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Sources: Red Sox not engaged at this time on Stephen Drew 05.17.14 at 4:55 pm ET
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The Red Sox have struggled at times with the defense on the left side of their infield. They have struggled at times against right-handed pitching. They now have a starting third baseman (Will Middlebrooks) who is on the disabled list with a fractured right index finger. And they are almost certain not to get a draft pick for Stephen Drew, who, less than three weeks before the start of the Major League Baseball draft, has yet to sign with any club.

According to industry sources, all of those factors have played a role in defining a clearer fit for Drew with the Sox than existed coming out of spring training, when the team wanted to commit to Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Middlebrooks at third base. There are some in the organization who would love to see the Sox pursue Drew as a potentially stabilizing force — someone who could solidify the infield defense, deepen the lineup against righties and help position the Sox well to withstand any further injuries to either Bogaerts or Middlebrooks.

But, according to one industry source, there has not yet been any engagement with Drew about the idea of returning to Boston at this time. Obviously, that is subject to change.

But for now, the 31-year-old — who hit .253 with a .333 OBP and .443 slugging mark last year, including a .284/.377/.498 line against righties — remains a free agent. As such, a potentially interesting market for his services could materialize once the draft starts on June 5. O

nce the draft is underway, then a major impediment to a market for Drew — the need to sacrifice a draft pick by any team (aside from the Red Sox) that signs him — will be erased, meaning that the acquisition cost of the shortstop for teams that have struggled at that position (the Tigers, Blue Jays, Mariners, Mets and Pirates all come to mind as clubs with contending ambitions through the first quarter of the season who have endured woeful shortstop production; the Yankees, of course, could also see benefit to adding an alternative to Derek Jeter who could also give the team protection at other positions while getting regular at-bats against righties) will decrease significantly.

Will Middlebrooks to DL with fractured finger; Red Sox recall Brock Holt 05.17.14 at 3:55 pm ET
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The Red Sox have placed Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list with a fractured finger and recalled Brock Holt.

Middlebrooks suffered the injury when he took a line drive off his right index finger in the first inning of Boston’s 1-0 loss to Detroit on Friday. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout in that game before being pinch-hit for in the seventh inning.

On the season, Middlebrooks is hitting .197/.305/.324 with two homers and nine RBI in 21 games.

Holt has played seven games for the Red Sox this season, going 8-for-23 with a triple and four RBI.

For more Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

Red Sox minor league roundup: Mookie Betts makes history; Matt Barnes gets whiffs; dominant pitching in Salem 05.17.14 at 10:17 am ET
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TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-5 LOSS (WALKOFF) AT INDIANAPOLIS (PIRATES)

— Though right-hander Matt Barnes yielded a season-high three runs and seven hits and gave up his first homer of the season, he also matched a season-high with six punchouts and walked just one in five innings of work. He attacked the strike zone, with 62 of his 93 offerings (67 percent) counting for strikes. In five starts, Barnes now has a 2.89 ERA with 6.8 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings.

— Left-hander Drake Britton suffered the walkoff loss in permitting three runs on five hits and a walk while recording two outs in the ninth inning. The line was a bit worse than the results, as the walk was intentional (to set up a force play) and three of the hits were groundball singles. Still, Britton is not showing swing-and-miss stuff of late — he hasn’t punched out a batter in his last four appearances — he’s walking an unsightly 6.6 per nine innings and opponents are hitting .293 against him.

Brandon Snyder clubbed his team-leading seventh homer as part of a 2-for-3 day in which he also walked. Snyder, 27, is hitting .196/.279/.457 in 26 games, playing roughly every other day.

Daniel Nava extended his hitting streak to eight games — with precisely one hit in each of those eight contests — by going 1-for-4 with a homer, his third longball in Pawtucket. He’s hitting .273/.364/.439 in 19 games since getting sent down.

Bryce Brentz sat out of Friday’s game after tweaking his hamstring in Thursday’s game. Given that Brentz walked off the field under his own power, initial indications suggested that his availability was likely to be day-to-day rather than a DL situation.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 2-0 WIN VS. TRENTON (YANKEES)

(BOX)

— Feats of Mookie: A people’s history.

Mookie Betts opened the game with a seven-pitch walk, extending his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 71: 30 with High-A Salem last regular season, five in the Carolina League postseason and the first 36 games of this year.

