Red Sox

Notes: Lowrie, Francona baffled by ump's safe call

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Notes: Lowrie, Francona baffled by ump's safe call

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE Jed Lowrie admitted that he was more stunned than angry when it first happened in the third inning, and he was still searching for answers postgame on a bizarre call that earned him his 12th fielding error of the season.

The play helped open the floodgates in a 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field that saddled the Sox with their first series loss during the regular season since dropping two-out-of-three to the Philadelphia Phillies from June 28-30.

Lowrie wasnt very excited about second base umpire Ed Hickoxs call that typified the tough luck weekend in Seattle for the Sox, and it all started with a leadoff walk and a pair of singles that forced one run in against Tim Wakefield.

With runners on first and second and nobody out, it appeared Lowrie executed the pivot on an Ichiro Suzuki groundball that ended with a force play on Kyle Seager at second base. The switch-hitting shortstop attempted to follow on with a throw to Wakefield covering first base for the double play, but the knuckleballer couldnt beat the motoring Suzuki to first base.

But Hickox ruled Lowrie was off the bag on the force, and the shortstop was charged with his 12th error of the season in the flurry of activity following the play.

The safe call on Seager loaded the bases with nobody out and helped lead to three Seattle runs crossing the plate, and touched off a peeved Lowrie after the game was all over.

After watching some of the replays and knowing I touched the base, I dont know. It sucks. Its bad. Its a bad situation, said Lowrie. It probably cost us a couple of runs, but theres nothing I can do about it now. Its the same thing I do every time: I kick the back of the base and then I step out of the way of the runner.

Sox manager Terry Francona freely admitted that his team didnt do enough to win on Sunday, but he also questioned how Hickox makes that kind of call when every TV replay showed it to be an extremely close play while the umpire relayed to the manager that it wasnt even close.

Francona protested the call a bit, but seemed to reel it in a little after his histrionics got the Sox skipper tossed from Saturday nights game after he protested a call at home plate that the umps ultimately got right.

I really thought he grazed the bag. But it doesnt matter what I think, said Terry Francona. I think you have to be pretty sure on that one if youre going to make a call like that. After you look at the replay, I dont know how he can be sure.

Either way the Sox had six innings to reclaim the lead and dig out from under the three run deficit caused by the third inning of errors and discontent, but they just werent able to do it against a Mariners team that seems to be gathering a little momentum.

Instead they were left with the losers lament of complaining about an umpires blown call once the game was decided.

Jonathan Papelbon ended the weekend having converted each of his last 22 save opportunities dating back to May 13, the longest stretch of his career and the second-longest save streak in the American League behind Jose Valverde and his 35 straight saves.

Sox manager Terry Francona continues to employ Darnell McDonald against left-handed pitching in something of a strict right field platoon with lefty-swinging rookie Josh Reddick, but it may be time to see if Reddick can handle full-time duty against pitchers of either persuasion. Reddick is hitting .375 (9-for-24) with a home run in very limited at bats against southpaws while McDonald ending the weekend with a .176 batting average and is struggling in a major way offensively. Combine that with the difficulty Mike Aviles has shown attempting to track down fly balls in the outfield, and its an idea worth exploring.

Dustin Pedroia doesnt get to hit there very often, but the numbers are off the charts when the Sox second baseman bats in the cleanup spot throughout his career. Customarily the No. 2 hitter in Bostons lineup, Pedroia has hit safely in all 10 career starts in the cleanup position and is hitting .500 (22-for-44) with five doubles, a triple, five home runs and 11 RBI in those 10 games. More importantly the Red Sox are also 8-2 in those 10 games and are 5-1 in six games with Pedroia in the No. 4 hole this season.

Kevin Youkilis said that his lower back is still feeling tight after he returned to the Sox starting lineup on Sunday afternoon, and slammed his 17th home run of the season in the loss. Youkilis missed two games with a stiff back that first cropped up during the Minnesota series. The infielder indicated that his back felt better than it had the previous two games, but that he was also ready to get back into the lineup after watching his teammates fall on Saturday night. Youkilis said the day off on Monday should help things considerably and that hed be ready to play against the Rays at Fenway on Tuesday.

Clay Buchholz is about half-way through the progression from a stress fracture in his back, and he said on Sunday morning that hes hoping to start throwing a baseball again in the first or second week of September.

The timetable means Buchholz wont be able to build up arm strength in minor league rehab assignments as their seasons end in early September. But that doesnt necessarily rule out a return in some form or fashion.

The right-hander said he still hasnt discussed a potential role in the bullpen for the postseason if time runs out to build up his arm up for a potential starting role. He said that should be something on the agenda for discussion once a throwing program has begun.

Ill do whatever they want me to do whether its starting or relieving, or whatever, said Buchholz. Im just glad the core strengthening exercises are working, and Im starting to feel like my back is healing.

Buchholz hasnt pitched since a five inning start against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 16 that earned him his sixth win of the season, and any setbacks at all would likely spell the end of the season for the lithe righty.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Werner: Red Sox feel pressure to keep up with Yankees, Astros

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Werner: Red Sox feel pressure to keep up with Yankees, Astros

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski may not be looking closely at the Yankees' and Astros' rosters, but chairman Tom Werner was on Friday.

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“Sure there’s pressure,” Werner said at Winter Weekend when asked about the Yankees’ pick-up of Giancarlo Stanton and the Astros’ addition of Gerrit Cole.  “Houston was formidable last year. I thought we played them competitively in Fenway Park. They’ve obviously improved. But if we have the kind of performances I expect from some of our players this year — obviously we’re looking for some more improvement from certain players. Hopefully, a healthy David Price will be very important to that. 

"I think we have an excellent team, but anything can happen in a short series. The Yankees have improved, there’s no question about it. They have a deep bullpen and a great offense. But I like our chances.”

At the Boston baseball writers awards dinner on Thursday, Sox president Sam Kennedy cracked a joke about Dombrowski presenting Yankees general manager Brian Cashman with an Apple Watch as a gift.

“I’m sure that when Judge and Stanton come to Fenway Park this year, it’ll be electric,” Werner said.

It’s not exactly an offseason punch-for-punch dynamic with the Sox and Yankees, though, as it was circa 2003-04.

“Not specifically,” Werner said of countering Stanton. “It’s important for us to be competitive with them, but we’re not trying to play chess with them.”

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Red Sox notes: Yawkey Way cannot be named for living person

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Red Sox notes: Yawkey Way cannot be named for living person

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Yawkey Way will not become David Ortiz Way, for those who may have been holding out hope for the street to be renamed after him, or any other recent star.

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“We’ve talked about several different names,” Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said on Friday evening at Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “There’s been talk about the possibility of returning to what the original name was, which was Jersey Street. It’s been made clear in our research and due diligence that you can’t currently petition for a living person when there’s other property owners on the street. There’s a provision that allows you to petition for a name of a living person if there aren’t other property abbuters on the street. So living person is out of the question. So we’ve had a few different ideas, but we’re not quite there yet.”

Kennedy said the Sox are in conversations with the city and neighboring property owners on Yawkey Way about renaming the street. 

“We have to have a sponsor of our petition, so we’re engaged in those discussions right now and would anticipate a petition being filed,” Kennedy said. “The mayor has been terrific and his staff understand our desire to formally petition, but we’ve got to get a resolution on a few logistical items — like a name, for one — that we’re going to formally petition for.”

A next step could come within a couple weeks, although Kennedy wasn’t firm about that timeline.

“But I’ve said that before, and it’s just a lot of behind the scenes steps that you have to take getting formal approvals from property owners and elected officials,” Kennedy said. “The club can petition for the name and then ultimately as John Henry said back in August, [it’s] a public process. … it’s our decision to request a name.”

• More netting is coming to Fenway to protect fans from batted balls and such.

“Before 2016, we expanded to the inside wall of the dugouts and we’re going to beyond that in 2018,” Kennedy said. “All the way down to about Field Box 79 down the left field line, and then all the way down to almost canvas alley in the Field Box 9 area. So we’re still finalizing the exact dimensions, but it will be a dramatic expansion of our netting … beyond the dugout down the third base line and the first base line.”

  • Sox chairman Tom Werner supports pace of play initiatives, and said he’s heard from Red Sox players who support it as well — even though the players union decided to shoot down a proposal from the league, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. MLB can unilaterally make changes but ideally, the union and league would come to an agreement together.
     

“As you know the commissioner is having ongoing talks with Tony Clark and the union,” Werner said. “I think it’s pretty clear that there’s too much dead time in the game. And as I’ve said, it’s really not about pace of play but like trying to have less dead time. Last year the average game, the time was higher than it’s ever been in history. And I think we have talked about some common sense ideas. We’re not the only league as you know who is looking at dead time. 

“But just for an example, I think that to have the managers or the catchers go up, or the second baseman just be able to talk to the pitcher whenever they want, we should address that. So we’ve addressed a pitch clock in the minor leagues. I think it’s working. But I’m hopeful certainly that the union and owners will come together on this. Because I think it’s something that the fans are expecting.”

  • Sox ticket sales are not doing quite as well as they were a year ago, Kennedy said. 
     

"We’re very healthy and humbled by the fan support,” Kennedy said. “We sold [out Winter Weekend] faster than ever before, about three weeks. There will be between 6,000 and 7,000 people here, which is really a testament to Red Sox fans. You’ve got an unbelievable sports market as we all know with the Patriots and what they’re doing, the Bruins and Celtics at the top of their games. 

“We’ve got people buying tickets [for games] at a pace consistent with 2015 and 2016. We are slightly down from last year, I think there was a big bump from Chris Sale, understandably, so about 6 percent down from last year, which is understandable given it’s been a very slow moving offseason in terms of baseball news. But we continue to be grateful and humbled by the support we get.”

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