ESPN has announced that former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling will be returning to his role as baseball analyst on ESPN.

ESPN has announced that former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling will be returning to his role as baseball analyst on ESPN. Schilling, who has been in an eight-month battle with mouth cancer, will be on “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN2 Thursday night at 10.

Schilling — who first publicly explained his battle with cancer when appearing on the Dennis & Callahan Show during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Telethon (click here for audio/text of the interview) – has been in remission since June.

The 47-year-old Schilling (who has lost nearly 60 pounds due to the battle with the disease) is slated to be a regular contributor on the Thursday night show, according the network.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Mookie Betts' stint as his high school football team's water boy for four years helped introduce him to the world of weightlifting. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)As usual, Mother knew best.



ROB BRADFORD

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(For the final month of the regular season, ‘€˜€˜€˜€˜Closing Time’€™€™€™€™ will now be called ‘€˜€˜€˜€˜Why You Should Have Cared,’€™€™€™€™ looking beyond the final score ‘€˜€˜€” at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) ‘€˜€˜€” for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerati

(For the final month of the regular season, ‘€˜€˜€˜€˜Closing Time’€™€™€™€™ will now be called ‘€˜€˜€˜€˜Why You Should Have Cared,’€™€™€™€™ looking beyond the final score ‘€˜€˜€” at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) ‘€˜€˜€” for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

Right-hander Joe Kelly submitted his third straight quality start against an AL East opponent on Monday. (Getty Images)

Right-hander Joe Kelly submitted his third straight quality start against an AL East opponent on Monday. (Getty Images)

A National League scout recently was taking stock of the Red Sox‘ inventory of young arms and their potential to round out the team’s 2015 rotation. He paused when he got to right-hander Joe Kelly. He raved about the movement of Kelly’s high-velocity two-seamer, about his ability to keep the ball off the barrel of hitter’s bats, noted the quality of the secondary stuff. The idea of having Kelly under team control for four prime years, even at the cost of John Lackey?

“I’d do it every time,” the scout said, noting that Allen Craig represented, to his mind, no more than a secondary piece.

Of course, the Sox right now are not likely seeing the best of Kelly. The pitcher has talked about how he is been playing catch-up all year, ever since landing on the disabled list due to a hamstring tear (incurred while bunting for a base hit) in the first month of the year, after getting off to a tremendous start for the Cardinals.

Nonetheless, he is getting his legs with his new team. On Monday, Kelly delivered his third straight quality start against an American League East foe, going 6 1/3 innings while allowing four runs (but just three earned) on six hits (all singles) and three walks while matching his career-high (for the second straight outing) with six strikeouts. He elicited 11 groundball outs. In his three outings against division opponents, he has a 3.79 ERA while gaining familiarity with the Blue Jays, Yankees and Orioles lineups.

On Monday, his outing wasn’t enough for a victory on a night when the Red Sox were shut out for the 14th time this year, losing to the Orioles by a 4-0 count. But Kelly continues to solidify his standing in the rotation for next year, looking like a pitcher with the stuff and experience to compete reliably, to be part of a winning team.

The loss was the 81st of the season for the Red Sox, leaving them a staggering 21 1/2 games behind the first-place Orioles.

OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT THE RED SOX GAME

– For meaningful stretches of this year, the Red Sox looked like a team without a single viable top-of-the-order hitter. Increasingly, it appears the team may have two or even three going forward. Brock Holt gave the Red Sox production atop the order once he rose to that position in the lineup in mid-May. Even as his production has waned, the team has added an apparent long-term solution to that responsibility with the signing of Rusney Castillo. Meanwhile, Mookie Betts continues to do nothing to dispel the idea that he’s close to ready for big league leadoff duties.

At a time when Holt is sidelined by the flu and when Castillo is working his way up through the system, Betts just keeps hitting and getting on base. Batting leadoff for the third straight game and fourth time in eight contests this month, Betts went 1-for-3 with a walk. In the games where he has hit leadoff, he’s now 6-for-16 with two doubles, a triple and two walks, good for a .375/.444/.625 line. He’s reached base multiple times in all four of his games as the leadoff hitter.

– Though Will Middlebrooks showed some positive signs with a two-strike single against right-hander Miguel Gonzalez in his first trip to the plate, he struck out in his next three plate appearances, including a punchout with the bases loaded and one out against Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter in the bottom of the seventh inning. Middlebrooks has now struck out in 30 percent of his plate appearances this year, an obvious red flag regarding his ability to scrape his considerable ceiling.

– The Red Sox face a difficult offseason decision with David Ross, particularly if they commit to Christian Vazquez as their everyday catcher for 2015. While Ross represents a perfect mentor for a young catcher, his lack of offensive production could leave the team exposed if Vazquez struggles to produce at the big league level. (While most are bullish on Vazquez’s longer-term offensive viability given his simple swing and the ability to swing at strikes, the near-term represents a question as he transitions to the big leagues.) Ross went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts and stranded four, with his average sinking to .181 with a .606 OPS. He’s struck out in 34.6 percent of plate appearances.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The Red Sox will open next season on April 6 on the road against the Phillies, followed by a trip to play the Yankees in New York before the home opener against the Washington Nationals on Monday, April 13.

The Red Sox will open next season on April 6 on the road against the Phillies, followed by a trip to play the Yankees in New York before the home opener against the Washington Nationals on Monday, April 13. It will mark the second straight year that the Sox are opening against a National League opponent.

Some details from the press release, with the schedule available below:

The club will open the season on the road for the fifth straight year. This year will be the club’€™s first regular season opener in Philadelphia since 1954, the last year the city had an American League franchise, the Athletics. It also marks the first time the Red Sox have ever opened a season against a National League team.

