4-4 with 4.73 ERA in 56 games last season. The lefty specialist was 26-year-old Franklin Morales, who was 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in 50 appearances. The Red Sox are hoping Rich Hill will come back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow sometime this season.
The Red Sox think 24-year-old lefty Felix Doubront can take the second left-hander spot in the bullpen. He had no record and 6.10 ERA in 11 appearances last season. Doubront could also get a chance to start and he has some upside.
This bullpen is definitely in a state of flux. New personnel, new roles and there are some pitchers coming off injuries or currently rehabbing injuries. It is not a recipe for success.
Valentine and McClure have a lot of decisions to make in the spring. For the Red Sox to succeed they need an excellent bullpen. For now, it looks just mediocre.
The Red Sox were largely a four-man offense – a very good four-man offense but a four-man offense nonetheless – in 2011.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez was as advertised. He hit .338 with 27 home runs and 117 RBIs and played Gold Glove defense. The Red Sox hope Gonzalez, 29, is the fulcrum of the Bosox attack for many years to come.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia bounced back from an injury-plagued 2010 season to re-establish himself in 2011. He hit .307 with 21 homers and 91 RBIs and also won a Gold Glove. Pedroia, 28, remains the spark-plug in the Red Sox engine. His grit and determination makes him the heart and soul of the team.
Designated hitter David Ortiz followed up a bounce-back 2010 season with another solid campaign in 2011. Ortiz, 36, hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs. He is not the same feared hitter he was in his steroid days hitting behind Manny Ramirez but he is still good enough to help the offense.
The big surprise was center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who played only 18 games in 2010 and was accused of milking his rib injury by some teammates. Ellsbury, 28, must have been angry because he came back with a vengeance in 2011. He hit .321 with easily a career-high 32 home runs and 105 RBIs from the leadoff spot. He also stole 39 bases.
To most Red Sox observers, Ellsbury was the team’s MVP and would have won the American League MVP if Justin Verlander of the Tigers had not.
The big disappointments in this lineup were Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford.
Youkilis, who will be 33 when the season starts, still has not played any more than 147 games in a season. Last season, the combination of bursitis in his left hip and a sports hernia limited him to 120 games. He hit a disappointing .258 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs and he did not play third base as well he played first base. Youkilis must stay healthy and return to form if the Red Sox are to make a move in 2012.
Left-fielder Crawford, 30, arrived in Beantown with 409 career steals and .293 career batting average. His seven-year, $142 million contract was the signing that limited the Red Sox from adding pitching this winter. He also proved he did not fit in well at Fenway. He hit .255 with 11 home runs and 56 RBIs and only 18 stolen bases. He also proved weak in the field despite having won a Gold Glove with the Rays in 2010.
More bad news about Crawford: Late in the winter Crawford realized his left wrist required surgery and he is not likely to be able to play on Opening Day. Crawford will either turn his game around or become one of the biggest albatross signings in baseball history.
The Red Sox have shuffled the deck in right-field and shortstop this season.
The Red Sox released aging outfielder J.D. Drew and they used promising youngster Josh Reddick in the Bailey trade.
The Red Sox did obtain outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the Bailey deal and he is a left-handed hitter like Reddick. However, the 27-year-old has been a huge disappointment in Oakland. He is career .283 hitter but he lacks both power and speed.
Holdover Darnell McDonald, 33, was brought up last season and he hit .236 with six home runs and 24 RBIs in 79 games. He could figure in an early platoon with Sweeney or win the job outright. Ryan Kalish, 23, hit .252 in 53 games and he will get a look also.
The Red Sox also picked up Cody Ross from the Giants. Ross, 31, bats right-handed and he figures to start n left-field until Crawford returns to health. Then he will shift to right in a platoon with either Sweeney or Kalish. Ross hit .240 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 2011.
Shortstop also was shuffled for 2012. Starter Marco Scutaro was shipped to Colorado for right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen. Backup infielder Jed Lowrie was used in the Melancon trade with the Astros.
That leaves former Royals infielder Mike Aviles to start at the position. Aviles, 31, is a career .288 hitter but he hit only .255 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs in 91 games with the Royals and Red Sox.
The Jason Varitek era in Boston is officially over. Varitek was not re-signed and Jarrod Saltalamacchia enters his second season as the unquestioned starter for the Red Sox. Saltalamacchia, 26, is coming off a so-so 2011 season. He hit .235 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. He also struck out 119 times in 358 at-bats so he is not exactly a selective hitter. The Red Sox also wish he would continue to improve his defense and throwing.
The Red Sox will likely keep Ross, McDonald and either Sweeney or Kalish as backup outfielders. McDonald is valuable because he play all three spots and he is better in center.
The Red Sox picked up former Twins infielder Nick Punto as a reserve at second, short and third. Punto, 34, hit .278 with one home run and 20 RBIs with the Cardinals last season. Having Punto means the Red Sox can allow 22-year-old shortstop Jose Inglesias another season to develop at Triple-A. Inglesias can field but has not developed much as a hitter.
The team also picked up former Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Rays. Shoppach, 31, hit .176 with 11 homers and 22 RBIs with the Rays and he replaces Varitek as the backup catcher. He is solid defensively.
This is a serviceable bench but I would hardly call it talent-laden or special.
The Epstein-Francona era is over. The main architects of the only two World Series championships in the last 96 years have fled. They left a financial constraint on the team that prevented them from addressing their crisis in starting pitching, the bullpen and in right-field.
The Crawford and Lackey signings along with the trades for since-departed Victor Matinez and Gonzalez left this very dollar-rich team weak in minor-league prospects and unable to find enough wiggle room to sign what they needed without breaking way past the level where the luxury tax kicks in.
This limits what the Red Sox will actually do this season. This is team that already is beset by injuries (Lackey, Dice-K, Crawford, Jenks) and they are severely lacking in depth before spring training has even started. It is hard to see how they find the money to fix what needs fixing if the ship should begin to flounder.
The Red Sox will only go as far their offense and their top three starters take them this season.
With the Rays a bit flawed it is easy to see both the Red Sox and Rays battling for second place behind the Yankees in 2012. Because of what happened to the Red Sox last season it hard to see how it could happen again. But that is what I am predicting.
I just have a sneaking suspicion that the Rays pitching will be the reason the Red Sox will finish third. The only question is can Valentine get out of town before RSN tries to lynch him. Good luck, with this bunch, Bobby. You are going to need it – along with a lot of Maalox.
Just call them the Red Flops.