Officially, league records tend not to include the postseason. Moreover, records of such minor league streaks are hazy and hard to come by, with the historical record believed to date back only to 1996. But the best information available suggests that an unofficial 71-game on-base streak would match the unofficial longest known run of consecutive games reaching base in the minors, a mark shared by Kevin Youkilis (with Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket) and Kevin Millar (with Double-A Portland — when it was still a Marlins affiliate — and Triple-A Charlotte and Triple-A Calgary).

Betts is hitting .404 with a .478 OBP and .621 slugging mark during the run, including .393/.462/.607 in Portland — a dominant performance that raises the question of when it might be an appropriate time to promote him to Pawtucket.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett will join Down on the Farm on WEEI Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. to discuss how the Red Sox make their decisions regarding the proper time at which to promote players. He’ll also discuss the decision involving Betts, among others.  Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday’s Red Sox matchups: John Lackey vs. Rick Porcello 05.17.14 at 10:05 am ET
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The Red Sox play the middle game of their weekend series against the Tigers on Saturday night, sending John Lackey to the mound against Rick Porcello.

Lackey (5-2, 3.57 ERA) looks to continue his upward trend when he takes the hill against Detroit on Saturday. The right-hander has put in four straight quality starts, winning three of them, and hasn’t lost a decision since April 18. In his most recent outing Sunday in Texas, Lackey held the Rangers to just two runs on seven hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in a 5-2 Red Sox win. The 35-year-old had the luxury of entering the game with a 3-0 lead, and threw 75 of his 105 pitches for strikes. He’s walked a total of four batters in his last four starts to help improve his WHIP to 1.21.

“It’s nice to go out there when you already have a 3-0 lead,” Lackey said after the game. “It kind of lets you relax a little bit and pound the strike zone.”

“He threw the ball great,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “We jumped on them a little bit early and got some runs. That kind of put it in cruise control.”

Lackey takes a 6-3 record and a 4.55 career ERA against the Tigers entering Saturday’s contest. But his last outing against Detroit was arguably his most memorable, as he shut out the Tigers on four hits in 6 2/3 innings in Game 3 of the American League championship series in Detroit to give the Sox a 2-1 series lead.

The Red Sox lost both regular-season games that Lackey pitched against the Tigers last season, however, including a 3-0 loss at Fenway Park on Sept. 2 in which he gave up three runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. Lackey’s had some troubles in his career against some of Detroit’s most fearsome hitters as well. He’s given up four home runs in 41 meetings with Tigers newcomer Ian Kinsler, who has a .429 batting average against the righty. Victor Martinez (.407 batting average), Rajai Davis (.393) and Miguel Cabrera (.333) have all had success against Lackey as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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Max Scherzer narrowly bests Jon Lester in battle of prospective free agents 05.17.14 at 12:57 am ET
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Max Scherzer and Jon Lester have a lot in common. Both were born in 1984, with Lester being six months senior to his Tigers counterpart. Both of their 2013 seasons secured them a spot in the upper echelon of current starting pitchers. And of course, barring any extensions signed during the course of the season, they’€™ll both be entering the unknown waters of free agency this winter, and both are in line for monster paydays.

But on Friday night, the subtlest of difference in the line score meant a victory for Scherzer and a 1-0 loss for Lester and the Red sox.

Despite giving up just the one run to a potent Tigers offense, it wasn’€™t Lester’€™s sharpest performance. The lefty struggled out of the gate, allowing a single to Ian Kinsler and issuing a walk to Miguel Cabrera before Torii Hunter drove in the game’€™s only run with a two-out single. Hunter has been a thorn in the side of Lester throughout his entire career, and is now 13-for-25 against the Red Sox ace after two singles in the series opener.

“€œI felt like I threw the ball pretty well with the exception of the first [inning] — I got myself into a little bit of a jam there but minimized the damage,” Lester said. “I really didn’€™t think one was going to stand up tonight, but it did.”

Lester would last just five innings thanks to a 47-minute rain delay that interrupted the top of the fourth inning. The lefty would allow four hits and three walks on the night. At the beginning of play on Friday, Lester and Scherzer were tied for second in the American League with 66 strikeouts apiece, and the two matched each others’€™ totals on Friday with seven strikeouts apiece.

The delay didn’€™t seem to affect Lester, who allowed just one walk in 1 2/3 innings after play resumed. Read the rest of this entry »

Jackie Bradley Jr.: ‘I’m lost’ 05.17.14 at 12:38 am ET
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The struggles and frustrations are getting deeper for Jackie Bradley Jr.

The center fielder went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts on Friday in the Red Sox‘ 1-0 loss to the Tigers, with his punchout with no outs and runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh inning representing a pivotal development in the Sox’ failure to push a run across. Bradley is now hitting .128 with a .226 OBP and .170 slugging mark in the month of May, a page of the calendar in which he’s striking out in 32 percent of his plate appearances.

There have been instances in which he’s hit the ball well but with nothing to show for it, but that wasn’t the case on Friday night. And Bradley — now hitting .200 with a .301 OBP and .296 slugging mark for the year — couldn’t mask his dismay, particularly given that the team had trusted him to swing away (rather than bunt) in the crucial seventh inning sequence.

‘€œIt is very frustrating. I’€™m lost. I’€™m not getting the results that I want and I’€™m sure it’€™s not the results they want,” said Bradley. “The past few games I felt like I’€™ve had some very well hit baseballs and nothing to show for it. You have to go back to the drawing board.”

Bradley had been one of the Sox’ most effective hitters with runners in scoring position to start the year, though that has taken a recent turn. Since May 3, he’s 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and has yet to get a ball out of the infield, having struck out three times and grounded out five times, failing to advance the runners in any of those plate appearances. (He did receive one intentional walk with runners on second and third.) Still, based on the success in such situations that preceded his recent funk, Bradley wasn’t surprised to be swinging away in the seventh inning, but he was disconsolate about his ability to do anything with the opportunity.

“They did have faith in me. I have faith in myself. With runners in scoring position this year, I feel like I’ve been putting quality at-bats together, and I wasn’t able to get it done tonight,” said Bradley.

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Red Sox expect Shane Victorino to avoid DL, Xander Bogaerts fine after HBP scare 05.17.14 at 12:21 am ET
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Though the Red Sox endured a 1-0 loss to the Tigers on Friday that dropped them back under .500, the team received two pieces of it-could-have-been-worse medical updates.

An MRI on the left knee of Shane Victorino revealed some swelling, and the right fielder was fitted with a brace. He’s considered day-to-day, rather than a candidate for the disabled list.

“We don’€™t think this is going to be a DL situation,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “He’€™ll be fitted for a brace to wear. We’€™ll check him tomorrow on his availability.”

The Sox also encountered an in-game scare when Xander Bogaerts was smoked just above the left hand on the knob of the wrist by a 96 mph fastball from reliever Evan Reed. But Bogaerts, to his own amazement, got up unscathed from the heater.

“I got hit and I was like, ‘Where’s the pain?’ Because I got hit on the bone,” said Bogaerts. “Definitely I would think [it would have caused an injury]. But afterwards I didn’t feel any pain and I just keep going from there. It was pretty scary, but I guess I’m blessed, you know?”

 

Closing Time: Max Scherzer, Tigers shut down Red Sox in 1-0 win 05.16.14 at 11:13 pm ET
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Last October, the Red Sox could muster little offense against a dominant Tigers starting pitching staff. But despite the fact that the ALCS seemed like a nightly flirtation with a Detroit no-hitter, the Sox amassed just enough timely hits and offensive plays to advance to the World Series in six games.

Not so on Friday. In a rematch of the two postseason competitors, the Tigers and starter Max Scherzer claimed a 1-0 victory on a night when the Red Sox had opportunities but could never take advantage of them.

Unlike the ALCS, in which Detroit lost both games started by Scherzer, the Sox could not capitalize on run-scoring situations. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and grounded into three double plays. The most significant failure came in the seventh, when the Sox opened the frame by putting two runners on (Mike Carp led off with a single against Scherzer, advanced to second on a balk by reliever Evan Reed, who then drilled Xander Bogaerts with a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs), but Jackie Bradley Jr. — who seemed a likely candidate to bunt — struck out against Reed.

Rather than sending Will Middlebrooks up to the plate, the Sox elected to use A.J. Pierzynski as a pinch-hitter — a move that backfired when the Tigers responded by bringing lefty reliever Ian Krol into the game, who induced a 6-4-3 double play from Pierzynski.

The defeat dropped the Sox — now 5-10 in one-run games — back below .500. At 20-21, they are 2 1/2 games behind the Orioles, their furthest remove from first place since May 2.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox, Tigers resume after 47-minute rain delay 05.16.14 at 8:22 pm ET
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The Red Sox game against the Tigers resumed at 9:03 p.m. following a 47-minute rain delay that commenced in the top of the fourth inning with Detroit leading, 1-0. At the start of the delay, Max Scherzer had not allowed a hit through three innings, while Jon Lester had navigated around a struggle with his control to limit the Tigers to a single run on four hits. Both starting pitchers will return to the mound.

Red Sox pregame notes: Revisiting a landmark in Xander Bogaerts’ career; some lineup decisions 05.16.14 at 6:58 pm ET
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The arrival of Xander Bogaerts on the biggest of stages came last October in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

Making just his second postseason start, Xander Bogaerts showed impressive plate discipline against the Cy Young winner. The 21-year-old doubled and drew two walks, and was the last batter that Scherzer would face in 2013, drawing a six-pitch walk in the bottom of the seventh and forcing Scherzer out of the game, setting the scene for Shane Victorino‘s series-clinching grand slam two batters later. Bogaerts saw a total of 19 pitches in just three plate appearances against Scherzer.

Now Bogaerts will get the chance to get a second look at the right-hander, this time with some regular major league playing time under his belt, at a time when he’s shown some of the same disciplined approach that caused so many talent evaluators to take notice last postseason.

“Regardless of the age, I think any guy that was able to lay off some of the pitches that he did against Scherzer was impressive, but Xander has always had a calmness about him, even in moments of postseason or on a heightened stage, and he’s still shown that this year with his overall approach,” manager John Farrell said of Bogaerts’ postseason plate appearances against Scherzer. “I can remember [Tigers catcher Alex] Avila receiving a few pitches and almost looking up at Xander with a little bit of awe about him, saying, ‘My gosh, that’s pretty impressive for a young guy to lay off some pretty tough pitches,’ and probably heightened with the setting. But I’d like to think we’re still seeing the same overall approach from Xander this year.”

Boagerts’ incredible performance in the spotlight last postseason may have set expectations high for his rematch against Scherzer. And though the shortstop’s plate discipline isn’t yet quite as refined in the majors as it was in the minor leagues (he’s striking out in about 23 percent of plate appearances), Farrell remains confident that Bogaerts’ approach hasn’t changed.

“I don’t think he’s expanded the strike zone all that much,” Farrell said. “There’s been, maybe, a higher number of strikeouts this year than maybe expected but he hasn’t changed all that much. The biggest difference from a year ago is that he came to the big leagues on a confident run being established at the minor league level. For a young player to get back to that state of confidence, for his first time at the major league level in the month of April, that’s more challenging. And those are some of the maturity things and experience things that we’re seeing through the first six or seven weeks of the season.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

David Ross is in the lineup for the second day in a row, the first time this season he’s started back-to-back contests. Farrell went with Ross due to the consistent track record he’s had with starter Jon Lester, despite A.J. Pierzynski‘s past success against Scherzer. Pierzynski is 11-for-33 with a double, triple, home run and seven RBIs in his career against the Tigers right-hander.

“This was a difficult decision, particularly with the performance he’s had against Scherzer, but also look at the way  Ross and  Lester have paired up and that has been consistent, that has been effective, and if this game goes the way you project between two very good starters, it should be a low-run game, so trying to preserve that battery between the two,” Farrell said.

Lester has posted a 3.47 ERA in 114 innings with Ross behind the plate, with a 2.45 mark this season when Ross is his batterymate. With Pierzynski catching, Lester has compiled a 3.86 ERA. Ross has caught six of Lester’s eight starts this season, including his last three.

— In the absence of Shane Victorino, who is having a MRI on his left knee, Farrell opted for Grady Sizemore in right field rather than shifting Jackie Bradley Jr. over.

“With the number of right-handers in this lineup, still, the number of balls and potential plays are going to be in center field, and Jackie’s done a very good job defensively in center,” Farrell explained.

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