The Red Sox are scheduled to play 76 games versus their American League East rivals, 19 games each against the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays.

The Red Sox will face the National League East Division for Interleague play. In addition to the Nationals, the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Miami Marlins will visit Fenway Park.

Interleague games on the road take place in Philadelphia April 6, 8, and 9, in Miami August 11 and 12, and at Citi Field versus the New York Mets the weekend of August 28-30.

The Red Sox have the most number of home games in July (16) and the fewest in April (10). The club, which completes its home season Sunday, September 27, will end the season with a weeklong road trip to play the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians. The regular season ends Sunday, October 4.

For the second straight year, Boston plays four straight games against Atlanta in two cities. The first two games of the series take place at Fenway Park on June 15-16, followed by a second pair of games at Turner Field June 17-18. For the second straight year, the Red Sox will open their home season versus a National League club. After Washington’€™s series (April 13-15), the Marlins visit July 7-8 and the Phillies play at Fenway Park the weekend of September 4-6.

The Red Sox play more games at Yankee Stadium and Toronto’€™s Rogers Center (10 each) than any other road venue. Following the first match-up in New York April 10-12, the Red Sox visit Yankee Stadium August 4-6, and September 28-October 1. They host the Yankees three times: May 1-3, July 10-12, and August 31-September 2.

2015-Red-Sox-Schedule-web

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The Red Sox have called up right-hander Matt Barnes from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Right-hander Matt Barnes received his first big league call-up on Monday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

Right-hander Matt Barnes received his first big league call-up on Monday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

The Red Sox have called up right-hander Matt Barnes from Triple-A Pawtucket. Though he has spent his entire career (save for one outing as a piggyback starter) in the rotation, the 24-year-old — a first-round pick in the 2011 draft — will pitch out of the bullpen for the duration of the season.

Barnes had a rough start to the year. He was shut down due to shoulder discomfort as a non-roster invitee in his first big league spring training, and when he joined the PawSox, he went 4-7 with a 5.06 ERA, 6.9 strikeouts and 3.7 walks per nine innings prior to the All-Star break, struggling with his pitch efficiency and sometimes showing diminished life on his stuff relative to previous years. However, he turned his season around following the mid-year break.

In his most recent outing — a Triple-A International League playoff game last week — he logged seven shutout innings in which he gave up three hits (a double and two singles), walked none and punched out six. It marked the sixth time in eight outings that Barnes had pitched into the seventh inning, something he’€™d done just four times in his first 65 pro games. He threw 65 of 101 pitches (64 percent) for strikes. In nine starts since the All-Star break including the regular season and Thursday’€™s outing, Barnes now has a 2.10 ERA with 7.8 strikeouts and just 2.3 walks per nine.

He has perhaps the best fastball in the system, a 90-96 mph offering that he can use to get swings and misses in the strike zone (as opposed to relying on hitters to chase it outside the zone). He also has a changeup that grades as a solid average offering. His curveball has sometimes graded as a below-average offering, though it showed improvement to the point of being a potentially average (and even sometimes a tick above) third pitch — which would mean that he had a starter’s repertoire, with multiple evaluators citing a pitcher like Michael Wacha as a potential point of comparison for the UConn product.

However, for now, Barnes — who was going to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft — will get his first exposure to the big leagues through the unfamiliar role of the bullpen.

Barnes has thrown a career-high 127 2/3 innings this year, up from 113 1/3 last year.

To make room for Barnes on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox shifted outfielder Shane Victorino (out for the year following back surgery last month) from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

And then there was one.

Double-A Portland was eliminated from the playoffs with a Game 5 loss to Binghamton on Sunday, thus ending a season that saw perhaps the greatest wealth of near big-league ready Sox prospects since the extraordinary Portland class of 2005. It is not hard to imagine several impact big leaguers emerging from a roster that at different points featured Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, Rusney Castillo, Deven Marrero, Brian Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez and Sean Coyle.

But with Portland out, the Red Sox‘ minor league season is now down to Triple-A Pawtucket, which will open its best-of-five Governor’s Cup championship series on Tuesday at McCoy Stadium.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-5 LOSS VS. BINGHAMTON (METS); LOSE BEST-OF-FIVE SERIES, 3-2

(BOX)

Rusney Castillo played a full nine innings (albeit at DH) for the first time since signing with the Sox, once again showing the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field by going 2-for-5 with a double to right. He also had a strikeout. The 27-year-old, who is 6-for-19 with two walks, two strikeouts and a steal through six minor league games, will now join Triple-A Pawtucket to get more at-bats in the minors prior to his callup to the big leagues.

– Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will join Castillo in heading from Portland to Pawtucket to continue his season. Rodriguez, 21, has thrown 126 2/3 innings this year between the regular season and playoffs, down from the 145 innings he logged in the Orioles’ system last year. After a year and a half in Double-A, Rodriguez will get his first exposure to Triple-A. He’s forged a 6-8 record and 3.55 ERA with 114 strikeouts and 39 walks in 126 2/3 innings in Double-A this year, with a 3-1 record, 1.23 ERA, 39 walks and eight strikeouts in 44 innings after joining Portland following the trade that sent him from the Orioles to the Sox.

– Right-hander Luis Diaz was shelled for seven runs (all earned) on eight hits (four doubles) in just 3 2/3 innings with two walks and two strikeouts.

Sean Coyle, who was hit on the wrist by a pitch on Saturday, proved unable to play. Coyle told the Portland Press-Herald that X-rays were negative for a fracture, but that swelling and inflammation rendered him unable to play.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier