Red Sox

Notes: Ellsbury back in the lineup for Red Sox


Notes: Ellsbury back in the lineup for Red Sox

By MaureenMullen

BOSTON Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is back in the lineup tonight after leaving Monday nights game against the Angels with a left knee contusion. Ellsbury hurt his knee when he collided with catcher Jeff Mathis scoring in the Sox sixth-run seventh inning.

Hes doing good, said manager Terry Francona. We checked with him this morning and then he called us back and said hes feeling pretty good. And he got a little treatment and said hes ready to go.

Ellsbury is riding an 11-game hitting streak -- a team high for the season -- into Tuesdays game against the Angels. He is hitting .383 (18-for-47) with seven doubles, five RBI, 11 runs scored and four walks in that span, raising his average from .182 on April 20 to his current .275. That stretch includes the last 10 games in which he has moved back into the lead-off spot.

While the results are obvious, Francona said he has not noticed an obvious difference in Ellsburys approach.

You're seeing success. I dont know about the approach, Francona said. I just think youre seeing him hit balls maybe he didn't hit earlier in the season. I think hes always tried to use the entire field and things like that but when you do it hes getting to pitches he didn't get to earlier in the season. Because of that hes not afraid to hit deeper in the count so hes probably a better hitter.

Josh Beckett is expected to start Wednesday, opposed by Angels right-hander Ervin Santana, after being pushed from his scheduled start Monday. He threw 125 pitches one shy of his career high in eight innings April 21 in Anaheim, then was limited to 92 over six innings on April 27 in Baltimore. Francona said Beckett will not be on a pitch limit Wednesday.

We always look at their workload and try not to do it just for one game but for down the road, too, Francona said.

After his win over the Angels Monday night, Clay Buchholz acknowledged the decrease in his strikeout totals this season. So far in 2011, he has a 4.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio, below his career average of 6.8, his high of 8.7 in 2007, and his 2010 mark of 6.2. The number has fallen in each of major league seasons since 2007.

If you pitch to contact, you get some balls hit at guys first or second pitch of the at-bat rather than having to throw six pitches to get a strikeout, Buchholz said. Obviously when you get to two strikes you want to try to strike somebody out, to not let them put the ball in play. But you cant strike anybody on the first or second pitch of an at-bat. Thats my thought process on it. Got to two strikes a couple of times and left some balls on the plate and they hit it. So got to do a little better executing that.

At the same time, though, his walk totals have been increasing. This season he has a 4.8 walks-per-nine ration, above his career number of 3.9, and his 2009 and 2010 marks of 3.5 each. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 0.94 is below his career number of 1.74.

His velocitys good. The balls coming out of his hand good, Francona said. Walks I think are up, which we certainly dont want. I think were actually kind of happy when he pitches to contact. I think as he gets into games and works ahead in the count youll see his strikeouts go up. But I think we actually like the contact. He got into some situations last night, fastball counts and threw fastballs and induced some outs. I think we really like that.

Right-hander Dan Wheeler enters Tuesdays game with a 9.90 ERA after giving up three runs on four hits in 1 13 innings Monday.

He actuallys been better lately, Franco said. Its a little bit like Scott Atchison the cutter guy. Its a great pitch until you leave it out over the middle. Then it gets whacked. And thats kind of what Wheels is. Its not overpowering. Its crisp and hes got that nice cutter and when you leave it out over the middle its a pitch that can be hit.

Francona said he does not want to shy away from using Wheeler.

When guys start out slow its why we dont want to run from them, Francona said. Its a bad mistake. You certainly want to pick your spots with them a little bit until they get on a run but the idea is to get them feeling comfortable as opposed to not pitching them.

We love the fact that guys throw strikes. When they pound the strike zone thats great. But you got to stay out of the middle, too.

Bobby Jenks has also struggled in his brief time with the Sox. But after his outing on Sunday against the Mariners, his second blown save of the season, Jenks said he watched video and found his flaws. Francona will not by shy about using the right-hander.

No. We need him to pitch those situations, Francona said. For us to be the type of team we want to be, he needs to pitch in those situations. Weve run into some problems earlier in the season where we couldnt do that just because we lost a lot games. But for us to get where we want we need him to get on a roll.

Dustin Pedroia has played in all 28 games so far, and is in the lineup again Tuesday. Francona said he has no plans to rest his second baseman with a surgically repaired right foot.

No, I was the other day, Francona said. I was thinking about it the other day and he said he was going to kill me. There was an adjective in front of it. Hes a really good player. Sometimes -- like when we talk about Jason Varitek not getting hits but winning games this guy impacts the game all over the field. I will certainly try to get him a day before he really desperately needs it. But I think right now Ill leave him in.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers


Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.


Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall


HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press